Author's discussion.

I normally post my thoughts and feelings about my stories on my profile. I can't really do that in this case because of the massive spoilers involved, so I'll use this space instead.

I actually know some people named Kenji, Koji, and Seiji. They're brothers. I didn't base the characters off of them. In fact, Kenji and Koji's closest parallels are from another Kurosawa film, "The Hidden Fortress" (widely cited as the basis for "Star Wars").

Using Vector in the role of the would-be warrior is, I'll admit, a bit of a stretch. In the games, Vector is quite competent in his own fields (mostly just being really strong). I tried to preserve that by making him an unarmed detective before the Eggman Wars, but I wasn't completely happy with it. In terms of character, the closest that makes sense is Big the Cat. However, I didn't want to use Big the Cat, for three reasons.

1. 70% of Big's dialogue consists of, "Froggy!"

2. Big has the approximate I.Q. of chopped celery.

3. I hate Big the Cat.

I could work with 1, and maybe 3, but 2 was the big stumbling block. You can't play SA1 or Sonic Heroes and not come to the conclusion that Big is clinically retarded. I didn't want to write a story where a retarded critter gets picked on and killed. So Big was off-limits. Vector filled in.

Other than that, the characterizations practically wrote themselves. Tails as the devotee, Amy as the aspirant, Rouge as the mercenary suffering an attack of conscience, Shadow as the apostle of pure skill, Knuckles as the pride-less penitent, all of it flowed very naturally. Sonic was hardest of them all, if you believe that. The big problem is that the role Sonic is filling—the veteran master of war—has a lot of components in him that the Sonic in the games just wouldn't have. The patience, expertise, and leadership the Sonic role has to have aren't things he comes with naturally. That's why I had to put so much effort into emphasizing how long Sonic's been fighting. The fifteen year gap does more than let the world fall apart to the point where swords are the preferred weapon. It also gives Sonic enough history to have developed what he needs to make the story work.

Note, also, that SatAM Sonic couldn't work in this way. In SatAM, all those characteristics I mentioned above belong exclusively to Sally. The main character in a "Seven Samurai"-type story is both captain and champion. SatAM Sonic is champion, while Sally is captain. This isn't a criticism, in fact their dynamic is what makes SatAM so appealing; I'm just pointing out how different characterizations make or break stories of different types. (The other reason I didn't use SatAM is because I'm far too sentimental about those characters to casually kill them off as this story demands.)

I hadn't intended the ShadAmy angle to become as prominent as it did. Even after it did, however, I was never tempted to list the pairing in the story description. It would have misled readers both about the type of story this is and about the nature of the relationship. I'm not a ShadAmy shipper; the pairing doesn't really make sense to me in and of itself. In reality, aspects of Amy's relationship with Shadow were an outgrowth of, and dependent upon, her relationship with Sonic. Amy and Shadow could potentially be friends without Sonic. But only when Amy was reacting against Sonic could she and Shadow be lovers, even for a brief time. This is reflected in no small part by her domineering role in their relationship.

My favorite scene is the introduction of Tails. That was a lot of fun to write, and I tickled myself by writing parts of it ambiguously. In a way, I suppose it had to be a good scene. Tails' character is static. Sonic is, too, but Sonic gets fleshed out more, and over time, so he feels more dynamic than he actually is. Tails, in contrast, is pretty firmly rooted right from the beginning, so his introduction is the most important of his scenes.

I free-lanced pretty heavily when it came to Tikal. Strictly speaking she's not essential to the story; it could've worked without her. But I was happy to get her in there. Some might balk that her character is a scientist here when in SA1 she was a sort of a hippy. For me, the two essential elements of her character were 1) her closeness to the Chaos Emeralds, and 2) her role as peacemaker. (The website OC-Remix has an outstanding remix of her theme from SA1 entitled "The Peacemaker" that helped sell the point for me.) I retained those, and made the rest fit, and was pretty happy with the result.

I had the most fun writing for Rouge, as I always do. In an otherwise very sterile Sega-verse, she's a standout for her amoral nature, her predatory predilections, and her overt sexuality. A lot of people botch that last part. They take it to mean she's a slut. She's not. She uses sex; sex doesn't use her. That said, it's fun to turn up the saucy from time to time, and Rouge always gets my best lines. Indeed, her final scene was one of the first to come to me when I was planning this story, and it was one of the things that motivated me to write it at all.

I felt that I owed Knuckles. My biggest personal complaint about my previous story "Hunter's Honor", a bit of Knouge shipping, is that too often I used Knuckles simply as Rouge's foil. I felt that I underutilized Knuckles in his own right, that I didn't give him enough to do to be Knuckles, and that the story was really about Rouge guest-starring Knuckles. So I wanted to be sure to make it up to him, and I lavished attention on him. Come to think of it, this was probably unjustified, as I gave Knuckles (albeit an alternate universe Knuckles) a story all to himself in "Conscience of Echidnas". Still, I was conscious of the possibility that Knuckles might become, again, nothing more than Rouge's foil. I had to make sure Knuckles got his share of the limelight.

And that was the hardest part of all when writing this story. The challenge of ensemble-based stories is making sure everyone gets their time while still keeping the plot moving forward. It's much easier when you have 2-3 major characters, a few minors, and a handful of bit players. In contrast, any two of the seven major characters can carry a story by themselves, with supporting roles filling out the roster. The result is more of a juggling act than I'd thought it would be. Even now. I've mentioned most of the characters, but I really don't have a lot to say about the others, yet that is what symmetry would demand.

I snuck in a fair number of music references. I may be the only Sonic fanfic writer to quote the Book of Leviticus (hint: byrds). Most of them, however, are songs from Sonic games. Most obvious is "Knight of the Wind", but there are snippets from many other Sonic songs: "Fly in the Freedom", "His World", "Supporting Me", "This Machine", to name a few. I wanted really badly to work "Endless Possibilities" into Sonic and Amy's last scene, but it just wasn't right for it, so I let it go, regretfully.

In fact, the genesis of this whole project was (perhaps unsurprisingly) hearing the song "Knight of the Wind" for the first time, with associated AMV (as I didn't have a Wii I was unaware of the game "Sonic and the Black Knight" until that moment). It was a great song, but a couple things bothered me. Amongst them was the characters' weapons loadouts. For example, Sega had Knuckles dual-wielding short swords. It was all wrong. From Knuckles' first appearance one of his selling points was always strength, and if you're really strong, historically you used a large two-handed weapon to maximize the damage of each swing. For that matter, the sword that Sonic uses in that game is a large long sword—too large for him to wield quickly. It may be closer to the age of knights in terms of design, but a katana is a better fit for Sonic—smaller, easier to wield, better suited to the slashing attacks that would be Sonic's bread and butter. Shadow's sword in that game is a ridiculously impractical barbed monstrosity. I can imagine someone at the design meeting saying, "our physics are all make-believe anyway, so make it a sword, but eviler!" And Blaze uses a rapier, a fine weapon in isolation that's not so fine if everyone's in plate mail. I thought to myself, "I can match weapons to characters better than that!" And before I knew it, the story was on.

I mentioned Blaze just now. I didn't include Blaze in this story. Simply put, I haven't played enough games with Blaze in them to have a handle on her character, so I didn't feel like I could do her justice, even in a bit role.

I have a few other projects I'm working on, so I think I'll be able to sustain an every-Monday posting schedule for another month or so. Next in the lineup is "Forward Unto Dawn", a SatAM prequel, and somewhere in there I'll sneak in "High School Sonic High School", a parody. In the distant future I have planned "1 A.R.", a SatAM romance; we'll see if I can sustain my current pace of writing that long.

Thanks to everyone who read this story in its entirety. At over 300 pages, it was a bit daunting, I'm sure. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it—it was a lot of fun. If you want to ask me a question, feel free to send me a message, or just use the review feature. Again, thanks for reading, and good night.