Day had broken over the flat, grassy landscape. This was not to say that it was bright or sunny, as the time had yet to pass the wee hours. The grayish-blue atmosphere and the dampness that almost made the ground marsh-like were testaments of the earliness of the morn. Thick, gray clouds that encompassed the whole sky were visible even though it was not yet light out. A raven, feathers glistening with dew, pecked hopelessly at the skeleton of a once-living goat. The raven shouldn't have bothered; the skeleton was picked clean long before the bird had arrived. The raven stopped its pecking, skittishly cocking its head as if noticing potential danger. The sound of someone approaching at a dead sprint proved it correct as the raven flew off.
The footsteps belonged to someone dressed in an exuberant purple cloak with elaborate magenta designs traced from top to bottom. The outfit seemed rather ornate to wear for such rough activity. Indeed, it was already splattered with mud and the bottom hem of the cloak was torn in multiple places, presumably from being stepped on in haste. The hood flew off from the wind of the running, revealing a teenage girl's terrified face. She was carrying a very long scepter, its height nearly equal to hers, with a bejeweled orb on the top end. The weight of the scepter appeared to be hindering her running, but it was desperately held onto as if it were the only thing separating her from certain death. Considering the approaching pounding of hooves that sounded like an entire cavalry, it probably was.
Astoundingly, it was only one horse, a very large black stallion. It was extensively covered in armor; horseflesh could only be seen at the knees when the horse raised its legs to move. But if the horse was heavily armored, that was nothing to say of its rider. The rider was covered with gold and silver-colored armor in such a way that he looked as if he were made of metal. Dark purple tassels streamed behind him like a cape. The only part of his body that was visible was his eyes, but it might have been better if they were not. His eyes glowed an unearthly yellow that radiated malevolence and they were currently trained on the retreating cloaked figure in the distance.
The rider kicked his heels into his steed, prompting a fast gallop. He pulled on the reins, causing the horse to miraculously rise into the air like a Pegasus and run as easily as if it were on solid ground. The rider drew his weapon, revealing a scaly red sword with a menacing edge and held it straight out to his side. The serrated blade cut through the very air, creating a dark rift in the sky. The rift wasn't dark for very long, as bright yellow spots that could only be construed as cycloptic eyes peeked out like bats on a cave ceiling. The rift expanded, allowing yellow-eyed flying fish-like creatures and demonic knights in dull armor to fall out and begin surrounding the person in the cloak. She gasped in fear and stopped running, eyes wide and cheeks flushed with exertion. With the demons close to encircling her and with the rider on the black stallion approaching, she realized that running was no longer an option. She thrust her scepter into the ground, creating a bluish shield around herself that pushed the demons away as it expanded.
A shield will not last long and I cannot hope to fight all of them! she thought with a panic. I-I need help! …Yes! A Summoning Spell!
With monsters pounding at the dome-like shield protecting her, she raised her scepter again, this time reciting an incantation:
"Ifaras zaras yezaras…Ifaris zaris yezarik…O brave knight, swift as the wind, heed my call!"
A column of white light shot from the scepter and into the gray sky, parting the clouds and parting the dimensions.
This was the sound that Sonic the Hedgehog's stomach was making in response to the order of four chilidogs that he currently held in his hands. It was lunchtime in Empire City, and the outdoor fast food restaurant Sonic was at extended from the middle floor of a high-rise mall.
Not a very awesome view from up here, he thought with a slight twinge of disappointment.
Which was understandable. After all, who likes a view where the field of vision in every direction is obscured by gray skyscrapers and advertisements so brightly colored that they offend the eyes?
Wish I could at least do some grinding during lunch, he thought, giving the extensive rail system of Empire City a longing glance.
Normally, Sonic would have just taken the chilidogs and eaten them on the run, but Amy had cornered him a few days previous and asked (demanded) politely for a date. After much insistence (threatening) on Amy's part, Sonic was convinced to oblige to the outing because of her gracious (very reluctant) compromise to allow him to choose the restaurant.
What a guy won't say under the business end of a hammer.
Naturally being fashionably early, he opted to just pace around and began munching.
But he wanted to do more than just pace. The day before, Sonic had single-handedly fought and defeated Eggman and his newest doomsday device, the "Egg Rover", a weird mix between a tank and a submarine. Eggman had hoped to drown Sonic by luring him into the water, but was defeated long before the shore was reached. Eggman had been sent to prison, but the pitifully short battle had left Sonic thirsty for action. Taking his not-really girlfriend/stalker/howtheheckdidyoufindmehere person on a date did not qualify as action. Action was (or ought to have been) Empire City. There was sure to be excitement in a place where you could leap from rail to building to billboard and back to rail in one move! But now that he was here, Sonic found the desire for more of an unobscured space.
Sonic finished his first chilidog and started on another, Sure is hard to find an exciting wide open place without Eggman or Amy in the picture. He polished off his second chilidog with a loud gulp, Wonder where I can find somewhere like that.
And then the vortex opened under his feet.
"aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH-umph!" Sonic landed face first on hard grass.
"Owww…ack! My chilidogs!"
Sonic scrambled to his feet and with a diving catch not dissimilar to baseball player's, he caught both 'dogs, not a jalapeño out of place. With his food safely in his hands once again, he noticed that he was no longer in the concrete jungle of Empire City.
Whoa, that was weird. What happened? Where am I? Sonic's questioning was interrupted by the sorceress.
"Being from a distant world," he turned upon hearing her voice, "forgive my abrupt summons, but I am in desperate need of help!" she pleaded, gesturing to the demons as the protective shield dissipated.
Sonic took a 360-degree look of the immediate surroundings, swallowing a chilidog in one bite.
Hmmm… evil flying fish, evil knights, a big, scary-looking dude who looks like an Eggman robot, and a magic girl who's afraid of them. No problem.
"I get it. Don't worry," he winked, "I do this kind of stuff all the time!"
Sonic threw his remaining chilidog into the air. With a brief flash of blue and an intense shockwave, the nightmarish monsters exploded into a flurry of purple dust. Skidding to a stop, Sonic caught the chilidog he had tossed previously. He snuck a glance to see if his trick impressed the sorceress. Judging by the look of awe on her face, it did. Ego soaring, Sonic turned his attention to the knight on the black horse. He began twirling his chilidog as one might a basketball and bent his knees, ready to sprint.
Contrary to the sorceress' awed expression, the rider looked particularly unimpressed. He drew his sword with nonchalance, deeming the blue hedgehog before him barely worth a second of his time. The black stallion pawed the ground in anticipation.
Seeing what was about to happen, the young girl cried out in alarm, "Stop! You mustn't!"
Sonic stumbled and nearly fell on his face again, "What? What's wro—oh man, that's gross!"
He was referring to the half-formed monsters that were assembling themselves from the mist of the ones previously defeated.
"We cannot fight! We must flee!"
The rider spurred his steed into a charge and held his sword tip-first like a javelin.
"Quickly!" she screamed.
After a split-second's hesitation in which the sword nearly made contact with the tip of his quills, Sonic scooped up the young sorceress and sped off in the opposite direction in his classic blue blur.
The knight looked genuinely surprised at seeing the speed at which the hedgehog and his target escaped. Sheathing his sword, he slowed his horse from a charge to a slow gallop. Time was needed to ponder over this new development.
They will not elude me for long, that is certain. However, if that blue rat continues to protect my former servant, his abilities may prove to be a hindrance.
He changed his course to a nearby hill; his vassals needed to be alerted of their new assignment.
The three Knights of the Round Table witnessed the scene that had played out with remarkable indifference. Weapons never unsheathed, no conversation, almost no movement at all. They were there to observe, not to act; that was what they were told. To be able to retell the gruesome tale of how the King had brutally yet justly apprehended the rebellious former Royal Wizard in the name of keeping order. It was quite a shock to them when instead of fighting, the sorceress summoned outside help. It was an even greater shock that the warrior that she had summoned defended her almost instantly and was able to escape the King. There was certainly a tale to tell, but not one that the King would favor.
Speaking of whom, he was currently approaching them, expression concealed behind his crown-like faceplate. The knights knelt down on one knee in show of respect.
"I shall give chase," he addressed, "Spread out and pursue. Slay them on sight."
They nodded. His orders given, the rider steered his horse in the direction his targets escaped. When he was out of hearing range, the Knights rose.
"Quite a spectacle, wasn't it?" a black hedgehog with red highlights in his quills commented.
"Yeah, it was. Now let's go," a red echidna gruffly replied.
A female lilac cat protested, "Should we? She is the Royal Wizard, I mean."
"The King's orders are absolute Percival," the hedgehog replied with a hint of bitterness at how true this statement was.
"Yes, but—" Percival started, but realized to whom she was speaking to. With a sigh, she changed her mind, "…I suppose you are right."
The red echidna nodded and spoke with an edge in his voice, "Of course he is right! Without loyalty to the King, we are nothing!"
He stormed off in the direction of a thick forest, eager to complete the task assigned to him by his lord.
"Oh, Gawain…" Percival mumbled, annoyed at his thoughtless manner.
The black hedgehog began to walk off, but paused. He turned to her and said, "Of course, the King has changed. He is destroying his own kingdom."
Percival was mildly surprised by her companion. Surely Lancelot, the Strongest Knight and King Arthur's own right hand would never imply…
Then again, she thought humorlessly, he may have been merely stating fact. This is Lancelot after all. Still, he is not one to make such comments lightly…
"Yes he is," she replied cautiously, uncertain of his intentions, "I imagine that something would have to be done. Wouldn't you agree?"
Lancelot turned his back to her again, leaving her sentence hanging. Just before he left however, Percival caught the slightest shadow of a nod discretely directed at her. With a skating motion, he took off on his magical air shoes in the direction of a waving green plain.
Percival herself decided to stay on the hill for a few minutes longer, just long enough to greet the dawn. With the clouds from earlier parting, it promised to be a good show. As the horizon lit up with various violets, reds, and blues, she decided that her destination would be the mines. Perhaps she would talk to some of the villagers when she arrived. As a frequent visitor to the molten part of the mining fields, she had some good acquaintances in the area.
The raven swooped past Percival, flying straight into the rising sun.