A Shadow of All Night Falling - Part 1: Mother of Demons

(August 30-September 13, 3023 AD)

Chapter 12

© 2000 by E. Liddell


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Phaeton

The wand had changed everything. From the moment that golden light had touched me, I was a completely different person. It hurt, yes, but it was a good kind of pain, as though something diseased had been cut out of me. What had I been so angry about? Where had all that hatred, that arrogance, that foolishness come from? I felt very light, free, and, in a weird way, absolutely confident for the first time in my life.

So this is what it feels like to have courage, and to believe in something, I thought dazedly. I've been such a self-obsessed fool all my life... No wonder everyone thinks I'm a failure. Being the town clown is *not* good behaviour for a prince. I glanced over at Uncle Sammy. Mom and Dad had once talked about enrolling me in one of the military academies, so that I could follow in my respected uncle's footsteps, but they'd given up on that shortly after my first run-in with the police.

I'm going to start over, I decided. I'm still young. There's plenty of time. And this time, I'm going to do everything right.

And then everything started happening too damned fast!

My sister appeared in the middle of a crackling mass of black lightning. I'd seen her in the hallway, of course, when she'd confronted Uncle Sammy and me, but... I don't know. Somehow, what she'd become had failed to make an impression on me that time. It wasn't until she attacked our parents that I understood, and by then it was already too late. I'd never paid all that much attention to my magical training, and it always took me a couple of seconds to conjure one of my roses. Actually, I was kind of embarrassed that I used such a lame attack. I'd just copied my father without putting too much thought into how it would make me look. I mean, let's face it, what does a guy who used to wear a tuxedo for the sole purpose of fighting demonically-enhanced monsters that had equally ridiculous attacks know about style?

But anyway, it was all over before I could move. Dad had thrown himself in front of my sister's attack and gotten himself creamed along with Mom, who'd then used the Crescent Moon Wand to attack my sister, her heir. Her only possible heir. And Rini had run away.

I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't. They couldn't be dying. It just wasn't possible. I checked Dad's pulse several times as I helped the Scouts pull him and Mom apart. I helped the Scouts with CPR, but we never managed to start a pulse in either of them. We kept on and on, even after Sailor Mercury had said that the situation was hopeless. I guess none of them could quite believe what had happened either.

Then someone in a familiar grey uniform knelt down next to me and placed a white-gloved hand flat on my mother's chest. I ignored that, continuing the rhythmic chest compressions while Sailor Mars performed artificial respiration.

Then hands like iron grabbed my wrists. "Fayn, it's no good! She killed herself through magical exhaustion. There's nothing anyone can do for her now."

"No," I whispered. "No, Aunt Molly, it can't be true, it just can't!" I realized, suddenly, that my face was wet, and wondered how long I'd been crying. "She can't be dead. She can't be DEAD!" I went on in much the same vein, not really hearing what I was saying, while some portion of my mind that had managed to stay calm and slightly removed from what was going on observed that I was hyperventilating as well as crying. "She can't have gone away and left me all alone. She CAN'T be dead!"

Then a mule kicked me in the jaw. I lay on my back on the floor blinking up at Almandite, General of the Negaverse, as she shook out her hand and peeled off her glove to check her knuckles for damage.

"Damn it, kiddo, your head must be full of rocks, because I can't think of any other reason for it to be so hard!" But I could see the sadness in her eyes, even through the false humour. She'd been Mom's oldest friend, and this must have been as much of a shock for her as it was for me.

"'m jus' glad y'weren' 'n charge of m' combat trainin'," I mumbled, tasting blood. "'f y'had been, 'd be dead by now."

She knelt beside me and ran her fingers over my jaw. I felt a very faint warmth where she touched me, and knew that she was using her healing powers on me.

"All right, that should do for the loose teeth," she said, after a moment. "I'm afraid you're just going to have to live with the bruise for now."

I nodded -- very carefully -- and let her pull me to my feet.

Sailors Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter were standing over my parents' bodies. All of them were crying. I could hear the soft splashes as tears struck the marble of the floor. Everything else was absolutely silent.

The Neo-Queen is dead, I thought. Long live... And there I faltered. Rini had just committed high treason. That meant that she couldn't inherit. She'd never married, and didn't have any children. But that means... that *I'm* the heir... or at least the regent for the next true heir...

"Where's the crown?" I asked Aunt Molly.

Silently, she pointed to her left, in the direction of the doors, where two more people knelt on either side of another prone body.

It was my Uncle Sammy who was lying on the floor, and even from here I could see the gold of the crown glittering against the white of his hair. Sumire was beside him. I wasn't sure what she had been doing -- trying to wake him up, maybe? In any case, my fuzzy mind finally registered that she must have been there for quite some time, because she hadn't been helping with the CPR effort.

General Nephrite was kneeling on my uncle's other side. Although Lady Almandite had been a frequent visitor to the Palace while I'd been growing up, I barely knew her husband, although I'd seen him a few times at state functions. He'd taken his gloves off, and now held my uncle's arm, evidently checking his pulse.

"Is he stable?" I was grateful that my honorary Aunt had asked the question aloud. Watching Crystal Weavers converse without speaking has always made me uncomfortable.

"I think so, but you'd probably better check for yourself."

The auburn-haired General smoothly exchanged places with his wife. I found myself standing beside him, not quite sure what to do.

"What's going on?" I asked. "He was fine just a few minutes ago..."

"Your uncle took it upon himself to attempt to become the anchor for Phoebe's Ward," the tall man said. "If he lives, I suppose he'll be the King of Crystal Tokyo."

But that's my job!

The surge of jealousy caught me by surprise. I'd never thought that I wanted to be King. In fact, I'd never even thought of the possibility. Ruling had always been my sister's job. But now... It could have been me, I realized. If I'd picked up the crown, instead of him. It could have been me.

"Which leaves me to do what?" I asked instead, and then, as what I'd heard sank in, "What do you mean, 'If he lives'?"

It was Aunt Molly who answered. "Sammy's never been exposed to much magic before, and now he's got one of the largest spells ever created trying to take up residence in his body. He's in shock, and given that his body has never been conditioned for this, he could go into cardiac arrest or end up with serious brain damage. In fact, he probably will. He's just too old and not flexible enough. All we can do, at this point, is pray."

"As for you, I suppose you're going to have to take Sailor Moon's place and lead the Scouts," General Nephrite added.

I gaped. "You've got to be kidding me." All I could think of was how ridiculous I'd look in one of those uniforms...

"I think you can dispense with the short skirt," Nephrite said. "Still, you're going to be needed."

Needed. Right. I firmed my jaw, trying to look determined. I think I only managed to look silly, though.

I glanced at my uncle, still lying unconscious on the floor, at the Sailor Scouts, and at the two Negaverse Generals.

"So what do we do now?" I asked the world at large.

Malachite

I knew that it was here as well as soon as I crossed out of the area that Nephrite had warded. Somehow, it hadn't penetrated inside that, but in the Negaverse proper, the darkness was even thicker than it had been in Crystal Tokyo, and possessed of a slightly different... flavour, I suppose. The gold band around my left wrist was squeezing me tightly enough to cut off the circulation again, and, not for the first time, I wondered if it might not have been possible to choose a better form for the Ward anchor.

I glanced over my shoulder at Marcasite. He looked a bit unnerved. I shook my head. He was still so damned young. They all were.

<<My King? What do we do now?>> His statement was subdued.

<<We find the others,>> I stated firmly. <<I need to talk to Demantoid.>> I would have reached out mentally for him, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to find him. I could barely even sense my Weavemates, much less anyone else. I had to hope that the creator of the Silver Crystal would be able to find me.

<<How?>> Marcasite asked. <<I'm not quite sure where we are, but I know it isn't anywhere near Beryl's palace.>>

<<We're at the site originally occupied by your father's home, before he shifted it halfway through the dimensional barrier,>> I replied. <<And you're right, the palace is quite some distance from here.>> My own castle was even farther away, about the same distance from the palace as this place but in the opposite direction. <<We're going to have to risk a teleport, unless...>>

<<My King?>>

I closed my eyes and called up my mental map of the Negaverse for a final check. <<There was a Warp near here, a natural conduit between this area and the palace. Nephrite built here in order to take advantage of it. I don't know if it's still there, but given that neither end was ever shifted, I think there's a chance.>>

Nephrite's older son nodded. <<Which way?>>

It was about a ten minute walk. Actually, it would have been less than that if we hadn't had to contend with some aggressive ground cover. Well, perhaps aggressive isn't quite the word. Affectionate might be better. Only in the Negaverse will you find mushrooms whose reaction to being trodden upon is to wrap pallid tendrils around the treader's ankles... Marcasite seemed to be a bit dismayed by the behaviour of the plant life, and I made a mental note to send him on a patrol or two in the far reaches if we all survived this. Not as a punishment, but because he needed to get to know his homeland better. Especially since, given that leadership in the Negaverse has always been based on magical power, and that he was stronger than any living Crystal Weaver except myself and Nephrite, he might very well end up inheriting the throne one day.

The Warp terminus was still where we expected it to be, but flickering in and out erratically. We exchanged glances.

<<I'll go first, my King,>> Marcasite stated.

I nodded and gestured for him to proceed. It was the logical thing to do. Much though a human might have hated to admit it in the same situation, Marcasite was more expendable than I was, and we both knew it.

He hesitated on the threshold, waiting for the best opening, then dove through at a moment when the Warp appeared to be reasonably stable. I just hoped that the far end was still where we expected it to be.

<<Ouch. My King, I think I'm in one of the upper corridors of the palace's western wing -- the place has certainly seen better days, anyway. The Warp's flickering in and out here, too, but I think it'll be all right.>>

I smiled grimly. The terminus should have been on the ground floor of the palace, near the mess hall for the common youma. I was about to trust my life to an erratic, displaced Warp. But under the circumstances, what choice did I have?

Like Marcasite, I waited for the best moment before stepping through. There was a brief moment of blackness and cold, and then my foot came down to complete the step that I'd begun halfway across the Negaverse. Unfortunately, this end of the Warp was almost a foot up off the ground, so I lost my balance and fell rather painfully to my knees.

I aimed a cold glare at Marc. but I couldn't see even a hint there of laughter at my expense. Well, I understand what "ouch" meant now. I hate undignified moments like this. I'm just glad that it's Marc here, and not his brother. Morgan would have found this situation hilarious. And I would have strangled him if he'd laughed, which would have left me in the awkward position of having to explain to Nephrite and Almandite how I'd come to kill their son...

I did my best to extend my senses, although the cloying black magical mirk in here made it difficult to make out anything useful. I could tell that the demon's power was much stronger than it had been at Nephrite's.

So it's centered here. The question is, where is everyone? Obviously not in this deserted section of the palace. We'd just have to work our way down and in towards the center, and hope that we found someone before the demon noticed us.

Kyanite

Too late. Even inside my mind, the words sounded like a dirge. Too late, too late, too late...

And what am I supposed to do about it? I asked myself fiercely, even as my feet took my farther along the hallway, farther from the ex-Warp-terminus where the others were.

I have to find my father. Malachite.

But why?

I moaned and clawed at my forehead, but I kept walking. The sickening sense of urgency inside was so great that I didn't dare even slow down, much less stop. Where am I going? But my feet obviously had some destination in mind.

Somehow, I managed to avoid meeting any youma as I wandered through the halls of Beryl's palace, although I frequently heard the sounds of fighting coming from cross-corridors. I ran, at one point, when I thought I heard something moving in one of the alcoves along the walls of a wider corridor, but although I looked over my shoulder many times, nothing seemed to be following me. Whenever the pressure inside my head let up, I thanked any gods who might be listening for that. There was no way that I could possibly hope to fight a youma, if one should attack me.

I staggered into the empty offices of the Information Systems division without, at first, realizing where I was. Past dozens of cubicles, mostly unmanned, one occupied by what I hoped wasn't a corpse, although how she could still be alive after leaking that much blood all over the floor... In any case, my instincts seemed to be directing me towards a small room at the back. The door was locked, but I carried magical authorizations that would get me past almost any lock in the Negaverse, so a touch was all that it took to make it open for me.

The room on the other side wasn't much bigger than a closet, but there was a black hole at the center of it. A Warp. An open Warp. Leading... I tried to sound it out, but I couldn't understand what my powers were trying to tell me. It felt like I was trying to look at everything through a tesseract-shaped lens.

<<That's what the demon wants you to believe. Don't listen to it. Here, focus your senses like this...>>

My perception of space/time unwound itself, and I could clearly see the path the Warp took, into the Earth Realm.

<<Who are you?>> The voice had come from inside me, but I knew instinctively that it wasn't my own voice.

<<You know who I am.>>

I'd been afraid of that. <<Adamant?>>

<<Once, yes. I'm only a shadow now. Don't worry, little one. You may share part of my soul, but you're not my ghost. You're your own person, and you have your own destiny. I swear it to you.>>

<<Then why are you talking to me?>>

<<Because you need my help. And because I left something unfinished, and I need you to help me complete it.>>

<<Why should I?>> I had a subtle sense of something wrong. I could feel that there was an untruth hidden in that last statement somewhere. I just couldn't tell what it was.

<<It isn't something I want to do for myself. It's for the entire world -- both of your worlds, little one, the Negaverse and the Earth Realm. I know how to get rid of the demon. But you aren't strong enough to do it for me. We need King Malachite.>>

I bit my lip. The Earth Realm isn't my world. Never my world... <<All right, but where do we start looking? All we know is that he's in the Earth Realm.>>

<<You'd best start by going through the Warp. Once we're on the other side, things ought to get easier. The power of *Mena Kimlubeniz* is very thick here. It must be concentrated on this side of the dimensional barrier.>>

<<How can the same demon be here and in the Earth Realm at the same time?>> I asked, but I was already walking forward.

<<This is not merely a demon like other demons, little one. This is the ancient evil from the dawn of time. This is the exiled dark goddess that seeks to destroy humanity, a creature whose powers are far beyond those of her children, the demons. I only imprisoned her with the gods' aid, and even then, I had to renew the wards that bound her every few years. It's fortunate for you that killing me took so much of her power that it's taken her until now to recover.>>

<<And if it -- if she -- wins?>>

<<The end of all life. Everywhere.>>

I swallowed, hard, and stepped through the Warp. Darkness, cold, the feeling of falling endlessly... Landing. In what I recognized as an alleyway, although I'd never actually seen one before. Refuse crunched under my boots as I walked forward, moving towards what looked like an intersection with what looked like a larger street. Somewhere off to my left, metal clanged, and some creature -- a stray cat? -- squalled. It was all just so uncannily peaceful and normal that I couldn't believe that there was a legendary evil lurking around here... until I extended my senses and felt the subtle twisting in the air. Yes, it was here, too, clouding my mind so that I couldn't sense... No, wait! There, almost at the limit of my range. Other Crystal Weavers! And the only people who should be on this side right now were my father and the members of his Weave, any of whom would be able to tell me where to find him.

Goal finally in sight -- or, at least, within perception -- I trotted off down the alleyway.

At least it was night, here. The sky above me wasn't huge and blue and empty, it was dark and star-spangled, and the moon was a bare crescent, not enough to disturb me. If it hadn't been for the buildings hemming me in so close, the smell of refuse and humans, and the absence of the universal heartbeat, I might almost have believed myself still at home, in the Negaverse.

Thinking about that rather than what I should have had my mind on, I ran out into the street and was almost hit by a small personal transport. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Crystal Tokyo was a large city, with a population that was probably close to double that of the entire Negaverse. Such a place would never completely go to sleep. I'd have to be on the lookout for humans as well as berserk youma and -- What was the term Adamant had used? Mena Kimlubeniz?

Across the street and down another alleyway. I had to slow down, and then stop for a moment, to catch my breath. My directional sense told me that I hadn't been proceeding directly towards my goal, and that the straightest route would now take me through the building to my left. I slammed a fist into its wall, instead. Why did things always have to be so damned complicated? I needed a map. Or...

I'm an idiot. Or rather, I'd become so used to thinking of myself as magicless that the idea of using my powers simply didn't occur to me when it should have. Concentrating, I rose up in the air. Once I cleared the tops of the lower buildings, this would become easy.

<<No! You fool! You'll attract attention.>>

<<From who?>> I asked, still rising.

I felt my head being wrenched to one side under someone else's control. <<Her,>> Adamant replied grimly.

I was up above the three story building to my right already, which meant that it took me a moment to figure out what was standing down there at street level. In fact, even when I got a good look at it, I still wasn't quite sure.

<<That's a youma, isn't it?>> Well, it felt like a youma, although more powerful than most. In silhouette, it looked weirdly like General Jasper in drag. I think that was just the wings, though.

<<I don't think we'd better stay around to find out. Get down to that roof over there. If you keep hovering like this, you'll be like a magical beacon to that thing and any of its cousins that may be hanging around.>>

I dropped obediently to the guano-slick surface. Damn, why does the Earth Realm have to be so *dirty*? I'm never coming back here again, if I can help it.

<<Do you know how to power-jump?>>

<<Uh... sort of.>> Lady Aventurine had let me try it earlier today, before all hell had broken loose. I'd nearly brained myself on the ceiling of the training room. That wasn't a concern here, of course. I was rather more worried about missing my landing spot and falling...

<<That'll have to do. Move!>>

I jumped to the roof of a taller, adjacent building, and then leapfrogged across another alleyway to the next, moving in a zigzag pattern towards the other Crystal Weavers that I'd sensed earlier, until a shadow blotted out the stars and the dim moon above me.

Uh-oh... Have to get down to ground level. Her wings won't be of much use there.

There was a crunch as something large and vaguely seen plummeted past me and crashed into the roof on which I was standing. I glanced up at the figure hovering above me. At this close range, some details were visible. Her wings were white, smaller than General Jasper's, and should have been useless for supporting her in the air. She wore a robe of some sort, and in her right hand, she carried a quill pen, with which she was busily outlining something in thin air. It was only when the rock she had been drawing solidified and began to fall that I realized how much trouble I was really in.

I dove to one side, narrowly missing being crushed, and deliberately allowed myself to roll off the edge of the roof, hoping that I'd be able to avoid ending up as a large red smear on the ground below. I had to let myself free-fall for as long as possible, then throw all of my power into levitation and hope it was enough for me to save myself.

I struck the ground on my side, hard, but I gritted my teeth and forced myself not to scream. Hopefully, the youma would think that I was dead, and wouldn't follow me.

A shadow floated over me, then was gone. I breathed a sigh of relief, but remained frozen in position for several minutes, until I was absolutely certain that she was gone. Then I forced myself to my feet. I couldn't use my left arm at all. It felt like there was something badly wrong with my shoulder.

I have to go on, I told myself grimly. Then, lonely, <<Adamant?>>

But there was no reply, and I hadn't really expected one.

I continued to zigzag through alleyways, moving more slowly now, so as not to jar my shoulder. I wished that I could call out to the people I was trying to reach and ask for help, but I didn't quite dare. Not when I knew that Generals Jasper and Pyrope had come so close to going berserk. I didn't know if the Crystal Weavers I had sensed were friend or enemy, really. I only knew that they were my best chance.

"Melissa? What are you doing, dear? Come back!"

The voice caught my attention, and I looked upward, in the direction from which it had come.

A brown-haired woman, wearing a loose robe, was descending the fire escape of the old building to my left. She had a very large knife in her hand, and her eyes had the glazed sort of look to them that possessed people tend to get.

She was also looking directly at me.

I might have been wrong, of course, but I wasn't about to wait around and find out. It was much safer to run, and hope that she wouldn't follow me. It wasn't cowardice. I had a job to do, and fighting this poor woman wasn't going to get it done.

And so I ran, staggering from time to time and clutching at my shoulder, but still making steady progress forwards. I stopped at one point and leaned against a wall, but I forced myself to start moving again when I heard footsteps coming from behind me.

By the time I reached the customs building, I was in terrible pain. I felt like something was clawing at my shoulder and upper back. I'd forgotten where I was going, and why, and I lurched past the place that I'd been trying to reach at a speed that was faster than a walk but not quite a run.

Then I heard the footsteps coming from behind me again, louder and more emphatic than before. And they were gaining. I tried to push myself harder, to outdistance them, but I just didn't have any strength left.

<<Kyanite! Kyanite, wait! It's me, Alex!>>

<<Alex... ?>> The mindvoice seemed vaguely familiar, so I let myself stumble to a halt.

Strong hands caught at my shoulders. <<Gods of Darkness, you're freezing! What are you doing, running around the city when you're this far gone into shock? For that matter, what are you doing in the Earth Realm at all?>>

I whimpered as his probing hands found a tender spot. <<Looking for my father.>>

<<King Malachite? Then you're headed in the wrong direction. He's on his way back to the Negaverse. Damn, looks like you've cracked your scapula. I'm going to have to fix this before we go any further.>> Ripples of coppery light flowed from his hands, washing the pain away. My vision gradually cleared, and I managed to stand up a little straighter, and figure out who was leaning over me.

<<General Alexandrite? Please. I have to find my father. It's about the demon.>>

<<It's going to have to wait until you've recovered,>> Alex stated, still working on my injuries.

<<It can't!>> I felt like crying. All that work, all that pain, and I'd been going the wrong way the whole time. Now I'd have to find my way back to the Warp, and I wasn't sure exactly where it was. Actually, I wasn't quite sure where I was, either, so knowing the other wouldn't have done me much good.

<<He actually does think it's that important, Alex.>> I hadn't realized that General Jadeite was there until he made that statement. <<Wait.>>

The blonde man's eyes slid shut, and he remained frozen in place for several moments.

<<Kyanite?>>

<<Father?>> I almost sagged with relief.

<<I can't keep this up for long. Quickly. What do you have to tell me that's so important?>>

<<You have to attack the demon from both sides of the dimensional barrier at once.>>

<<You!>>

<<There's no time for that!>> Adamant sounded almost as frantic as my father. <<Do this -- and this -- and this -->> I couldn't understand the magical patterns he was presenting, and I stopped even trying to follow them after the first few. <<The attack from this side will have to be channeled through Phoebe's Ward.>>

<<That may not be possible. Neo-Queen Serenity is dead, and I understand that the Ward is trying to integrate itself with a new host -- one who may not survive the process.>>

<<That can be dealt with. Do your part, and I will do mine.>>

<<Don't try to give me orders, phantom. You have no right. And if you hurt Kyanite, I'll -->> The imagery that followed was something that I would have expected from my other father, not from Malachite. Or at least, I would have, had Zoisite ever been protective of me...

<<After this, he will be free of me.>> But again I caught the hint of a lie.

<<Alexandrite.>>

<<Yes, my King?>>

<<Escort Kyanite to the Crystal Palace. Good luck.>>

And then my father's voice and mind faded out. Adamant had already vanished into the depths of my psyche. And I was alone, and more than a little afraid.

Alexandrite and Jadeite were staring at each other over my head. Then Alex sighed.

<<I suppose we have no choice. Come on, Kyanite. We have work to do.>>

Goto Interlude II


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