Prince Philip was no Sora (then again, nobody was), but he was still a darn good fighter. He exhibited fine skill as he cut down minions left and right with the fairy-blessed sword. He handled the shield as well as any trained knight, and he fought as bravely as any hero out to rescue his one true love. But by Jove, their foes sure were many! New ranks appeared even as Philip and his allies finished their predecessors off.

"Here!" cried Goofy as he offered Philip an elixir. Those pig-faced goons were everywhere! Because Maleficent was near and greatly her wrath they feared, they fought competently for once.

"Thank you," panted the prince. He sighed. "It seems she put all her minions on the night watch!"

Duh, thought Donald idly, to kill them off. Why bother with henchman when you've got Heartless? For these creeps, you'll probably need a good health and – Ewww! Okay, maybe not dental – plan. For the latter, you just need Darkness. Heartless work for nothing! Thoughts of Darkness and Nothingness reminded Donald of his other mission, and gave him an opening. "Prince Philip!" he exclaimed. "You gotta remember! You have to go save the princess!" For effect, he cast Stop on some nearby goons. "Let us deal with 'em!"

The young man shook his head. "No, fair fowl. I won't abandon those who saved me from my imprisonment." So much for that. But the prince had a point. And Goofy and Donald needed all possible aid in this current fight.

"We need the fairies," whimpered Goofy. "Then they can teleport us outta here! Hey Donald, can you teleport?"

"My magic doesn't work that way!" stammered the mage. "We need the fairies!"

"That's what I said!"

Prince Philip chuckled. "Less bantering, more battling!"

Maybe the fairies found some way inside Forbidden Mountain. Maybe they're on their way, idly thought Donald. Ha ha. I wish. But perhaps wishes do come true after all, however slowly. Bit by bit, the three gained ground. Bit by bit, they approached the stairs. Bit by bit, they allowed themselves some hope.

Slash, slash! Clang!

"Prince Philip!" Hurray for MP Gift!

"Thank you, brave hound." Flash! With a bright, white flash of the prince's sword, several minions were downed at once. Cue Ability: Sword of Truth!

"I'VE GOT IT!" Foom! Hurray for Firaga!

Cling, clash! Crunch! Boom! The three were now halfway up the stairs. Now, it was only half as dark as before. The minions began to relent. "C'mon!" Whoosh! Hurray for Rocket! Look at Goofy go!

"Come try me!" Bash! With furious speed, Prince Philip charged at a particularly large goon and downed him in one blow with his shield. Cue ability: Shield of Virtue!

"Good job, Prince Philip! Here!" Goofy gave him a potion.

"Thank you once again." Slash! Clash! "Behind you, Goofy!"

Bonk bonk bonk bonk bonk! Hurray for Tornado! "Whoa! Now I gotta thank you!"

"Less gossip, more GRAVIRA!" cried Donald as he cast that famed health-halving spell. Hah! At this rate, Philip would get to Aurora in no time!

They were almost at the top of stairs. The minions were almost at their wits' end. Some deserted at random intervals; wise individuals, them. Okay, not so wise. Some just jumped outside a window. Oh, what was this? The minions decided, one by one – wisely, they weren't mindless monsters like the Heartless – to retreat. "We'll be back!" one yelled half-heartedly. Yeah, right.

"I must thank the fairies, and the strange but brave friends they sent," said Prince Philip.

"We did it!" cheered Goofy, jumping up and down.

"Whew," muttered Donald. His feathers were wilted. Time to find a Moogle shop! Together, the three entered a large, empty stone corridor.


What was Maleficent doing all this time? Having the time of her life, though semi-consciously so.

What joy ... it is nice to have events occur in your favor once in a while. For the longest time, I looked forward to the princess' sixteenth birthday. I did not think it would bring me even more joy than expected.

How so? Joyful event seem greater when contrasted with recent woes. And what woes! Choosing that cursed Castle That Never Was as a new base of operations - what was she thinking? What a horrid place; what a horrid world!

I was a fool. You cannot get something from nothing, and that world was a realm of nothing.

Her poor plants failed to thrive in the eternal night. Her new décor kept sliding off the white walls, refusing to stick. Her poor minions were no match for the countless, relentless invading Dusks. And stupid Pete was a stupid, stupid choice for a second-in-command! She had to micromanage everything!

Next time, I shall be wiser in choosing allies. No fools like Pete and Oogie-Boogie. No opportunistic deserters like Hades. Ah, Riku …

She had her hands full. With Organization XIII fallen, its world should have been easy conquest. No such luck; its civilian counterpart, Dark City Government, stepped up to deal with the fallout. She had barely renovated the castle when it started sending its pests against her. That white-suited spy was easy to shoo away. The army of Dusks which followed him … not so much. Not even regaining control of the Heartless proved much of an equalizer. It didn't help that Nobodies, unless they wish it, do not show up on any means of detection, magical or mundane. If something doesn't really exist, it can't really be detected, can it? Foul lurkers. Little wonder the King and his allies denied their existence. They couldn't tolerate the fact that Nobodies fouled their view on how reality worked, fouled their traditional means of detection ...

Luckily, she remembered Aurora's upcoming sixteenth birthday … and decided on an impromptu vacation. She was fed up with Dusks! Let Pete wonder where she wandered. Still, now she had both Aurora and Philip in her thrall; now, it was time she returned to the World that Never Was. Things were as perfect as they were going to get here, unlike there. She was never one to procrastinate.

A few more moments of rest. Perhaps a night or two without Pete. Ah, I haven't had such a break in ages -

"Caw. Caw caw!"

"Caw!"

Cursed crow! Might as well; she was planning to wake up anyway. "Silence!" she snapped to Diablo, her own eyes snapping awake. "You, tell those fools to …"

A shocked green face.

A stone crow statue.

A cry of pure horror: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"


"Hey, didja hear somethin' in the distance?" pondered Goofy.

Suddenly, things went to Hades in a handbag. Poor Donald never had a chance to look for a Moogle shop. Or check out the corridor.

Fwoosh!

Chitter, chitter, chitter …..

"What foul creatures are these?" exclaimed Philip. The poor prince had just finished cleaning his sword! He gaped at strange black creatures. They crawled like ants, or floated in the air like specters or grinning faces. They looked like -

"Shadows," said Donald, "and Neo-Shadows, and Invisibles, and Darkballs. Grrr ..."

"Watch out, Prince Philip!" steadied Goofy. He readied his shield. "They're Heartless!"

"Yes, they seem savage enough," replied Prince Philip. He readied his sword and shield.

"Grah!" cried a random pig-faced goon. An Invisible attacked him and ate his heart.

"What?" Donald gasped. His two companions looks at him, puzzled.

This isn't normal, realized the panicked wizard. Did one of Maleficent's creatures just attack another one of Maleficent's creatures! Heartless weren't usually so indiscriminate with their victims, else evil witches and ambitious scientists wouldn't make and use them in the first place!

No time to think! One Darkball charged and chomped, hitting the prince with its bulk. Prince Philip staggered backward, prompting Donald to cast Curaga. Careful, your Highness! If you die by the Heartless, a fate much, much than worse than death awaits you! We know, we've seen it.

"Come, Goofy!"

"Yes, your Highness!"

SMASH! That annoying Darkball was smashed into dust between two shields. Cue limit: Double Smash!

"FIRAGA!" Several Neo-Shadows fell to magic. One ducked away. "Aw, phooey." He wondered if every Heartless under Maleficent's domination was summoned here.

CRUNCH! Another Darkball fell to Prince Philip and Goofy's Double Smash.

"BLIZZAGA! Wah!" That'd teach nasty Neo-Shadows to mess with Donald Duck!

SLASH! An Invisible met its match in sword skills in Prince Philip. Who will win?

"Donald! Here!" Hurray for Goofy! Hurray for MP Gift!

SLASH! Philip won.

"Your Highness!" Good ol' Goofy! Hurray for MP Gift again!

"Thank you, kind canine." FLASH! Make way for the Sword of Truth, Shadows!

"Whew," sighed Donald. He could use a break.

"What relief! It seems the room is clearing," said the prince. So it seemed.

Suddenly, Donald remembered the Battle of 1,000 Heartless. Thoughts of that battle at the Great Maw made Donald think of Sora, and the anguish he suffered at the hands of Saïx. That anguish would have been great enough to turn Sora into Roxas. Was that what Saïx hoped to accomplish? Sora …

Occasionally, they heard a faint, insane scream in the distance. It must be Maleficent. Something fishy was going on in evil fairy's head, surely. It was the only explanation for this chaotic Heartless battle, and the Heartless' even more chaotic behavior.

First, no re-spawning. Remember those battles in Traverse Town? The really tough ones, in the Third District? Remember why they were so tough? Where were the new arrivals to replace their fallen brethren, here? Second, no Emblems. Only Pureblood Heartless attacked the party - Darkballs and Invisibles, Shadows and Neo-Shadows. This wasn't Maleficent's style. The witch loved her Wyverns and Wizards. Third, no aggressiveness. More often than not, they brought the battle to the Heartless, not the reverse. Usually, Heartless hone in on the light of Sora's Keyblade and – alright, so that had a perfectly good explanation. Best two out of three?

"I'VE GOT IT!" ZAP!

Don't look a gift Horace in the mouth, concluded Donald. All three points were points in their favor, for now. After the brouhaha with Roxas, Briar Rose, Crypus, and Katherine, it was nice to have one thing turn out on the side of good –

Goofy pointed. "Donald, look!"

Make that two! Look, beyond the drawbridge! The fairies have arrived! And look what they brought with them: a white stallion with a black tail and mane. No interfering troops of pig-faced goons could stop them … not when their arrows kept turning into daisies and their projects into bubbles! "Screw this," one yelled, and deserted.

"Samson!" Prince Philip happily exclaimed. That must be the stallion's name.

"What took you so long?" Donald demanded. "And what happened to Maleficent?"

"No time to explain! We hurried the best we could, dears!" explained Fauna. "Quick! Before Maleficent loses it completely!"

"Prince Phillip!" interjected Flora. She helped the three onto the prince's horse, and gave them her supply of elixirs and hi-potions. "The road to the princess may be barred by still many more dangers. But do not worry. These dangers we shall face as one."

"Yeah, you can count on us!" Goofy declared. Prince Philip nodded. Meanwhile, Donald felt like he was forgetting something. A distant creak disturbed his thoughts.

"The drawbridge!" all three fairies cried. "Quick, hurry! Hurry!"

Drawbridge? What's this about a – AAAH! Fast! Donald barely managed to stay upright on Samson. Poor horse; he expected to carry one and ended up carrying three!

Some Darkballs spied the heroes, and sped towards them. Samson galloped for dear life. This way and that he went, hooves crackling sparks on the stone ground. This is kinda fun, thought Donald grudgingly. It feels almost like a mini-game. But are the falling rocks part of this?

He could imagine the gameplay now: press Triangle to kick with hind legs; Circle to rear up (and down, dealing hurt with front legs!); X to jump (Whee!); and Square to magic flying boulders away. Those blasted rocks must be Maleficent's doing.

Meanwhile, Goofy simply yelled, "Wheeeeeee!" as Samson cleared the drawbridge. The knight and the prince used their shields against whatever boulders Donald failed to fling away with magic.

Clearing the exterior of the stronghold of Heartless was a cinch while on Samson. In fact, the area seemed free of Heartless already. Minions, too. Which meant –

"You!"

"Here we go," muttered Donald. One battle left. But a boss battle without Sora? Could they win it? Against Maleficent?

"I see 'er!" Goofy pointed. Prince Philip nodded.

"You killed him! My precious pet! He was all I had! He was all I loved!"

Sure enough, in the distance, outside King Stefan's castle, stood the mad fairy. How the heck did she get here? Teleportation? Oh, whatever. Something had happened to Maleficent. Her face was ghastly … ghastlier than usual, anyway. And her eyes scalded with rage. Something knocked against the back of Donald's mind. He ought to know what would cause such madness; he just didn't know what. No matter. Mad or sane, the witch was going down!

Thanks to Samson, the distance was getting short. But Maleficent had a spell ready:

"A forest of thorn shall be his tomb.
Born through the skies on a fog of doom.
Now go with the curse and serve me well,
Round Stefan's castle cast by spell!"

Instantly, a storm was summoned - a strange one which rained seeds of rapidly-sprouting vines. Samson had to stop, lest he ram into sharp, possibly poisonous thorns. The prince dismounted and unsheathed his sword to deal with the rampant plant life. Donald followed his example. Nothing a few Firagas couldn't cure!

Information: destroy the vines!

Cut, cut, whack, "FIRAGA!"

It didn't help that for every vine cut down, multiple new shoots seemed to sprout. Donald missed Sora's scan ability. How much progress were they making?

"Let us help, dears!" Lo, here came Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather! Tough, fibrous rose thorns became soft, papery daisy stems. Thank Kingdom Hearts for them! In no time, the heroes were past the vines. And right in front of Maleficent.

"No, it cannot be!" she fumed. "Wretched old women! Fool minions of the mouse king! You ruined my day. You shall not ruin my – hmm …" She suddenly smiled, having noted their number, having noticed the lack of a certain Keyblade wielder among their party. "Never mind … in return, I shall end yours!" Her laughter boomed forth, like giddy thunder.

"No. It will be you whose life ends today, foul spirit!" proclaimed Prince Philip.

"You won't get away with hurting Rose!" agreed Flora. She and her fellow godmothers puffed up their chests and drew up their wands.

"Very well." Maleficent's robes billowed up in a blaze of green fire. Now shall you deal with me, old prince, and all the powers of Hell!" Her laughter boomed forth, like thunder. Her figure erupted in eerie green fire.

Uh-oh. Donald recalled the last time she did that ….

This is it! This power! Darkness... The true darkness!

The transformation was more frightening this time around; perhaps because time time, Maleficent wasn't confined indoors. This time, she could utilize clouds and wind to great effect. At least Maleficent's new form was identical from last time. Same giant size, same snake-like head, same glowing yellow mouth, same baleful green fire -

Green fire? Whoa! Luckily, quick thinking on Prince Philip's part saved everyone from instant immolation. The brave prince ran forward, swung his sword, and gave the dragon a deep cut on the snout. Following his example, Goofy charged forward.

Flora waved her wand in the direction of Prince Philip:

Now sword of truth, be sharp and sure,
Make evil die and good endure!

Fauna waved her wand towards Goofy:

Gallant knight, so kind and strong,

May your shield protect from wrong!

"Me too?" Donald asked.

Merryweather folded her arms. "Don't be greedy, dear."

"Awww."

"All right," Merryweather relented. She waved her wand:

Magic staff, let loose your power!

Save us all in this dark hour!

"Yes!" Donald cheered as his enhanced Blizzaga assaulted Maleficent with hail and sheet. Sora or no Sora, forgetfulness or no forgetfulness, the good guys might win this fight yet!

"ROAR!" The dragon let loose a line of fire. FOOOOOM!

"Yikes! It's hot!" Goofy cried, but he wasn't burned, thanks to the shield of virtue. Good thing Prince Philip threw it up just in time!

"Here! Wind!" Donald replied. Casting Aeroga on everyone ought to do the trick!

Thunder boomed and dominated the background like cacophonous music. Shields were readied, a sword was flourished, and wizardly and fairy magic surged about as though alive. Several times, the dragon lowered her horrible head and attempted to eat a party member; each time, the prince gave her a bloody gash across her jaw. Several times, she lifted her head to let loose a barrage of green fire; each time, the prince deflected the flames with the Shield of Virtue. Yes, now in then they had to give ground avoid being trampled by Maleficent's advancing bulk

The dragon turned her attention to Goofy, and got a black eye from his shield for her trouble. Momentarily stunned, she failed to …. WHAM! Another Double Smash! Oh, when will Maleficent learn?

"Here, dears!" The fairies were doing their part too. Here and their they flitted, occasionally casting Curaga on Prince Philip, Donald, or Goofy, like Tinkerbell used to do on Sora. This freed Donald to cast offensive spells like -

"FIRAGA!" FOOM! "Heh heh heh heh!"

- letting Maleficent know what it was like to be on the other end of a line of magical fire! Ha ha! He sure showed the witch what for!

"Thank you, fair fowl!"

"Good job, Donald! Here!"

"You welcome, Goofy – thanks!" Hurray for MP Gift!

Growling madly, the dragon swung down her terrible head to chomp on Goofy. Oh no! The poor knight failed to duck away in time. CRUNCH!

"Goofy!"

Goofy fell to the ground. He bounced back up. "I'm okay, Your Highness!"

"I'VE GOT IT!" FOOM! He won't let a nasty old dragon mess with his buddy!

The battle seemed to be progressing well, despite setbacks and rampant dragon-fire. In the background, Prince Philip unleashed another Sword of Truth while Flora healed Goofy with her magic ("Thanks, pal!"). By his side, Merryweather renewed the enhancement on his staff whenever it ran out. Maleficent seemed to be weakening; perhaps they have a chance after all.

"You go help Goofy and His Highness," the wizard urged the fairy. "I'm OK!"

"Hey, what's that cliff doing behind us?" Goofy wondered out of the blue.

"Huh?" Donald turned around. "WHAT?"

So, the battle wasn't progressing so well after all. Maleficent was spiteful and vile, but she was cunning and patient as well. So, she was holding back all this time, lulling her foes into a false sense of security, luring them into retreating towards a wall of rock. There was nowhere else to go. It seemed the evil fairy-turned-dragon had them right where she wanted …

Aw, phooey.

… before spewing forth a veritable giant glob of fire! FOOOOOOOM!

"Hop! Come this way!"

"Goofy! No!"

Thud. "Sorry fellas ..."

"Hack, hack!" Donald coughed and choked from the accompanying fumes. He couldn't see, he couldn't breathe, he sure as heck wished he couldn't smell …


When Donald came to, he saw stone walls, unlit torches, and gentle sunlight streaming through a window. He saw dozen of curious faces. "Look everyone," murmured one such face. "He awakes!"

"Wha … what time is it?" Donald groused. Where was Goofy?

"My word … he speaks! Like a human!" The face widened his mouth in surprise, exhibiting crooked yellow teeth and a red tongue pockmarked with pink spots. Ewwww!

A grouchy, sleepy wizard was not the most polite creature in the world, especially one assaulted with such a disgusting sight. Why, it was enough to send Donald jumping up and down on his bed in sheer annoyance (at least that made the faces retreat). "What's the matter? Never saw a duck before?" he snapped.

No, judging from the strange looks of the strangers. "He … he has hands instead of wings!" nervously observed one.

"But he only has four fingers … was he maimed? Poor bird."

"Does he fly?"

"He's wearing clothing, just like a human!"

"But no pants."

"Fair fowl, how do you talk with a beak? You need a mouth and teeth to form words …"

"Is he a demon? He's no ordinary duck …"

"A fairy creation?" A talking beast?"

Geez, what was the matter with these folks? And he thought Prince Philip was weird! Anyway, enough was enough! Donald assumed he trademark fighting stance: one fist out, one fist swinging 'round and 'round. "Get outta here! Go on, get!" he quacked.

No sensible human dared risked the wrath of a sentient, clothed, child-sized demon-duck with hands instead of wings, so out the humans went. Now Donald got out of bed and explored his surroundings. He was indoors, on a bed, in a room (with a treasure chest and a save point in the far corner, whoo-hoo). It was a stuffy room, as the people of King Stephen's kingdom had not yet invented indoor air circulation.

"Whadda bunch of maroons …" he mumbled as he plopped back into bed. Was everyone in this kingdom so kooky? This never happened in prior adventures! Agrabah, Deep Jungle, Beast's Castle, Twilight Town … back then, he never encountered such reactions to his appearance.

Then again, back then, Sora was around …

"Hiya, Donald!" said a familiar voice. "G'morning!"

"Goofy!" The duck turn around and hugged his friend. "You're alright!" Thank Kingdom Hearts! He had so many questions …

But Goofy had a question of his own: "Say, Donald?"

"Yeah?"

The canine knight pulled at and peered at one of his ears. "Do I really not look like a dog? 'Cause I always thought it was kinda clear …"

"Who cares?" Let me guess, people saw Goofy and went, "Huh? Dogs can talk!"

"Everyone except the fairies seems to. Y'know …" Goofy scratched his snout. "This sorta thing never happened when Sora was around. You think it was 'cause of the Keyblade?"

So, his friend thought the same thing too. Perhaps that was one of the Keyblade's lesser-known powers: to make natives overlook extraterrestrial matters, to better let the Keyblade Master do his duty in peace. Keyblade Masters do tend to travel from world to world on a regular basis, after all.

"What happened?"

That brightened Goofy up. "Prince Philip defeated Maleficent, kissed Briar Rose, and woke everyone up, a-hyuck!" The knight closed his eyes in dreamy reverie. "Gosh, it was romantic!"

Something nagged at Donald's sluggish mind. "Huh?"

"Now those two are getting ready to meet Rose's folks!"

That something bloomed into an urgent thought. Philip defeated Maleficent? That meant … "Wait! Maleficent's …?"

"Dead as a doornail! She won't bother Briar Rose or the fairies again, that's fer sure!"

"What? WAWAAAH!" Quacking with horror, Donald jumped out of bed and jumped repeatedly to rid the blankets wrapping him. How could he have forgotten? Of course … last night, the excitement of the battles crowded out everything else from his mind. Now, he was paying for his scattered brain. If Maleficent was dead, how was Talia going to execute her plan? Not that Donald cared, but the vile widow would take out her wrath on him and Goofy! All the infinite horrors of the infinite Abyss had no fury on a female Nobody scorned! But wait … "What about Diablo?"

"You mean the crow?" pondered his friend. Then: "Good thinking, Donald. We can't have Maleficent returning again! Let's ask the fairies."

Stupid Goofy, has he forgotten everything about Talia's contract? On purpose?


All Donald had to do was follow the music. In no time at all, he arrived in the throne room.

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…

I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam…

It seemed that the throne room had been converted into an impromptu ballroom. What a change from before! The atmosphere was now cheery. The people were now awake and animated. From someplace unseen, a quartet played a waltz. However, except for two, no one was dancing. Donald could guess who those two were.

Yet I know it's true that visions are seldom all they seem...

Princess Aurora and Prince Philip twirled 'round and 'round with nary a care in the world, their eyes only on each other. A least Briar Rose and Philip have a happy ending, the magician mused. He sighed, and occasionally imagined the blonde princess and brunet prince as a redheaded girl and spiky-haired hero. Don't worry Kairi, you'll have your happy ending too. I swear we'll return Sora to you.

Donald decided to enjoy the music a bit and watched the couple waltz. He started to sway with the music, tapping his foot and wiggling his tail feathers.

But if I know you, I know what you'll do,

You'll love me at once, the way you did once, upon a dream…

Suddenly, a wisp of magic flew in and changed the color of the princess's gown! Pink!

"Huh?" squawked the magician.

No one else seemed to notice or care, but Donald sure did. Then Aurora's dress changed back! Blue! What the heck? Pink! Where is that magic from? Blue! Donald followed his wizardly senses and - Up there! The balcony! There were the fairies!

Donald turned around and sped out of the throne room. Up on the balcony …

Flora turned from her rivalry with Merryweather to attend to Fauna. "Why, Fauna, what's the matter dear?" she asked her friend.

Fauna dabbed her cheek with a handkerchief. "Oh, I just love happy endings."

"Me too, but what about Diablo?"

"Huh?" Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather turned around as one to witness an agitated Donald enter the balcony. Why was the magician so worried? He and Goofy helped Philip defeat Maleficent. Wasn't that what they came here for?

"What about that ratty old bird?" Merryweather asked.

Right … gotta frame this in form of something innocent. Um … oh, I know. "Remember last time Maleficent died? Diablo brought her right back! We can't have the nasty old witch messing things up again!"

Merryweather beamed. "Don't worry! I make sure to take care of that crow beforehand."

"Wuh?"

"I turned him into stone!" Merryweather flexed her wand. "I did it while Maleficent wasn't looking, of course."

"Oh." Oh, no. That explained a lot about last night: Maleficent's insanity, Donald's déjà vu, everything. Then again, it was fixable. Petrifaction was a reversible status aliment, provided that nothing seriously damaging happens to the afflicted person before he or she is cured. "You didn't smash him to bits afterward, did you?" Donald asked.

Merryweather grew worried. "Oh no … I don't think I did. What if someone restores him?"

"I doubt it," Flora assured her. But her tone was doubtful. Fauna and Merryweather exchanged worried glances. Way to ruin their good mood, Donald Duck!

Donald found his opening. "How about I go and check, ladies?" he suggested. "We gotta make sure no one brings him back, so that he can't bring Maleficent back."

As one, Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather flew to him and gave him affectionate kisses customary of kindly grandmothers and fair godmothers. "Thank you, Donald dear! You're the best!" Donald did not have the heart to admit his real intention was to do the exact opposite of what they expected.


Unfortunately for Donald Duck, or perhaps fortunately, that decision was already made for him by circumstance. Perhaps it was a fleeing goon. Perhaps it was Merryweather. Perhaps it was falling rock of rumbling earthquake. Whatever it was, it smashed Diablo to bits. No amount of patience or superglue could restore the little granite bits of what used to be the petrified form of a crow.

"Aw, phooey," cursed the magician.

Yet a part of him was glad to know that the decision was out of his hands. Sure, he and Goofy were going to suffer at the hands of Talia, but at least now the people of this world – as well as the rest of the universe – were now forever safe from Maleficent's machinations. Donald took stock in that.

"Now what do we do?" Donald asked the air. He once asked Sora the same question, he knew.

"We go back to Dark City, of course!" chirped a goofy voice behind him. "We accomplished our mission, after all!"

"Huh?" Donald turned around and regarded his friend with confused eyes. What the heck is Goofy thinking? "No, we didn't. We were supposed to return Diablo alive." He pointed at the statue. "Look!"

At this sight, the knight put his hands on his hips and pouted, "Gosh, Donald! Don't you care about Briar Rose and Prince Philip? From what I heard, Maleficent's been bothering the poor folks here ever since before she started mucking around with Heartless!"

"Wow, really?"

Goofy changed his pout to a smile. "Besides … didn't you really read our contract?"

"What contract?" In response, Goofy produced a pink sheet of paper from one of his pockets. Uninterested, Donald waved it away. "Aw, who reads the fine print, anyway?"

"Well you should, 'cuz there's some really important stuff!" Goofy browsed the paper, searching for the crucial lines. Here it was! "You see … it says here t'we need only to retrieve Diablo and return it to Lady Katherine. Then we're free to go! It says nothing about how we return the bird."

Donald nearly jumped three feet. "Really? Lemme see!" He grabbed the paper from his friend and read the fine print, line by line. Then he began to snicker, which gradually grew into full-blown, almost sinister laughter. One could almost imagine cartoonish red horns growing on Donald's head. Sure enough, the contract states nothing about the condition of the to-be returned item. How about petrified and shattered? "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! That wicked old widow has nothing on us! Nothing!" Sure, Talia verbally instructed not to kill the crow, only capture and retrieve it, but technically Diablo wasn't killed. Besides, if he knew his legalistic, overly verbalistic societies, Talia's words could not take precedence over her contract. Take that, Lady Katherine! In your hurry to get rid of us, you really did get rid of us!

"Gosh Donald, are you okay?" Goofy asked, scratching his head. Did the contract contain a hidden joke? 'Cause he sure didn't catch it.

"I'm okay, Goofy!" Donald jumped up and started twirling Goofy around, like Sora once did in Twilight Town. "I know everything's gonna be all right!" Like you did, all along. No wonder you were so okay last night. You knew we didn't have to screw Briar Rose's folks over to save ourselves! Good ol' Goofy! Ever the gallant knight!

Still … just to be one the safe side, perhaps they ought to recruit some helpful allies. "C'mon Goofy, let's find the fairies!" suggested Donald when he was done dancing in a circle. "Now that Briar Rose is safe, they can aid Disney Castle again!"

"Good idea, Donald!" Together, the wizard and knight began to put the remains of Diablo inside a bag. They must not go back to Dark City empty-handed, after all! Heh heh …