Chapter 16: Aslan Returns
Written by: Lynx and Rebmakash and hosted through the generosity of Organization VI
Rating: G (K)
Summary: After the battle against the thousand Heartless at Hollow Bastion, a whole new ring of worlds appears for Sora, Donald and Goofy to explore.
Disclaimer: We do not own Kingdom Hearts II or any of the Disney movies shown here; they are copyright to Disney and Square Enix. Please see the first chapter for the full disclaimer.
He whirled to face Jadis, his blue eyes as wet and fierce as the oceans under Cair Paravel. Ignoring Goofy's cries, he raised the Keyblade level to his face and charged.
His gallop picked up speed, until the scenery rushed by him in a smear of green and blue. He barely registered his legs pumping the distance into nothing, or the sweat-soaked hair slapping in his face. He saw only the woman who had killed one of his best friends, and in his mind, he screamed FACE ME!
Jadis heard. She spun to see him, looking almost bewildered... and giving another a brief opening to slice her staff in two.
Edmund leapt in, defying his brother's order at this opportunity. The sound of shattering crystal echoed loudly along the rocks as the magic spent itself in a single brilliant flash of salvation.
She gasped aloud at the intrusion and turned to face her new opponent, twirling her staff to immediately pierce the boy's frame. Peter cried his brother's name, speeding the centaur's legs. Jadis raised the snapped staff to strike again just as Sora's hooves slammed into her side.
Peter's yell went unheeded by both. Jadis was back on her feet unnaturally fast, leaving Sora only a breathless second to block her swing with the Keyblade, his fury also protecting the seriously wounded Edmund. He counterattacked and then pushed in for the kill, swinging the Keyblade with the blinding force of a fallen comrade. While his rage made his limbs light, it made his heart heavy, dripping blood or sweat or sorrow he didn't know.
In contrast, Jadis's face remained focused and stiff with the concentration of battle. All of Sora's swinging was just wind against her face.
"I have heard of the Key-bearers..." she said, her voice cold despite the fire in her movements."And I have always wanted to meet one. But all this weight on your heart! It consumes you entirely!"
"Shut up!" Sora roared, stomping his hooves to the beat of his attacks.
"I see now how this weapon is so bound to its bearer's heart...how dependent! No wonder the old bearers have all died."
"I said SHUT UP!"
Jadis crossed blades with Sora, and the two weapons skitted and ground into each other. "And you...you will do the same."
Her marble eyes strayed to the keychain dangling from the Keyblade...the same lion's mane that rimmed her battle armor. "Even now, the lion gives us both power..."
"He gives ME power, too!"
Peter's battle cry broke their standstill, and he jabbed his sword at Jadis, leaving a long gash across her arm. She hissed back, her eyes flying open with a rage almost equal to Sora's. With an air-slicing swing she flung Sora backwards and knocked the sword out of Peter's hands. Peter fell to the ground and rolled to a stop.
"Never enough power to defeat me!" Jadis proclaimed, raising her splintered staff above Peter's sprawled form. All Sora saw was a mirror image of the previous night, where he'd watch Aslan's life be snuffed out.
But this time, he could do something.
Without speaking, without thinking, Sora leapt between Jadis and Peter.
He felt a prick of pain just above his right hind leg. The prick then spread into a dull, wet throb, then into a screaming inferno in his mind. The adrenaline, the rage, the darkness...all of it died inside him, leaving him feeling like a hunk of dead flesh on four reed-thin legs. He collapsed almost on top of Peter, his right hind leg twisting as blood flowed from the wound.
The Keyblade suddenly felt like a thousand tons of metal in his hands, and for all his mental coaxing, he could not move it. He was defenseless.
Sora looked up, panting, to see Jadis standing over both of them. Her broken staff flickered in the sunlight, poised this time to drive into his exposed chest.
He shut his eyes, hoping she was at least not cruel enough to make him suffer.
When a magnificent roar shattered the sky.
The entire battlefield froze at the sound. All looked to the rise of the hill, including Peter, Jadis and Sora. The Keyblade Master felt something like a warm wind wash over his body, flooding away the dull throb of pain and horror. Lucy and Susan Pevensie had returned...and Aslan stood between them, looking stronger and brighter than he'd ever seen him. Sora knew that Aslan shouldn't be standing there; knew that he'd seen him die...and yet that didn't seem to matter now.
The Keyblade became light in his hands once again, spreading new strength to his body. It seemed the blade itself was giving him a second chance, urging him to get up and try once more. Ignoring the pain shooting through his leg, Sora staggered back onto all fours, and swung the Keyblade across Jadis's midsection.
The Witch was too shocked by Aslan's appearance to even notice she'd been hit. Invigorated and determined, Sora hit her again and again with the Keyblade. The staff flew from her hands with one swing, and she tumbled to the ground with another.
He felt the thunder of earth giving way to massive paws, producing the same sense of awe as when they'd first fallen into Narnia. The thunder grew louder and faster, and although Sora wanted to finish off Jadis himself, he knew better than to stand in the lion's way.
Aslan leapt from a rock outcropping, clearing both Peter and Sora, and landed with claws and fangs barred on the White Witch. Any screams Jadis might have produced were smothered in Aslan's vengeance.
Sora went to go help up Peter, when the firey sting from his stab wound suddenly rushed back to his brain. He buckled under the pain, and landed back on his side. He held up a hand as Peter started to get back up. "No wait, let me help you—"
"I think you're the one that needs help!" The two Pevensie sisters raced down to the battleground.
"No, wait… Where's Edmund?" Sora exclaimed. "Wasn't he…?"
The girls briefly glanced to each other before Susan went to help her brother to his feet. The three rushed to Edmund with a desperation the Key-bearer knew well. The brother was close by, as Sora had not strayed far as he clashed with the witch. Breathing heavily under the pain, Sora propped the human part of his body on his elbow to watch. His body was far too heavy to drag.
Working swiftly, Susan removed Edmund's helm, as gentle Lucy put a red vial to his lips.
The boy's gasps ceased, and he grew still. Sora looked to the faces of his family, and the pain of his fallen friend flooded over him again. He knew loss, and felt it as much as the other Pevensies.
Gentle sighs mingled with the wind, and Peter looked up. Edmund stirred, weak, but alive. His brother was the first to embrace him.
With Edmund alive and well, the four siblings were soon reunited once again, a weight was lifted from Sora's heart.
He smiled weakly. "Um, little help here?"
Lucy turned, vibrancy again in her eyes. Running over, she produced the small vial of reddish liquid again and handed it to him. "Here, drink this!"
Taking it to be a hi-potion, Sora attempted to twist the cap off. Lucy held out her hands to stop him. "No, you only need one drop, silly!"
Sora shot her an odd look, but tipped the vial over anyway and allowed one drop to fall on his tongue.
If a gulp of potion or a cure spell made him feel better and healed his wounds, then this stuff worked twice as well. The pain in his leg instantly melted away as the wound closed back up. Sora got back to his feet and trotted in a circle, grinning from ear to ear. "Hey, that worked great!"
Lucy giggled, and turned once again to her family. But Sora was drawn back to Aslan, who stepped towards them with all the majesty of a victor in a long war.
Sora bumbled around his words for a moment before they came out. "But, how...we saw the White Witch stab you!"
The old smile returned to the lion's face, still full of secrets. "I did say that even your power couldn't undo the laws of this world...but you see, the laws can undo themselves."
Sora wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but suspected that something important had been withheld from him. "Wait! If you knew you'd be able to come back from the dead like that...why didn't you tell us?"
Aslan almost chuckled. "Would you have done what I asked and protected Peter so well if you knew I was coming back?"
Sora attempted to come up with a good reply, but failed. He just crossed his arms over his chest, trying to act angry, but unable to hide his smile. The Witch was dead, her Heartless defeated, and her remaining followers fled. The heat of battle mere minutes ago now felt like nothing more than a bad nightmare.
But this nightmare left behind scars.
Goofy trudged up the hill towards the reunion, wobbly on his goat legs. Sora's face fell, and his heart sunk even lower at the tiny griffin statue Goofy carried.
The Key-bearer lifted a hand, as if trying to pluck out a suitable word for his feelings. His heart felt like it had become as stone as his friend. After all we've been through together...why this? Why now?
He felt withheld tears finally pushing for release, and wiped them away with his arm, hoping no one would notice.
People did, however. Lucy Pevensie stepped over and put a hand on Sora's side. He shuddered a little at the contact, both comforted and distressed by it. Try as he could, he couldn't will the Keyblade back out of his hands. "Forget the laws of this world...I can't even fix this."
Aslan appeared to be the only one not upset by this occurrence. "Sora, I think you have done enough for us."
He walked over to Goofy, and opened his mouth as if to speak. Instead, he just released a long breath onto the Donald statue. For a moment, Sora just stood and scratched his head at the action. Is that...some kind of Narnian goodbye?
Until the gray stone color of the statue began to melt away, and Donald's normal color returned to his limbs. Sora watched, his eyes growing wider with wonderment, as the duck magician slowly returned to his old self.
Donald blinked rapidly before letting out a squawk and flapping out of Goofy's arms. "What's the big idea?!"
Goofy just laughed at Donald's flustered fluttering. "Gawrsh, Donald, you're—"
Donald quacked even louder as Sora pounced on him from behind, wrapping his arms around his friend in a gut-squeezing hug. He attempted to wriggle out of the Key-bearer's arms, but Sora would have none of it.
"Hey, put me down! Put me down, ya big horsebrain!" Donald yelled, batting Sora over the head with his claws. "We gotta get the Witch!"
Sora finally let go, allowing Donald to flap out of arm's reach. He looked around the now-empty battlefield in shock. "Hey! Where'd she go?"
"We got 'er already, Donald!" Goofy chuckled.
Donald looked unhappy at the news. "And I missed it? Aw, phooey! I almost had her!"
Nobody could hold back a laugh...even Aslan produced a short, deep laugh that could've toppled rocks and sprouted trees all in the same moment. Sora instantly wished he could hear it more.
"I'm just so glad you're okay!" Sora proclaimed, spreading his arms wide.
Donald just rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Big softie."
"Big softie that saved my life," Peter broke in, his voice brimming with gratefulness. "I don't know how I can repay you."
Sora folded his arms behind his head and grinned. "We're just happy to help."
Sora was shocked to see the blond boy suddenly kneel, holding his sword before him. He bowed his head. "Thank you."
Before Sora could reply, the entire company took notice of Peter's sword. It floated up out of his hands of its own will, and hovered in the air, speckles of light circling around it.
Sora knew what it was instantly.
He pointed the Keyblade towards the ground as the normal scenery disappeared in a mist of lights and clouds. Using Peter's sword as a guide, Sora aimed the Keyblade at the revealed Keyhole and unlocked its depths. He felt relief wash over him like the light that spilled from the Keyhole...at least this world they'd been able to save. Organization or no, lost hearts or no, a new barrier had been broken between this world and its brothers.
Like the barriers between hearts.
The Narnian scenery returned in a flash, and Peter's sword floated back to his waiting hands. He examined it with a confused look, as if searching for some changes on the blade. "What just happened?"
"A new pathway is open!" Goofy explained with a nod of his head.
"All of you have new journeys to begin..." Aslan said, looking between the Pevensies and Sora and his friends. "But now I believe they will take you in different directions."
"So you're going away?" Lucy's voice fell.
"Yeah..." Sora smiled sadly at the young girl. "But we might be able to come back and see you sometime."
Goofy added, "If the path's open, maybe we won't hafta fall into the world from a train next time!"
Donald flew up, and scanned the stark-blue skies. "Problem is, I dunno where the gummi ship is. We may not be able to get to it from here."
Before the Pevensies could start asking questions about ships made of gelatinous confectionaries, Sora turned back to them. "Maybe you guys can help us. Do you know of a special way out of Narnia? Like, say, a way to a different world?"
The four children exchanged looks of astonishment. "You know about the world outside of Narnia?"
Sora chuckled nervously. "You have no idea."
Lucy smiled with a look of secret-handshake mystery. "Well, we got in through an unusual way. If you go through the woods, past the Beavers' house, you'll come to a lamppost in the middle of the forest. That's close by where we came in. Mr. Tumnus can show you the way."
"Gawrsh, thanks!" Goofy replied.
Sora gave a let's-go glance to his two fellow travelers. "Well, I guess this means we should be hitting the road."
However, he first trotted over to Aslan. He felt an endless sea of questions and more dammed behind his throat, but didn't even know where to begin voicing them. Even the short "thank you" that leaked out felt difficult enough.
Aslan, however, had much more to say. "Sora...you know well by now that the Keyblade has tremendous power. You also know that that power is connected to your heart...and I saw in your eyes both the darkness and light of that heart, and I trusted the light of it. You haven't disappointed me."
At first, the memory of descending into the strange shadow form made Sora lower his head. But then, for some reason, the left photograph and the thought of Roxas popped to Sora's mind. "The darkness?"
"Others have wielded the Keyblade...and others have fallen prey to its power, and to their own corrupt hearts. So many..." Aslan shook his head sadly. "But perhaps...you will be the one to change that."
Sora felt he should respond, but could think of nothing. Saving the worlds seemed a large enough job as it was without having to be a part of something even larger. "Then...I guess I'll just deal with that when it comes," he said, shrugging.
Aslan's smile spread. "Not a wise answer...but a good one." He turned to face the woods to the West. "Sora...take care on your journey. And perhaps, do come and visit us again. I'm sure the Pevensie children would appreciate that."
Sora's confidence returned in full. "Right, we will!"
The trek back through the woods took a little longer than expected...Sora supposed Narnia was bigger than he originally thought. A faun named Tumnus escorted them back through the forest all the way to the strange lamppost, where he then quickly left them to return to Cair Paravel. While Sora, Donald and Goofy wanted to attend the crowning ceremony for their friends, they knew a signal from the gateway meant it was time to move on.
However, they still weren't exactly sure on where to go.
Donald flew up to the lamppost for a closer look, as if expecting it to give them a clue. Seeing nothing unusual, he called back down, "Well, now where do we go?"
Goofy scratched at his horns. "Y'know, I think maybe we should go back to our old selves. No tellin' where we may pop up next, and it won't be good to look like this."
"Oh, fine." Donald circled back to earth and took out his staff. With a brief flick and a muttering of magic, skins of light enveloped the three and returned them to their normal selves.
"Woah..." Sora staggered a bit, having to remind himself how to walk on two legs. He automatically summoned the Keyblade to regain his most familiar balance.
When he felt a sudden pull on the Keyblade.
"Hey..." Sora followed the jittery feeling traveling from the weapon up to his arm to a densely-packed grove of conifers. "I think we need to go this way."
"That's nothing but a bunch of trees!" Donald quacked, hopping up and down...he seemed to miss his flight abilities.
"Just trust me on this," Sora insisted. He made a beeline for the trees, and noticed the warm and jittery feeling growing stronger. Honing in on its source, he dove into the grove. Donald and Goofy remained close behind him.
The branches pushed in tighter until Sora could barely squeeze between them. But still, he felt, he smelled something just beyond the pine needles. And he met it head-on, causing him to stop in his tracks, and Donald and Goofy to smash into him.
"Watch where you're going!"
"Ahyuck, sorry, Donald!"
"Not you, I mean—"
"Wait—" Sora reached out a hand, and felt varnished wood and clothes fabric. "There's something here, if I just..."
The voice rattled loud around them as Sora, Donald and Goofy fumbled around in the dark. Then, with all the grace of being shoved down a flight of stairs, the three found themselves spat out onto a carpeted floor.
Sora struggled to free himself from the tangle of his comrades, rubbing at his forehead. "What was that?!"
Naturally, Goofy was the first to catch on. "Hey, look! We're back in Beast's castle!"
Indeed, as soon as the room stopped spinning, they recognized the soft purple drapes of Belle's bed. And above them stood the Wardrobe, looking a dozen different kinds of flustered...or as flustered as a Wardrobe could look.
"Well, I never!" she declared, slamming her doors back shut in a huff.
Sora grinned cheekily. "Eh heh...sorry about that!"
Belle's melodious laugh reached them, and she leaned down to give them a hand up. "How on earth did you three get in there, anyway?"
Sora glanced back at his two companions, who could only offer back confused shrugs. Sora laughed as well. "I think...you wouldn't believe us if we told you!"