Part 4: Be Our Guest
“I saw him go in there.” Flynn pointed to the monstrous castle up ahead. Italy took a step towards it in horror.
“Are you sure?” he asked quietly, to which his companion nodded, “I was afraid of that. Well, let’s go-”
“Italy?” a familiar voice spoke.
“Germany!” Italy flung himself into his friend’s arms, sobbing, “I was so scared! I didn’t know where I was or how we got here I didn’t know where you were and-“
“Calm down, Italy. It’s okay now.”
“Uh, ahem?” Heracles poked Germany’s shoulder, “Introductions, please?”
“Oh, ja. Italy, this is Heracles, the demi-god.”
“Hey, he looks like Amer… Never mind. And this,” he gestured to his own partner, “is Flynn Rider. He says he saw my brother going into this castle.”
“The prince’s castle,” Cheshire appeared above the four, “he’ll be simply mad to see the friends we brought along, eh?” He purred, gesturing to Japan, who was coming out of the trail.
“It would be nice if my guide wouldn’t constantly vanish.” He muttered.
“Evaporate,” Cheshire corrected, “well, what’re we waiting for?” he drifted towards the castle gates.
“Do we have to go in there? I have a funny feeling about it.” Japan reunited with his allies.
“Romano is in there, we have to.” Italy sighed, following after the cat. The other four exchanged glances before heading inside.
Various words came to mind upon entering the castle; dark, vast, eerie. However, it was a bit cleaner than they all expected, and there was a log burning on the fireplace in another room. The group really didn’t know what to think except ‘OMG THIS PLACE IS HUGE’.
“R-Romano?” Italy’s voice echoed through the halls with no response.
“Should we split up, dudes?” Heracles suggested.
“That seems most logical.” Japan agreed.
“What’s so fun about being logical, eh?” Cheshire floated upside down in front of them, “oh, by the way, the dungeon’s upstairs, in case you’re interested.”
“Show us the way.” Germany instructed. The cat slowly wafted up the many staircases, disappearing and reappearing at various times. Eventually, they made it to the tower dungeon, the only light coming from a hole in the ceiling.
“I-is there anyone here?” Italy asked, shivering from the cold of the room.
“Veneziano?” a quiet response came from one of the cells.
“Roma!” Italy came to his brother’s side.
“How the hell did you find me?” Romano turned away for a moment, coughing into his sleeve.
“Your hands are like ice!” Italy exclaimed, “we have to get you out of here!”
“Vene, I want you to leave this place.”
“Who did this to you?”
“No time to explain, You have to go now, damn it!”
“I won’t leave you!” Italy felt something brush up against him as a pair of large hands turned him to face a giant silhouette against the moonlight. He almost fainted when he saw the being’s horns and felt it’s claws in his arms.
“What are you doing here?” it growled.
“Run, Italy!” Germany called out, probably one of the only times he’d ever say that.
“Wh-who are you?” Italy asked the silhouette quietly.
“The master of this castle.”
“The prince! I told you he’d be mad to see our friends!” Cheshire chuckled. The being growled at him, causing the cat to fade away out of fear.
“I’ve come for my brother,” Italy answered the previous question, “please let him out! Can’t you see he’s sick?”
“Then he should not have trespassed here!” it clutched him tighter.
“But he could die! Please, I’ll do anything!”
“There is nothing you can do,” it tossed Italy to the floor, slinking further into the room in the cover of shadows, “he is my prisoner.”
“Oh, there must be some way I can…” Italy thought for a moment. If this was the prince, the heir to the throne, that would mean he’s…
“Wait!” he called out, “I can help you break the curse!” The being stopped for a moment, taking an interest in the subject.
“You… you can change me back to normal?” it asked, a bit more gently.
“Veneziano, you idiot! You don’t know what you’re doing!” Romano protested.
“Well, I’m on a quest to defeat the man who did this to you, so maybe if we rescue Merlin, he could…” Italy let his words sink in.
“You think he would? Even for a beast like me?”
“If you let my brother go.”
“…Done.” The beast undid the lock on Romano’s cell, the two brothers embracing as the door opened.
“Italy,” Germany appeared behind them, “you never told me about this quest of yours.”
“I made a deal with Flynn, he helps me find Romano, I help him save the empire from Maleficent.”
“Oui,” Flynn leaned up against the wall, “I have done my part, he still has to do his. And now he has his brother’s freedom on his shoulders to hold out his end of our bargain.”
“Veneziano… you crazy little…” Romano couldn’t believe his ears.
“Italy Veneziano, that is your name, дa? I know of a way I can be of service to your task.” The beast began to step into the light. Pale blonde fur shone against the moonlight, wolf-like legs slowly molding into a man’s torso, then chest, neck and finally the head…
“Prince Ivan, heir to emperor Yao Wang, at your service.” He bowed before the crowd.
“Whoa, dude,” Heracles marveled, “you’re like a freaking minotaur… kind of.”
“So if you are an heir, does that mean you’re the emperor’s son?” Japan asked.
“Adopted son. I would be a bit concerned if we were family, we look nothing alike,” Ivan replied, a bit more relaxed with the group now, “but anyway, I have something that might be able to help defeat Maleficent.”
He led the group to the west wing of his castle. The walls and furniture were torn and tattered from fits of rage, almost everything was obliterated by the beast. Almost everything.
In the center of the room was a suit of armor, wielding a sword with a shield as its sheath.
“The armor might be a few sizes too big, but hopefully the sword and shield will be useful to you. They are blessed with magic,” Ivan explained, “they will respond to your actions if they deem your intentions worthy. I would slay Maleficent myself, but it would be for revenge, an unworthy cause.”
Italy took a deep breath, stepping up to the armor. He gripped the sword’s hilt with both hands and pulled.
The sword came free of its sheath instantly.
“So… does this mean I’m worthy?”
“Дa… you are worthy. With this sword and shield, you can defeat Maleficent and save us all.”