CHAPTER ONE

The lion and the unicorn were fighting for the crown

The lion beat the unicorn all round the town

Some gave them white bread, some gave them brown

Some gave them plum cake and drummed them out of town.

"BREAK! Tell us NOW – or I'll – I'll!"

"Ha, ha. Easy there, little rabbit."

Oz sighed, and grabbed a bit of cake. It was one of those afternoons in Pandora headquarters – stuck in a small room with nothing to do but eat and listen to Break's rambling and Alice and Gil arguing. Oh, and stop your cake from being stolen, though he never had much success with that.

Gil was out at some kind of meeting. That left only Break for Alice to argue with. She was certainly giving it her best shot.

Clack-clack. Clack-clack. Cell 21810. Cell 21811.

"Alice," Oz whispered, "I think we're getting close…"

"You don't need to be quite so emphatic, you know." Break stabbed the small dessert fork into a piece of plum cake and lifted it, twirling it idly. "I was just winding you up, after all."

"YOU-!"

Alice's boots made a nice, smart clacking noise against the tiles. It was conspicuously loud in the sterile silence. Clack-clack.

"Calm down, Alice…" Oz snatched the plate of cakes away from Break and shoved it back into Alice's hands. She brightened up instantly. "So, you're going to tell us what you were talking about?"

"Of course. It's just that I've been thinking about …something, lately." Break plunged his fork into a croissant on Alice's plate. "After all…that something is wearing away at the seal that Pandora placed on it. Quite a serious issue, as a matter of fact…"

"Get on with it!"

"Are you sure we should be down here?" Oz asked her. She was staring straight ahead, with a don't-mess-with-me-or-else expression on her face. Hopefully it was supposed to be directed at their quarry, and not him.

"Silence, manservant! We need to concentrate on finding the correct cell!" The clack-clacking sound grew louder. Alice must be getting mad.

"I'm talking about a Chain. A very special, extremely powerful kind of Chain." He paused for dramatic effect. "Have you ever heard of… the Dark Unicorn?"

Silence.

"Um, do you mean Sharon's Eques?" Oz offered up. Sharon's Chain was dark and a unicorn, after all.

"What, can't you count? It's not that hard. See, 21813, 21814…we're looking for 21820. We just have to keep walking."

Break chuckled. "Well…yes, but not exactly. Let's put it this way; Eques' power pales in comparison to the Dark Unicorn. The Unicorn would barely deign to fight it. The Unicorn is older, stronger and much less friendly. And guess what?"

They leaned forward, entranced.

"S-Silence, I said! Of course I can count properly…but you have to do it for me because you are my servant, and, uh, I'm worried you might do it wrong. Ha!"

Oz smiled and shook his head.

"We're keeping it prisoner!" He giggled, in a not-at-all-insane manner.

"Whoa!" Oz's eyes were shining.

"We had to imprison it, of course. The Unicorn's unique powers…well, to put it simply, it's much to dangerous for us to let it roam free."

Most of the cells were empty. In these corridors, Pandora imprisoned and categorised Chains. This far, into the 21000's, only the most dangerous Chains were kept.

Oz and Alice had been walking for a long time.

"It hunts down illegal contractees."

Oz's eyes widened.

"What, like…" Alice shot a glance at him.

"That's right! It seems that it can sense anyone who has illegally made a contract with a Chain. And once it finds them…" He sucked on the fork nonchalantly. "Then, well, they get a surprise." Oz gritted his teeth at the high pitched giggle that followed.

"Well, who's its contractor?" Alice asked.

"The Unicorn has no contractor." Break leaned forward, narrowing his eye menacingly. "It can travel between the Abyss and the real world at will."

"If Pandora are too chicken to kill this thing," Alice said determinedly, "then we've got to do it. Break said that the seal on the Dark Unicorn's cell is weakening. We'll be –"

"—in really big trouble once this gets out," Oz finished.

"Then why don't you turn back?" She flicked her mane of hair to one side and looked at him.

"Well, if we get in trouble, I'll just have to accept it, won't I?" Oz smiled. "And I couldn't leave you all alone down here, right?" He tugged one of the braids on the side of her head gently.

"What do you mean by that? It's not like I'd get lonely! I'm a Chain! You try spending years of your life down in Ab-"

She realised that she was blushing. Oz was now absently twirling one of her braids around his finger.

Clack-clack-clack-clack. She had pulled free and was now trotting ahead of him, shoulders hunched, fists clenched. What had he done this time? He shook his head. Alice.

"So why doesn't someone make a contract with it?" Alice wanted to know. "Cause if they did, then they could help us hunt down escape Chains, and we wouldn't have to waste so much time – "

"No," Break said.

"What?"

"Never. Silly rabbit, the seal on its prison is weakening, and that's not a good thing." He turned his head to one side, one hand propping up his chin.

"Why?"

"Because it creates more problems than it solves. Literally." He stood rapidly, snatched the cakes off a protesting Alice, and stalked over to the balcony, where Sharon sat drinking tea. Oz and Alice stared, dumbfounded, for a while, until Alice turned to Oz with a speculative gleam in her eye.

"Hey, Oz…"

"Yes?"

"Why don't we…"

He would come to regret agreeing to this later. He would regret it very much indeed.

21818. 21819. 21820. 21821 –

"Alice!" he shouted. "Hey, come back here! We passed it!"

Blushing furiously, she returned to find Oz looking at cell 21820. It was a very large, imposing door, made of metal, and devoid of any bolts or locks. Its number was written on it in large, ornate white letters.

"I suppose this cell must prevent it from returning to Abyss," he said aloud. "It must be pretty bored."

Alice was frowning.

"Uh…so, how do we kill it?" Oz asked, poking her in the shoulder.

"There should be a lever on the door…or something?" Alice said haltingly. "Uh…"

"You didn't think this through at all, did you?"

"That was supposed to be YOUR job!"

"Fine, fine…" He trod closer to the cell. His boots made dull thudding noises against the floor.

"Go on," Alice urged.

He looked the door up and down. It was made of a kind of shiny dark wood. The white numbering glowed faintly in the dim light.

He laid his palms flat against the door, and pressed his ear to the surface.

Ba-dump. Ba-dump. Ba-dump.

"Oz?"

"Shh," he hissed.

"What –"

"I said shh!"

Silence.

"Why?"

"I can hear it," Oz said distantly. "I can hear it breathing."

"Oz –"

He pressed closer to the door, entranced. "I can hear its heartbeat –"

"OZ! The door, it's unlocking!"

His eyes snapped open, and he jerked away. Lines of bright blue light were spidering across the door, constructing a design that looked like –

"The tattoo of an illegal contractee," Alice whispered. "The seal that Pandora placed on the cell…"

The lights in the corridor snapped out, leaving them in darkness only illuminated by the giant, spiky seal searing its way into the door of cell 21820. Oz backed away.

He never got afraid. He chose not to fear. Ever. Just to accept what came to him. Just let it all wash over you. If you live, you live. If you die, you die. He was nothing and he shouldn't give himself value above his true worth. Never ever.

But right here right now his heart was beating wildly in his chest and his palms were sweating and his breathing was quick and raspy and right now it was fair to admit that he was absolutely terrified. The tattoo on his chest was glowing and pulsing and sending jerks of short, piercing pain through him, and he wanted more than anything to be out of here –

"Oz, I think we forgot something very important," Alice said, as the door began to swing open. She licked her lips.

"Oh, yeah?" he managed.

"Nothing," she said. "Just… that this thing hunts illegal contractees. That's not good. At all."

"You think?" he snarled, as the door banged open against the wall, and Dark Unicorn stepped out of the inky blackness of its prison.

It looked like a fairytale unicorn that had been taken from a storybook and warped and twisted until it was barely recognisable. It grinned at them with a long, distended mouth, sloppily stitched shut, and stared at them with gaping, empty eye sockets. Its ribs stuck out of its sides, as if it was starving. Its viciously sharp talons clacked against the floor.

Like Alice's boots. Clack-clack.

ILLEGAL CONTRACTOR… YOU HAVE RELEASED ME. I THANK YOU. The Unicorn grinned its horrible, fixed grin. DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS NEXT? It tilted its head. I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS…

It lowered its horn. A crackling, hissing bolt of purple energy shot from its tip, and struck Oz square in the chest, directly on his tattoo. He convulsed, eyes rolling back in his head, and screamed and screamed and screamed -

Alice shouldered in front of Oz, hands half spread as if to shield him, raised her chin, and glared at the Unicorn, violet eyes blazing.

"If I may address you, Dark Unicorn," she hissed, "do you know who I am?"

It peered down at her with empty, soulless eyes. I CAN SEE THAT YOU ARE A CHAIN.

"That's right. Who?"

YOU HAVE STRENGTH. QUITE A BIT OF IT.

"Say my NAME!"

I DON'T WISH TO OBLIGE.

"Well, no, you couldn't have known it, I'll grant you that," Alice said sweetly, words dripping with honeyed menace. "Not while you've been locked away in there…"

IT MATTERS NOT... YOU CANNOT STOP ME. I WILL BEGIN THE HUNT, FOR ALL THOSE WHO WOULD MAKE A CONTRACT WITH A CHAIN, AND I WILL SPREAD THE CHAOS… It seemed to laugh. It was a choking, shrieking, awful sound. SUCH BEAUTIFUL CHAOS.

"You don't know my name, then? Hmph." Alice grinned a merciless, humourless , pitiless grin. "Well, then. I see. I'll have to tell you."

The Unicorn stepped forward on emaciated legs.

"I am the Bloodstained Black Rabbit," said Alice, "and this is my property."

Summoning all the strength she had, she caused her scythe to materialise in one hand. Grabbing a shaking Oz by the collar, she slashed the floor. The blade carved through it like butter - once, twice, three times –the Unicorn lunged –

-and the floor collapsed. Alice fell, dragging Oz with her. Her scythe dissipated, and she gave the Unicorn an insolent wave.

For Oz, lost in a writhing sea of pain that he could not escape, it didn't feel like falling. It felt like flying.

xxx

Yeah, I know that the positions of 'lion character' and 'unicorn character' in Pandora Hearts are already taken, by Leon and Eques. I've been planning this story for some time, so this has been taken into account. Leon and Eques will play big parts in the story, as will the Dark Unicorn and the missing Other Lion. Watch this space!

I'm planning to update this story weekly, if time allows.

Review! Yes, I'm talking to you! It really keeps an author's spirits up, you know? It's the nicest thing you could do for me. Please, review. :)

Hope you enjoy the story!