Chapter One: The Shadows
Far above the lush landscapes of the Disney Kingdom, a magnificent steel stadium floated in the sky. Thousands of passionate fans applauded. They had been waiting for so long to watch the top two contenders step onto the central battle arena.
From the luxury VIP box, Queen Minnie giggled in delight. She knew she had the best spot in the stadium with a clear view of the arena below. In her frilly rose gown, she turned to her dear friend, Princess Jasmine of Agrabah, wearing a lavender robe over her turquoise outfit. She had traveled across the vast desert from her palace to attend the competition. Carpet, a magical living item from the Cave of Wonders, whirled up and around, too eager to sit still. Jasmine had borrowed him from her sweetheart back home. She and Queen Minnie were ready to watch the friendly but fierce fight through the thick glass wall.
King Mickey flipped over from the ground entrance and landed on the elevated arena. He wielded the Keyblade, a shining golden weapon that resembled a large key. He raised the Keyblade by its silver hilt, cuing his diehard fans to chant his name to the famous melody of "Mickey Mouse March".
On the other side of the arena, Donald Duck waddled while waving his magician's staff. He was ready to win over the cheering crowds with his presence alone. Instead, he only received less than average applause, the kind one would expect just to be polite. Donald grumbled angrily and pointed his staff over to Mickey, both friend and rival. Mickey gave his usual jolly smile and offered to shake hands. Donald returned the gesture before stepping back onto his side of the arena. The bright digital timer under the giant monitor had been set. Both Mickey and Donald charged into each other. The fight commenced!
* * *
Meanwhile, beyond the Eastern mountains, one particularly tiny dragon unfolded his bamboo chair, dug into his firecracker-flavored popcorn box, and gazed into an ancient magical mirror. Its smooth surface revealed live footage of the fight between Mickey and Donald from the floating stadium.
"Yo Mu-LAAAAAAN! It's just started! Get your China-saving butt over here!" shouted Mushu from the ancestral temple. As a proud family guardian, it was his sacred duty to protect Mulan in the battlefield and offer spiritual wisdom. Recently however, she had enjoyed a period of peace with her family. She hurried through the lawn, past the cherry blossom tree.
"Sorry Mushu. I lost track of time and-" Before Mulan could finish speaking, Mushu raised his stern hand and tapped the stone floor with his scaly feet.
"Shu-shu-shu! I don't wanna waste anymore time with your tardiness or your excuses. Come on!" huffed Mushu. He rolled his eyes before packing his mouth with more popcorn. Mulan crossed her legs beside her lovable guardian. She did not understand how Mushu got the mirror to work. It was an old family relic used for spiritual reflection, not so much for displaying sporting events from miles away. Mulan was tempted to ask Mushu but he turned hyperactive at an instant.
“OOOOH YEAH MAN! This is I what I call the ultimate butt-kicking! I really hope that duck-dude gets at least one shot at Mickey. I mean we all know who we're putting our money on, am I right Mulan?"
“You might want to keep it down. My ancestors are technically trying to rest,” suggested Mulan.
“And IIII'm technically trying to watch. Rude!” Mushu's cheeks were stuffed like a greedy squirrel. His cheering was muffled. Mulan looked back to the fight on the mirror. She carefully studied Mickey's form as he swung his Keyblade against Donald.
* * *
“FIRAGA!” shouted Donald. From the top of his staff, he crafted a giant burning fireball and launched it at his more popular opponent. Mickey evaded the attack just in time. The point of impact was scorched with soot and flames. Donald whipped his staff around, firing a barrage of smaller fireballs. They flew after Mickey like heat-seeking missiles. Wherever he hopped, they followed. Donald cackled with a devilish grin. There was not much space for Mickey to retreat away from Donald's spell. Mickey swung his Keyblade in a half-moon guard, hitting all of the fireballs at once. The smoky recoil blasted him to the edge of the arena. A shocking, collective gasp took over the stadium. Queen Minnie held her gloved hands to her lips. Princess Jasmine, along with many of the spectators, was at the edge of her seat.
Mickey wobbled but plunged his Keyblade into the floor of the arena to steady himself. He lunged ahead while Donald summoned a vertical bolt of lightning to stop him. Mickey performed a midair twist and dodged the electrifying attack. He rolled into a fighter's stance, aiming his Keyblade at Donald. He was ready to shoot a piercing blast of magic but froze. Something glimmered and grew from out of the clouds. Something big.
Before Donald could hit Mickey who had dropped his guard, he caught the bewildered look on Mickey's face.
"What are you-" Donald turned around and squawked. A flying pirate ship loomed over the stadium and cast wicked shadows over the audience.
“DONALD, watch out!” warned Mickey at the sight of an iron cannon, locking into position. He tackled Donald away from its aim.
PWWSH! A heavy cannonball was shot right into the arena. Panic ignited within the audience. Mickey and Donald waited for the smoke to wither away. They both gazed upon the deep crater that could have been filled with broken bones and charred feathers.
Donald could only hold his fears with a single gulp. Mickey looked back up where the flying ship sank into the stadium. Judging by its scarlet red exterior, Mickey knew right away which captain commanded the pirate ship.
"Hook," said Mickey. A sharp whistle pierced the entire sky, losing its azure blue color for a sickly dark red.
Queen Minnie shuddered at what appeared to be a cursed twilight sky. Jasmine glanced at her magic carpet, cowering behind her legs. She tried to stay calm, even as the flying pirate ship began to overflow with a mud-like darkness. Once it fell into the seats, the fans tried to flee. While Minnie and Jasmine were safe in their private box, Mickey observed the spilling darkness, bubbling into small shadowy imps. They twitched their crooked limbs and blinked their beady yellow eyes. One creature spotted Donald and pounced at him.
"GYAAAAAH!" quacked Donald madly. He cast a burst of fire to ward off the first creature. He waved his staff against the others.
"The Heartless are here." Mickey identified the creatures, those who had yielded to the darkness within their own hearts. The puny species that traveled in large numbers were known as Shadows.
"Well no one invited them!" shouted Donald. He fired blast after blast of fiery magic, eliminating the Heartless as they tried to attack him.
"Let's take care of these fellas first. And then we gotta help everybody else," said Mickey with a noble nod.
"Whatever you say, Your Majesty." Donald nudged his head towards the left side of the Heartless while Mickey leaped to the right side.
* * *
“Oh dear. This is horrible!" wailed Minnie.
"We have to get the people to safety," said Jasmine. "I'll go with Carpet and make sure everyone is escorted to the shuttles."
"That's awfully brave of you. In that case, I'll see to it that the no one gets left behind."
"Alright. Then we can meet back at the stadium to help Mickey and Donald. They should be fine. I believe in them." Jasmine sped out of the luxury box. As a devoted friend and ally, Carpet flew after her, more than willing to put its sentient life on the line. Jasmine rode Carpet and soared off to the lower levels of the stadium. She helped to guide the terrified guests to the right hallways where they could evacuate aboard shuttle ships to fly back down to the ground.
Queen Minnie went up the stairs and checked the stadium seats, where a few, scattered people remained. They scrambled to find a hallway that was less packed. Her eyes could not leave Mickey and Donald who were busy with their own tight battle.
A cry for help. Two kids tried to climb up the aisles away from a gang of Shadows. Queen Minnie stuck out her hand with a magical ring given to her by King Mickey for her protection. She used its power to shoot a blast of light that gleamed like a shiny pearl. It spiraled off to demolish the Shadows. She asked the kids if they were okay and helped them to find the closest exit. Once they were safe, nearby Shadows gathered and preyed on Queen Minnie. She tried to escape them by heading down the stairs to the front row seats. Somehow, the other gangs of Shadows were attracted to her. As it was her duty to protect people, Queen Minnie put on a brave face and lured the Heartless towards her. She turned back and forth, fighting back with as much force as she could with her magic ring. She tried to play defensive but one bold Shadow leaped over the crowd of its kind.
Before it could make contact with Queen Minnie, Jasmine and Carpet whooshed by as a purple blur. The creature was snatched and released, falling high enough to disappear on impact. Queen Minnie was grateful. She waved at Jasmine who returned and scooted to Carpet's edge to make room.
"They just keep coming!" Donald was becoming more irritated with the surrounding horde of Heartless. He stomped his webbed feet and panted.
"Just keep it up, Donald. We're almost done," said King Mickey. While the flying pirate ship made its descent even closer to the arena, Queen Minnie and Jasmine finally arrived to help.
"Your Majesty! And Your Highness!" said Donald, in respect to Minnie and Jasmine. "This isn't safe for you two!"
"This isn't safe for anyone," argued Jasmine. She whistled to Carpet who dove under and tripped three Heartless. Jasmine stepped forward and kicked them off the arena. Minnie followed up by casting her pearl attacks behind Mickey. For now, the Shadows kept their distance.
"Thanks for the help. I hope you two didn't get hurt.” said Mickey, nervously scratching his ears.
"We're fine. Everybody else should be safe now," said Jasmine.
"Oh Mickey. This is all horrible. What are we going to do?" asked Minnie.
“We’ll think of something, I promise," said Mickey, determined. "Donald, let’s-"
“Your Majesty! LOOK!” yelled Donald. He pointed behind Mickey. Both Minnie and Jasmine gasped. Mickey turned with wide eyes, brimming with fear.
The remaining Heartless gathered over at one section of the stadium. This time, they combined into a colossal tower, swaying like a shadowy twister. It bent over and leaped to the arena. King Mickey, Donald, Queen Minnie, Jasmine, and Carpet huddled to the opposite side. The tower of Heartless sprouted two long legs. Next, came the muscular black arms and claws. The Shadows used their dark powers to form a new creature, classified by King Mickey's royal reports as a Darkside. Its hollow chest bared the shape of a heart. Thick tendrils, like black vines, covered its head where only its cold yellow eyes could be seen.