A/N: I'm new at writing fanfiction--this is my first story--so bear with me if it seems choppy, or if the characters seem OOC or anything like that. Please review, and if you don't like something tell me how I can improve it. Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts, that would be Disney and Square Enix.
Prologue: Things that Go Bump in the Night
Pounding the pavement, breath coming in short gasps, Anika felt trapped in a nightmare. Everything fit: a moon providing just enough light to stumble forward at a run; tall buildings, indistinct in the rainy night, hemming her in like a rat in a maze; the faceless enemies chasing her; the fact that she was tiring fast…
With a tiny, irritated, shake of her head, Anika pushed that last thought away, as her feet slowed unconsciously at the reminder of her body's exhaustion. Doggedly, she picked the pace back up, ignoring her protesting leg muscles. Propelled by adrenaline and determination, she lost herself in the beat of her heart and the rhythm of her feet against the ground, synchronizing them, picking turns at random when a building appeared out of the rain to block her path. Soon the pattern fell apart—her heart beat frantically against her ribcage at a speed far too fast for her weary feet to match. Taking one last turn, she looked for somewhere defensible to make a last stand…and stopped.
In front of her, gleaming white and gray in the cold light of the moon stood the castle she'd just expended so much effort to escape from. They'd herded her back here…wolves behind a particularly stupid sheep. Turning to face the black-cloaked figures that approached slowly, separating from the dark night lazily, she bared her teeth in a wordless snarl of rage.
The foremost figure, which continued its approach even though the others had stopped, let out a deep, mocking laugh. "Good." He said in a deep, slow voice, sounding pleased. "Let the anger build inside of you. Do you hate me? Do you want to hurt me?"
"Come and find out," Anika gritted, dropping into a fighting crouch. Her left hand scrabbled at her right hip for her sword. Gripping the hilt, she swung it up into a defensive block, and blinked. Once again, her sword had vanished, replaced by the strange weapon that these creatures seemed so interested in. It looked very like a giant key. The silver hilt, inlaid with expensive-looking blue stones, bore carvings of stars and comets. The…blade, she supposed one would call it, though it certainly didn't look very sharp, was made of gleaming black metal.
Looking at the key-sword, Anika's temper flared. "Is this what you want?" she yelled at the advancing black-robe, brandishing the strange weapon over her head. "Then take it!" She flung it away from her with all her strength, the force of her throw making her sink to her knees, panting. After a short distance, tumbling end over end, the key-sword landed at the leader's feet. Anika watched him, but he made no move to pick it up. After a second, it disappeared in a flash of light, only to reappear in Anika's left hand, her fingers curling around it involuntarily.
"The Keyblade is useless without you," the leader said in a chilling tone, reaching up to pull back his hood. Anika studied him for a moment. His deep tan seemed out of place on this world of night. A shock of silver hair spilled down his back, gleaming like metal in the moonlight. Merciless eyes took their measure of her for the fight to come—a fight he apparently looked forward to. And white teeth bared themselves in a feral smile. "Shall we begin?"
Anika made a snap decision. "You want me?" she murmured, low enough so that he couldn't hear. "Well, you can have me." Springing up, she launched herself at the black-robe, bringing the Keyblade back for a backhanded blow.
"Guard!" the man snapped. Abruptly a barrier sprang up between them—a very solid barrier that she slammed into. The impact dumped her unceremoniously on the ground, but she turned the fall into a roll. Lightning streaked into the ground where she had been. Anika kept rolling, just out of the reach of the lightning. At the first opportunity she leaped to her feet, holding the Keyblade before her.
The leader stood a few feet away, yellow eyes gleaming. "Very good," he pronounced, not even sounding winded. Suddenly, he held a red blade in each hand. While Anika blinked, wondering how he'd produced them, he rushed at her. She had the presence of mind to bring the Keyblade up diagonally across her body, into a block that caught both blows: one directed at her stomach and one at her skull. The impact made her entire body shake, but she stood firm. Her assailant broke off smoothly, whirling around gracefully to strike again…and again…and again.
Anika blocked each flurry of blows, but more slowly each time. Her arms ached with the effort of keeping the Keyblade aloft. She didn't bother wasting energy with attacks that were sure to fail, just trying to stay on her feet. Finally, one sword made it past a too-slow parry, cutting into her abdomen. The blow drove her to her knees as the blade rent flesh, but Anika scarcely noticed. Her tired mind couldn't process pain anymore. She tried to bring the Keyblade up to attack the man who stood over her, gloating, but the weapon clattered out of her numb hands.
"You have seconds to live," the deep voice taunted. "Will you spend them cowering on the ground, little weakling? Or will you fight back?"
Gritting her teeth, summoning the last of the strength left in her, Anika lifted the Keyblade one last time and swung it at the black-robe. Her blow dealt him a graze across the abdomen, she could see the rip in his coat…so why did she feel as though a blade bit into her, tearing her in two? She had been wrong about being past pain, Anika thought muzzily in her last seconds. Dying hurt worse than she'd imagined, but it would be over soon…