• 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 Black Knight, Volume Four

Soon, in the council chamber

Nimue sat at the head of the Round Table in Merlina’s seat with Caliburn at her right in his seat and Sonic leaning against the chair on her left, the three of them observing the collected chaos in the chamber at the moment. Some like Lancelot, Gawain, and Shining Armor were seated at the table while others like Rarity, Rainbow Dash, and Lamorak were up and about, pacing or otherwise unable to hold still. It was clear that the impending invasion was on everyone’s mind, and since Sir Frederick and General Tybalt chose not to be a part of the debating that was sure to come up, it wouldn’t be long before word had spread throughout the rest of the castle as well.

Smithy, who had come along for the meeting, was the first to break the silence by asking, “Isn’t there anything that can be done about this?”

Sonic sighed and shook his head as he answered, “There’s not a lot of options available to us, bud. We either fight or we run. I’d rather fight, personally, but I have to admit that option isn’t looking too hot right now either.”

Gawain nodded, “Yeah, not with such a meager amount of force available to us. It’s pretty much us, Sir Frederick, General Tybalt, the Crew, the guards that need to be here, and the new recruits. That’s it.”

Rainbow spoke, “Well, it’s nothing we can’t handle, right? I mean, look what we did earlier, driving that fake king and his Underworld cronies out of the castle!”

Lancelot said, “As he said, that was only a fraction of the Underworld army. This appears to be the entirety of the army that we’re going up against. Their strength may not be in their numbers, but as long as they’re being given orders to march on Camelot, they’ll keep coming back no matter how many times we beat them. They’re too simple-minded to do otherwise.”

Gawain nodded, “We’re not gonna give up, but it doesn’t change the fact that we’re not ready for war.”

Twilight asked, “What about all the soldiers that were sent out? Is there any way to contact them and order them to return?”

Percival sighed, “We could send messengers out, but it would take time for them to reach their destinations, and even more time for the soldiers to return.” She looked at the map, “Some of these locations, the fastest way to reach them would be to go through that army, and that would certainly be deadly for them.”

Lamorak let out a growl and said, “You know, we probably would’ve had plenty time to plan to bring some of the soldiers back and have them back by now if SOMEONE hadn’t slowed us down!” He gave Galahad a meaningful look as he moved over to the hedgehog seated in his chair. He poked a finger into the hedgehog’s chest as he went on, “Tell them, Galahad! Tell them how you insisted on combing every place we stopped for information, how you delayed us moving on from dead ends to hear every rumor and ghost story there was to tell, how we could’ve we been back here a lot sooner if you’d just listened to me!”

Galahad glared up at the hawk and argued, “If we’d gone with your plan, Lamorak, we’d have been back here in like three days with even less to show for our efforts! Your strategy was this: we go into a town, we ask the head of the town if they’d seen anything suspicious, they say no, that’s the end of our search there, we move on! The people you always wanted to ask hardly any information for us, even the ones in the locations that had seen attacks! If you’d listened to what some of them had to say, you would’ve agreed to investigate while we were out instead of waiting until we returned to Camelot to do so! There are leads out there we could’ve found!”

Lamorak yelled back, “Fat lot of good all that does us now! We’ve got war right on our doorstep and we’re not ready! This is hardly the time to be investigating rumors!”

Percival shouted, “That will be quite enough, you two!” Both Galahad and Lamorak looked at her, both realizing how foolish they must’ve looked just now. “We couldn’t have predicted what the Underworld army was going to do.” She gritted her teeth as she looked down at the table, “We didn’t predict they would back us into a corner like this…”

Sonic asked, “So this is totally new for them?”

Lancelot shook his head, “This is not something we’ve seen the Underworld army do before. Of course we’ve seen similar types of attacks from them before, but never anything leading up to something this bold. Someone in the Underworld has been planning for this.”

Nimue sadly said, “And that someone has to be whoever attacked Merlina… They’ve been manipulating us all this entire time…”

Gawain growled, “He was right in our grasp! Our former king made it possible for those Underworld knights to attack us earlier and he has to have been readying them for this war! He was usually good with giving out orders, but he was also a knight too! It wouldn’t surprise me if he was the one who attacked Merlina!”

Caliburn spoke, “I wonder about that…”

Everyone in the room looked at him. “Caliburn?” Sonic asked.

The sword explained, “It may well be the simple fact that it has been some time since we struck him down, but it seemed as if the false King Arthur was behaving differently earlier. He was not so boastful, his initial reaction to being denied the kingdom was not what I would’ve expected, and while his presence may have been needed for the Underworld knights to appear at the castle like Sir Gawain said, I find it odd how he stayed where he was.”

Cadance tilted her head, “That last one is… odd?”

Sonic spoke, “Well, he did hang around when Merlina first summoned me to this world, when we were surrounded by the Knights of the Underworld, but the other two times I saw him, he spent most of the time running. Yeah, he was fighting the entire time, but he was doing it while he was moving away from me.” He placed his left hand on his chin, “I guess I can see how that might be a little weird.”

Applejack said, “Might be somethin’ worth thinkin’ about, Sonic, but like Lamorak said, this ain’t the time fer that.”

Shining nodded, “She’s right. We’re not going to be able to stop the Underworld army from reaching Camelot unless we take action.”

Galahad said, “There’s no doubt about that, but it does go right back to what Sir Lancelot was saying. Staging an attack like this is no simple matter; someone, whether it’s that ghost or someone else, is giving commands to the Knights of the Underworld to attack Camelot. As long as they’re being given orders to attack, they’ll find a way to keep coming until we’re defeated.”

Rarity spoke, “And who knows how many of your soldiers will fall before that happens.”

Galahad nodded and leaned back in his seat, sighing, “Tracking down information like who’s giving out orders is our specialty, but how can we do that now? We barely have time to mount a defense…”

Lamorak placed his right hand on the white hedgehog’s shoulder as he said, “I don’t know, Galahad, but we do have a little time left. Maybe we can figure something out before we have to get out to the frontlines.”

The two knights looked towards the other side of the table when Pinkie piped up, “Don’t despair, never fear, a solution to the problem will soon appear!” Everyone saw that the pink pony had moved next to Smithy between Lamorak and Percival’s seats and had gotten a hold of her fortune teller’s outfit and crystal ball, the latter in her hooves as she set it on the Round Table.

Lamorak stared blankly, “What…?” Beside her, Smithy also looked a little confused.

“It’s Madame Pinkie Pie!” Spike explained.

With her hooves moving a bit as she held them over the crystal ball, Pinkie stared into the orb as she said, “Madame Pinkie can see all that will be, and she can even find your missing keys! Let’s all stare into the crystal ball together, and soon, we’ll know how to stop this war!”

Lancelot growled as he pressed his right hand against his forehead and stood up as he said, “Okay, no.” He walked around the Round Table to Pinkie, saying all the while, “Your defense system, while unconventional, did prove very effective. You have proven that you can plan when you put your mind to it, but we are NOT doing this bit. This council does not support false seers.”

Pinkie glared up at him, “Hey, I take offense to that! My fortune telling is VERY accurate! And it should be; my Pinkie Sense is always right about impending danger! So naturally… ooh!” She put her hooves on the crystal ball and gazed deeply into it, some of the others leaning forward in anticipation. After a few seconds she said, “Yes… I see it! Someone in this room is going to have a totally awesome party today!”

She stopped her gazing when Lancelot roughly placed his hands on the table and glared at her, “You’re not helping your case.” He pointed his left finger at the crystal ball, “Now get it off the Round Table or I will take it away from you.” Pinkie wrapped her forelegs around the orb protectively at that.

Percival turned away from the debacle and pressed her right hand against her forehead as she sighed, “Optimism, pessimism…”

Sonic, Gawain, Nimue, Twilight, Cadance, and Fluttershy all looked at the cat with worried expressions. “You okay, Percival?” Gawain asked.

Percival let her hand dropped and glanced at her fellow knight apologetically. “I’m sorry. I… I suppose I’m getting worked up about us getting nowhere slowly as well.” She leaned against Gawain’s chair, “Just like everyone else, I wish I knew what to do about all this.”

Nimue spoke, “It’s times like this where I wish I had some control over my premonitions. I’ve been able to have them for a long time, but the thing that triggers them is always different.”

Sonic asked, “So you’re saying whatever gave you that vision of King Arthur coming here isn’t going to cause another one?”

Nimue nodded, “In essence, yes.”

Pinkie stood up and trotted around the table to the pink hedgehog, her crystal ball balanced atop her fortune teller’s hat. “Aw, don’t feel bad, Nimue! Here, if you want, I’ll let you borrow my crystal ball since you left yours behind! Can’t see the future without it!” she said once she was standing next to the chair, shifting the orb to on top of her forelegs.

“What did I say to you about the crystal ball?” Lancelot asked from across the table.

Pinkie turned her head to look at him, “You said to get it off the table.”

Lancelot nodded, “Yes. In other words, stop talking about it and put it away. I told you before to behave.”

Pinkie replied, “And I told YOU to stop being such a grumpypants! I mean, really! In front of a guest no less!” Lancelot turned his head to look at Smithy, the fox cub waving awkwardly at being mentioned in such a way.

Some of the meeting’s participants were beginning to worry that the situation would soon escalate, but Nimue was not one of them. While the two were arguing, she found herself gazing deeply into the crystal ball much like she did with the gem on Sonic’s glove earlier. She tilted her head slightly as she looked into it, raising her right hand slightly to send a small amount of her magic into the orb. She stared intently, moving forward a bit…

Sonic noticed her behavior out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at her. “Uh, Nimue?” he asked, catching the attention of some of the others. A moment later, everyone was looking at the Lady as she jerked back from the crystal ball with a loud gasp, her eyes wide as she stared at it. Sonic backed up enough to avoid her bumping into him and was about to try reaching out to her when she sat forward in the chair, once again closing her eyes and holding her hands to head as she groaned softly.

“What’s going on?!” Smithy asked.

“What did you do?!” Lancelot demanded as he glared at Pinkie, who stuck her tongue out at him.

Applejack shook her head and asked, “Forget about that, what’s she doin’?!”

Galahad answered, “She’s having a vision!” Sure enough, a circle of blue light formed underneath Nimue as she held her arms out, wisps shooting up out of the circle and swirling around the chandelier. After a few seconds, three wisps separated from the circle and changed into cards, the cards floating down and resting atop the middle of the table while the rest of the wisps shot back into the circle underneath Nimue. The circle then disappeared and the Lady slumped back in her seat, breathing softly.

Lancelot quickly ran around the table and stood at Nimue’s side, looking at her worriedly while Sonic, Twilight, Spike, Rainbow, Shining, Cadance, and the rest of the Knights of the Round Table looked at the cards on the table, Smithy and the other ponies soon doing the same. “What did she draw this time?” Rainbow asked, everyone leaning over the table to get a better look at the cards.

“Looks like the Tower, the Devil, and… Death,” Lamorak answered.

Smithy spoke, “They don’t look like good cards to have drawn… But there’s something more to this, isn’t there?”

Shining nodded, “Right, Smithy. These cards represent what Lady Nimue saw in her vision. Until she wakes up, we’ll have to figure it out on our own.”

Everyone save for Lancelot looked at the cards and thought about what they could mean. After a minute, Pinkie said, “Well, I’m stumped. I don’t know what she could’ve seen! I mean, really! How can you see the future without a crystal ball?”

Galahad asked, “The future? Hmm…” He looked at the first card, the Tower. “When she drew that card last, she said she saw Camelot Castle… Maybe it represents a castle again?” he mused, remembering what Nimue had told everyone.

Sonic eyed the other two cards. “The Devil… and Death. Something about the Underworld…?” he thought aloud. There was silence for several moments; then, suddenly, a thought popped into both Sonic and Galahad’s heads. They both turned and pointed at each other, saying, “Avalon!”

Nearly everyone else looked at the two hedgehogs in confusion, Twilight asking, “Avalon?”

Sonic and Galahad nodded, the latter saying, “Yeah. See?” He reached for his sword and used his psychokinesis to suspend it in the air with the blade pointing down, making the sword look like an arrow. He levitated it down the map towards the south, stopping it over an island to the southeast of Camelot Castle. “Right here. Faraway Avalon,” Galahad stated.

“There’s a pretty big castle on that island. When the sun is setting, the castle looks like it’s made of gold. That’s really the only other castle that’s close to the Grand Kingdom’s borders,” Sonic explained as he gestured to the map. He then looked up at everyone and added, “That’s also where I struck down the fake King Arthur and retrieved the Scabbard of Excalibur.”

Cadance looked down at the cards Nimue had drawn again, murmuring, “The Devil and Death… Do they represent the false king’s fate?”

Galahad spoke, “They might. I was also thinking of something else.”

Percival asked, “What might that be, Galahad?”

Galahad used his power to move his sword again, moving it to the shore northwest of Avalon. While still holding the sword up, the white hedgehog explained, “A port town has sprung up here. That was one of the places where I insisted on staying a little longer to see if Lamorak and I could gather any more information. I stopped into one of the cafés there during the night, when most of the sailors were getting something to drink.” He levitated his sword back to his right hand before finishing, “Many of them talked about Avalon.”

Gawain shrugged, “So? Sailors like to tell stories, Galahad. They all have their own tales that they like to share.”

Galahad tilted his sword towards the echidna as he replied, “I know, Gawain. Thing is, all the ones that talked about Avalon that night had roughly the same story to tell, and according to the café owner, some of those sailors are pretty well-known and they all have tales that they like to share. So either they all liked telling the same ghost story, or they all believed the same thing: that Avalon has become a cursed island in recent times.”

As Nimue began to stir, Percival held a hand to her chin, “Is that one of the rumors you wanted to discuss with the rest of us?” Galahad nodded in confirmation.

Lancelot looked back at Nimue as she opened her eyes and looked up at him. “Lady Nimue…” he murmured, relieved. She smiled softly at him and placed her right hand on top of his hands.

Caliburn spoke, “M’lady, if you are feeling well, Sir Sonic and Sir Galahad have suggested the possibility that your cards represent Faraway Avalon.”

Nimue nodded at him, “Thank you, Caliburn.” She looked at Sonic and Galahad and said, “You’re both right. I did see a castle on an island. I’m certain it was Avalon, but it was twisted by darkness, as if the Dark Hollow was trying to claim it. It may very well be under the dominion of the Underworld.”

Shining spoke, “If that is the case, then that would mean the Knights of the Underworld have established a foothold just outside of the Grand Kingdom.”

Gawain added, “Which would account for the rising frequency of attacks we’ve been seeing. If they don’t have to travel as far, they can attack like they used to when they were allied with the false King Arthur.”

Rainbow spoke up, “Speaking of that buckethead, I don’t remember seeing him out there with the rest of his army. He’s probably gone back to that castle on Avalon and is holed up there, giving orders!”

Nimue hesitated a moment before saying, “I don’t think the ghost of King Arthur is the one giving the Underworld army orders.” When everyone looked at her, she explained, “Along with Avalon, I also briefly saw a figure moving around in the darkness, possibly the same one Merlina saw. It did have the yellow and black eyes like the Knights of the Underworld, but… they didn’t look like the normal Underworld eyes.” She looked up at Sonic, “They looked more like… our eyes.”

Lamorak held a hand to his beak, “Different eyes? Why would that be? Even our former king’s eyes were like those of the Knights of the Underworld…”

Sonic said, “Well, I’m sure we can figure that out later. This is the best lead we have right now. We gotta investigate it; it could keep us out of war.”

Caliburn spoke up, “Unfortunately, that war is not going to wait for us, Sonic. Regardless of what’s on Avalon, the Underworld army is sure to reach the city and conquer it by the time we get to Avalon, rendering an investigation pointless.”

Lancelot nodded, “That’s true. If we lose Camelot, we’ll have lost. We cannot allow that.”

Gawain argued, “So what would you suggest we do, Lancelot? If we stay here, we’ll get caught up in a never-ending fight and we’ll eventually lose the city anyway. Like Sonic says, Avalon could hold the key to avoiding that.”

Lancelot glared at the echidna, “I’m aware of that, Gawain, but we can’t be in two places at once. This is not like when we had to separate to reach the barrier stones to try to contain the Dark Hollow. The sheer size of the Underworld army will require more than a few of us to overcome it, and depending on how tightly guarded Avalon is, the same may be true there.”

Twilight looked around the table at Spike and her friends, all of them seeming to have the same idea. They all nodded at each other and Twilight said aloud, “We can go to Avalon.”

Shining and Cadance looked surprised at this, as did Sonic, Caliburn, Nimue, Smithy, and the Knights of the Round Table. “Lady Sparkle, you can’t! I mean, you’re all guests here; surely that’s not…” Percival started to say but stopped short when Twilight raised her hoof.

“It’s all right, Percival. Whether we’re ordered to do so by Princess Celestia or not, this is the kind of thing we’re used to dealing with in Equestria,” the lavender unicorn said.

Rainbow nodded, “That’s for sure! First time we ever saved Equestria was when Nightmare Moon returned from her thousand year imprisonment in the Moon! We barely even knew each other then and we still stopped her!”

Fluttershy spoke up, “R-Remember that time that dragon’s snoring was filling the sky with smoke? After we learned about it from Princess Celestia, we were able to convince him to sleep somewhere else.”

Applejack gestured to Shining Armor and Cadance as she said, “Princess Cadance and Shining Armor have done a lot for Equestria too. When Canterlot was bein’ invaded by changelings, they drove them all out of the city at once!”

Rarity sighed, “And let’s not forget the lengths we’ll go to get Sweetie Belle, Apple Bloom, and Scootaloo out of trouble.”

Lamorak spoke, “Okay, we get the picture! You’re almost as adventurous and daring as we are!”

Rainbow raised an eyebrow at the hawk, “I’m sorry, ALMOST?”

Lamorak replied, “Okay, maybe… maybe more than that. But from the sound of things, you all don’t have your own castle or a council chamber or… or…” his eyes darted around the room for a moment before they fell on the Round Table and he gestured to it, “or one of those things!”

Gawain shook his head at the hawk’s behavior before he turned to Twilight and asked, “Are you sure you and your friends want to do this? I’m not questioning what you’ve all been through; I don’t think any of us have any right to do that, but this is still a huge deal. There’s no telling what sort of Underworld creatures have made Avalon their nest. I just want to know, are you sure about this?”

Before Twilight could respond, Pinkie popped up next to her, her fortune teller outfit and crystal ball nowhere to be seen, and wrapped a foreleg around her unicorn friend as she said, “Don’t worry your dreadlocks, Sir Gawain! We’re totally sure about this! We’ll go to Avalon, find the meanie responsible for all the trouble in the Grand Kingdom, put a stop to his plans, and find Merlina and bring her home!” Twilight didn’t say anything, instead nodding at Pinkie in confirmation as she looked at Gawain.

Cadance spoke, “Twilight, Shining and I fully support this plan to investigate Avalon, which is why we’re coming with too. Isn’t that right, dear?” Her husband nodded in confirmation, so she continued, “I doubt Aunt Celestia and Aunt Luna would let you march into danger like this without offering their aid, and neither will we. Besides, I have a feeling there’s only so much we could do here.”

Shining held a hoof to his chin, “Well, before we leave, maybe I could give Camelot an extra bit of protection like I did for Canterlot before we got married…”

Lancelot looked at the stallion and asked, “What do you mean by that?”

Shining explained, “Well, uh… as a Royal Guard, I’m naturally supposed to protect ponies from danger. As such, I’ve worked on a number of different protective magic spells for that purpose. My strongest spell is capable of creating a force field big enough to surround a city.”

Lancelot held a hand to his chin, “A magic barrier that can protect a large area?”

Shining nodded, “Exactly, and it’s a strong one too. It would take an extremely powerful force or repeated punishment to break through it. That’s why I made use of it when we received word of an outside threat to Canterlot. Only certain things were allowed to pass through the force field; it repelled everything else. Of course, the spell had to be recast to make sure the field remained strong, and it is a bit of a draining spell, but…”

Lancelot cut him off with a wave of his hand as he said, “Forget it. We’ll do without.”

Shining, feeling a bit slighted at the black hedgehog’s attitude, asked, “You don’t think my spell would be helpful?”

As he walked back to his chair, Lancelot said, “On the contrary, Captain Armor. I think such a spell would be very useful for protecting this city, but I think the negatives outweigh the positives in this particular case.” He sat down in his seat, resting against the back of the chair as he explained, “As you said, it’s a draining spell that needs to be recast to maintain its effectiveness. You’re not going to be here when and if the Underworld army reaches the city, and at that point, it will be more of a last defense. If the army manages to get past us, the barrier will likely just be delaying the inevitable, something that probably wasn’t the case prior to your wedding. As well, what if something is already within the field when you cast it? The Knights of the Underworld may or may not be able to get past it, but even a small number of knights would likely be able to get the drop on the guards posted at the castle, who could become complacent at the idea that nothing could get past the barrier. The Knights of the Underworld could take over the city without us even realizing it. Finally, again, you’re going to be with your wife, your sister, and the rest of your friends.” He leaned forward, “I think it would be better to reserve your magic for protecting them, don’t you?”

Shining blinked, having not expected such a well thought-out answer to come from the black hedgehog. “Uh, yeah. Yeah, those are… all very good points,” the stallion uttered.

Cadance looked over at Sonic and asked, “Well Sonic, what do you say?”

Everyone looked at the blue hedgehog, who was quiet for a moment as he mulled things over. Finally, he spoke, “The only thing is, how are you all gonna get to Avalon?” He gestured to the map, “I mean, it’s right there in the ocean. I managed to get there and back, but how are some of you gonna do it?”

Twilight raised a hoof to her chin, “Hm, that’s true. We did lose the carpet when we were pushed into this world. We’ll probably need to find a ship…”

Smithy spoke up, “I can help with that!” Everyone looked at the fox as he stood up. He pointed to the coast that Galahad had pointed to earlier and said, “I have a friend who lives in the town here. She’s a sailor; she has her own ship and everything. She’ll help if I ask her!”

Lancelot asked, “You’re certain of that, Smithy? You know that your friend isn’t one of the sailors who told Sir Galahad the tale of Avalon being cursed?”

Galahad held a hand to his chin, “I don’t remember seeing any female sailors in the café that night…”

Smithy explained, “Well, even if you did, Sir Galahad, I have a feeling Letha wouldn’t have been among them. She’s a bit… eccentric, to say the least. I’m not sure I believe her claims about the other sailors in town, but she doesn’t really fit in among them. She’s daring and reckless when it comes to traveling the sea, so I imagine she’d be willing to go near an island that others say is cursed. Also, I helped her out one time and… she’s never let that go. It wasn’t anything huge, but she always brings it up every time I see her, always asking if she can pay me back for that time. I’d say now is the time to call in that favor.”

Before anyone else could say anything, the doors to the room burst open and everyone looked to see General Tybalt standing in the doorway. The lion took a few steps in before speaking, “Sir Sonic, forgive my intrusion. Sir Frederick and I have rallied all the soldiers available at Camelot Castle and we await further orders.”

Sonic asked, “Are any of the soldiers messengers? You know, ones who can send word to soldiers at nearby locations and ask them to return to Camelot?”

Tybalt replied, “Yes, we do have some scouts that we can give orders for aid to, but they’re concerned about being able to get the orders to their destination. They’ll either have to go through the Underworld army or around it. Neither option seems particularly good to them.”

Sonic nodded, “All right. Get all the soldiers geared up for battle. Our main goal is going to be to stop the Underworld army’s advance, but first, we’re gonna make sure those scouts reach their destinations safely. We’ll cut a path for ‘em.”

Tybalt asked, “Very well, but what of the Underworld army’s numbers? Even if we were to get timely aid, how are we going to get through this?”

Sonic answered, “Thanks to Nimue, we think we know where the commander of their forces is located. Our friends from Equestria are going to investigate Avalon and see if they can locate him. If we can stop him from sending orders out, we should be able to get the Underworld army to retreat. In the meantime, we need to keep them from reaching Camelot.”

Tybalt’s time as the general of Camelot’s forces made him a bit doubtful that the situation could be resolved so quickly, but he also knew that conditions were far from ideal at this point. He knew as well as anybody in the castle that they weren’t prepared for this; any hope that the Underworld army could be stopped was better than essentially telling everyone to march to their deaths. With that in mind, he bowed slightly and said, “Yes sir.” He then turned and left to go give orders to the soldiers.

Spike turned to Sonic and asked, “So we’re gonna do this?”

Sonic nodded, “Gotta do something, bud.” He turned to Smithy and said, “I hope your friend will be able to help like you said, Smithy. If you don’t want to go to Avalon, that’s fine.”

The fox cub replied, “I’ll go with them. I want to help too.”

Sonic nodded at him and then turned to Twilight, saying, “Take the Knight’s Passage out of here. It should help you avoid most of the Underworld army, and if you can, do a little sweeping for any knights trying to sneak in that way. I wouldn’t put it past them to try that.”

Twilight nodded, “You can count on us.”

Lancelot spoke, “Then let’s put an end to this. Meeting adjourned!” At that, everyone who was sitting stood up, the Knights of the Round Table foregoing the usual pleasantries due to the situation. They were the first to leave the room, Lancelot wanting to check on the soldiers heading for the frontlines while the others went to check in with the soldiers posted around the castle and the city.

As Twilight and her friends started filing out of the room, Nimue turned to look up at Sonic and placed her left hand on his right hand, saying when he looked down at her, “I believe this is a wise decision. By working together like this, we can make sure that this kingdom continues to stand tall.”

As Smithy was about to follow the ponies out of the room, he stopped as he remembered something. He turned around and moved around the Round Table towards Sonic, saying, “Sir Sonic, I almost forgot!” When he reached the blue hedgehog, he lifted the scabbard he was wearing off of him and took it in both hands. “I finished repairing Clarent as I said I would. I was coming up to return it to you when I saw the Underworld army.” He held the scabbard out to Sonic, presenting it to him.

Sonic looked down at the scabbard for a moment, noticing that the sword’s hilt looked like it was brand new, before wrapping his right hand around the middle of it and giving it a slight push towards Smithy. At the fox’s confused look, he said, “Hang onto it for now. It might come in handy. You are going to an island under the control of the Underworld after all.” Seeing what he was getting at, Smithy nodded and slipped the scabbard back on, turning and hurrying out the door to catch up with Twilight’s group.

As the group started moving towards the Knight’s Passage, Caliburn floated out of his seat and over to Sonic. While doing so, he noticed Sonic was still wearing the backpack he had taken earlier. He floated to the blue hedgehog’s side and said, “Sonic, that bag you are wearing…”

Sonic looked at him, confused for a moment before he got what the sword was pointing out. As he took the backpack off, he commented, “Huh, forgot about that. With things escalating so quickly, it must’ve slipped my mind.” While looking down at the empty pack, an idea popped into his head and he turned to Caliburn, asking, “Hey, uh, is there an infirmary or anything like that in the castle?”

The sword replied, “Yes. Why?”

Sonic answered, “Maybe I should throw some extra supplies in here just in case.” He looked over at the hallway outside the room, “No telling what’s gonna happen out there.”

While the rest of the castle was preparing for the oncoming invasion, Rainbow, Twilight, Spike, Shining, and Cadance led Smithy and the other ponies to the entrance of the Knight’s Passage. When they reached the hallway that Percival had led the five to earlier, they began pressing and feeling across the wall for the spot with the switch in it. “What are y’all doin’?” Applejack asked after a moment of watching them.

“The switch to open the Knight’s Passage is along this wall. Can’t remember the exact spot, but it was along this wall,” Shining explained.

A second later, Twilight called, “I found it!” She turned back to the wall, looking at the brick that had sunk in slightly from her left hoof pressing against it. As the others came over, she pushed it all the way back and then placed her hoof on the brick below it, pushing it and the bricks beneath it down. The section of wall closing off the Knight’s Passage slid open a moment later in response.

“Good going, Twily,” Shining said.

“Not like anything’s going to get past us, but maybe we should close it behind us anyway,” Rainbow suggested.

Twilight nodded, “Good idea, Rainbow. Head inside; I’ll try to figure out how Percival closed it.” Rainbow and Shining led the way into the Knight’s Passage while Twilight looked at the switch in front of her. After mulling over it for a moment, she wondered aloud, “Maybe it just slides back up?” She turned her hoof over and managed to get it underneath the brick she pushed down. As she raised it back into place, the brick she’d pushed in earlier slid forward on its own, nearly surprising her due to how close her head was to it. The entrance began to close as soon as the bricks were back in place and Twilight quickly ran through it, meeting up with the others at the bottom of the stairs. Once she was with them, everyone started moving again.

As Sonic had suspected, the group did run into Knights of the Underworld that were using the Knight’s Passage to sneak into the castle. Fortunately, it seemed that they couldn’t materialize anywhere they wanted to inside the passage, and the small inside spaces limited how many could appear at one time without getting in each other’s way. This made it easier for the soldiers stationed in the Knight’s Passage to fight them off, with the group helping them when they could and dealing with knights where there weren’t any soldiers close by.

Before long, the group reached the castle waterway and climbed into a boat, the elf manning the boat working to get them to the end of the Knight’s Passage as fast as possible. As they went, the soldiers in charge of the gates raised them for the boat to get through. Even though they knew that opening the gates might give the Knights of the Underworld a chance to get in faster, they knew that Smithy and the Equestrians were allied with their king and they needed to be somewhere urgently if they were using the Knight’s Passage to leave the city.

As they moved through the waterway, Fish-Ones flew out over the water to intercept their boat. “Incoming!” Shining called when he noticed a white one flying straight towards them.

The creature was stopped when an arrow hit it from the side, causing it to go into a spiral and crash into the water before it disappeared. Everyone looked to see that the arrow had come from a soldier holding a bow. He called to the group, “Beware the white ones! Their attacks can turn you into stone!”

Spike asked, “They can actually do that?”

Shining answered, “The books mention that too, Spike. That’s another reason to keep them away from the boat.”

Applejack pointed ahead, “Here come some more!” Shining took point at that, moving to the front of the boat and using his magic to try to shoot the Fish-Ones down before they could attack.

The white stallion was able to intercept the first few, but one managed to fire an energy sphere that stopped his shot, the Fish-One firing another one and causing Shining to fall backwards as he tried to avoid being caught in the resulting blast. He didn’t get petrified, but the opening he had left allowed the Fish-One and another one behind it to get closer. “Look out!” Fluttershy squeaked.

Cadance and Smithy leapt up, both saying, “I’ll get them!” As Cadance charged her magic, Smithy reached his left hand back into his left tail and pulled out a large, light blue slingshot. As the fox readied his weapon, Cadance hit the first Fish-One with a beam of magic. She was about to shoot the other one when Smithy fired a projectile from his slingshot, a projectile that exploded when it hit the second Fish-One!

Rainbow looked at the fox in amazement, saying, “That was awesome! What was that?”

Smithy blushed a bit at that, putting his right hand behind his head and rubbing it. “Well…” he began.

“The walls have eyes!” Pinkie suddenly exclaimed. Everyone looked up at the walls to the sides of the boat at that, seeing Knights of the Underworld that looked like slugs materializing across them.

“Eyeball-Ones!” Twilight cried.

Smithy looked at Rainbow and said, “We can talk about it later.” With that, he turned to the left side of the boat and readied his slingshot again while Twilight turned to the right side of the boat, charging up her magic. They both focused on keeping the Eyeball-Ones from attacking while Shining and Cadance dealt with the white Fish-Ones ahead.

It didn’t take long for the boat to arrive at the dock near the exit, but before they could disembark, a Soldier-One wielding a large axe appeared on the edge of the dock. It raised the axe, preparing to attack the boat. Smithy gasped and stood up as he grabbed the hilt of Clarent with his right hand, pulling the sword out and holding it so its tip was pointing to the side, ready to intercept the axe. The Soldier-One stopped in mid-swing, however, and, when Smithy righted the blade, it quickly performed a sideways swing, knocking the blade out of the fox’s hands and causing him to fall onto the floor of the boat.

The others gasped at this, Rainbow soon turning to glare at the Soldier-One as it again raised its axe. Reacting quickly, the cyan pegasus spread her wings as she reached for Clarent, grasping it between both hooves. She then turned and shot towards the Soldier-One, running the blade through its chest plate. This caused it to freeze and she applied enough force to turn it to her left before bucking it with her hind legs, causing it to fall into the water before it disappeared.

Fluttershy was surprised by this, having never seen her childhood friend legitimately use a proper weapon before, but she turned back to Smithy, wanting to make sure he was okay. The fox stood up a moment later and Rainbow hovered over to him, asking, “You okay, Smithy?”

While holding his right hand to his forehead, the fox replied, “Yeah, I-I think so.”

Rainbow sighed, “That’s good.” She held Clarent out to him, “Uh, here. You did a really good job on this sword, you know.” Smithy nodded and took the sword from her, sliding it back into the scabbard.

“C’mon y’all, we gotta get movin’!” Applejack said as she started to climb out of the boat. The others did the same, Smithy taking a moment to tuck his slingshot back into his tail and give the elf rower a few rings he had in his apron as thanks.

After they had exited the Knight’s Passage and had followed the path for a short while, the ones that hadn’t gone to the Deep Woods earlier stopped and looked around, not sure where they were in relation to their destination. “Where are we? How do we get to the town?!” Rarity asked.

Shining pointed a hoof straight ahead as he spoke, “We had to go that way to get to the Deep Woods, which according to the kingdom map is to the west. Therefore…”

Both Twilight and Smithy turned to the left and said, “We have to go this way to go south!”

Spike ran over and hopped up on Twilight’s back. He then looked at Smithy, saying, “Well, let’s get going, then! Let’s find your friend and get to Avalon, Smithy!” The fox nodded and they all started moving again, hurrying towards the town while simultaneously hoping and fearing that the Underworld army had advanced enough for them to avoid the brunt of their forces.

Back at Camelot Castle, Lady Nimue was watching the group from her reflecting pool, observing their progress. The pink hedgehog was currently on the roof of the castle, kneeling down on the grass and observing the group for a moment more before turning and looking to the south, a worried expression on her face. The Underworld army’s approach seemed to have halted, and there was little doubt in her mind as to why. Camelot’s forces had engaged them and were fighting to protect their city, Sonic and the Knights of the Round Table leading the charge. Nimue remained at the castle at their request to keep an eye on Twilight’s group and make sure everything was going smoothly. She was only to leave if things started going wrong on either end, the members of the Crew ready to be summoned when they were needed.

Looking back at her reflecting pool, the scene in it began to change as she whispered, “Please hurry, everyone. Our forces aren’t going to give an inch, but neither will the Knights of the Underworld…”

As they engaged the enemy on the fields outside of Camelot Castle, the sheer size of the Underworld army became apparent to Sonic, Caliburn, the Knights of the Round Table, General Tybalt, Sir Frederick, and all of their soldiers. Earlier they had seen the army approaching from the south, coming from the peninsula, but now that they were in the thick of it, they realized that the enemy was coming from the north as well, though thankfully in not as great numbers. Still, it was clear they needed to retool their strategy somewhat.

Their first order of business remained the same: halt the Underworld army’s advance and start to open up a hole for the messengers. General Tybalt and Sir Frederick stayed back with the messengers, which there were only six of, while Sonic and the Knights of the Round Table moved forward to start intercepting the Knights of the Underworld. Sonic led Lancelot and Gawain to the north while Percival took charge of Galahad and Lamorak as they headed south, both teams leading a faction of the Camelot soldiers as well. Thanks to Lady Nimue’s magic, they were able to keep in touch with each other, so the only reason to fall back to the impromptu base at the start of the path up to Camelot would be to start escorting the messengers to their destinations.

While the Underworld soldiers that Percival’s squad encountered were trying to rush and overwhelm them, Sonic’s squad had to deal with Underworld soldiers that tried to take advantage of their surroundings and their fellow soldiers to try to strike unexpectedly, forcing everyone to watch carefully to make sure there wasn’t anything creeping up behind them, but fortunately, the Underworld knights didn’t seem as numerous as they were in the south and their forces mainly consisted of differing types of Soldier-Ones with other units showing up as well.

After a while of fighting, Percival contacted everyone over the magic link Nimue had set up, “The Underworld’s assault appears to have stalled, and our troops’ morale is up!”

Gawain spoke next, “We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we should be able to get through now!”

Tybalt ordered, “Fall back to the command outpost! It’s time to provide cover for the messengers!” Sonic and the Knights of the Round Table immediately complied, making their way back to the outpost while their soldiers held the line.

After they returned to the base, both squads were given their orders before setting out again. This time, Sonic’s squad headed to the south with Sir Frederick and four messengers, two of which were headed for the Deep Woods while the other two were going to the Molten Mine. Percival’s squad, meanwhile, went north with General Tybalt, the two messengers with them going to the soldiers camped out on the Titanic Plain.

The messengers’ escorts stayed close to them while their fellow soldiers provided as much aid as they could as well, all of them carrying swords, spears, maces, or bows. As both squads neared their respective edges of the battlefield, Giant-Ones suddenly appeared in front of them, blocking the path. Although this worried the messengers, their escorts quickly made short work of the large knights, allowing them to slip away and call for reinforcements.

Having caught a moment for a breather, Sonic shifted Caliburn to his left hand and used his right to adjust the shoulder plate his cape was attached to, fixing both. The earlier attack by King Arthur’s troops had helped him get used to fighting with it on and he could see that Rarity hadn’t been lying earlier. As he moved Caliburn back to his right hand, Sir Frederick came over and said, “The messengers should be safe now. All things considered, things are going well for us.”

Lancelot nodded, “Yes. We just have to wait it out now.”

Sonic spoke, “Not usually my strongpoint, but since we’re protecting Camelot, I think I can manage.” As they turned to resume engaging the Knights of the Underworld, Sonic wondered how things were going with Twilight and the others.

Meanwhile, to the northwest of Avalon

While the waters did not get rougher as they went, the sky overhead began to get worse as Letha’s ship moved towards Avalon. While not as large, her ship had a similar appearance to Sinbad’s ship and was clearly meant to hold up against rough waters. As the Equestrians had expected, Letha appeared to be the Arthurian counterpart to Marine, though her choice of attire was a bit different. While Marine wore a green strapless top, black knee-length shorts, and green and orange shoes, Letha wore a light blue vest with short sleeves over an orange dress that went down just past her waist, a pair of tan shorts sticking out from underneath, the entire ensemble looking a bit torn at the ends. She also wore a pair of dark gray sandals and had no gloves. It wasn’t exactly a normal outfit for a sailor, but it wasn’t that surprising considering what Smithy had said about her earlier.

The raccoon stood at the helm of her ship with Smithy by her side while Spike and the ponies moved around the ship, keeping an eye out for trouble on the waters as well as Avalon. Letha looked down at her passengers for a moment before looking at the fox next to her and saying, “Hoy, Smithy! I sense grave tidings ahead. You ever seen anything like this before?” That was another difference the Equestrians had noticed about her: her accent was less noticeable and she often tried to sound like a pirate when she spoke.

Smithy looked up, eying the reddening sky and dark clouds overhead as he replied, “I remember the sky was like this when old Camelot Castle was destroyed. The structure that came up from underneath the castle, the Dark Hollow I believe it was called, was surrounded from above by swirling clouds. I know everyone in the city was scared and some even fled during that time, but I did my best to hold my post until the crisis was resolved.”

Letha nodded and turned her attention back to the wheel. “Do you suppose this means that this ‘Dark Hollow’ is on Avalon?” she asked after a moment.

“I don’t know. I’m a little surprised you didn’t go out to see Avalon yourself after you heard the stories from the other sailors,” Smithy replied. Letha stiffened up a bit at that, remember the one sailor who had told her about seeing the ghost of King Arthur around the island. That was all it took to deter her and it was almost what made her say no to Smithy earlier, but her insistence on paying back the favor won out in the end, so she decided to keep quiet about it.

Near the front of the ship, Applejack and Rarity were talking with Fluttershy, trying to make sure the shy pegasus’ nerves didn’t get the best of her. “She’s an odd one, ain’t she?” Applejack asked, clearly talking about Letha.

“Yes, if by ‘odd’ you mean her choice of clothing, Applejack. The colors are so garish together, and she clearly doesn’t take care of her clothes! At least Marine’s choice of colors went together and she looked respectable enough to be able to walk around without others staring at her. I swear, if we don’t get to Avalon soon, the only way I’m going to be able to keep myself from thinking about it is to fix it!” Rarity whispered.

“I don’t know. She seems nice, and the colors kind of suit her,” Fluttershy shrugged. Both Applejack and Rarity gave her odd looks at that.

After a few minutes, Rainbow Dash, who was looking through a telescope up in the crow’s nest, called, “Hey! Dead ahead! Land ho!” Everyone looked towards the front of the ship and saw, in the distance, a relatively large island coming into view. Even with the red dominating the sky, they were soon able to see a large castle on the island off to the left of the ship, a mass of clouds swirling around in the sky above it.

“Is that it?” Twilight asked.

“Aye! That be Faraway Avalon ye be lookin’ at! And despite the darkness, it doesn’t look as bad as they claimed! We’ll be making landfall soon!” Letha exclaimed, pointing at the island.

Shining Armor moved towards the bow of the ship, looking over the side and calling upon his magic as he said, “Negative, captain. We’re dropping anchor here.” As he spoke, his magic wrapped around the ship’s anchor and pulled it loose, causing it to drop into the water. Letha’s ship kept going for a little bit before the anchor kept it from going any further, even with the wind blowing into the sails.

Upon realizing that her ship had stopped, Letha furiously came down the wheel and stomped up to Shining Armor, demanding, “What is the meaning of this?! I’m the captain of this ship, and I say we’re going all the way to that island! Are you disrespecting me?!”

Shining stood calm at her shouts and, after she was done, calmly replied, “My apologies, Captain Letha, but that’s not what we agreed to.” At her confused look, he explained, “You made it very clear to us that, even though you would take us on your ship, you weren’t going to actually land on the island.” He gestured to the small dinghy on the ship’s port side, “You said we could take that the rest of the way, but you and your ship were going to remain a safe distance away from the island.”

Letha remembered that that was indeed what she’d forced them to agree to back in town, her relief at there being no King Arthur ghost having caused her to forget. “Well, that was… that was just in case there were ghosts or ghost ships or something else protecting the island! I’ve only got one ship after all! I-I don’t have any cannons or anything like that onboard, so if ran into trouble, w-we wouldn’t be able to defend ourselves!” she stammered.

Smithy came up behind the raccoon and said, “That’s why I convinced everyone to agree to your terms, Letha. I know how much it cost you to get this ship; even with my help, you still barely put together enough money and materials to have it built. And you make a good point; if your ship gets sunk, we’ll be stranded on Avalon until help comes. With the way the island looks now, it’s not worth risking it.”

Letha turned to him and sputtered, “B-But… This is my dream! I want to have adventures like this! I want to help the Grand Kingdom!”

Cadance came up alongside Smithy and said, “And you have, Letha. With your help, we’ve reached a place that most of us would not have the means to reach. Believe me, I understand wanting to be recognized for your accomplishments, but in a war, everyone has to play a part in order to achieve a desirable outcome.”

As Pinkie hopped over to the apparatus holding the dinghy in place and began fiddling with the crank, Applejack said, “So let’s get this here boat down into the water and do what Sonic and the Knights of the Round Table are countin’ on us ta do!”

As he followed Spike and the other ponies over to the boat, Shining addressed Letha, “Stay here for the time being. Once things start clearing up a little, it should be safe to approach the island.”

Rainbow added, “Yeah, give it about an hour. We should be done by then!”

Smithy turned to Letha and said, “I can stay here with you if you want, Letha. I mean, I mainly volunteered because I thought you would be able to help. The king said I don’t have to go to the island; I can give Clarent to someone else…”

Letha sighed softly, her indignation at her ‘crew’ ditching her ebbing away as she listened to the fox ramble. She finally cut him off, “No, th-that’s okay, Smithy. I can keep an eye on things. Go on and help them; they might need whatever’s inside that coconut of yours.” Smithy smiled at her ribbing, but he still looked a bit concerned even as he walked over to join the others on the boat. Once he was on board, Letha stepped over to the crank and began to turn it, lowering the smaller boat down into the water. As she was doing this, she thought, “I suppose I COULD just admit that I was afraid of the ghost rumors and that I always meant to go with them… but that wouldn’t make me a good sailor or captain! I’m not giving this lot any reason to doubt my leadership! And the best way for them to learn is by doing!

As the boat touched the water, Rarity looked around suddenly and noticed something. “Oh dear. Did we forget to bring the oars?” she asked, realizing the boat didn’t seem to have any paddles.

“Nah, no way, Rare. We don’t need oars,” Rainbow said, flapping her wings to get above the boat.

Smithy looked back at her as she flew backwards, getting behind the boat. “How are we going to move the boat without oars?” he asked.

Taking a moment to breathe on her hooves, she placed them on top of the boat as she replied, “We did that earlier. It took too long to get out of Camelot Castle, considering we’re trying to stop a war here. This time, we’re going the fast way!”

Smithy looked confused at that, but Twilight quickly saw what she meant and let out a sigh before saying, “Hang on, everypony!” As everyone braced themselves, Rainbow began flapping her wings faster; seconds later, the boat suddenly shot away from Letha’s ship like a rocket, Smithy managing to grab onto the inside before the sudden rush pushed him out.

Up on the ship’s deck, the raccoon captain looked shocked as the boat shot off into the distance. “Bucklers and bonnets! That’s one speedy skylubber!” she exclaimed. She then cheered, “Yeah, go get ‘em, mates! Swash their buckles!”

Thanks to Rainbow, it didn’t take long for the group to reach Avalon, the cyan pegasus holding her wings out straight to slow down as they approached a suitable spot to leave the boat. As they all piled out of the boat, Rarity looked back towards where Letha’s ship was and said, “Well, yes, I suppose that was the better option, Rainbow Dash.” Still, she checked her mane and tail to make sure there wasn’t a hair out of place.

Spike climbed up onto a nearby rise and pointed forward, saying, “Hey, look! We’re not far from the castle.” Everyone came up near him and saw that he was right; it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes for them to reach the castle. As they looked, they noticed that it seemed darker on the island than it had been on the sea even though the cloud cover hadn’t changed.

Looking down at the ground, Fluttershy noticed that the grass was all dried up and withering, the trees around the island looking to be in a similar state from what she could see. “This almost looks like the kingdom that the changelings took over…” she murmured.

Pinkie gasped, “It does, Fluttershy! So maybe my secret weapon would work here as well, and I don’t have it!”

Rainbow deadpanned, “No it wouldn’t, Pinkie. Can we just go and not talk about that?” Although Spike, Smithy, Shining, and Cadance weren’t sure what the two were referring to, they agreed that they should get moving, all of them running towards the castle as fast as they could go.

As they got closer to the castle, they began to see that, in the darkness, it appeared to be black rather than gold like Sonic said it was. When they reached it, they walked along a path that ran along the outside of the castle, all of them keeping an eye out for any Knights of the Underworld or any other sort of danger, Smithy clutching his slingshot in his left hand the whole time. As they walked, they noticed that things around the castle looked similar to the rest of the island. The plants in the plant boxes all seemed to be dying, and while the water along the sides of the path didn’t look different, it was a safe guess that, with as dark as it was, one wouldn’t have to sink too deep into it to be plunged into darkness.

After a few minutes of walking, Applejack asked, “How do we get inside this castle? We haven’t seen anythin’ resemblin’ a door yet!”

Twilight said, “There has to be a way in somewhere, Applejack. A castle this big has to have an entrance; why would someone build a castle this big if no one could get inside?” Before anyone could say anything, a flash of lightning came from the clouds above, causing everyone to freeze. They all shut their eyes as several more bolts appeared in succession, Spike grabbing onto one of Twilight’s legs as he kept his eyes closed, though none of them struck anything. Once they were sure no more were coming, everyone opened their eyes and looked around. Twilight looked back and noticed Smithy and Fluttershy huddled next to a wall together. “Are you two okay?” she asked, everyone else looking as well.

The two stood up a moment later and shakily made their way back over to the others, Smithy grabbing his dropped slingshot as he walked. While Fluttershy let out a shuddering squeak, Smithy hesitantly stammered, “I-I’m afraid of lightning…”

Shining said, “I think we’d better find a way to get inside quick. While not necessarily safer, it’s gotta be better inside the castle than it is out here.”

Cadance called, “Everyone, come look at this!” They all looked to see that the pink alicorn had gone on ahead a little bit and was looking off to the left. They hurried over to her and saw what had caught her attention. Right in front of her was a large hole in the path that seemed to have a set of dirt stairs leading down into it. From the looks of it, the hole seemed to go pretty far down.

“What’s this doing here?” Rainbow asked.

“I don’t know, but it might be connected over there,” Cadance replied, looking up and pointing straight ahead. Everyone looked to see, across several water-filled basins and another path running along the castle, was a large gray tower. It stood nearly taller than the castle around it and didn’t seem to be connected, appearing to stand separate from the black castle.

“That’s strange,” Twilight said.

“Yeah. I wonder if it that was built recently and it’s not actually part of the castle,” Cadance agreed.

A flash of lightning overhead cut off any more thoughts on the subject, both Fluttershy and Smithy leaping and wrapping their forelegs/arms around Spike, rubbing their chins against his head much to his displeasure. Shining looked at them for a moment before turning to everyone and saying, “Let’s see where this hole goes.” They all nodded and, after some coaxing to get Smithy and Fluttershy to let go of Spike, they started down into the hole after Shining, Cadance, and Twilight used their magic to project a beam of light from their horns to light the way.

After a short while of walking, the tunnel came to an end at a rocky wall. In the center of the wall was what appeared to be some sort of circular seal with a small set of stairs leading up to it. The group moved forward up to the seal, Twilight and Shining stepping up to it while Cadance stayed back to light it up from behind. Looking the seal over, they saw that it appeared to have some sort of depiction of the Underworld displayed on it, as it showed creatures that seemed to be shrouded in shadows in a dark landscape.

Shining looked up towards the ceiling and, after a moment, said, “This must be the entrance to that tower.”

Twilight kept looking at the seal as she asked, “How do we get past this?” She raised her hooves and pressed on the wall around the seal, but nothing happened. As she looked back up at the seal, Applejack stepped forward and, after a moment, raised her hooves to the seal. Twilight was about to say something, but when she pressed her hooves on it, the seal slid inwards. Pushing it to the left didn’t do anything, but when she pushed it to the right, it slid out of the way, revealing an opening. “Oh,” Twilight uttered as she gave Applejack a sheepish look.

Stepping through the opening, they found themselves in some sort of chamber. Twilight, Shining, and Cadance ran their lights across the room to get a better look at it. The room was filled with some sort of bluish mist that made the air cold and slightly obscured their vision, but most of it appeared to be below their level. In front of the group was a sloped stone path leading to a circular middle platform that had a black stone tablet in the middle of it. Four narrow straight paths branched off from the center platform like bridges, each one leading to a door with a different arch around it. Straight ahead of the group was a fifth path that was wider than the others that led to a wall with a seal on it.

Moving to the center platform, the unicorns and alicorn shined their lights on the tablet in the middle of it and found several lines of symbols carved on it. “Is this writing? I can’t read it!” Pinkie exclaimed as she leaned over Twilight’s shoulder, her voice bouncing off the walls a bit.

Looking back at the tablet, Cadance suggested, “Maybe it’s some kind of Underworld writing, or even some sort of old language from long before the days of Camelot.”

Smithy spoke, “It is an old language, Cadance. I recognize the shapes.”

Fluttershy asked, “What does it say?”

Smithy replied, “I can’t tell off the top of my head. Fortunately…” He reached his right hand into his apron and pulled out a small, pocket-sized red book a moment later. “I always keep this easy to carry guide for translating other languages I specially ordered with me.”

Rainbow deadpanned, “Seriously? You carry a dictionary with you everywhere you go?”

Smithy replied, “Well, everyone needs a hobby, right? I’m interested in ancient history; I’ve even read copies of texts that were written long ago. I ordered this guide so I would always have a reference close by, which has been helpful for my work as well. Sometimes I get orders that are written in other languages and I need a quick reference to make sure I understand it all.” With that, he stepped up in front of the tablet and knelt down on one knee, holding his guide down in front of him. As he switched between looking at the tablet and the book, Shining made sure the tablet was sufficiently lit up while Twilight used her light to give Smithy a light to read by.

After about a minute, Applejack asked, “Well, how’s it goin’?”

Smithy turned his head to look up at her and replied, “Well, this is just a rough translation, but,” he turned his head back towards the tablet, “I believe it says, ‘When the four lights join the darkness, the path will become clear’. And down here, this last part looks like it was recently scratched in, but it says, ‘So sayeth Lord Terios, the undisputed ruler of the Underworld’.”

Rainbow commented, “Scratched in, huh? I wonder if this Terios clown has fans in the Underworld.”

Shining glanced around the room, “Four lights… They must be on the other side of those doors.”

Twilight looked over at the seal on the other side of the tablet and asked, “So, if we find these lights and make them ‘join the darkness’, we’ll be able to move forward?”

Pinkie piped up, “Well, of course, Twilight! It’s written on the stone, and it’s even confirmed on the same stone! So let’s go find some lights!” With that she bounced off to the bridge on the lower left, heading for the door that was surrounded by carvings of strange plants.

“Pinkie!” Rainbow called, but the pink pony kept going. She turned to Fluttershy and said, “Come on, Fluttershy, we’d better keep an eye on her.” The cyan pegasus flew after Pinkie while the yellow pegasus paused to look at the others. Shining nodded at her and she spread her wings, flying after her friends as they started going through the door.

Spike asked, “Should we go after them?”

Cadance shook her head, “No. I think Pinkie’s got the right idea. The sooner we find those lights, the better. Let’s split up and meet back here, okay?” Everyone agreed and, after a minute, decided on how to split up. Shining and Cadance went for the upper left door, which had some sort of banner hanging from the arch around it, Rarity, Applejack, and Spike went for the upper right door, which had an arch that seemed to have lava in the cracks on it, and Twilight and Smithy headed for the lower right door, the arch having crystals on it.

As soon as Smithy and Twilight stepped through the door, they found themselves in some sort of cavern. Looking around, they saw crystals covering the walls, lighting up the dark area. They walked through the cave while looking and listening for any Knights of the Underworld trying to sneak up on them. “It’s so quiet in here… and these rocks don’t match the ones outside the tower. I wonder why?” Twilight whispered.

“Yeah… Maybe it’s the work of the Underworld’s sorcery? Nothing about this place seems right,” Smithy murmured. Not long afterwards, the two came across a cliff edge, a massive pit in front of them. Smithy held a hand to his chin, “Hmm… I might be able to fly us across, but I wouldn’t know where to go. The crystals are providing some light, but I can’t see where exactly we’re supposed to go.”

Twilight looked off to the left and noticed a spiky yellow crystal a short distance away. She blinked; this crystal was bigger than the crystals they had seen so far, and there seemed to be electric sparks coming off of it. She tapped Smithy on the shoulder with a hoof and whispered, “Smithy, look!”

The fox cub turned and looked at the crystal as well. “Hey… I think that’s a Thunder Dragon’s nest!” he said after a moment.

“Thunder Dragon?” Twilight asked.

Smithy nodded, “I’ve read about them. They live in crystals like that and it’s possible to walk on top of the trails they leave. Let’s see…” He and Twilight walked closer to the crystal, trying to keep quiet, but once they were five feet away from it, a lightning bolt with a mouth on the front of it shot out of the crystal. It flew out over the pit, moving in a zigzag pattern and leaving behind a trail made of electricity as it went.

“Whoa!” Twilight gasped at this.

Smithy ran over to the trail and put a hand on it. “It really is solid! Twilight, let’s see if we can use this to get across the pit!” The lavender unicorn nodded and they both jumped up on the trail, following the Thunder Dragon deeper into the cave.

As the two were traveling through the cave, Applejack, Rarity, and Spike were having a slightly more perilous time due to there being lava in the room they were in. At first, they hadn’t worried much about the lava as they walked down a stone path, but the path soon ended at the pool of lava. Looking across the pool, Applejack noticed the ledges on the rock wall on the other side and said, “Looks like we’re going to have ta get across this ta find the light.”

Rarity asked, “How are we supposed to get across, Applejack? There’s no way to walk along the edge of this lava! It’s like a cauldron.”

The two mares heard grunting and groaning and turned to see Spike trying to pull a big, square-shaped stone block he’d found along the side of the path. As the baby dragon stopped to catch his breath, he said, “Maybe we can use this to get to the other side!” The ponies saw what he was getting at and Applejack moved to help him, getting on the other side and using her hooves to push it. Once they’d gotten it in front of the lava pool, Rarity used her magic to push it into the lava, the block sinking into the melted rock a bit before settling.

Rarity and Applejack climbed on top of the block while Spike nestled himself between the block and solid land, using his feet to push the block towards the other side of the pool. Once it started moving, he leapt into the lava and kept pushing against it with his claws, the block being easier to move while it was in the lava. After about a minute, they reached the other side and Rarity and Applejack climbed off of the block. Spike climbed up onto the block and took a moment to shake the lava clinging to him off like a dog, both Applejack and Rarity taking a step back to avoid getting splattered.

Once he was clean, he walked over to the two and Applejack said, “Good thinkin’, Spike!” She then looked up at the ledges on the rock wall, saying, “Now we just gotta get up there.”

Rarity looked along the wall for a moment before saying, “Hmm. There doesn’t appear to be anything we can use to climb up. No sort of rungs or vines or anything like that.”

Applejack cocked her head to the side, “Well, ya got a point there, Rarity.” She remembered how much of a climber Spike was and turned to him, “Say Spike, do you think…?”

The baby dragon quickly caught on to what she was saying and replied, “You got it, Applejack!” He ran towards the wall and began using the ends of his claws to grab onto the wall, Rarity and Applejack watching as he worked his way up the wall.

During this time, Cadance and Shining were making their way through a room filled with green grass and multiple cages. It was dark in the room, but not dark like it was in the tower entrance; here it felt more like it was nighttime. While they were walking, Shining glanced at one of the cages and wondered, “What is this, like this tower’s prison area?”

Cadance looked down as they walked out onto a wooden bridge, looking down into the black depths below before looking up and saying, “I’m not sure this is supposed to be here, Shining. It’s all a clear contrast to everything we’ve seen on Avalon so far. This might be some kind of trick that the ruler of the Underworld set up.”

Shining replied, “Well, we haven’t seen any Knights of the Underworld yet, so maybe.” They kept walking for a bit, still looking for the light they were supposed to find before coming to a stop outside the entrance to a tunnel. As they looked up at it, Shining suggested, “Maybe the light’s in there.”

Cadance looked at him and replied, “Well, there’s nowhere else to go. The room seems to have been set up to deliberately lead us here, so… let’s be careful as we go in.” Shining nodded and they walked in, being wary as they walked.

While the couple was going about things carefully, Pinkie was bouncing through the snow-covered forest she was in without a care, singing to herself as she went. Because of this, both Rainbow and Fluttershy thought they would have to protect her from any dangers lurking in the forest, but every time they thought something was going to attack her and rush to her defense, it turned out to be nothing. As a result, Rainbow often ended up crashing into trees or the ground while Fluttershy managed to stop herself before she could get hurt.

After one such crash, Rainbow pulled her head out of the snow and groaned, “Ugh, how much farther do we have to go?”

Before Fluttershy could comfort her friend, Pinkie called, “Don’t worry, Dashie, we’re already there! See, come look at this!” Rainbow climbed to her hooves and both pegasi walked over to the pink pony, who was standing at the entrance of a grove. Looking inside, they saw that the grove was covered in snow just like the rest of the forest, but that wasn’t what they focused on. In the center of the grove was a stone monument with a stone bowl containing a single flame in front of it, both the monument and the bowl in the center of small circular platform. The platform was surrounded by stones of varying sizes. From above, the arrangement looked like the top of a cyclone.

The three mares made their way to the center platform, walking up the stairs at the base of it and stood in front of the bowl, looking down at the flame inside it. “So this little candle is the light we’re looking for? Guess that makes sense; it’s brighter than anything else in this forest,” Rainbow commented.

“Smithy said it has to join the darkness. Does that mean we have to put it out?” Fluttershy asked.

Pinkie cracked her hooves as she said, “Leave this to the expert!” Settling back on her hooves, she raised her head up as she took in a big breath of air… and then released a small puff of air from her mouth as she brought her head down. It did the trick as the flame went out, not a single ember landing inside the bowl. A second later, Pinkie let out an “Ooh!” as the monument suddenly lit up, red symbols appearing on it.

“Is that the language that was written on the tablet? What does it say?” Fluttershy worriedly asked.

Rainbow shook her head, “I don’t know, Fluttershy, but we joined our light with the darkness or whatever, so I think we should get out of here.” The three ponies turned and made their way out of the grove, the red symbols on the monument still glowing as they left.

Around this time, the others had located monuments in their rooms that looked much the same as the one in the forest. Shining and Cadance found theirs at the end of the tunnel they were going down while Spike found the flame in the cave at the top of the rock wall, all of them coming to the same conclusion and blowing their flames out. The monuments lit up for them as well and, since they didn’t know what the symbols said, they began to make their way back to the central chamber.

Twilight and Smithy were the last to put their flames out, having had to go down through three tunnels in their room to find the hidden monument. After they put out the flame, they saw the monument light up and took a step back as they looked up at it. “What does it say, Smithy?” Twilight asked.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t look like any form of writing I’ve ever seen. It might’ve been left here by the Underworld for all I know,” the fox replied.

Twilight looked at him and said, “I think we’d better leave.” Smithy nodded and they turned and left. They made their way back up through the tunnels, Smithy using his twin tails to get back up through the holes left in the floor. For the first two tunnels, everything seemed fine, but when they got back to the tunnel at the top, they realized they were not alone.

As soon as they landed on the floor of the tunnel, the cave suddenly became darker; even the light from the crystals on the wall seemed to become dimmer. When this happened, they also heard the sound of a laugh ring through the air. Both Smithy and Twilight pressed against each other, trying to stick together. They started breathing faster as they looked around in the darkness, unsure of what was lurking within.

After a few tense seconds, they began to calm down slightly and Twilight whispered, “Smithy, get your slingshot ready.”

Shakily, the fox reached back and pulled out his weapon, his right hand ready to grab and pull the catapult back at the first sign of trouble. “C-Can you… get us any more light in here, Twilight?” he asked.

Twilight nodded, “Hold on…” She focused her magic into her horn and used it to create a mote of light at the end of the appendage, providing a light similar to a firefly’s. It didn’t brighten up the whole cave, but it allowed them to see a little farther in the darkness.

Suddenly, there was a noise next to Smithy and he quickly turned, his slingshot ready to fire, but there was nothing there when he looked. A moment later, Twilight heard a whooshing sound beside her and gasped as she turned to look, but she saw nothing. While trying to keep her breathing under control, she whispered, “There’s definitely someone in here with us…”

Smithy took a cautious step forward while saying, “Let’s go… slowly…” Twilight followed his lead, both scanning their surroundings while trying to move at a steady, slow pace towards the exit. They heard sounds beside them several more times as they went and saw nothing each time, causing them to become more paranoid at not seeing their likely attacker. Still, they were making progress towards getting out of the cave, though neither one was sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

When they were almost out of the tunnel, a loud stomping noise came from behind them, causing them to freeze. “You heard that too, right?” Twilight whispered, Smithy rigidly nodding in response. They heard it again, and then again, each time sounding like it was getting closer. Deciding it was time to abandon all ideas of cautiousness, they both broke out into a run for the tunnel exit. Before they could reach it, they heard a sound and suddenly several fireballs flew overhead. These fireballs broke apart into smaller fireballs that rained down on the path, both coming to a stop as a wall of flames sprang up in front of them.

Twilight and Smithy stared at the flames for a moment before slowly turning around as they heard the stomping sound again. They saw that their first guess at the source of the fire was correct: a large red and brown dragon with a yellow horn on its head and a peach-colored underside was coming towards them. The beast was a frightening sight on its own, but it wasn’t the dragon that scared the two the most right now.

Perched on top of the dragon’s nose, leaning back against its horn, was a lone figure. It wasn’t any taller than Smithy or Twilight, but its blue and peach colored fur, red and white shoes, white socks, white gloves, blue quills, and yellow and black eyes were more horrifying to the two right now than the dragon it was on top of. As the dragon towered over them, the figure flashed them a grin, revealing a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth as it said in a distorted but familiar voice, “Peek-a-boo.” The figure snapped its fingers and suddenly, the dragon began to fade away, though the flames did not. The figure dropped down and landed on its feet after the dragon disappeared and looked at Twilight and Smithy, its teeth still on full display for them. “I choose you,” it mocked before it lunged at them.

Soon, in the central chamber

Shining and Cadance ran towards the center platform, relieved to see Rainbow and Applejack’s groups heading for the center as well. Once they were all there, Shining asked, “Is everyone okay? Everything worked out all right?”

Rainbow nodded, “Yep. Pinkie found and put out the light in that room.”

Applejack said, “Spike really pulled through fer us.” Rarity put a hoof on the baby dragon’s shoulder at that, causing him to stand proudly.

Cadance looked around and asked, “Wait, where are Twilight and Smithy?” Everyone looked around at that and realized the two weren’t back yet.

Pinkie pointed past the tablet and said, “Well, they must’ve found their light and are on their way back, because look!” Everyone looked at the wall she was pointing at and saw that the carvings on it, each representing one of the four rooms, were all lit up. They all closed their eyes a second later as a bright light shone from the wall, looking when it faded a second later to see the wall was no longer there. They also noticed that the light had somehow brightened up the room and caused the mist to dissipate, making the room feel warmer as well.

“Now we can get into the tower and find and capture this Terios jerk and end the war!” Rainbow said.

“But Rainbow, we can’t go without Smithy and Twilight,” Fluttershy murmured.

The cyan pegasus replied, “I know, Fluttershy. They’d better hurry up, though; we’re wasting time here!”

A familiar voice spoke up, “Sorry, we’re not as fast as you are, Rainbow.” Everyone looked to see Smithy and Twilight walking across their bridge towards the center, both seeming to be fine.

Shining and Cadance moved around the tablet to the two as they reached the center, the former saying, “Oh, Twily, Smithy! You’re both okay! You are both okay, right?”

Twilight gave him a confused look, “Well, yes. Didn’t you say we’re okay? We look okay, right?”

Shining gave a sheepish look as he replied, “Oh yeah. That’s right, my bad.”

Smithy gave him a sidelong look, “Hm. For a second there, it almost sounded like you wanted us to have either been in or escaped from some kind of trouble.”

Shining blinked, “What? No, that wasn’t my intention! Why would you think I’d want you to be in any danger, Smithy?”

The fox shook his head, “Sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”

Twilight looked over at where the wall used to be and said, “So we can get into the tower proper now. Let’s get going.” Without another word, both she and Smithy started towards the opening, Spike and the other Element bearers following after them. Shining and Cadance stayed where they were for a moment, both looking at Twilight and Smithy and then sharing a concerned look before they hurried to catch up.

Inside the opening, they found a staircase going upwards, and from the look of it, there were more stairs after the first one ended. Smithy and Twilight silently started up the stairs, the others following suit after a moment. As they made their way up, Cadance took notice of the way Twilight carried herself. She seemed a lot more confident than usual, her movements carrying little trace of shyness or modesty in them. The unicorn seemed to realize she was being observed since she glanced back over her shoulder and, a moment after seeing Cadance looking at her, asked, “Is something wrong, Cadance?”

The pink alicorn replied, “No, just… Are you sure you’re all right, Twilight?”

The lavender unicorn blinked, “Y-Yes. I said I’m fine. I mean, we didn’t run into anything in that room. Did anyone else?”

Cadance shook her head while Spike piped up, “Nope! Aside from the lava and the rock wall in our room, we didn’t have any trouble.”

Rainbow sighed, “I kind of wish there was something in that room. Then maybe I wouldn’t feel bad about all that crashing I did.”

Twilight looked back at Cadance and said, “See? No problems all across the board.”

Cadance nodded, “Right…”

Applejack asked, “Say Twilight, what was in yer room?”

As she faced forward again, Twilight shrugged, “Just some cave. It was pretty boring.” Applejack and Rarity raised an eyebrow at this, but didn’t comment.

After a minute, the group reached the very top of the stairs, where they found a large pair of red doors with a locking bar laid across them. The doors seemed to have a carving of a black face with spikes on top of its head and eyes that lacked pupils. Eying the bar, Rainbow saw that there was nothing holding it in place, meaning they could just lift it up to get through the doors. “I’ll get that bar up out of the way,” she said, spreading her wings and preparing to fly up to it.

Before she could do so, Smithy put his hand out in front of her and spoke, “I’ll do it. Let me.” The tone of his voice left no room for argument and Rainbow folded her wings to her sides and stood up straight as the fox spun his tails around, flying up to the bar and beginning to lift it up. Rainbow stared up at him while he was doing so, wondering why he was taking charge so suddenly.

During this, Twilight felt something to her side and looked down to see Spike trying to climb up onto her back. She quickly stepped to the side, causing the baby dragon to stumble a bit. “What are you doing?” she asked as he regained his balance.

Spike looked up at her in confusion, the others turning to look at her as he said, “I just wanted to hitch a ride, Twilight.”

Twilight gave him a confused look that had a touch of disgust in it. “Why? Is there something wrong with your legs? You can’t walk all of a sudden?” she asked.

Spike looked surprised at this, as did the other ponies. “Twilight, that was rude! Apologize to Spike right now!” Rarity said.

Twilight gave the white mare the same confused look as she asked, “Apologize for what? I’m not a chair; he doesn’t get to sit on me whenever he wants.”

Pinkie gasped and got up in Twilight’s face, cupping the unicorn’s cheeks with her hooves and turning her so she was forward before saying, “Twilight, what’s gotten into you?! How could you be so mean towards Spikey-Wikey?! He’s been sitting on you for years; why are you suddenly mad at him for it?!”

Twilight gave the mare an expressionless stare as she simply stated, “Remove your hooves.” Pinkie did not comply, still glaring at Twilight.

The silence was broken a moment later as a creaking noise filled the air, everyone save for Pinkie and Spike looking to see that Smithy had pushed up the locking bar all the way and was pushing the doors open. Once they were open a little bit, he turned and hovered in front of the doors, crossing his arms as he said, “All right, enough of this show. Lord Terios is expecting you lot, so get in there.”

Before anyone could say anything, Twilight, with Pinkie’s hooves still on her cheeks, swung her head from left to right, the pink pony not seeing the magic gathered around her horn until she finished swinging her head, and by then it was too late. A sudden force swept behind the group, managing to lift them off the ground somewhat as they were thrown through the doors. The only ones who remained were Twilight and Smithy, the latter pulling the doors closed and moving the locking bar back into place while the former simply said, “Slap shot.” Once he was done, Smithy lowered himself to the ground and looked at Twilight, both nodding at each other with half-lidded eyes before they both disappeared.

Inside the room, everyone groaned as they tried to pull themselves free of the pile they landed in. “Ow… What was that?” Rainbow moaned.

“Consarn it, Twilight, Ah swear…” Applejack muttered as she tried to pull her hind legs free, thinking the lavender mare was in the room with them.

Once everyone was disentangled, they all realized that the room they were in was pitch black, making them unable to see anything, not even the doors they had been pushed through. “Wh-Where are we?” Fluttershy murmured.

A new yet familiar voice, though distorted, spoke up, “Don’t you know? You’re my guests.” Everyone looked around, trying to find the source of the voice when suddenly, a pair of glowing yellow eyes appeared in the darkness, staring in the group’s direction. “I wasn’t expecting the king to send his pets to see me, but I suppose you’ll all have to do for now,” the voice spoke again.

“Hey, we’re nopony’s pets!” Rainbow yelled.

Cadance stared at the eyes, noticing how similar in shape they looked to Sonic’s eyes. “Your eyes, they’re…” she murmured.

Shining heard her and noticed what she was getting at, remembering Nimue’s words. “You’re Lord Terios, aren’t you?” he asked.

A slow, sarcastic clap sounded, the movement of hands barely visible underneath the yellow eyes before the figure said, “Very good. You’re not as out of it as you look.”

Applejack yelled, “Cut the funny business and call off the Underworld army!”

Terios asked, in a mocking tone of voice, “Now why should I do that? The Grand Kingdom lacks a strong leader; if the people knew they had no leader, they’d be begging me to take the throne.”

Rainbow replied, “They’ve already got a strong leader! His name is Sonic, and we’re here on his orders to put a stop to what you’re doing!” She half-expected Twilight to speak up at this point, but there was no response from the lavender mare.

Terios was silent for a moment before he said, “So you’re here under the orders of a king who, if it weren’t for me, would never have returned to the kingdom he ran away from. That’s hardly reassuring, and besides…” Suddenly, two spheres of light appeared underneath Terios’ eyes, remaining there for a moment before being suddenly thrust to the sides, both spheres flying until they hit the walls. As soon as they struck the walls, the room was bathed in light, causing everyone to cover their eyes. As their vision cleared, Terios finished as they opened their eyes, “I’m way more of a ruler than he’ll ever be.”

Everyone stared at Terios’ form in dread, hoping their eyes were playing tricks on them, but even closing and rubbing them didn’t change what they were seeing. He looked like just like Sonic, save for his mouth full of sharp teeth and his black and yellow eyes. The hedgehog stood in front of a throne in the middle of the room, and behind him on the wall opposite to the group was a painting of him, clearly intended to drive the point home.

Rainbow’s shocked expression soon turned to one of anger as she spoke, “Why, you… Who do you think you are, looking like Sonic and mocking him like this?!”

Terios huffed as he sat back down in his throne, “It seems more like I’m the one being mocked here, seeing as that wannabe of a king doesn’t seem to consider me important enough to come here and face me himself.”

Rarity yelled, “He’s got better things to do than waste time dealing with trash like you! How dare you sit here and mock him when he’s not even here!”

Pinkie growled, “That’s not going to go unpunished, you meanie! We’re definitely taking you down now and bringing you back to Sonic so he can punish you!”

Terios waved a hand as he said, “Pony, please. I rule over the entire Underworld, and very soon, the Grand Kingdom will be underneath my foot for not getting the message I was sending. I don’t have time to waste on jokers like you. If you want my attention, you have to earn it.”

Shining glared, “What’s that supposed to mean? We made it all the way up here. Don’t you see that we’re here to face you?”

Terios spoke, “I made it easy for you to get up here. You think solving a puzzle is commendable? As much as I enjoy delivering a good beatdown, I usually prefer if they’re able to last a little while.” He gave a devious smirk, “Tell you what. You all get past my bodyguards, who I’m sure you’re already well-acquainted with, and maybe I’ll consider it.” With that, he snapped his fingers and two figures dropped down from the ceiling beside the throne, both raising a cloud of dust towards everyone as they landed. The group was blinded for a moment, but when they looked again, the sight was even worse than when they first saw Terios.

Twilight and Smithy were at Terios’ right and left side respectively, both standing up with their heads tilted downwards and their eyes closed. As they stood up straight and opened their eyes to glare at the group, they all saw that their eyes were the same black and yellow as Terios’.

Author's Note:

"But wouldn't you be scared?"

"Perhaps, but I would still run to them. A Prince may be afraid, but he cannot let fear stop him from acting."

-Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest, Bambi II

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