Warm. It was warm. Satoshi turned from the fire, slowly, to look at his surroundings. The room was like a cavern, eerily lit up by the fire and torches on the walls. Grotesque statues and carvings littered the place, and shadows danced in a way that, to Satoshi's fear-clouded mind, seemed horribly unnatural. They almost seemed to circle him, peering and poking about as if to size him up. He cringed, but there was nowhere to go. They were all around him.
*Why did I come here?* He had no answer. The whole time he'd been running, it seemed like a dream. He had been running somewhere, but... he didn't know where. And now, here he was. It was so strange and frightening... he couldn't think straight. Moaning, Satoshi sank to the ground, feeling despair flood every sense. Only the thought of Shigeru gave him hope.
The boy looked up, and saw a silvery light, coming from somewhere in front of him. He got to his feet slowly, and crept forward, curiousity overriding fear for the moment. As he drew closer, hesitantly, the source of the shimmering became clear. On an ornately carved table sat a box -- the kind most often used to contain treasure. The sparkling came from within it, as well as from its own pure silver surface. Satoshi moved towards it, driven by puzzlement and wonder.
The lid of the box was still closed, though the twinkling lights shone through it. Ever so carefully, the entranced Satoshi reached forward and lifted back the lid, his eager eyes peering forward to find what secrets lay within. Sparkling silver reflected back at him, playing lightly across his face as the light from the fires shifted. He reached a shaking hand into the box, and felt it dip into a small sea of precious gems. Cupping the hand, he brought it back out, fascinated with how the silvery jewels cascaded through his fingers, slipping back into their box as thought they flowed, like water. A slow smile began to force its way across Satoshi's face.
~*Change his spirit*~
Then the music began, shattering the mood entirely. Satoshi's breath caught in fear, and he spun around. The notes were soft and pleasant, but they had deadly undertones to them, enough to make him want to cry. And in the center of the floor, a lone figure danced, its entire body shrouded in darkness; it almost seemed, in fact, to consist *only* of darkness. As well as a high-collared costume, complete with a black cape and boots. Satoshi felt a strange sense of dread, and moved away from the box, pressing himself back up against the wall, as far from the creature as he could get. The costume it wore seemed... submissive, in a way...
~*Make him one of us*~
The creature continued its graceful dance, but it was all too much for Satoshi. Unable to tear his eyes away, he pressed hard into the wall, wishing he could dissolve into it and get away somehow. His breath came in short, panicked gasps, and something seemed to scramble in his soul... a darkness, seeking a hold. He fought against its demands, tucking his arms around himself and sobbing without being able to cry. *No...* The creature came toward him, bringing with it a stronger compulsion. *No...* Satoshi shut his eyes tight, and willed it all away... willed everything to end... willed himself to wake, safe in Shigeru's arms... A shadow passed over his face, and his eyes shot open involuntarily. The dancer now stood mere inches away, its hand almost touching the boy's face. It pulled back the hand slowly, and Satoshi felt the darkness gain a firm hold on him, drawing him forward. With a sigh, he gave in entirely and allowed himself to be led out into the middle of the floor.
For a moment, he stood still, paralyzed with fear, as the creature spun and twirled around him. But then it caught up his hand and pulled him around, and he was trapped in the music, unable to stop himself, dancing, spinning, arms and legs out of control in their motions. A wild exhileration rushed through him, its power coursing through his veins and all around him. Satoshi spun toward the dancer, his arms outstretched, head upturned, a breathless smile on his lips and desperate enjoyment in his eyes. The creature danced toward him -- closer, more menacing, and all the while Satoshi stood there, welcoming it, and then...
Their images blurred together, and Satoshi danced alone, his legs and shoulders now encased in black with gold and silver trim, and a cape with a collar twice as high as his head flowing about as he moved. The same costume that had once dressed the mysterious dancer. He spun past a mirror and stopped, studying his reflection. Yes, the clothing was submissive. The vest -- his only semblance of a shirt -- had no sleeves, and it consisted of only two strips of stiff fabric coming down to meet his belt in the front. His pants, soft and smooth against his skin, tucked firmly into the boots on his feet and lower calves. Sataoshi blinked at his image, not recognizing it. Everything seemed so... dark.
A red, dark-clawed hand suddenly burst through the mirror, and Satoshi jumped back, feeling fear grab him once more. Another hand followed the first, and the a hooved foot... Satoshi could feel that presense again, the overwhelming sense of evil and darkness that made him feel so weak and small. It was too much, this time. He felt his vision going black... With a little whimper -- of fear or pain; he didn't know -- Satoshi crumpled to the ground.
The figure continued to step through the mirror, rising to its full towering height. The Lord of Darkness looked down at Satoshi's unconscious form, black cape swirling about in distinct contrast to his crimson-colored skin. Large black horns rose from his head. Smiling in satisfaction, the Dark Lord knelt down beside Satoshi, bending over him with obvious intentions.
The boy's eyes slid open, then immediately went wide with horror. His mouth opened in a silent scream, and he slid away from the terror looming above him, scooting backwards on his hands with his feet kicking him onward, as fast as he could manage. Loud, panicked breaths escaped his lungs, as he once again pressed himself against the wall.
"Be quiet," the Dark Lord said softly, and Satoshi felt his throat convulse, forcing his breathing to soften. "How like you my gifts?" his captor continued, gesturing toward the box. He met Satoshi's terrified gaze, and smiled. "Do the garments not... please you?"
It took every ounce of strength Satoshi had left to shake his head, barely shifting it to either side. "N-n-no," he stammered softly, frozen with fear. That was truth. He *hated* the clothes, and all they suggested that his role here was to be.
The Dark Lord chuckled, amused. "Then I shall have to have more created. Eventually, you will come to accept them. And your fate." His gaze burned into his captive's. "I've found my true mate. And *you* know it."
"Never!" Satoshi managed to force through his trembling lips, barely above a whisper. He forced himself to meet that gaze with all the defiance he could muster.
"Beneath the skin," that silkly, dark voice continued, "we are already *one*. Was it not your sin trapped the unicorn? Even now," he went on, with intense satisfaction, "the evil seed of what you've done *terminates* within you."
"No!" Satoshi gasped, and found his strength. "No! You're wrong... you're lying! It's not true, I know it! I love Shigeru! I love him, and I *hate* you!" The smile faded, and Satoshi felt hope. "You're just... just... an animal!"
Immediately, the smile was back, and with it, laughter. "We are all animals, my young Prince," he remarked, amused, and continued to laugh, somehow emitting with that laughter tides of darkness that washed over Satoshi and drowned his hope, forcing tears from his eyes and sobs from his throat. His gaze fell to the floor, in despair.
* * *
Laughter. Shigeru ran after Kasumi, trying to control this sense of dread within him. Satoshi was in danger, he *knew* it, terrible danger -- and if something didn't happen soon to save him, then he would be lost to Shigeru forever.
"Shigeru!" Hiroshi hissed, and he joined the two by the gateway, peering in through the crack between the two doors. The laughter, he found out soon enough, was coming from a tall, red-skinned figure with the horns of a bull and a horrible sense of power around him. Shigeru felt his irritation growing with every second he observed. He *really* didn't like that guy!
"That's the Dark Lord," Hiroshi whispered, answering before Shigeru even realized he wanted to ask a question. "Kasumi, this is where Satoshi went, is that right?" He let out a breath, slowly. "That's not good..."
Something dark shifted at the other side of the room, and Shigeru's gaze caught on it. "Satoshi!" he gasped, pushing at the doors. They refused to budge. The black-garbed boy rose to his feet with the unintentional scrambling motions that Shigeru had always found so cute, and tried to edge away, his face even paler than usual with fear. Tears started to form in Shigeru's eyes as he shoved helplessly at the doors. Satoshi was so close... but so far out of his reach...
"Shigeru, you can't help him right now," Hiroshi murmured, grabbing his arm. "He's alive; that much is enough, isn't it?"
It wasn't. Shigeru glanced back at Satoshi's clothes. Their cut, and the way they fit, spoke volumes about the purpose intended for the boy wearing them. Watching him was enough to make Shigeru's blood burn... but his anger rose just as sharply.
The Dark Lord fixed his gaze on Satoshi. "The last unicorn dies *tonight*!" he announced fiercely, watching with a dark glee as the boy sank to his knees, eyes turning downward in despair. "As her blood ebbs, the sun sets *forever*. There shall never be another dawn."
"*Never*!" Hiroshi hissed, more furious than Shigeru had ever seen him.
Satoshi seemed to be having similar thoughts; he glared up at the Dark Lord, face set with hatred. "*No*!" he said vehemently, through clenched teeth. "No!"
The Dark Lord chucked, amused. "My Prince," he answered, using the title mockingly, "I require the solace of the shadows -- and the dark of the night. Sunshine is my destroyer!"
Hiroshi's face lit with triumph, as if the battle was already won. "Shigeru," he breathed, "as long as we still have sunlight, we can destroy him!"
Shigeru tore his eyes away from Satoshi's face and glanced back up at Hiroshi. The cord of his pendant twisted the against his neck, and he glanced down at it. *Satoshi's* pendant, the one he'd given to Shigeru in that simple careless moment of warmth... When they had each other's love to take for granted. Shigeru cupped the small gold circle in his hand, running his fingers over it as if it were a priceless treasure. The memories came back to him, just brief fragments of the whole picture. Satoshi's smile, so brilliant and loving, the warm sunlight illuminating his beautiful dark hair. 'You like it?' he'd asked, so innocently, and then, 'It's yours, Shigeru.' Leaning forward, the light reflecting from the shimmering metal onto Shigeru's face...
"I-I think I know how we can do it," Shigeru whispered, looking up from the pendant to Hiroshi's face.
* * *
"All I wish," the Dark Lord said, swirling to face Satoshi, who now stood to one end of a great banquet table, "Is for you to sit and talk with me."
Satoshi's mind raced. "You mean in this thing?" he gestured toward the chair beside him, a mass of black metal twisted into a demented parody of a throne. He frowned at it.
"Yes." The Dark Lord smiled.
"I'd rather sit on ten-inch spikes!" the boy shot back.
"SIT!" his captor roared, then seemed to gain control of himself when Satoshi backed away from the chair even more. "Or stand," he added smoothly, "As you wish. It is enough that we are *alone* together." He stepped forward, smiling, and Satoshi involuntarily fell back a pace. "Some -- simple -- conversation." He chuckled, staring hungrily at his prisoner.
The boy's cheeks flushed. "I don't have anything to say to *you*!" he snapped angrily; defiantly. "I had everything planned out before you came along! My whole life..." *Shigeru will take my away from the palace, and we'll live in a cabin, like Joi's. The forest and each other will be all we need, forever!* He cherished that dream... it had seemed so certain yesterday. Now it was so far beyond his reach that he may as well wish for the moon, or a star.
"All things change, Satoshi," the Dark Lord's confident voice cut into his thoughts. "The dreams of youth are the regrets of maturity." He waved a hand dismissively. "Dreams are my speciality. Through them, I can influence mankind."
*I'll bet,* Satoshi thought bitterly. *Oh Geru-chan, I don't even know if you're still alive...* Sorrow washed over him, but he did not allow himself to cry. *I hope you can forgive me for all of this, some day...*
"My dream," the Lord of Darkness continued, "is of eternity. With you. I offer you this -- Highness. My heart... my soul.. my love..."
Satoshi's head snapped up, his attention caught by that one word. "Love?" he blurted foolishly, and his heart screamed, *Shigeru! Only him!*
The Dark Lord stared back at him, gaze unfathomable.
* * *
"Is that all of them?" Shigeru looked back at the pile they'd collected, of the silver plates that Brown-Tom had noticed before. He raised his eyes to the dwarves, who nodded earnestly.
"All we could find!" Brown-Tom told him.
Hiroshi nodded. "We pulled them all off the shelves. They're heavy, but not overly so. We shouldn't have a problem setting them up."
"Good." Shigeru nodded. "I found our source of light." He led them toward the small airhole, where a beam of sunlight shone down a high tunnel and into the dark cavern.
Hiroshi studied it critically. "That's not the easiest climb I've seen," he commented, making a face. "Not many handholds, and the space is practically nonexistant. It would take someone really small..."
"I'll do it!" Screwball volunteered. The other three stared at him. "What's the matter?" he asked defensively. "Aren't I small enough for the job? Hiroshi, please," he begged. "Let me do it. I won't let you down!"
"All right," Hiroshi gave in. "You can do it, if you want, but you have to hurry. Understand?"
"Yes sir!" the dwarf answered solemnly. Shigeru brought over two plates -- one to go up with Screwball, and the other to remain at the bottom of the tunnel, to reflect the light.
Shigeru and Hiroshi gave Screwball a hand up, then managed to set the plate to their satisfaction. Hiroshi grinned impishly. "Two down, and about a dozen to go," he remarked cheerfully, then gathered up his share of the plates.
* * *
"Sit," the Dark Lord said, leering in anticipation. "I value your thoughts, Satoshi. Share them with me."
"Just sit?" Satoshi was staring to feel unsure. He moved up just in front of the chair, before the far end of the table.
"Sit," the Dark Lord repeated.
"Nothing else?" Satoshi glanced up at his captor meaningfully.
"And *talk* with me," he ammended, not even so much as blinking to show he'd been taken aback.
Satoshi's eyes dropped to the table. He was hungry, he realized. The last time he'd eaten had been at Joi's cabin, yesterday... A strange black substance sat on the plate before him. "Eat," the Dark Lord urged him.
A thick, dark liquid now filled the wine glass beside his plate. Satoshi watched in fascination, and his hands closed around the cold glass. "Drink," the Dark Lord added -- one-word commands.
The boy's face twisted, and he tore his hands back. "I'm not doing anything that would make you happy!" he retorted, defiantly.
"DO IT!" The Dark Lord exploded in fury, knocking a whole side of the table to the floor with a loud clatter. "DAMNED MORTAL!"
Satoshi's anger reached the breaking point. "*NEVER*!" he screamed back in rage, more furious than he'd ever been in his life. "NEVER!"
The Lord of Darkness's face twisted in fury, and he advanced on Satoshi ominously, gaining speed as he came. Laughing mockingly, the boy spun about, swirling his cape flippantly, and kneeling before the Dark Lord in a gesture of mock surrender. The charge halted, anger seeming to seep from the captor's body as air would from a punctured balloon.
"Such harsh words..." Satoshi grinned fiercely. "When you speak... your throat sounds like it wants me to slice it open!"
"Are you so anxious to see blood flow?" The Dark Lord panted slightly, from his exertions.
Satoshi nodded. "As anxious as you would be to drink it -- my Lord. Grant me just one desire, if you truly want me."
"You have but to ask," the Dark Lord replied.
"I'll stay here with you willingly, if that's what you want," Satoshi promised, then looked up. "But on one condition."
"Anything!" The Lord of Darkness offered.
Satoshi grinned, feeling triumph surge through him... "The unicorn is *mine*," he stated maliciously. "*I* kill it!"