All were awake amid the commotion raised in the woods. Members of the tribe formed a procession, the path down which the warriors walked. Four of them walked up to their chief and laid Kocoum's lifeless body at his feet.
Powhatan's eyes swelled at the sight, great anger instilled within him. "Who did this?" he questioned in a demanding tone.
"Pocahontas was alone in the woods, so Kocoum went out after her," one of the warriors explained. "Then this white man attacked them." On cue, Steven approached with John in tow, still putting on the facade that John was his captive, though the fear was burning in both Steven and John that captivity would not remain a facade for much longer.
"Bring him before me," Powhatan ordered. "Shakti, tend to Kocoum."
"Wha-?" John was tugged away from Steven's feigned grip and into the very real grip of the other warriors. He grunted a little, now with legitimate discomfort and fear of danger flowing through him.
Steven held a hand out to protest, but knew he couldn't make an outburst here. Instead, he responded to his chief's order. "Great Powhatan, Kocoum is dead. My power can't do anything for him now."
"You must try!" Powhatan pleaded, bellowing again.
Steven flinched a little at the chief's fierceness, but summoned his Keyblade nonetheless. He held it over Kocoum's body. "Heal," he chanted. A soft, green aura shrouded Kocoum's body, but left as quickly as it came. "Heal!" Steven cried out again. The aura barely even made a glow. Steven lowered his Keyblade, dismissing it. "He's gone."
Powhatan's frown turned into a scowl and his anger was redirected upon John. "Your weapons are indeed strong." Using his staff, Powhatan lifted John's chin so that the two could look each other in the eye. "But our anger is stronger." Holding up his staff, he shouted so that the entire tribe could hear. "At sunrise, he will be the first to die!"
Among the warriors, a war cry sounded. The imminent battle was now for the honor of the fallen Kocoum, invigorating them with much ferocity. Steven stepped away from the area, ducking behind a tent. He placed his hands upon his head, gripping his thick hair in frustration. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong hadjust gone wrong. All of his careful efforts to prevent war had been quashed by a misunderstanding.
"Shakti!" Powhatan's voice sounded yet again, having followed Steven shortly after his declaration of war. "I have a request to make of you."
Steven glanced sideways at him, letting go of his hair and taking a breath. His mind needed clarity, which he wouldn't find until he was alone. For the moment, he stood firmly in his place. "How can I help?"
"Pocahontas has not returned," Powhatan mused. "She has shamed me with her disobedience by not staying in the village and brought about Kocoum's death with her foolishness." Steven felt a twang of guilt at those words, not having forgotten his part in the warrior's death. He forced himself to look up at Powhatan's face out of the corner of his eye. The chief's gaze was pointed south, as if looking upon his enemy already. "Make no mistake that I still worry for her safety." Then he did look upon Steven. "Whatever the outcome of the battle, I want you to find her and keep her safe."
Seeing the escape he had been waiting for, Steven nodded his head once in response. "Yes, Powhatan." He turned to head off, only to have Powhatan's hand clasp his shoulder. He stopped and glanced back at him. "Chief?"
"In times of conflict, I cannot always be certain that I will return home," Powhatan confessed. "If that is the case..."
Steven turned his head a little more, curious that Powhatan was now sounding regretful and vulnerable. Steven had never heard the chief speak this way before and he didn't want words delivered this way to cloud his own mind any more than it was already hazy. "Don't think like that," Steven assured. "Everything will turn out fine somehow. I know it will." With no other words, he took off towards Willow's tree, where he knew he would find Pocahontas.
"I pray it shall," Powhatan replied quietly, turning away to prepare his people for battle.
As Sora followed Thomas back to camp from a distance, his mind was racing. He'd fled the scene because he figured that was the best move at the time, but now his mind was reeling with a few questions. What had transpired to cause such a fight and what was to come with that tribe member's death?
Sora ducked behind a tree near camp, staying out of sight as he waited to hear what Thomas would do once inside the walls.
"Someone help! Please, help!" Thomas cried out, rushing in.
The dark tents lit up with the light of candles as the men rose from their slumber to check on the commotion.
"Mmm?" Pete rubbed his eyes from atop the wall, rolling onto his side towards the direction of Thomas' voice. "What's goin' on down- WHAA!" The fat cat rolled over a little too far and was met with a tumble to the base of the wall. Pete's thick belly cushioned the fall, but it left him quite disgruntled, to say the least. "Oh, that's gonna smart later..."
"What is it, Thomas?" Ben asked. "What's wrong?"
"It's Smith!" Thomas urgently declared. "They got him!"
"Who's got him?" Lon chimed in.
"The savages!" replied Thomas.
"Where did they go?"
"They headed north!"
As the chatter continued, Wiggins poked his head out of his tent, candle brightly shining, and began to quietly sneak towards his governor's tent. As he neared it, Ratcliffe's hand grabbed onto Wiggins' nightgown and tugged the startled man inside. Ratcliffe covered his lackey's mouth so that he wouldn't make any sudden noise.
"It's perfect, Wiggins!" Ratcliffe cackled quietly, but with plenty of glee. To call less attention to himself, he blew out the candle. "Everything is going according to plan." He pulled his tent flap open a little to observe the sudden chaos among the men. "First, the savage's gold will be mine. Then the wealth of a hundred new worlds. I can feel it already!" He retreated back into his tent, emerging moments later, fully adorned in his purple governor's suit.
"We've got to go and save him!" Thomas urged the men. "He's done the same for me and he'd do the same for any of you!"
"Thomas is right!" Ben loudly agreed. "Something's got to be done!"
"So it does!" The men made way for the presence of their governor, who stood firm and adamant before them. "The savages have brought us trouble from the moment we landed! Twice they attacked us with their demons, but Smith still attempted to reason with them." Ratcliffe seized one of the men and shook him a little to emphasize his point. "Now look what it's done to him!" Wiggins held out a fresh torch for Ratcliffe, who marched towards the fire at the center of the camp. "But do not fear: we shall rescue our courageous comerade." He dipped his torch in and held it up high, lighting up the camp and the faces of the men surrounding him. "At daybreak: we attack!"
The men dispersed with a loud cheer, a cheer of men ready for battle. As they rushed to gather up their weapons and armor, Pete slid onto the scene in a sly fashion, standing next to Ratcliffe. "I love the smell of war in the morning."
"So do I, Pete, old boy," Ratcliffe agreed in a low, sinister voice. "So do I." He dropped his voice to a lower whisper. "But this battle cannot have the Heartless involved unless absolutely necessary."
Pete saluted briefly before turning away, scratching his chin. "Hmm...I get the feeling I'm forgetting something." After a few moment's thought, he gasped quietly, stiffening in his stance. "Where's the Keybearing brat?!"
Sora gulped as he heard the words spoken, just barely within his range of hearing. He turned tail as soon as the battle cry was sounded and wove through the forest with the firm hope that he'd avoid any attempt at pursuing him.
When he rushed into the vicinity of Willow's tree, the branches parted on two sides. Sora went through one side and he could see Steven coming through the other, swimming instead of walking. Pocahontas sat on the stump, curled up with her face buried into her arms. Willow looked upon her granddaughter with great concern.
Sora stopped at Willow's trunk and Steven climbed onto the trunk himself, sitting next to his friend. Pocahontas lifted her head and addressed Willow. "They're going to kill John at sunrise," she revealed.
Willow gasped softly. "You have to stop them!"
"I can't," Pocahontas woefully replied.
"What of your dream, child?" Willow questioned.
"I was wrong, Grandmother!" Pocahontas cried, lifting her head. "It's all my fault!" She lowered her head again. "If John and I had never met, none of this would have happened."
"It's not your fault," Steven coaxed, putting his hand on her shoulder. "You can' t blame yourself for falling in love." As he spoke these words, he spotted a little artifact at the base of Willow's tree. His eyes opened up a bit, confused at the sight.
Sora noticed Steven's curious expression and glanced down, spotting the same trinket. Even more helpful, he recognized it. He bent down and picked it up before walking up to Pocahontas. He handed it down to her. "Here. This is John's compass. If nothing else, you can..." A lump formed in Sora's throat and he decided it better for him not to finish that sentence.
Pocahontas accepted the trinket, sniffling a little bit. She looked into the intricate patterns drawn inside. As she did, the arrow began to spin. "A spinning arrow..." Her eyes widened. "The arrow from my dreams!" A wind began to pick up around her, multi-colored leaves swirling in it as the arrow spun faster and faster. "My dream was right!" she cried out, renewed with energy.
Between the spaces of Willow's branches, an orange light came through, lighting up Pocahontas' face. "The sunrise!" Grandmother exclaimed. "It's not too late to stop this!" Pocahontas stood up, facing the direction of the sunrise. "You know your path, child. Now follow it!"
Pocahontas leapt from the trunk and ran behind Willow's tree, taking off in the direction the compass was pointing. Steven and Sora were quick to their feet, heading behind the tree and watching Pocahontas carry herself into the distance. The two broke into an equally paced run, steadily catching up to their friend.
"I really hope she's got the right idea," Steven expressed.
"Why wouldn't she?" Sora questioned.
"Unless you're a certain pirate captain, compasses point north," Steven reminded Sora. "So hopefully this compass leads us to the battlefield."
"If we're lucky, it won't become a battlefield." Sora ceased speaking after this and picked up his running pace, signaling Steven to do the same.
From the west, Powhatan's tribe marched toward the open plains, the drums of war pounding as they approached. There, they would come into the view of their enemies and, before their eyes, make them pay for their supposed treachery by executing one of their own: John Smith, who tightly wound with rope. Though on his feet, he was forcefully dragged by two members of the tribe who held the ropes binding him.
Hailing from the east, Ratcliffe led the charge against the natives, adorned in obsidian-colored armor and carrying a sword, a tool used for both battle and to signify his leadership. There wer few men whose blood was not filled with the lust for vengeance and war. They aimed to rescue John and wipe out the Indians for their 'unprovoked' crime.
Both marched with the belief that the other side was pure evil. To each group, their foes were complete savages, different and untrustworthy.
Then there were three people who stood in a ground different from both sides: Pocahontas, Sora, and Steven. They knew both sides of the story. They could see that there was no need for war. They alone possessed the key to bring this realization into the light, where everyone could see the clear truth, without it being polluted by gossip and accusatory speeches.
Pocahontas came out of the forest to see both sides about to engage. Her tribe stood upon a hill, looking down upon the settlers who were exiting the forest from the east. John was dragged forward, his head laid upon a stone near the edge of the plateau. The faces of the settlers were alight with shock.
Sora ran to the right, where the settlers were. After he picked up the pace to the best of his ability, he leapt into the air, his momentum carrying him several feet further than an ordinary jump could have. He landed with a firm thud, crouching when he landed to soften the impact. He waited a moment to catch his breath before rising to a standing position. Sora looked at Ratcliffe right in his cold eyes, a defiant fire alight in his own blue ones.
Pocahontas and Steven took off to the left, rounding the hill and rushing towards its peak. More out of surprise than of obedience, the warriors parted when they saw the two making their way onto the scene. Pocahontas put on another burst of speed as she saw her father holding up his staff, preparing to bludgeon John's head.
"No!" she cried, throwing her body over his as Powhatan's staff came down. Her father was swift enough to divert the blow to the ground before it landed. He lifted it back to him again, looking down at his daughter. Rage had taken him moments ago and his eyes were still blazing with it.
Pocahontas was unwavering to this frightening side of her father as she shielded John, speaking firmly. "If you kill him, you'll have to kill me too."
"Daughter!" Powhatan dictated. "Step back!"
"I won't!" Pocahontas defied, before softening her tone. "I love him, father."
This is where Powhatan's expression of rage could have gotten more intense. Instead, it softened to one of confusion and uncertainty. He turned to face Steven, who was now walking peacefully to stand by Pocahontas. "Shakti?" Powhatan tried to form more words, but could not.
"Look around you," Steven encouraged, spreading his arms. "There is no reason for war. The path of distrust and hatred are what brought us here." With a tinge of regret, he added another statement. "It's also what led Kocoum to his death, but it can stop with him. There doesn't have to be more killing."
Pocahontas laid her head down against John. "This is the path we have chosen, father. What will yours be?"
Across the plain, a similar conversation took place.
"Sora!" Ratcliffe gruffly barked. "What is the meaning of this? Why did you desert camp?"
"He's with the Indians, just like I figured he'd be!" Pete quickly declared. "He's a traitor to his own kind!" This impassioned accusation spread softly through the crowd of the settlers for the moment.
"I'm not your enemy!" Sora assured. "And neither are they."
"How can you say that?" Thomas exclaimed. "They kidnapped John!"
"They never wanted war," Sora retaliated. "They took arms only after they were attacked." At those words, Thomas' expression sank and he bowed his head. "Thomas, you were only trying to protect John. I understand that. But you can all do yourselves better if you lay down your arms."
Pete glanced around him, seeing some of the men with puzzled expressions, in thought over what Sora said. "That's bullhonky!" he jeered, snapping them back to attention. "They're savages! War is in their blood! They go to war with their own kind, just like Sora's trying to do now!"
"Now shut your yapper!" Ben stepped forward, glowering at Pete. He turned to Sora with a more gentle expression. "You're just a lad, Sora. I don't expect ya to understand, but this is a new world. Not every world you go to is a good one. You've got to open your eyes."
"You're wrong." Sora walked up to Ben. "You need to open your eyes." He stepped past Ben to address the other men. "You look at me and see a boy, but there's more to me and my experiences than meets the eye, more than you can imagine. I've met a lot of different people and come to understand a lot about them." He pointed up to the hilltop where the natives were. "Give them a chance. You'll see that in their hearts, they don't want to fight anymore."
Upon the hill, Powhatan closed his eyes and breathed gently. As he did so, the familiar wind-propelled leaves began to flow around him. He gripped each side of his staff and held it high above his head. His voice climbed into a powerful declaration as he spoke.
"My daughter has wisdom beyond her years!" he proclaimed. "While we have come full of anger, she comes with courage and understanding! No more shall darkness consume our hearts. If there is to be more death, it will not start with me." He placed his staff's tip gently on the ground, nodding to Steven. "Set him free," he encouraged warmly.
In that crystallizing moment, Steven smiled, feeling great warmth from the satisfaction of everything going right. He held out his hand and one of the warriors placed a small knife in his palm. He walked over to John, stretched the ropes that bound his wrists thin, and cut them apart. John rubbed his wrists briefly as he rose to his feet before he and Pocahontas flung their arms around each other, holding on tightly.
Sora was warmed by the sight, as were the settlers. Though what they were seeing before them was incomprehensible by all the standards they had come to know, John Smith was kissing a savage. It didn't take long before it dawned on them that perhaps the savages were not that savage after all. The simple, yet sacred act of love had conquered the idea of savagery from their minds.
Every mind except for Ratcliffe, that is. He stepped forward and drew his sword. "Now's our chance!" he announced, drawing his sword and pointing forward. "Shoot them!"
Thomas stepped forward from the group to stand up against his governor. "No." He threw his gun to the ground.
Ratcliffe was taken aback for a moment at Thomas' sudden defiance. "What?!"
"They let him go!" Thomas reminded.
"They don't want to fight!" Ben chimed in.
"It's a trick, don't you see?" Ratcliffe growled. "Now fire!" The men didn't move from where they were. Ratcliffe's grip on his sword began to shake, the idea of losing control of his plans all but impossible until this moment.
"Governor..." Sora spoke more softly than he had before. "It's not too late to change your mind." Ratcliffe turned away from his men, his fists clenched and his frustration teeming.
Sora turned his eyes to Pete, who was watching the scene unfold with almost as much displeasure as Ratcliffe. Sora smirked softly, confident that a fight could be averted. However, Pete's expression turned into a smirk as well. The devious cat snapped his fingers. Sora tilted his head at the gesture, puzzled at the action. He started turning to face Ratcliffe again and was met with the back of the governor's hand to his face.
Steven felt an intense shiver of goosebumps down his pine, highly opposite to the warmth he had felt only moments ago. He held up his hand, seeing a soft tint of darkness outlined his arm all the way up to his elbow. "Holy cow..." he groaned. This was greater than the usual warnings he had become used to recently. He looked out to the plain to see Sora, sprawled on the ground with Ratcliffe standing over him, enveloped in a dark aura and holding a gun.
"No!" Steven cried.
"I'll handle this myself!" Ratcliffe growled in certainty, holding up the gun and pointing it at Powhatan.
Before Steven could react, the trigger was pulled. In a mixed blessing, there was someone who was able to react quickly enough to save Powhatan: John. He had broken away from Pocahontas and leapt for Powhatan, pushing the chief out of the bullet's path. However, he was struck in the side by the shot instead, proceeding to fall to the ground.
"JOHN!" Thomas cried out as he watched his friend fall.
"No!" Pocahontas nearly lunged to the ground to take her place by John's side.
Sora rose to his feet, rubbing his face for a moment before summoning his Keyblade and lunging at Ratcliffe. Quickly, he swung at the governor and knocked the rifle from his grip. He took another swing, but Ratcliffe ducked back slightly. He regained the grip on his sword and swung back, locking blades with Sora. "You will not stop me, boy!"
Sora pushed back against Ratcliffe's blade fiercely. "I've beaten stronger!"
"Don't back down, Ratcliffe!" Pete urged in a comfortable, confident tone as he walked calmly from the shadows. "You got the darkness on your side! Ain't nothing gonna stop us now!"
"Hmm?" Pete turned his gaze to the sound at his right. "GAAAH!" he stumbled backwards a few paces before regaining his footing. He came to stable footing to find himself face to face with Steven. "You got a lot of nerve sneaking up on me like that!"
Steven smirked a little. "I've been looking forward a little to this encounter, Pete." He summoned his Keyblade. "I'm Steven, the other Keybearer 'round these parts. Sora hasn't told me much about you, but I suppose there isn't much to a moron."
"Say WHAT?!" Pete grumbled, stomping his feet in appropriate petty fashion. "I'll teach you to show me some respect!" He snapped his fingers again and a variety of Heartless appeared in front of him. He pointed directly at Steven. "Get that punk!"
Steven raised his eyebrows at the sight he beheld. He recognized one group of Heartless in soldier attire instantly and could easily guess that the other group was comprised of the poorly painted Heartless meant to look like the natives. However, he broke into a laugh only a few moments after their appearance, then stepped back several paces, holding up his Keyblade in case he had to defend himself. "You're even dumber than I thought! Think a moment about what you just did."
Pete scratched his head a moment as the Heartless began dueling against Steven before his eyes wandered to the Indians. He could see a few of them marching forward, drawing their bows and arrows. More uncomfortable, they seemed to be pointed at him. "What the-?" Then Pete whirled around and could see a few of the settlers leveling their guns. It started to dawn on Pete that he had revealed himself, in plain sight, as the puppet master of the Heartless.
"Aww, jeez!" he lamented softly before breaking into what was a very energetic run for the fat cat he was. The arrows and bullets fired at him nipped at his heels, forcing him not to give up the breakneck pace he had miraculously been able to manage. "This ain't over!" Pete yelled back to the Keybearers before he seemingly ran off into the horizon, swearing to fight again another day.
"Disappointing," Steven muttered to himself as he deflected a spear strike from one of the native-inspired Heartless. "He sure can mix up some Heartless, though." He pushed the spear into the ground with his Keyblade before slashing across its chest, obliterating it. "Reflect!" he yelled as soon as he had completed his attack. In front of him, the magic barrier materialized to take the force of two gunshots from the rife-bearing Heartless. He charged quickly and body-checked one of them to the ground before moving to engage the other one.
He felt the shot impact in front of him, knocking the Heartless to the ground. Steven took his gaze away for a moment and spotted one of the settlers, Ben, holding his rifle in the firing position. He lowered it and gave Steven a firm nod. Relieved, Steven reciprocated the gesture. He turned to strike down the grounded foes, only to find them fading away, arrows stuck in the ground where their bodies used to be. Even more blessed was the fact that the remaining native Heartless had an arrow stuck in its back. Steven gave it a quick jab with his Keyblade to finish the job and it dissolved into black smoke. He held his Keyblade horizontally above his head as a quick expression of appreciation to his fellow tribesmen before turning towards the main battle happening between Sora and Ratcliffe.
Sora was not a swordsman to be taken lightly, but Ratcliffe's dark energy was fueling him. He held the sword with one hand, keeping his body further away form Sora's striking range. As such, he was the one currently on the offensive. Sora was used to using his Keyblade with two hands most of the time, but the experience he had wielding the Keyblade had gotten him used to the weight of the weapon. So even though Ratcliffe's strikes were fast and varied in position, Sora was able to keep up with them.
Steven flanked the battle, looking for a good opening to attack Ratcliffe. Sora seemed to spot him because he turned his next deflection into a push back at Ratcliffe in a show of offense. Ratcliffe was taken aback and his sword was pushed aside. Steven ran in and swung at Ratcliffe's right side.
But Ratcliffe quickly countered before Steven had moved. He lashed out with one of his feet at Sora, pushing him away. Then he he gripped his sword with both hands and hammered Steven's Keyblade away. With his lighter sword serving to his advantage, Ratcliffe moved in closer and made another quick swing at Steven, leaving a long cut down Steven's right arm.
"AH!" Steven cried, leaping away from the fray. Upon landing, he went down on one knee to prevent himself from simply falling. He glanced at his arm. Though the cut had only grazed his skin, it left a fierce burning sensation. He was bleeding a bit as well, a sight he was not used to seeing in anything more than a minor cut. I miss the Heartless, he mused in thought.
There wasn't time to dwell on the bleeding, as Ratcliffe was advancing upon him. Steven transferred his Keyblade to his left hand, trying to lift it straight above his head. "Heal..." he tried to cast, but the wound had weakened him.
Ratcliffe lifted his sword above Steven and swung it down. Right on cue, Sora was at Steven's side, his Keyblade positioned beneath Ratcliffe's to protect his friend. Once again, he flung Ratcliffe's blade away, going on the offensive again.
"You won't stop me, boy!" Ratcliffe growled as continued to deflect Sora's strikes. "The gold means little anymore, but this power holds the potential for greater fortune than I could have imagined and I will not have it taken from me!"
"You're done," Sora dictated as he struck Ratcliffe's sword again. "Your greed has threatened the lives of innocent people and the life of my friend." He unleashed another strike, nudging Ratcliffe to increase the stability of his sword in order to repel Sora's strikes. "It ends here."
Ratcliffe could feel the power emanating from Sora as he fought him. A mere boy was calling great strength to him, strength comparable to Ratcliffe's own enhanced strength. Bit by bit, he could see his advantage fading.
As their blades locked again, Ratcliffe held his sword tightly with one hand, pushing against Sora with all the might his arm could muster. Lowering the other hand to his waist, he quickly unsheathed a small knife from his waist and drew his arm back before lunging his arm forward.
Ratcliffe shuddered where he was, dropping the dagger. Sora stumbled back upon seeing it, his heart pounding a little faster at the small weapon that could have meant the end of him. Then he looked up to address the gunshot that had just been fired.
Thomas was holding the smoking gun. There was new fire in his eyes unlike anything that Sora had seen in him before. He had been first among the men to vouch for peace with the Indians once John was released and now he had taken his confidence to a new level by defying his governor yet again.
Ratcliffe collapsed onto his back, his strength fading from his body. The dark energy that flowed within him was now beginning to engulf his whole body, dissolving it into black smoke that formed a column floating up into the sky. Sora looked into Ratcliffe's eyes as the last of him faded away. Even someone as narrowly guided as Ratcliffe did not die with a curse. In his eyes, Sora could see only sadness.
From the ranks of men, Wiggins sniffled a bit, holding a tissue. "And he came so highly recommended," he said in mourning.
The Keybearer closed his eyes and took a deep breath, reflecting briefly on his fallen enemy. Upon exhaling, he turned away and looked back at his friend, who was resting on his back, seething gently from his wound. "Steven!" Sora ran over quickly, crouching on his feet to look his friend in the eye. "Are you okay?"
Steven opened his eyes and glanced at his arm. "What, this?" Steven replied weakly, his voice managing a hint of the usual spirit. "What kind of sap do you take me for?"
Sora shook his head. "Good to see your spirit hasn't been wounded." He stood up again and held his Keyblade upright. "Heal," he chanted once.
The aura of green herbs surrounded Steven, sealing his wound as if it had never been there to begin with. It invigorated Steven with energy again as well, which the boy used to kick his legs forward. This motion propelled his whole body upward. "Wahoo!" He came down for a landing. "I'm back in the-" His balance tipped forward, gravity taking over from there. "Whoaaa!" Unable to stick the landing, Steven tumbled back to the ground.
Sora chuckled softly, holding out his hand. "Don't get too excited, now."
Steven clasped his friend's hand and stood up, gently this time. "Well, I can at least say it's a new personal record," he optimistically noted, brushing himself off. "Haven't had a klutz moment for quite a while."
"It wouldn't truly be you if you didn't," Sora said, intending to sound encouraging.
Steven rolled his eyes a bit. "Gee, thanks," he quipped.
Pocahontas' voice called the attention of Steven and Sora, who turned to face her. She approached first, followed by a group of warriors who carried an injured John by each of his limbs, a much more caring way of being dragged than when he was taken prisoner. Following up the rear was Chief Powhatan himself.
Ben and Thomas exchanged a brief look. Thomas nodded gently before placing his gun down, running across the short reach of valley to look at his friend, for whom he was concerned. "John?"
John stirred a bit, holding his side in pain. "Hey, Thomas," he struggled to say, keeping the confidence he was known for in his voice. "Don't worry about this. I've gotten out of worse."
Thomas looked to Sora. "Can you help him? Our only other option is to return him to England." Pocahontas looked up at Thomas with wide eyes, as if this were the worst news in the world to her.
Steven saw this look in her eyes and remedied the situation quickly. "Don't worry," he said reassuringly, summoning his own Keyblade. "He's still got plenty of life in him." He raised the magical weapon and closed his eyes. "Heal!"
The spell was cast by a declaration of the word. In no time at all, the aura had taken its effect. John winced a little as he felt the wound magically closing itself. "Ah!" he cried out in finality as the spell's aura faded. He lifted his shirt, examining where he had been shot. He brushed his fingers over the spot he had been hit, seeing that he had indeed been healed. "Well, what do you know? Back to normal," he observed. "A little better, actually. Feels like new."
He hopped to his feet with success, to Steven's envy, and stretched his arms upright, inhaling and exhaling. "You know, gentlemen?" he spoke, addressing Thomas and Ben. "Today is a very good day to be alive." He lowered his arms and approached them. "I suppose the ship will be returning back to England?"
"Darn right it is!" Ben boasted, putting his arm around John. "I don't know about you lads, but I've seen enough new worlds to last me a lifetime!"
John chuckled. "I could say the same thing." He glanced over his shoulder at Pocahontas, who had begun to lower her head in despair. His cheerful smile didn't fade, however. Instead, he lifted Ben's arm from his shoulder and walked over to Pocahontas, clasping both of her hands in his own. "And I think I've finally found a world that I can call home." Pocahontas looked up at John, the corners of her mouth twitching slightly.
John sealed the deal with his next words. "Before, I said I'd like to belong here," he reminisced. "But now...I know that I do."
They broke into a smile after a few seconds and she hugged him closely to her, a gesture that he returned. He lifted her off the ground and spun her in a circle, feeling more alive than he had in years.
There was slight shuffling from both Thomas and Ben, feeling awkward to witness this affectionate display, but Sora and Steven just clapped their hands softly.
"Way to go, John," Sora congratulated. "You fought for the right path and won."
"And we helped!" Steven reminded with a raised eyebrow directed at John.
"Well..." Ben put his arms at his sides and walked up to John. "A good life to ya, mate!" Ben bid farewell with a clap on the shoulder before rushing back. "Alright, men! Time to break down camp! We're going back home!" There was a shout of approval from the men before most of them disappeared into the woods, some shouting good-byes to John as they went. Seeing that the work here was done, most of the warriors of Powhatan's tribe retreated back to their homes as well.
Thomas stood back for the moment, turning to his mentor. "I didn't expect all this coming to the new world," he admitted. "There wasn't any gold in the end, but I think I'll take something more valuable home with me."
"What's that?" John inquired.
Thomas' eyes wandered, looking upon the Indians. "Understanding," he concluded. He held out his hand, which John shook. "Take care, my friend. I'll make sure your story is told."
"Make it a good one!" John requested before patting Thomas' shoulder. "Good fortunes to you, Thomas." With those final words, Thomas took off into a sprint, running into the woods.
Powhatan was the next to step forward, looking upon John. He untied the cloak that hung around his shoulders and draped it over John's. "I am proud to welcome you as part of our people. Thank you, my brother."
John bowed his head respectfully. "Thank you...Father," he gratefully spoke, to which Powhatan beamed proudly.
Then the wind started to pick up again. The array of orange and purple leaves were flowing in a spiritually guided pattern, heading down the center of the valley. Sora, having an idea of what this would signify, stepped out into the open field on his own. He held out both of his arms as the leaves cascaded around him in a large swirl. After a few moments of that, the ground beneath him began to shimmer gently. Before long, it was glowing brightly. Sora summoned his Keyblade, knowing what lay beneath him as he opened up his eyes.
His Keyblade began to glow as well, a bright gathering of magic at the tip of it. It twinkled once at its peak, sending a greater shine through the ground beneath Sora's feet. The familiar sound of a closing lock echoed louder than Sora had heard in some time, the wind carrying the noise as echoes in the open air.
He walked back over to the group, addressing Powhatan first. "The heart of your world is safe from the Heartless, now."
Steven sighed gently and looked to the ground, knowing what moment was coming next. He gritted his teeth for a moment, then spoke the dreaded words. "My work here is done, Great Powhatan," Steven explained. He looked up to his chief. "It's time for me and my friend to go."
For the first time in many minutes, Pocahontas relinquished her arms from John and slowly walked forward to stand before Steven. "You always told me that day would come," she said quietly, a tinge of regret laced into her tone as she looked to the ground. "I tried to prepare myself for it, but..."
"Look at me," Steven gently coaxed, drawing Pocahontas' eyes up. He could see that she held back tears. He gulped a bit, keeping his own down. "This isn't good-bye, even if I'm gone for ten years...and I'm not saying I will be!" he quickly clarified before he spoke further. "Friendship is more powerful- and important- than most things in this universe, especially to me. I won't ever forget you and hopefully you won't ever forget me."
"How could I?" Pocahontas replied with a chuckle, something of an effort to quell her watery eyes. "You've been almost as good a friend to me as Nakoma...and I've known her all my life." She stepped forward and hugged Steven tightly. Steven embraced her with just as much affection. "Thank you for all you have done for us," she expressed. Then, unexpectedly, she turned her head and left a kiss on Steven's left cheek. "I will always remember you, Steven."
As the hug ended, Steven lifted his fingertips to his cheek, brushing it lightly. He smiled at Pocahontas again before turning to Powhatan, who had already stepped forward to speak. "You have a heart unlike any warrior I have seen, young man," Powhatan praised. "I would have been proud to call you my son."
"He'll make you twice as proud," Steven assured, gesturing to John. "Trust me."
"You are one of the people and will always be welcome among us," Powhatan promised. "If there is anything you need from us, you need only ask."
"I will remember that," Steven thanked with a bow. He stepped back, taking his place next to Sora.
"Ready for our next journey?" Sora asked.
Steven nodded softly, turning away to walk with his friend. At the instant his eyes were no longer visible to the people he had just parted ways with, a couple of tears broke through his resistance. "Are good-byes always this hard with you?"
"And you call me a sap!" Sora teased lightly before answering. "Usually I don't spend a month on a world before I say good-bye," he admitted. "That's happened a lot with you." He took a look at the sky, putting his hands behind his head. "It is more difficult this way, I won't lie."
"I guess that's one thing good about home," Steven mused. "You say good-bye, but you know you'll be going back someday."
"Yeah," Sora agreed. "Home is a luxury in and of itself to me."
"Agreed," Steven added. "After all this, I'm not sure where 'home' is."
"Maybe you'll be like John," Sora suggested. "The last great journey will be the one where you find home."
"Until then: onward," Steven said with a smile. "I have to say, it'll be different going back to the ship. I'll probably get culture shock or something at this point, going back to modern civilization." A few more paces were taken before Steven stopped dead in his tracks. "Oh, wait!" He turned back and ran to Pocahontas, Powhatan, and John, who had just begun to leave, but stopped when they noticed Steven before them.
"Before I go, I'm going to need my old clothes back," he sheepishly confessed.
A/N: Hello again, guys! This semester of college is almost over and I am feeling more motivated and inspired in regards to creative work than I have in quite some time. For the sake of realism, don't hold me to this sentiment. For the sake of optimism, I'm back and I'm eager to progress the story further!
I want to take a moment to reflect on this arc in particular, which has been in my brain since my sophomore year of high school...that was three years ago. Holy cow... I'm looking forward to the future and I want to really thank you guys for your continued support and reviews.
Stay tuned: the final Princess of Heart awaits.