User:Dediles/Dice and Keys
Poppy Satou Took a look at herself in the mirror. The long black cloak was kind of conspicuous. But then again, it was Halloween. She picked up her prop replica keyblade and swung it around a few times, before holding a pose.
She felt absolutely ridiculous. But she looked, well she looked a lot like Xion, one of Kingdom hearts protagonist Sora’s many copies. The lore there was really fucky. Well the same could be said of all kingdom hearts, but her train of thought had officially derailed and crashed, causing millions in property damage and who knows how many casualties. In the wake of t- wait she was doing it again.
It had been mildly insulting to have been told she made a perfect Xion. mainly because it was how ‘asian’ she looked. But she had to admit, she did look the part. And she did identify a lot with Xion.
Outside of her immediate friends she was fairly shy, and if it wasn’t for Marty she wouldn’t have even dressed up. But he somehow managed to get the entire D&D club to dress up in the same theme for their party tonight.
Her train of thought, which had taken a wrong turn, was interrupted by a text from marty. He was outside in his mom’s car waiting to pick her up. She sighed and grabbed her backpack and the keyblade, and went outside to meet him.
“You certainly look in character” He said, smiling “Hey, is something wrong?”
“Just nerves” Poppy said in her normal quiet voice.
Marty Looked at her, and she looked back. He was wearing the same cloak she was(He bought them in bulk online) with hair dyed electric yellow and slicked back. He was going as Larxene, the Sassy knife wielding Nobody(capital N) that had served as a boss in kingdom hearts chain of memories and kingdom hearts 3, ignoring the rereleases.
Whatever it was in Poppy's face Marty was looking for, he found it, because he started the car and drove off without another word. They were headed for Kent’s house, who hosted the D&D club after they got redbull stained into the carpet of the fine arts building. For the third time. That month.
They pulled up to a suburban house, decked out in cobwebs and abundant jack-o-lantern’s. Kent’s family took halloween seriously. His mom was there to greet them in full zombie makeup, and his dad told them that the rest of the group was in the backyard while cradling his own head.
“As if, I can totally use a keyblade! Have you even read the deep lore?” Kent said, holding a foam sword out towards Zane.
“Forget the deep lore, I signed up to deflect your Nerf darts, not get in a sword battle.” Zane responded, folding his arms, a foam sword resting on the picnic table.
Kent and Zane were dressed up as the bad guys Xigbar and Lexaeus, respectively. Xigbar was a cocky asshole who normally used dual laser crossbows(Yes it’s as crazy as it sounds). Lexaeus was a big brute with a bigger sword. Kent put on an eyepatch, and in addition to his coat, that seemed to be his costume. Zane had gotten his hair gelled to make it look frizzy in the back like Lexaeus’, and had a replica of the big fuckoff swordTM, laying on the picnic table next to the foam sword he wasn’t willing to pick up.
Marty cracked his neck and walked over to the two of them, pulling them into a hug.
“Boys, boys, Stop the infighting” He said, a smirk on his face. A second later there were two electric yellow prop knives at their throats “Or maybe not, I’d love to join in.”
Poppy politely clapped at the display. Marty was always one of their best roleplayers. Their best DM actually, when it was his turn. Kent was unprepared for the knife and rp so he flinched back and ducked out of the conversation. To his credit Zane grabbed the knife between his thumb and index finger and moved it away from his throat without his expression changing at all.
“Actually larxene, I’d love to spar with you, got enough of those knives to throw?” Zane asked.
Marty smiled and unzipped his coat, flashing the inside and a bunch of duct taped yellow anime knives. Poppy decided to take a seat at the picnic table to watch as Marty threw fake knives at Zane, who tried to knock them out of the air with a foam sword.
“Greg isn’t here yet, I’m worried he’ll pull something” Amanda said, startling Poppy.
She was wearing a white dress and a blond wig, holding a sketchpad where she was drawing intentionally crude drawings of the ‘fight’ taking place. Poppy recognized her as dressing up as Naminé, the character from kingdom hearts who could manipulate memories.
“I’m sure it’s fine” Poppy said, convincing nobody.
“Remember when he got a lighter and some hairspray to make ‘dragon breath’?” Amanda said, pointing at Poppy with a crayon. Poppy winced.
“Yeah, that game was a short one.” She admitted “But it was kinda cool? At least until the battle map caught on fire.”
“Even if we never let him DM again, and we WON'T, he’s bound to pull something dramatic out of his ass. This is halloween, the perfect excuse.” She said, sketching a crude image of Gregg with rabies.
Before poppy could reply the gate to the backyard rattled loudly. Zane turned his head to look, a plastic knife bouncing off the side of his face. The group waited in silence for what had to be Greg’s antics.
The wooden gate creaked open just a bit, and a white wisp of an arm poked through beckoning them over. Marty smiled and stood up, putting his hands on his hips. He cocked his head to the side before shouting out:
“Hey loser, get in here. That’s an order!”
What happened next was amazing. A full scale puppet of a Dusk, the lowest enemy of the Nobody(capital N) faction in kingdom hearts slinked in like it was made of oil, its master in a full black suit as to make it appear like he wasn’t there. The puppet swirled around like it was made of liquid, an empty white husk with a zipper for a mouth and glowing white lights in black lines all across its body.
“Who-” Kent began, marty putting a hand up to hush him.
The dusk took a bow and its master pulled off his mask to reveal Mohamad, smiling like a freak. Their were a few audible gasps. Though Poppy couldn’t tell where they came from, or if she gasped herself. Marty walked over to Mohamad and put an arm around him.
“And this ladies and gents,” He said, “Is why I wanted us to dress up as Organization XIII. Mohamad showed me this doll he was working on for a cosplay and I told him we should debut it on Halloween with the crew. I think it went pretty well.”
“Holly shit!” Amanda said.
“Thank you very much” Mohamad said, taking a bow with his puppet.
There was a lot of excitement about the puppet and it’s master, and it was hard to not get swept up in it. Marty gave orders to the dusk, being a high ranking member of the Nobody faction like the rest of the black cloaks, while Amanda drew silly pictures of the doll and the man behind it. Mohamad even did some ventriloquism, which was unsettling with that zipper mouth moving.
Everyone had forgotten about Greg by the time some smoke bombs were thrown over the fence. From behind the smoke the fence gate slammed open and a man in robes walked through the smoke. He wore a necklace made of a set of D&D dice and had a staff with a massive translucent twenty sided die embedded to the top. He also had fake elf ears on and his skin painted purple. It was greg, obviously.
“BEHOLD THE MIGHT OF FORTUNALL, THE DICE WIZARD!” Greg said, “MASTER OF FATE, GOD OF MAGIC, CREATOR OF WORLDS!”
“WE’RE NOT LETTING YOU DM AGAIN GREG!” Amanda shouted.
Poppy leaned over to marty “Did he just add the name Al to the end of the latin word Fortuna?” She asked.
“I’d bet money he added the name al to the end of the english word fortune.” Marty whispered back.
“Please guys, just one game! I promise it will blow your mind” Greg said, dropping Character.
Poppy looked away, Zane narrowed his gaze, Amanda flipped Greg off, Kent sighed and shook his head, Mohamad put his mask back on, and Marty softly said “I’m sorry bud, but no. you need to learn some restraint.”
Greg looked like everyone had just stabbed him twenty times. It hurt for Poppy to look at, but he had gotten out of control. It was tough love, but that didn’t make it any easier. Poppy took a seat next to Abby and tried to make herself small when the last beams of sunlight winked out and it was truly nighttime.
Marty fell over first, clutching his midsection and moaning in pain. Kent cried out and grabbed at the eye under his blindfold. Abby stumbled and fell off the picnic bench. Zane stumbled a bit but kept steady. Greg Collapsed.
And Mohamad, well Poppy wouldn’t ever forget what happened to him that night. It appeared as though he was being sucked into his puppet, screams of fear and pain assaulting Poppy’s ears. She scrambled off the bench and backed up to the fence as the empty puppet fell to the ground and crumpled like a discarded hoodie.
Poppy was about to scream when Amanda grabbed her hand. Except… it wasn’t Amanda anymore. It was Naminé, the character she was dressed up as. A small young blonde girl in a white dress.
“Xion, It’s going to be alright.” Naminé/Amanda said.
Poppy had a horrible thought, but before she could find her phone to check what she looked like Kent began to rise. He ended up looking like a forty year old yakuza boss, if a little lanky for that, his hair pulled back into a ponytail. He still had his hand clutched over his eye.
“God damnit. What… what just happened?” He asked.
Zane got up next pulling Marty to his feet. Zane grew larger and his features more square, with a slightly asian look to him. Marty… Well marty was dressed up as a girl character. Poppy didn’t know what to say. Marty was now thin with fair skin and naturally long electric yellow hair. He had a woman’s figure, a woman’s body, a woman's face. It hit Poppy then that she wouldn’t know these as her friends if she hadn’t seen what had just happened with her own eyes.
“I think-, oh god my voice!” Marty said, exclaiming as the jarring difference of his feminine voice hit him, “Ok, so I think we turned into the characters we dressed up as? Like some kinda crappy Halloween special; except we’re not dressed up as a mummy, a werewolf, and a ghost.”
“Wouldn’t that mean Mohamad is...” Zane didn’t finish his question, as the Dusk stood up on shaky, wispy legs and gave a shy wave.
“Oh god I don’t think he can talk!” Kent said, stepping back in shock.
“Xion, what’s going on?” Naminé/Amanda asked.
Before Poppy could answer a figure rose off the ground, laughing as electricity coursed through his body. His staff came to his hand at a thought, and with a wave of his hand, his voice became a booming presence in the suburban backyard.
“You have pushed me around for the last time,” Greg said, “Your silly little kingdom hearts game characters don’t have anything against a level twenty-one Wizard. Do you think it’s stupid now Amanda? Think it’s stupid to want to play a campaign as demigods? Stupid to throw away all my hard work on that homebrew? To laugh in my face!?”
“Dude,” Marty said, “What is this, some kind of saturday morning villain shtick?”
“No, I’m not a bad guy!” Greg protested, “I just want to have fun with you guys, but you never let me! But if you tried it, you’d see how much fun it can be! I- I don’t hate you, but I want you to apologize! You all have made fun of me and pushed me around. I just want your respect.”
“Greg” Poppy said, speaking up for the first time. “I’m sorry. I never even read your homebrew. I let the others decide because I was too shy. I didn’t want to risk getting yelled at.”
“Thank you.” Greg said, the echo in his voice fading. “Now amanda, your turn, what do you have to say for yourself?”
Greg pointed a finger at Amanda/Naminé, who looked confused. There was a moment of silence, where the faint sound of sirens and screaming could be heard from the neighbourhood. The girl in the white dress blinked.
“I’m Sorry, I don’t understand what’s going on. Who’s Amanda?” She said.
“ARE YOU FUCKING PLAYING DUMB ON ME!?” Greg yelled, voice shaking the ground. “ARE ANY OF YOU TAKING ME SERIOUSLY?! You know what? Fine! If we’re going to act childish about it then let’s play a game!”
Greg whipped his staff out, flinging the twenty sided die on it’s tip into the lawn where it tumbled to a stop. It landed on a 20. Greg began to laugh, as portals formed underneath the group. Amanda/Naminé was still holding hands with Poppy, so they fell through one portal together.
Zane was still holding up Marty so they fell through a different portal. Mohamad and Kent were the last two to fall in together before the portals closed and Greg opened another, flying off to some unknown place.
Poppy woke up in a stone room, lit by torches hanging on the wall. It felt fake at first, like a movie set. Nowhere actually looks like that anymore. But as she gained consciousness she saw a girl’s concerned face giving her a smile of relief. The smile of the fictional character Naminé.
“Xion! I’m glad you’re ok!” She said.
Poppy sighed. Did her friend even exist in there anymore? Why did Amanda’s mind change, but nobody else’s? Poppy shook her head trying to clear her thoughts.
“I’m not Xion, my name is Poppy” Poppy said.
“I- are you a different replika or-” Naminé began, before Poppy interrupted her.
“I am a normal human, or was anyway” Poppy said, “Something happened I don’t understand. It’s halloween so we were all dressed up. As fictional characters. Then, suddenly we had the bodies of those characters. You included.”
“I- I’m not real.” Naminé said, “Someone else’s heart is trapped inside me. I understand, Let’s save your friend!”
“I- uh,” Poppy stuttered, “I thought it would be harder to convince you.”
“I’m not supposed to exist, that’s nothing new. What life I’ve lived is in the shadow of Sora. I’m a copy, a shell. Bits and pieces of other people. I was able to gain my own heart and my own will over time; but I won’t sacrifice someone else’s existence for my own. I guess that’s just how I was written.” Naminé said.
“I’m going to have an existential nightmare.” Poppy said, putting her head into her hands. “Don’t worry about it too much. Take a look at this, it appeared along with two bags while you were unconscious.” Naminé said, handing Poppy a letter with a wax seal.
I have given you your bags and everything in them, as well as enchanting them into bags of holding. I’ve included a standard adventuring pack in each bag as well as some food and drinks should you get hungry on your adventure.
The rules of this game are simple: find the exit. If you die in the game, well you don’t die for real, that would be messed up. Nah, you’ll just be trapped in a demiplane for a while as a penalty. How long’s a while? Not gonna say. After all you shouldn’t want to find out.
The prize is a cloak of windwalking with infinite casts of the spell Fly. first team to the exit winds it. There is other loot to be had as well, so keep an eye out! Good Luck!
-The Great Wizard Fortunall’
“Would you mind explaining? I didn’t understand any of it.” Naminé said, shrugging.
“It’s Gregg, He’s a friend who showed up to the halloween party dressed up as his own character. He designed the character to be played in a game called Dungeons & Dragons.” Poppy explained “D&D is basically make believe with rules. None of us were willing to play with him running the game, so he’s forcing a real life version on us now that we all have powers.”
“Why didn’t you just play with him before?” Naminé asked.
“Because we weren't having fun with him in charge” Poppy said. “He tends to go too far, get people hurt, and his ideas of what would be fun are hit or miss at best.”
“Well we just have to win this game then, right?” Naminé said, getting up. “When we get back we can all talk to him. I’m sure your feelings will reach each other.”
Poppy held back a giggle “You come from a game that was optimistic to a fault, Naminé. Things aren't that simple.”
“Well I don’t expect it to be simple or easy. But I do expect it to work. You’re friends, you can work things out.” She said.
With that, Poppy got up and walked over to her bag, handing Amanda’s backpack to Naminé after explaining what a bag of holding was. She slowly worked open the large wooden door and stepped out onto a platform overlooking a massive stone maze. Jets of fire came out of it’s halls and one part seemed to be underwater. In the center of this impossibly large structure was a pillar of white light, undoubtedly the exit. The door behind them slammed shut and the platform the two girls were standing on started to lower into the maze, only giving them the briefest of glimpses into the shape of the maze.
The first chamber they came across was an obstacle course over water. If you fell off you’d need to swim back to the beginning and try again. Poppy was almost disappointed. Thinking it over though, she realized that everyone had new bodies and needed to learn how to use them properly. It was good design, easing them in like this.
Poppy Checked her coat to make sure it wouldn’t get in the way of her movements, and then ran towards the first platform and leapt ten feet in the air. She let out a shrill scream as she overshot the platform and close lined herself on a monkey bar, before falling into the water.
Naminé Giggled as Poppy climbed out of the water, dripping wet. She apparently had to get used to superhuman jumping abilities. If Xion’s movement abilities were anything like that of Kingdom hearts games then…
Poppy took another run at the course, leaping from platform to platform with practiced ease. A blue-ish white glow surrounded her as she swung around the money bars and flew threw the air to the other side, ignoring half the course before landing on her feet like she’d been doing this her whole life.
“Woah” Xion said. “I know how to do this, I remember how to do this. I-”
Wait, Xion? Did she just think of herself as Xion? That wasn’t right. Her name was… Poppy. Poppy promptly started to freak the fuck out over this new development. Would Xion take over her mind like Naminé had Amanda’s? Did this mean that the more she used her powers the less she was herself?
Poppy was snapped out of her second(third?) existential crisis that day by Naminé falling into the water. Naminé didn’t have any combat powers, she was a plot device. Which meant she didn’t have access to the flowmotion movement mechanics from recent kingdom hearts games. She was more or less a normal human in that regard.
“Are you ok?!” Poppy yelled out at Naminé.
“Yes, I’m fine. I just saw that look on your face and tried to rush over.” Naminé said, turning to swim back to the beginning of the course.
“Sorry to worry you I just...” Poppy said, unsure of how to finish that sentence.
“I know that look, It’s the same look Sora had in Castle oblivion when he realized he had forgotten something important, or when he realized the memories he had weren't real.” Naminé said, yelling from across the course. “ I can tell, don’t worry, You’re still you, and if you start to slip I’ll be there to catch you. The things that make you who you will never truly leave you. That’s why I’m sure we can get Amanda back.”
Poppy sighed. She had no idea if that applied here. Did her memories work on anime bullshit logic while she had Xion’s body? Or did whatever caused this have more sway over who she was?
After a few tries Naminé made it over, soaking wet and smiling. She seemed to be enjoying herself. Poppy wondered how much of it was just her putting on a brave face. If Naminé did plan on sacrificing herself to bring back Amanda, well she’s been alive for effectively and hour.
The next room held a puzzle that needed to be completed in order to unlock the door. Poppy smiled and held out her hand. She’d been waiting to try this. In a flash of light Xion’s Keyblade appeared in her hand. Pointing it at the door a beam of light emanate from it, striking the lock and causing the door to open.
“Oh, I was hoping to solve that.” Naminé Said.
“This isn’t a game, to anyone except Greg.” Poppy said. “We were kidnapped and forced into this, the faster we get out the faster we’ll be able to confront Greg and talk some sense into him, maybe get him to release the others if we’re not last out. Besides, I’m worried. I don’t think we were the only ones affected.”
They were in the maze propper, and Naminé started marking the walls with her crayons as she sketched a map. It turned out she was really good at walking and drawing at the same time. Poppy led, keeping her keyblade out in case of an ambush.
“I’d like to get to know you, and know Amanda.” Naminé said. “It might help in getting her back, but mostly it’s just me being a little selfish. I want to understand you, maybe become your friend before I go.”
Poppy paused. There was some history between her and Amanda. It would be hard to talk about… but she couldn’t help but like Naminé. Now that she was here, and real, she just seemed like an earnest kid with a tragic past and a determination to do good.
“Ok, But first I need to tell you how I joined the D&D club, and explain role playing games better than ‘make believe’. It started shortly after I enrolled in college-”
Kent was a man who had trouble connecting with others. It seemed whether or not his social skills were functioning at any given point was up to a coin toss. He’d been the center of more than one conflict in the club, and he was ashamed of every one. He pretended to know what he was doing, since he was the oldest member and the effective president of the club, but he didn’t know jack shit.
So when he was dumped in a magical maze with a friend turned monster, with powers of a video game boss at his disposal, He took charge, and couldn’t figure out what to say to Mohamad. Maybe with someone else he could drop his facade, but Mohamad had it the worst out of all of them, If Kent cracked under the pressure what would that do to Mohamad?
Kent felt his hand being grabbed and looked down to see the little animated onesie monster looking up at him with that blank expressionless face of his.
“I’m sorry Mohamad I don’t know what you want,” Kent said, sighing.
They had tried a pen and paper to communicate, but Mohamad’s new limbs lacked hands, ending at floppy little points. They could play twenty questions, but that was about it.
The two of them continued on in the maze, keeping to the left wall. They turned a corner and the hall in front of them was lined with decorative suits of armor. Kent knew immediately that this was a trap. Those things would spring alive the moment they stepped passed. He might be able to take them with his laser crossbow, but Mohamad was a Dusk, the lowest level enemy in the Nobody faction.
“Come on, let's try and find another way, maybe there will be more puzzle rooms.” Kent said turning around. He felt his sleeve get tugged and turned around to see Mohamad pointing at something.
Kent squinted his eye(The eyepatch wasn’t for show anymore). One of the suits of armor had on a different helmet. It was gold with a brain like pattern on it’s top and a purple lense over one of the eyes.
“A helm of telepathy!” Kent exclaimed. “Mohamad, you could talk to me if we had that!”
Mohamad furiously shook his head up and down. He took a step forward before Kent put a hand out to stop him. He got down on one knee to look Mohamad in the… face. He couldn’t bring Mohamad into battle, if he died in the game he’d be left all alone in a demiplane somewhere for who knows how long.
“Mohamad, stand back.” Kent said “I’ll take care of this. You’re in no shape to fight.”
Mohamad literally deflated a bit at hearing that, but stayed still as Kent walked up towards the trapped hallway. He summoned his two laser crossbows in a flash of purple light and started firing on the armor, which came alive immediately.
One of the suits of armor swung it’s sword at Kent, who teleported back and upside down hanging from the invisible ceiling that kept them from scaling the walls. He combined his two crossbows into a laser sniper rifle and began picking off suits of armor, teleporting out of the way whenever one threw a spear his way. The last suit of armor finally fell to pieces and Kent teleported back to the ground, grinning wildly.
“Dude did you see that?” Kent said to Mohamad, who nodded enthusiastically “That was rad as hell!”
Kent walked over to the Helm of Telepathy and picked it up. He turned it around before putting it on with a shrug. He tried to project his thoughts or activate some kind of mental trigger. He tried thinking about the spell Detect Thoughts, hoping to activate it. Frustrated he pulled it off and nearly threw it against the ground before remembering-
“Ohhhhhh, right. You gotta atune magical items like this. Come on bud, let’s take a short rest while I meditate or whatever.” Kent said, taking a sleeping roll out of his bag of holding to act as a cushion against the hard stone floor.
Marty stared down the shadowy kobold, electricity crackling between his knives. He threw his left hand of knives at the kobold, who managed to dodge two and parry the other two with it’s club. The kobold attacked, Marty blocking it with a newly summoned set of knives.
The hit rippled through Marty’s body making him acutely aware of certain things about his altered body he tried his best to ignore. He stumbled for a second and the kobold got a solid hit on him, sending him sprawling against the floor. Zane finished off his Shadow kobold and Crushed the one marty was engaged with underfoot to get to him.
“This is the third time you’ve frozen up, are you sure everything is ok?” Zane said, offering a hand to Marty.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it. This is something I can totally handle” Marty said, dusting
herself himself off.
“Are you scared of fighting for real? You don’t have to fight, we can find a way through the more puzzly rooms and if we run into trouble I can take care of it.” Zane said.
Marty sighed and leaned against a wall folding his arms, then unfolding them because of where they ended up resting on his chest. He just needed to not think about it and he would be fine. If Greg really was some kind of super powered wizard he could just cast true polymorph on marty and things would go back to normal.
“That’s not it, I want to fight. I’m actually enjoying myself, but...” Marty trailed off.
“Ah,” Zane said, leaning on his sword. “I get it now. Hold on, I want to show you something.”
Zane unzipped his messenger bag and rooted around for something before producing his phone and something he kept his hand clenched over. He unlocked his phone and tapped around a bit before showing Marty a picture of a teenage girl smiling at the camera(obviously an imported picture from a digital camera).
“I don’t get it, who is she? Why did you...” Marty trailed off, eyes going wide.
The girl’s smile, the shape of her face, It was Zane! He opened his other hand to reveal a trans pride button. He’d been passing all this time. Marty supposed he never told anyone in the club. But why? Didn’t he trust them?
“Mind sitting down for a story?” Zane asked, dispelling his sword and taking a seat in the now empty stone room.
Marty slid down the wall until he was in a sitting position leaning against it. He didn’t know what to say. He’d known zane for three maybe four years. They’d played D&D together. In all that time he never made a female character…
“I was always a big kid. Taller than my peers. Used to be big into sports, Got onto the women’s wrestling team in high school. Hated makeup, loved wearing cargo pants, all that jazz. Gender Dysphoria hit me hard with puberty. I didn’t know what to make of it...” Zane explained
“Thought it was all part of growing up, that I needed to live with these feelings. Then I found roleplaying games. A friend invited me to a game of D&D and I played a paladin. I was a knight who championed justice and slayed the wicked. I got the title of Sir Zachary. Every time I heard the DM call me that, I felt almost giddy.
“I was able to act masculine without being judged for it. I realized I was trans. My parents were really supportive. Turns out my Dad was bi, so he and my mom just got it. Everyone else didn’t understand, or hated me on principle, but them? They understood. Encouraged me, paid for me to transition. But it was so tiring.
“When I graduated I took a year off before heading to college to really try and figure stuff out, and I decided I Wouldn’t tell people. I was able to pass. There were a few hiccups in the paperwork, but the LGBT student advocacy board really helped smooth things out. I continued to go to classes, make friends, join the D&D club, all with none the wiser. I didn’t want to be bullied again. My parents told me to keep this button inside my backpack, as hidden as I wanted it to be, but to be ready to bring it out when I was ready.
“Not that they believed trans folk are supposed to let others know they’re trans, They just knew I’d be the kind of person who wouldn’t want to keep a secret like that forever. I want to be me, and I want to be proud of it. I was just too scared to tell you guys, I kept putting it off.”
The room fell silent as Zane’s story ended. Marty had heard some much worse stories of people coming out, being rejected by their family, or just having a family that didn’t understand. He understood why Zane had kept it a secret, and he would have been fine with it remaining a secret.
“Thanks. I don’t know what to say, I’m sure everyone else will support you though. Oh yeah and I support you.” Marty said.
“Thanks” Zane said, letting out a long sigh of relief “What I’m trying to get at is, I know what it feels like, having a body that isn’t yours, and how it feels having one that does. I know you marty, You’re strong. And whether this takes ten minutes or ten months for you to change back, I'll be there for you.”
“Do I get one of those pins for joining the club?” Marty joked.
“Don’t know bud, we’re in uncharted territory. My gut answer would be no since that isn’t the body you were born with, but we don’t all fit into neat little boxes.” Zane replied, taking the question seriously.
“Oh ok, Is there any way you could teach me how to deal with all this?” Marty asked, gesturing to himself.
“Greg’s adventuring kit has some bandages, we could bind your chest so it doesn’t feel like it gets in the way. Though we’d need to take them off in a couple of hours, There are a lot of health risks even with a well made binder.” Zane said.
“YES. GOD! PLEASE!” Marty said, relieved there was an option to at least get one of the many things wrong with his body under control.
Poppy flowed from one wall to the other to a pillar as she dodged the crystal laser turrets. She threw up barriers of ice when possible to give her a bit of cover, and cast reflect if a beam got too close. Naminé was at the other end of the room at a pedestal frantically solving a puzzle that should turn off the turrets.
Seeing Naminé struggle Poppy headed for the center of the room, where she could see all the turrets. She held her keyblade up in the air and yelled “STOPGA!”, causing a bunch of clock imagery to spawn around her, that slowed to a stop in half a second. There was a clock above each turret, counting down from 12 seconds. After that the spell would end. Poppy remembered that the spell shouldn’t last that long, unless it was the KH1 version and it was based on how high your MP was.
The seconds ticked down and just before Poppy initiated flowmotion, Naminé Shouted “GOT IT!” and the turrets returned to life only to power down. Poppy collapsed, keyblade disappearing in a flash of light. She had been at that for like ten minutes. The Stopga was just for her to catch her breath. She had a lot of stamina now, but It wasn’t infinite.
“Ok, I’m grabbing a Powerade, want anything?” Poppy said, reaching into her bag.
“Another iced tea? And one of those twinkie confections.” Naminé said.
They had cleared a significant portion of the maze, Naminé’s map spanned five pages. During that time Naminé had shown herself at being adept at solving puzzles. the latest one taking her ten minutes Probably indicated they were getting close.
“I’m scared.” Naminé said, almost too quiet to hear “I don’t have another person to go back to like I did with Kairi this time. When I leave Amanda, I think I might just die.”
Poppy just nodded, handing Naminé her snacks. She chugged the powerade before setting it down again and listening to what Naminé had to say,
“It’s Just, you don’t know where hearts go. There’s no kingdom hearts, no final world. People might just die and their heart just disappear. I want to try and figure out who I am. I want to say- say FUCK! And have it come naturally to me like it does Amanda. I want to try something besides drawing. Maybe I’d like the games you play, I could try gardening, baking, there’s so much I haven't done as my own person.” Naminé said.
“I’m sorry, there’s no good outcome here. It’s you or amanda, you can’t both have that body.” Poppy said, looking away.
“Unless we can...” Naminé said. “Sora’s Heart held Ventas’s, Roxas’s, and Xion’s all at the same time. Kairi held me in her heart. The rules of your world stop applying when it comes to the bodies and powers from mine.”
“You’re hoping for too much, the world doesn’t work like that!” Poppy yelled, “I’m probably not even getting Amanda back! The magic bullshit or whatever probably just erased her mind and left yours.” Naminé frowned, but said nothing. Poppy started to cry, the reality of the situation really setting in. There was a very good chance that Naminé had effectively replaced Amanda entirely. There was a chance that marty would remain a girl forever, Mohamad would never talk again, Things don’t just return to the status quo in real life. Just because some freak accident turned people into their costumes doesn’t mean it can turn them back.
“Fuck that” Naminé said. “I’m going to save Amanda. Even if I have to break down my memories piece by piece to get to her, even if I have to destroy my heart. I don’t want it to be that way, but if it has to be I’ll give my life without a second thought.”
“Do you even have a ‘heart’?” Poppy asked “That's just a concept, Naminé. A heart is what pumps blood through your body. There’s no soul, no ‘heart’, just minds. Brains that can be damaged irreversibly, because at the end of the day they are just biological machines.”
“I do have a heart.” Naminé said, “I think it’s time to show you that.”
Before poppy could react Naminé was pressing a finger to her head and she started falling through the black. She fell for what felt like hours, but also only seconds. She righted herself as her feet touched down on a massive stain glass window, casting light into the darkness.
The scene in the stained glass depicted her, the real her, lying comfortably with her eyes closed in her favorite jeans and sweatshirt, on hand holding a set of purple dice. The other hand held a bundle of poppy flowers to her chest. Behind her was her college’s campus, the place she called home for the past two years. The faces of Kent, Marty, Mohamad, Greg, and amanda were in a circle her resting body curled around. The outside of the stained glass was ringed with symbols of twenty sided dice and Poppies, in the same purple color as the dice she was holding.
This was a dive to the heart. The tutorial level of nearly every kingdom hearts game. Was this meant to be Poppy’s ‘heart’? Was college and D&D the core of who she was? Just the shy girl that only hangs out with the nerdiest of nerds?
Before she could ponder further, panes of stained glass materialized and lit up in a path away from the scene Poppy was standing on. She sighed, and Started walking. Again it felt like ages and no time at all before she reached her destination. Another stained glass mural. Or rather, two stained glass murals mashed together, the jagged cracks of glass gleaming.
On one side was Naminé, taking a restful pose with her sketchpad, on a backdrop of white sketches of various locations, and an outer ring of white heart symbols. Amanda’s side held Several people Poppy recognized as Amanda’s other friends, as well as her face. The ring was lined with Peace symbols and constellations. A bit of Amanda’s face was visible down the split, and she was crying.
Naminé stood there, looking sadly at the scene. She said, “I didn’t want to look, in case I didn’t have a heart. Because I’m not real. The world I come from is a fiction. Just a bit of it, a small bit, was made real. Was I a part of that, or just my memories?”
“I’m sorry for snapping at you, I’m just so afraid of losing Amanda. She was my first friend when I went away to college.” Poppy said.
“Well you aren't. There’s damage done here, but I can fix it.” Naminé said. “It will take a while, and We’ll both be asleep for a long time. When she wakes up, I don’t know what will happen to me.”
“I have an idea, but we need to wake up.” Poppy said.
“Ok,” Naminé replied reluctantly, the world of stained glass fading away.
Poppy opened her eyes and shook away the sleepiness that had taken ahold of her. She checked her phone: 8:23PM. Good, she had only been out for a couple of minutes. Naminé got off the ground next to her and stood up. Poppy summoned her Keyblade.
“I don’t know if this will work, or how long it will take to work.” She said, switching her grip so she held the Keyblade by its shaft aka ‘the blade’. “Hold this and listen carefully,”
Naminé grabbed the handle of the Keyblade. Poppy took a breath.
“In your hand, take this key. So long as you have the makings, then through this simple act of taking… its wielder you shall one day be. And you will find me, friend—no ocean will contain you then. No more borders around, or below, or above, so long as you champion the ones you love.
“Let your heart be your guiding Key. If you follow it, It shall lead you back to me. To find your distant way your heart’s chain of memories links us to that fated day. Though our memories may fade, we are certain to meet once you master this blade. ”
Naminé held the keyblade for a moment, shocked at what was being said, before Poppy gently took it back. She dispelled the keyblade and looked Naminé right in the eyes.
“That was the bequeathment,” Naminé said, “Riku told me about it. But that second part, that wasn’t in the speech.”
“No, but it felt right to say” Poppy said. “I think it might have been magic, how else would I have been able to come up with those rhymes on the spot?”
“So what does this mean?” Naminé asked.
“Wherever you end up after restoring Amanda’s memories, use your keyblade to find your way back. ” Poppy said. “It sounds like a lot of anime BS, but you were right, powers from your world do exist in this one now, and the keyblade is one of them.”
Poppy stared at her hand. What were the implications of that? Sure she could open any lock, any door, but that’s hardly earthshaking. If she was a career thief that might be handy. The other signature power of the Keyblades is that of affecting ‘hearts’ what that actually entails is often whatever the plot demands. ‘No ocean can contain you then’... Keyblades don’t just unlock doors, the open doors, doorways. In the sectioned off worlds in the Kingdom Hearts universe a keyblade wielder can just point at the sky and open a portal anywhere and can travel to it with their keyblade as a magic hoverboard.
So If Poppy got a spacesuit she could go anywhere in the universe! Holy Shit! She could travel the world under magical powers, and do… anything. She had that power. Then again Greg had the power to make an entire maze out of nothing. How many kids would be dressed up as more powerful heroes and villains? Would thanos be able to snap his fingers and rewrite the world?
It was a lot to think about. Sora had defeated universe ending monsters, and Xion was at least as capable with the keyblade. So would poppy be able to beat Thanos? That thought snapped Poppy back to reality like a rubber band. She was having what if battles pitting herself against superheroes. This train of thought was officially decommissioned.
“Come on, we’re close” Poppy said, eyeing the massive pillar of light in front of them.
‘This is great, not so great that you learned about my childhood fear of chicken nuggets, but still I can be heard! Being a dusk is so weird. I am literally empty. I can put my hand in my mouth and root around my legs! I’m my own bag! Haha. I also don’t get tired anymore, and can basically swim through the air. And I’m semi-elastic. I can dodge out of the way of things by just stretching my body! I wonder If I need to be dry cleaned or if a washing machine is good eno-’
“Mohamad SHUT THE HELL UP!” Kent roared. At first he’d been ok to let Mohamad talk, he had his voice taken from him after all, but It had been… ten minutes since he got the helmet working and Mohamad had only paused to think about a puzzle for maybe thirty seconds tops. He just kept talking.
‘Oh sorry, Guess it’s just nerves. I’m a sock person now, and that’s terrifying. Along with the implications that everyone on earth at dusk tonight is going to turn into whatever costume they’re wearing.’
“I’m not doing that well myself. I can keep going, but I’m… worried.” Kent said, sighing.
‘How’s your eye doing?’ Mohamad asked.
“It doesn’t hurt anymore, and somehow I still have depth perception” Kent said, holding a hand up to the eyepatch on his face, only for the helmet to get in the way. “Let’s just keep moving, I want this nightmare to end.”
‘What’s so bad about it for you? I’m the one that was turned into a monster.’ Mohamad said, shrugging.
“My parents. My mom’s a zombie and my dad’s head isn’t attached to his body. I’m not sure either of them are even still ‘alive’ at this point.” Kent said “Nothing is ever going to be the same. It reminds me of when I saw the twin towers fall on the news. We went on a trip to New York just a few months earlier. My mom was in the other room cooking and listening to her music. I watched it all unfold, the next time we went on a trip, I couldn’t help but notice airport security.
“Now… I don’t know what happens. Tomorrow we’re going to wake up in a world ravaged by supervillains, monsters, and nightmares. Maybe there will be enough heros out there to even things out, but a lot of people are going to die tonight. And we’re going to have to live in that world, scarred by bodies we didn’t ask for.”
Mohamad was silent for once. Kent took the opportunity to enjoy the quiet. How easy would it be for him to shoot down a plane with his magic sniper rifle? A weapon that couldn’t be taken away from him because it was bullshit magic. Would people be afraid of what he is?
‘When I moved here I was maybe 6 years old. Halloween was a foreign concept to me. But I grew to love it so much. I’m worried about a lot, terrified of a million things, but I can’t stop thinking ‘Is this the last Halloween?’. I know it’s stupid in the face of all this tragedy but the one thing that made me feel at home in the US was dressing up and going around trick-or-treating. I’d hate for future kids to miss out on that.’ Mohamad said.
And with that they walked in silence for a while. They turned a corner and saw as the path forward warped around a giant Minotaur. It was decked out in gold and jewels, It’s horns massive golden ornaments with intricately carved patterns.
As soon as Kent locked eyes with it, the world turned into a kaleidoscope. It looked just like the mirror world in Doctor Strange, which was no doubt where Greg got the idea. Kent wasted no time and began preparing the Minotaur with laser arrows.
But just before an arrow would hit, the world shifted around the monster, blocking his shots. Mohamad flew through the air, flowing around the mishmashed geometry like he was part of the design. He curled around a hoof of the Minotaur and began slashing at it’s back with his arms.
“Mohamad! Get back! You’re not strong enough to fight that thing!” Kent yelled.
Kent tried to rush in, but he couldn’t navigate the landscape. His arrows though, they could. Kent put on a laser lightshow, filling the air with purple darts of light that swam around and about in a confusing manner.
The Minotaur started shifting the world as it attempted to grab Mohamad. Half ot the barrage of arrows hit a wall or a bit of floor before it could reach the Monster. Kent clenched his hand and the arrows started turning and whizzing through the air around the broken world.
The Minotaur Grabbed onto Mohamad and slammed him onto the ground.
“IDIOT! I TOLD YOU NOT TO FIGHT!” Kent screamed. “PLEASE JUST GET OUT OF THERE!”
‘I know, I just wanted to help. For once I saw something I could do that you couldn’t.’ Mohamad said. ‘This whole time I’ve been relying on you for everything. I’m powerless… Sorry.’
Kent desperately clambered over the various bits of floor and wall clipping into each other, trying to reach Mohamad as his Arrows chipped away at the monster’s health too slowly. The Minotaur Gripped Mohamad’s limp body with both hands and ripped him apart in a flash of light.
Kent dropped his crossbows and let out a scream. Even though he knew Greg promised not to kill them, even though this was all some twisted prank, Kent couldn’t forgive Greg for what he just did. This wasn’t a game, and he would pay…
“Zane! Let’s play Duck hunt!” Marty yelled over the din of battle.
Zane grinned and swung his sword across the ground, causing the harpies resting there to take to the sky to avoid getting hit. Then as soon as they cleared the tops of the crumbling pillars of this room, Marty would riddle them with knives faster than humanly possible.
Marty was doing great. His chest felt tight, but it was a small price to pay for how good it felt to move around. He’d only frozen once, and that’s when a goblin landed a hit below the belt. Things were really shaping up, the pillar of light now dominating the sky. They were close.
The last harpy fell, exploding into a puff of black smoke and leaving a few coins and a gem behind. Marty scooped up the valuables and put them in his bag. After a quick search of the room, they continued on.
Things were quiet until Marty noticed a crayon marking on the corner of an intersection. Remembering the crayons amanda had used, the two of them quickly concluded that Amanda must have been through here.
“I feel like an idiot for not marking our path.” Zane said. “I just have a really good sense of direction, I didn’t even think to do it. Maybe we all could have met up by now if I had...”
“Don’t beat yourself up about it big guy,” Marty said, patting Zane on the back “I didn’t think of it either, and It would have been pretty easy to score the walls with my knives.”
“Yeah, guess I’m just stressed.” Zane grunted.
“I think only Fucking Greg isn’t stressed right now.” Marty said. “At least we’re almost done. If nothing else, that bastard is a man of his word.”
“Maybe...” Zane said.
“You ok dude?” Marty asked.
Zane just grunted and quickened his pace. Marty sighed, knowing he shouldn’t prod too much. He easily caught up with his big friend, being a character associated with electricity, Marty could move really fast. It was almost annoying how slow he had to go for Zane to keep up.
They entered a room with a sealed exit. There were two pedistles in the room, each with a hand shaped indent on them and a plaque. The both plaques read:
‘Two lies, two truths, two keys. Place your hand and say your lie and your truth. If both of you believe each others lies as well as your truths, the door will open.’
“Great. Guess we’re doing two truths and a lie, huh?” Marty said. “Shouldn’t be too hard. Tell me when you’re ready.”
“I’m ready.” Zane said.
They both placed their hands on the pedestals. Marty went first. He said, “I have never kissed anyone”
“I feel guilty that I like this body while you’re suffering.” Zane said.
“I have a crush on someone from our group.”
“I feel better about myself now that I’ve told you I’m trans”
The pedistles lit up and the stone door rubbled open. Marty walked over to zane, concern on his face. His subject matter for the puzzle was pretty bleak.
“Which was the lie?” Marty asked. “The first one. I’m not too gung ho about this body. It might seem like peak male performance, but I’m like eight feet tall and wide as a truck!” Zane said, smiling.
“I don’t believe you.” Marty said. Immediately the doors slammed shut and the room was bathed in a red light. “FUCK! Of course Greg would do something like this. You need to keep believing the lie until you get out of the room.”
“Or maybe it’s believing in general?” Zane suggested, “After all, I didn’t lie.”
“Fuck that! Either you’re feeling bad about who you are, or you’re feeling bad you got a better deal than me with this halloween magic bullshit!” Marty yelled.
Golems disguised as bits of the brick wall broke out and went on the offensive. The two black cloaked companions began to fight back. Zane crushed a golem under his massive sword while Marty tried to hit their glowing weak points(really Greg?).
“I feel bad about myself!” Zane yelled back swinging his sword. “You now know I’m trans, and you’ve been treating me different in little ways and I hate it!”
“Bullshit!” Marty said, a knife landing square in a glowing gem, exploding the brick golem in a shower of mortar. “You told me you were afraid of what might happen when you told us, but you were also committed to telling us. We support you Zane, Always have. If a few small things about the way I treat you change that’s not going to make you hate yourself. None of us hate you, or would ever hate you for being trans! I know you know that!”
“FINE!” Zane nearly screamed, making the golems pause. “I love your support! It means the world to me! Which hurts more since that now that I’ve gotten what I’ve always wanted, maybe a tad too big, and a face I’d rather have some softer features on, and perhaps le-”
“DUDE! JUST TELL ME!” Marty shouted back, over the cacophony of metal on brick as they battled the golems.
“You have to suffer the way I suffered, while I finally get to feel like myself for once in my life! I don’t want the price of my happiness being yours!” Zane said, crying. With a thud he smashed his sword against a golems side, crushing it and sending it flying at three others.
“It’s not! I’ll get that Bastard Greg. to cast True Polymorph on me and things will be ok again!” Marty said, nailing the final golems as they were pinned under their fallen comrade.
“What if that doesn’t work? What if you have to live every pain I ever had, while I get a free pass?” Zane asked, falling to his knees. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.”
“It’s not that bad. Besides the plumbing, this body is actually really cool. I always dug Larxine’s voice actor. Maybe it’s because I am/was cis, but I might be ok with this after some time to adjust.” Marty said, putting a hand on Zane’s shoulder.
“You don’t know, you haven't been through it yet. You have so much pain ahead of you.” Zane said.
“No I don’t.” Marty said, moving around the big guy to get in his face. “I have something you didn’t when you were going through hard times. I have YOU! Someone who’s already been there. It might get bad, but that’s not your fault, and I get someone to show me how to deal.”
Zane grabbed Marty into a hug, and despite how uncomfortable it felt given his current body, Marty hugged back, determined to comfort his friend. He’d be ok, they both would. Even if Marty never got back his original body, he could learn to live with this.
After a quick snack break and some awkward conversation the two of them were on the move again. They met a minotaur decked out in blood red gear, it’s horns cut and capped with rusted iron blades.
It warped the maze around it so they were floating on cubes, some big and some small, each side seeming to have it’s own gravity. It pulled whips of of it’s belt, one for each hand, and started whipping at them, space distorting to lengthen the whips across the distance between them.
“Cover me! If I get in close those Whips won’t do it any good against my sword!” Zane yelled out.
Marty nodded, running forward at lightning speed, faster and faster until it seemed like there were two of her, then four, then eight. These magic afterimages each went separate ways, needling the minotaur as they went.
With the monster distracted by having to whip the knives out of the air to defend itself, Zane closed in on it, using his sword to send cubes flying, clearing a path as he went. As he approached the Minotaur, Zane pulled his sword back, pointing the tip at the unarmored stomach of the beast.
With a wet squelch, Zane stabbed his sword into the minotaur. He let go and jumped back, yelling “LIGHTNING ROD!”
Marty and his clones smiled, their knives glowing impossibly bright before eight bolts of lightning hit the sword embedded in the belly of the beast. The labyrinth snapped back into shape as their foe fell over, burnt to a crisp.
The minotaur’s nose ring was the only thing unharmed by the lightning, and as it’s owner turned to ash, the ring hovered in place. Marty stepped forward to look at it, and saw that the inside of the ring was like a window, showing a large circular pool of glowing water, and a massive pillar of light emanating from the center of the room. The moment he touched it the ring grew large enough to walk through. They had made it.
“Naminé, Light ‘em up!” Poppy yelled.
The oil flask She had gotten from the lantern puzzle 2 rooms back was shattered on a Minotaur in blue robes. It moved around by creating massive gusts of wind that the maze around them warped to avoid.
It was difficult landing a solid hit on the monster, as it was inclined to move anytime Poppy had gotten close to it. Magic worked ok, but the thing had a lot of health. Poppy ended up using the Kingdom Hearts spell magnet, which pulled enemies into a single spot, to trap the monster long enough to throw a flask of oil at it.
Naminé had a wand of FireBall.
The Minotaur caught flame instantly, pushed out of the Magnet spell by the force of the fire ball. It kept trying to move around using the wind, but it only acted to fan the flames. With it slowed down considerably Poppy believed she could finish it off.
“Holy!” Poppy yelled pointing her keyblade at the sky.
A brilliant white light shone from the giant key, as pillars of light erupted from underneath the Minotaur, juggling it in the air as more pillars generated beneath it. Finally, Three pillars of light centered on the Minotaur, nearly disintegrating under the assault of light and fire.
Once the spell ended the corpse hit the floor and scattered into ash. All except for the Minotaur’s nose ring, which grew until it revealed itself to be a portal to the pillar of light that served as the exit for this labyrinth.
“You did it!” Naminé said, literally jumping with joy.
“We did it.” Poppy corrected. “How many charges do you have left?”
“Two on the FireBall wand, nine on the Eldritch Blast, five on the Ray of Frost, and still only one on the Blight. I used up the cure wounds wand, sorry.” Naminé replied.
“It’s fine, I’ve got Curaga” Poppy said, shrugging. “Are you ready? We’re heading into final boss territory. This is where we’re most likely to ‘die’. I don’t know what purgatory Greg would put us in, but I don’t think it’d be good for Amanda’s recovery.”
Naminé hesitated. Poppy could only imagine what was going through her head. Naminé was thrust into a world she didn’t understand, told she was fictional, and that her will was superimposed onto someone else’s. That couldn’t be a good experience. Poppy hoped that anime bullshit would save Naminé as her own person in the end, especially now that she was bequeathed a keyblade.
“If I don’t go, then I don’t know when I would be able to leave.” Naminé said. “I need to take this chance. Please protect me, and Amanda, in this coming battle.”
“Alright. Be ready for anything” Poppy said, stepping up to the portal, keyblade raised.
Poppy cautiously put her foot down into the pool of water, only for it to come up to her ankles. The glowing liquid seemed save enough, probably just an aesthetic choice. Poppy looked around and besides the water and the Pillar of light, there were only massive stone walls encircling the area.
Poppy spotted another golden ring appear and enlarge, and Through it stepped Zane and Marty. Poppy let out a sigh of relief at seeing the two of them ok. She walked over, Naminé nervously following behind her.
“Marty! Zane! I’m so glad you’re ok!” Poppy said, a genuine smile on her face.
“We found your route markings,” Marty said. “It didn’t matter since we were so close to the center anyway, but that was a smart move, Amanda! We sure as hell didn’t think of it. I’m glad you two were able to deal. Being a girl hasn’t been… great for me.”
“Uh about Amanda...” Poppy began. “You know how you can suddenly fight with all these neat abilities and it feels like second nature? Uh, turns out the memories can be more intense. I lapsed into thinking I was Xion once, and Amanda… Well she kind of got overwritten with Naminé’s mind.”
“She... WHAT!?” Zane yelled, nearly shaking.
“Don’t worry, Naminé is a witch of memories, remember?” Poppy said, trying to calm Zane, “Naminé Thinks she can fix the damage to Amanda’s memories and restore her. She just needs someplace she can rest undisturbed and an unknown amount of time.”
“I’m sorry your friend is trapped inside me” Naminé added sheepishly. “I will do everything in my power to free her.” “Objectively not the weirdest thing to happen today” Marty sighed, rubbing his temples. “Alright I guess we’ll be fighting the final boss together?”
“Aww,” A voice echoed through the room, “Could you guys at least act surprised when the boss comes out?”
“Greg get out here right now so I can beat the shit out of you for hurting my friends” Marty said softly.
“Oh, now that you’ve got powers you want to physically assault me?!” greg asked “Too bad. Beat my water dragon and you get to go home. Since Y’all are all here together that means you all get a cloak of windwalking! If you survive… Good luck!”
Before anyone could offer a retort, The pillar of light was surrounded by a torrent of water, and upside down waterfall possessing such force that Poppy had no doubt it would prevent anyone from exiting until it was dealt with.
A shadow of a massive beast passed beneath them. How it was beneath them when they were standing in ankle deep water? Who knows, probably ‘magic’. Everyone adopted combat stances, with Poppy keeping a close eye on Naminé.
“I can fight really well, But Naminé doesn’t have any combat powers. We got some wands she can use, but we only have so many charges” Poppy said to Marty and Zane. “I’ll try to cover her, but please if you see her in trouble, help her.”
“Roger.” Zane said, nodding.
“I’m at a disadvantage here!” Marty said, “I can only use my knives, Electric attacks are going to be no good in this water.”
“Then Zane and I will push the offensive, You stay back with Naminé and throw knives” Poppy said.
“Sounds like a plan!” Marty said.
A second later a massive dragon with sapphire blue scales breached the water. It’s massive clawed feet were webbed, and spines ran down the back of it’s spine, the tail ending in a fin. The beast roared, and geysers erupted all around the battlefield.
Zane wasted no time, running forward with his sword right at the Dragon. Poppy wasn’t far behind. Marty and Naminé were repositioning to get a better angle on the dragon. Poppy let off a Blizzaga, freezing the dragon’s front legs to the bottom of the pool. Zane took advantage by striking at it’s knees, making it cry out in pain and rage. A few knives started peppering the side of the dragon, followed by an Eldritch Blast. Poppy double jumped up to the Dragon’s head to Attack it with the keyblade, trying to keep it’s attention on Her and Zane.
After a few more hits the Dragon turned into water and flowed back into the pool. Oh. Poppy figured out the gimmick. The dragon was made out of water and could disappear and reappear anywhere. Magical weapons(AKA all of their weapons) could damage it, but mundane means probably couldn’t make any lasting damage.
“How much HP could this thing have?” Zane asked.
“Hard to know. We’re still on the first phase, and if Greg follows tradition, the boss will mix up it’s attacks for the second, that should tell us when we’ve done about a third, unless we can find some weakness.” Poppy replied.
Again the beast appeared, this time targeting Marty and Naminé. Before anyone could react, one of the walls exploded, a gold clad minotaur launched clean across the room into the waterfall, which launched it up into the air. A few seconds later it splashed down and started turning to ash, nose ring rapidly spinning in place as if unsure what it should be doing.
Walking calmly through the ruble was Kent, an aura of darkness surrounding him and he lifted a black keyblade towards the Dragon. Before someone could even say so much as a ‘what the fuck?!’, Kent had already sped past the dragon, cutting it in two as he passed.It tried to reform, but Kent waved his keyblade over the water and froze the entire pool.
“Kent! Are you ok? Where’s Mohamad?” Marty shouted, trying to pull his feet out of the ice.
“He’s gone. Alone in some place trapped in an alien body.” Kent said, voice lacking emotion “Greg I beat your stupid maze, come out here RIGHT NOW!”
Greg appeared in a flash of light, smiling. He had changed into some more casual clothes, but they all had little touches of wizarding, like the hoodie being star patterned, and his pants having a fancy cut to them.
“Congratulations! And to the victor, the spoi-” Greg was cut off when Kent grabbed his throat and lifted him off his feet. He flailed for a half second before teleporting away.
“COWARD!” Kent roared at the sky. “BRING BACK Mohamad THIS INSTANT!”
“Jeez man. Let’s see, I rolled one D hundred hours for him to stay in the demi-plane. Got a 14, He’ll be out then.” Greg’s disembodied voice replied.
“HE’S SUFFERING!” Kent yelled, “HIS BODY IS A HOLLOW HUSK, AN ALIEN FORM THAT TERRIFIES HIM! ALL OF US HAVE HAD BODIES IMPOSED ON US THAT WE DIDN’T ASK FOR, WE’RE IN THE MIDST OF A TRAGEDY AND YOU WANTED US TO PLAY A GAME!”
“I got turned into a girl!” Marty said, “It’s scary and I hate it and I don’t know what I’d do without Zane’s help.”
“Your friend lost her memories to me” Naminé said, “You thought she was lying to you, playing dumb. I don’t know if she’s awake somewhere deep inside me, suffering, but the longer we delay her treatment the less chance I have of restoring her.”
“Greg please, just let Mohamad go and let us leave.” Poppy said, “I know I never gave your games a chance, I was too shy to even look over what you had made after the others dismissed it. But that doesn’t mean you get to just strong arm us into playing something. Nobody enjoys being forced to play a game.”
“Shut up!” Greg yelled “Even if you hate it, I need to show you what I can do. I need you to know I’m not just ‘Crazy Greg’. I’m not just the guy who fucks up. I can make interesting and fun things if you could only just see! This was my one chance to really impress you.”
“Well it didn’t fuckng work” Kent growled “You did fuck up, you made everything worse. Half of us are traumatized by our own bodies and you dump us here where we have to fight for our lives?! Even if the death isn’t real, the pain is. And being alone right now, being trapped? That’s the most terrifying thing of all.”
“Whatever, you won. You can leave now. Mohamad knew the risks a-”
“DO YOU EVEN REALIZE HOW MUCH YOU’VE HURT US!?” Kent yelled.
“It’s not that bad, y-”
“YES IT IS!” Kent yelled “I LOST AN EYE, Mohamad LOST HIS HUMANITY, MARTY IS A GIRL, AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO AMANDA! Instead of consoling us, instead of helping us deal with this trauma, you decided to use it as leverage to make us do play your shitty game!”
“But you hurt me.” Greg said sadly, “Shamed me, laughed at me. Did you ever apologize? Help me deal with my issues? work on my homebrew instead of throwing it out? No, you just kept tossing me aside. This is karma, and it’s a bitch.”
“I’LL KILL YOU!” Kent yelled, running forward.
He struck out a hand and a portal of darkness formed in front of him. Poppy hesitated, looking back at the group. She had never seen kent this mad. They had all neglected Greg, and maybe were in some ways responsible for him acting this way. But things couldn’t escalate, Poppy wasn’t sure if Kent would actually try to kill Greg, but he needed to be stopped.
“Take care of Amanda, I’ll be back” Poppy said, before diving into the darkness after kent.
Poppy exited the black smokey substance into a map room. It held a scale model of the labyrinth and notes scattered about. The walls were obscured by a barrier of darkness, and as soon as Poppy was through the portal closed behind her.
Kent and Greg were fighting. Every spell Greg threw at kent, he teleported away or deflected. When Greg stopped time, Kent was able to break out; When he put up a prismatic wall, Kent shattered it in a single blow; when he tried to summon Kent’s greatest fear he batted away the illusion as if it didn’t even make him pause.
Ninth level spells were only stalling Kent. Poppy needed to figure out a plan. But what could she do? She needed to stop both of them, otherwise one would tear apart the other. But how? What could she do? Nothing Xion was capable of would be able to stop those two.
But maybe there was something Poppy could do…
Summoning up as much speed as she could muster, Poppy ran between her two enraged friends and put her hands out to either side, one facing each of them. Their attacks nearly hit her, but were redirected just in time.
“Stop this! You’ve both hurt each other, We’re all guilty of hurting Greg; and Greg, you’re guilty of hurting us. That doesn’t mean we should punish each other! That doesn’t mean we should fight!” Poppy said.
“Get out of th-” Kent began
“NO!” Poppy yelled, cutting off Kent “I will throw myself in front of your attacks as many times as it takes. Just listen to me!
“I always let other people take the lead, I was always scared to make decisions and speak my mind. That led to me ignoring Greg because it was the easy option. But I knew, I knew Greg had issues, things we should have tried working out. Something was bound to happen eventually even if it wasn’t as earth shattering as this!
“Greg, I’m sorry, but you’ve done nothing but take out your anger on us, and treated us like playthings since you got transformed. You’ve become the bully we were to you, but worse. Is that what you really want? To hurt people to feel better about yourself? You can still make things right. Both of you can.”
Silence hung in the air for a moment before Kent spoke up.
“That’s a nice speech and all, but what Greg did was unforgivable.” Kent said.
“Get your head out of your ass, kent!” Poppy retorted “It’s only unforgivable because you’ve convinced yourself not to forgive him. Just like Gregg became a bully to get back at us, you’re just taking out your anger back at Greg! Don’t you see!? You both just keep making things worse!
“I care about you and I know you care about me, and each other, but you’re so blinded by your rage you’ll make up any excuse to keep causing pain! If you both just stop, just drop it, we can all go home and see our families, and figure out what to do about what we’ve turned into.”
Greg lowered his staff, and then just dropped it. He looked… defeated. Poppy could only imagine what he must be thinking right now, but whatever it was, She had gotten through to him. He’d finally realized what he had done. He snapped his fingers and Mohamad appeared in a puff of smoke looking around confused. Then Greg just sat down on the floor cradling his knees.
Kent looked like he still wanted to kill Greg, but a combination of Mohamad being there, Greg losing the will to fight, and Poppy standing between them stopped him. Enraged, Kent started bashing the model labyrinth to bits. Mohamad walked over to hug him, and then Kent broke down crying.
Poppy walked over to Greg and sat down beside him. She said, “I really am sorry for ignoring you all this time. I just… I was scared, scared of so many things. Of getting into arguments, of making someone think less of me, of being hurt.”
“I’m sorry for how I’ve acted. I just… Don’t know when I’ve gone too far. It never seems like it to me, so I blamed you guys.” Greg said. “I really did turn out to be the bad guy.”
“But you don’t have to be.” Poppy said, getting up and offering a hand. Greg took it.
Everyone met up back in Kent’s back yard. It was about one in the morning at that point, and people were exhausted. Kent’s parents were relieved to see him, once he made it clear he was himself.
His mom was a zombie, but with all her open wounds now bandaged up, and her green skin cleaned up as best she could manage. His dad had a head that wasn’t attached to his neck, which while weird, only presented some minor problems in the grand scheme of things.
Apparently things calmed down fairly quickly in the Neighborhood. People stepped up to be heroes with their powers. Emergency response, while overwhelmed, was able to get a handle on things once most powered threats were taken care of.
The D&D club minus Kent told Kent’s Parents they where going home. In reality they were figuring out how to handle things on their own. Greg explained that true polymorph had fizzled when he tried casting it on himself. It seemed like whatever had changed them was more powerful than any power it gave.
Marty was disappointed, but understood. Zane took that time to reveal to the group he was trans and that he would be helping marty cope, which while a shock to some of the club members, was a relief to all of them.
Mohamad didn’t need sleep, which was worrying. Greg promised to alter the Helm of Telepathy to fit Mohamad’s weird monster head as soon as he got some sleep, and Mohamad was ok with that. Kent decided to stay with Mohamad until morning came around to keep him company. Wouldn’t be the first time he’d pulled an all nighter.
Naminé began working on amanda’s memories in a Demiplane of Greg’s. The group had decided it would be too time consuming trying to explain things to Amanda’s family, and Poppy would call to let them know that She was alright and sleeping over at her place.
With that everyone went their separate ways, Greg keeping his phone to be on call should they need his magic sometime in the night. Poppy decided to sleep in the same demiplane as Amanda, After all she lived in a dorm.
The sun eventually rose and that terrible night was over.
A lot’s happened in the past few weeks. Haven't seen you pop up yet, so I’m going to write you a letter. A lot has changed so let me get you up to speed.
When morning rolled around the changes reverted somewhat. We all still had our powers for the most part, with greg losing the most and Kent losing his super powered darkness mode or whatever.
I got my face back, but still had Xion’s body type and hair. My keyblade changed with the help of the d20 from my first dice set. I call it Fortunes flower, and it looks like the kingdom key except the base is rusted iron and vines are growing from it to form the blade, with the tip exploding in flowers surrounding a large twenty sided die. I’ve been helping keep the peace whenever someone tries to use their powers for evil, and since my Keyblade only hurts people as much as I want them hurt, I do a great job at it.
Amanda ended up looking a lot like you, just grown to Amanda’s Actual age. She woke back up after three days with no memory of anything after the party. She’s been fairly melancholy. After hearing what happened to you, She feels a bit guilty, but is getting her life back on track fairly easily.
Zane’s face turned mostly back, but he kept the hair and his features stayed very masculine. He was also still seven feet tall, and he’s been pretty happy with how that turned out. He’s started wearing his trans pride pin on his bag and has gotten involved in LGBT+ activism on campus. He’s received a fair share of hate, but he says it’s worth it for the work he’s doing.
Marty turned back into the body they had previously, once again keeping the hair. Oh! Marty had put a lot of thought into gender since then and decided They’re going by They/Them for now while they figure out who they want to be, after all there were things about being Larxene he liked.
They’ve grown pretty close to Zane, and have been working with them on LGBT+ activism. They admitted having a crush on me and asked me out, but I turned them down. It made me realize I just don’t think of people in that way. Marty was a bit sad, but They got over it pretty quickly and we’ve been great friends.
Kent’s eye didn’t come back, but his hair lost the grey, though his eye is still yellow. Other than that he’s mostly his same old self. He stopped using the black keyblade, and decided to follow Amanda on being a pacifist. After some time to think about things He realized if he resorted to violence he would regret it.
Mohamad Changed back halfway to human. He has a face, but is bald and still has the zipper mouth. He has a voice too, thank god. His skin ias a silvery white and his limbs slender and flowing, sometimes ignoring his joints in favor of just bending to where he wants to move them. It’s unsettling, but he seems happy enough.
That night didn’t put a hamper on his love for costumes, and he began building A gundam cosplay shortly after he got back. He was a little sad his Dusk Puppet was gone, but Decided it was for the best, since he was still pretty scarred from the events of being a Dusk.
Greg took a Hiatus from the D&D club and began therapy to address his issues. The club paid for his first couple of sessions before his healthcare caught up. Turns out he was autistic his whole life and never knew it. He plans on returning once he figures out how to relate to people better, and promises to write an epic campaign with my help. I’ve never been one for DMing, but I do enjoy writing, and I know when to tell Greg one his ideas is a little much. Things aren't perfect here, the world is going through a massive paradigm shift, with powers turning entire industries on their head. We may have even solved world hunger! But at the same time there are riots and revolutions all around. People are using powers to try and get what they couldn’t before and it’s a bit of a mess.
There’s also been a lot of hate directed towards us ‘changed’, even the poor children that turned back completely. It’s been hard to deal with, but we can deal with it.
I can’t wait to see you again. Maybe some of your optimism rubbed off on me, but I’m sure we’ll see each other again. I hope you’ll come and play D&D with us when you do. I think you’d make a great bard.
Thinking of you, Wherever you are,