A Kingdom Hearts fan fiction story
by Aaron Bergman.
Disclaimer: Look, we all know what the deal with Kingdom Hearts is. It's a joint Squaresoft/Disney venture, and one company or the other owns rights in some fashion to every character in this story.
"Welcome to the Hall of Lost Heroes."
Well. She was obviously expecting me to be shocked and surprised at her words; however, I had better things to do with my time than maintain a thin pretense. I smiled up at her and sat up, wincing slightly at expectation of pain in protest of my movement.
My eyes widened a bit as I felt nothing, aside from a slight soreness in my side. Now THIS was surprising. Considering what I remembered of the crash, I surmised that someone had cast a healing spell upon me in the recent past, or perhaps used a device to accelerate cell regeneration.
"Thaht's about what I thought. Garsh, what did you say this world was called again?"
She blinked at me, looking a bit surprised at my admittedly nonchalant attitude in being a stranger in a strange land. "This is… the Hall of Lost Heroes. My name is Rydia, newcomer. What is yours?"
"M'friends call me Goofy, and since almost everyone's my friend, y'kin call me Goofy! Hyuk!" A wide grin seemed to reassure her, and she smiled shyly.
"Very well, then… Mr. Goofy." The young woman brushed a strand of fine green hair from her face and moved away from me, sitting on another bed nearby.
As I looked around my new surroundings, it became clear that I was in some sort of a semi-permanent infirmary, with ten beds arranged in two lines along the longer walls. A window in one end of the room was open, as well as the door on the other end, thus creating a fragrant breeze that reminded me most pleasantly of our stay in Tarzan's jungle.
"Hey, where're Sora and Donald?"
She cleared her throat quietly. "Your companion, Mr. Donald, left this morning in the company of Mr. Fatima— er, Bart, and Darkwing. This area is dangerous for the uninitiated. Who is Sora? You two were the only ones we found on the Welcoming Green."
I absorbed that for a moment. This young woman — Rydia, had she named herself? Yes — seemed sincere in her statement that only Donald and I had been found. Sora, it would seem, was absent…
"Welcomin' Green? What about our gummi ship?"
She blinked. "'Gummi ship'? I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. Goofy."
I winced as I swung my legs out of the bed. "Shucks, no need fer that mister stuff, Miss Rydia, I'm just plain ol' Goofy."
She reached out and patted my knee. "Then I'm just Rydia, Goofy."
I stood up and offered one hand to Rydia. "Garsh, d'you wanna show me around? I'm sure Sora'll show up sometime. He always does!"
Sora knew pain as though it were an old friend. Ever since he'd been sucked from his peaceful island home and cast adrift, the quest for his friends the only anchor he had to cling to, the young man had endured incredible hardships coupled with frequent injuries, and experience had lent him some ability to judge those injuries.
Sora's entire body was numb, with only slight tingles coming from his limbs as a reminder that they were still there, and he knew what it meant: That he was going to be in a great deal of agony very, very soon.
"Are you awake?" A woman's musical voice intruded into Sora's detached contemplation of his immediate future with the smoothness of a razor. The woman's — no, she was a lady, she had to be, with a voice like that — every word was beautiful, her voice sliding up and down in a way that made the simple sentence a lovely song that mingled concern and hope in equal measure.
Sora opened his eyes and nearly lost control of his stomach as he found the entire world to be a sickening blur that blurred together everything into a swirling mélange of colors. The young man closed his eyes again and for the next few moments restrained the urge to vomit all over himself.
Once he felt ready to speak, Sora asked weakly, "Wh… where am I?" The sound of his own voice, tortured and thin, a harsh rasp against the soreness of his throat, told the tale of how badly he'd been hurt.
A soft hand stroked his hair away from his forehead, and for a second he imagined that it was Kairi comforting him; just as she had a long time ago when Sora had caught a disease which had left him bedridden and weak for days.
The illusion shattered when the mysterious lady spoke again. "In a safe place, the only place that is safe any more." This time, her song was of deep and abiding sorrow, quavering at the edges with a knowledge of grief that was beyond tears, and Sora felt a prickle in his eyes at the sound of her voice.
Resolutely, he continued questioning. "Where are my friends?"
A long silence followed, and the lady's soft hand stilled, resting gently just above Sora's brow. Finally, when she spoke, the notes in her voice were reluctant, the song muted. "…I'm afraid you were the only one that I could rescue."
"WHAT?!" Sora sat straight up, his eyes open and searching for the face of his nursemaid, resolutely ignoring the way that the world whirled and shook as he moved. For the first time, he caught a glimpse of the lady who was soothing him.
She was nothing more than a blur of golden-green long hair that mingled with the pale colors of her dress and face, but the impression of huge eyes that glimmered and shone woefully impressed themselves upon his mind. Sora closed his eyes again and felt a tight choking in his throat that he fought back. I won't cry, I won't!
One smooth hand caressed his cheek, then rested lightly on his shoulder. "I can't express how sorrowful I am that I was only able to save you, young Master—"
At her comforting song that offered surcease and acceptance, Sora lost the battle against his tears. They flooded forth from his eyes, and he bowed his head away from her face. "My name… is Sor-r-raa…"
Gentle arms enfolded him and held him close as the realization that he was once again alone, utterly and completely alone, crushed him. Soothing scents of medical herbs, a sweet perfume, and freshly washed hair swept over him as he buried his face in her shoulder and wept uncontrollably. "There, there, Master Sora. It's all right to cry. Everyone does it, their first night in this place."
True to her word, Rydia led me out of the small hall where I'd woken up. I shielded my eyes from the bright glare of the sun and peered curiously at the ramshackle buildings around me.
My first impression was a… less than positive one. It seemed to me that all of the buildings had been thrown together seemingly without care for anything but a temporary shelter from the heat, showing no true craftsmanship and even less care or maintenance. Several desultory children playing in the streets almost aimlessly, and a shaggy dog resting in the sun, were the only prevalent signs of life as we strolled down the dirt street that meandered through the huts. The place had a mood which somehow threatened even my own ever-present smile, making me feel almost glum.
Taking in the wider view, I saw that the village was in a clearing of sorts, most of the huts being based around and between trees. A mountain dominated the landscape, though if I judged correctly it wasn't a truly huge upthrust. Despite the variety of trees that grew in and around the village, the mountain was bare to the rock, as though they refused to grow upon it.
The world was warm, almost tropical, without the true oppressive heat I remembered so well from the jungles (There had been moments in which I'd envied Sora for lacking any fur save atop his head!) Rydia stepped out onto a path that lead from the small clearing.
"This way is to the cove. Shall I show you it?" Her smile faltered after just a moment's existence. "It's… beautiful, I guess."
I nodded and laughed, trying to jolly her up a bit. "Garsh, that sounds great!" Unfortunately, my attempt failed to bring her spirits up even slightly, and she turned away without another word. Shrugging, I followed her into the almost-forest. There would be other chances to cheer her spirits, if I just waited for the proper moment.
If it's one thing I'm good at, it's waiting. Of course, all you need to do some serious thinking is time and quiet; who needs to be impatient when you can ponder anything your mind turns to?
A large pig sitting on a log looked up from the block of wood he was listlessly whittling at our approach. The tattered remains of a khaki uniform covered his wide frame, and he peered out from underneath a fedora that matched his uniform as he nodded to my guide. "Hey, Rydia."
She half-turned and indicated me with a slight gesture. "Hello, Mr. Russo. This is Mr. Goofy, one of the newcomers. Mr. Goofy, this is Mr. Russo."
He waved one hand and winced visibly. "Please, just call me Porco." He sounded so like myself, just a few minutes before, that I gave him a companionable grin. He returned it and said, "Welcome to the afterlife, Goofy. I was expecting something a bit more entertaining from the brochures, weren't you?"
My brow furrowed in confusion, the momentary grin gone. "What're y'talkin' about?"
A frown appeared on Rydia's face and she glared at Roy. "Mr. Russo, you know how confused we all were when we first came here. Mr. Goofy probably hasn't quite realized what's going on yet."
Porco nodded again, this time apologetically. "Got it. I am sorry, Goofy, I did not realize how new you were. I've been up on the mountain the last few days, just… thinking." With a thoughtful air, he fingered an old scar that matched a tear in his sleeve, and Rydia moved on without another word.
Soon enough, we arrived at the cove she'd been guiding me to. Indeed, her description of the cove as 'beautiful' failed to do it justice. Crystalline water danced over the glorious multihued miniature reefs and undersea forests that waved in a hypnotic, repetitive motion. Beautiful fishes and other aquatic life darted, half-glimpsed, amid the splendor of that watery jungle. Rydia led me up to a small promontory that arched over the cove, looking down into the water and motioning for me to do the same. However, I didn't enjoy the cove as much as I should have, distracted as I was by musings upon the town's subdued mood.
After perhaps five minutes of wandering near the truth, the answer occurred to me so suddenly that I accidentally spoke my thoughts aloud. "Garsh, everyone's so sad!"
Rydia looked over her shoulder at me, and armed with my new knowledge of how everyone here felt I saw her as if for the first time. The slight quaver of her chin, the glistening of her eyes, the way that her gaze shifted away from mine ever so subtly… all of those bespoke the way that she was barely holding back the tears. Still, she kept a brave face as she nodded once and said, "Yes. This is a graveyard. Or perhaps it's Purgatory, eternity's holding pen for all of us trapped here."
Rydia sat down on a large rock that had been sculpted into a crude bench, and I sat beside her. She looked up from the water and scanned the beach for several long moments, letting silence hang between us.
When the young woman finally spoke, it was as if each new word was a terrible burden, one that she regretted having to share. "All of us here were once heroes, defenders of our worlds. I…"
She flashed a brilliant, though brief, smile. "I don't have time to tell you my story, but don't get some of the others started on theirs, they'll never stop talking!"
The smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared. "Each of us were the first in line against a mysterious, shadowy enemy that swarmed our world, attacking without mercy, stealing the life from our people. And…"
Against Rydia's will, her mask began to crack, her chin shaking as emotion besieged her. "And each of us…" Tears began to well from her memory-darkened eyes. "Each of us… were the last to die, swallowed by the darkness."
Her face went into her hands and she wept uncontrollably, her next words barely interpretable. "We f-f-fought to the last, and it wasn't good enough…"
She lifted her head and wailed to the pure azure sky, "I WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH!!!" After that despairing cry, she put her face back into her hands and wept uncontrollably.
I put one arm around her and said comfortingly, "The Heartless ain't easy to fight, Miss Rydia. They eat hate… they eat fear… but most of all, they eat doubt. Garsh, if you doubt, even for a second, even for a teensy bit of a second, that you can beat 'em, then they've won."
She turned away from her hands and burrowed her face into my shoulder, so I stroked her hair as comfortingly as I could. She sobbed, "B-b-but I n-n-never doubted… and I still lost…" Her hot tears soaked through my vest. "All my friends… Leviathan, the Sylphs, Bahamut… I can't hear them any more, I can't call them any more… they're gone." She lifted her tear-soaked face to me. "Why am I not with them? Why am I being punished?"
I didn't answer. I couldn't answer. For long moments, she looked at me. As she turned her head back into my shoulders, a terrible, terrible theory spread dark tendrils in my fertile imagination.
It was a theory that I could never tell her. From what I could see, the memories of those last moments still haunted her too terribly to share the truth of why she was here. It could destroy the poor girl to know why her friends, whomever they were, were not trapped here with her.
I could only hope that I was wrong.
At the shout, Rydia turned away and her tears dried up, as if she were closing away some part of herself that, for some unknown reason, the young woman had let me glimpse briefly. That begged the question of why me, but sadly, as Donald was approaching rapidly with two rather mismatched companions in tow, it seems the answer would have to await a more opportune time.
One was a tall, slender blonde man with darkly tanned skin, who had an eyepatch rakishly placed over one eye and a whip coiled up upon his belt. The other was another duck much like Goofy, but was dressed quite tastelessly in a giant purple hat with matching purple cape and suit; an outfit most unsuited for this weather.
Before either of the newcomers could say a word, Donald seized my arm and motioned with a jerk of his head towards the forest. "I NHEED to talk to yhou!"
I graciously nodded to Rydia. "Shucks, if y'll excuse me for a moment…" I stood slowly and followed my avian companion to the edge of the jungle.
Once we stepped within its borders, he turned to me and hissed urgently, "All these pheople here are Summhon Ghems!"
I nodded once. "Yep, that's about what I thought! Garsh, ain't it great that we—"
"Kheep it down!" Donald held one finger to his beak and I followed his gaze to the threesome that we'd left standing around. Rydia had stood up just after I'd left and was talking quietly with the two strangers. "They dhon't know what they are, and they think that this place is punishment fhor—"
I interrupted. "Fer failin' to hold back the Heartless." A dozen remembered comments from my conversation with Rydia came back to me, and I gasped. "Garsh, maybe they think that we're—"
"They do, Ghoofy." Donald leaned closer. "And there's nho sign of Sorah or the Ghummi Ship anywhere! Whe're trapped here."
"We gotta find Sora, Donald."
Donald nodded solemnly. "I know, Ghoofy, I know."
To be continued.
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