Dark Dreams

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Dark Dreams
Date of Scene: 24 November 2012
Location: Manhattan - Twilight Detective Agency
Synopsis: Riku is woken from his nightmares to find the Sorceress Supreme paying him a personal visit and offering to him everything on a silver platter. Confused and rattled, said teenager takes her up on her poisoned honey words tied up with silvers of truth.
Thanks to: Maleficent, for allowing me to post this and giving so many great story threads.
Cast of Characters: Maleficent, Riku

< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

Every night that Riku is away from Hollow Bastion or other places of darkness, he has nightmares. He's grown somewhat used to their familiar sharp edges and the echoes of his own mind. This one is nothing like those. It began the same, and then turned into something so very much worse.

He's always on a beach when it starts. There are no stars in the sky above him, just a ceiling of black. It is night time on this beach and there is no color in the world. He stands looking out at the ocean, a bitterly cold wind whipping about him as he huddles inside his jacket for warmth.

He knows he should be looking for Sora and Kairi. Somewhere on this island, there is a light. An escape from this place of isolation and nightmare, but he never manages to find it. No matter how hard he struggles, he never seems to find anything but more shadows.

Riku turns away from the ocean and walks through a broken Manhattan. The TDA offices jut from the sand, half buried and windows shattered. He walks into the lobby expecting to find nobody. He always expects to find nobody. He always expects to be alone.

Instead Mercade sits with his feet propped up on a chair, his face torn away and bleeding, drops of red dripping onto the growing puddle on the floor. Will Sherman lay up against the wall in a heap, faceless. A cruel laughter bubbles from a sheen of darkness that begins to drip from the walls and the floor as Riku hastily retreats, only to find the entrance has vanished behind him and left nothing but wall behind.

The laughter grows in intensity as the room becomes engulfed with dark flames. The windows blow inwards, a roaring firestorm consuming the building from the outside in. Riku screams and tries to close his eyes, tries to hide, but doing so only makes it worse when he opens them again. The floors, the walls, the furniture. Now everything is soaked with red. Riku is standing near the door, leaning against the bleeding wall to keep himself upright. All sense of control that he had over these dreams seems to have evaporated and the terror is as fresh and compelling as the very first. "STOP! Stop. Just--"

He finds himself looking at his doppleganger, a vaguely annoyed and bored look on his face, as they walk down the stairs from the upper floor dragging something behind them. A yellow scarf drags across the ground as Riku drags a faceless and bloody Reize across the room, ripping a brilliant light out of their chest by the shadowy claw that was holding them pierced through the chest. The faceless Reize turns to ash with an ear-piercing, shattering sound of breaking glass. The Doppleganger looks towards Riku with the same blank yellowed eyed stare of the heartless. "Make me."

Riku charges, tackling the monstrous version of himself as they turn towards the limp body of Mercade. As they hit the floor, it shatters like thin crystal and he's falling-- falling forever again. The doppleganger is gone.

He's alone, and lost in the dark with no way to get home. Lost.

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

Even when there's no one awake to see, Maleficent makes one hell of an entrance.

A cold wind rattles the window, gripping the room in an icy chill. The lights in the back room (and only in the back room) flicker on and off, on and off, before dying completely and plunging the chamber into absolute darkness. Then, slowly and entirely unlike their binary behavior -- this room is /not/ normally on a dimmer switch -- they fade back in... now a sickly green.

And Maleficent is there.

She stands behind the head of the bed, casting a long shadow across Riku's form. Looking down at him, her beady eyes narrow... thoughtfully. Studiously, even. They might even contain within them a shred of concern for the boy's well-being, and /certainly/, as they travel up and down not only his body but his maligned spirit, they divine a degree of what he's suffering from.

The Sorceress Supreme may not be the true master of the Darkness, but people tend to mistake her for it for good reason. Her command over it is legendary in scope. Spreading her arms -- which, in turn, causes her shadow to expand like a black flame, as the feathery fabric of her robe sweeps to either side -- she summons her will, and, pinching her skinny fingers in a spidery motion, reaches out...

...and grasps the Darkness that infects Riku, that tortures his dreams. As though drawing back a veil, she lifts it from him. Not all of it; she may or may not even be able to control it so completely, and it's a moot point because she doesn't want to. Leaving seeds of darkness in Riku's spirit -- ones she never had to plant, only to nurture -- she eases some of his burden, for it is more than he can yet bear. And for the boy to be twisted by madness too soon would be an undesirable setback.

The Darkness is channeled into the gem at the top of her scepter, which pulses ominously. Then it fades away completely. Glancing up at the room, she twitches her nose, adjusting the light from green to a soft, comforting gold, and moves aside to let it bathe the boy in its radiance. Let him suffer in her shadow no longer.

Kneeling -- KNEELING! -- next to him, she produces a cool, damp washcloth from her sleeves, and with a mother's gentle care, mops the boy's brow. Hers are the opposite of a healer's hands, but she can be skillfully delicate, when it pleases her.

"Riku," she croons, almost sweetly. "I've come to take the shadows away. Wake up, dear boy. It's going to be all right. I am here."

A contradiction in terms... or is it?

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

"Good morning sweetie." Riku finds himself in his bed at home, stomach churning with that sickening lurch that comes from failling. He was five years old and his mother sat on the edge of the bed, gently stroking his hair.

"Bad dreams again?"

The echoes of that shard of dream at the edge of nightmare stay with him as he wakes up with a gasp, greedily drawing in air as if he had been held forcefully underwater until the darkness had been pulled away. Riku is tangled in the sheets and doesn't immediately know where he is. "Mom?" he mouths faintly, and when his eyes don't find the field of stars that line the ceiling of his room in Destiny Island, he starts to snap back to reality. He turns his eyes to Maleficient and his mouth opens in preparation of a terrible scream that never goes anywhere. It's never released, swallowed back into him as he blinks hard and gathers to him the fragments of his self control.

"You?" is about the most polite he can twist his shock and jangled nerves into. Riku coughs, rapidly pulling himself together as he attempts to sit up in bed.

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

Maleficent, leaving the washcloth on Riku's forehead for him to keep or remove as he pleases, uses that hand, instead, to carefully support the boy's back, shepherding his attempt into actuality. "Of course me," she fires back, sounding amused. Coldly amused; even at her best impression of being a kindly witch, that can't help but leak through. But her words are soft, as she instructs him, "Easy now. Breathe, then drink, slowly."

She produces a ghastly-looking skull goblet. Steam drifts above it in ominous spirals. And, from its contents' appearance and smell, it is unmistakably...

...warm milk, slightly sweetened with honey.

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

Riku looks very much like he's still trying to figure out if this is a nightmare or not, but seconds afterwards his brain reboots enough for the lessons about controlling his expression to kick in. His expression goes briefly blank, then a grateful smile tugs at the corner of his mouth.

He takes the goblet carefully with both hands, tilting his head slightly as he runs over exactly why the dark faery would want to poison him. He does come up with more than half a dozen reasons, but no reason at all why she would come personally and-- oh crap. If Will Sherman woke up to indulge in more Thanksgiving.. It might pay dividends to be as calm and polite as possible, and hope it didn't come to that. She hadn't come to punish him, had she? Why else would-- Of course she might have already taken care of that.

Riku flashes back to the nightmare office for a second, closing his eyes hard and shaking his head slightly as he opens them again.

Riku lifts the goblet slightly, managing a vague semblance of courtesy as he bows slightly to the faery. "..T..Thank you." he takes a cautious sip, then a larger draft after that.

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

If the milk is tainted, it is with something far more insidious than poison: manipulation. Maleficent doesn't even try to return his smile with more than the tiniest twist of her mouth, a token attempt but more than nothing, all the same; her lips are less red as the rose and more crimson as blood, extremely well-suited to imperious smirks, and entirely ill-suited to comfort. And her eyes contain precious little warmth indeed, though the golden light of the room softens their yellows to something a little less creepy. They patiently watch the boy mull over the drink with something like humor. /Dark/ humor. Black comedy.

It is truly the finest drink of its kind in the multiverse, sweet and hot without being cloying or burning. Only the best for young Riku.

She nods slightly, the tips of her horned headpiece -- or are they actually her horns? impossible to say, no one has ever seen her without them -- tracing twin arcs in the air high above, in acknowledgment of his gratitude. The inscrutable woman can tell that he's looking for an explanation.

"Diablo fetched me," she observes in a voice dry as ten million crackling autumn leaves, caught in a windstorm. She doesn't bother saying 'he was worried about you'; it's implied, but it would sound ridiculous out loud. Also, the reasons for the raven's concern are probably mixed at best. At the moment, he's nowhere to be found. "I looked upon you, and saw what had befallen. You have had a difficult time of it." She taps the scepter's orb, which briefly shimmers with the Darkness she siphoned off of him, a thousand trapped nightmares, struggling to escape, to reach out and grasp their prey once more.

But they cannot, as she ably demonstrates; she has bound them to herself, and banishes them entirely from Riku's presence with another flick of her finger.

"Your dreams should not be as dark, in future." At least, not /artificially/ bad.

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

There is somebody telling him that this too, is something to be wary of, a trap of some sorts, but Riku is too stunned and -- well.. grateful to be away from the nightmares to give any weight to the words.

Perhaps there is the single echoing tap of a footstep without an owner. Perhaps that too is in his imagination. Riku drinks about half of the warm and slightly sticky concoction, pauses for breath and then cannot help but drain every last drop from the goblet. He curls his fingers about it, tensing as if in preparation to a blow that never comes.

Riku nods again to the sorceress. "Yes. I--" he doesn't know why he's saying this, but he feels compelled to dig up some explanation for why Dee went in search of his mistress. "I met another Shadow lord. She's-- very powerful." he doesn't add that her darkness has pretty much eaten all of her away. Hollowed her out. Made her a puppet in the ruins of her own life.

Those thoughts are entirely not something he wants the sorceress to know, since those thoughts are part of why the nightmares twisted so terribly and found such an easy hold. "I wasn't strong enough."

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

Maleficent hears him out, folding her hands benevolently in her lap, pressing her thumbs together in a silent staccato beat. When the milk is drained, she disentangles them, then taps the goblet's rim with a sharp fingertip. It is instantly cleaned, then filled with sweet water, to wash out the last of the stickiness, to refresh Riku's body and perhaps even his spirit.

When the boy speaks of Leida, she bows her head slightly and does an EXCELLENT sadface. Sorrow, the lines of her face can reproduce well enough to bring a tear to your eye. There isn't any remorse, precisely, and no shame whatsoever. But in that moment, she seems very old, old and wise, old and wise and perhaps even a little worn down.

He admits something difficult, and she rewards him by very gently smoothing back his hair, still tousled by his restless sleep. It is not a blow at all, and no part of the motion choreographs violence.

And even more importantly, she rewards him with a sliver of absolute truth.

"Do you know why I founded the Shadow Lords?"

The ancient one lets the question linger on the air for a moment, impregnating the silence, before answering.

"Because none of us are strong enough, alone."

She lets that stand on its own for a beat, too, before continuing, sounding less sagacious and more softly, persistently sympathetic, "It is a difficult and dangerous path we tread, and one best traveled in company. But it is a road that must be taken; without a guiding hand, the shadows would run rampant. You and I, we share a gift, Riku, a gift and a doom, often misunderstood and never met with gratitude. And no one can help you control your inner demons better than I."

Her eyes lock with his.

"You have only to ask."

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

Riku doesn't pull back from the touch, blinking rapidly as he teeters on the edge of his shocked confusion. He resettles the lines of his face again, gritting his teeth very faintly as his mind thrashes around for purchase.

Perhaps it would not have worked if a terribly frightened teenager had not been fed and listened to and given a place to stay where he would be safe, if not from the nightmares, then at least with friends. They hadn't shunned him. They hadn't turned him away. The suspicion that he holds so close that it cuts into him would have driven his thoughts another way if they had. But that boy who didn't want to believe he belonged clings to hope even when he should pull away.

The echoes of that teenager keep the suspicion and the fear out of his thoughts as he's calmed, and the nightmares taken away, and everything that he wanted put out in front of him.

What else could he say?

Riku nods very slowly, taking a small sip of that cleansing water before slowly lowering the goblet into his lap.

"Yes." All the answers seemed to be right out in front of him. "Please. I need to know more. "

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

Maleficent, of course, wants nothing more than to keep Riku isolated and off-balance; to remind him that she's his only /true/ friend, and if these detective pals of his knew who he willingly associated with, if she walked in there right now and asked for some turkey...


It would probably not go as full of sunshine and rainbows as he'd like, or at least that's what she'd like him to think.

But right at the moment, events have conspired to make that friendship useful to her, to relax him more than he has been in her presence in months. Perhaps even ever. And squandering this opportunity by playing on his insecurities would be worse than useless. So, let him keep his delusions, tonight.

"Very well," she murmurs, and holds out a hand, pale green palm up. "Take my hand, and close your eyes." Her voice becomes soothing, very nearly hypnotic, on the razor's edge between croon and chant. "Tonight, you will learn how to know yourself... and face yourself... for what lies within is yours to command, and yours to master. Yours alone. But you must not flinch from it, or let fear rule you... you must learn to accept yourself, and in order to do that, you first must perceive your heart from within... relax, and let us journey inward together..."

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

There is another distant echo, even fainter this time, that this is a distinctly bad idea but the thought is muffled by Riku's vulnerabile need for a measure of control over his life.

A barrier that separates him from the girl in the snow whose mind was filled with broken, faceless people and laughing darkness. If the sorceress was the one to help him, he couldn't turn away that help. Not now.

He takes her hands after a moment of hesitation, closing his eyes and expelling all of his doubt and confusion in one long breath of something perilously close to relief. "Alright. " the nightmare jags past him again, the shards of himself ripping the heart out of the Reize.

He's not sure he's ready to face himself-- but he wants so desperately to believe in what he's being told, some of which echoes with what he's been told from others, that he pushes it all aside. "I'm ready." Was he? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

"Breathe in," Maleficent gently but firmly commands, the iron fist inside the velvet glove, "And out." She does so as well, and they spend a good few minutes simply breathing together, their hearts -- and yes, this is incontrovertible proof that she actually has one, because in the utter silence of the chamber, in between snatches of hypnotic monologue, it is audible -- beating as one. "Let go of your fears... release your anger... for what dwells in your heart is only what you bring to it..."

And, deep within, he can feel something stir, as together they sink down to their cores, separately yet together. "Where you go is your innermost self, soul inviolate, and no one can follow you there," she explains. "But I will be with you in spirit, and my feelings will reach you... just keep focusing on the sound of my voice, and you shall not be made to face this alone..."

Down, down, they sink, and the soft, cool pressure of Maleficent's hand holding his remains, a steadfast presence at his side, much like her honeyed voice. But within the vision, he floats alone, not through Darkness but through absence, through neutral nothingness, towards... his Heart.

There is beauty in chaos, magnificence in the fury of the battle that rages in that ball of energy. Darkness and Light clash together in epic storms, blinding and binding, awe-inspiring. Lovely and terrible.

Riku must not think that his is a Heart of Darkness. But it is certainly a Heart at war with itself. What he may not realize is that this same war is fought inside /everyone's/ Hearts, every second of every day. Well, except for seven. Until his dark mistress ups and explains it, anyway.

"We are all of us composed of Light and Darkness... two sides of one coin... and to reject one aspect of oneself is to lose both."

The Light swells within him, stoked to a fury; and in its diminishment of his Darkness, he, too, is diminished. Less than he could be. A shadow of himself. Then the Darkness surges, and balance is restored.

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

This is a far harsher place than the world of silence and isolation in his nightmares, or the deeper world where the echoing footsteps of a lingering voice taunt him from the shadows. A deeper place and a simpler one. Something he caught the faintest glimmer of when Jasmine was escaping Jafar and the attack on Balamb Garden.

Riku is transfixed by the scene playing out before him, transfixed in the way he will stare at the square of darkness that was painted by an unknown artist but somehow conveyed the darkness, even a shadow of it, as it really was. A place of not just one thing, but a million-- a million subtle hues and fragments that combined into a single whole.

There isn't even enough in him left to be afraid. He is lolling, mind numbed by the crashingt fury and uncomprehensible sights and feelings when something flares. Something pure and perfect and neither Primordial Darkness or Searing Light. Riku jerks as if he has been electrocuted, catching a glimmer of something in the moments when the two primordial forces clash. An instant again before the calm breaks again.

A single, brilliant flash of twilight like the last ray of the dying day as the sun sinks behind the ocean. Riku gasps as he tries to reach out for it, to catch it-- but it slips through his fingers, and the war starts anew-- and he is raised up, and diminished once again.

The thrashing does not seem quite so violent this time and Riku searches, strains to see that piercing streak of Twilight again. He does not find it again.

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

"You are beautiful, Riku..." whispers Maleficent admiringly, as though she can, if not see what he's seeing, feel the profundity of his inner conflict, feel and appreciate it. "...don't forget to breathe. In... out... breathe with your Heart and beat with it, and become one with it..."

Guided by Maleficent's voice, Riku dives into his Heart. The radiance and the void are painful, burning away his superficialities, the lies he tells himself, leaving only what lies at his core. And there, at the heart of his Heart, waits a mirror. It is a dark one. But also a light one. Duality, again.

"Now, it is time to face yourself... gaze deeply into the glass, Riku, and know, at last, what you truly are..."

But as she warned, what exists in here is what is brought, and what Riku will see is what he fears most deeply, what he /expects/ to see.

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

What he expects to see is himself. More than willing to oblige, the yellow eyed reflection gives him a chilling smirk. When the light mirror flashes through this cycle it brings with it a searing flare of light. When Riku's sight returns, or whatever passes for it in this mental realm his doppleganger is sitting atop Kairi's coffin in the cavern of Hollow Bastion. "You know. I wonder what she tastes like." The darkside gives him a predatory smile. "Is she as sweet as we remember? Maybe we should find out. Or hey, go back to that Reize kid and finish off the job. You're frustrating me by never finishing your food."

"Who..?" Riku starts but the darkside just laughs. "Come on. Honestly?" Riku frowns, approaching his double. "Get. Off." he commands, while the doppleganger raises his clawed hands and slides off the coffin. "Alright alright. Boy. She makes this way too easy." There is a blinding pain then, as Riku's double surges forwards with unnatural speed, sinking his talons straight into the chest of the other. "Oh." the darkside grins at Riku, half of his face lost in shadow as it creeps up in tendrils from the floor. "Way too easy."

Riku jerks, and somewhere in bed he convulses and gasps. Inside his mind though he finds himself fading. Sleep beckons and it didn't really even hurt all that much anymore. Maybe he should just give in. Sleep for awhile. Just for a moment.


Riku snarls and the sound reverberates, becomes deeper, more intense. The darkside looks shocked momentarily and then starts to laugh as Riku doesn't retreat, but rather reaches out and does the same. The two are locked there, glaring at eachother, connected by pain and suffering and a mutual mortal blow. "Do it."

The darkside grins. "You're a coward. You couldn't save her. You couldn't save Sora. You couldn't save our world. You weren't worthy." And then it's Terra speaking those words. The swordsman's great disappointment and disgust with Riku so plain it is like a mortal blow in itself. "You were never worthy." Riku tears his hand free, darkness clutched in his fist that starts to evaporate even as the illusion turns to ash.

It's only him again. As it's always been. It's only ever been him.

< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

Throughout the struggle, Maleficent's presence remains at his side, within and without him, providing unwavering support. "Yes..." she breathes, "This, now, is the truth of things... the Darkness within you will always seek to control you... yet only by you can it be controlled. And it takes more than strength, Riku... it takes... vision. Only by knowing what you want to be can you avoid becoming what you want /not/ to be... and you can be very worthy indeed..."

The Riku in the reflection is gradually transformed, sculpted by the dark hand of the darkest sorceress into something far more than 'only' him, yet happening so slowly that it's impossible to know when, or if, it changed at all. His features refine, becoming sharper and slimmer and braver, emphasizing his courage, his honor, his greatness. The boy in the mirror -- no, the man -- is a hero, and perhaps a heart-breaker as well, in the /good/ way.

One piece at a time, she girds him with sorcerous, shadowy metal, everything old becoming new again. The armor's lines are sleek and dangerous, but not overtly Evil. No, Riku stands proud and tall and beautiful as the darkest hour, when shadowy flowers bloom in the moonlight and the stars can be seen in their full glory. The Midnight Knight, mantled in darkness, yes, but not its slave. Rather, the embodiment of strength and purpose, using his might to make right wherever he goes.

The images come thick and fast. Here are three standouts:

Riku commanding a tide of Heartless not to destroy, but to protect. Riku swimming through a sea of Darkness to find Sora, poor hapless, hopeless Sora, in over his head again. Only he can be the bigger man, and rescue his erstwhile friend from himself. Riku invoking the Void to banish what plagues Kairi, much as Maleficent did for him just today. Her eyes opening, slowly but brightly, to meet his, her lips curving softly with joy and acceptance. Sweet reunion...

The visions come still more fiercely, filling Riku not with images, not truly, but with feelings: Confidence. Righteousness.

Dangerous emotions, and powerful ones. Manipulatible ones. Exactly the ones Maleficent is looking for... for not all within this vision comes from Riku's internal landscape, or at least, it didn't exist there until it was crafted by another.

"Rise with me, now, Riku... let us breathe together... having opened your inner eye to what can be, now open your outer eyes to greet the new day..."

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------
< Riku has posed >-------------------------------

And Riku does not care. The voice of caution and restraint has been silenced by the virtue of giving the teenager everything. Everything that he could be. Everything that MIGHT be. Riku stares at the images, numbed and hollowed out and filled up again and he doesn't care. All he wants is this to be true.

All he needs in this world is for the images to be real. His grip on doubt, on worries, on his fear.. slip out of his numb fingers and are replaced. Riku lunges. He holds the images close to him even as they burn. As he burns, with hope and panic and no small amount of despair. That he's so far away from these things-- but that they could be his. It could all be his. The feelings are washed out, washed away by the surge of powerful emotion. Doubt becomes Resolve.

Fear gives way to a blinding, almost unbearable slash of hope. Riku opens his eyes slowly and looks at the sorceress. And for the first time since he has met her, he gives her a genuine smile. He bends his head, bringing up his other hand and putting his forehead on top of her hand. "My lady. Thank you." he murmurs in a changed and almost amused whisper, echoing the words of Faruja and the knights of any fairytale he could recall.

It could all be his. His consciousness floats on that one sentence. That one thought that he has wrapped around himself to protect himself from the world, from the searing light. He thinks of the brilliant ray of Twilight. And everything, manipulated vision or true one-- It could all be his.


< End of Riku's pose >-----------------------------
< Maleficent has posed >----------------------------

Maleficent hides her total inability to return that smile behind a cold and queenly mask; an appropriate alternate response, at least. And the dancing of her eyes is probably cruel and covetous, but in the best of lights it could be interpreted as welcoming and warm.

She lays her other hand upon the back of his head, a solemn benediction, as though she's knighting him then and there, right on the spot. It is somehow simultaneously rather motherly, an echo of their interaction only minutes before.

"Rise," she intones gravely. "Rise and never lose sight of what you /truly/ are, if only you will it to be so. The world needs you, Riku, and so do I. You are needed, and your grand destiny /will/ be fulfilled, though the road be longer than you might have thought. Remember that anything worth doing is difficult."

As the first rays of dawn creep through the window, and the sounds of Manhattan traffic rise as though in a paean to the sun, the Dark Queen fades away as gradually as she first arrived.

"And together, we will walk this difficult path..."

Unlike the Cheshire Cat, the last thing visible are her eyes, and at the very last second, they wink at the boy. And then she's gone, but on a deeper level, may always remain, as a sculptor is immortalized in one's work...

< End of Maleficent's pose >--------------------------