Gather round, young children, and let me tell you a tale of the seventh son who sought to free a young witch from her evil captors, and to restore the memories of his wife-to-be.
Determination. Honor. Perhaps vengeance. No member of the organization could guess at what would drive a somebody into their castle so late at night. They had let him in silently; if Xemnas found out, he wouldn't mind. What else could they have done with their time but entertain a guest?
Prince Dashing, Prince Charming, Prince Is-Anyone-Here. They all had their names for the pet they let wander about their home. It had taken some time for them to realize, but he was unlike the other guests who had come before. Rather than becoming lost near the crossroads or stumbling out of the darkness shaken and dismayed, he had come of his own volition, and with a gleam in his eyes that spoke of something brighter. No one had been able to guess what he wanted, or why he had sought out Castle Oblivion, but it was clear that something inside was valuable to him, and that he wouldn't leave until he found it. Marluxia always watered his path, dropping a world card here, a map there, just to see what would happen when the Prince blossomed and his objectives became clear. Axel and Xigbar would make their bets and jokes about his next move, while Xaldin and Lexaeus would share a watchful silence. Most of the others were unconcerned, only becoming involved when Larxene would set traps of cruel design. None of them wanted to clean up a mess. And so they continued for quite some time, watching, guessing, waiting for the Prince to learn the castle so he would show a pattern in his desperate search.
He ran to a door at the end of a hall. More than enough stamina had lasted on his way to the mysterious fortress on the edge of reality, but his sanity he questioned. Was this the only hall in the castle, arcane secrets somehow repeating the one place through the doors on either end? It couldn't be, he reminded himself; for then his true love would have no respite, an unacceptable outcome. He turned the handle, but stopped at the sound of laughter.
A young woman cackled her glee from somewhere distant, not even the phantom of a good joke holding in her tone.
"I know you are there. If you could reveal yourself to me, please, I implore you! I am here only for true love and true love's sake."
For perhaps the third time now he received no answer.
The laughter was coming from through the door, he decided, so he stepped through quickly, breathing a sigh of relief as he spotted a slender, high-heeled figure. A lightening of the fear in his heart wsa much appreciated, but perhaps finding Larxene was worse than the madness of a castle with nothing but long, pearly corridors.
Larxene, flirtatious by nature, giggled at the formality of his hailing. She curtsied as a stabbing joke, but was flattered nonetheless when he bowed in response.
"Forgive me, fair maiden. But I have not intruded upon this fortress without reason."
Larxene batted her eyes, drawing lust from nothingness. "Why are you here then?"
"My betrothed, a woman of unquestionable beauty, has fallen ill of her memories. She lies in the care of my servants, unaware of even her own identity. I was told by a seer that here I could find a witch, one of remarkable power, who could restore the memories of my love."
Larxene had little care for what the prince wanted. In her world he was a toy. Play began with seduction, the first step she took being a clear indicator by its forward nature. The bob of his throat as he swallowed and stepped back only served to make it all the more entertaining for her.
The prince blinked. "I must find this witch. Can you help me?"
Her next step, and the way she held her hands just so made him forget he even had a question. But he remembered before her third, and turned to face away.
"If not, I suppose I shall look further. But please, make haste in answering."
"I'll tell you," she said, "if I can get something in return."
He continued to look away as he asked, like a rat backing into a trap, without even the chance to sniff the cheese. There wouldn't be any temptation dragged from him, not as long as that gleam stayed in his eyes. Larxene had come even closer while he averted his eyes, and she whispered her answer into his ear.
"One little kiss for a virgin?"
He jumped a quick step before she could wrap him in her arms. "No. Forgive me, I must take leave."
He had left her as such, failure clawing at her insides as she resigned to betting with Axel and Xigbar on the worst possible outcome for him and his "harlot at home." Zexion took note, as always, but knew that their game would have to end. Xemnas had been clear about Naminé's position: not even a peek out of the castle could be permitted. But he had known as well that the others would not let him end it, not now that they were having so much fun. It was a Godsend when more nobodies arrived.
Rain had washed the crossroads so they blurred with the grass, and the newborn nothings had lost they're way, even separating with members of their own group. They had accepted gratefully when the cloaked stranger had invited them into the warmth of the castle.
"My name is Xemnas," Zexion had told them. "You are nobodies, and I am your master."
They had nodded their agreement, for the owner of a castle was a man to be followed.
He had given them robes and told them to find an impostor at all costs. "He wears no robe," Zexion had told them, "and he seeks to take my daughter and sacrifice her to a witch." Again, they had nodded, taking his words at the truth of his generosity. "And if the others inquire of your purpose, give them your numbers and tell them I have given you this task."
And it had worked perfectly. How could the others bother a neophile who was only doing what Xemnas had ordered?
The Prince stepped onto what would be the eleventh floor if his memory held true. Days with only the meagre rations he had left made him weary, and he took the excuse of his last milestone to rest and feed himself. Thoughts of his soon to be wife, tormented by by the curse of a witch, soon brought him to his feet, however. And the seventh son of a faraway land was once again pacing the length of a corridor to find the witch who holds sway over memories. He had made it only halfway when he was stopped. What had once been an unmenacing- albeit disquieting- hallway that repeated throughout the castle quickly found itself occupied by one, two, three robed figures who stepped from smoke that had billowed from thin air.
"Where's your cloak, stranger?"
Who had spoken, he could not see. Drawn hoods concealed all but intentions.
"Please, sirs. I mean you no hostility. I only wish to find the witch who-"
"We know why you're here."
Weapons of the most exotic and specialized sorts came to them, again in the manner of smoke and air.
"If it must come to barbarity, I am prepared to defend myself."
He weighted the statement with a hand on his rapier.
"It already has." Again, he could not identify the individual, but the voice had revealed itself as one of two others who had been unseen behind him.
"Then I must bid you adieu."
They had charged, confident in numbers, sure of their diversity in battle, high on the idea of their first victory. They, along with the others, had expected an easy and unfair victory. No one expected his hand to leave the sword and pull a small whistle from his pocket. No one expected that the whistle would summon a dragon. The other nobodies were captivated by the show now, betting chores and favors on who would win. But Zexion remained silent. Ideally, the dragon would have taken all but one of the newcomers with it beyond the gates of hades, and the last would have silenced the prince. After that it would have been simple for the Cloaked Schemer to reveal that Xemnas had ordered no such slaying of their guest, and the others would have disposed of the last newcomer for him. But the dragon had taken one too many as it fell, and after a tearful prayer of gratitude, the prince had found his way again.
Zexion had become desperate then, and had even resorted to a conversation with Larxene.
"Worry not, my beloved."
The ragged voice of the seventh son murmured condolences to a lover who couldn't remember him, let alone hear him as he paced his way tearily down a corridor on the twelfth floor of the castle.
"Through the sacrifice of my brothers and my friends, your ill fated memoirs shall come to you again. Worry not, my beloved. Worry not."
He reached the next door and paused on the handle. He had to be prepared for whatever lay on the other side. No thoughts of the sacrifice his mighty companion had made- nothing negative- could be present in his mind if he was to be ready to approach the next threats with the wit and fortitude that had spared him in his last two encounters. He opened the door with caution, and was rewarded when he dodged the fatal bulk a great white column that plummeted from its station under the roof. Immediately afterwards, his spry limbs saved him yet again from the actual trap, a path of poisoned arrows that he was intended to step into for fear of the pillar. All but one of them crumpled against the wall harmlessly. But wit and fortitude had only taken him so far.
A single bolt, angled away from the rest, had struck him squarely in the arm. Larxene did not play games to lose. He mended himself with great care, and took only a short, quiet break.
None of them had expected him to continue. How could he have? Axel and Xigbar had continued their betting while others began plotted traps of their own to match Larxene, challenges that their pet would have to overcome with his incredible skill. Could he build a bridge of cards to cross a ravine? Remove a boulder from his path? Breathe underwater? Their attempts had failed time and again as he had cut through man-eating plants, evaded magic bullets, and found a zenful calm to avoid the berserker rage of guardians that only engaged their aggressors. And after every trial, he had made it to the thirteenth floor.
Naminé raised her eyes from the final stroke of several lifetimes of memories. Her eyes met with her would-be hero, a feeble ghost. His pale, shaking form dragged itself to her feet and kneeled with the respectful humility of a peasant. After so many trials and tribulations, all that remained was a man begging for the help of a child. And before he would dare affronting her with a request, he introduced himself.
"I am the seventh son of my father," he whispered.
Naminé acknowledged with a timid nod. "I know."
"My wife-to-be was a peasant girl in a hamlet of my father's kingdom, and her hand was asked by many men. But my birthright granted me an inheritance to her happiness far beyond what any man could be honored to have. She has never asked for more than company and compassion, and she has never touched what was not hers. Her heart has been weighed against gold, and found true even in the eyes of the noble dragon, and the unicorn guardian of the forest."
Again, Naminé could only nod.
"Five fortnights previous, a terrible witch from the Bald Mountain descended upon my kingdom and demanded it as her own. When the king, my father, refused, she slew him and destroyed the memories of all of our wives."
His tears were pooling on the ground below him, and the black line of his poisoned veins showed no sign of stopping its unhurried crawl up his arm. But still he continued with the pleasantry. Nowhere in his nature was there room to rush a woman.
"My oldest brother was killed as we fought the witch to her death, and the other five lay in shallow graves along the path of our quest for our loved ones' respite."
He raised his head to beg of her with his eyes.
"Ask of me any price, oh great sorceress, and it shall be given to you if only our wives can be cured."
Naminé closed her notepad and handed it to him just as tearily as he had implored her. "Show her these. And in exchange, please take me with you. I never want to see this castle again."
He rose to his feet with an outstretched arm as the gleam in his eye was shared in her. There was hope for the two of them now, but only if they could make it out the door.
Of course, that never happened. It was only a matter of time before Xemnas returned, and Zexion had been more than happy to point him in the right direction. Naminé sank back into her chair without accepting the Prince's hand, and he turned to face the organization in its entirety. To his credit, the sight of so many opponents in such a small room never disheartened him. Anything for his love. Never did the light leave his eyes, but rather brightened its glow the way a candle burns brightest before it is extinguished. And the tense air did nothing to diminish his pride.
Xemnas clapped his gloved hands in a slow, mocking rhythm, as the Prince drew his rapier for its last action.
"I mean you no harm," he said. "But I am prepared to defend myself."
Afterwards, Naminé had been punished, of course, but Xemnas had taken his time looking through the memories she had drawn for her would-be savior. "You hadn't even finished," he had said to her. "What good are unfinished memories?" Her legs had dangled freely over the edge of her chair, where she had watched them circle pieces of broken tile. "I left out the bad parts," she had told him, "so they would be better." He had scoffed. And when she extended her hand to have them back, he had ripped them in halves, fourths, eights, and let them fall onto the blood soaked floor.