A Shadow of All Night Falling - Prologue

© 2000 by E. Liddell


Back to Dark Kingdom Home | E.Liddell's DK Stories | Stayka's DK Stories | Other DK Stories


(May 27, 3019 AD)

Prisma

He was sitting up when Sapphire and I finally got there, his face white and set, Opal standing beside his bed. His left arm lay across his lap, and, given the way in which it was bent, it didn't take a healer or a doctor to see that it was broken.

"Hi, Mom, Dad," my son said, trying to smile.

"Are you all right?" I asked. It was a stupid question, of course, but I needed to open the conversation somehow.

Zircon shrugged, then winced. "Ouch. Remind me not to do that. It's just a broken arm, Mom. I'll be okay."

"...until the King comes along to chew him out for carelessness," Opal added, with a grimace. Zircon swatted at his older sister with his good hand. She dodged.

"How did this happen?" Sapphire asked. A much more practical question than mine had been, I had to admit.

Our son's face... froze over, I guess is the best way of putting it. Wearing that expression, he looked very much like his Uncle Diamond.

"I was investigating the old city again," he said. "A building fell out from underneath me. I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been, and didn't manage to levitate or teleport in time."

I think I was the only one who noticed that Sapphire was trembling, and even I wouldn't have known if my hand hadn't been resting on his arm. "Carelessness like that will get you killed, one day," my husband said, in a peculiarly inflectionless tone of voice that I hadn't heard since the bad old days on Nemesis. I squeezed his forearm, gently.

"Maybe we'd better wait outside," I said.

Sapphire scrubbed a hand across the center of his forehead, rubbing at the place where the Dark Moon's sigil had once marked him. "Perhaps you're right."

I waited until we were out in the hallway, with a stone door between us and the others, before I stopped and turned to face my husband.

"I know you want to protect him," I said, "but..."

"...but he doesn't understand it, and would end up resenting my interference in his life? I suppose you're right, but..." His hand rose to brush against his chest, where his brother's spirit crystal lay hidden.

But. Yes. Exactly. Sapphire hadn't been able to protect his brother, and he was deathly afraid for his son, despite the fact that Zircon had no such enemies as Diamond had had. It was that damnable resemblance. Zircon had inherited his father's eyes, and his hair was light blue and long, but his facial structure was very much like Diamond's had been.

Ghosts. Damn it all, there were days when I felt like we were surrounded by them.

I was about to say something more when I heard the sound of bootheels striking stone coming from the corridor behind me.

"Lady Prisma? Lord Sapphire? I'm sorry, I didn't expect to find the two of you here."

"Lord Marcasite." I greeted the young General by the title that I suspect he hardly ever heard from anyone who was not a youma. "I would have thought your place was inside, with your Weavemate."

He shrugged, wincing as he did so. "It's easier to block out Zircon's pain if we're not in the same room. Anyway, there's very little I can do but offer moral support until someone manages to find Alex or Lady Almandite. And..." He ran one gloved hand through his long auburn hair.

"And?" I prompted. Beside me, Sapphire had gone very still.

"I dreamed this, last night," Marcasite admitted. "Among other things." His yellow eyes were shadowed. What had he seen?

I must have asked that out loud, because Nephrite's eldest son made a throwing gesture, as though casting some unpleasant thought far away from himself, and said, "Nothing important. It was probably just something that I ate. It wouldn't be the first time that I've managed to get a perfectly ordinary nightmare mixed in with one of my prophetic dreams. Still, I'd be a lot happier if Zircon would stay away from those ruins from now on."

"Are you going to forbid him?" Sapphire was still wound as tight as a mechanical alarm clock.

Marc half-smiled and shook his head. "Arbitrarily, because I had a nightmare? No. I couldn't make it stick without some better justification. The difference in seniority between Zircon and me isn't that big. And even if what I dreamed was real, it's possible that ordering him away from the ruins is what would touch off the nightmare. I can never tell, you see."

He stopped, and cocked his head to one side, as though listening. After a moment, Sapphire did the same. I strained my ears, but couldn't hear anything except footsteps, somewhere not too far away, and that was probably just some youma, going about their business. Or so I thought until my husband and Marcasite both raised fisted right hands to touch their hearts, and bowed.

Malachite made a waving-away gesture.

"Is he going to live?" the white-haired King of the Negaverse asked Marcasite.

"I think so, my King. Assuming that you don't kill him, that is."

Malachite snorted. "I can't afford that kind of waste."

I... well, sagged would probably be a better word than relaxed. I was more relieved than I wanted to admit. Not that I had really believed that Malachite had wanted to kill my son, but I knew he was capable of killing, and that alone is enough to make a mother nervous. Especially since there was nothing that I could have done to protect my child. An ordinary human woman, almost sixty years old, would have had no chance against the most powerful Crystal Weaver in the Negaverse.

Cold silver eyes locked with mine for an instant before Malachite shook his head and turned away. He murmured something as he touched the door. I couldn't hear it clearly, but I think he said, "I suppose it's fortunate that I'll never have any children."

Lord Samuel

"Sailor Venus." I nodded to the person that I hadn't wanted to find outside my door.

"Lord Samuel." It was always "Lord Samuel" these days, or "Admiral Tsukino", unless I was being addressed by my immediate family. I often wondered what had happened to Sammy. He'd been a nice kid, and he'd certainly deserved better than to turn into me.

Cass fell into step behind me as I began the long march down the hallway to the more public areas of the Palace. Damn, I hate that. Why in hell do I need a bodyguard, anyway? It isn't like I could ever become king. Well, not without entering into an incestuous marriage. It was a given that Rini would become Queen when Serena stepped down. And if that somehow became impossible, one of her or her brother's hypothetical daughters would take the throne instead. Actually, Phaeton's children might not be so hypothetical anymore -- my nephew was said to be quite the man about town. But in any case, there was no chance of my ever becoming the ruler of Crystal Tokyo, even if my gender hadn't made me ineligible.

Which means that it was all for nothing, after all. I scrubbed my hand across my forehead. I couldn't feel the crescent that branded me. For all I knew, it might have disappeared in the few minutes since I'd looked in the mirror to check the fit of my dress uniform. Wishful thinking, I knew. And even if the damned thing had vanished, it was still too late to change anything. I wasn't quite too old to have the family that I'd once wanted, but when I'd conceived that dream, I hadn't counted on being in charge of a thriving space fleet. There wasn't any room in my life anymore for a wife and children, unless --

A sharp pain in my knee interrupted my train of thought, and I limped a few steps before forcing myself to stride firmly onward despite the pain. Damn. I'm going to end up like Darien at this rate, hobbling around with a cane whenever the weather gets the least bit damp. My brother-in-law had injured his knee during the Dark Moon War, forcing him to use a walking stick. I'd done for mine a few years later, falling off the edge of a low cliff during the second Mars expedition.

I allowed the faintest hint of a cynical smile to touch my lips as I reached the end of the corridor and reached out to open the door that divided the private wing of the palace from the more public areas. We're all getting old. When did that happen?

But of course, old age isn't something that hits you all at once. It creeps up on you, insidiously, especially if you're not making any effort to keep it at bay. My sister hadn't. It frightened me, sometimes, to see how old she was looking. I was fairly sure that Phoebe's Ward was responsible for that. It had been draining her energies for more than thirty years of subjective time. Oh, I know that she and the others claimed that wasn't the case, but I also knew that they were lying, at least in part. Just like I knew that they were lying when they said there was nothing wrong with the Silver Crystal. Being in the same room with that thing these days was enough to make my skin crawl. I might not have been Sailor Moon or the anchor for Phoebe's Ward, but when Serena had planted that damned crescent moon on my forehead it was as though she'd scraped something inside me raw, and I'd been sensitive to the Crystal ever since.

"Are you almost done? I'm waiting."

I shook my head, realizing that I'd been standing in front of the doorway that divided the private wing from the main palace for -- how long? A minute? Two? Damn, I am getting old.

"Sorry," I muttered, reaching for the doorknob.

"Damnit, Uncle Sammy, I'm in a hurry!" Rini pushed past me and shouldered through the door as I wondered, In a hurry to what? I know you don't have duties this morning. Probably this was about some... diversion of hers. My niece had never had much in the way of a sense of responsibility. Neither had my nephew, for that matter. Serena and Darien hadn't quite spoiled them, but it takes a very exceptional child to grow up in a palace, wanting for nothing, and still turn out to be a good person. Unfortunately, Rini and Phaeton weren't exceptional. Under other circumstances, they might have turned out to be good kids, I suppose, but as it was, there was just something subtly wrong about them.

Although Rini was all right at first, I realized, at least mostly. It's once she hit puberty that things started to go wrong, a couple of years after that mess with the artificial demon. A couple of years after the Silver Crystal had become corrupt, although I doubted that there was any connection between the two events.

"Lord Samuel? It's almost ten o'clock. You have five minutes to get to the throne room."

"Thanks, Cass." There were a few times when bodyguards could be useful after all. Although I would have been just as happy if I could have gotten out of giving the damned report...

I sighed. Duty. There were times when I really hated it, but I wasn't about to abandon it. Not when it was all the life I had left.

Jasper

I guided her gently along the path, my hand resting under her elbow. She looked neither left nor right, reacting to nothing. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen any kind of expression on her face.

It made me want to scream.

A flicker of motion caught my eye, and I stopped and turned to the left.

"Hmmmm. I didn't realize that there were squirrels around here," I said, forcing a surface veneer of cheerfulness into my voice and expression. Truth be known, I wasn't sure that it had been a squirrel, only that it was small and black and not a bird. In retrospect, I'm fairly sure that it must have been either a rat... or something worse, but I wasn't thinking about that at the time. "I wonder if Serena had them imported to liven the place up. What do you think, Mina?"

No response. My wife stared straight ahead, her eyes vacant and her face slack, and I found myself blinking back angry, stinging tears.

Why did it have to happen? The gods granted us so very little time together to begin with... It isn't fair that she should be cursed like this! How could they steal from us the few years we might otherwise have had? It hurt me so much to see her like this... But still I visited, and still I forced myself to pretend that nothing was wrong, that she was whole and well instead of an empty shell that had once been a person, that love and care might one day bring back the vivacious woman I had married.

I am a Center-level Crystal Weaver. I have enough power to blow the top off a mountain. But there are some things that magic just can't do anything about.

I hate feeling powerless. I hate it.

Cass no longer came to see her mother. I think that, after the first few months of this, she had just gotten to the point where she couldn't bear it anymore. Instead, she threw herself into her duties, into her friendship with Sumire and her surrogate parenting of her friend's daughter. I saw very little of her myself, since I spent as much time as I could with Mina.

Carefully, I guided my wife over to a bench and applied gentle pressure to her shoulder, signalling her to sit down beside me. The only language that she understood these days consisted of crude orders like that one, transmitted through physical touch. Silently, I pulled her close, so close that I could no longer see her face, and buried my face in her hair -- grey now, not blonde. It still smelled the same, though. I furled my wings protectively around the two of us, and almost managed to pretend that this was the old days, that we were stealing a private moment from both our duties, here in the Queen's Garden at the Crystal Palace.

It wasn't enough, not really, but it was all I had.

Tourmaline

I sighed and closed my sketchbook again. For a moment, I'd almost been afraid that he would see me, but he'd been far too absorbed in her.

Jasper. Why did this have to happen to him? He didn't deserve it. Neither, as far as I could tell, did Mina. I'd never known her, but I'd caught glimpses of her in other people's memories, and she had always seemed to have a bright, sunny personality -- the sort of person who is everyone's friend.

I still couldn't help but feel that they were luckier than I was, though. An entire age of the world had passed between my death in the late eighteenth century and my revival in the Negaverse, and the modern Earth Realm might as well have been populated by aliens or elves for all that I understood about it. My husband, whose spirit crystal had missed a connection somewhere between the European Enclave where he had died and the Negaverse, was gone for good. I'd never see Wulfenite again. And...

I sighed again. And. When I'd woken up in the Negaverse, discovering that I was among strangers, that Wulf and everyone else I'd known was dead, I hadn't thought that there would be enough room in my heart, so full of pain and fear, for even the sort of wistful attraction that I felt toward Jasper. I wanted to see if that feeling would ever have the chance to grow into something more, but it never would. He had his Mina, however damaged she might be, and I had nothing except a wish and a might-have-been.

There were days when I wished that she was dead, but I always felt guilty whenever I thought that. She didn't deserve my hatred any more than she deserved to have lost her mind. Hadn't she already suffered enough?

I waited until I couldn't hear Jasper's boots crunching on the gravel of the path anymore before I rose from where I'd been sitting and walked a short distance further down the path, circumspectly approaching the thing I had come to see, just out of sight around a corner: a grave, marked only by a slab of grey stone and a slender oak sapling. There was an elaborate mausoleum in the cemetary outside the Palace, but I knew that this was where her bones really rested.

Lita Kino, 1979-3005, Sailor Jupiter 1993-3005, I read. Fidelis.

There was another that I'd never really known. She'd died some time before my revival, protecting her Queen. Life for the Scouts was easy and straightforward. Their only duty was protecting a ruler that they loved. Not like the scrambled mess that was my life. None of them had four strangers living inside their heads. I blocked the Weave-link constantly, as hard as I could, but occasionally some little bit of someone else's thoughts would slip through and get into my mind. And the scariest part of all was that Jasper, as our Center, had the power to just sweep all of the barriers aside and delve deep inside me. I didn't want him to find out how I felt about him.

And then there was King Malachite. He was magnificent, but he also scared me stiff. And he owned me. Like many of the other younger Generals, I really wasn't all that well-suited for my job, but I knew I'd never be permitted to leave it.

The early morning light became darkness as I teleported. Emerging in my studio, I tossed my sketchbook onto a convenient bench and strode over to the large, irregular object in the center of the room.

The boulder was taller than I was, and equally as wide. It had been sitting there for more than two years, since I'd, er, borrowed it from a hillside somewhere in Italy. At the Enclave, I'd produced only small statues and carvings, but there was something about the Negaverse and its people that I thought would best be expressed in heroic, monument-sized works. But until today, I hadn't been able to figure out what shape lay hidden inside this particular piece of stone, much less how to bring it out.

I measured it with my eyes, then ran my hands over the critical portions, searching for flaws that might only become apparent through my magic. There was a deep crack that I thought might cause me some trouble at first, but then I realized that all I had to do was shift the second figure slightly, and it would all work out.

I took off my gloves and braided my long, green-black hair to keep it out of my way. Then I reached out to touch the boulder again, extending my power into it. A gentle touch, and a bit of rock crumbled away, just so.

It would take months, maybe even years to complete. I fully intended this to be my masterwork. I just hoped that it would serve its other intended purpose, as well.

The Silver Crystal

There had been something other than the light once. I remembered that. But the outside world had vanished long ago, and there was only the brilliance in which I floated. Light that tore at me, that tried to make me open myself to it. No. As always, I forced myself to bend it, to turn it aside from my secret core, to twist it back on itself until it followed my desires, and not its own.

The light shivered. Something had changed, or was about to change. Something...

And I would welcome it. Whatever was to come, it had to be better than this.

Goto Chapter 1


Back to Dark Kingdom Home | E.Liddell's DK Stories | Stayka's DK Stories | Other DK Stories


This page belongs to Stayka's Dark Kingdom Home at http://www.dark-kingdom.de

© by E. Liddell - Email: eliddell@despammed.com

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!