• Published 2nd Dec 2013
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Adventures on the Friendship Express - GreenS21



Spin-off story to "Sonic Generations: Friendship is Timeless", taking place during the train ride to Canterlot.

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Sonic and the Secret Rings, Volume One

“NO! You can’t do this to me! I am your prince! I order you to release me at once!” Celestia sighed to herself as she, Luna, and Flash Sentry followed the castle guards through the castle. In the middle of the unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies who wore their armor proudly was a rather dignified unicorn who was making himself look quite undignified at the moment. While his mane and tail were impeccable and he wore a black collar complete with a dark blue bowtie, his yelling was hardly fit for a pony of his stature.

They soon reached the doors of one of the castle's rooms, the guards pushing the doors open and ushering the unicorn inside. Once he was released, the unicorn immediately tried to get back out, though the guards stood in his way. "Let me out, I say! I will fix this! I cannot live like this!" he cried.

Princess Celestia, while standing behind the guards in the doorway, finally spoke, "Calm yourself, Blueblood. This is not a matter that you need to get involved in."

The unicorn protested, "Yes it is, Aunty! The current state of Canterlot is unacceptable! I am going to do something about it!"

Celestia shook her head, "No, Blueblood. You are not a trained soldier or an experienced adventurer, and you are certainly not a magic prodigy. Therefore, you will remain in this room until the situation has been resolved."

Prince Blueblood opened his mouth, "But..."

Celestia cut him off, "No. I am restricting you for your own safety, Blueblood. Do not attempt to leave this room without permission to do so or I WILL take away the luxuries you enjoy so much. I'm sure the nobles of Canterlot would love to hear about it, especially after your little show at the Grand Galloping Gala."

Prince Blueblood quickly, though reluctantly, swallowed his arguments at that. “Yes, Aunty,” he murmured, remembering how long it took to recover from the embarrassment that followed after that night. With that, Celestia and the group of guards backed out of the rooms, the doors slamming shut after them.

After assigning several guards to keep an eye on Prince Blueblood and picking several others (including Flash Sentry) to help secure the castle and all of its ponies, Celestia set out with Luna to the tower where the Elements of Harmony were normally stored. Once they were far enough away, Luna commented, “Such an uncivilized display. I find it hard to believe we are related to Prince Blueblood.”

Celestia looked over at the Lunar Princess and said, “I can assure you, Luna, we are most definitely related on our mother’s side.”

Luna snorted, “That’s hardly reassuring, sister.”

Celestia sighed, “Well, you can choose to believe it or not, but it’s the truth. Admittedly, I don’t remember him being like he’s been in recent years. At least he hasn’t made any serious complaints about the way things have been handled or tried to overthrow me.”

Luna gave Celestia a sidelong glare, “Was that a jest at me, Celestia?”

Celestia quickly tried to correct herself, “No, Luna. I… I didn’t mean it like that, I swear!”

Luna smirked, “Now YOU are the victim of jesting! Now you know how it feels!”

Celestia rolled her eyes, but smiled, “Okay, you got me, Luna.” She then put on a serious face, “Now I must insist that we stop joking for the time being. While the Royal Guard secures the rest of the castle, we must secure the tower where the Elements of Harmony are kept.”

Luna nodded, “No telling what could be waiting for us in there.”

Celestia added, “And we must be swift. Twilight and her friends could be arriving in Canterlot any minute now.”

________________________________________

Sonic, Spike, and the ponies were all hanging around the Friendship Express’ engine. Rainbow Dash and Spike were pacing around while the others simply stood where they were, all of them still wearing their racing suits while they hung around, waiting. Sonic had his arms crossed over his chest as he looked at the open space between the engine’s front wheels, Tails’ racing gloves held in his right fist. Just a few minutes ago, the fox had squeezed into that opening to get ‘under the hood’ for a closer look and now they were waiting to hear his report.

After about a minute, Sonic saw a flash of movement come from underneath the engine, and Tails’ face appeared a second later. Everybody looked over at the sound of Tails grunting to pull himself out, Sonic moving over to help him stand up once he was mostly out. Once he was sure the boy was steady, he let him go and asked, “So how’s it look, Tails?”

Tails sighed as he wiped some sweat off of his brow, “Well, it’s about what I expected. Storm’s effort to stop the train knocked some things loose and shook others out of place, but other than that, there’s no real damage.” He looked towards the front and added, “Not even on the exterior.”

Cadance spoke, “That’s wonderful to hear, Tails! I’m sure it would be quite a fine if any actual repairs needed to be done.”

Tails shrugged, “Probably.”

Shining Armor asked, “You said some things have been shaken out of place, right? Does that mean we can’t get moving right away?”

Tails replied, “I’m afraid so. I’ve gotta tighten everything and make sure it all still sits right. We’re still a ways away from Canterlot, and as a mechanic, I can’t stand the thought of using something that, at the very least, is likely to stall or do something worse.”

Rainbow Dash said, "Well, get back down there and do your thing, Gearhead! Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are probably wondering what the hay is taking us so long right now!"

As he turned around, Tails said, "Okay, I'm going! Geez..."

Just as he was about to crouch down, Rarity let out a loud shriek and ran over to him. Tails was already shocked by the sudden scream, which was only amplified when the fashionista grabbed onto his suit with her hooves and began pulling. In a matter of seconds, she managed to strip him of the outfit (and the boots, somehow) and grabbed it with her magic to hold up.

When he looked back at her over his shoulder, she explained, "You're doing something that the rest of us really can't do, Tails, and we all appreciate it. But I can see traces of grime on the fabric, and it's only going to get worse the longer you're under there! I'm very sorry, but I'm going to have to take this away from you for the time being."

Tails shrugged, "That's okay, Rarity." As he bent his legs, he said, "I mean, I'm not complaining. It's kind of stuffy under here anyway." Sitting down, he pushed his legs between the wheels first and then used his hands to push and correct the rest of himself until he disappeared under the engine again.

Seeing as the two-tailed fox had all of his tools under the engine with him, the rest of the group decided to give him space to work and got back on the train. They went back to the car most of the group had been in before the Babylon Rogues’ attack, though nobody seemed to be ready to sit down just yet, seeing as they all stood around.

“Um, what should we do now?” Fluttershy softly asked after a couple of seconds.

“Ooh, I know! Let’s have a party to celebrate our victory!” Pinkie chimed.

Rarity, while smoothing out the wrinkles in Tails’ racing suit, spoke, “Pinkie, darling, I know you’re happy about how things turned out, but let’s refrain from partying right now.”

Pinkie whined, “Aw, but why, Rarity?!”

Sonic spoke up, “I can think of three reasons. A, a party in a train would be pretty cramped; B, we’ve still got a time-eating monster to deal with; and C, Tails needs to focus right now so we can get moving again sooner.”

Pinkie shrugged, “Oh. Okay!”

Rainbow groaned, “Ugh, how long is this supposed to take? It feels like this is taking forever!”

Sonic said, “Just sit down and relax, Rainbow. Tails may take a while with his work, especially when it doesn’t work right the first time, but he eventually gets whatever project he has working properly.”

Rainbow sighed, “Yeah, I figured, but… Man, how come we couldn’t have been stopped closer to Canterlot?”

Cadance said, “I know you’re upset about all these delays, Rainbow Dash. We all are, but all we can do is accept this turn of events and do what we can.”

Sonic spoke, “Well, the first thing I’m going to do is get out of this outfit. It’s getting stuffy and it’s starting to ride up.” With that, he grabbed the zipper between his left thumb and index and finger and pulled it down, pulling his legs out once it was all the way down.

Rarity gasped at this and rushed over to him, getting up in his face and demanding, "And just where do you plan on putting that, Sonic?"

Sonic, admittedly more than a bit surprised by the white unicorn's reaction, asked, "An overhead compartment?”

Rarity backed up a bit, but she still was giving him a near-furious look as she raised an eyebrow, "A what?" Sonic glanced up and noticed for the first time that there were no compartments near the ceiling in the car.

He looked back at Rarity and said, "On second thought, I'll just find a spot to lay it down flat."

Rarity nodded, "That's what I thought." She looked back at the others, most of them looking unsure of what to do since they didn't want to incur the fashionista's wrath either, though they did want to take off their racing suits as well. Rarity spoke, "Oh, it's all right if the rest of you want to take your suits off as well." She then turned serious again, "But do not wrinkle them! Right now, they don't need to be washed, but I will have to when we get back to Ponyville if they do get wrinkled!" The others kept that in mind as they began to peel off the racing suits.

"You know, Rarity, these outfits are really amazing! Even after everything that happened during that race, they're not even dirty, like you said!" Spike said as he pulled himself out of his navy blue suit.

While using her magic to remove her own purplish-blue suit, Rarity replied, "But of course, Spike. A real designer knows how to properly prepare a set of clothing for the appropriate occasion." She examined her suit as she held it up in her magic for a moment before saying, "Although, admittedly, I may have made these outfits a little too tight. Perhaps something a little looser the next time I design sports apparel..."

Rainbow kicked off her Wonderbolts-inspired uniform and Applejack pulled off her red suit before the latter said, "Well, don't ya go makin' em too loose, Rarity. Ah mean, what, ya wanna make a sports dress or somethin'? That just sounds silly." Rarity looked at the orange earth pony with an irritated expression for a moment before glancing downwards, as if deeply considering what she said.

Before Applejack could try to snap the fashionista out of her muse, Pinkie called, "Everypony's done, Rarity! We'll lay them on the seats for you!"

Rarity instantly snapped out of her thoughts at that, shrieking, "NO!" That shriek immediately caused everybody to freeze in place and stare at her. Rarity blushed and cleared her throat before clarifying, "I mean, ahem... That's very sweet of you, Pinkie dearie, but I don't think the seats are a good place. I'm sure there's a good place to put them for now somewhere on this train, however." She turned to Twilight and Fluttershy and asked, "Twilight, Fluttershy, do you two think you could help us carry some of these?"

Twilight replied, "Uh, sure, Rarity."

Fluttershy likewise answered, "Um, okay, Rarity..."

After about a minute, Sonic, Rarity, Fluttershy, and Twilight had gathered up all of the racing suits, Sonic holding his own, Tails, and Pinkie’s, Rarity carrying hers, Spike, and Applejack’s, Twilight taking her own, Shining Armor, and Cadance’s, and Fluttershy taking hers and Rainbow Dash’s. After Sonic adjusted the suits in his arms and the boots in his hands, he turned towards the back of the car and asked, “This way, I’m assuming?”

Rarity nodded, “Exactly, Sonic. Since you are the closest to the door, you will lead the way. And you will do it carefully, yes?”

Sonic rolled his eyes as he started walking, “Yeah, yeah, I hear you.” He pushed the door open and stepped through it, making sure not to touch anything he wasn’t supposed to.

Rarity started after him, Twilight and Fluttershy following her into the next car as she continued, almost sounding a bit manic, “You like being in front, don’t you? Well, now you are in the front, where I can see you! You watch your step! I already said I don’t want to have to do extra washing later!”

The rest of the group heard an annoyed, “Okay, I heard you the first time, ‘Aunt Crabby’!” coming from the car, all of them giggling or snickering in amusement.

As the four of them walked through two more passenger cars, Rarity dismissed both of them as being inadequate for her creations. Halfway through the second car, Sonic, who was starting to get annoyed by neither car having any overhead compartments and Rarity saying no, asked, “Doesn’t this train have a luggage car or something?”

Twilight answered, “I think that would be closer to the back, Sonic. We should be almost there.”

Rarity gasped, “Twilight! You aren’t suggesting we place these suits with whatever other luggage is on this train with nothing to keep them in, are you?”

After Sonic opened the door to the next car, as they started to walk through the empty storage car, Twilight replied, “No, Rarity, I… I wasn’t… suggesting that exactly. Sonic does have the right idea, though; if you don’t want to lay them down on the seats, we need a place where we can lay them out.”

Fluttershy asked, “But where could we do that, Twilight?”

At this point, they reached the end of the car they were in and Sonic stopped to open the next door. After doing so, he looked into the adjacent car and saw a line of doors on both sides of the car. “Hey, what’s with all these doors?” he asked.

Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy peered around him to look, Twilight saying, “They’re overnight rooms, Sonic. Passengers can make use of the beds in them if they’re starting to get tired and a trip is really long.”

Rarity exclaimed, “That’s it! The beds will be the perfect length to lay out my creations and keep the wrinkles out!” Rarity quickly assigned herself and Fluttershy to one room and Twilight and Sonic to a room on the other side of the car.

While laying Pinkie’s outfit out on the bottom bed to the left in the back of the room, Sonic asked, “Hey Twilight, is Rarity usually this big a fussbudget?”

Twilight finished setting her outfit on the front right bottom bed before answering, “Don’t get too annoyed by how diligently Rarity takes care of everything she makes, Sonic.” She started over to the left side of the room as she continued, “She’s just generous like that. She’s really only fussy when she has something she doesn’t want ruined.”

While the unicorn laid her brother and sister-in-law’s outfits down, Sonic walked over to the right side of the car and set his and Tails’ boots down while saying, “Yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking. She’s probably better described as a drama queen though, right?” Twilight rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help giving a small giggle.

After finishing her task, she turned to look at Sonic as he laid Tails’ outfit down on the bottom bed and moved over to the nearby ladder to climb halfway up to the top bed. He laid his racing suit on the crook of his right arm and used his right hand to hold onto the ladder while his left hand took his sunglasses off of his forehead. He then reached his left hand up and lowered the glasses down onto the bed. However, as he moved his hand, it met something other than the blanket on top of the bed, something that felt hard. “Hm?” he murmured aloud.

“What’s wrong, Sonic?” Twilight asked.

Sonic felt around on the bed with his hand for a moment before reaching over and grabbing the hard object with his left hand. While still gripping the ladder with his right hand, he brought his left hand back down and looked at the object he held. It was a book with a mostly burgundy and blue cover, a yellow door within the blue on the front cover. Sonic smiled as he recognized it, “Well, what do you know?”

Soon…

“Ugh! What is Rarity doing with Fluttershy, Sonic, and Twilight?!” Rainbow exclaimed as she hovered over the others on her back, her hooves behind her head.

“It is a bit worrying, Rainbow Dash. By all accounts, they should have reached the back car and come back by now,” Princess Cadance said.

“Maybe Rarity is really picky about where she’s willing to leave the outfits she designed?” Shining Armor suggested.

Applejack nodded, “Ah could see that. That sounds like Rarity.”

Pinkie piped up, “Or maybe they found another portal and are having a super fun adventure together!”

Rainbow groaned, “Oh, they better not have! I swear…”

Spike suddenly shot up out of his seat and dashed towards the back of the train, exclaiming, “Twilight, Rarity!” The other ponies were surprised for a moment before they got up, running after the baby dragon.

Just as Spike reached the sleeping car, Twilight, who had heard the baby dragon’s shouting, stepped out of one of the rooms in confusion. As she did, Spike crashed into her front left leg, bouncing back and landing on his rump afterwards. Twilight turned her head to look down at him and asked, “Spike, what’s wrong?”

Spike shook his head and looked up at her, the other ponies catching up as he said, “Twilight! Where have you been? And where’s Rarity, Fluttershy, and Sonic?”

Twilight awkwardly pointed at the room she’d come out of, “In there. Why?”

Applejack spoke, “It’s okay, Twi’. Pinkie just put an idea in his head and made him a bit paranoid.”

At this, both Pinkie and Spike exclaimed, “Hey!”

Ignoring them, Applejack asked, “Seriously though, why have y’all been gone so long?”

Sonic called from the room, “That would be my fault!” Twilight turned and went back into the room, the others peering in after her to see Sonic sitting in the back of the room on the bed to their right and Twilight joining Fluttershy and Rarity on the bed across from him. The book Sonic had found earlier was sitting open in his hands, his hands resting on top of his knees.

Applejack raised an eyebrow, “Y’all have been… readin’ this whole time?”

Rarity huffed, “Don’t be silly, Applejack! I made sure all of the racing outfits I designed were laid out properly, and Sonic was just telling us about this fascinating book he found when all of you came in.”

Shining Armor asked, “So you were just talking about it? You weren’t reading it?”

Sonic answered, “Right. We were gonna come out and get the rest of you before I actually started reading. Fluttershy, Twilight, and Rarity just had a few questions about it.”

Fluttershy nodded, “It really sounds like an interesting book.”

Pinkie exclaimed, “Ooh! Story time with Sonic! That sounds great!” She made a big leap and landed on the bed above Rarity, Twilight, and Fluttershy, turning to look down at Sonic before lying down on her stomach. “Story! Story! Story!” she chanted as she got comfortable.

Spike and the ponies weren’t really bothered by the pink pony’s odd behavior, though Twilight did clarify, “This is a little different from most stories, Pinkie. At least that’s what Sonic said.”

While walking over to the bed adjacent to Twilight’s and sitting down, Cadance looked at Sonic and asked, “Really? What’s it called?”

Sonic closed the book and turned it around in his hands, holding it up so everybody could see the cover. “It’s called the Arabian Nights, and it’s a collection of stories,” he explained.

While taking a seat on the bed next to Sonic’s along with Spike, Applejack asked, “Ya mean it’s a buncha stories in one book?”

Sonic replied, “Pretty much. All the stories in here are standalone; they’re not connected to each other.”

Rainbow spoke, “Yeah, no offense, Sonic, but that kind of sounds like a boring book. I mean, if it’s a bunch of stories all crammed into one book, how long and exciting could they be?”

Sonic held the book up in his left hand and waggled it while saying, “You’d be surprised what some people can come up with when they’re trying to stay alive, Dash.”

Before Rainbow could ask what he meant, Rarity spoke up, “Please, Rainbow Dash. We all know you’re saying it must be boring because it doesn’t have Daring Do in it.”

Rainbow replied, “Well, yeah, that too. After all, everything pales in comparison to Daring Do!”

Twilight noted, “Rainbow Dash, Daring Do is the only thing I ever see you reading in the library.”

Rainbow flew over to Sonic and took the book out of his hand while saying, “Well, yeah, Twilight! I mean, could you ever see me reading something like this?” She used her wings to flip through the pages while she held the tome in her right hoof. Looking at the pages, she said, “Look at all these squiggles. Is this how people write in your world, Sonic?”

Sonic replied, “That’s the copy of the book I read. And I picked up a few things while traveling around the world.”

Rainbow looked up at him and asked, “So you can read this? What’s this writing called, anyway?”

Sonic answered, “Well, it’s not the language it was originally written in. Arabic is written differently, I know that.”

Pinkie giggled, “Arabic? Maybe it’s the same style of writing as in Saddle Arabia!” She rolled onto her back and waved her legs up in the air while saying, “Ifalas zaras I e zaraq, ifalas zaras I e zaraq…”

Sonic and the others looked up at her oddly. “What was that, Pinkie?” Twilight asked.

“Dunno!” the party pony giggled, still lying on her back.

Sonic continued to look up at her. “That’s part of the spell Erazor used to summon the Ifrit. Did she just say that randomly, or…?” His thought was interrupted when Rainbow let out a slight gasp, causing him to look at her. “What is it, Dash?” he asked, garnering the attention of the others.

“There’s something crazy going on with this book!” the rainbow-maned pegasus exclaimed, now holding the open tome with both hooves. Indeed, the book seemed to be shaking as it sat in her hooves, occasionally fluttering as though something was trying to get out of it.

Suddenly, a bright light began to emanate from the book’s pages and Rainbow Dash dropped it in shock, the book opening to the page where the shining was coming from as it landed in the middle of the floor! Everybody stood and looked down at the book apprehensively, Shining Armor and Spike moving to stand close to Cadance, Twilight, Rarity, and Fluttershy. “What is going on?!” Cadance exclaimed over the loud humming noise that accompanied the light.

As if in response to her question, the book began to lift off the ground slightly, tilting up until it was pointed directly at Sonic, who was standing in the corner beside his bed. Suddenly, the light shot out of the book and grabbed him, pulling him towards it! “Ah, not again!” Sonic shouted just before his face disappeared into the pages.

“Sonic!” Twilight cried, quickly standing up and running over to him, grabbing him by his feet with her forelegs before all of his legs disappeared. She tried to pull him out, but soon lost the tug of war and started getting pull in as well!

“No, Twilight!” Shining Armor and Cadance yelled, both of them running to her and biting down on her tail, both pulling as hard as they could to try to free her and Sonic. For a second, it looked like they might’ve been able to pull them out, but once their flanks hit the wall behind them, the book responded by pulling harder, yanking them off their hooves and into it!

Spike and the other ponies (save for Pinkie Pie) joined in, all of them trying to help the royal couple. Unfortunately, the increased suction coming from the book remained and they began to lose as well. Before they were all pulled in, Pinkie bounced over and said, “Wait for me!” before biting down on Fluttershy’s tail and getting pulled into the book with the rest of them.

On the other side of the light, everybody was being pulled down what seemed like a straight tunnel, the outside of the ‘tunnel’ being surrounded by swirling pages. There were also some pages floating inside the tube, seemingly acting like platforms, but they did little to slow the group’s fall, breaking off and floating away if they were hit. As they fell, despite their efforts, Cadance, Fluttershy, and Rainbow Dash were unable to flap their wings enough to resist the force that was pulling all of them down.

After a short while of falling, a light began to shine from up ahead and, as they reached it, a landscape filled with sand and various architectural relics began to spread out below the group. It didn’t take long afterwards for everyone to crash into the ground, the sand softening their impact. After landing, a few of them could swear they heard what sounded like someone moving away from them, but between the faintness of the sound and the landing impact, they weren’t entirely sure that was what they heard.

Sonic soon lifted his head up, raising his left hand to his forehead as he used his right hand to push himself up. As he stood up all the way, he rubbed his head and muttered, “Guess that’s another crash landing on my record…” He then lowered his left hand and looked around, seeing the others scattered all around close by. Thankfully, they all hit the sand like he did rather than any of the structures dotting the desert. They were beginning to move, so Sonic loudly asked, “Hey, everybody okay?”

Twilight lifted her head up and looked around, looking at her friends, brother, and sister-in-law as they started to stir and pull their heads out of the sand before saying, “Uh, I think so.” She stood up, looking over at Sonic and asking, “Are you okay too, Sonic?”

The blue hedgehog replied, “Yeah. Not the first time I’ve fallen out of the sky without a parachute.” He looked off to the side as he added, “At least we landed in sand instead of dirt.”

Shining Armor, as he walked over to Twilight, spoke, “…After that stunt you pulled earlier with that giant battleship, I’m not even going to ask how often this happens to you.”

Sonic looked back at him and said, “I can still count the times on my…”

Shining interrupted him, “I don’t want to know any details!”

Sonic shrugged, “Fine, be that way.”

As the others gathered around, Cadance stopped between Twilight and Shining Armor and asked, “So where are we this time, Sonic?”

Applejack added, “Yeah, what part o’ yer past are we in now?”

Sonic answered, “Uh, we really didn’t travel through time. More like through time and space.”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow, “What does that mean?”

Sonic replied, “Well, answer me this: what happened before we wound up here?”

Spike shrugged, “Uh, we got pulled into that book you found?”

Sonic nodded, “Exactly.”

The others looked confused until Twilight asked, “Wait, are you saying…?”

Sonic answered, “Yep. We’re inside the book.” He held his arms out as he added, “This is the world of the Arabian Nights!”

The others were shocked by this bit of information. “Wait, you mean… This isn’t your world, but a whole different world inside of a book?!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed.

Sonic nodded, “Yeah. That’s what I meant when I mentioned rescuing genies in magic books.”

Twilight held a hoof to her chin for a moment before saying, “That’s right. You did say that when we first met.” She looked around and asked, “Wait… Which story are we in? Or are we, since it’s a collection of stories, not really in one specific story?”

Sonic nodded, “You got it the second time, Twilight. There’s a thousand and one tales in this book, and they’re all brought to life here in some way.”

Cadance mouthed, “A thousand and one stories…?”

Rarity tittered, “Ooh! So many tales of mystery and enchantment and possibly romance… all real in this world!”

Fluttershy added, “And I’m sure there are many exotic creatures in this world too.”

Applejack cleared her throat and said, “Excuse me for breakin’ this up, but this ain’t exactly the world we need ta be in right now. We ain’t got time ta see stories come ta life.” She turned to look at Sonic, “Sonic, you’ve been here before. What do we gotta do ta get outta here?”

Rarity started to protest, “But Applejack…!”

Sonic spoke, cutting her off, “Hang on, give me a minute.” Before anyone could say anything, he suddenly dashed away from them all, running towards a column and going up the side of it. He stopped before he got to the top and used his hands to grab onto the edge, using his arms to pull himself up. He held his left hand over his eyes to keep the Sun out while he scanned the desert from the top of the column.

While he was away, Rarity turned back to Applejack and said, “Applejack, we just got here! Look at all of this; there’s a massive world inside this dusty old book! And Sonic clearly knows it, so why can’t we spend a little time here?”

Rainbow spoke up for Applejack, “Because your idea of spending time takes too long, Rarity! I’m totally with AJ on this one; we don’t have time for a vacation right now!”

Rarity looked aghast at the pegasus’ words. Before she could protest, Sonic suddenly zipped down from the column and back over to the group. “Okay, I’ve got my bearings now.” He pointed past the group and said, “That’s the way we want to go.”

Pinkie Pie asked, “Really? Why?”

Sonic answered, “The closest entrance to the town is that way. I’m pretty sure it’s not the same entrance I used when I first came here, but I’m sure we can find our way around the town. If my hunch is correct, we should find an old friend of mine at the palace there.”

Rarity looked interested at these words. “Ooh, a palace, you say? It sounds like you have friends who have great power in this world, Sonic!” she said.

Sonic shrugged, “Whatever you say, Rarity.”

Shining asked, “Who is this ‘friend’ of yours, Sonic?”

Sonic replied, “Her name’s Shahra. She’s the one who brought me into the Arabian Nights in the first place, and she knows how to leave this world. Finding her is our best bet if we want to leave with the least hassle.”

Rainbow spoke, “Well, let’s get moving, then! The sooner we find her, the sooner we’re back in Equestria!” Sonic nodded and led the way, Spike climbing onto Twilight’s back as the ponies started following him.

Rarity murmured to herself, “Well, exploring a town in this strange world does sound like it would be exciting. And perhaps I can get a little shopping in as well.” She then followed after the rest of the group.

As they walked through the desert, the mild temperature not really bothering anyone despite the Sun shining down on them, Cadance came up along Sonic’s left side and asked, “Sonic?”

The blue hedgehog looked back at her over his shoulder, “Yeah, Cadance?”

The pink alicorn continued, “You mentioned that this Arabian Nights book contains a thousand and one stories. Did you mean that?”

Sonic nodded, “Yep. I know it sounds like a lot for one book, but it’s true. It has that many short stories in it.”

Twilight, from Cadance’s left side, asked, “Have you read them all before?”

Sonic said, “Since my adventure here, yeah, I’ve managed to find time between Eggman’s plots to go through the stories.”

Spike shook his head, “Man, that’s crazy! Why are there so many stories? Who has time to write that much?”

Sonic replied, “Well, I’m no history buff, Spike, but I do know a little bit about how the Arabian Nights came to be. Pretty amazing, I gotta say.”

Fluttershy spoke, “Um, I was actually going to ask about that back in the train while you were telling us about the book, Sonic. H-How does it go?”

Sonic replied, “Well, I’ll try to keep it short since we’re not far from the town. It goes something like this: there was this king, see, and, well… Let’s just say that things didn’t work out so well with his first wife and he became a bit…” he waved his right hand around for a moment as he searched for the right word, “paranoid as a result.”

Shining Armor raised an eyebrow and asked, “Paranoid how?”

Sonic said, “He kept going from one marriage to the next, to put it lightly. And this went on for, like, a few years, until he married his vizier’s daughter.”

Pinkie Pie piped up, “Hey, what’s a vizier?”

Sonic shrugged, “It’s someone who’s like an advisor, I think. Anyway, the vizier’s daughter was really clever. The first and what should have been the only night they were together, she told the king a story that lasted the whole night. By the time the Sun was coming up, she wasn’t even close to finished yet, so the king decided to stay with her one more night so she could finish. When she did, she started another story, and for a thousand and one nights, she kept telling him stories. By the time she was out of stories, the king had fallen deeply in love with her, so he made her his queen and they lived happily together.”

Rarity gushed, “Ooh, how wonderful for that vizier and his daughter! A happily ever after story…”

Twilight looked at Sonic and asked, “A thousand and one nights? So the stories she told him for about three years…?”

Sonic nodded, “Yep. The king had the stories she told him collected and put together. In time, they became known as the Arabian Nights. That’s the story as simply as I can put it.”

Shining Armor asked, “Why, is it more complex than that?”

Sonic thought about the details he had left out for a moment before saying, “Nah, not really. Just figured it would be better to stick to something shorter for the sake of time.”

Applejack chuckled, “That and ta make sure Dash’s interest didn’t start waverin’, right Sonic?”

The aforementioned pegasus glared down at the orange earth pony as she hovered over everybody’s heads, “Very funny, Applejack.”

Twilight spoke up after a moment, “Look, we’re almost to the town.” Everyone looked ahead and saw that the stone buildings weren’t far away. They all quickened their pace, heading for the town entrance.

Soon, the group had entered the town. As Sonic had thought, it was not the same entrance he used the first time, as they didn’t have to cross a pier to reach the town. They began to wander the streets looking for the bridge leading to the king’s palace, passing by various townspeople who were all dressed in traditional Arabian garb.

As they passed through the town’s streets, they inevitably ended up passing through one of the marketplaces. Despite themselves, most of the group ended up drifting towards the various stalls along the road, either unconsciously or because they were enamored by what they had seen of the town so far. The various shopkeepers clearly identified the group as potential customers, as they began trying to convince them to purchase their wares.

Shining Armor and Princess Cadance were trailing behind the rest of the group, both of them interested in their surroundings. As they passed next to a stall full of pots, they were stopped by the stall owner calling to them, “Pretty couple buy a pot? No finer pot in brass or silver!”

Cadance and Shining Armor came to a stop at his words and looked at him and his pots. Cadance actually seemed to be considering buying one, as she put a hoof to her chin as she looked at the pots and said, “Well, they do appear to be very well-made…”

Further up on the other side of the road, Pinkie had stopped at another stall and Applejack was doubling back to check on her. As the apple pony got close to the stall, she heard the vendor exclaiming, “Sugar dates, sugar dates and figs! Sugar dates and pistachios!” Applejack could see Pinkie Pie jumping up and down excitedly at every one of the vendor’s words. It was a common ploy she’d seen in her years as an apple farmer, and one she remembered all too well from the time the Flim Flam Brothers came into Ponyville.

While the orange pony moved to help her friend, Rarity and Fluttershy were stopped further down the road at a stall that seemed to be selling jewelry. The stall owner looked at them and asked, “Would the ladies like a necklace? Pretty necklaces for pretty ladies.” Both Fluttershy and Rarity looked at each other and giggled bashfully at that.

Unnoticed by either mare, Spike was glaring up at the stall owner from the side since he thought the owner was flirting with Rarity and Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash, meanwhile, rolled her eyes as she overheard the owner’s words as she fluttered behind her friends. As the rainbow-maned pegasus flew in front of the adjacent stall, she, Spike, Rarity, Fluttershy, and the stall owner were startled by that stall’s owner suddenly exclaiming, “FRESH FISH! We catch ‘em, you buy ‘em!” while holding a dead fish out towards Rainbow.

Rainbow hovered back from the stall owner while uttering, “Ew, no!”

Sonic and Twilight, meanwhile, were ahead of the rest of the group, still looking for the bridge to the king’s palace. Further up, the road turned to the left as the straight part of the road ended and they turned to continue on it. As they were walking, Sonic noted, “This town’s bigger than I thought it was. I wonder if it’s grown since I’ve been here.”

Twilight looked at him and asked, “Can it grow? I mean, I would assume this town is the setting of a story; if it was bigger than the story made it out to be, wouldn’t the story change?”

Sonic replied, “Not necessarily, Twilight. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in the world of the Arabian Nights, it’s that, when all the stories come together, there are details here that aren’t even mentioned in the stories. It pretty much is its own world.” As they continued walking, a figure that was about Sonic’s size clad in a brown cloak was watching them from the shadows.

Sonic and Twilight soon came to another section of the marketplace. They looked around before continuing on, noticing how many stalls were open. After a few seconds, they passed by a stall full of eggs that was being tended to by a heavyset man. As the man looked up, he did a double take when he saw Sonic walking by and looked at him for a moment before exclaiming, “Ah! It’s…! It’s…!” Sonic and Twilight stopped and turned at his shouting, both looking confused. The man turned and put his hands around his mouth, calling, “Guards! GUARDS!”

While Sonic and Twilight continued to stare at the man, the rest of the group came around the corner and approached the two of them, Applejack and Rainbow Dash looking very aggravated. As they got closer, Applejack spoke, “There you two are! Did ya find the king’s palace yet?”

Twilight and Sonic looked over at them, but before they could answer, two guards dressed in red suddenly approached them. One of them asked, “What is the trouble here?”

The other guard pointed at Sonic and said, “It’s him! The street rat!”

Sonic glared at the guard, “Hey, I’m a hedgehog, not a rat!”

The first guard spoke, “Silence, rat! You should’ve stayed wherever you’d been hiding, because your escaping the palace will not go unpunished!”

Sonic raised an eyebrow, “Huh?”

The second guard said, “We have orders from the king! He demands you return to the palace immediately!”

Sonic replied, “Does he now? Okay, then.” He held his arms out in front of him, “Take me to him.”

Applejack gawked, “What?! Sonic, what do ya think you’re doin’?!”

Sonic looked over at the apple pony, “I’m coming along quietly. The king and I aren’t exactly on good terms; if he wants to see me, I might as well not push it.”

The two guards came over, the second one saying, “That’s a good street rat.” The first guard, meanwhile, put handcuffs on Sonic’s wrists.

Twilight gasped, “Sonic…!”

Sonic looked back at her, “What? I know when to come quietly. I don’t always do it, but I know when it’s expected of me.” The guards then moved to his side and grabbed his arms, lifting him up off the ground.

As they began to walk away, Rainbow Dash flew in front of them and said, “Hey, I don’t care who this king guy thinks he is! We’re not just gonna stand by and let you take our friend off to prison!”

The second guard asked, “Oh? So the street rat has formed a pack of street mice, has he?”

Sonic spoke up, “No. Leave her and the rest of them alone. They didn’t do anything. They’re just bystanders.”

Rainbow gawked, “What?! Sonic!”

The first guard spoke, “I’d suggest you back off, street mouse, unless you WANT to share his fate!”

Sonic looked up at Rainbow Dash and, noticing that she looked ready to burst, said, “Just let it go, Rainbow. Give me a chance to see the King, okay? Even though we’re not on the best terms, maybe we can work whatever this is out.”

Rainbow insisted, “But Sonic…!”

The blue hedgehog replied, “Five minutes. That’s all I’m asking for. Give me five minutes before you bring in the cavalry.” Rainbow still didn’t look happy at this, but she flew aside and let the guards pass. As they walked away, she overheard the guards saying something about a ridiculous alias.

As the guards turned the corner up ahead, Fluttershy whimpered, “Why did they arrest Sonic?”

Shining spoke, “We don’t know what Sonic’s standing is, especially in a world like this. He might’ve gotten into some kind of trouble last time he was here. At least he didn’t dig himself deeper by causing a ruckus.”

Pinkie put a hoof to her chin, “Mm, I’d say it would be more like a fracas than a ruckus.”

Cadance looked at Shining as Twilight came over and asked, “Shining, you don’t believe Sonic would cause trouble, do you?”

The stallion replied, “Well… not intentionally, anyway.” Looking back, he asked, “Still, why did those guards seem to recognize him? And why were they calling him ‘street rat’?”

Applejack sighed, “In any case, he’s either really crazy or he’s got more guts than Ah gave him credit for if he’s willin’ to go along with this.”

Rarity asked, “So what do we do now?”

Pinkie smiled, “That’s easy, Rarity! He asked for five minutes, we’ll give him five minutes before we come to his rescue!”

Spike pointed out, “But we don’t know where the palace is, Pinkie.”

Pinkie giggled, “Those guards obviously took Sonic to the palace! We just have to follow them and wait at the palace! We’ll wait for five minutes like he said and then get him out of there!” She then started trotting forward while saying, “One, two, three, four, five, six…” Spike and the other ponies just sighed before falling in step after her, realizing she meant what she said.

With Sonic, meanwhile, he found that the corner that the guards had turned at led onto the street that showed a clear view of the King’s palace, and he was currently being carried across the bridge at the end of the road. He wasn’t very happy about going so slow or being carried, but considering the first impression he made on the King, he figured it was best to keep his mouth shut until he could figure out what the situation with the King was.

Before long, the guards arrived at the palace throne room, where they threw Sonic onto his knees a short distance away from a man standing next to one of the columns along the side of the room. The man was wearing a black turban that was topped by a read feather, a golden finger ring and necklace, a white scarf, and a dark purple robe that had yellow edges and lines and red jewels, underneath which he wore a black shirt, black pants, black boots, and a red sash. The first guard spoke, “Your Highness, we bring you good news. We found your hedgehog servant in town with a herd of horses and have returned him to you so you may pass judgment on him. Just say the word and we will arrest his accomplices as well.”

The man turned around and Sonic really had to make sure he set his jaw as he saw the navy blue glasses the man wore and his mustache, remembering that even his bad doctor played a part in this world. He stared at the blue hedgehog for a moment before saying, “You’re…!” He then looked at his guards and said, “You fools! I told you to find and bring me Aladdin!”

The second guard sputtered, “But… he’s a hedgehog. Isn’t this Aladdin, my liege?”

The King replied, “Are you two colorblind?! This hedgehog is BLUE! And if you recall, I told you that a blue hedgehog, while disrespectful, saved me from the Erazor Djinn and then stopped him destroying our world when you two and the rest of the guards ran away!”

Sonic smirked to himself, “Heh, at least King Shahryar acknowledged that I did something right.

The guards began to scramble at this, unlocking Sonic’s handcuffs and dusting him off as they helped him up. When one of them asked if he would like them to show him to the entrance, King Shahryar interjected, “No. I’d like to have a few words with this hedgehog first. You two get back out there and continue the search, and don’t come back until you’ve found Aladdin!” The guards quickly saluted at that and ran out of the throne room, leaving Sonic and the King alone.

Sonic turned to look back at King Shahryar and they both stared at each other in silence for a moment. Finally, the King spoke, “So, you decided to come back, hedgehog.”

Swallowing down what that face meant to him, Sonic replied, “Yeah, sort of. …I’m sorry about catching you with my foot last time.”

King Shahryar turned and started walking towards the middle of the room, though he kept looking at Sonic the entire time with his hands behind his back. “What do you mean, ‘sort of’?”

Sonic shrugged, “I honestly have no clue. I just know that I and my friends were sucked back into this world without any explanation. Somebody must’ve cast a summoning spell; that’s all I can figure.”

King Shahryar replied, “I see.” He finally turned away from Sonic and walked up the steps to his throne, turning back to face the hedgehog as he sat down. “So I suppose you’ll want some help in order to find out whoever was responsible, or at least get the help you need to go back to your world?” he asked.

“If you don’t mind telling me where she is,” Sonic replied.

King Shahryar glared at the hedgehog for a long moment before saying, “Oh, very well.” He lifted his left hand up off of his throne’s armrest, revealing a ring underneath it. “You always were her true master, I suppose.” He reached down with his left index finger and rubbed the top of the ring.

A second later, smoke began to emerge from the ring, taking on the form of a young pink-haired woman wearing a light amethyst top that had no sleeves, white pants that went down to her knees, a pink belt, pink sandals, and pieces of jewelry. She floated in front of King Shahryar’s throne, turning her head to look at him as she asked, “Yes, Your Majesty? How can I…?” She stopped short when she sensed something and turned to look at Sonic. “Sonic!” she exclaimed after a moment.

“Shahra!” Sonic smiled as the genie floated over to him. He took her hands when she held them out to him and said, “It’s good to see you again.”

Shahra replied, “I feel the same way.” After they separated hands, she asked, “But how did you come back?”

Sonic shrugged, “Someone cast a spell to make it so. That’s the only thing I can think of. I figured the first thing to do would be to find you.”

Shahra’s eyes brightened, “Does that mean…?”

Sonic replied, “If you want me to be your master again, just say the word.” Shahra turned and used her magic to lift her ring off of the King’s throne, floating it over to Sonic and placing it in the palm of his left hand. “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’,” he said, slipping the ring over his right middle finger and grunting when it secured itself.

Shahra then asked, “So what now, Sonic?”

King Shahryar spoke up, “I’m sure he wants to go home, my dear. You were there when he left; I’m sure you can help him get back to where he wants to go.”

Sonic said, “I do want to go back, and my friends do too of course, but not just yet. Someone or something had to have summoned me back into this world, and like you said, I want to know why. Also, why are you searching for Aladdin?”

King Shahryar answered, “Ah, that. Well, it’s a bit of a tale; Shahra can tell you all about it. I will mention this, though: Aladdin has been acting strange ever since a strange man in a red cloak came to this town.”

Sonic asked, “A man in a red cloak? Has he done anything?”

King Shahryar answered, “Not as far as anyone knows. I’ve been trying to have my guards keep an eye on him, but they say he manages to elude them. Whether this is due to their incompetence or not, I do not know. At any rate, if you should find Aladdin, return him to me.” He slid his fingers together, “I may be willing to reward you for your efforts. Now if you could just show yourself out like a good little hedgehog…” Sonic didn’t really like the King’s patronizing tone, but he took the hint and motioned for Shahra to follow him, both of them leaving the throne room.

As they made their way to the palace entrance, Shahra asked, “Sonic, what did you mean you said your friends would like to leave too?”

Sonic replied, “Oh, I’ve met some new friends today, Shahra. They’re from a totally different world. A lot of stuff’s happened today to put our worlds in danger, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. Anyway, I ended up finding the Arabian Nights book when it suddenly started sucking me in. My friends tried to help, but they ended up getting pulled in too. They’re the ‘accomplices’ the King’s guard mentioned.”

Shahra nodded, “I see. Do you think they’ll want to know about Aladdin’s disappearance too?”

Sonic replied, “I’m sure they’ll ask why the King’s guards arrested me. They’re probably going to want to know more about how we met and the World Rings and all that in addition to what’s been going on lately, but for now, let me tell you about them.”

Soon, in front of the palace

“249, 250, 251, 252…” Pinkie went on, seemingly not the least bit bored with it, as she, Spike, and the other ponies sat on the front steps of the palace. The guards that had taken Sonic had run out of the palace almost a minute ago and they hadn’t stopped to either reprimand them or tell them what was going on, leaving them all even more confused. Still, at Pinkie’s unwavering insistence, they kept waiting.

Rainbow let out a groan and asked, “How much longer do we have to wait now?”

Twilight looked at her and said, “It’s been five seconds since the last time you asked, Rainbow.”

The pegasus huffed, “Yeah, well, this is taking too long! Seriously, what is Sonic doing in there?!”

Cadance suggested, “Maybe he’s trying to patch things up with the King. He did say they aren’t exactly on the best terms.”

Spike muttered, “Wonder what he did to upset the King so badly.”

Shining Armor rolled his eyes, “Good question, Spike; what could have he possibly done to upset someone?”

Twilight looked at him for a moment before turning her head towards the palace entrance as she heard voices approaching. The others heard it as well, standing up and turning to look as Sonic and Shahra walked out, still locked in their conversation. “Real unicorns and pegasi, and a winged unicorn known as an alicorn… They sound amazing, Sonic!” Shahra was saying.

“Yeah, I know. And Twilight has an assistant named Spike. He’s a baby dragon,” the blue hedgehog replied.

“A baby dragon! How fascinating!” Shahra said.

They both stopped and turned to look forward when Applejack spoke, “There ya are, Sugar-hog!”

Rainbow demanded, “What were you doing in there?!”

Rarity asked, “Do we have an audience with the King?”

Pinkie tapped her chin, “What’s with the ring?”

Sonic simply replied, “Hey guys. Sorry about making you wait so long.”

Shahra held a hand up to her mouth, “Oh my… They really are just as you described, Sonic.”

Shining looked at the genie for a moment before looking back at Sonic and asking, “Who’s this, Sonic?”

The blue hedgehog replied, “It’s Shahra. Remember I told you about her?” He held up his right hand, the ring on his middle finger clearly visible as he added, “She’s the Genie of the Ring.”

Spike and the ponies looked surprised at that. “She’s a genie? That… That’s amazing!” Fluttershy said.

Pinkie immediately got up beside Sonic and wrapped a foreleg around him, tightly squeezing him and saying, “Looks like Rarity was right, Sonic! You do have some great and powerful friends in this world! Friends with a genie? That’s so like you!”

Shahra giggled and asked, “Am I correct in assuming you’re Pinkie Pie?” The pink pony nodded, so Shahra smiled, “Sonic has told me plenty about you and your friends.”

Twilight cocked her head, “Already?”

Shahra turned to her and said, “Yes, Miss Sparkle. …Is that correct?” At Twilight’s nod, she continued, “That’s part of what the wait was about. He started talking about all of you and I really wanted to hear it all before meeting everyone.” Spike and the others introduced themselves to her afterwards, Shahra quickly learning who was who thanks to Sonic’s descriptions.

Once they were all done, Sonic suggested, “Maybe we should go somewhere else. I wouldn’t want to get in trouble for loitering.”

Shahra nodded, “Good idea, Sonic. I know a place in town we can go and continue this.” Sonic started down the stairs at that, Shahra floating after him and Twilight and the others following after them.

As they started making their way back across the bridge, Shining caught up with Sonic and asked, “Speaking of trouble, Sonic, what happened with the King?”

Sonic shrugged, “Ah, just a case of mistaken identity. His guards thought I was Aladdin and the King cleared up the confusion.”

Cadance asked, “So are you and the King back on good terms?”

Sonic replied, “Eh, I don’t know. He seems like a good guy and all, but it’s hard for me to get over the fact that he looks just like Dr. Eggman.”

Twilight asked, “What do you mean?”

Sonic answered, “A lot of the major characters from the Arabian Nights look like my friends back home. In King Shahryar’s case, he looks and sounds like Dr. Eggman, but that’s it. He is who he’s supposed to be.”

Applejack raised an eyebrow, “Ya sure about that, Sugar-hog?”

Sonic grunted, “Yes, I’m positive, Applejack.”

Applejack shrugged, “Just makin’ sure.”

Rainbow asked, “So who’s this Aladdin guy? What’s the big deal about him?”

Shahra, who was hovering above everyone along with the cyan pegasus, gasped, “You’ve never heard of Aladdin?”

Rarity quickly spoke up, “Our dear Rainbow Dash isn’t much of a reader, Shahra dearie. She has certain… preferences for what she likes to read, so you’ll have to forgive her. However, I believe she isn’t the only one confused here; I don’t believe we have a book like this Arabian Nights in Equestria, or at least I’ve never heard of one.”

Twilight said, “We might have something like it in Equestria, but I’m not sure either.”

Shahra sighed, “I see. That’s a shame; there are so many wonderful tales in the Arabian Nights, and ‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp’ is the best tale of them all! Or at least the second best…”

Spike spoke up, “Hey, we’re almost at the other end of the bridge.”

Sonic looked up at Shahra and asked, “Why don’t you show us where this place you were talking about is, Shahra? Like I said, we’ll continue when we get there.”

Shahra smiled, “Okay! Just follow me!” Using her magic, she transformed into a ball of pink light and floated down in front of the group, heading into the town. They all hurried after her, unaware that the cloaked figure that had been watching Sonic and Twilight earlier was still watching them, particularly Sonic.

Author's Note:

"Like so many things, it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts."

-Peddler, Disney's Aladdin

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