“Hey Ven! Over here!”
The light portal dropped Kiera and Ventus off inside a dimly-lit castle. The weather outside was dismal. It looked as though it hadn’t rained in months despite the heavy clouds above them. Unlike the first castle Kiera had encountered in the Dwarven Woodlands, this castle had a more somber aura, cold and filled with sadness.
As they climbed the old stone stairs, Kiera spotted a door that had been cracked open. Ventus paused and backtracked towards the door. Kiera cautiously gaped it wider. It was a bedroom, and lying atop the soft bed and purple drapes, was a woman, with flowing, curly blonde hair and a blue dress. She was sleeping.
“Wow…” Ventus breathed.
Kiera looked around.
“Strange. I wonder where everyone else is.”
She walked out the window and peeled outside. She gasped.
“Ventus, look!” She cried.
Ventus ran to the window to look. There were hundreds of people, men, women, and children, knights and commoners, lords and ladies, all corralled in the courtyard. But every single one of them seemed to be unconscious or asleep either slumped over, resting on things, or each other. Kiera grew suspicious.
“What happened to them?” Ventus wondered.
“I don’t know, but I don’t like it,” Kiera commented, “It’s like someone put a spell on the castle, and everyone in it.”
“You’re quite correct.”
Kiera and Ventus whirled around. There appeared three elderly women, one dressed in a reddish-pink color, one dressed in green, and the other blue.
“Stay away from the princess!” The blue one warned, hostily.
“Who are you, and how did you get up here?” The green one demanded.
“And how come you haven’t fallen under our spell?” inquired the red one.
“Woah! Slow down! We mean no harm!” Kiera cried, raising her hands in defense, “I’m Kiera, this is Ventus. We’re…not from around here. We stumbled upon this castle, and into this room where we found her.”
“What’s happen to her? Why is everyone asleep?” said Ventus.
“Oh, it’s a horrible thing!” The green woman sighed.
“Now hold on a minute! Are you sure we can trust them?” exclaimed the woman, “For all we know they could be working for Maleficent!”
“Now calm down Merryweather,” said the red woman, “They appear to have hearts of pure light, just like our little Briar Rose.”.
“Yes. Oh, where are my manners?” said the red woman, “We are the Good Fairies. I am Flora. This is Fauna and Merryweather. We are the godmothers of Princess Aurora.”
“Wait, didn’t you just call her ‘Briar Rose’?” Kiera asked, puzzled.
The three fairies exchanged hesitant glanced before Flora responded:
“Well, yes. That’s what we’ve called her the last sixteen years. See, when she was a baby, she was cursed by Maleficent-”
“-She was to prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a sleep like death on her sixteenth birthday” said Fauna, “The king told us to hide her away until then, away from Maleficent, to try and prevent the curse from happening-”
“-But we failed. As soon as we brought her back to the castle, Maleficent managed to trick her into pricking her finger-!” said Merryweather.
“-And until she is awakened by true love’s kiss, the whole castle shall sleep as well, until her return.”
“True love’s kiss?” Ventus echoed.
“It’s the most powerful thing in the world, dear” informed Fauna, “No spell or magic can ever hinder it. That’s why it’s important.”
“Hmm…the most powerful thing in the world…” Kiera echoed to herself.
“But now, someone’s stolen her heart!” exclaimed Merryweather, “If she doesn’t get it back, she won’t even have a chance!”
“That’s awful!” Kiera cried, “Do you know who did it?”
“We didn’t see it for sure. But we believe it was Maleficent’s doing. Her magic must’ve interfered with ours so we couldn’t see what happened” said Flora.
Kiera’s heart grew heavy..
“To have your heart taken from you, trapped in forever sleep. It must be so lonely. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened!”
She glanced at Ventus. She remembered the time when she, Terra, and Aqua first met Ventus. After his outburst, he fell into a coma. After he was taken to his room, Kiera never left him. She risked disobedience from her master to stay with him. She couldn’t explain how, but she felt a connection to Ventus. Leaving the room was terrmont to abandonment. She wouldn’t have it. Kiera had found ways to pass the time, and would read books aloud. Most of them were story books, tales of the worlds outside. If Ventus could hear her, she would make sure he wouldn’t be bored.
“One day you will realize, the stars you were chasing,
Shine bright deep inside you, but will you ever let it shine from within?
And cast all of your fears aside, you’ll see the light, but until that day comes…
My dearly beloved, be strong I shall be there,
Always here beside you, so keep your head held high,
The shadows of this world will try to steal you away into their arms, but you belong in mine.”
It was the only lullaby she remembered from her past.
“Well, then let’s go get it!” Ventus volunteered.
The three fairies were surprised.
“That’s impossible, dear. Maleficent’s home is at the Forbidden Mountain. It’s not safe” said Fauna.
“We can’t just leave Aurora like this. We can help!” Ventus insisted.
“That seems like a tall order, Ven. You sure?” Kiera wondered, “This Maleficent person sounds dangerous.”
“Of course! If we’ve got each other’s backs, we can make it!” Ventus exclaimed, then added with a grin, “I know I can count on you to have my back, right? And I’ve got yours!”
Kiera was hesitant, but nodded.
“Of course. You know I always do.”
The three fairies exchanged looks. Then Flora announced:
“You know, you’re absolutely right. The Forbidden Mountain is through the
forest. Follow us. After all, we wouldn’t want you to get lost.”
Ventus and Kiera nodded.
And with that, they exited the room, out of the castle, and into the wilderness.
The Enchanted Dominion was different compared to the Dwarven Woodlands. Every hedge, bush, and tree appeared to be perfectly shapen and symmetrical. It was dark, but not exactly gloomy. It was cool and calm. Wild flowers were everywhere and hills shaped like cylinders, and butterflies in blue, pink, and purple.
“Ven,” Kiera finally asked, “How come you left home in the first place?”
“Oh, uh…” Ventus started, but didn’t finish.
“You must’ve had a very good reason to leave, right?” Kiera added, “You made Aqua, Master Eraques, and I really worried.”
“Why? I can take care of myself!” Ventus suddenly snapped, “I’m not a kid anymore!”
Kiera was taken aback. Ventus hesitated for a moment, then turned away frustrated.
“After the exam, you’ve all been acting strange. It’s like you suddenly don’t trust me anymore, like I’m someone to babysit!”
Kiera bit her lip.
“I didn’t mean to act that way…” she said, her voice trailing off.
Ventus realized he may have been acting irrationally. He sighed.
“No, it’s fine,” Kiera responded, “I mean…I guess you’re half-right. We have been acting strange. The Mark of Mastery was a big step, and when Terra and I failed the exam…” She added internally, “After I ruined it…”
She paused before continuing, “It’s hard to figure out where to go from here…”
Finally, Ventus admitted, “Someone told me…that Terra-“ he neglected to mention what was said about Kiera, “-Was going to become a different person when he left.”
“What? Who said that?” Kiera questioned.
“It was that boy that fought us in the Badlands,” Ventus replied.
He stared at the ground.
“I had seen what happened to Terra at the Exam…that darkness…He was so heartbroken when he didn’t make it. I was afraid he’d…”
“That he would do something rash?” Kiera finished.
“Ven, there’s nothing to worry about,” said Kiera, “I’ve traveled with Terra to different worlds. He was tempted to take one of the pure hearts before, but he resisted immediately. He chose to let Snow White go!”
“What? You mean he was in the Dwarven Woodlands and I missed him?” Ventus groaned.
Kiera frowned. “I can tell he wants to redeem himself. I’m sure he’ll prove to Master Eraques he’s worthy of ‘Master’, and whatever happened at the Exam was just a…freak accident!”
Ventus glanced at Kiera, trying to mask his worried look. Terra wasn’t the only victim to a “freak accident.”
“Yeah…I guess…” Ventus replied, unsuredly.
Kiera thought for a moment.
“Well, the Master did instruct Terra, Aqua, and I to take you home…” Kiera said, “But I guess…we could take the long way back.”
Ventus’ eyes lit up.
“You mean it?” He exclaimed.
Kiera nodded. “Sure. At long as you promise not to do anything drastic.”
Ventus giggled and put his hands behind his head.
“I don’t know where you could’ve gotten that idea!”
Kiera smacked his shoulder, and the two laughed again.