Sora lit the second lamp.
Nothing changed in the room that he could see, but an instant later the Cheshire Cat had returned, in an identical position but now on the platform Sora had been standing on before, rather than the one he was on now.
"All the lights are on," it purred. "You'll see the shadows soon." It was grinning widely. "They'll arise in this room, but somewhere else. The shadows might go after that doorknob, too." And it was gone.
"So...where now?" Goofy asked.
"I guess a different area of this room," Sora said, glancing at Kimi for confirmation. She only shrugged.
"Down there!" Donald said suddenly, pointing up all the way to the floor. "The doorknob we talked to must be what that cat means. And that's where the shadows first appeared too."
"That's good reasoning..." Kimi looked almost meditative, as if there was something profound in what Donald had said. Then she shook her head suddenly and said, "Well, it's not because the shadows show up there first, it's because it's the only way to have the big fight happen when we're small like this. Only reasonable. It'd be a huge disappointment otherwise, y'know?"
More dream logic, Sora thought. But that probably meant Donald was right. This place seemed insane at first glance, but there were common threads running across it, and you could reason your way through if you used something other than reason.
He wondered if this was true about all the other worlds, if each had their own kind of sense that looked mad from any other standpoint. He opened his mouth to ask, and then he remembered they didn't know any more than he did. Instead he said, "Then let's go. Let's rescue Alice."
They made their way back to the painted forest. Sora watched carefully, but that white heartless seemed to have left for good. Nothing arose to challenge them.
When they entered the Queen's box-hedge room, the card guarding the doorway must have seen something he disliked in their slower, cautious walk, because he said curtly, "Keep looking. She can't have gone far." The Queen remained on her judge's throne, staring out in a way that might have seen them or might not have. "Hurry, or you, too, will incur the Queen's wrath."
Sora didn't reply. He only had to find Alice. The ship was just beyond the giant room. When he found her, all the rest of this wouldn't matter. She could go with them, back to her own world or Traverse or wherever, and never have to get anywhere near here again.
They walked through the black doorway beneath the hedges, into the giant room. The Cheshire Cat awaited them, or perhaps it had just appeared. It lounged on the table with the two bottles.
"You'll have a better view from higher up," it advised, tail waving idly.
He hesitated, but what else did he have to try? He thought about mad dream logic again, about things really being different if you looked at them differently, and headed toward the chair. Kimi, for whatever reason, was wandering off to the side, toward the now three dimensional flower in its pot.
Well, there was no reason to think they all had to be there to get a good look at things. He grabbed the edge of the table and pulled himself up. The Cheshire Cat, he was surprised to note, was still there, instead of taking this as another opportunity to vanish. He walked to it, and it sprang up to dance on two legs, radiating a mad sort of delight. "The shadows should be here soon," it said. It waved its head about, then raised one paw with slightly too long fingers to point upward. "Are you prepared for the worst? If not, too bad!"
A - thing fell from the ceiling, twisted black legs - or no, arms - coiling like springs and then shooting it upward again to spin through the air over their heads, heavy feet smashing into the ground as it landed again with a sound like metal on stone. It had a long narrow cylinder of a head, alternating red and black with bands of gold and little vicious squiggled faces, then a round little torso of black and red. Its legs...it had four bound together into two. The top halves were red tubes. Two came from each hip and jeweled knees connected each set to two black tubes that came from its feet, wicked looking metal things, iron pendulums half flattened into shoes. Its legs bent at the joints, one forward like a real knee, the other reversed. Its paper arms uncurled. Two purple - thin batons? Or thick matchsticks? - were held in its impossibly thin needle-like fingers. It began to toss them from hand to hand.
"Fire!" Donald screamed, shooting flame at it. The thing in its left hand ignited.
"Idiot!" Kimi screeched from the floor.
Sora glanced toward her for a second, but she was heading over, grabbing at the seat of the chair and pulling herself up. He didn't have time to watch her, because the thing was advancing, twirling its flaming stick. He just managed to jump out of the way when it swung the other, unlit one across the table edge. He landed badly, stumbled but regained his balance, then took a step forward and jumped at it, swinging his sword into its stack of faces. It reeled back, then hit him with one flaming baton. He hit the cold tile hard and rolled, managing to regain his feet after a few feet.
Goofy was blocking its blows with his shield as Donald circled around. Kimi had made it onto the table, where she stood watching with her sword held with the point resting on the surface. Donald sent another small fireball into it from the side, and the heartless turned ponderously to face him. Kimi jumped at its unprotected back, swinging her sword.
It...collapsed, four knees jutting out in all directions, stack of heads sagging. For a second Sora thought it was beaten, but it was still solid and upright. Donald and Goofy had attacked immediately. Sora ran over to help, but at the first swing its towering heads wobbled, like it was shaking them clear, and its monstrous legs raised it up again. His next blow rebounded off them, seeming not to bother the creature in the slightest, and the next. It was like striking rubber-covered steel. Sora retreated backward, not wanting to be within kicking range of its metal feet, but, distracted by that, he forgot to keep an eye on its upper body. Fire filled his vision as something massive smashed into his side, sending him flying. He tumbled across the floor.
Donald was shouting, sending spell after spell into the monster. Sora got up gingerly, his whole body throbbing. The shock of heat was fading as the seconds passed, but the ache across his side grew stronger with each heartbeat. He could already feel the whole area stiffening up.
He realized Kimi was nearby, rather than taking part in the attack. She had an irritated expression and was bent, rubbing the side of her leg. It was a familiar posture he'd seen hundreds of times back home. She must have fallen on her side after jumping off the table.
"Do you know how to beat this thing?" he called.
She looked over to him, straightening up. "Huh? Oh, it'll happen eventually." She walked over with the slightly awkward gait of someone who doesn't want to bend their leg at the hip. The heartless seemed to have forgotten all of them. It began to march across the room. Donald and Goofy had retreated as well and were watching it with similar confusion.
"But - it collapsed, but then it got back up," Sora said. The heartless was standing to one side of the fireplace, its arms over the bricks. He heard the whoosh of flame.
"Yeah, it'll do -" Kimi stopped. "Hey, we should probably get the table between us and it." She grabbed one arm and tugged as the heartless turned back to them, both batons wrapped in flame. "Come on!" She yanked him to the side as it swung one, sending a fireball flying at where he'd been standing a moment before. Sora quickly stepped behind the table leg, and heard another one fizzle against the other side.
His eyes caught on the chair. "Should we get back on the table? Its heads seem like a weak point." He looked to her for confirmation, but she only made a face and rubbed her leg again.
"I'm not doing that again," she said. "You can if you want. Maybe you have to do it that way. I don't think fire magic works. And it's not like you have any other kinds of magic," she added bitterly, glaring at him.
Sora looked at her in bafflement. He opened his mouth. Behind him, he heard Goofy yelp in pain. He shut it again and climbed onto the chair, ignoring the burst of fresh pain in his side as he pulled himself up, then onto the table. The heartless was at the other end, seemingly unaware of him. He ran and jumped, smacking the stack of heads and then jamming the blade between the neck and shoulder.
It shuddered, shaking him loose as it sagged again. He landed well, both feet hitting at the same time and immediately jumped again, striking it in the chest. Donald sent another ball of fire into its back and as he landed again Goofy leaped and smashed his shield into its body with a sound somewhere between a gong and a punch.
Then it twitched and began to straighten again, legs propelling it upward. Sora retreated, heading back for the table. He was partway there when he heard Donald scream.
He spun. Donald was crumpled on the floor. Goofy was blocking the heartless' blows with his shield, but he was pushed backward with each strike.
"Hey!" Sora yelled, running out from under the table and waving his arms. "Hey you stupid monster!" It ignored him. He had to get it away from them somehow... He thought of warmth gathering in his hand. The tip of the keyblade ignited. He held it up and then pushed. A ball of flame shot into the heartless' side. It paused, and then it turned to him. It stepped away from Donald.
Fire. Fire fire fire fire, Sora thought, sending another burst into it, and then another, until the sense of fire wouldn't come and there was only an empty space. He kept backing up as it advanced. His back hit the wall and he was so startled he jumped a half step forward before he even realized what he'd touched. He tried to scramble away but again the heartless' twisted paper arms had longer reach than he thought and one sent him flying to smack into a leg of the giant chair. It loomed over him as he tried to get to his feet, his head spinning. There was shouting - Goofy, he thought, and maybe Donald, or was it Kimi?
He'd been wrong about the emptiness. There was still a spark of warmth. He focused on that as the heartless raised one arm to strike him and sent another fireball into it as Goofy, yelling, smashed into it shield-first.
It slumped down again - then to Sora's horror immediately straightened again to its full height.
Then it fell backwards with a resounding crash, papery arms fluttering slowly down after it. As Sora watched light burst from its chest and a translucent heart floated upward, dissolving as it went. Within seconds the light had spread and whole body was consumed.
Was it finally over? Goofy helped Sora to his feet. He looked around for the others. Donald was a way back, but he was standing now, and didn't seem too badly injured. Kimi was nearby.
The doorknob began grumbling, long, muttered words that were nearly unintelligible. Something about not getting sleep. It yawned widely, and something - a keyhole - glittered within the darkness of its mouth.
The keyblade in his hands began to shake. Light collected around the tip, which started to raise upward. Sora tightened his grip, not sure what was happening. Then a beam shot outward, straight into the glittering bit in the darkness of the doorknob's mouth. And then with a click both lights were gone, the force lifted, and the doorknob's mouth closed.
"What was that?" asked Donald.
"You hear that?" Sora said. "Sounded like something closed."
And then something tumbled out from the door. It gleamed. Had that been what...?
Goofy headed for it. "This gummi ain't like the others," he said, picking it up. "No, sir."
"I'll hold on to it," Donald said, grabbing it out of Goofy's hand and casting a wary glance at Kimi.
Sora reflexively looked for Kimi, to see if she would start a fight over it, but she seemed disinterested, staring absently off into space somewhere around the vicinity of the door.
"Splendid," crooned the Cat. Sora spun. "You're quite the hero. But there's something you're missing."
His hand tightened on the keyblade. Would the Cheshire Cat finally show itself as an enemy? Was the fighting not done? "What?" he demanded.
"I won't tell," it said. "But I'll give you something."
A brisk cold flowed up his arms, the chill moving through him, waking him up and soothing his burns. It wasn't the numbing emptiness of the heartless' claws...just as the warmth Donald had handed him had been different from the searing pain of the shard. A spell?
"If you're looking for Alice," the Cheshire Cat said, "she's not here."
"She's gone! Off with the shadows, into darkness."
And it was gone.
"No..." This couldn't - "No..." He'd done what it said - He felt a mounting hysteria. He'd stood so close to her he could have reached out and taken her hand. Into darkness.
"Let's go back to our gummi ship," Donald said. "We might find her on another world."
"We've got to find a connecting point, to return to the ship," Goofy said.
Kimi jumped. "Wait - connecting point?"
"You know," Donald said peevishly, "a place where the fabric of the world is weak, and it connects to the outside."
"A pathway back out." Goofy nodded.
"A save point!" Kimi said.
"Is that what you call them?" Goofy asked. "What a odd name."
I've had this chapter written for a while except for the Trickmaster fight, which I finally sat down and wrote.
I'm not quite sure how I should deal with save points. I'm torn between having all the points be ways back to the ship, or for there only to be the one they see on the way in so they're always entering/exiting at the same point.