Obligatory disclaimer - I don't own any of the Sonic characters, world, inhabitents and so on.
This story is now complete! Enjoy it in it's entirety.
This story also has a sequel - once you've read it, go looking for Sonic Switch 2: The Golem Wars.
And now, enough of my rambling, and on with the product of my creation!
"It looks fine to me. Sure you heard him alright?" Knuckles' voice was doubtful.
"Listen, I know what I heard. You don't like it, you go ask him."
"You know only you, Tails and Shadow can ever reach him, and Shadow isn't talking to you at the moment."
"Yeah, so? Tails already told him. They're gonna see if he'll come here."
"Just who is he exactly?"
"Dunno. Amy dug up the old legends about him, he's some kind of seer or something." Knuckles sighed. Sonic's carefree nature left a lot to be desired sometimes.
They stood and looked at the Master Emerald, resting as usual in it's place at the remains of the Angel Island shrine. Knuckles, in a fit of boredom, had started to put the shrine back together. Mostly so he wouldn't have to put up with being soaked on wet nights. Anything more interesting to do easily pulled him away from that though.
The Master Emerald turned slowly in place, bathing the surrounds in a faint green light. Every now and then, a brief pulse of light flickered within it's core.
"How's Rouge?" Sonic asked. Knuckles wasn't fazed by the question and gave a brief smile.
"She's fine. Off on one of her treasure hunts with that Omega. She hired out the Chaotix team to help out as well."
"Vector'll cut out a chunk of her treasure she won't like."
"She promised him his pick of it. She just likes finding the stuff I think."
"It's the thrill of it," a quiet, almost harsh voice said from behind them. "Just like you and running."
They turned to see Shadow leaning idly against one of the pillars, eyes closed. If Shadow had been the same colours as Sonic, it could be forgiven for not telling them apart.
"Weren't you with Tails?"
He grunted and opened his eyes, coming over. "He told me what you told him. I didn't go with him. He can see this oracle himself. Probably just an old fraud anyway." He paused, staring into the heart of the Emerald. Somehow it seemed to be calling to him. It always did, as if there was some kind of connection between them. "He also said to wait for him here. He's bringing this... oracle."
"Do you have to be so pessimistic?"
"Realist, Knuckles. I'm a realist, not a pessimist."
* * *
Tails was unusually irritated. Shadow had somewhat rudely refused to come along, making the journey up this blasted mountain more difficult than it had to be. He couldn't take the Tornado - not after the first time he'd tried where an unnatural storm had thrown him so far off course he almost crashed it.
The mountain's face seemed to be so sharp as to be almost vertical, with little to no ledges or hand holds. His tails ached from all the flying he'd had to do.
He grabbed a ledge, and grunting, he pulled himself up and paused for a break, sighing. Why did this kid stay up here in this inhospitable place? How did he get his food? Sonic had said there was nothing in the cavern except the boy and a lake.
His train of thought was interrupted by the mountain shaking violently again. The shaking had grown so bad, he had no choice but to leap and fly up for the next platform again.
Part way up he saw it; the cavern Sonic had described, an opening in the side of the mountain, with a slight reddish tinge to the otherwise drab grey mountainside. He pushed himself to get there, then once the shaking subsided, sat and rested, looking at the unique view. This part of the mountain was above the clouds, making for an impressive sight. It was unusually light, and clouds from the top always make for an impressive sight. He liked the sight, it was part of why he enjoyed flying the Tornado, he got to see sights like this often.
Then he heard it, a sound like that of waves playing on a lake's shore, coming from behind him - inside the cavern.
He went to investigate, and was surprised to find the red rock tunnel led to a large cavern, almost the same size as Angel Island. Water filled a bowl-like crater far below, and some of the red rock jutted out over it.
There was no one in sight.
"Hello?" Tails called hesitantly. His voice echoed back to him. "Oracle?"
No response. Nothing. He went to the jutting rock, and was about to peer down into the water, to see what was there, when-
"I would not do that. Many people have run in terror from what they see in this lake."
Tails turned, startled, to see a human boy, almost a teenager. He had black hair that came down to his shoulders, and a t-shirt, pants and trainers to match. Tails was struck with the odd notion that he resembled Shadow.
"I didn't..." he began.
"I can move quite silently if I need. It was not my intention to startle you." His voice was low, quiet and sounded like it carried far more years than he seemed to, his eyes backed this up. They were a frosty blue that was almost so white it couldn't be called blue, and they too carried the impression of great age.
He squatted by the nearest edge, and stared into the depths of the lake himself.
"I myself have never fully come to terms with what I see in here. These waters... they are special. It is said that when one looks into them, they look into you, and the reflection they create... it is you, but it is who you really are... who you are in your heart, they show. Your blue friend insisted on looking, and is possibly the bravest soul I have ever seen look into them."
"What did he see?"
"I don't know. The lake shows only the normal reflection of others who are also staring into it. Whatever he saw... clearly he did not like it, that much I sensed, but he did not show it."
Tails was torn. He was curious enough to see what it showed, but the warning he'd been given made him shy away.
"Sonic said you predicted something wrong with the Master Emerald?"
"What's going to happen to it?"
"That I do not know. I cannot predict all things, and I cannot see all things. It was difficult enough to feel that something is coming."
"Sonic wanted you to come back with me."
"I know. I cannot leave here that easily, however."
"You mean you just want to make sure no one peeks without you around."
"What I see in there, is a person I try very hard not to become. It's who I am, who my heart says I am, but I don't like it, and I don't want to be that way. You think Robotnic is bad?" Tails nodded. "What I see in there, makes him look like Sonic. That's why I warn people."
"Can't you block off this place then? Or do something to stop people coming?"
The boy smiled. "Of course. How do you think I leave here to find food?"
"I wondered about that, but how do you get down?"
"Come with me, and I'll show you, my young little friend. You'll witness something few people ever see."
As he walked off, Tails stopped him, calling, "Wait... don't you have a name?"
He stopped walking. "Many. Almost more than I have years. I've been called Oracle, the Dark Seer, Angel, Liam, Alex... many names."
"What's your real name then?"
"Liam. I have not actually used it for centuries, but it remains my true name."
Tails' mind reeled at the implications of how old this... man was, but followed as he was led down a second tunnel from beside the original one.
The rock here turned from red through purple, and then to a deep blue, and seemed to be more crystalline than rock. At the end there was...
"A dead end?"
"No." Liam reached out to a piece that was just a bit taller than him, a flat, vertical face. it looked almost like a door.
He ran his fingers around the edge of it, muttering under his breath, then took hold of a small knob of crystal that resembled a doorknob, and pulled.
"Woah." Tails was lost for words.
On the other side of the door was the grassy area near the bridge that led to Angel Island. He could see the island itself, the Master Emerald, Sonic, Knuckles, even Shadow was there.
"It's a little trick I picked up. I can make this door lead anywhere I want it to. The down side is, that once I step through, I cannot come back the same way. I have to make my own way back here."
"So I guess I gotta wait for you to go seal the entrance then?"
"That's part of the magic. If I step through, it gets taken care of for me." He sighed. "The old man I learned this trick from was most reluctant to give up the secret to me. It took me years to finally persuade him to tell me." He stared off into space for a few moments, then turned back to Tails. "Go ahead. If I go through first, you'll be stuck here."
Tails had an odd kind of wrenching feeling as he stepped through, and felt a bit nauseous, and a little dizzy, so much so that he almost stumbled into a rock.
"Easy. Let me help a moment." Liam put a hand to Tails' head, and closed his eyes, then the nausea, and the dizziness faded, and he felt refreshed as the hand retreated again.
"How'd you do that?"
"Why do you think some people once called me a Dark Wizard?"
"In many forms. Come, you can introduce me to your friends. The ones I haven't met already, anyway."
* * *
Shadow turned sharply. He could tell there were others approaching, he had a knack for feeling it.
"They're here," he told them shortly.
Sonic turned, and grinned. As they drew close, he said, "Well if it ain't the oracle-boy and Tails. What kept ya?"
"The same thing that kept you from reaching me," Liam shrugged.
Shadow looked him over. He could feel something about this human, and he didn't like it. Knuckles looked wary of the newcomer too. At least we agree on that, Shadow thought to himself.
"You know everyone here, right?"
"I know of them, Sonic. To know something, implies that I have met them. Which until now, I have not." He turned to Knuckles. "The last of the Echidna. I remember when this shrine was newly built. Long before your time, but I remember it still. Your ancestors would be proud of you, were they still around to say so."
Knuckles seemed to relax a bit at this. Shadow gave a faint 'hmph!' of disapproval. There was something about this stranger he really didn't like.
"I wouldn't, by the way. It wouldn't affect me. You'd do better to save your Chaos control for later."
Shadow showed no sign of surprise. "So what, you just think you can turn up and order us around?"
"I do not recall giving any of you 'orders' at all. I merely made you aware of what is to come, and Sonic asked me to be present. He is..." he broke off, and his expression changed to one of curiosity, then to a serious look. "It is happening. Even the rocks around us can tell."
Shadow was about to ask how he could tell, when the glow of the Master Emerald turned a sooty red, as did the Emerald itself. They all turned to look.
It's normal sedately slow turning had turned more rapid, and was almost so fast as to blur. the air around it. Only the core of it remained clearly green.
The red glow grew stronger, staining everything in the same colour.
Then the Emerald stopped entirely. There was the sound of a clink as it dropped from hovering just above it's place, onto the stone below.
There was a popping sound, as the green of the core faded, even as another green appeared nearby, within which a somewhat surprised looking Silver appeared. He tried to speak, but as with everyone else, he was unable to move.
The now red Master Emerald shattered, but not into many shards. Into four quarters, which seemed to dissolve before them. Only a small fragment of the red emerald remained, still glowing, in the socket in the ground that it normally hovered just over.
Silver was the first to recover. He felt the restriction preventing him from acting be lifted.
"What just happened?"
"Oh great. Another hunt for the Emerald's pieces." Knuckles sardonic comment clearly showed his dislike for having to do it yet again.
"It's not over yet," Liam warned them.
"What's left to happen?"
"I don't know. Something terrible. Something that will make it all the more difficult to recover from this. I don't know how long."
Silver looked hard at Liam. "I know you. You're the Dark Seer we're not meant to talk about."
Liam winced. "I wish people wouldn't call me that. There's nothing exactly Dark about me."
"I know how you're meant to work. You're meant to tell us something, aren't you?"
"It's not exactly a requirement... but some find it helps to have some idea of what to do."
"So do it once this is over then."
"There is time to do it before the last of this happens."
"What's stopping you?"
"Nothing, psychic. You had only to let them know about it, before I could do it. It'll be useful for you all anyway." He looked at each of them in turn. "Sonic... while speed is where you excel, speed will not help you after this. You must turn to using other means instead. You'll get your speed back after this is over," he added, seeing Sonic's worried look. "All of this is temporary.
"Tails, your mechanical skills will stay with you, but you must apply that mind of yours to learning a new skill, one that maybe you will only use a few times, but a necessary one.
"You, Knuckles, must be ready to accept that others can teach you what you need to be able to do, and not shy away from needing someone to do that.
"Shadow..." an odd look crossed Liam's face. "You'll learn many things. Try not to forget them, some are important. Silver already knows what I would tell him. He is a psychic, after all."
"Yeah," he replied, "But it doesn't make sense. Most of what you say doesn't."
"It becomes clear in time." He glanced down at the fragment. "You may want to sit down. It's about to happen."
Not to his surprise, no one else took his advice except Silver. Silver had seen in Liam's mind what was going to happen. He didn't like it. It meant losing his psychic abilities, even if only temporarily. They were what he did.
He also knew why Liam had said what he did to Knuckles. That bothered him even more.
Then there was a flash of brilliant red light, and they all dropped to the ground, unconscious. Silver resisted it as long as possible, and could not believe what he saw happening before he too passed out.