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Chapter Twenty Three: The Mountain Pass

Sora took it upon himself to stand guard, as everyone else slept by the campfire. The bitter night winds chilled his bones, and he shivered with cold. Fortunately Fone Bone had a few blankets in his backpack, so Sora was at least a little warm.

He warmed up his hands as he stood up to investigate the area near the crevasse again. They were situated on a narrow plateau, which overlooked the desert they had just been in. Giant stone pillars surrounded where they rested, but it also provided valuable hiding spots for something hostile. He heard a noise and materialized his Keyblade. His heart began to beat faster as he noticed a small sliver of shadow from atop one of the stone obelisks. He steeled himself and leapt atop the stone structure, fully prepared to fight whatever was lurking there.

Strangely enough, he found nothing. He crouched there, glancing around to see where someone (or something) could have jumped so fast. It was only a few seconds before he saw a figure standing atop a stone obelisk a few feet to his right. “Nice night, isn’t it?” Sora slashed his Keyblade in the direction of the voice, only to see nothing. He shrugged, and then almost screamed when he turned around to be face-to-face with the stranger.

“You sound like you didn’t expect to find me here, Sora.” He recognized that calm, insidious voice. He saw how the stranger’s brown cloak fluttered in the dim moonlight.

“You! You’re the one from my island!”

“Well now, aren’t we the bright one? Yes, I’m the guy who helped blow up your island. Any other obvious bits of information you’d like to shout out to the world in an angry manner?” The stranger had a mocking tone, which only infuriated Sora even more.

“I ought to take out my Keyblade and kill you here and now for what you did!”

“Oh, come now. I’m sure there’s better ways we can spend our time. Like maybe take a walk up on the ridge just a few hours away from here. It’s got a great view... so long as you don’t accidentally trip and fall to your own untimely ‘splat’.” he grinned venomously.

Sora swung his Keyblade, but the stranger materialized his own weapon and met Sora’s with a shower of sparks. Sora gasped when he recognized the same sleek outline of the blade, and the small keychain on the end.

“You... you have a Keyblade?!”

The stranger smirked. “Of course I do. Otherwise, how could I do this?” He shoved Sora back with a surprising burst of strength and spun with a bone-breaking kick that sent Sora crashing to the ground below.

Before Sora could even stand up, he felt the stranger’s cold steel at his neck. “Don’t even move. Just listen. I didn’t come here to kill you. Actually, I didn’t even plan on being noticed. I just wanted to watch what happens when they get here.”

“Wait, when who get here?” His thoughts were cut off by a long howl that came from the ridge ahead. The stranger grinned and vanished. Sora jumped down from the obelisk and saw that the others were already waking up.

“Guys c’mon! We’re gonna get attacked any second now!” Sora urged them to get up, but they still seemed to be half-asleep.

“Aw Sora, we all know you could just take them outAAAAH!!” Donald’s sleepy protest evolved into a scream when his eyes nearly exploded out of his head when he looked at the ridge ahead.

Sora turned around and peered into the darkness. He could barely make out the shadowy forms of Heartless prowling in the darkness, their armored forms gleaming in the moonlight. They finally began to slither closer, and Sora could make out their entire form. They appeared to be wolf-like, except they were huge and had armor on their backs. Their eyes glowed pure red and the familiar Heartless symbol shone on their heads.

He carefully raised his Keyblade as Goofy and Donald readied behind him. Fone Bone nervously drew himself to his feet as the others drew into a tight circle surrounding him. The Heartless hissed as they prowled around the warriors, waiting for someone to make a move.

One of the Heartless became impatient and leapt forward at Sora, bearing its pearly teeth and claws with a howl. He raised his Keyblade in defense, but the Heartless never even reached him. A red blur moved in front of him and smashed the Heartless out of the air to the ground. The other Heartless hissed and moved away in alarm. Standing before them was a giant red dragon. It had floppy rabbit-like ears with hair on the ends, along with a goatee and a cigar in his mouth. In lieu of wings he had powerful forearms and legs that bristled with muscle. Smoke rose from his nostrils, and the smell of brimstone wafted through the air.

The Heartless from before slowly stood to its feet. It growled in a hushed tone to the other Heartless, and they slowly retreated into the darkness. When the last one had disappeared, everyone exhaled a huge sigh of relief. Sora walked over in front of the dragon and smiled. “Thanks for saving us, Dragon! Wait, I bet you don’t understand me, do you?”

The dragon leaned in front of Sora and spoke. “Why shouldn’t I be able to understand you? Aside from the pleasantries, you got a light?”

Sora failed to follow until he noticed the cigar in the dragon’s mouth. He flicked the Keyblade under the cigar and cast Fire, the lowest level so he wouldn’t burn the Dragon’s face off. The dragon nodded, “Thanks.” and in the next instant he was gone.

Fone Bone walked over and looked strangely at Sora. “That was just a bit weird. Do you have any idea what those things were?”

Sora nodded grimly. “Yeah. Those are Heartless. One of the things we’re looking to get rid of.”

“Well I can see ya do a fine job of that, huh?”

“Watch it, midget.”

The sun barely began to break over the horizon. Fone Bone and Sora looked up and decided not to engage in an argument. They headed with Goofy and Donald off into the mountains ahead, unaware of the massive red shape that was slowly tailing them from behind.

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