A/N: Here we are, the end of the second volume of my Kingdom Hearts saga. If you are planning on getting your eyes checked, don't bother. The COMPLETE sign is not a lie, nor is it an illusion. After seven long months of slaving over a hot keyboard, I have finally finished Kingdom Hearts: One More Adventure. Please, no tears. Remember that i shall be back again someday, with an incredible Volume III to look forward to.
Now, dear readers, go forth and experience the conclusion of this epic tale...
Epilogue: Caer Dallben
"I think he's finally waking up."
"Took him long enough."
"Patience, Riku. Come. Let us give these two their moment."
"Sora? Sora, my love, please tell me you're awake."
Sora groaned, his head spinning and his body aching. What had happened? He had leaped into the Black Cauldron... and then he had found himself in some beautiful paradise world. He had glimpsed streets of gold and gates of pearl, but after only a moment... oblivion. What had happened?
Oh well, he thought, I guess I can get the details later.
He took just a moment to identify the four voices he had heard a moment ago. The first had belonged to Mickey, of that there could be no doubt. The second voice had been Riku's, affirmed by both the sound and by the statement of the third voice. Sora could not place this third voice with a face or a name, but he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt the owner of the fourth voice.
Sora's eyes flew open, and for the first moment, the only things he saw were Kairi's beautiful indigo eyes and her dazzling white smile. She threw her arms about his neck and nestled her head against his sturdy chest, too overwhelmed by emotion to speak. Sora was just as glad, but as he returned Kairi's embrace, he noticed a few things about where he was... and about her.
Sora was currently lying in a warm, soft bed, so light and fluffy that it seemed to be stuffed with clouds. He was dressed in the same clothes that he had worn when he'd leaped into the Black Cauldron, though his jacket and shoes were now neatly resting on a nearby wooden chair. He seemed to be inside a farmhouse of some sort, judging from the entirely wooden walls and floors, the thatch roof, and the humble furnishings. Kairi was the only person in the room with him at present, which was just as well. This was a very private moment.
As Sora continued to hold Kairi close to him, he began to notice her very different state of dress. Though her hair was still the soft, shoulder-length sea of red that Sora always loved to run his fingers through, she was now attired with an elegant scarlet dress with white trim, reminiscent in design of the one always worn by Princess Eilonwy. Her feet were shod by sandals made of the finest brown leather. Sora thought that, although she had obviously been given this apparel by the owner of the quaint little farmhouse, she now looked more like a queen than ever before.
Kairi finally sat up and placed her hand upon her husband's cheek, stroking it gently. "Uhh... Kairi," Sora asked with a good deal of confusion, "are we in heaven? Then how did you die? Did you--"
Kairi smiled at him and shook her head. "No, Sora, we're not in heaven. You're alive--you have Fflewddur to thank for that. He convinced the Witches of Morva to trade your life for the Black Cauldron."
"The Black Cauldron?" Sora exclaimed, hastily sitting up, though as soon as he did so, he felt a stabbing pain in his side. Yes, he was definitely still alive--that fight with the Horned King had certainly left its mark on him.
Kairi put a finger to Sora's lips and forced him to lie down once more. "It's all right, Sora; the Cauldron's powerless now, thanks to you. After you jumped in, it killed the Horned King and tore down his castle. The Cauldron-Born died again, and the rest of the Horned King's armies burned up as soon as he was destroyed. It's all over now."
Sora nodded, taking in all this information. He managed to smile weakly, though his side still ached him terribly. Dying had been more painful than he'd thought it would be. "So..." he questioned, raising a brow, "where are we?"
"Caer Dallben." Kairi answered. "Where Taran grew up. Dallben's one of the most powerful sorcerers in the worlds, and he's been taking care of us all this time. We're actually pretty lucky--if a fairy named Gwystyl hadn't shown up and led us here, you might not be alive right now."
Sora nearly shot up at this statement, but the pain in his side reminded him not to. "Gwystyl? You've gotta be kidding me! Gwystyl wouldn't do anything to help us until me and Riku threatened to squash him!"
"That's what Riku said when Gwystyl first showed up." Kairi acknowledged. "But according to Dallben, Gwystyl's one of the bravest and shrewdest of all the Fair Folk with way posts. Otherwise, King Eiddileg wouldn't put him so close to Annuvin. Apparently, he just doesn't want everybody to know what he's really like."
Sora raised a brow. "Hang on a minute. How is it you know all this stuff about Prydain? You were in the Horned King's dungeon the whole time!"
"Oh, I know pretty much the whole story by now." Kairi answered with a smile. "You've been out for three days--plenty of time for me to get all my facts straight."
Sora's eyes widened. Three days? Well, he supposed, that was still better than never coming back. Heaven had looked beautiful in the sixty seconds that he'd seen it, but he would never want to go there without Kairi. The last thought to go through his mind before he had leaped into the Cauldron had been how Kairi would fare after his death.
He didn't want to think about it anymore.
Fortunately, he didn't have to. Kairi lay down on the soft bed beside him (actually, as Sora noticed, almost on top of him). "Oh Sora, I thought I would never see you again!" she cooed, pressing her warm, soft lips to his own, which were still cracked in places from his battle with the Horned King. Kairi didn't seem to mind, though; she only continued to kiss and caress him as she told him, "Don't you ever pull a stunt like that again! For all this time, I've been telling you that I love you... but that's wrong. I don't just love you, I need you. You mean the worlds to me, Sora. I'd die if anything ever happened to you."
Sora flashed Kairi a grin. "Are you sure we're not in heaven? You haven't been this mushy since our honeymoon."
Kairi returned the smile, for a moment before her eyes fluttered closed and she purred into his ear, "Just shut up and kiss me, Sora."
Sora could only sigh with submission and pleasure as Kairi's lips clamped down hard over his own. He was still curious about Dallben, and about what had happened to everyone after his supposed death, but for the life of him he could not resist Kairi's charms! Even as every other part of his brain slowly melted into pudding at Kairi's touch, Sora silently swore that he would get her for this later. He'd really let her have it; he'd let her know on no uncertain terms how he felt about her doing... about her... about... ab...
Meanwhile, on the ground floor of the farmhouse just below the bedroom where Sora and Kairi lay, Riku and Taran were speaking with someone. It was an elderly, beardless man of somewhat impressive girth, his eyes reflecting a deep wisdom and adorned by bushy grey eyebrows. The man's crown was bald, though shoulder-length hair of white still grew from all around the sides of his head. The man wore the traditional tunic and apron of a farmer, and leaned upon an ash-wood staff that served as a crutch as well as a medium through which to channel magic.
The old man's name was Dallben.
Dallben had always been known as the greatest enchanter in all Prydain, second only to the Horned King and the Witches of Morva in mystical might. Dallben's skills in the powers of light were second only to Master Yen Sid of Disney Castle, and it had been he who had almost single-handedly restored Sora to health (in fact, he was the owner of the third voice that Sora heard upon waking up). He had also been the one to provide Kairi with her new clothes, since her old ones were torn and bloody beyond all recognition. Still, Dallben remembered lightheartedly, it had been difficult to get Kairi to leave her husband's side for even the short amount of time that it had taken for her to get dressed.
"You wished to speak with me, Riku?" Dallben asked pensively as the silver-haired Keyblade Master approached him. "And you as well, Taran?"
Riku nodded solemnly. "We need to decide whether Taran will be coming with me back to Disney Castle, or staying here with you in Prydain. I know you're his original master, but I was made his master after he found his keyblade. But since he lost it again, I don't--"
"Lost it?" Dallben repeated, chuckling slightly. "No, Riku, Taran did not lose his blade. He sacrificed it for the greater good, not once, but twice. Such strength of heart has proven him worthy of wielding the keyblade, and Dyrnwyn has since returned to him."
Taran's face lit up. "Do you mean it?"
Dallben smiled warmly. "See for yourself."
Taran nodded and closed his eyes, imagining for the first time in many days the feel of Dyrnwyn in his grasp. Sure enough, only a moment later, he felt the cool metal of his keyblade in his hand, and the spark that had gone out inside his heart upon losing it now became a great roaring flame. He could feel the power of the keyblade once more coursing through his veins. When Taran opened his eyes and saw the bark-colored shaft of Dyrnwyn gleaming in the sunlight that spilled forth through the many windows of the farmhouse, he knew that all was well.
"But Dallben..." Taran said after a moment, "I don't understand. Why would the keyblade return to my hand after I gave it to the Witches of Morva?"
"I believe," Dallben told his former apprentice, "that Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch never intended to keep the keyblade at all. I believe that they intended to test your worth, to see whether or not Dyrnwyn had chosen its master aright. This information was well worth trading for the Black Cauldron. Dyrnwyn is yours, my boy, and so it shall stay."
Taran grinned from ear to ear at this statement. He was a warrior again! He couldn't wait to tell Eilonwy! But then...
"I sense that all is still not well, Taran." Dallben said, placing a hand on the assistant pig-keeper's shoulder. "What's troubling you?"
"Well, sir..." Taran admitted, staring at Dyrnwyn with a disheartened expression, "When I first met King Mickey Mouse, he told me that he knew Dyrnwyn's original master. And when we were bargaining for the Black Cauldron the first time, Orddu said that its original master was a king named Rhitta, and that his tale was a tragic one. Tell me--who was King Rhitta?"
Dallben sighed and shook his head. "I had wondered when this question would arise, though it is beyond even my long memory to answer. Though old I may be, King Mickey Mouse is older still, and his experience with King Rhitta came before my time. Come. Let us consult The Book of Three."
Dallben led Taran and Riku to a wooden desk that sat against the back wall of the farmhouse, upon which sat a large mound of books. A large, leather-bound tome lay open atop this mound, looking just as ancient as Dallben himself. This was The Book of Three. Taran remembered it well: the last time he had tried to touch it, it had blistered his fingers, and he had since been wary of even approaching Dallben's prized magical book.
Dallben sat at his desk and rested his staff against the nearest wall. He took The Book of Three from its place atop the mound of books and turned pages backward until he was very near the front of the book. At last, he stumbled upon the passages he sought. "Ah, here we are: King Rhitta.
"King Rhitta," Dallben narrated, "was the last High King of Prydain before the Horned King came into power. Rhitta was given the keyblade Dyrnwyn as token of his kingship, for his father and his father's father had also been powerful Keybearers in their time. Rhitta ruled wisely and well for many years, wielding Dyrnwyn as a symbol of power and protection.
"One day," Dallben narrated, "when King Mickey first arrived in Rhitta's court on a friendly visit, Rhitta insisted that Mickey join his hunting party in the pursuit of an elusive stag. King Mickey consented. So eager was Rhitta to impress Mickey that he drove his hunting party right across the field of a sheperd named Amrys, and by mishap broke the gate of his sheepfold. Amrys pleaded that Rhitta mend the gate, and Rhitta gave his word that he would. However, for all his good intentions, Rhitta did not do as he had promised.
"The next day, as Rhitta and Mickey rode out hawking, they passed the farm of Amrys again." Dallben continued. "All his sheep had strayed, save for one little lamb. King Mickey suggested that they mend the gate and compensate for the lost sheep, but Rhitta would not hear of it. He promised to make amends in due course, and went on riding. However, that night, as Rhitta and his host feasted in his grand dining hall, the High King of Prydain forgot all about his promise to Amrys.
"The next day, as Rhitta, King Mickey, and all of Rhitta's councilors held court to discuss a Heartless uprising in the northern realms, Amrys suddenly entered into the throne room. He held the dead body of his last lamb in his arms, begging once more for Rhitta to mend his gate. Amrys continued to beg, until at last, Rhitta drew the keyblade Dyrnwyn and struck the shepherd down. When he saw what he had done, he was filled with remorse, and King Mickey mourned alongside him, but Rhitta's councilors convinced him that he had chosen aright by killing Amrys. As Rhitta grew prouder of the blood on his hands, King Mickey left Prydain, no longer wishing to be the guest of a murderer. Rhitta discovered that it grew more difficult to call Dyrnwyn to his hand.
"When it was discovered that Amrys had no heir upon whom to bestow his land, King Rhitta's war-leader requested that the land be given him, as other heirless lands had been given to other lords. But Rhitta desired the land for himself, and the war-leader was banished from court and castle, his position given to another. Rhitta found it harder still to summon his keyblade to his hand.
"Upon seeing what had happened to the war-leader, many of Rhitta's nobles turned against their king. Their field of battle was none other than the abandoned field of Amrys the shepherd. As the battle lines were drawn, Rhitta saw the spirit of Amrys himself appear before him, and cried out in terror. His warriors mistook this call for a war cry, and charged at Rhitta's enemies. The treacherous nobles and their liege men were all slain. That night, as Rhitta returned to his chamber, the spirit of Amrys appeared before him again. Rhitta tried to call Dyrnwyn to his hand in order to strike the shepherd down, but it would not come to his hand, even as he concentrated until he gave himself a bitter headache.
"Rhitta took this as a sign that his enemies were not all slain, and he ordered the kindred of all his rebellious noblemen to be put to the sword. This was done, and still Dyrnwyn would not answer Rhitta's call. Thus, while Rhitta cowered in his chamber, fearing for his life, his war band roamed unchecked throughout all Prydain, putting many unjustly to death. Rather than striking fear into the hearts of his subjects, however, all Rhitta gave them was the courage of despair. Rhitta grew more fearful that they would rise against him.
"To protect himself, Rhitta ordered many hidden passages and chambers to be built into his castle. He slept in a different chamber each night, always with a host of bodyguards circling his bed. When his fear still did not abate, he commanded that another chamber be dug from the naked rock beneath his castle. He stocked provisions and riches there, and locked himself inside with his host of guards.
"He slept easily that night, but he was awakened as the spirit of Amrys again appeared before him. His guards had already fallen asleep themselves, and Rhitta nearly cried out in terror, but his voice caught in his throat as Amrys drew nearer. With a last burst of effort, Rhitta tried to call Dyrnwyn to his hand. He at last succeeded, but he was no longer worthy of wielding the keyblade. Tongues of flame erupted from Dyrnwyn and consumed Rhitta, as well as all the bodyguards that were in the room with him. Because no one knew where to find him, Rhitta's bedchamber became his tomb, and there he lay undiscovered for hundreds of years.
"When the Horned King conquered Prydain," Dallben concluded, "he made Rhitta's former castle his own stronghold. Rhitta's once fair court was corrupted by the Horned King's power until it became known as Annuvin, the Land of Death. The Horned King did not bother himself with finding Rhitta's tomb, and so it remained untouched until you, Taran, found Dyrnwyn's keychain. And thus was the end of King Rhitta's tale, and the beginning of yours."
When Dallben finished his tale and closed The Book of Three, Taran heaved a heavy sigh as he took in all this information. "So... it was not a burial chamber that we had found," he surmised, "it was a bedchamber."
"Indeed." Dallben nodded as he rose from his seat and tucked his ash-wood staff under his arm. "But it does not matter. It could just as easily have been a scullery or a storehouse. The fact is, my boy, that you are now Dyrnwyn's chosen wielder. Under Riku's tutelage, perhaps you shall learn to use it more wisely than Rhitta did."
Taran's face lit up. "Do you mean... I get to go with Riku?"
Dallben smiled warmly. "But of course, Taran. There is little you could learn from me about such matters--I am an enchanter, not a Keybearer. Yes, you shall travel to Disney Castle with Riku, and there you shall become his apprentice. I am your master no more."
So overjoyed was Taran at this news that a laugh burst forth from his breast. He was going to be a warrior! The finest Keybearer that the worlds had ever seen! He would show them all what an assistant pig-keeper was capable of!
When Taran's laughter died down, he finally realized the careworn smile on his old teacher's face. Taran caught Dallben up in a warm embrace, and Dallben returned the gesture, almost like father and son hugging one another before parting ways. "I ... I shall miss you, my old friend."
"And I you, my boy." Dallben returned. When he and Taran released each other, Dallben's smile became more fatherly than Taran had ever seen it before. "Now go on. I know of a certain princess that shall be eager to hear of this news."
Taran's eyes went wide. "Eilonwy!" he gasped, and without another word, he raced out the door of the cottage for all he was worth.
He had something wonderful to tell her.
It was only an hour later that Sora's ship My Dinghy touched down directly in front of Caer Dallben, ready at last to bring Sora and company home, the sun slowly sinking below the horizon just beyond its shimmering hull. The massive airship Arbitrator had gone just after the Horned King's defeat three days ago, and had returned everyone aboard her back to his or her home. Thus, the Restoration Committee was back in Radiant Garden, Mickey's Royal Musketeers had resumed their duties at Disney Castle, and the Princesses of Heart had all been returned to their own worlds.
Indeed, there were only seven people intended to board My Dinghy for the final trip home: Sora, Kairi, Riku, King Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Taran. The farewell committee was even smaller--only Eilonwy, Dallben, and Gurgi had come to bid their friends farewell. Fflewddur Fflam had returned to his own country in the northern realms, and Doli and Gwystyl had returned to the subterranean kingdom of the Fair Folk.
The farewells were long and filled with bittersweet thoughts and feelings, but no goodbye was marked with more joy--and more sorrow--than that between Taran of Caer Dallben and the Princess Eilonwy.
Even while the other goodbyes were still taking place between those boarding My Dinghy and those not, Taran managed to take Eilonwy aside. There was a tree at the edge of the forest surrounding Caer Dallben that had been Taran's favorite place to watch the sunset; he would speak to her there. There was much on the assistant pig-keeper's heart.
When Taran and Eilonwy reached the tree, Taran helped Eilonwy to sit upon its lowest, sturdiest branch before hoisting himself up to sit beside her. She looked at him inquisitively as she said, "You wished to speak with me, Taran?"
Taran sighed deeply and heavily. Yes, he wanted to speak with her. He wanted all his befuddling emotions to just come bubbling forth from his mouth with a torrent mightier than any river. He wanted the clutch of Gwythaints that fluttered about in his stomach to finally take their leave of him, to take to the heavens and soar higher than even the loftiest of clouds, proclaiming to all the earth beneath them everything that Taran kept bottled up inside his heart.
More than anything, he wanted to tell Eilonwy that he loved her.
Taran had examined his heart carefully these past three days, and had finally plucked up the courage to speak with Riku about his feelings. Riku had advised him to let her knowhow he felt, and that keeping something as complex as love bottled up inside was a curse more terrible than any the Horned King could have inflicted. But how could Taran keep to Riku's advice and tell Eilonwy how he felt? Yes, Riku knew the heartbreak of unrequited love, but he had never seen the other side of love. He had never felt the strong heat of passion scorching at his heart and cheeks; he had never looked into a woman's eyes, on the verge of uttering three words that would make or break the rest of his entire existence. What did Riku know of love, other than heartbreak and dejection?
Alas, if Taran did not release this heavy burden upon his heart, then he knew that Riku's fate would become his own. Eilonwy would not wait forever for an assistant pig-keeper to speak his mind. Taran knew that his time was short. He knew that those three words were on the very tip of his tongue, but for the life of him he could not push them past his lips. He was flustered and frightened, and he was sure that Eilonwy knew it. Still, he had to try. He had to speak the three sacred words, the words that only reached their full potential when spoken in a soft whisper, an exchange between a man and a woman in the most private and sacred of moments.
I love you.
"E-Eilonwy..." Taran choked out after a moment of silent pondering. It was pointless to try to plan what he was going to say--his every rational thought was melted in the face of Eilonwy's dazzling blue eyes, staring widely at him in anticipation. "I-I've regained my keyblade."
"Yes, you said that." Eilonwy acknowledged him with a nod, her eyes prompting him to go on.
Taran swallowed hard. "And I must go to Disney Castle to learn to be a warrior." he went on slowly, hesitantly, those three powerful words always in the back of his mind, tensed and ready to spring at a moment's notice.
Eilonwy nodded once more. "Yes, you've already told me that, too. Do assistant pig-keepers always repeat themselves like this? It must get tiresome, saying the same things all the time. Why, assistant pig-keepers must be some of the most dull people in all the worlds!"
Taran cursed his inability to even speak coherently at this crucial juncture, and especially for giving Eilonwy the chance to chatter like that. She did so often, and it sometimes got on other people's nerves, but Taran was captivated by it. He was fascinated by her every peculiar facial expression, the elaborate gestures that she made as she prattled on, and the way her lovely blue eyes glittered with girlish innocence each time she opened her mouth. It almost made Taran want to utter another unintelligent statement, just so he could watch Eilonwy talk about it for another moment...
No. He had something important to say this time.
"Since I'm going with Riku to Disney Castle..." Taran tried to continue, "I shan't be returning to Caer Dallben for some time."
The brightness in Eilonwy's eyes faded and her lips drew into a most mournful frown. "Yes..." she sighed, "I was wondering when you'd be getting around to that."
"You will take care of Dallben for me, won't you?" Taran asked her gently, placing a comforting hand upon her delicate shoulder. "And Hen Wen? And Gurgi? Especially Gurgi. He was terribly disheartened when I told him where I was going. He needs someone to look after him."
Eilonwy nodded once, and Taran could see a tear glistening in her eye. "Yes... I will do as you ask."
"I shall miss them." Taran sighed, looking out in the direction of Caer Dallben one last time. Then he turned to Eilonwy and very slowly, very hesitantly placed his hand on her cheek. He could think of nothing but how soft Eilonwy's skin was as he slowly brought her face up to look at him. "But though my heart breaks for leaving them, it breaks twice over for leaving you. I shall miss you most of all, Princess Eilonwy."
So lost had Taran been in his own emotions that he had not detected Eilonwy's face subtly moving closer to his own. He had not seen the tears welling in her eyes, nor did he see the bittersweet smile tugging at her lips as he told her how much he would miss her.
When she threw her arms around him and her lips crashed into his, it came as a complete shock to him.
Taran's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets as he realized what was happening. But as Eilonwy deepened the kiss, her delicate arms hugging Taran closer to her own soft body, Taran could only close his eyes and submit. He did not have to grope for words anymore. Eilonwy knew his heart, and her own feelings were the same.
That was enough for now.
Of how long they stayed that way, Taran could not be certain; all he knew was that when his conscious thought returned to him, Eilonwy's lips were longer upon him and Riku was calling his name. "Taran! Let's get a move on over here--we need to make it back to Disney Castle by nightfall!"
Taran cast one final look at Eilonwy, who still held one of his hands in her gentle grip. "You had best be off now, Taran." she murmured sadly.
Taran did not release Eilonwy's hand right away. He held it for just a moment longer as he assured her, "I will return to you, Eilonwy. You have my word. Will you wait for a lowly assistant pig-keeper?"
"Of course." Eilonwy replied, trying her best to be cheerful, though her eyes were now glistening with unshed tears.
Thus, Taran slid down from his perch upon the branch of his favorite tree, and he helped Eilonwy to do the same. As he made his way toward the awaiting Gummi ship My Dinghy, Taran turned to glance behind him only once. Eilonwy still stood by the tree, looking more proud of him than he had ever seen her before. Taran took heart as he boarded My Dinghy and it blasted off into the sky. He would return to Eilonwy, and once his training was completed, then they could possibly start a life together. This parting did not signify the end--it signified the beginning. It represented Taran's first bold step on his latest grand adventure.
At last, when the world of Prydain was nothing more than a speck on the star charts aboard the Gummi ship, Taran felt at peace. His path was set before him and his friends were all beside him, if not in person than at least in spirit.
He was ready for any challenge.
The land of Annuvin was a barren wasteland, now more so than ever. The Horned King's palace was at the bottom of a moat, and all his armies had been destroyed. Annuvin was no longer filled with the screeching of Gwythaints or the howling of Huntsmen.
All was deathly quiet.
One solitary creature stood among the desolation and the silence of the once proud realm of the Horned King. The Creeper, steadfast in the fear of his master, even after his apparent destruction, squatted beside the moat in the middle of Annuvin and pondered.
The Creeper had managed to escape the tumbling walls of the Horned King's palace due to his small size and nimble reflexes, and had been able to use his fat, grubby arms to paddle to the other side of the moat. There he had stayed for three days, unsure of what to do. The Horned King was dead, there was no mistaking it, and the Black Cauldron was now powerless. Sora and all his meddlesome allies had finally left the world, but what did that matter now? The Dark Lord had been vanquished, and the Creeper found himself without a home.
"Oh Sire," the little green creature whined as he looked into the deep, black waters of the moat, "why did it have to end this way? We were so close--why, even Kingdom Hearts was in your grasp! But now... everything is gone!"
"Such a pity."
The Creeper leaped into the air and spun about as quickly as he was able. And though he may have been startled when he heard the voice behind him, he was terrified when he saw the owner of the voice looming over him.
It was a dark, imposing figure, dressed in flowing robes of purple and black. Its skin was a pale, almost sickly green, and its right hand held a long staff of gold. A round emerald adorned the top of this staff, and upon the emerald, a black bird was perched. The figure had cold, menacing yellow eyes, and its headdress was adorned with two elegantly curved black horns, perfectly pointed and nothing at all like the Horned King's gnarled antlers.
The Creeper gasped as he recognized the figure before him. The Horned King had always dismissed this person as a nuisance, a conjurer of cheap tricks when compared to the awesome power of the Dark Lord. But now that the Horned King was gone and his power had passed from the worlds, the Creeper had to acknowledge that this figure was not to be trifled with.
Indeed, the sorceress Maleficent, the most feared enchantress in all the worlds, the most steadfast adversary of the Keyblade Master and his allies, stood before the Creeper. Her lips were parted in a sinister smile as she looked around the barren land of Annuvin. "At last," she said, ignoring the Creeper's at first as she surveyed the landscape, "the Horned King has been vanquished. Long have I desired to rule this land, but the Dark Lord's power has always kept me at bay. Now that he is gone, this realm is mine for the taking. A pity that his castle crumbled along with him, but it is of no consequence."
Maleficent's piercing yellow eyes finally drifted down toward the Creeper. "Former lapdog of the Horned King," she addressed him with a cackle, "you now serve me. Now I am the mistress of Annuvin. Now come along.
"There is much work to be done."
A/N: Okay, I'm sorry! I couldn't help it! I just had to leave you with a cliffhanger for the final chapter, and one that probably won't be directly addressed for quite some time. Trust me--this will all be worth it someday.
Well, that's the end of the story (this volume, at least). Just in case you overlooked them, I'll recap the major themes that you should keep in mind:
1) Yay, Sora's back and everybody's happy. Yippy skippy. NEXT!
2) You have just been told, in brief, the history of High King Rhitta. I have modified it somewhat in order to fit the needs of this story, but it is largely taken right out of The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. If you've read the books, this is old news to you with a new Kingdom Hearts/Disney twist. If you haven't read the books, then this is just a little background information for you in case you were curious.
3) Hooray, Taran and Eilonwy have finally expressed their feelings for each other, somewhat similar to (though a bit more intimately than) how it happened at the end of the film. Yeah... moving on now.
4) OH NO! MALEFICENT HAS TAKEN OVER THE HORNED KING'S REALM! WHAT CHAOS SHALL ENSUE? WHAT MYSTERY AWAITS OUR HEROES? DON'T ASK ME! IT WOULD SPOIL THE STORY!
Yup. That's the end. If you have questions or comments, as always, you can leave them in a review. So go ahead, drop me a line, add me to your Author Alerts (if you haven't already), and await Kingdom Hearts: Shadow of an Empire, coming this march to a fanfiction website near you!
Until next time, Lord Moldybutt signing off.