Xaldin's observations in the Castle of the Beast. Spoilers for KH2.
Once upon a time, there was a princess.
A Princess of Heart, of course, though this girl had not been born royal. Instead, her father had been the eccentric who looked more to science and the workings of the world than the politics of those who ran it. Xaldin had observed the old man, knowing that science was sometimes a threat, but unlike those for whom knowledge was honed into the finest of weapons, the tinkerer simply wanted to know.
The princess took after her father in that respect, and harbored an unusual interest in the world outside of her little hamlet. Unbecoming, she had been called, for a young lady of her age to spend her hours buried in books, but without the brilliant mind that she had trained over the years there would have been no fairytale.
And unlike her father, even her dedication to knowledge did not stop the princess from also harboring a generous amount of faith. Science was the proof of the tangible. Faith was, by its very nature, not, and it sometimes bemused Xaldin that this princess could embrace both. But faith she had in plenty, and as befitting a Princess of Heart, the most obvious display of her faith was in her own loves.
Once upon a time, there was a hero.
Regardless of how much faith the princess had, the master of the castle did not have so steady a heart. He had been born to a life of luxury where he didn't need to lift a finger to have everything he could ever wish for at his beck and call. Treading carefully through the broken glass and splintered wood of the Beast's inner sanctum, Xaldin paused to examine each trinket, noting what was broken and what had been kept.
The mirror, of course, had been the first thing to go. He could tell from the dusty old paintings that the prince had been a handsome boy before his transformation, and there was nothing that those of noble blood prized so much as their carefully kept appearances. The visage of the beast must be galling, even now.
The mirror was useless to his own purposes, of course. Lacking substance of his own, he couldn't manipulate it to suit his needs. The mirror was an image, a shadow, and you couldn't really have a shadow of a shadow. As he carefully swept away the broken glass shards, Xaldin wondered if by some inflection of shadow one could find light.
Around the mirror were old toys, carved wooden horses and mock swords designed for the role of hero instead of monster. Fine clothing and jewels gathered dust in an open chest, while the patterned brocade of the curtains trailed ragged, moth-eaten edges in the grime. Nothing that the Beast would have found useful, and plenty that might have brought him pain.
Old books, journals, these had been kept, but they were useless to the master of the castle with his massive paws. They nevertheless retained the most feeling and thought of all, because that was the purpose of the written word. They weren't quite the medium he was looking for, but they would be sufficient. Settling quietly, comfortably on a broken stool, Xaldin allowed his consciousness to slip between the pages.
Once upon a time, there was a prophet.
The sullen, angry man who'd guided him to his target had once been the local hero of the town. And still was, to an extent. There was something about his personality that expanded to fill in every single available space. He had the natural attitude and confidence of a leader, and Xaldin knew that oftentimes leaders weren't prized so much for the cleverness of what they did as their unshakable faith in their choices, and their ability make other people follow them. If the man had only mastered the finer points of class, distinction and self-restraint, he might have been quite dangerous indeed.
Instead, the drunk who had set up permanent residence in the town's one tavern, living off of the generosity of its patrons and the fur that he could still hunt squandered all his days regaling anyone who would listen with stories of the terrible monster in the woods and his own valiant attempts to thwarts its evil plans. He had found a most attentive listener in Xaldin, who suppressed his instinctive disgust at the man's state of sloth to garner the information he needed.
He could, of course, tell that most of the man's words were lies. But to the people who didn't know about the peculiar castle and its inhabitants, there was no difference. Sometimes truth itself was an inconvenience.
Once upon a time, there was a god.
The people of the village near the castle hadn't really given much thought to gods, though some said their prayers and paid lip service to the Church. But they were close enough to the edge of civilization to maintain a healthy belief in demons, because unlike the glittering cities of commerce and learning, the villagers knew first hand of the shadows the moved in the night and the cries that howled on the wind.
Xaldin knew about the time not so long ago when black lines of angry men and torches had wound long lines up the road to the castle, when the gates had been broken and enraged voices echoed through the halls. As he touched each stone he could feel the malice lingered over them still, because the echoes of a mob fueled by bloodthirsty zeal weren't so easily washed away.
The castle's servants, heartened by the arrival of their supposed savior, had polished the halls mirror bright and decked out the ancient castle in finery long forgotten. The sweet, smoky scent of warm wood fires permeated every room, and as he slipped between the flickering shadows cast by the chandeliers, Xaldin could find little that resembled the dank and cold fortress of the villagers' nightmares.
Belief, he knew, was powerful but easily swayed. Xaldin wondered when the new stories of a fierce and benevolent forest god would begin to circulate among the villagers.
Once upon a time, there was a heretic.
There was calm of a sort now in the castle, beauty and beast living in defiance of the laws of nature and man. Because they were here, on the edge of a remote village hidden away from prying eyes and the censure of the masses, they had the freedom to live in peace. There would be no more crusades, or torches and pitchforks; the tale of the monster in the woods would fade to a mere footnote, if it had even passed beyond the borders of the village.
The princess was strong, but it didn't matter because her heart couldn't be stolen anyway. For a moment the Nobody contemplated the possibility of what would happen if he succeeded in his mission. Would she crumble and cry? Lock herself in the keep and sink slowly into despair, like her prince had before she'd arrived?
No, she wouldn't, would she? Like the tattered prince who'd crawled through countless broken paths to finally arrive at the cloud castle, she would keep searching for a way to bring him back.
They were still all guesses and predictions. Xaldin was certain the keyblade master would arrive soon, and then it would be time to put the theory to test. For the moment he was content to watch the revelries below, that brought back rusty memories of a time when faith had been so simple.