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Seven: Dark Dominion
(2014-02-15 - 2014-02-16)
With the World of Ruin becoming more ruinous, a group of people have instead settled in the southwestern region of the Old Kingdom. But they found a strange mountain they don't dare to climb. So they've asked adventurers to check it out - to put their minds to ease.
Oathkeeper Dark Clouds have been hovering over the World of Ruin. And as such, some people have been leaving the world in fear of being cast into Darkness. It's a small sum of people. But they matter none-the-less. Cowards, one might call these people. The Old Kingdom has welcomed these people, who wish to live the simpler life. A far slimmer quantity of heartless roams these lands. And while magic may be far more scarce, knights do keep the people safe here and there!

But with this influx of people, there is also a need for founding a new village. And as such, people have started to work in the southwestern areas of the Old Kingdom. Previous unsettled since the fall of the conglomerate of worlds that came together here. Wooden frames have been erected. But people have also noticed the mountains nearby showing strange... signs.

And as such, adventurers have of course been asked to figure out just what the heck is going on! So welcome to the base of a long stretching mountain road littered with rocks and other objects that make travel harder, and clear the way for exploration!
Maira Having survived the fall of worlds before, she can certainly understand people wanting to leave. So when the call came, Maira was there to lend a hand. It was a lot like helping the refugees from Manhattan, which seems like ages ago but really wasn't. People needed food, shelter, healing...and hope. She figured she would do the most good setting up a healing tent where anyone hurt could come, and indeed she'd spent most of the day bandaging, making potions and using her magic to heal the people who came for help.

It was there that she first heard people's unease about the mountains, and that a group was forming to check it out. So, picking up her pack, Maira leaves the next most qualified person in charge and goes with the others to check it out. "Never a dull moment, huh?" she comments to her friends, flashing a smile.
Avira What better adventurers than VALKRYI? Waiting for jobs never really worked out so Avira and the others need to be proactive and TAKE jobs when they come up! Compared to all the world-destroying, Grid-infecting stuff that had transpired lately, this job, on the surface sounded somewhat simple.

But such things were never that simple.

For this mission, Avira's opted to go on foot. Walking for long distances used to be a tiring thing for her but since she is in so much better shape than she used to be, 'Rosalie' can easily hike this mountain path. "Actually, a dull moment might be welcome."

She seems distant, listening to something in her earpiece.
Deelel Deelel had dark clouds over her head already. Mara has been kidnapped by LEXUS and it put a real crimp int things, worse Java had been crafty enough to escape from her allies and the Black Guard. She had to give it to the criminal, he was smarter than some people in Clu's employ. Deelel has been out exploring to try to clear her head as she listens to music, likely acquired from DJ Zero. She just seems to trying to make her way but the road is well quite unsuited to light cycle travel. Worse her jet's still undergoing repairs from one of the few people she can safely take it to. She looks over to Maira for a moment and nods.

"No it never seems to, this world is chaos incarnate from my world's point of view. I'd welcome some fullness to be4 very honest.
Maira Maira didn't even know what had happened yet on the Grid, she'd come right here and had been busy all the while. But by the mood of Avira and Deelel, it wasn't good. "Heh...yeah, I would welcome a dull moment too," she replies to Avira, frowning in concern. "What happened, huh? You're both seeming pretty down," she says, linking one arm with Avira then the other with Deelel, looking between them in askance.
Mercade Alexander With how things have been going lately, Mercade has been wanting to stick to more familiar people lately. Like Avira. As much as he might be planning for a nice dinner and maybe a romanting night out, however, business calls.

So he's slogging along the mountains with Avira. If he can't spend a peaceful night with her, then he'll settle for the next best thing: Adventuring with her!

Mercade walks along with the others, working his way over the rocky road as he looks over their path up the mountain. "So this is the place, huh?" He stifles a sigh. "This is going to be an Evening, I think." He says, trying to keep himself on task. "Let's get this checked out. Sooner we get that handled, the sooner we can make sure it's safe for everyone."

Maybe he's still holding out hope of that dinner.
Oathkeeper A series of blue birds fly up in a small flock as the small group of adventurers approach. Other than that, the mountainpath seems pretty empty. Here and there are old signs of battle. Strange strikes against the walls and the ground. But they're too old to tell what they come from - or who might have made them. It's probably relief enough that there is not much in the way of Heartless here either.

Maybe there's a lone Shadow somewhere if someone wants to pop him into a cloud of darkness and reclaim some Munny. But really, it's hardly a reliable source of income unless one is a professional who is willing to wade their way through large groups of them in the far more dangerous areas of the World of Ruin.

Time to move forwards!
Maira Maira looks over her shoulder toward Mercade, smiling. Well, alright. Avira might rather be holding his hand. After all, maybe this would just turn out to be a lovely, peaceful walk!

Okay, probably not, but strange things do happen sometimes!

Maira lets go of the others and moves off to look at the strikes on the walls and path, investigating close, peering thoughtfully...

"Nope, no idea what these are from," she concludes, then walks on. Lightly, she begins to hum.
Avira But Mercade, this IS a romantic night out to Avira! Adventuring totally counts as a date! Though...maybe the pair of them should go do one on their own without other people around. (No offense, Maira and Deelel.)

Avira seems to be sticking by Mercade as they walk along...pretty closely out of obvious affection. "It's...ugh, on the Grid. I was investigating something to help Beck. Turns out it was LEXUS spreading weird weapons through a crime lord. He captured one of Beck's close friends during the fight. I kind of feel like I let him down 'cause I promised I'd look after her."

Max was also saying some...interesting things about her latest advertisement attempt for a business partner. But there was no sense in bringing that up. Mercade would have heard it all and know how down that was getting her.

"Don't worry, Mercade." she nudges the detective with a smile, "We can handle it." She points at the small flock of bluebirds that stir from the branches, "Look, bluebirds, that's a good sign."
Mercade Alexander If Mercade wanted to farm Munny from beating up Heartless, he'd have Will Sherman in his party. But Will, as much as he's a bro, is not on his To Party With list at the moment.

"That's a hell of a situation, Avira." Mercade says. "We'll find a way to make it work out, though. We can't let a setback get us too down." Mercade says, grimacing to himself slightly. IT's not like he hasn't had some setbacks of his own to deal with lately. Chin up.

He smirks at the sight of the bluebirds. "Bluebirds of happiness, maybe?" He chuckles. "Come on, Avira. Race you!" As he speaks, he suddenly bursts into a run up the rocky road, trying to gain some distance on the parkour master. "Let's go, everyone!"
Deelel Deelel has not brought it up yet but it seems like it's about to come up.

"All the problems on the grid were caused by LEXUS, he was apparently after a single program. Her name is Mara and she is a mechanic. I don't get why LEXUS' master would want them. What would Maleficent want with a mechanic program? She's already got LEXUS and his resources if she needed such skills."

She however looks over at Mercade for a moment pondering something and sighs.

"Your right, we need to do what we can, about the things we can change."

"It gets worse now a very unbalanced program is aware of what was going on too. I don't want to think about what Pavel might do. Tesler or Captain Paige would be easier to deal with I think."

She looks over to Avira for a moment "I know how you feel I feel the same way, we let him down. The Garage's staff isn't doing well. Far as you could consider things the programs there? Are one extended family."
Oathkeeper As the group continues up the mountain, signs of ancient combat grow a little. It's hardly something ominous however. It's more like a memory. A thick and deep memory of a struggle that once took place here. What is odd however, is when they get near the top of the mountainous pass. In the middle of the path lies a single crown... or diadem if you may.

It's not as old as the combat scars. But still, it has been here for a while. Somehow, there's the feeling that it had been abandoned as someone left this place. It's Maira out of all the people in this area who gets the greatest feeling of 'something' from that crown. Although Avira probably senses 'something' from it as well. Although it's incredibly hard to put a finger on what that 'something' is.

Perhaps what lies further up this path might hold the answer?
Avira "If Mara is where I think she is right now..." she trails off, looking kind of haunted. Her brief stay in the dungeons of Hollow Bastion was not pleasant. "Mmm-I can think of one reason why Maleficent would want a native girl from a unique world. But I could be biased and jumping to conclusions here."

Mercade challenges her to a race and speeds off, "-hey!!" she exclaims and takes after him, tiny little legs moving furiously to keep up with the detective. Kicking up dirt in her wake, she spies the diadem left discarded on the trail. It seemed old indeed and...

Weird. Avira can't put her finger on it. "Oooh." Unless someone gets to it before her, Avira will scoop it up as she runs along after Mercade.
Maira Maira frowns gently. "You did your best, how could you let him down if you did your best? It isn't like its over--I know you guys, and you will find a way to get her back. I'll certainly help if I can!" she says, reaching over to give Deelel's shoulder a squeeze. Maira has an idea why Maleficent would want this Mara person--just a mechanic? No one is 'just' anything. "Maybe she' know, like us," Maira says, looking to Avira for a moment.

Then Mercade and Avira run up ahead, and Maira laughs as they zoom past. No way will she catch up, but she jogs at least, keeping an eye out.

The signs of battle grow as they continue, and Maira stops once more, looking around, listening...a battleground may well be the sight of old ghosts. Maybe, she might speak to one.

As they continue however, they find a diadem discarded on the ground. That seems...really strange...something feels odd about it. "Avira wait don't--
Oathkeeper Nothing really happens as Avira picks up the Diadem. It seems to be safe. As for ghosts. Unfortunately, there are no ghosts to speak off. That is to say, not in this valley. A pity, perhaps. They could have told her so much.
Avira "What?" Avira spins the diadem around on a finger, "Seems fine to me."

Though Maira's earlier words. "Well more" Avira looks troubled, still bothered by the words of Shinryu. "I'm not sure if I count as a Princess of Heart anymore. It's probably better that way. I get into enough trouble already."
Mercade Alexander "Relax and think about it. There's always hope, as long as one can think. I've heard that line somewhere..." Mercade says, as he runs along. He laughs as Avira races with him. It is invigorating, a moment where he can forget things and just be the wind.

But that moment ends all too soon as they get up closer to the top of the path, where he slows down for a moment to catch his breath. "Heh. Nice find. I wonder why it's there? A diadem for the princess..." He says, before he turns. "We can ask about it later, let's get going and finish looking around." Dinner is looking more and more like a possibility at this rate.

Mercade waves to the others and continues leading the way, looking around at what's going on around him. He's curious, but he's no Isaac Hanlon or a Princess like Avira or Maira, he can't spot possible shenanigans like this easily.
Avira "But if it's still the case..." Avira says as she saucily puts the diadem on her head. "Feel free to call me queen, Mercade!" She laughs, then takes off again after the detective.
Maira Maira places her hands on her hips. "Don't say that--it belittles what you did and could still do," she scolds Avira. Maira will have no of this putting herself down thing! They take off again, and Maira huffs. Supposes its good exercise at least, though she'd much rather be--well nevermind. Maira moves to Avira again, coming to stand beside her. Maira reaches out for the diadem. "May I see it?" she asks. "I don't see any ghosts around...which is actually kind of weird, considering...but I might get something if I touch the thingy. I'm getting some kind of...I don't know, feeling from it. A pyschic impression maybe."
Deelel Deelel says "What do you think? I'd be an easier target with how often I'm off grid and LEXUS knows he can rip me apart in a fight.."

She looks at Avira she want to know why she truely want to know why. She haklts at maira's warning and wonders about just what /is/ wrong here.

"Queen Avira? I dunno you seem more like a Dame. Not one to sit around and be in court all day."
Oathkeeper As the group proceeds, they finally come to head on an enormously long pale gray bridge. There are charred marks across its body. As if a great blaze scorched over it, and then was wisked away. There's marks of dark 'green' that seems to be reminiscent of something from ancient times. But also something our heroes might have seen once before. Burried, faintly in their memories. A fact that refuses to surface, for it is so light a hint, that it doesn't resonate.

In the meantime, Maira tries to get a reading off of the Diadem. And she gets a read alright! A faint pale light beams out from the diadem, revealing the faint outline of a girl. It doesn't last long however. It is barely enough for the _single_ person present who has met this person to maybe recognize her. Deelel may recognize a certain blonde beauty not too unlike Cinderella: Aurora.
Mercade Alexander "Only if you're going to call me King!" Mercade retorts, chuckling himself. He moves forward, stopping when he gets to the Bridge. Huh. Wait a minute. Mercade's seen enough fire-blackened bridges to get a Bad Feeling when he sees one.

And he hasn't even played Dark Souls.

He kneels on the bridge, looking over the scorchmarks intently, and looks up. "Huh. This wasn't made by an normal battle. Look at the way the scorches move. It's like someone brought in a flamethrower in the middle of a medieval battle."

He stands, his expression darkening. "Or maybe a dragon." He looks out and around for a moment, proceeding cautiously as he walks the bridge.
Oathkeeper By the time either Avira or Maira reach the bridge, they might feel something. A darkness, somewhat faint. Is it sleeping? Or is it... something else?
Maira Maira jumps back a little in surprise as she touches the tiara, the projection of a young woman probably around Maira's age appearing very briefly. "Oh...who was that? Did you guys see that?" she asks.

Maira walks forward as they come to the bridge, her brow furrowing in, the tiara held before her almost reverently--the way any poor girl might hold something of such obvious value and significance.

With one hand she reaches out to touch the scorch marks, shivering as she does so. "Flames, green and dark...dragon..." Maira says quietly, distantly, memories cycling backward. "Maleficent."
Avira "...maybe I will call you king." Avira smirks at Mercade, following along and giving Maira a sheepish look. She doesn't want to argue about the whole princess thing at the moment but...well, maybe later. People seem to know something that she's missing about that.

Walking along, Avira actually misses the image from the diadem but notices the charred bridge. Her eyes squint a little and she looks ahead. Something about this felt..familiar? "What in a medieval battle would make fire? Torches...dragons...flaming arrows, maybe. Magic." She nods, agreeing with his assessment of a dragon and stiffening after as she realizes the implications.

Maira confirms those implications and Avira shivers. "But...clearly that fight was a long time ago. These markings all look very old."
Deelel Deelel looks at the bridge and wonders how stable it might be. She looks over the bridge for a moment longer an feels like she's maybe seen it once but that's strange. She can't find anything in her own memory indexes, but can not shake the feeling. The it its her as she recalls now she looks at the woman for a moment it takes a moment for her to put it together.


She ain't talking about the allied Siren either.

"I know her!"

She recalls the princess from a low tech world who had an uncanny way of at least getting the gist of more advanced things and a will to want to understand. She's not sure as she nears the bridge but she seems on edge.
Maira Maira looks to Avira, "I don't think time means a whole lot to people like Maleficent..."

Maira looks back to Deelel then, blinking. "You do? Who is she?"
Mercade Alexander Mercade just quirks an eyebrow at Avira's response, shooting a glance at Maira himself. He shakes his head as he crosses the bridge, looking out over the valley below with an intent expression. "Hmm." Doesn't seem like he has much to say in response to revelations yet.
Maira Maira leans over toward Deelel, as an aside; "I reeeaaally think those two need some alone time," she comments lowly, grinning.
Deelel Deelel says "I do know her her name is as I said. I encountered her back in Transverse Town. We spoke for quite a bit on things she was curious about worlds like mine. Even with as alien as it was, to her own."

At Maira's other words it takes the program half a second to click, but when she doe she get a predatory grin on her face.

"Yes, yes they do."
Oathkeeper At the end of the bridge stands a beautiful white castle. It almost seems to be floating in the air, the way it is at the end of the bridge. But it is, in fact, supported below by a tall hill. Who-ever decided to build a castle here was a genius... or a fool. Whatever the case may be, it seems like the castle is the end of the road. If our adventurers want to find out more, and set the villagers' minds at ease...

They'll have to approach the direction of that faint darkness.
Maira Grinning like a little fox, Maira looks to Avira and Mercade. Best get all this done so the two can enjoy each other's company for a while!

Maira walks on, the tiara still in one hand, looking up at the castle. "Beautiful...lonely and beautiful," she comments.

"Well, here we go," she says before taking off across the bridge to approach the castle, magic tingling in her veins, ready to be unleashed if needed.
Avira Avira frowns a little. Was her flirting really not hitting the mark?

They continue onward and reach the endge of the bridge which happens to be a large, white castle. Avira slowly removes the diadem from her head. "Well I don't think Maleficent is here." Avira says slowly, knowing she'd be feeling a lot more darkness if she was. Avira's kind of glad...ever since that fight in Manhattan, she's wanted to avoid that witch.

"Something feels familiar about this place. Shouldn't there be more....plants?" Pain shoots through her head and Avira cringes. "L-let's keep moving."
Mercade Alexander Maybe Mercade is just distracted at the moment. He remembers getting roflstomped by Maleficent before. Mercade looks over at the White Castle at the end of the bridge. "Well, if we're going to find answers, they're going to be in that Castle." Mercade comments, and waves for everyone to come along.

He doesn't even respond to Maira. He reaches out, and puts a comforting hand on Avira's shoulder. "Everything will be all right." He says, reassuring her.
Deelel Deelel says "Looks like we're going to need to head this way from the looks of things."

Deelel is feeling a bit odfd but she can't help but be in slightly better spirits thanks to the thought of Avira and Mercade having some alone time.

"Inded here we goo."

She rezzes her light staff out and takes to ising it as a walking stick for the moment.
Oathkeeper As they move further through the gates of the castle, they come into a courtyard. It looks like there may be life here. Not only because there is recent signs of use on a training doll nearby. But also because the birds and the does that walk freely through the area don't shy away from them. Perhaps that's why there are not as many plants here as there used to.

Or maybe when the thorned prison disappeared, so did the ability for this area to truly overgrow this area ever again.

Further up, there is an entrance into the actual castle. It looks like this place is absolutely /enormous/ on the inside though. And the darkness seems to come from within. From high inside of the building, though not the highest place.
Mercade Alexander Mercade looks to Avira and Maira as they get inside. Mercade, having all of the mystical senses of a pound of wet meatloaf, just lets them answer the question of where they need to go.
Avira Avira gives Mercade a worried look. It's strange, she rarely gets this nervous about adventuring anymore. Maleficent just brought out the worry in her big time ever since that last encounter.

That aside, she doesn't really seem able to sense anything, other than a strange familarity. "Oh, that's right. I think I saw this place in a dream once. But it was darker and full of thorns." Avira notes, looking around, then across the courtyard to the building. "...we need to go up I think."
Maira Maira smiles when she sees a doe just walking about. She would very much like to just sit down here and pet it. As usual though, they have to continue questing into the darkness for answers.

Maira looks up at the imposing castle, comparing it to other castles she's seen now. "Wow..." she comments. The darkness from inside makes her shiver, but she reminds herself that darkness does not /always/ mean something is waiting to eat you. Sometimes, darkness is just the place where things are waiting to be discovered.

Maira looks to her companions, shrugs, then approaches the entrance. "It looks like someone is here at least..." to Avira she raises a brow. "In a dream? Really?" she asks.

Upon reaching the door, well, she knocks? That's what you do when you come to closed doors.
Deelel Deelel is already inside with Avira and Maira and she's still seemingly on edge she's also taking great care to go over what she sees here. She's looking for signs of anything of notes.

"It does seem like someone is here. A Dream you say? It might be imporant, after all I had dreams proven to be real. You know most basics would consider me damaged or insane for a comment like that..."

Well theya re knocking and as Maira knocks? She calls out.

"Hello is anyone home?"
Oathkeeper Nobody answers the door. But as if by magic (or maybe it's just setting the air of the scene), the doors slowly open after Maira has knocked on the doors. The insides of the castle look beautiful. But it's also here that Maira will notice flashbacks of ghosts. Guards fighting and fleeing from wretched looking creatures. Not heartless. No. Far more wretched than that: Maleficent's creatures! Twisted visages of what might have once perhaps been called humanoid.

Long and ancient memories. Ones only Maira sees. Some of the 'ghost guards' protect the stairway that heads upstairs. Perhaps that is where they must go?
Avira "Yeah, in a dream. I get all kinds of super vivid dreams about a bunch of different adventures. Some of them repeat. The whole gummi ship thing was partially inspired by a was my first idea to become a sky pirate. Though Ivalice probably helped with that." Avira looks thoughtful. "The gummi ship is happening. I am calling it the Odin. I don't think Archades has an airship named the Odin so I'm going to name mine that."

She trails off and falls silent, looking around the room carefully. Since she cannot see ghosts, nothing really out of the ordinary catches her eye.
Mercade Alexander Mercade frowns as the door opens on its own. "Nope. Not spooky /at all/." Mercade says, sighing to himself. Dinner is looking less likely at the moment. "You have some pretty crazy dreams, Avira. But interesting ones. They can't all be bad, right?" He shrugs, and then smiles. "Come on, let's move on." He walks into the building, not seeing the ghosts even if his skin prickles, his teeth on edge, following wherever that Avira or Maira indicate.
Maira Maira blinks as the doors open of their own accord, but honestly this is hardly strange, considering the sort of company she kept for most of her life (that of the spirit variety). The familiar feeling of ghosts in the vacinity hits her as she moves inside, chewing her lip anxiously as she watches the ghosts reenact their struggle in this place. It's just an impression, feelings so strong they've made an imprint on the world, replaying for those who are sensitive to it. Maira is still and quiet for a moment, digesting. She takes a deep breath, then looks back to the others. "Up the stairs," she says.

When Avira explains her dreams, Maira's brow furrows. "Really? Why didn't you ever tell me this? Dreams are important you know...especially if they repeat," someone has been reading Jung apparently.

Maira moves to the stairs, looking to the ghostly guards. They may be just impressions left on the world now, but she acknowledges them with a smile and a curtsy before she moves up the steps.

"Can you imagine living in a place like this? I thought having my own room was luxury," she comments quietly.
Avira "I don't think they're bad or anything..." Avira trails off, looking at Maira. "Oh...well the dreams don't seem to be prophetic so they really didn't seem worth mentioning to you? They're fun and sometimes scary but not really hurting anything."
Deelel Deelel pauses at the ghosts, the memories of things past. She looks about making note of what she sees.

She is just looking to Avira now raising one eyebrow and she says nothing for the moment. She moves along feeling like what's the human term? Like she's walking on someone's grave.
Oathkeeper With Maira's instructions, the group finds their way up a long flight of circular stairs along the edge of the inner castle. It takes a while before they manage to find their way upstairs. But when they finaly do, they make their way into an enormous throneroom. It is truly /far/ too big for any one person to live in. Even a family would have a hard time making use of this much space.

And there, at the end of the big room, stand two thrones. One empty. Smaller than the other. And one made for a king - with a man sitting in it. A blackened dark shield, and a fully armored body. A crown that looks halfway like a helmet adorning his head. This man stares out at the group before him. A 'wisp' of darkness keeps rising from his shield arm. "It is not often I get visitors." The man's gravely yet young voice sounds through the throneroom.
Maira Maira groans softly as the stairs just keep going. Imagine carrying laundry up these things? Of course, the people who lived here wouldn't do their own laundry..

Maira moves into the enormous throne room, eyes widening in awe as she walks toward the throne. Of course, then she notices someone is sitting in it and jumps back a little, gasping her surprise before she settles herself, and looks to the man sitting there. She's still a ways back, so she moves closer to him before she returns his greeting. First, a curtsy, because he's obviously royalty, right? "I'm sorry to introdude, um, we did known. We didn't know if anyone was at, I'm Maira, and this is Avira, Deelel and Mercade--" Maira looks to his arm and the wisp of darkness that rises from it, her brow creasing in concern. "Are you hurt..?" she asks, motioning to his arm. "I'm a healer, I could maybe help," she offers.
Avira Dreams aside, up the stairs they go! Avira shows no sign of slowing, even after all that Mercade-racing and walking previously. She can GO THE DISTANCE!

Much to everyone's surprise, there is a person here. Given the darkness she was feeling earlier, Avira had assumed it was some lingering dark magic from Maleficent or maybe a lone Heartless left behind. But a person? She inspects this person carefully and...

Avira looks guarded but politely bows since she doesn't normally wear a dress (curtseying looks silly without a dress). "Hello. You wouldn't happen to be a dark knight, would you?"
Mercade Alexander Mercade climbs stairs.


The Detective looks around the throne room as they enter, his gaze inevitably drawn to the man in the throne. Huh. He gives a short bow and removes his hat for the introduction. "Mercade Alexander, Detective, your Majesty." Whoever it is, they appear to have some semblance of their mind left. It's not looking good for them, however. "We had received word of unusual occurrences up in these mountains and sought to determine their nature."
Oathkeeper "A Healer?" The man asks, gazing at the 'vent' of darkness in his arm, before shaking his head. "No, I am afraid I am far beyond the skills of a Healer." His voice continues along that gravely line, but never sinks far enough into the Christian Bale area of 'please take whatever you have in your mouth out of it'. The man lifts his head a little, glancing as Avira as she speaks.

At least they are all curtseying before him.

"A Dark Knight you say... perhaps such a name would be fitting for a man such as I now." The man seems to ponder this name for a good long time. Just sitting there, staring at nothing in particular. Something about this man seems off. Not in the 'evil man' kind of way. But more in the... sense that he seems to have lost something.

"They probably speak of me." The man finally answers Mercade. "I go out on walks now and again. I had noticed they are settling a village near the bottom of the mountains, so they drew my curiousity. Did I startle the people?"
Maira Maira inhales. "I'd like to take a look. I do have some tricks..." she says, looking again to the darkness. But she won't press it, not now. Something is not right here, obviously. An almost empty castle, inhabited by only this man? Yeah, something wrong for sure.

"You didn't startle them, I think they just wanted to know what was up here--yes, people are starting a village down there. They are refugees from other worlds, fleeing the Darkness," she continues, fidgeting with her dress a little before settling on clasping her hands behind her back.

"Um...who are you?" she asks finally.
Deelel Deelel keeps quiet now shakes her head a little bit as they enter, the place her eis vast and impressiv ebut no one person or small group could make use of all of this space. She looks at the man for a moment, and she wonders about him. He appears to be a dark knight but that doesn't make him a threat and he's taken no action agianst htem as they entered. She bows slightly as Avirta asks the question of his status.

"I see Sir Knight, and you seem ... damaged in more than just your apprent injury...."
Avira Maira beats Avira to the question she was going to ask. Instead, she folds her arms over her chest and patiently waits for an answer.
Mercade Alexander "We are not here to do any harm if there is none meant to the people who come to this land. We simply seek the truth." Mercade replies. "Would you be willing to tell us your story?"
Oathkeeper "You are correct. I am... damaged in more than what might be apparent. I went through an ordeal I would like to see nobody repeat." The man explains to Deelel, before he turns his attention to Maira. "My name, as I was once called in a time past, is Prince Phillip. Although that title seems to garner me little except for this castle you stand within right now." He makes a handmotion with his 'good' hand.

"You can tell the villagers they have nothing to fear from me."

The man then brings a hand to his chin. "My story you ask..." The man pauses for a moment, before he starts; "I guess my story starts a long long time ago... with the birth of a child to this kingdom. A girl named Aurora."
Avira A guilty look crosses Avira's face. She actually didn't assume this guy to be royalty just because he was sitting on this castle's throne. There was nobody else here. It could have been some guy that just took up living here. Avira had to admit if she was alone in a castle, she'd definitely take up sitting in one of the thrones for fun.

"Aurora..." Avira looks over at Deelel, who mentioned that woman's name earlier.
Maira Maira glances back at Deelel when the name Aurora was said.

Maira then approaches further, stubborn healer that she is. She's putting pieces together.

"You fought Maleficent," she says, then pulls out the diadem they found on the way up, offering it to the Prince. "We found this, it belongs to Aurora right? Deelel has met her," she says, then looks down at the darkness that rises from his arm again. "I really might be able to help...if its, well, sort of infected with Darkness..."
Mercade Alexander Mercade nods, patiently allowing the devastated man to explain what happened to him. He will not be interrupting.
Deelel Deelel says "I know her, I have met het traveling the worlds she was well last I saw of her, if we speak of the same woman."

Deelel tilts her head looking at Prince Philip for a moment she's curious. She thinks for a moment pauses and then moves to pull the disc off her back. The weapon does not power up, she fiddles with it. She's clearly got an alternate use in mind but she's going to wait till the man's tale is done.
Oathkeeper The man shakes his head at Maira. "Listen to my story, and judge afterwards."

"Also, it'd seem you've had the misfortune of meeting that accursed dark fairy. Then this tale will perhaps be important to you. A warning, if you may. If her, and those who gathered around her. I believe she called them her... Shadow Lords."

The man glances towards Mercade, and then towards Deelel. "You've met Aurora? Good. Then she is still okay. I wonder how much she still remembers... you see..."

The man proceeds to tell his tale. About the two fairies who blessed Aurora, followed by Maleficent's curse. The last blessing that turned her death into an endless sleep, and the promise of a True Love's Kiss.

He doesn't go into the history of Aurora as Briar. After all, he barely knows the tale. The fairies never had told him of that part of Aurora's life. He does however get to the part where she'd fallen into a deep sleep - along with the rest of the kingdom, and he'd traveled to come and save her. And then...

The tale of a kingdom asleep might sound... familiar.

"It was only through the help of a young boy and his blue haired friend that we were able to best Maleficent and stop the curse. A boy named Ventus, Keyblade in hand, defeated Maleficent. And not long there-after, a young lady named Aqua finally did another number on the Dark Fairy."

"For a while, we were safe. The court was alive and bustling with light. Aurora and I... we were in love. But then she came again. The Dark Fairy. She came, and took Aurora's heart." The man's expression furrows.
Maira Maira nods to him, taking a seat on the floor nearby, listening to the story, frown growing deeper as he continued. She glanced to her friends when certain names came up.

Maira's eyes widen when he says Maleficent took Aurora's heart. If she took her heart, was she still alive? Maira looks confused, but sadness is what rules her mien. "I'm so sorry..."
Deelel Deelel listens to the tale for a moment as she nods to the Prince.

"We have fought her several times, she's been casting entire worlds into darkness. She is what my people would call a virus."

She contiunes to fiddle with her disc once the tale is finished and she nods bringing up an image as she scrolls through her memories, wait she was the one who took the last slice of pizza at Valk HQ last week? Woops wrong memory index she brings up an image of the princess.

"This is the woman of which I speak."

She pauses at the next two names that are dropped.

"...Wait the keyblade knights? Were here too?"
Avira Avira listens quietly, her expression growing grim as Maleficent is repeated time and again. She moves a bit closer to Mercade, her hand finding his to squeeze tightly.

But those names, she looks to the detective. "Aqua...she was here before. And there were keyblade wielders before? Hmm." Strange, wasn't a similar thing depicted in those paintings at Cinderella's castle? "How long ago was it that Maleficent came?"
Oathkeeper Maira is right to question Aurora running around if she had no heart. For indeed, the story is not over yet. He looks up when Deelel shows the hologram of Aurora. "Yes. That is her..."

The man then looks towards Avira for some reason. Perhaps it's her question. Or perhaps it's something else. The way she's holding Mercade right then. "A few years ago. I'm sorry... I lost track of time. Aqua and Ventus were their names - indeed."

The man lets out a sigh. "Even when Maleficent took her heart, this kingdom never lost its light. Her presence was still here. Her body locked away in the highest tower. One might even say her... Spirit was still here. But it wasn't enough for me. I wanted her to come back to my side again..."

The man lowers his gaze for a moment, and then looks towards Mercade. "So I followed Maleficent. I don't know how I did it. But I forced my way through the 'barriers', I followed her into darkness without heed of my body or my heart. And so, I was cursed with this."

He holds up his darkness soaked arm.

"And I found my way into the depths of her new castle. A place without life, and filled with heartless. A true fortress. A... Hollow Bastion if you will. And once there, I took Aurora's heart back by force. But that attempt came at a price. Maleficent had already gathered allies. I fought, and found my way back here. But... when I finally came back."

He looks up towards the highest tower. "I thought it be best she didn't see me like this. That nobody see me like this. Every day, I struggle with this darkness. It tries to suffocate my heart. Even her light, when I let her heart return to her body, did not wash it all away."

His gaze returns to the 'audience'. "And so I am here now. Alone. Where I, nor the darkness, is any danger to anyone."
Avira "But...why? Why hide yourself from the one you love so much?" Avira sounds confused, "You went to hell and back for her. If she knows that, if she loves you, she won't care about that darkness latched onto you. She's going to see her hero prince and want that!"

Avira looks disturbed nonetheless. She's been to the Hollow Bastion. Even as a mutate, they overpowered her and dragged her into the dungeon. She is absolutely impressed that this guy broke into there and rescued his princess's heart, even with great personal loss to himself.

"It isn't good to be alone."
Oathkeeper "Because it physically hurts for me to be with her. And I don't want her to see me like this." Prince Phillip answers Avira. "I made up my mind about that a long time ago. But what's more... she never really wanted this life. When she was younger, she was just a peasant girl."

He makes a sweeping arm motion. "This isn't the life for her. And I can't just go around strolling out there in the world outside. Who knows what would happen. I've felt it. The feeling of losing control."
Avira "She never really wanted to live with you? Here? Is that why she's not here anymore?" Avira looks dejected. She already was a little down coming into this adventure. But now, after hearing all of this...

"No, this is wrong. Something must be done. Something /has/ to be able to be done about this. Somehow the darkness has to leave you."
Deelel Deelel thinks for a moment frowning she understand why he's isolated himself but Avira is right.

"If somethin can be done, we will seek out a way to cure you of this condtion or ease it. You have kept you mind where many would be mindless or lost to the darkness."

She closes her eyes and puts here disc back into it's dock.
Oathkeeper "It's not quite like that, little miss. I don't think she remembers. She found the castle empty, and she left it, knowing there would be a better place for her out there." Prince Phillip answers Avira. "Perhaps, if there is a cure for this, it will be found one day. But I don't think it'll be so easy. For now, all I can do is temper the darkness."
Avira " should talk to Angantyr about tempering the darkness." Avira mutters, wondering if that dark knight would have the time. No doubt just mentioning Ang's name will have an efect on Maira.

Otherwise, she gives Mercade a helpless look.
Deelel Deelel says "...Angantyr would be a choice for help, yes."

"She was exploring when I last saw her. I wonder if she was seeking help, she asked me quite a bit about what I am and where I was from. Do not give up hope, we will not forget this."
Oathkeeper "I am glad to hear she is well. If you meet her again... well..." He pauses for a moment, before he shakes his head. "Well... I just hope she'll remain well." He smiles a little. "For now, I think it's best you folk be on your way back home. Night is coming, and the mountain pass can be treacherous during the dark."
Mercade Alexander Mercade nods. "I can see why you would believe that. In your position... Well... I can't say I hadn't had similar thoughts on occasion. My world was destroyed while I was held captive by a Shadow Lord, and all I could do was watch." He looked down for a moment, and shook his head. "It's important that you keep remembering what keeps you going. I am sure she will want to see you, if she knows you still live. Have faith in those you love... It was all that helped me, back then. It is something that will help you too." He smiles faintly. "Hold onto that light. We will find a way, your Majesty." Mercade bows again.
Avira "Keep holding onto hope...we will figure out something eventually, alright?" Avira manages a weak smile to Phillup and tightens her grip around Mercade just a little bi tmore.

This scene contained 75 poses. The players who were present were: Oathkeeper, Mercade Alexander, Avira, Deelel, Maira