This is Xemnas's second time as a Nobody, and he intends to make it his last.
He remembers now, once upon a time he had searched for Kingdom Hearts to regain his heart. It worked, but the chain of memories in his soul was broken so that new ones could form in his new heart. He woke up in the middle of Radiant Garden with only one lingering memory on him, his name:
Xehanort. No Heart. Another. It didn't matter what the anagram spelled; it was a name he would rather abandon. So he chose a new name for himself, one that better suited him: Ansem.
Xemnas was created when Xehanort lost his heart again. He was just like any other strong Nobody at that point, though like Roxas, he was formed when someone willingly gave over his heart. The difference between "Ansem" and Sora was that Sora only did it to save someone he loved. Ansem did it for science. And unlike Roxas, he wasn't stripped of his memories. He remembered everything, including some of Xehanort's mistakes and successes. That was the only reason why he started this mad quest to open Kingdom Hearts; he remembered that it had worked before.
He formed the Organization with his fellow apprentices to achieve this, and each new Nobody they gathered as just another pawn in getting there. The six originals were the masterminds. The next was strong and loyal, hiding his psychotic nature under a mask of stone. After him was a master manipulator, whose loyalty seemed to sway back and forth, but his techniques and ability to influence people were too valuable to let go, even if Xemnas didn't fully trust him. The one after him was thankfully more loyal, though self-described as more of a lover than a fighter. And the one after him personally guaranteed their success, for he had never lost a single game, and this was by far the biggest one he'd ever played. The next two were mistakes—complete traitors out for their own self-interests. After them came their secret weapon, but he too betrayed the group because he felt like following the heart he didn't have. And as an unofficial member was Naminé, Xemnas's insurance that he would not again forget everything once he gained his heart, only to go through the cycle of losing it again.
Xemnas may have been the leader, but his power was merely equal to the other Organization members'. It wasn't until his Heartless latched onto a boy in the Destiny Islands that he truly grew in strength. Ansem's soul flocked to Riku because his own body had already become a Nobody. And Riku was a perfect candidate because his body was so much similar, but younger. It was easier to fit in, as though Riku actually was Xehanort himself. As Ansem's soul grew stronger, he buried Riku's heart further and further into the darkness but never destroyed it outright. Riku was strong-hearted enough to be a Keybearer, but he wasn't strong enough for his body to remain unchanged during the transition to a Heartless. So his heart remained, suppressed until he became nothing more than an Abstract, a soul and heart without a body, little better than a ghost. Riku the Abstract only manifested once to hold back Ansem so his friends could run. As his body was in use, a Nobody couldn't form, and in any case, a Nobody wouldn't be able to properly form if an Abstract had manifested instead of a Heartless. But the energy had to go somewhere, and Xemnas took it by default.
Riku does not know that Xemnas is his Nobody as well as Ansem's, so he does not appreciate the irony when Sora tells him that he fought Xemnas on Memory's Skyscraper in an exact mirror of Roxas's battle there with Riku.
The original six gained their numbers not by their births, but by how they handled themselves in battle. Xemnas was the fiercest, followed closely by Xigbar. In fact, the only reason why Xemnas leads is because he knows how to.
As Braig, Xigbar had trained in the Radiant Garden military, determined to become the best. He was an extremely young lieutenant when Ansem the Wise noticed his talents and took him on as an apprentice, and Braig divided his time between the army and science.
Eventually, however, a terrible battle took its toll on him and he was forced to retire. Radiant Garden would remember it to be the last war on the world—before, of course, the Heartless attacked—but it was hardly as joyous to Braig. It cost him his right eye and his military career, since a half-blind man could not be expected to continue on in the military. Ansem, however, saw past that and asked him if he would still like to stay as his apprentice. After all, science did not care what scars you had; it required a sharp mind and a strong will to wait through disappointment after disappointment before an answer finally came to a question.
He is reminded of this when Xemnas takes command of the Organization. The six of them all know it will be a long and difficult road to Kingdom Hearts, and that they will have many setbacks. But Xigbar thinks he can take it in stride.
Xaldin is and always has been like a cyclone. Even back as Dilan of Radiant Garden, he was more impulsive than his peers. He was more inclined to make desperate decisions. He can be calm and nudge, like a gentle breeze, but he prefers the fury of a tornado. A tornado is a truly unstoppable force of nature—it can tear apart anything in its path, but it is also unpredictable. There can be a whole row of houses demolished by a cyclone, with one hardly damaged right in the middle of the row of destruction. No one can predict where one will happen for certain or where it will go. He harnesses this power in his lances, using the same strategy. His opponents never know exactly where or when a lance will strike, giving him a greater advantage.
It is therefore only fitting that the Whirlwind Lancer meets his end at the blade of the sky—Sora, the other side of the Key of Destiny.
Even was never as single-minded and cold about science as Vexen. Vexen remembers the joy, pride, and excitement at discovering something new, but he cannot feel even the faintest echoes of it anymore. He is as cold as his element now. Nothing touches him. He can create something now, manipulate it, and watch it be destroyed without even the slightest reaction.
He chalks it up to lingering memories of Even's that push him to try and warn Sora of Marluxia's plans and let him know about Roxas's existence. He can't quite as easily write off why he pleads for mercy as Axel goes in for the kill.
The one person the original Organization members will never underestimate is Lexaeus. Those who came after them may sometimes think he's as dumb as the rocks he commands, but just because he mostly chooses to remain mute, it doesn't mean he's dumb.
No one really knew what to make of Elaeus when he was a child. He had a poor education because of a poor lifestyle—Ansem found him struggling with odd jobs just to help his family eat. When Ansem took him in, everyone said it was out of pity. He would humor the boy as an apprentice just so his family wouldn't have to starve. What everyone missed was that he had a sharp mind underneath his silence. His tutors at the castle taught him at a slow pace and were amazed to see how quickly he caught on. Within a few years, he'd caught up with his age mates, and Ansem allowed him to join him in his experiments. He still didn't talk very much, so the other three apprentices were skeptical of him. Even said that he didn't want to work with him, afraid the other boy would slow him down, but the next thing he knew, he was stuck on an intricate problem and Lexaeus was reciting a long line of poetry in order to illustrate another way of looking at it. Once Even managed to scrape his jaw off the floor, he nodded his thanks and worked out the answer. Ansem had never been prouder.
Throughout their time as master and apprentice, Ansem bred in Elaeus a sense of silent pride in his intellect. He taught him that people would underestimate him because of his quiet nature, but his actions would speak far louder than any words ever could.
In the end, however, Elaeus betrayed his master and lost his heart to the darkness. It had been his silence that fooled Ansem; he used it to hide his growing hubris.
In his life as a Nobody, Lexaeus tried to bend Riku's darkness to his own will, and it cost him his non-life. It was Riku's silent confidence that outdid him this time, overwhelming his inflated pride.
Elaeus was not as dumb as his peers believed, but he certainly wasn't as smart as Ansem believed.
Ienzo was the youngest of the six apprentices, and as such, he was pushed around a lot. He was the one who had to fetch the equipment and ensure that everything was clean and in its proper place. They never treated him badly, but when there was grunt work to be done, he did the most of it. But now that they're Nobodies, they're all the same age. They were born at the same time from the same experiment gone wrong, so Zexion is no longer delegated the role of go-fer. He leaves that up to the other Organization members of Castle Oblivion.
There's no such thing as werewolves, but Saïx is probably the closest to it. It hadn't been that way before. Sai's people had been able to draw power from the elements around them, and his had been the moon. He'd channeled it with the deepest serenity, falling into a dreamlike trance to unleash his power. Sai truly had been the moon, dropping his emotions to take on its serenity. Saïx, on the other hand, is only the dark side of the moon now. He can no longer attain that calm; a berserk rage fills him because he no longer has a heart to properly channel the moon's power. The only calm he ever experiences is the stoic mask he wears when he's separated from his moon. This is why he wants a heart so badly—it is the only thing that can bring him the moon and stars.
Axel's loyalties seem to change, but they never truly do. In the past, he was a double agent named Lae, operating under deep cover in a long spying operation. When he hurled his chakrams at the very army he'd originally started with, they thought he'd fallen prey to the enemies' tricks or had decided to go native. But once he was finished defeating his first army, he destroyed his second too. He'd realized how he was merely a puppet to them, and he wanted no part of their war, so he destroyed them and fled.
Axel has always known only one side: his own. Because of this, Xemnas keeps him on a fairly short leash, always watching him to ensure he doesn't betray them. Axel finds it hilarious that it's Marluxia and Larxene who try to usurp Xemnas's self-made throne. He finds it painful when Roxas walks away to find answers to his endless questions.
If he had a heart, Demyx wouldn't hesitate to say that he hated fighting. He denied that he was good at it no matter how often someone pointed it out. It just wasn't his style. It never had been.
He'd once been a self-described "spoony bard" named Medy—a sitar player with a talent for controlling water, who lived in a fairly peaceful world. He earned his living by traveling around the world, playing music and creating water effects to go along with it. Then one day, he came across a group of people who wanted a final member of their party so they could go adventuring. Medy, always full of wanderlust, agreed so long as he didn't have to do a whole lot of fighting. But when the Heartless attacked, he was the last one standing. His water forms were holding off the Heartless for a while, but eventually, a flame-spewing Heartless got the better of him. When he fell, he was still clutching his sitar.
The Organization VIII at the time immediately recruited Demyx, impressed by Medy's ability. They hounded him to fight, but he constantly refused. All he really wanted was peace and his music. Axel quickly wrote him off as a pathetic hippie, but Xemnas wasn't so fast to make a judgment. Instead, he pulled Demyx aside and explained their plans: to open Kingdom Hearts and regain their hearts. "You do know that with a heart, you'll truly be able to revel in your music again and feel that inner peace," he'd said. Demyx had stopped short at those words, realizing that he had no choice but to agree. And that is how he is thrown into battles against his will. Xemnas only has to hold the promise of a heart over his head, and Demyx reluctantly heads out to do his bidding, hoping that through fighting, he'll gain the one thing that will allow him to feel peace and music. He ignores the nagging sense that his actions, no matter how forced, are wrong: peace and music can't be born out of war and discord.
It is foolish to gamble at things that you can't afford to lose. Luxord either never heard that advice or chose to ignore it. Chances are it's probably the latter.
Lourd was the best gambler in his world. He won all of the games he played, but everyone knew he was a complete gentleman and would never cheat. He played a fair game—never for keeps unless his opponent needed his pride taken down a peg—and he could never stand seeing someone cheat. He looked out for his fellow betting men and ensured that none of them ever won or lost unfairly.
Then one day, a stranger entered the pub he regularly visited and challenged him to a game. It was a simple game of dice and cards—nothing too big, and they were betting with small amounts of money. Winner keep all. Lourd accepted; after all, what could he lose? It was the first game he'd ever lost, and he'd been furious to discover that his opponent had cheated. But the agreement they'd had before the game still held—winner keep all. The Heartless won, and Lourd lost his heart.
When Luxord promises Xemnas that he's never lost a game, he carefully neglects this one. It doesn't count.
Similar to Axel, Marluxia's true loyalties are with himself only. He will only do what benefits him. The difference is that while Axel makes this known from the start, Marluxia chooses to deceive until he goes in for the kill, much like a Venus fly-trap.
In his previous life, Lumaria was the royal gardener for Castle Oblivion—a magnificent fortress designed by a kindly but paranoid king, who never really trusted anyone. The winding staircases and odd rooms were designed to fool his enemies, though his servants had to be taught their way around them so that they could properly serve him. These servants were devoted in mind, heart, and soul to their King, all save Lumaria. He wanted power, control over everything—just as he had control over his plants. A tree's growth could be manipulated into a small bonsai shape. Bushes could be pruned to ensure they did not grow more than he wanted. Roses and ivy could be tied to a trellis, and weeds could be pulled so only the right plants would grow. Such was the power of a gardener—or a King.
When the Heartless attacked Castle Oblivion, Lumaria was using a scythe to harvest away the dead foliage in the garden. The guards were the first to fall to the Heartless, and he realized that he had to fight to save his own life. The King was watching from a distance as Lumaria held off the Heartless with his scythe, and saw when he fell. The castle was sealed, and the defense measures of the rooms were activated in case the castle was stormed. It remained that way for about a month, with the King and remaining servants living off of the dwindling food they had stored for emergencies.
It was then that Marluxia broke in, with an army of Nobodies and Heartless. They killed everyone they came in contact with, except the King. The King—that kind, paranoid, foolish old man—was so delighted to see that his gardener had apparently survived the initial assault, that he greeted him with a warm smile and open arms. Marluxia, in return, lopped his head off with his scythe.
And he plans to do the same to Xemnas if he gets the chance.
If anyone from Larxene's previous life saw her now, they would probably see very little difference between her then and now. The only thing they'd notice is that she isn't as easily satisfied by others' pain as she used to—where Ranele would have stopped in the past, Larxene continues on.
Ranele was the closest thing her world had to a princess, though she acted completely opposite to what would be expected of one. She was brash and cruel, often going out onto the battlefield to taunt her own soldiers and mercilessly torture their prisoners of war. It was said that insanity ran in her bloodline, and she was living proof of that theory. She would enter the interrogation chambers, and sometimes only the hardest interrogation specialists could stomach what she did. But after seeing a certain amount of blood and hearing a certain amount of cries, she would stop, wipe her hands on a clean towel, and walk out. In mindgames, she would wait until her victim finally broke into tears before smiling sweetly and assuring them that it would be fine. Immediately after, she informed the commander of what she found and ordered an execution when they got everything. She would then show up at the execution in her finest clothes, as though she was at some entertaining play.
For Larxene, however, the entertainment is all in the torture. Once she's finished, her fun's over.
Whatever there is to be said about Sora has probably already been said: Keyblade Master, savior of worlds, defender of light, and loyal friend. Roxas was great—is great—but he doesn't remember it. And Xemnas carefully manipulated things so that he couldn't: keeping him and Naminé separated so the witch of memories—Kairi's Nobody—couldn't spur memories that both of them had in their souls. He made certain never to mention anything about Sora and let Roxas slowly remember things about his Other, which gave him a bias against him. Sora had everything, and Roxas had Nothing, so what else could he do but hate him?
It was worse when he was forced to use his Keyblades in other worlds. Somehow or another, people had heard of the Keybearer, and people kept asking him, "Sora, can you save us?" "Sora, please help us!" "Sora, why are you doing this?" Each and every time, he screamed back, "I'm Roxas!" with all of the hatred he kept from Sora's heart. Once, it caused a backlash that made Sora cry out the same words in his sleep, startling Naminé as she tried to repair his broken memories. It forced DiZ and Riku to hunt Roxas down and keep him under control so that he and Sora could one day rejoin.
The fight with Riku was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. When DiZ threw him in the simulated Twilight Town and had Naminé create a new personality for him, based off of Sora's, Roxas was finally free to be himself—just an ordinary fourteen-year-old boy playing with his friends without any weirdness happening to him. But it was all shattered when the Organization broke into the program. He could never be ordinary; that was something Sora would have to try and achieve, not Roxas.
And now that he's rejoined with his Other, he has mixed feelings about the Organization. Like Sora, he hates them for all the trouble they've caused—and he hates himself for what he did under their control. But he had a friend there, someone who seemed to follow his heart the way Roxas did, even if Axel didn't have a heart or even an Other who still had his. And they brought him to his Other, through whom he can maybe have an ordinary life with ordinary friends. So when Sora pities them, Roxas thinks that maybe he does too.
Standard disclaimer applies: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or any of its characters. Major thanks to Ryan Griffin for numbers V and XI, and to my sister for number VI.