The Wars of Light and Shadow: An Ill Fate Marshalling

Chapter 20

© 1999 by E. Liddell


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Queen Serenity

September 20, 993AD

"Now that we are alone, precisely who are you and why are you here?" I was addressing the auburn-haired man who was the apparent leader of the group, but I could not keep my gaze from returning, over and over again, to the blonde young woman in the white dress. She looked so very much like my Serena...

"Show her, Usagi," the man who might or might not have been Lord Nephrite of Earth ordered. I noticed the twist of irony that he applied to the last word. Not her real name, then.

"Are you sure?" the blonde woman asked.

"She has... no other reason... to believe us." That was the other woman, the one who had been injured. She lay now on a couch in this small sitting room not far from the ballroom, her injury bandaged, with her husband seated beside her and holding her hand.

Usagi, or whatever her real name was, sighed and raised a hand to the locket that she wore. Vesta had reported to me that she had a replica of one of the Sailor Scout transformation tools. I had thought it an odd and improbable conceit, since few people except the Scouts themselves and their intimate acquaintances knew what the artefacts looked like.

I had never expected it not to be a replica at all.

"Moon Crystal Power!"

The transformation that followed was one that had not been seen since my own childhood. I had forbidden Serena to train as Sailor Moon, at least until she was older. Perhaps not the best decision. In view of what I found out that night, I am certain that it was not. Although I also do not see what it would have prevented.

"Who are you?" I repeated.

"I'm not really certain how much I should tell you," Nephrite said after a short pause. The hand that was not linked with his wife's absently stroked a small crystal that hung from a chain around his neck, his only ornament besides his earrings. A crystal that glittered with more than reflected light.

"You are a Crystal Weaver." It had been a very long time since any of my line had been in the presence of one of his kind, but we do not forget. We cannot forget. "And so is your wife." I had not seen it before because their eyes were not quite right, had ignored the evidence of their names and that exceptional physical beauty because I had not wanted to see it.

Because there was only one possible reason for a Crystal Weaver to come here, to my court, and make himself known to me.

"Among other things," he agreed, and seemed to come to a decision. "Queen Serenity, we have come here from the future to seek your help."

What?

"That is not possible." For the first time, I felt the need to sit down. "Sailor Pluto would never have permitted -- "

"She wasn't at her post," Nephrite interrupted. "We did find blood. Something may have attacked her. A demon, or a demon's servant, most likely."

And suddenly it all made sense. Why they were here. Why she was here, my daughter's very image, wearing the uniform of the Sailor Scouts.

"The ward has failed in your time, has it not? My line failed you." Oddly, I felt more relieved than anything else. Perhaps now they will lift this burden off us. I had not realized, until that moment, just how much I resented it.

"Your line was murdered," Nephrite said flatly. "You and your daughter both died before the ward could be passed to her. But you were able to salvage your daughter's spirit, which was later reincarnated. And so we have one last chance." And he glanced at the young blonde woman, whose name was obviously not Usagi. My eyes followed his.

"Serena," I said, "please take off your tiara."

Obediently, she lifted it off, revealing the moon crescent that she bore. So. She was indeed the one.

Have they told her? Does she know that she -- that our line -- was created, protected, nurtured, only for this?

"Mother?" she said, softly, and I looked up into her clear, blue eyes.

No, I realized. She does not know. And even if she did, it would not change anything. This is not just the child I am raising. This is a grown woman who knows her own mind, and understands responsibility.

I rose to my feet. "I will need a little time to prepare."

Serena

I perched nervously on the edge of a hard bench just outside the vault, deep beneath the Moon Palace, where the royal crown was kept. Queen Serenity had brought me here, then left me. Queen Serenity. My mother. I hadn't realized, before, just how much I had missed her. We were... alike, in ways that I had never been like my mother in my present life.

I twisted my tiara in my hands. I hadn't put it back on after she had asked me to remove it. Even though this might be the last time that I would be wearing this uniform. After I took my place at the center of the ward, I was going to be too valuable to risk my life as Sailor Moon.

Serenity had explained some things as she had led me down here. Each prospective Moon-Queen throughout the ages had taken her turn as Sailor Moon. It was absolutely necessary. It had gotten my body accustomed to acting as a channel for magic. If I were to try to become the anchor for the demon ward without any preparation, it would have burnt me out. That was also why the other Scouts had multiple transformation tools -- the more powerful attacks conferred by the star and crystal-tipped wands were damaging to an unprepared body, so they had to start with the lowest power level first.

But no Queen had ever tried to become the anchor for Phoebe's ward while she was pregnant. Neither Serenity nor I knew what was going to happen. She had told me that it was possible that I might lose the child. I didn't think that was possible. I had seen Rini, after all, hadn't I?

But how did I know that the child I was carrying was her?

That thought had never occurred to me before. Another daughter, destined to die before she had ever had a chance to live? But I'm doing it for her. For everyone. What kind of life will she have, otherwise? The only refuge we have left is the Negaverse, and the demons will be coming there, to wipe out the last of the Crystal Weavers. I might escape into the Timestream, but where would we go from there? No, it has to be this way. Forgive me.

I really wished that I was still fourteen years old, that Luna had never found me, and that I could just run home and hide under my bed.

The door to my left opened, and Queen Serenity emerged.

"It's time," she said.

I stood up and followed her back inside the room.

It wasn't very impressive -- just another little room, more of a cell, really, with white stone walls and a colorful mosaic floor. The crown sat on a black velvet cushion on a plinth at the center of the room. It was the same heart-and-flower diadem that I had seen on my future self, Neo-Queen Serenity, on my brief trip to Crystal Tokyo during our first war against the Dark Moon. I couldn't take my eyes off it.

"Serena, give me your locket for a moment, please," Serenity requested. I detached it from my Scout uniform and placed it in her hand. To my surprise, I stayed Sailor Moon. Normally, when I took the locket off, I detransformed.

Serenity dug her thumbs under the Silver Crystal and pried it loose from its setting, then did something that made the gaping hole close over. She placed the Crystal and the locket side-by-side on a corner of the cushion that supported the crown.

"One day, you will pass the locket on to your daughter," she said. "But it can never be yours again. You have been called to a different service."

"I understand," I whispered. So someone else would have to lead the Scouts from now on. Raye, maybe? Or Mina? I felt oddly numb. I'd never really wanted to be Sailor Moon, but losing that position was like giving a piece of my identity away.

Serenity picked up the diadem and held it above my head. "With this crown you assume the same responsibility that Phoebe accepted, and every firstborn daughter of her line. Serenity, daughter of Serenity, do you swear to serve the people of this solar system and defend them against the demons, no matter the personal cost?"

My mouth was incredibly dry. I so swear, prodded the memory from my old life as Princess Serena, who had been trained for this ceremony. The most I could manage was a soft, timid, "Yes."

Serenity lowered the crown onto my head.

For a split second, I didn't feel any different, and I wondered, Is this all there is to it? Then... I can't describe it, really, not so that someone who's never experienced it can understand. Can you describe color to a blind man? It was really only a very faint sensation, that there was some sort of subtle and fundamental transformation going on inside of me. Like becoming Sailor Moon, only more so. My Sailor uniform vanished, becoming instead the white dress of Neo-Queen Serenity. The tiara even evaporated between my hands. And for just a moment, I experienced the exquisitely strange conviction that I had wings. Not the sort of birdlike angel's wings that Jasper has, or insect wings like those my mother appeared to have, but wings of pure light. I still get that feeling, from time to time, generally when I'm using the Silver Crystal. And so has every other woman who held this place before me. I know, you see. Oh, I don't have all of their memories all of the time, but they're there when I need them, like my own of the Moon Kingdom.

My eyes met Serenity's for a second. She bent down and kissed me on the forehead, just below the metal band that was the crown. I could safely have removed it now. I knew that. I also knew that taking it off wouldn't change anything. I was Neo-Queen Serenity, although I still had no kingdom to rule. I would be Neo-Queen Serenity for the rest of my life, or at least until Rini was old enough to replace me.

"I must return to my friends," I said. "They will be waiting for me." Actually, I meant to say "They'll be waiting -- ", but I couldn't make the words come out of my mouth that way. It's taken me years of practice to teach myself to speak with contractions again.

Serenity nodded, and picked up the locket and the Silver Crystal, placing them in my hands.

"Treasure these," she said, but I knew that what she really meant, what she couldn't bring herself to say to another woman's child, was, "I love you". I touched her hand as I took them, to show her that I understood.

Oddly, as we climbed back up to the ground floor of the palace, it wasn't myself I thought of, or Darien, or Rini, or Serenity, or even the ward or the task ahead or the other groups that Malachite had sent out and their missions. No, I thought about Molly, and about two young girls playing together in the yard of their primary school.

Who would have thought that they would have such strange destinies?

Nephrite

I'd gotten through that conversation with Queen Serenity more or less, as the humans say, on autopilot. My mind was occupied with far more personal matters.

I'm going to be a father. Such a very strange feeling. I wondered how Jadeite had dealt with it. Maybe.

My wife had lost consciousness again shortly after Serenity had left the room. In fact, she'd only been able to stay awake that long by drawing energy from me. Disturbing, that something so small as that arrow could hurt her so badly. I didn't have to fear losing her, not given what we both were, but our child was another matter entirely.

I want this child, I realized. Even though this is exactly the wrong time for us to be having one. I want this child.

Pain shattered my mood -- faint but distinct, transmitted along the Weave-linkage. Not from Almandite, though. We'd both been too high on adrenaline, or whatever the equivalent was for my biochemistry, for me to feel it when the arrow had hit her, and then the link had become dormant when she'd lost consciousness. This was one of the others. Or... two of the others? Surely that sharp pain in my ankle wasn't coming from the same person as the sensation of being boiled in oil.

It's useless to speculate, I told myself, and concentrated on shielding myself from casual contact as my wife stirred and woke.

<<You felt it too?>> I asked.

<<Yes. I hope they're all right.>> Her left hand disengaged from mine, shifting to cup her stomach in a protective gesture. Inside her rested our future -- both our personal future and that of our race.

<<Is it too early to think about names yet?>> I asked, trying to change the subject.

<<Well, I think we should wait until we at least know if it's going to be two boys, two girls, or one of each -- >>

<<Twins?>> I interrupted.

<<I'm still not entirely sure, but I think so, yes. You... aren't angry at me, are you? For not telling you?>>

I sighed. <<I wish that you hadn't taken the risk. I wish that you had trusted me a bit more. But no, I'm not angry. Do I feel angry, to you?>>

<<Not now.>>

<<Not ever with you,>> I corrected, gently lifting her hand so that I could kiss it.

"It is done."

Startled, I turned towards the door. But my wife was the first to put a name to the person standing there.

"Serena?"

She looked like she'd grown six inches or more. Only an illusion -- I could tell, as I stood, that she was still as much shorter than me as she had ever been -- but an impressive one. Perhaps it had something to do with the long white dress that she wore. Or the diadem that crowned her oddly-styled blonde hair. Or the feeling of power around her. I concentrated, feeling out the currents of magic in the room. There was an immense new power in her.

"It worked?" Obviously it had, but I wanted to be certain.

"As you say," she confirmed. "Shall we go home now?"

Goto Chapter 21


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