The story continues, and certain relationships become exceedingly obvious.
Now, on with the story!
The castle was a massive wonder of dark grey stone and wild ivy, towering up into the sky and bearing a slight resemblance to the run down, heartless-infested one in Hollow Bastion that had once been the headquarters of Maleficent. It was dark outside, and the delicate silver moonlight reflected eerily from the technicolor stain glass windows. The large group of friends stood in the desolate grey courtyard that was covered in brown grass and dead trees on the rough stone pathway that lead through unbolted wrought-iron gates and in towards the impressive building, wondering silently who would go and knock on the door.
“Pretty impressive castle,’ muttered Aqua under his breath,’ wonder who lives there.”
“Maybe we should find out instead of just standing here and doing nothing!” said Liz in excited reply as she walked along the uneven path towards the solid looking double wooden doors. With a grunt, she put her wait on them and pushed. The doors emitted a low creaking noise that echoed loudly through the night as Riku and Aqua hurried forwards and added their strength, pushing against the doors with their shoulders. Slowly the doors began to budge open, inch by inch and emitting a loud groaning sound.
“Hey,’ cried Goofy, acting as the voice of reason while Liz peered into the dark room beyond,’ shouldn’t we check to see if it’s okay to go in first?”
Liz just shrugged her shoulders and walked forwards into the dark eerie gloom, her footsteps thundering on the stone floor.
“Helooooo, anyone home?” she yelled loudly into the dark emptiness as the others hurried after her. As Liz’s eyes gradually adjusted to the dark, she saw that she was standing in the middle of a majestic tiled foyer, with four small wooden doors lining the walls on either side of the room, and a giant stone staircase lined with a tattered and faded purple rug, covering the chipped stone staircase and stretching up to the second floor high above them.
“Neat castle,’ wondered Sora out loud as he walked past Liz,’ wonder who lives here?”
Sora stumbled and tripped as a writhing mass of wispy black vapor swirled menacingly around his feet, condensing into a single jet black heartless whose antenna’s drooped lifelessly over its glowing yellow eyes. It’s head swayed melodically from side to side, and then it darted off into one of the side rooms, flattening itself completely and sliding under the partially open door on the right side of the hall.
“After it!” yelled Riku, overtaking Liz and sprinting towards the open door. The room beyond was warm and inviting, and the merry light of the open-wood fire sent dark shadows spiraling over the plush golden carpet. A second, dull pink light was shining from a polished wooden table, on which stood a smooth, dome glass case. A single rose was in the center, its delicate magenta petals stretched outwards as it hovered serenely.
“Hey, where’d the heartless go?” Donald quacked angrily.
“I have no idea, but that is the coolest rose I’ve ever seen!” muttered Liz, stepping forwards and reaching out boldly towards the solid glass case. Her fingers were only inches away when the heartless that had disappeared sprang out from underneath the table, flinging itself at the brown haired girl as she jumped quickly out of its reach.
“Found it!” Liz muttered breathlessly, summoning her keyblade in a flash of white sparkles. She struck out at the creatures head, swiftly turning it into thin little wisps of harmless black smoke that thinned as they rose into the air and faded. Almost as soon as the first heartless had disappeared, two more appeared from under the table. As quickly as they were destroyed, the heartless kept on reappearing and multiplying, soon there were almost too many of them to count, just a seething mass of solid black and black smoke.
“Help, somebody!” yelled Sora, swinging his keyblade wearily at the advancing creatures and managing to strike two heartless. As if in reply to his desperate call, a violent, chilling roar echoed through the castle, reverberating off the stone walls as the fine hairs on the back of Tamara’s neck stood on end.
“Hey, we know that roar!” said Goofy happily as the small wooden door was flung open and a hairy beast wearing a torn, flowing purple cape dashed through the doorway, smacking his long, black, pointed claws into the unfortunate heartless in front of him.
“Beast!” exclaimed Sora happily, seconds before a massive hairy fist swung into his chest, knocking him to one side of the small room where he crashed into the wall and slid to the floor. Donald and Goofy had only seconds to be shocked at the beast’s vicious reaction before they too were smacked painfully against the wall.
“That’s not very nice!” Tamara said boldly as Beast snarled and turned around to face her. Without warning he swung his arm again and sent both Liz and Tamara flying towards the cold, unforgiving stone wall, then strode over to the table and gently picked up the rose in the case and walked out of the room. Riku swiftly moved out of Beasts striking range and rushed forwards, almost managing to catch Tamara before she crashed into the wall, but the momentum knocked him over and she flew roughly into his chest as they crashed together painfully into the grey solid stone wall.
“Sorry,’ Tamara muttered breathlessly as she brushed the hair out of her eyes and noticed the new, shallow, Riku-shaped dent in the wall,’ that must have…um...” she broke off abruptly, and it was then that Riku noticed just how close she was. Her face was about three inches away and framed delicately by the golden hair that was resting lightly on her shoulders, and Riku could see every shade of gold sparkling in her eyes. He could even feel her heart beat frantically against his chest as their lips inched closer......
The voices of their friends shook them back to reality, and they both blushed furiously. Tamara struggled to stand up, finally getting to her feet and extending a hand to help Riku off the floor, awkwardly taking a few giant steps away from each other as soon as they could. On the other side of the room, Liz pried herself with great difficulty from Aqua’s arms as she silently thanked him for acting as a cushion against the wall and stood up, brushing bits of fluff from the carpet off her crimson singlet top.
“Do you fall on people often?” Aqua teased as Liz extended her hand and helped him up off the ornate red carpet.
“No, usually I’m as graceful as a cat.” She retorted lightly, still slightly winded, stretching her arms open and imitating the act of walking on a tightrope over to where the rest of the group was standing waiting in turn for Donald to heal their various, colorful and painful bruises.
“So, Sora, what was that all about?” Asked Riku, whose cheeks were still tinged with rosy pink, even though he insisted it was the heat from the open fire and not blush.
“I don’t know,’ said Sora as he rubbed a few large and particularly nasty bruises on his elbow tenderly,’ but if there are heartless involved, that means trouble, and it means we definitely have some work to do.”
“We should try and find out what what’s going on.” Said Goofy helpfully as he waited for Donald to patch everyone up with his healing magic. The group agreed unanimously with Goofy’s ideas as they had their bruises magically healed
There was definitely a difference in temperature as the group walked out of the warm, inviting room and into the cold stone hall. Liz giggled softly as she breathed out, watching as a cloud of misty vapor escaped from her mouth and rise into the air, slowly thinning out into nothing.
“Hey, look up there!” Donald quacked. Tamara followed his gaze and thought she saw a brown haired woman in a baby blue dress standing at the top of the eastern stairs.
“Let’s check it out.” Said Liz enthusiastically as she raced forwards and bounded up the stairs three at a time. Tamara sighed and began to follow after her friend with the rest of the group.
At the top of the stairs was a long stone corridor, the only color apart from grey coming from the thinning purple carpet lying on the floor. To add to the grey, both walls were lined with big stone gargoyles mounted on solid looking pillars, the jagged wings that jutted symmetrically out of their backs giving them an eerily life-like quality. Just one look at them was enough to make Aqua shiver as he walked a short distance behind Liz. At the end of the corridor was a glass, window looking out onto the rejected courtyard, and another wooden door. Aqua turned the handle and pushed the door, but it was firmly locked.
“What do we do now?” asked Riku quietly as he shook his limp silver hair impatiently out of his electric blue eyes.
“Let’s knock the door down!” said Donald enthusiastically, taking a few paces back and straightening his cap as he prepared to charge forwards.
“Donald, wait!” yelled Riku as Donald rushed at the door. The outcome of Donald’s rash decision was obvious. Everyone watched as the door swung open and Donald bolted inside, tripping over the fringe of the ornate carpet and landing at the feet of the young brown haired woman wearing a frilly white apron over a blue dress who had opened the door.
“Donald!” she exclaimed happily, scooping him into her arms and hugging him as he squawked in embarrassed protest.
“Put me down, PUT ME DOWN!” yelled Donald as he tried to squirm out of her arms.
“Oh, sorry.” The woman apologized as she smiled warmly and put him back on the ground.
“Hey Belle, nice to see you again!” said Sora as Donald ruffled his feathers.
“It’s so lovely to see you again too! Oh, and who are your friends?”
“This is Aqua, Riku--“
“Oh!’ Belle made a smile that was warm enough to melt an iceberg. ‘You found your friend! I’m so happy for you!”
“Sora,’ asked Riku,’ how many people did you tell about me?”
“Uh, a few…..” Sora scratched the back of his head apologetically as Riku sighed and shot him an annoyed look.
“So, anyway,’ continued Aqua,’ that’s Riku, I’m Aqua, and that’s Liz and Tamara.”
“It’s so wonderful that I’ve finally had a chance to meet you all!’ she gushed warmly as she smiled and clapped her hands together. ‘Have you come about Beast?”
“Um, no,’ admitted Sora,’ but he’s acting so strangely that I guess we can look into it for you.” he added quickly as Belle’s smile fell slightly.
“It’s so sad,’ she sighed unhappily,’ it’s like he can’t trust anyone anymore. He even locked his servants in the dungeon!”
“Belle, do you know where the dungeon is?” asked Aqua.
“Yes,’ Belle replied as her smile reappeared. ‘It’s behind a small wooden door in the west hall.”
“Great,’ said Sora enthusiastically,’ that’s all we need to know. C’mon guys.”
With a last friendly and reassuring wave to Belle, the group walked back out the door and set out towards the dungeons.
Liz felt like she had been walking forever, and her usually cheerful mood was taking a turn downhill. She was cold, hungry, her feet were sore, and the corridor was too dark and drafty to lift her spirits. Everyone except Aqua had backed off when they had seen the frustration radiating from her, all intent on keeping their heads. Her mood became even worse when she turned a corner and saw yet another hallway standing in the way of her and the dungeons.
“Ahhgh,’ she yelled, her bad mood escalating rapidly,’ this hall will never end!!!”
“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad.” Said Aqua as he threw his arm around her shoulders in a way that he hoped would be comforting, then quickly withdrew his arm and took a few giant steps away as Liz gave him an icy stare.
“What on earth could be worse than this?” Liz hissed. Aqua pondered silently for a second, then grinned crookedly, his eyes twinkling.
“Yen Sid’s stairs; they kill!”
Liz’s shoulders shook with laughter as uncontrollable giggles escaped from her mouth. She sighed happily and started humming as she walked on, leaving Aqua totally baffled by her rapid change of mood. A few minutes later, she sighed thankfully with huge relief as the end of the corridor came quickly into sight.
The west wing itself was another massive hallway; soft, faded red rugs covered the floor, dull, lifeless suits of armor solemnly lined the grey walls, and the stone ceiling arched impressively. The small wooden door to the dungeon was placed just opposite the grand stone staircase, almost hidden behind an ornately decorated brown wooden wardrobe.
“What’s the bet that this is the door to the dungeon?” Said Tamara, as she stopped in front of the wardrobe.
“I guess it must be.” Muttered Sora, scratching his head as he scanned the room to make sure that there were no other doors around.
“How are we gonna move it?’ pondered Liz aloud,’ It looks really heavy.”
“Allow me Madame’.” Said Aqua as he bowed low to Liz and walked past.
“Um, with pleasure,’ muttered Liz in surprise as she stepped aside to let Aqua pass,’ I think…”
As Aqua began to push the wardrobe aside, it did the most amazing and most utterly astounding thing a wardrobe could ever do. A mouth appeared at the very top of the wooden frame, and it began to talk.
“Do you mind,’ grunted the wardrobe in an irritated, gruff, and motherly voice at the astonished friends,’ I was sleeping!”
“Honestly, children these days…..” she muttered as she ignored the open mouths and shocked stares and shuffled back in front of the door to the dungeon and went back to sleep.
“Well,’ said Tamara, her eyes wide with surprise,’ that was weird.”
“What are we supposed to do now?” asked Riku.
“How about we all push it while it’s asleep?” said Liz. Riku and Aqua nodded in agreement and stood next to the wardrobe, throwing their combined weight against it. They managed to shift it right out of the way of the door just as it gave a grunt and yawned sleepily.
“Oh, I was just starting to get comfortable…’ the wardrobe yawned grumpily.
“Sorry,’ said Goofy,’ but we have to go save the servants in the dungeon!”
The wardrobe immediately became happier when she heard Goofy, her bad mood lightening.
“You’ve come to rescue my friends? Oh, thank goodness, the dungeon is no place for a clock!”
“A clock?!” said Tamara, her jaw hanging open in surprise.
“Yes, a clock,’ said the wardrobe,’ and one that used to be human.”
“Okay, now I’m really confused.” muttered Liz.
“Yes,’ sighed the wardrobe sadly,’ all of us used to be human, once. That was when the Prince was human too…”
“Who’s the prince?” asked Riku.
“The Beast, of course.” said the wardrobe. Everyone stared at her in amazement.
“The Prince is the Beast?!” quacked Donald in shock.
“The Beast is a prince?” said Goofy.
“Donald and Goofy, masters of the obvious.” muttered Aqua under his breath, making Liz giggle quietly. The wardrobe glared disapprovingly at the pair for interrupting her tale as she nodded to confirm her theory.
“Yes, it all happened one stormy night...” she whispered slowly as everyone leaned in closer to hear more.
“That’s all for now, said the wardrobe as she stared smugly at Liz and Aqua,’ I’ll tell you the rest when you rescue my friends. It will give you something to look forward to.”
The dungeon was dark and deathly quiet, the only noise the slow, rhythmic dripping of freezing water that was seeping in from the thin cracks in the ceiling.
“Wow,’ muttered Tamara in awe, her eyes wide in the dark,’ it’s so creepy down here...”
“I’ve been in darker places, believe me.” Said Riku quietly, ignoring the curious, questioning looks shot at him from Tamara and Liz.
As she was walking, Liz’s shoe connected with a large piece of stone rubble, and the noise that it made as it tumbled down the corridor made Tamara shriek and tightly grab Riku’s hand. He blushed deeply in the dark light, but didn’t let go.
After a few more minutes of walking silently, they finally reached a room dimly lit with candles that hung from the roof by iron chains and was packed with bits broken wooden furniture that was going slightly green with mould. On the far side of the room was a large stone double door that had two ugly, symmetrical ghostlike creatures engraved carefully onto either door, their thin, detailed fingers clasped tightly around the lock.
“Well,’ said Liz,’ this should be easy.”
As she spoke, the carvings on the door began to gain a dark color, turning from the greenish gray of the stone door to midnight black. The two creatures closed their pointed claws over the lock, then turned their heads and faced the rescue party.
“Damn, spoke too soon.” muttered Liz as she summoned her keyblade in a flash of white sparkles and advanced slowly. As the group closed in on the shadow creatures, they swung their long black arms rapidly across the room, swinging them towards Tamara, Riku and Liz, who dodged and sprung out of the way, but Donald, Goofy, Sora and Aqua weren’t quick enough, and were sent crashing into the back wall. The creatures swung their arms out again, and Liz and Tamara jumped backwards and out of the way, but the two hands smacked forcefully into Riku, knocking him back into the wall where he collapsed and was buried by a nosy avalanche of rotting wooden furniture.
“This isn’t working,’ shouted Tamara as she ducked under a swinging arm,’ we’re not even getting near this thing!”
“Well, some help would be nice!” Liz yelled at the boys.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming!” sighed Aqua as he stood up, almost immediately failing to see the arm swung in his direction. Liz dodged the arm and rolled her eyes as he hit the wall with a thud.
“I think they’re doing fine without me...” muttered Aqua as he slid to the floor.
“What do we do now?” Liz shouted to Tamara.
“This!” Tamara answered, jumping into the air. She flung her keyblade at the head of the monster on the right, and Liz caught onto the idea immediately and sent her keyblade hurtling towards the head of the monster on the left. Both keyblades struck the creatures simultaneously, right between their glaring yellow eyes. The creatures began to writhe, and then screamed as black mist swirled around their bodies, vaporizing them in an instant.
Liz walked towards the door, hesitantly reaching out and placing her hand on the lock which clicked and opened, then yelped and fell backwards as a massive ball of chained purple darkness appeared out of thin air in front of her face. It smiled and looked at her with its menacing yellow eyes, then shuddered and rolled wildly around in the air, disappeared into the ceiling.
“What the heck was that!!!?” Tamara yelled in shock.
“Well,’ replied Liz as she jumped up from the floor,’ I’ve got no idea, but I don’t think we killed it. It’ll be back.”
“And now, we open the door.” Said Tamara as she pushed the stone doors inwards. The room inside was dark, gloomy, and filled with foul smelling straw that had been piled up in the corners, the only light coming from the small flame of a dull brass candle holder seated on a scratched wooden chair. There was nothing else in the room apart from a chipped teacup, a porcelain teapot, and a miniature grandfather clock.
“Wait up!” called Sora as he, Donald, Goofy and Aqua slowly removed the pile of furniture that buried Riku, taking a good few minutes to finally dig him out. Riku emerged from the pile with his hair in a total mess and splinters in his arms, slowly dragging himself out of the heap with Aqua’s help and picking off the splinters as he looked at Tamara and shot her an embarrassed smile. As Riku emerged, the rest of the group hurried back to the stone chamber filled with household appliances, looking in warily.
“Where are the servants?” asked Goofy as he looked around the room.
“Oiu, that is us!” replied the candle holder in a strong French accent. Everyone looked at him in amazement as he smiled and bowed.
“Lumiere, be quiet!” snapped the clock grumpily.
“Oh, come now Cogsworth,’ scolded the tea pot,’ they look like nice people to me!”
“Oh, you’re the servants, right?!” said Liz, her eyes lighting up with realization.
“Oiu, that is correct! Thank you for coming, did Belle send you?” asked Lumiere nicely.
“Yeah,’ said Sora,’ she did. Um, do you mind telling us why you’re all household objects?”
“With pleasure.” Said Lumiere.
“It all happened one stormy night. A beggar woman came to the castle asking for shelter, but because of her meager appearance, the Prince turned her away. She told the Prince not to be deceived by looks, but he didn’t change his mind. Suddenly, all the ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress, and to teach the Prince a lesson, she cast a spell on him. She transformed the Prince into a beast; the form that she thought suited his cold heart best, and everyone else residing in the castle into various objects. The only way that we can be freed from this spell is if someone can learn to love the Beast for who he is, and if he can learn to love that someone back.”
“Wow, that’s so sad...” muttered Tamara quietly.
“How do we get out of the dungeons?” asked Liz.
“I know a secret passage that will take us to the West Wing. Come, follow me!” said Cogsworth as he jumped off the chair and waddled out of the small room, over to the balcony at the far wall, leaping up and walking over to two inanimate suits of armor who blocked a wooden door. As everyone else climbed up a stack of precariously balanced rotting wooden crates to reach the balcony, Tamara and Liz jumped, ignoring the boys who were rolling their eyes and grabbed the railing, and swung themselves gracefully up.
“Showoffs.” Aqua muttered to Riku under his breath.
“Let our guests pass!” ordered Cogsworth to the two suits of armor. They clanked noisily as they stiffly stepped aside. On the other side of the door was a stone hallway, lit dimly by an invisible source of light that threw writhing shadows spiraling rapidly over the walls.
“So, how do we get out of here?” asked Aqua.
“Ah,’ sighed Lumiere,’ that is the problem. Show them, Cogsworth.” Cogsworth jumped onto the handle of a wooden lever and yanked it downwards. A black metal torch lowered itself down noisily from the ceiling, already alight and burning with a black flame.
“There are three torches scattered around the room. The way to open the door is to light all of them,’ explained Lumiere,’ but, as you can see, they are already lit with an enchanted flame.”
“Maybe, with the help of the keyblades,’ added the tea pot,’ we can put out the enchanted flame and replace it with a normal one.”
“Ok,’ said Riku, going into leader mode,’ everyone split into pairs, find a torch, and put the black flame out.”
“Please hurry,’ grunted Cogsworth,’ I can’t hold onto this lever much longer!”
Tamara, Liz, Riku and Aqua hurried off and left Sora with the first lamp, then split quickly into pairs and separated as they located the other two.
“Water!” said Aqua, pointing his keyblade at the second torch, which was mounted on a stone pillar, dousing the enchanted flame in a stream of glittering bubbles.
“Fire!” exclaimed Liz as she quickly shot jets of red flame swirling out of the end of her keyblade, re-lighting the torch with a bright, dancing flame that was reflected in her emerald eyes.
Riku and Tamara had found the last torch hanging from the ceiling, and Riku had succeeded in putting out the enchanted flame, but they were having a little bit of trouble lighting it again.
“Fire!” Tamara shouted for the fifth time, getting more and more frustrated as the torch stubbornly refused to light. Riku sighed and shook his head.
“You’ve got to concentrate.’ He said, ‘The more annoyed you get, the harder it’ll be for you to use the keyblade’s magic! Are you sure you don’t want me to do it for you?”
“No, I can do it myself!” Tamara muttered stubbornly as she took aim once again.
A small flame snaked its way out of the keyblade, but quickly thinned into a wisp of grey smoke that wavered uncertainly for a moment and then disappeared. Tamara growled and slashed the air with her keyblade in frustration.
“Maybe this’ll help.” Sighed Riku as he walked behind her. He put his hands on hers and held the keyblade straight at the nonexistent flame, and muttered in Tamara’s ear.
“Just calm down, and keep the keyblade steady. Now try.”
Tamara closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to slow the frantic beating of her heart to a more healthy level.
She opened her eyes and saw a bright flame flickering in the torch.
“See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?” muttered Riku as he let go of her hands and walked away. Tamara shook her head, not managing to get words out of her mouth, and rushed to follow Riku.
‘‘Now what?” asked Sora as the group gathered in front of Lumiere and Cogsworth.
“See that block sticking out of the wall?’ said Lumiere as he gestured to the stone wall.’ Push that to make the secret entrance appear.”
Sora walked over to the wall, put both hands on the block and pushed. As the block slid into the wall, a hidden door slid up into the ceiling, revealing the dark corridor beyond.
“And now,’ said Lumiere as he hopped towards the exit,’ we take our leave. Thank you so much for helping us, we’ll never forget that kindness! Cogsworth will show you the way from here.”
“Follow me.” Cogsworth said as he headed into the dark hall beyond, the other servants plodding along animatedly behind him.
Upon arriving back at the West Wing, Cogsworth led them past another row of dull, stiff, creaky suits of armor, and up a flight of stairs into another dark corridor. They kept on walking silently until they reached a solid wooden door that had been slashed at with what appeared to be a giant set of very sharp claws.
“This is the Master’s bedroom...” said Cogsworth quietly. Aqua walked forwards and pressed his ear against the keyhole, listening intently for a few seconds before he backed away.
“I heard two voices in there.’ He said quietly. ‘I think we might have some extra company.”
Riku walked towards the door and gently opened it without a sound, revealing a depressed looking room full of broken furniture and shredded purple cloth. Two figures stood at the far end of the room, in front of the glowing rose in the glass case. One was Beast, leaning protectively over the rose and looking displeased as he listened to the words of a stranger in a long black cloak with a hood that shadowed his face.
“Beast!” called Sora urgently, waving his hand in the air. Beast turned around and snarled when he saw him, clenching his large, furry hands into fists as the figure in the black cloak pointed a gloved finger at them accusingly.
“It’s them,’ the cloaked figure growled to Beast in a deep, mocking male voice,’ the ones who want to steal your precious rose! I told you they would come for it, now, get rid of them!”
Beast let out a roar that shook the rafters of the castle as the man in black disappeared in a swirl of wispy darkness, moving away from his precious rose advancing forwards menacingly.
“Beast, don’t do this!” shouted Sora as he ducked out of the way of a massive furry fist.
“Yeah,’ quacked Donald,’ we’re your friends!”
“Master, please, come to your senses!” shouted Cogsworth desperately.
“Think of what Belle would say!” yelled Tamara desperately as she jumped out of the way of his sharp black claws.
“Belle...” Beast whispered, clutching his head in his hands and sinking onto his knees.
“I... I’ve been so foolish; I let my rage take over me. Xaldin, he, he tricked me into thinking that you all wanted my rose, he made me mad, so mad that I pushed away those who truly cared for me... I even locked my own servants in the dungeon without further thought...”
“That just proves how much you care, right?” said Sora sincerely.
“Yeah,’ said Riku as he caught on to Sora’s plan,’ you only locked them in the dungeon to keep them out of harms way. You must really care for your friends.”
Beast looked at Cogsworth, who smiled and nodded.
“Good to have you back to normal Beast!” said Sora with a smile as he patted Beast on the back. The happy moment was shattered by a piercing scream, echoing up from the floor bellow.
“BELLE!” Beast roared, his hands clenching into fists once more.
“It sounded like the scream came from downstairs. C’mon!” Riku yelled as he sprinted out the door, immediately overtaken by Beast in his rush to the stairs, leaping down them ten at a time.
“BELLE!!’ shouted Beast desperately when he finally reached the bottom of the first flight of stairs,’ WHERE ARE YOU!!??”
“I’m in the Ballroom!” replied Belle’s faint voice. Tamara and Aqua jumped the last few stairs, Liz right behind them and the others not far off, and hurriedly followed as Beast viciously tore open the massive wooden double doors and rushed forwards into a glittering room made of golden marble and thin pillars that reached the ceiling.
“Beast,’ shouted Belle worriedly from the balcony outside,’ I’m over here!”
As Beast rushed forwards, the glass doors slammed in his face with a loud bang, and he rubbed his round black nose as he backed off into the center of the room with the rest of the group.
As Aqua stooped over next to Liz and panted after his dash down the stairs, a shadow rose silently from the glittering pearly floor behind him, gaining form and a purplish color as the bright silver chains that dangled loosely over its body rattled in the slight breeze. Liz heard it and swiveled around on her heels as it began to shake and expand, grabbing Aqua’s collar and roughly pulling him away from the creature’s striking range as she quickly backed off a few paces, speedily dragged him after her and motioning to the rest of the group.
“What was that for... oh.” Aqua gasped as he backed off, any former trace of annoyance fading from his voice as the round creature grew thick arms and legs, growing up and up until its horned black head was just a few inches short of brushing the chandelier hanging from the domed ceiling. The creature reared its head and shrieked, swiping at him and Beast, knocking Beast flying over to the other side of the room and sending Aqua hurtling back into one of the pillars, where he slammed against it and slumped slowly to the ground, not rising as his head lolled forwards onto his chest.
“Oh, bugger!” muttered Liz as she glanced over at Aqua and quickly summoned her keyblade, sidestepping away from the creature and taking a worried glance over her shoulder at where Aqua was lying motionless.
“Anybody got a plan?” Tamara asked as the creature advanced slowly, grinning and bearing its jagged black fangs with malice.
“Attack it in every possible place you can.’ Riku said seriously as he advanced slowly, ducking under a swinging black fist. ‘Maybe if we hit it enough, we can destroy it. Seems to work that way with most Heartless.”
Sora nodded and ran towards the creature, followed closely by Riku and Tamara. He jumped high into the air, then swung his keyblade down and scraped it along the heartless’ head, barley leaving a scratch. Riku and Tamara took a different route altogether. They waited until Donald and Goofy had distracted its arms, then took a run up for momentum and dropped to the floor, skidding on the smooth marble surface and sliding right underneath it, taking two massive swipes at its legs as they went. They both skidded to a halt at the pillars at the other end of the ballroom, quickly realizing that, to their dismay, the creature was still standing. Liz dodged around to the back of the creature and jumped onto it as it bent down to take a swipe at Donald and Sora, then running up its spine and driving her keyblade into the small of its back. She held on as the Heartless reared its head and screamed, and then she jumped over its head and back onto the ballroom floor.
“Well, what do we do now?” yelled Sora as he backed away. Tamara took a look up at the decorative ceiling and grinned as her eyes lit up with a very destructive idea.
“Riku, give me a boost!” she yelled. Riku nodded as he caught on to her idea, crouched down, and interlocked his fingers as Tamara put one foot in his hands and both of her hands on his shoulders for balance. In an instant she shot up towards the ceiling, her hands closing over the cold metal bars of the chandelier and pulled herself up so that she was standing with both arms outstretched for balance on the thin metal bars. From her swaying perch she could see her friends below, inflicting little damage on the snarling monster. Tamara shook her head vigorously as vertigo began to seep through her, then she slashed her keyblade forwards and sliced easily through the solid gold chain that suspended the ornate chandelier to the ceiling, feeling her stomach lurch horribly into her ribcage as she fell through the air. Her body jerked as the heavy object crashed down on top of the creatures head with a sickening crunch of smashing glass, and she jumped off the metal bars and fell back towards the marble floor, landing gracefully on both feet. Sora pointed his keyblade at the stunned heartless, sending glimmering white shards of shimmering light shooting forwards into its rigidly still body. The creature shrieked with panic as it began to convulse and thrash violently, sinking gradually into a bubbling puddle of steaming black darkness.
As soon as the puddle had evaporated, high up in Beast’s room at the very to of the castle, the crimson rose began to ascend gently, solid glass case and all, and the tip of Liz’s keyblade began to glow with a silvery white light. Her long, chocolate brown hair came loose from its tight plait and swirled wildly around her head as everything and everyone else around her faded into midnight black and shining gold. Beast’s rose appeared in front of her, sending up a beam of brilliant, shimmering silver light that drew the outline of a keyhole in the darkness. As a beam of blinding light shot forwards into the keyhole, she heard the sound of a lock click. And then, the world swam back into her view.
“I just unlocked another gateway,’ Liz muttered as she rubbed her hazy emerald eyes,’ didn’t I?”
“Yeah, and you made those orb-thingies appear again.” Quacked Donald.
“What?” Liz looked startled as saw the shining white orb that had appeared in front of her and Tamara’s face for the first time.
“Are these thing gonna pop up every time we open the routes to other worlds?” asked Tamara uncertainly as she eyed the orb off warily.
“Your guess is as good as mine...” muttered Liz. The orb hovered lightly at her eye level for a few short moments, drifting leisurely up and down in mid air, and then sped forwards and plunged deep into her chest. Lost memories rolled through Liz like waves, filling her mind with the images of a pearly white castle towering into the inky blackness, and a glowing white figure, to hazy to see properly. The image stayed clear, then wavered in and out of focus slightly and faded as Liz slowly came back to reality, staring into Aqua’s worried brown eyes.
“Huh?’ she muttered sleepily,’ I thought you got knocked out?!”
“I’m tougher than you think.” He muttered.
“You’re holding my hand?” she muttered in sleepy shock.
Aqua’s cheeks took on a pinkish tinge as he let go of Liz’s hand and backed off slightly as she shakily got to her feet. Liz suppressed a giggle as she looked over at Tamara, whose cheeks were flushed with pink, and saw Riku awkwardly letting her go.
“That was easier than I expected.” Said Tamara as she brushed her golden hair out of her eyes.
“It was a lot easier,’ said Riku,’ thanks to you. Are you all right?”
“I’m not the one you should be worried about.” Tamara said darkly as she stared past Riku and across at the other side of the now slightly less shiny ballroom.
The sound of clapping echoed around the hall, and everyone swiveled around to see a person in a black cloak standing behind them, clapping his gloved hands together slowly and rhythmically, almost mockingly.
“Well done, well done indeed!” he said happily, clapping his gloved hands again one final time before advancing forwards slowly.
“Xaldin! What do you want?!” shouted Beast grumpily.
“Nothing, nothing, I was just admiring your ability to get out of deep trouble, and your impressive fighting techniques,’ He chuckled softly to himself,’ which are, of course, no match for my own!”
“You wanna bet?” yelled Riku angrily, his keyblade flashing to his hand.
“I don’t have enough time to waste on you pathetic children,’ Xaldin gloated evilly,’ besides, I’m way out of your league.”
“Say’s who?’ Remarked Liz confidently, ‘You don’t look that tough.”
“Enough!’ said Xaldin angrily, ‘I don’t have time for meaningless chatter. Farewell... for now.” Before anyone could stop him, Xaldin stepped backwards as a swirling cloud of blue and black darkness engulfed him, and he disappeared from sight.
“Why do they keep doing that?!” muttered Sora angrily.
“Doing what?” asked Aqua.
“Disappearing before we can get a straight answer,’ said Sora,’ it’s just plain annoying!”
“Hey,’ said Tamara suddenly, ‘were did Belle go?”
Riku pointed to the glass door on the opposite side of the room, which had been thrown wide apart as Belle dashed hastily towards them, tears of relief welling up in her eyes.
“Oh, you’re all alright!’ she sighed, breathless, but blissfully happy, ‘I was so worried!!”
“You don’t have to worry about us Belle,’ said Aqua proudly, ‘we can take care of ourselves.”
“As long as you’re all safe, especially you Beast, I’ll be happy.’ Belle said as she smiled warmly and happily clasped her hands together. ‘Will you be staying much longer?”
“No,’ said Sora,’ we have a pretty tight timetable to stick to at the moment, so we should probably get going now. Stay safe while we’re gone, okay?”
Beast smiled happily and nodded, happy to be back with Belle at last, and waved with her as the friends headed together towards the door.
“Hey, Liz,’ said Aqua as he walked out through the ballroom doors and into the bitter cold of the foyer, ’feel like racing me to the Gummi ship?”
Liz grinned as she briefly considered the offer.
“You’re on!” she said, taking Aqua by surprise and dashing past him on her way to the doors.
If you have read the story this far, then I assume you don't hate it. Please review and tell me what you think.