As the worlds begin to crumble apart and fade from each other's view, the children of the Strongholds gather and rise to fight for the homes they lost. Bringing together characters from several fa...
“It shows us nothing more or less than our deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.” –Dumbledore
Dust fluttered to the floor, the resounding hum of the last attack sinking into the debris. Hunks of stone rumbled themselves free of the ceiling and bombed the floor below, forcing the bloodied girl to her ass.
“Cali!” The sound of shoes on loose stone made its way towards the girl as she staggered to her feet. “Cali, your leg is bleeding!” The alarm in the boy’s voice was obvious.
The girl, Cali, looked up in a mix of astonishment and anger as she caught sight of the boy.
“What are you doing here, Sanji!?” she shrieked, reaching for the deck at her hip. She slipped out a card and mumbled, “Friend from a distant realm, I pay your toll.”
The card turned into a small rectangle of light and grew, finally becoming the size of a doorway as a shadowy figure stepped out onto the stone.
“Grozoth, this is important,” Cali said with urgency to the pale gray leviathan that had come, “Take Sanji, go to the others, and make sure they are safe. Can you do that?” The leviathan nodded, the tentacles that framed either side of its vertical mouth shimmering red ribbons in the diminishing lights.
As the monstrous Grozoth gently-yet-firmly picked Sanji up by the arm, the boy lashed out with one of his strong legs, and caught the leviathan right above the mouth. Grozoth dropped Sanji and the blond boy landed flat on his ass with a small ‘ouch’. He looked up to see the monster looming over him, but Cali was nowhere to be seen.
Grozoth picked Sanji back up before he could scramble away, holding him up by the leg in the most undignified manner possible.
“Cali!” Sanji screamed as he was hauled away, “Where’d you go? Why are you abandoning us?”
Another round of rumbling stone and groaning rock spurred Grozoth to lope faster, and it carried Sanji into a dark corridor beyond the crumbling main hall. The summoned leviathan kept up its pace, hoping not only to distance itself from the danger, but also to get Sanji out of harm’s way, like Cali had asked.
“Lemme down, Grozoth,” Sanji demanded, but the leviathan ignored him, turning a corner only to be faced with rubble. Grozoth did an about face, turning back into the hall that it had been hurrying down originally. At the next intersection, it went right, scuttling over a small pile of rubble and down a small—to the leviathan, anyway—staircase, going down several flights of stairs before coming to an unassuming nick in the wall that looked nothing more than a bullet hole.
Grozoth hooked one of its claw-like appendages into the hole, finding a small niche in the back of the hole and applying pressure. Far below, there was a groaning noise, and before it had stopped, Grozoth was off again, dropping over the stone guard and thudding its way down the stairs until it came to a gaping hole in the wall.
Grozoth set Sanji down, nudged him into the hole, and followed right behind him. When the leviathan had all of its bulk inside the hole, it began to close, leaving the duo in darkness.
Sanji, with Grozoth’s claw resting gently on his shoulder, walked carefully forward. There was a slight twist of the claw, and Sanji followed it, turning several corners in such a fashion until several pinpricks of light could be seen.
The duo approached slowly, the young boy aware of the leviathan behind him drawing him closer in a protective sense.
“Who is there?” a voice hailed, loud and clear—a woman’s voice.
“I-it’s Sanji and Grozoth,” Sanji called back, starting to take a step forward. Grozoth stopped him, tugging him back with a painful jerk backwards. The leviathan’s claw dug into Sanji’s shoulder a little, but he didn’t cry out.
The lights disappeared for a split second, reappearing larger as a small amount of air brushed against Sanji’s face. A figure could be faintly seen behind the lights, but it couldn’t be figured what the creature was. Suddenly, one of the lights shone as the sun and caused Sanji to avert his dark-sensitive eyes. It lingered for a while, moving over Grozoth’s bulk and Sanji’s lean form before it dimmed again.
“I am sorry to have to do such things to you two,” the woman’s voice said from behind the lights, “You know how it is up above though.”
Grozoth nodded in the dark, little good though it did, and released Sanji’s shoulder. The lights brightened again, but not to the blinding glare that they had been. Sanji followed silently after the creature that had hidden behind the lights—an angel, one geared for war—around several corners, twisting through a maze of stone.
“You are limping,” the angel noted after a while, stopping so abruptly that Sanji ran into her back.
“It’s because of Grozoth here,” Sanji said, looking up at the leviathan only to see that it had vanished. The angel turned and looked, blinked once, and looked down at Sanji, who looked up at her with eyes that said, ‘Well, it was here a minute ago…’
“Whatever it is, I shall fix it,” she said, pulling one of the feathers swiftly out of her wing and handing it to the young boy, who held it gingerly. The angel then continued along the path, her pace faster than it had been. Sanji stumbled after her a first, but his leg was mending itself, the chaffed area where Grozoth had held him scabbing over and healing up quickly.
“Hey, Pristine’s back!” a young boy’s voice called out from around one of he corners, and out of nowhere a young blue hedgehog appeared in the ring of light that radiated from the angel.
“Sonic?” Sanji asked, staring at the hedgehog with a small amount of annoyance.
“Sanji! Are you the reason Pristine had to disappear and I had to protect all of us?” the hedgehog got right up in the boy’s face, and the two of them glared at each other.
“Hey, Sanji’s back,” a boy with brown, spiky hair appeared around the corner, smiling widely. A wooden sword bounced on his hip as he dashed forward. Several other children poked their heads around the corner, looking from Sanji and Sonic to the sword-bearing boy to Pristine.
“Sanji, how’s Cali doing?” the brunette boy asked. Sanji physically recoiled from Sonic and his eyes flicked to the floor before looking up to the boy who had asked.
“She was hurt when she made me leave, Sora.”
“Why’d you leave then?” roared another boy, this one with green hair, as he stepped from his spot around the corner, “You could have helped her, couldn’t you?”
“She made me leave, Zoro!” Sanji yelled back, advancing on his friend.
“Pristine, what’s wrong?” a small girl’s voice asked from around the corner. The three boys and the blue hedgehog turned to look at the angel. The lights that graced her gloves and boots were fading, and her multi-colored crown was dimming. Her wings drooped, and the lights on her feathers had blackened.
“Cali is out of energy,” Prisitne muttered before fading herself.
“Don’t go!” called several of the children, dashing out from the corner and running to the summoned angel.
Pristine disappeared, and the children were left in darkness.
“What will we do?” the same girl’s voice asked.
“Nothing, Blossom. We can’t see in this darkness,” another girl said. She could be heard sitting down.
“But Sonia—“ Sonic whined.
“No buts Sonic,” Sonia snipped at him, “Cali wanted us down here because she thought it was safer than upstairs. She’s the warden of this place, so we have to listen.”
“This place is doomed, isn’t it? Shell Cove is doomed,” a boy commented quietly. The comment was quickly joined by an ‘ouch!’
“Reala, this isn’t the time for that kind of talk! We need to stay calm and think of what we can do to help.”
“Stay the hell out of the way,” Reala murmured.
“We should go and fight,” Sora said enthusiastically, “We can do it, right?”
“No.” Sanji’s voice was quiet, but everyone heard him.
“Why not?” Sonic shot back.
“You didn’t see Cali. She was struggling, and I’m not sure how well Grozoth will be able to hold against them.”
“You ran away—“ Zoro stated.
“She forced me to leave!” Sanji screamed, “She summoned Grozoth and forced me to leave! I would have stayed—I would have taken them with me—if she hadn’t forced me to leave!”
A rumble shook through the halls, forcibly knocking some of the children off of their feet. Several girls shrieked, and in the dark most of the children had their arms protectively over heads.
After a bit, the rumbling died away, and the children looked around in the darkness.
“What was that?” Sonia asked, her eyes scraping the darkness.
“Dunno sis,” answered a boy’s voice, “But I think we’re in trouble.”
“Why is that, Manic?” Blossom asked, having figured out a guess for herself.
“We weren’t feeling the shockwaves before,” Manic said, “I mean, even I wasn’t. And I don’t think Astro or Rock did either.”
“I didn’t,” said the two robots in unison.
“We should go and fight then!” Sora insisted.
“No, Sanji had a point earlier, little brother.”
“No, we should stay put.”
“I agree with Sora,” piped up a new voice.
“I second Enzo,” Sonic said, with a cry of agreement from Manic and Zoro.
Several others voiced their support, rallying each other into a frenzied state, overwhelming the voices of opposition.
“No!” boomed Reala’s voice finally, echoing off of the blind corridors. He continued in a much softer tone, “How many of you who want to go up there and get yourselves killed can see in the dark? Raise your hands.” Reala looked around, his eyesight unhindered by the dark. There were no hands raised. “That’s what I thought,” he said, “Now, consider the fact that we’ve never been down here before, and don’t know our way. Getting down here was a long ordeal, and I know I don’t remember the way. Hell, the only person here who could possibly get up there is Danny, and he hasn’t got full reign over his intangibility yet. None of us are fully adept with whatever innate abilities we have—what help would we be? We need to hide, to survive, until we can actually stand up as a force and protect this place. We are the inhabitants of Shell Cove, are we not? We’ll be able to do it, just give us some time. For now, we will wait—wait until we can show our faces among the ranks of the strong and beat down the enemy that threatens our home. Because,” Reala paused for a second to let his words echo in the heads of his friends, “We are the children of—“
There was a noise somewhere deep inside the rock that surrounded the children and cut Reala off in the middle of his speech. It sounded like angry dragons clashing against monstrous dinosaurs of old, ripping at pebbly flesh and metallic scale as they rumbled over earth and through the sky. It was joined by a falling noise, and the sound of ripping a million phonebooks in half.
“Grab hold of someone!” a terrified voice cried out in the darkness—it was Danny. He put his hands in front of him and for a split second the young boy was able to light up the entire hall.
Reala felt flesh and vaguely saw that it was Sonia he was clinging to. His other hand instinctively shot out, and his sharp nails captured Sora’s wrist. Sonia felt a breeze past her and grabbed the cloth of someone’s jacket, holding tight to it.
The light disappeared into darkness, and the world crumbled. Each child fell, those in groups clinging to each other and those alone were terrified.
Amongst it all, Sanji gingerly held the feather he had received from Pristine, staying strangely calm as he fell into nihility. All of his friends would meet again, because it was as Reala had said.
They were the children of Shell Cove.