Diclaimer: Don't own Kingdom Hearts or Disney.

"Children are amazing creatures. They can forgive without conviction. They're ignorant to the world; and, yet they understand it a whole lot more than we do…"

Days of Darkness

"The Heartless are coming!" Mass hysteria hit Salem like the thousands of Shadows swarming the streets. People ran away in vain except three elderly women. They watched with satisfaction at the chaos around them.

"AH ha ha," laughed the oldest woman. She wore a long, heavy velvet green dress, with a navy blue collar. She was cloaked in an emerald green cape with the cowl covering her head. Her puffed up gray hair was a mess. "Look, sisters! See how they flee from our powers; and, soon they will marvel us for our youthful beauty!"

"But, Winnie," whined Mary, one of the other women. She was the stockiest and the shortest of the three. She wore a red dress the size of a small tent and a golden cloak. "What about the children? We only managed to call four. One was too old already. And another escaped. Not to mention thou turnst the third into a cat."

The third sister counted on her fingers stupidly. She wore a raspberry dress with see-through sleeves. The skirt was torn to the thigh in several places. Her purple hooded cloak hid her long white hair. "That leaves one child!"

"One child is all that's needed to make us young again," said Winnie. "I've already given her the potion. Come! We must drink her life force while the moon is still full."

They turned to the ancient-looking cottage set deep with in the woods. Inside, the vast open room was stuffy due to the smoldering cauldron in the middle. Next to the cauldron sat an enormous tattered book. It had no title but Winnie stroked it gently as she passed. What was supposed to be a buttoned clasp opened to reveal a single eye. The eye glanced up at its adoring master.

"Didst thou have a pleasant nap, My Precious?" she asked the unnatural book. She turned toward the young girl who sat in a trance behind her. The girl wore a white nightgown and an eerie white glow engulfed her body. "It's time, sisters!"

All three women surrounded the child and began drinking the glowing substance surrounding her. The more they drank, the more the light began to dwindle and the more the child's head dipped lower to her chest. When they finished, the light disappeared and the girl's head bowed to her chest; she no longer showed any signs of life.

"Look, Sisters! We're young again," said Winnie. She looked in a mirror. Her hair was no longer white but a deep red. But the terrible make up job still gave her the look of a middle aged woman with permanently pursed lips. "Well, younger…"

"I'm beautiful again!" said the youngest. Wavy blond hair flowed down her back and bounced as she danced around the room.

"Sara! Get a hold of thyself!" cried Winnie as she hit her in the stomach.

Suddenly pounding sounded on their door. "Witches! Daughters of Darkness! Open this door!"

"Hide the child!" Winnie whispered quickly. Sara and Mary tore the tablecloth off the nearest table and threw it over the girl.

"Witches? There'd be no witches here, Sir," said the stout witch in a fake voice.

"Don't get your knickers in a twist!" growled Winnie furiously. She went to the door and pushed on it to make sure the intruders outside couldn't get in. Mary and Sara followed frantically behind. "We are just three kindly old spinster ladies—!"

"—Spending a quiet evening at home—," added the middle sister as she threw her weight at the door.

Without thinking, Sara shouted at the top of her lungs, "Sucking the lives out of little children!"

"AHH!" Winnie turned and wrapped her fingers around Sara's neck. Mary forced her back to the door to keep everyone out. As she did, she looked up and cried out in surprise.

A man in black and red armor jumped from the second floor balcony. He stood six feet tall and his blue eyes pierced through the dim light. The three sisters huddled together as the mysterious man pointed a key-shaped sword at them.

"Keyblade Bearer!" hissed Winnie as she recognized the sword.

The brown-haired man pulled the tablecloth off to reveal the child. His eyes flashed with emotion. He turned to the witches and said in a deadly voice, "Winifred Sanderson! You have much to answer for."

Behind them the door burst open and the village men all piled in the house. A single man broke away from the group and stumbled toward the prone child, "Emily!"

He shook her in a frantic attempt to draw some kind of response form the girl. No answer. Tears spilled down the man's face and he pulled the child close. The Keyblade Bearer turned his head in shame as a painful howl came from the child's father. He never heard something so terrible in his life before and now he was sure this wasn't the last time: He failed to protect this world from darkness and he failed to protect the children who fell victim to the witches.

While the villagers dealt with the witches, the brown-haired man went outside. He walked the entire perimeter of the cottage in hopes of finding a hint of what happened to his charges. He found nothing but a few lingering Heartless. They lashed out at him and he retaliated by sending streaks of lightening through their bodies. They vanished in a cloud of darkness and the hearts they captured returned to their rightful owners.

Just as he turned back toward the house, three figures burst out of the forest behind him. One was the village leader's son, a young boy who always seemed to be in a permanent daze. The second was Ansem's young apprentice, Xenahort. And the third and smallest was the small mouse with large black ears, Prince Mickey.

"Sir Malikai!" cried Xenahort. "There's something you must see immediately."

"Have you found them?" Malikai turned to the apprentice with hope. The young man hesitated. Malikai glanced at the boy, who looked to the ground. Fearing the worst, he turned to Mickey, his closest friend and partner.

Feeling his friend's silent pleas, Mickey sighed, "I'd rather not say…At least not here."

"Take me to them," said Malikai firmly.

Mickey beckoned toward the forest and they ran. Xenahort and the boy followed behind them. Minutes later, they arrived at a small alcove. The trees surrounding the area looked charred.

'There was a struggle here,' thought Malikai. He looked around and a gleam caught his eye. He walked across the enclosure and pulled a red and black keyblade from an old oak. There was no need for more clues. Malikai knew what happened here: He failed his charges. They had been swallowed up by the Darkness.

"Winifred Sanderson," said a solemn looking man. He was the same man who clung to his daughter's lifeless body not three hours ago. Beside him was his wife. No tears escaped her; instead an emotion-numbing shock was on every inch of her face. No words can possibly describe a mother's loss.

"Yes?" Winifred and her sisters were brought to the village center and strung up on the crooked old tree that served as the gallows. She was unnaturally calm about everything.

"I will ask thee one final time…"


"What hast thou done with my son, Thackery?!" the man's voice broke.

"Thackery?" Winifred screwed up her face in mock concentration, "Hmm."

"Answer me!"

"Well," Winifred couldn't contain herself any longer. She burst out laughing. "I don't know! Cat's got my tongue!" Her sisters started laughing as well. When they were done, Sara fidgeted on her barrel and said, "This is terribly uncomfortable. "

"Have you any last words?" asked Malikai. He felt nothing for the witches and was glad that this ordeal was almost over.

"Sisters," said Winifred. "Sing. Ah…"



In a monotone chorus they sang: "Thrice I, with mercury, purify and spit on the twelve tables."

"Don't listen. Cover your ears." The outburst caused chaos among the crowd.

The village leader's son, who held the witch's spell book, almost fell into a trance. Emily's father grabbed him and shouted, "Listen to them not!"

The boy snapped out of his daze and dropped the book as he covered his ears. As it hit the ground, the book opened on its own accord and began flipping its pages until it landed on a spell that got Winifred's attention.

"Fools! All of you! My ungodly book speaks to you," she shouted to the crowd. The villagers were too scared to get any closer; but, Malikai charged forward to try and close the book. He got his hands on the cover and a serge of electricity shot through him. It hit with so much force that it tossed him back and left him in a tangled heap. "On All Hallow's Eve when the moon is round, a virgin will summon us from under the ground."

Mickey and Xenahort ran to Malikai's side. He winced as he sat up. Many of his limbs refused to work. Winifred sneered at him from her perch as she finished the spell. "We shall be back. And the lives of all children will be mine!"

Thunder erupted as the sisters cackled despite their predicament. Emily's father signaled to the hangmen and they kicked the barrels out from under the witches. They fell at the same time and a single crack rang through the night.

The bodies of the witches were disposed of. Emily's father offered his condolences to Malikai, "They were good friends to Emily and Thackery. I will miss them as much as my own children. Hast thou found their bodies?"

"No." Malikai shook his head. "I apologize. If I had been on top of things: Emily and Thackery Binx would still be alive. They all would be."

"None of this is thy fault, my friend," said Mr. Binx firmly. "Thou art not to blame! Please go and be at peace. And don't be hard on thyself."

Mr. Binx left to tend to his wife, who still said nothing about what happened. As he passed, Mickey showed up and said, "I'm sorry about Thackery and Emily. I sure am gonna miss them…"

"Thank thee, Your Highness. Thy words hearten me."

Mickey walked up to Malikai, who stood staring up at the crooked tree. "Malikai? Are you alright?"

"I'm finished," he said after a long silence. "I'm not worthy of being the Keyblade Master anymore."

"What?! But you can't quit! So you made one mistake—."

"A mistake that cost four children their lives."

"Malikai…" Mickey watched his friend sadly. Malikai was trying not to show his inner turmoil.

"A mistake like that should not have happened on the Chosen One's watch— On my watch." He summoned the Keyblade and looked at it in silence. With a pained expression, he pointed it at the sky. A key hole appeared in it and a spiral of light cascaded down toward the Keyblade. It engulfed Malikai's hand and swallowed the sword. "It's time the Keyblade chose someone else."

As the Keyblade faded away, the warm sensation Malikai felt while holding it disappeared as well. He let his hand fall to his side; but his gaze lingered in the sky as if to keep the Keyblade's image in his mind.

Finally, he let out a sigh and turned away from the tree. He made to leave, but, at the last minute, turned to Mickey and said, "When the Keyblade reveals itself again, promise me you will help who ever it's chosen."

Mickey hesitated, trying to come up with some argument to convince his friend to not give up. But coming up with nothing, he finally gave in, "I promise…"

"Thank you, Your Majesty." With that said, Malikai left.

An obeah woman walked through the forest in the dead of night. No one was around to disturb her business. No one except Xenahort.

The silver-haired young man came back to the Sanderson House and the alcove to figure out what happened during the day's tragedy. He wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't looked up from the spot where Sir Malikai slaughtered the Heartless. Not sure of her intentions he followed her back to the alcove.

As the mysterious woman stepped into clearing, she looked behind her. The apprentice was forced behind a tree. She looked around before heading to the middle of the clearing.

"I know ya are following me," she said aloud, addressing Xenahort. "So why don't you come out from behind dat tree."

Xenahort walked cautiously out to meet her.

"Who are you?" The woman knelt on the ground to examine it.

"My name is of no concern to you." She pulled something out of the folds in her dress and brought it to her mouth. Whispering in an unknown language, she put whatever it was on the ground. A second later, Xenahort felt something brush past his foot.

"But you…I know you." She didn't look at him, but said in a clear tone, "Xenahort. Your ambitions will destroy all your master has worked toward. And you will bring this and all other worlds into darkness."

For a moment, Xenahort didn't understand what she said. Then all he said was, "Well thank you for the warning—."

"It was not a warning," she cut in. "I was stating a fact."

Angered by her dark prophecy, he demanded, "What is your purpose here?"

"To set the future in motion." She stood up and raised her arms toward the heavens. "Hear me, O' Kingdom Hearts. Today you took what was rightfully yours. You hold with in you the key to uniting both Light and Darkness. I ask that you release it to me so that the worlds may once again be at peace!"

The clouds parted to reveal the moon; but it was different: It was shaped like a heart. Xenahort watched in awe as light shot from it to the ground. It so blinding that he had to cover his eyes. But the woman was not fazed; she grinned as the light presented her with the key. A small child floated unconsciously four feet off the ground. Suspended above her was an eerie blue light. As the light died down, it revealed a crystal object that was severely cracked and, in many places, pieces were missing.

When she saw the state of the object, the woman shook her head and frowned, "So much pain. These scars may never heal."

Though he couldn't see, Xenahort heard every word. He wondered what she was talking about. Behind them, there came a sort of scuttling sound and what sounded like small padded feet.

"Well done, my precious. Here is but another who has suffered much tonight. I am afraid I cannot break your curse for it feeds on the guilt in your heart." Xenahort tried to open his eyes; but, the light was still too bright and he was forced to close them again. "You must first forgive yourself and that takes time. So to help you bear your burden, I put in your care this fragile piece. Protect it at all costs, for it is needed to set things right…Ya best be getting along…I cannot hold the gate open much longer…I fear that days of darkness will be on us all before long…"

The strange woman's voice died away. As Xenahort tore open his eyes, he realized that he was alone in the alcove. There was no sign of the woman or the strange light from the sky. He looked up and the moon was normal once again. With more questions than answers, he stormed away from the accursed place. The woman's stern voice still echoed in his head. You will bring this and all other worlds into darkness…

In bushes, just a few feet away, was a black cat with sad eyes. It meowed quietly to itself as if it were crying. In its mouth was the blue crystal and the light inside faded in and out in sync with the cat's crying, as if it too were crying…Many dark times lay ahead.

To be continued...