In the legends of voodoo
the Serpent is a symbol of Earth.
the Rainbow is a symbol of Heaven.
Between the two, all creatures must live and die
But because he has a soul
Man can be trapped in a terrible place
where death is only the beginning
—The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)
Quiet moments in the cold and the dark and ice.
Warm arms around him, everywhere, touching him.
Belatedly, he realizes he's dreaming and begins to swim, long strokes which bring him up and out until he's gasping on the shoreline of dream and reality and Axel is looking at him with those wet eyes, blinking slow and languorous, smiling. Smiling that sharp hot smile.
He whispers something in Italian and Roxas stares at him in silence.
Waiting in the silence for the words to sink in, and eventually Roxas replies, hesitantly in lilting French Guineas patois.
Sounds of voodoo mingle in the air, twining to create a new light in the darkness between the two.
There's an ancient curse lingering there, something slow and descending.
"A hideous serpent," Axel offers, his voice haggard and rasping.
"Bound in knots…" Roxas agrees and they look at the sky, its stars blotted out by a dense blanket of snow-falling mist.
A song rises from the mountain peaks, a holy mountain and in its depths resides a thundering magma heat, unfelt by the world outside.
The song echoes from the throats of millions spread across the worlds, searching and searching for what can neither be lost nor taken.
The sounds are beautiful and Roxas slowly realizes they jump from Axel's bleeding throat.
Blinking against the blinding white and hesitating snow, Roxas raises his voice to sing.
Voodoo mingles in the air.
Spells of body and earth and song.
An ancient curse, splitting the mountain in two, calling on the serpent and the rainbow…
The Cat's paws step lightly; step lively, dark fur on the angel's wings.
Its true name is lost in the ears of the gods, its sun-gold eyes blink, diamond slits narrowing, thinking and perusing feelings which run rampant in the air.
The heat is tremendous, spilling forth from the split in the mountain king, serpent's tail writhing and thrashing, so cold, so cold, yet so free after eternities.
The song lingers on as a hum, the Cat's purr dragging it upwards, into the stars and beyond to the black abyss.
It, only it, demon eyed Cat, long dead yet living, can give them what they seek.
"The price?" eager Axel, too eager to drag them to this stolid kingdom of ice. Too eager to sacrifice himself, with no count for the cost.
The Cat's eyes turn to him, burning along the lines of his mockery of human nature.
The snake rears above the jagged peaks of the broken mountain, it's fangs bared towards the skies, its huge body knotted by pain and betrayal at its center.
The Cat stands before it, the lava flowing around its tiny feet. The Cat stands as priest to the truth of what has become of the worlds.
No price, but conversion.
Axel's frostbitten throat still thrums with the remnants of a wordless spell, of a language of one and many.
My paladins, my zealots, my sycophants. To stop the rape of the worlds. A holy mission! A holy crusade!
Roxas feels the dreams pulling him in, dragging at him, his eyes slipping ever so slowly closed until the Cat's turn towards him, demanding and accusing.
Paradox of Light, you will now choose to serve. Abandon Kingdom Hearts…The Cat's tail swishes in the air, the snake screams. This is what She does, in Her infantile search for Love and Her petty fight against Darkness. She does not count the cost and He revels in Her abandon.
Roxas feels his body splitting, splitting like this mountain at the roof of the world, and the snake… the snake bleeds lava… it's serpentine eyes cast skyward in a prayer.
Roxas knows what he wants to say, but chokes on the hideous words. Sora's voice ravages him, "I serve the Light!"
Fool! The Cat's voice hammers at every facet of his cringing mortal mind. Foolish humans who believe She is all and Queen! There are no Shadows without the Light!
"Yes," Axel purrs up to the Cat, to his priest, to his general. "Yes, I will be your instrument."
Harlequin eyes, witch-fire eyes, eyes trapped in their own voodoo spell and song… they turn to Roxas, hungry and greedy.
"Your blade," Roxas whispers in agreement, his lips dry and numb, assaulted by cold and heat, leaving him nothing but dry and numb.
Empty but for the song which fills his throat and drowns him.
Do you kneel, servants? Do you kneel before the Serpent and the Rainbow? The Cat kneels, kneels upon black furred forelegs, eyes thrown upwards into the midnight sky.
The snake joins in chorus, its dying keens an offbeat to the Cat's purrs and the voluminous silence stirring in the throats of Nothing.
Axel's lips scratch against his own in a trembling swelteringfrigid kiss.
"Yes," their mouths are one as they whisper obeisance.
Their gasp is one when the flames recede and gelid snow ebbs.
Their sight is one, body and mind made one to a singular feeling, the stirring rite of blood in veins…
The snake quiets, drinking in magma, falling into a deep and troubled sleep as the mountain knits around its knotted body.
The Cat, the priest, stands silent and presides over the ritual.
The heady earthen voodoo still purring from its throat.
Calling forth a heavenly sun, its rays glinting of the landscape, throwing forth a rainbow.
They are indoctrinated. They are the church of the world and they whisper together, "All and illusion." As one, hearts beating in unison to the spirit of their voodoo song.
The silence sends them sleeping, drifting in safe dreams of all the world.
Sora's quiet voice begs, and pleads, a sycophant of his own kind, controlled by lust of warmth, "The Light! We are servants of the Light! You cannot betray us… cannot betray Her!"
Roxas awakens slowly, looks to Axel, tracing the frostbitten black lines across his neck, the burns across his chest, circling, fanning, touching, framing where his heart now beats.
Axel reaches for him, fingers slow and inarticulate.
"You shouldn't have," Roxas whispers, drawing those kind fingers to his lips, letting Axel feel the first tepid gust of his living breath.
Axel smiles, the expression reaching deep into his celadon eyes. "Roxas, in games of magic, one always wins with hope. With belief. So many hideously stupid things can be won with belief. And you are what I wanted."
The world sings for them and, this time, for the first time, they know its song and can echo it.
Soldiers, armed with truth and understanding and an unbreakable neutrality.
They will protect their hearts, their new and unbroken hearts, from the corruption of dazzling Light and the perversion of sweet Darkness with new words, with new meaning, in the rainbow of all languages and none.
"I love you," they sing their voodoo curse, hear the snake's screams and the Cat's purrs repeating their convictions.
Faith will save them now.