"Hmm…" Have you ever heard of an island that exists so high up into the sky that it is said to touch the edge of the heavens itself? "Another day goes by, and once again no one has disturbed the island or the Master Emerald…" It is a glorious place where many types of environments are said to co-exist peaceful in close proximity to one another, from the fiery mountains to the tropical forests and the mystical ruins, to the icy caps and the underwater cities… "Heh, look at me, talking as if I actually want someone to start causing trouble around here." On this island, seven powerful objects of grand majesty called the Chaos Emeralds were created, alongside the jewel of near infinite might that unifies their power together, the Master Emerald. "Still, I suppose it would break the mood up here if someone tried to take the Master Emerald…"

No one knows just what created the Emeralds, if they were crafted by ancient tribes or brought forth from a mysterious if unknown dimension, but nearly everyone on this world and even a few beyond know of the might that these Emeralds are capable of wielding. "No, even if no one is trying to take the Master Emerald right now, something could happen to change that at any time…" But no one knows of the Emeralds powers more then its guardian, a red echidna with white gloves who fittingly went by the name of Knuckles due to his style of combat. Ever since he was born, he has stayed dedicated to his goal of protecting Angel Island from the forces of evil…It was a job that he shared with only himself, for he was the last of his kind.

"Yawn…" The red echidna stretched his arms over his dreadlocked head and smacked his lips a couple times after better expressing the tiredness his body is feeling due to how long he had been sitting around for the past few days. Once he hears his right arm bones cracking, Knuckles lowers his arms and rests his palms against the broken ground on both sides of his body and looks towards the starry sky with his dark purple eyes. As he saw a single star crossing the sky like a streak of lightning, the echidna is reminded of one of his friends from the surface world. Murmuring to himself without releasing any words, Knuckles lowered his head and thought to himself "I wonder what Sonic is up to these days…"

As the images of a blue hedgehog with a go-to attitude and a love of adventure flashed by in his mind, Knuckles chuckles and glances over his shoulder to look at the glowing Emeralds as the circle around in place above the seven pillars surrounding the altar where the larger, dark green Master Emerald resides on top of. "Even though we may not see eye to eye a lot of the time, I do owe a lot to Sonic…After all, I wouldn't be sitting on this island here tonight if he didn't stop Chaos. And in the end, even though I've been doing this job since as far back as I can remember, I will not curse my fate." Knuckles turned around and looked back towards the sky, and with a look of irritation on his face he lowered his eyelids and said to himself "Of course, I won't exactly be able to keep up duties if I fall asleep…I guess I'll go take a brief walk over to the Lava Reef Zone and get my blood flowing again…"

After lifting his stiff body up in full and spreading his knuckles out in front of his chest until they release a cracking sound, Knuckles flinches in place and thrusts his eyelids open for a moment so he can look up into the starry skies above. Something felt incredibly off, even if it just went by as quickly as a heart pulse. It was especially concerning how a couple of the stars seem to have vanished, which even the sometimes dim-witted echidna realized was a bad omen of things to come. Upon lowering his arms beside his body, Knuckles glanced towards the sky with one eye and reminded himself "…A brief walk…That's it." And began to depart from the shrine of the Master Emerald. If anything happened while he was gone, he would know right away and return to protect it from harm…But the thing about this night that the poor Echidna was unaware of, was that the person coming to this planet was someone the likes of which he will never face again…

Clash of the Elements Part 4: Travels of the Overlord

Prologue Chapter 1: The Scepter of Darkness

Many thousands of years ago, a lone figure sits on top of a smooth, slanted rock out in the middle of nowhere. He is contemplating something, but the complexity of his thoughts are a mystery to even those who are closest to him. His chin is resting on top of the backside of his hands, and he is looking straight on ahead through the thin streams of dust being blown across the wastelands. His dark red eyes are unaffected by the actions of nature around him, simply because in his heart he knew that the grains were being purposely directed in such a manner by the man that was approaching him from the sky away from his stagnant gaze. "Elemental Overlord…What brings you out here today?" The man clad in black who was given the title of the Dark King says with slight annoyance at the disruption of his natural period solitude as he shifts his body upward and rustles his hands around to break the stiffness in his muscles.

The other figure, a simple man wearing civilian clothes that were so plain in appearance that were it not for his reputation would deceive you into believing that he was no one worth your time to take notice of. The Elemental Overlord, as he is so called, places his hands into his pant pockets and looks at the crimson caped backside of the Dark King while the man brushes off the few grains of dust that had become deeply attached to his smooth onyx gauntlets and says in a casual, conversational tone of voice "I was going to ask a similar question. You've been gone for a few days, and it was rather worrisome considering no one had seen eye or ear of you." "Hmph, I'm sure my second-in-command knew where I was going, but it doesn't surprise me that he would neglect to mention it to anyone…But if you must know, I've just been thinking about life. Nothing more, nothing less…"

"…You were thinking about how we haven't been able to converse with each other as much lately because of our separate goals, haven't you?" The Elemental Overlord, after a few moments of silence, took a gander at trying to figure out what was on his opposite's mind, and with a glance over his shoulders the man looked down at his shorter company and nodded his head. "I much preferred the time in our life before we had to ensure balance on the other worlds…At least then we were able to help each other understand our powers without worrying about the safety of anyone besides our own people. But as of now it appears as though…" "Do not worry about it, I actually voiced my concerns towards the higher-ups."

Though the Elemental Overlord was trying to diffuse the problem plaguing his antithesis' mind, the mere mention of the higher-ups caused the Dark King to grimace out of view of the Overlord's eyes. "…Go on" Is what he said though in slight annoyance. "I want you to come with me to some of the other planets in the universe. We are merely going to observe the activities going on in each world, be neutral visitors if possible. I believe its time for us to see the universe beyond our natural roles. So we will be taking a trip of sorts, with no interfering no matter how much we wish to do so…" The Elemental Overlord holds his right hand out in front of him as the Dark King turns around to face him, and with a smile on his face he says "So what do you say? Are you with me?"

"…" "Hey, shadow, are you with me here still?" In the present day, the phantasmal spirit of the Dark King opens its ethereal eyes as the barely caring words of his host reach his spiritual ears with impeccable timing. The body he inhabits is that of a human boy roughly thirteen years of age, with a brown sleeveless shirt that bore a skull and crossbones on the front of his chest and a roughed up pair of blue jeans wrapped around his legs that had a small chain connected to the lip of his front and back right pockets acting as his wardrobe alongside the normal tennis shoes on his feet. His body is turned with his arms floating out beside him and his red eyes glaring straight at the spirit through the front of his slick black hair, which is combed over his head to perfectly conform to his scalp while also keeping the strands of hair around the rest of his face above his neck.

"Hmmm?" The Dark King's spirit says with pause as he wonders just why his host body, who goes by the name of Joe Dark, has stopped his advance throughout the endless depths of space. It took him a moment to realize that he been caught in the warm grip of nostalgia, and with a surprisingly graceful nod of his head the Dark King apologized to the boy for his sudden mental and emotional slip-up. Naturally, considering past behavior, Joe Dark was surprised by how the spirit acted just now and seeing how amiss his actions were he brought it upon himself to ask "What were you thinking about?" He turned his back towards the depths of space and leaned in that direction while folding his arms in front of his chest and maintaining a rather decent pace of flight considering where they were at now. "I was reminded of the first time me and the Elemental Overlord truly went out and experienced the universe beyond the roles we had been assigned by the celestial beings above…It is quite odd that I would be thinking of one of my fonder memories considering my hatred towards the Elemental Overlord, but at the same time I bear no ill-well towards myself for thinking them."

"I see…" And despite how much he loathed the Dark King for inhabiting his body still, Joe Dark didn't mind listening in to what the shadow had to say, especially since for the last few months this was the only company he had with him. Besides, in a way, he understood where the Dark King was coming from in what he said. "Ahem…Anyways, forgive me for stalling you, especially since we have not much longer left to go." The spirit tried to swiftly push the conversation under the rug and forget all about it, and though this disappointed Joe Dark slightly as seen by the look in his eyes he decided not to pursue the matter any further and after resuming his normal position and turning back around the boy kept moving forward through space.

"By the way, how have I been able to breathe in space all this time?" Joe Dark asks something that has been on his mind since the beginning, but he only chose to ask now since the Dark King was feeling more talkative then usual. "Because space is somewhat of an extension of darkness. Those who bask in darkness' might can ignore most of the laws of space such as the lack of oxygen and the pull of gravity if they so wish…Until they fully enter the atmosphere of a planet, at which point they have to conform to the rules established there." "And what exactly are the rules for this planet that we are going to?" Joe Dark asks with a rather piqued sense of curiosity. "You are asking the wrong person here. For all we know, anything can happen…I've heard instances of certain people flying to these type of worlds through space and having their powers dampened, their bodies transformed, or their memories erased entirely."

"Oh…" The boy, especially upon hearing that last one, muttered that single word out of concern for his own life. "Do not fear…If worse comes to worse I will make sure to salvage your memories." The Dark King made certain to reassure his host body after quickly and correctly guessing what was troubling his mind. "For now though…We have arrived…" Cutting the topic off for the time being, the two beings look on ahead to see a blue and green planet floating amidst the depths of space. "Wait a second…This is the planet Earth. You brought me back to my home world to find the seven Chaos Emeralds?!" Understandably furious at the Dark King for but a brief moment, it takes a few words of explanation from the spirit to calm his host body before he acted out irrationally "Relax yourself, Joe Dark…Its really quite simple to explain."

"This is Earth, yes, but rather then it being the one you are familiar with it is an alternate one that exists in the same universe but has taken a different path as far as its history is concerned." Though that explanation barely made much sense when Joe Dark tried to think about it for too long, as evidenced by the twitching in his eyes and the frustration in his scowl, he tried to understand the basic elements of it and quickly turned and shook his head back and forth before saying with gruff irritation in his tone of voice "Gah, whatever! How can you even tell that this is the Earth we are looking for if that's the case?" "Those of us connected to the higher-ups, even when we have been tethered between life and death, are able to perceive which heroes and villains exist on each world, along with whatever celestial objects that have been gifted to them if need be…"

"So the Chaos Emeralds you spoke of ARE there?" Joe Dark asked just to get some genuine confirmation instead of the vague explanations he has been receiving thus far. "Hehehe…" After a chilling laugh and grin that only the Dark King knew the meaning behind, he said to his host body "Yes, they are. I'll guide you to the island where they are resting at this very moment, just enter slowly through the atmosphere and then descend at my command…" "Very well, shadow…" The two beings move towards the luscious planet, their bodies going down through the atmospheric layers without burning up due to the forces of gravity not yet affecting them. It is only once they make it past the clouds that they are forced to conform to the natural laws of the universe, and Joe Dark in particular feels the effects near instantly as his eardrums start popping from the change in atmospheric pressure.

"Gah!" The boy expresses his disdain towards the sensation with a swift bout of fury and a light placing of his hands against his ears to try and get it all to stop as he descends further towards the planet's surface. "Its not fun, is it?" The Dark King says out of empathy towards his host body's pain. Of course, considering how hard Joe Dark is trying to avoid the pain by holding his hands against his head, he fails to hear the deep voice of his following spirit, which means that he had to repeat the question through the mind with a bit of annoyance in his tone. "No, it really, really isn't!" Joe Dark replies in brute irritation as his eyelids are thrust open and he starts lightly gritting his teeth in agony. "Bear with it for just a little longer, and look down in front of you…"

Joe Dark tries to focus through the pain at the Dark King's behest and notices an island floating amidst the clouds high above the briny sea below. There is a mass thicket of trees around the island, along with three ice-tipped mountains at the center that poke up high above the rest of the environment. Below the island is an amazingly massive quantity of brown rock that has water slowly dripping out from a few crevices and into the sea. But there was one particular part of the island visible from this point that caught Joe Dark's attention. It was a archaic shrine with moss covered, broken pillars and a two tier altar where a rather bright green sparkle can be seen glowing at the center of it all. This part of the island appeared to be separate from everything else, its only connection proving to be a lanky bridge far away on the western side of the altar.

Caring not about the minor details of the island after another brief glance, Joe Dark simply grinned merrily at the fact that he would soon be more powerful than the one whose life he was trying to end. He didn't even worry about the pain so much anymore as he pulled his hands away from his head and slowly descended towards the altar. His anticipation was palpable, and as he widened his eyes and licked the edge of his lips with the tip of his tongue the Dark King couldn't help but feel happy himself over the fact that his host body was so dedicated to his task. "Now be careful…If I recall correctly, someone on this world guards the Emeralds, and we wouldn't want to attract attention when you are still rather weak…" "Bah, I don't care about some guardian. Back on Plit I beat that world's strongest heroes when I was at my weakest state, so what should I have to worry about from this world?!"

Joe Dark made a strong rebuttal to the Dark King's warning, which in turn caused the spirit to make one of his own by reminding him "Don't forget, it was your very underestimation of what those heroes were capable of that got you killed the last time. And if you die again, I will not spare even a single effort towards reviving you." Glancing over his shoulder to scowl at the spirit for doubting his capabilities, especially towards his ability to learn from his mistakes, Joe Dark then looked back towards the island as it grew ever bigger and the central green glow was joined by a ring made up of seven different colored lights around it. He went towards the more prominent light, noticing swiftly how the other lights came from seven perfectly levitating jewels on the pillars surrounding its more powerful "brother".

"Here they are…" Joe Dark says, firmly recognizing the Chaos Emeralds for what they were along with the Master Emerald in the center of it and widened his grin slightly as he stops momentarily above the top of the Master Emerald and turns himself around to get a better vantage point of everything around him before he lands on the mythical jewel. "Interesting…" The boy could feel the immense power exuding from the Master Emerald without even so much as trying to detect it. It was so powerful that if the energy would be manifested into a physical form Joe Dark figured that the size of said being would be immeasurable, which was both worrisome yet at the same time exhilarating to think about as he stood on top of it and his body quivered in eager anticipation. "Don't get any ideas about absorbing power from the Master Emerald, boy…"

"Hmmm?" Joe Dark asked out of curiosity for the Dark King's grim warning. "The Master Emerald represents unification, which means its energies are incredibly pure…You'll burn if you try to pull the energy straight from there. Just follow my cues and you should be able to absorb the negative energy of the more limited Chaos Emeralds…" The Dark King floats straight above his host body as he stretches his arms out above his head and closes his eyelids tightly. He sniffs the air, catching a slight whiff of the power surrounding him and laugh gently in ecstasy before furthering the reach of his arms and increasing the volume of his laughter and insanity tenfold for a few seconds until he realizes that something is amiss with the process that should be making him more powerful.

He lowers his head and with his arms still stiff in the air he arches his eyebrows in confusion and says to the spirit above him "What is going on here? I don't feel any stronger…" Joe Dark tries to keep his temper in check for the time being as he looks up slightly at the Dark King's spirit as he floats around the altar and looks at each Chaos Emerald up close. "…Impossible." The disbelief of the wandering spirit causes Joe Dark to flinch in irritation as he slowly lowers his arms and snaps his fingers at the Dark King to grab his attention "Hey! What do you mean by 'Impossible'?!" He knew bad news would be the only thing reaching his ears, which is why he was growing angrier prematurely. "…It shouldn't be possible, but the negative energy in the Chaos Emeralds is no longer here!"

The Dark King was utterly confused by this development, which was a far cry from the usual where he appeared to be in control of most situations with his knowledge of how other worlds worked. "…Are you kidding me?" Joe Dark said after folding his arms in front of his chest and taking in a deep breath through the nostrils. But it was just a calm before the mighty storm of rage that the boy was about to unleashed upon the Dark King's spirit. With a thrust of both of his arms out in front of his body and an angered glare in his eyes Joe Dark turned towards the shadowy being and yells out while his black and crimson aura flares up to dangerous extremes around him "YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT I SPENT MONTHS TRAVELING ACROSS THE COSMOS TO SEEK OUT A WAY TO RESTORE MY LOST POWER AND THEN SOME, AND NOW THESE CHAOS EMERALDS DON'T HAVE THE NEGATIVE ENERGY I NEED?!"

Joe Dark leaps forward and launches himself at the Dark King's spirit. With his aura taking the shape of a set of talons he holds them uncomfortably close to the shadowy being with his eyes slowly becoming blank red with utter madness as he looks straight into the Dark King's own slightly tense glare and mutters in a tone of quiet that it is almost unnaturally disturbing "You better have some sort of alternative up your ethereal sleeve, or I'll send you back to Hell without a second thought…" Even though the Dark King knew that his body had naught the power nor the ability to go through with his claim, the sheer intensity of anger exuding from his blackened aura caused the spirit to tremble slightly in fear as he shook his eyes around and tried to bring forth a solution to the current problem.

It was then that he sensed something amiss in the area behind him. It wasn't an unnatural feeling that one would expect to sense when mass quantities of darkness was about, but it rather he felt as though the force he was sensing was not meant to exist in this world. Whatever the case may have been, as he turned away from the angered glare of his host body and floated forward he peered towards the closest mountain face beyond the bridge and sensed darkness seeping out from around a gateway shaped crack in the rocks. "…Interesting…" He murmured, while Joe Dark growled out in disgust "What is it, you nuance of a shadow?" "Follow me, I may have found something…"

The Dark King's spirit edged forward as far as he could beyond the constraints of his host, and Joe Dark followed behind not long after with his aura deflating and his eyes returning back to their normal shade while his eyebrows stayed arched slightly out of caution towards the actions of the malicious spirit that he flies right behind. Eventually, when the Dark King arrives at the rock face where the gate lies, he moves off to the side and tells his host body of what he saw. Caring not about finding a switch to open the way, Joe Dark simply raises his right hand into the air and channels his aura into a condensed sphere of energy that is thrust out from the palm and struck against the center of the rock. It is immediately blown to smithereens upon impact, with only a few rough chunks shooting off into the distance behind the boy while a layer of rocky dust floats against the ground in front of his feet.

Behind the rocks lies a small, dark brown tunnel with only a couple of torches lighting the way through. The Dark King immediately notices the darkness thinning, but still sees some of it seeping out from the tunnel itself. "Keep moving…" He says to his host body before taking the lead onward. Joe Dark lowers his arms and floats forward, entering the cavern and immediately noticing some stairs that lead to a pale, purple glow at the very bottom of it all. He follows the Dark King's spirit above each stair until they reach the floor below. Though there is more to the tunnel, the two beings need not advance, for the object of their desires rests on the ground in front of them.

It was a scepter with a rather interesting vial acting as the staff while a marble coil wraps around to connect the bottom part to the tip, where a blood red-violet gem lies encased in such a way that it looks like the eye of a monstrous deity. There are two cocoon-like wings besides the marble casing, and a miniature spiked half of a gate above it. Inside the vial was the pulsating black and purple essence of the being responsible for the pale darkness the Dark King had seen just a few moments ago. Lured in by the energy inside the scepter, Joe Dark bent forward and picked the relic up, holding it in the grasp of his right hand while looking into the jewel and grinning happily at what he was sensing. This time, he knew that he would get what he desired from the scepter, and the sensation was almost intoxicating to the boy's mind as he began to twist the relic around so the eye would be held out in front of the center of his body.

"Hold on there Joe Dark…" The Dark King hovers around his host body and with a simple whim forces his right arm to stop moving temporarily until he gets his say in on the scepter. "This scepter is a temporal anomaly…By all means, it shouldn't be here anymore, the same goes for the sentient being that exists inside of the vial…" Joe Dark glares out of the corner of his eyes towards the Dark King, angered by the fact that the shadow is sounding as though he doesn't want him to absorb the darkness from this scepter. "I'm just saying that while it is safe to take in the darkness, and in turn it will be simple for me to destroy the consciousness of whatever being inhabited the scepter so you can have full control of its darkness…Now then, if you would wish to continue…"

Nodding his head, Joe Dark closed his eyelids and concentrated on the scepter of darkness, releasing it from his hand as it began to float and swirl in the air in front of him. With his hands held out on both sides of it, the boy drained the darkness out of the vial in the form of miniature streams that connect to his fingertips and seep into his body to slowly increase the strength of his aura along with his power in general. Meanwhile, in the spiritual plain, the Dark King was joined by the ethereal essence buried inside of the scepter. The pale black and purple, crystalline mess of energy opened its burning reddish eyes and thinned its weary green pupils before speaking out to his only company in this realm in a subdued, puzzled yet deep tone of voice "Where…Am I…This is not Solaris' mind…How can that be when I successfully fused with…Iblis…My victory was…Assured…How can this…be…"

The Dark King, caring not for the tired ramblings of the being that was once known as Mephiles the Dark, looked at the spirit as his own eyes widened and his ethereal form spread out beyond the confines of his nearly spherical body in the form of a series of tendrils that thrust forward and dig deep into the mind of the creature. Forgoing a more subtle approach in favor of a rather brutal method of spiritual devastation, the Dark King gives Mephiles no time to recover from his long slumber as he uses his tendrils to push against the inner workings of the creature's spiritual mind and breaks him apart so gruesomely that he had not even a moment to scream in pain as the fragments of his spirit disperse and shrink into nothingness, while on the physical side of things the scepter of darkness shatters due to all of its darkness having been drained out down to the last drop.

The marble dust that falls into Joe Dark's glowing black and purple aura covered hands are kept in tightly as he clenches his fists and looks at them with an overwhelming sense of malicious joy on his face as he can literally feel every bit of power flowing through his body at this moment. It was more then anything he had felt before, and he couldn't help but feel mass ecstasy in his trembling body as his laughter echoed maniacally in the caverns and his aura flared around him in a rather controlled if not chaotic fashion. "Excellent…Whiter will not know what hit him by the time I'm through with him…" Though he enjoyed his newfound power, Joe Dark unwound his fists and glanced over his left shoulder upon hearing feet moving about outside the cavern. Lowering his aura to better focus on what was going on behind him.

He turned around and slowly ascended the stairs with a smile creeping onto his face while the Dark King followed him closely behind. Joe Dark walked up the stairs like a normal human being, since at the moment he didn't feel like exerting his power even to levitate. He reached the top of the staircase and saw that the sun was beginning to rise across the planet, its glowing edge blinding him slightly even though his lack of pause in his advance didn't suggest that the light affected him much. When he fully emerged from the cavern, he stood in place calmly and looked to the left to see a certain red echidna staring straight at him with his right fist brandished angrily in front of him "You! What have you done to the Master Emerald?!" He accused the boy of tarnishing the sacred jewel that he was protecting, and his accusation had a lot of evidence behind it considering the fact that he had come back to the altar not too long ago and noticed something amiss exuding around it and realized that the boy had a similar eerie sensation coming from his body.

"Ah…so you are the guardian of the Master Emerald, Knuckles the Echidna…" Joe Dark said with grim familiarity towards the creature standing before him. Naturally, the fact that this human recognized him but he couldn't say the same made Knuckles break his anger for a moment to express shock as his body began to tremble slightly "W-What did you say?" He said while trying to maintain his composure. "We already have the power we need, whelp…There is no need to pay any attention to this lowlife." The Dark King says as Joe Dark's grin widens with a lust for battle gleaming in his eyes. The Echidna did not hear the spirit's voice for obvious reasons, which made Joe Dark's ensuing sentence all the more stranger for him "And yet, I can't help but see a great chance to test out my new strength…"

The boy turned towards the echidna all the way and held his hands out beside his body, and with two snaps of his fingers darkness burst from the palms and flared up with a rather electrical appearance to it all. The power of his black aura caused a few strands of his hair to rise up, while his eyes widened in eager anticipation towards this battle. "Besides, perhaps I'll grab Whiter's attention by causing a little damage to this world…" As Joe Dark murmurs to himself with that second sentence, Knuckles regains his courage and looks at the boy with brash fury in his eyes, and with a quick pound of his knuckles in front of his chest he exclaims to his opponent "Fine, I don't care who you are, but you are trespassing on Angel Island and you touched the Master Emerald with those dirty hands of yours…So bring it on! I'm not going to let you escape my home alive!"

Next Time: The Power of the Chaos Emeralds