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

(August 30-September 13, 3023 AD)

Chapter 13

© 2000 by E. Liddell


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Sumire

I helped carry Sammy -- King Samuel, I supposed he was now -- into the little antechamber whose entrance was hidden behind the thrones. We laid him on a couch, and I found myself smoothing the tousled white hair back from his face as Sailor Mars laid the Silence Glaive on the floor beside me.

He was still as handsome as he had been when he had stolen my heart away, all those years ago. I'd been much younger then, impressionable and naive. I'd changed since then. But he never had, and that was the root of the problem, wasn't it? He'd been a dashing, cynical young officer when we'd begun our affair, and a dashing, cynical young officer when we'd broken off. It had been almost as though there was something wrong with him, as though he was trapped in that stage of his life and couldn't get out of it.

He'd never have made any kind of a father. I told myself that, over and over again. Sometimes I almost managed to make myself believe it. That was why I'd never told him about Rhea, or vice-versa. Better that she have no father at all than that she know she was his bastard.

I was even gladder, now, that I'd made that decision. Rhea as heir to Crystal Tokyo... No. That would have been wrong. My daughter had enough problems just being Sailor Saturn, Junior.

The Silence Glaive vibrated against my palm as I bent down to pick it up, and a wave of guilt washed over me. Maybe... I could have saved them...

I'd frozen when Rini had appeared in the throne room. I should have attacked her, or shielded Their Majesties, or something. The Silence Glaive was a powerful weapon. But I just couldn't. I was too afraid.

I hadn't realized, when I'd become Sailor Saturn, exactly what that meant. I mean, all of the Sailor Scouts have magical powers that they can use in attacks, right? Well, that's true, as far as it goes. But as Sailor Saturn, I'm a bit different. I hardly ever dare invoke my magic, because I know it's very destructive and I've never felt like I'm completely in control of it. In fact, I've always felt like I'm trying to walk a large and rather vicious dog on a leash made from a single strand of my own hair.

And so I'd buried the attack phrases at the bottom of my mind and had Cass train me to use the Silence Glaive as a melee weapon. I'd never even dared to use my powers to heal, because that made the thing at the bottom of my mind shift, like it was rolling over in its sleep. I'd used the attacks channeled by the Silence Glaive once or twice, when I could see no other way out of a situation, but each time it had been a struggle to throttle the power back again, to keep from unleashing it to run wild and destroy. I'd never dared use the other, the attack that didn't need the Glaive, and I knew that I never would. It was just too dangerous.

I found myself smoothing hair back from Sammy's face again. That one lock that dangled over his left eye had always been uncontrollable, no matter what he tried to do with it. It made him, even now when he was almost fifty years old, look oddly boyish. Damn it, I'm over you, I know I am. But I still wish... I still wish that things had worked out better. I still wish that Rhea had had a father. Cass had done her best to fill in, but it just hadn't been quite the same.

Then it hit me. Oh, gods, Rhea! My daughter was alone in her room in the private wing, and I had the transformation tool -- the only transformation tool -- and with the gods only knew what wandering the palace corridors tonight...

I left the room at a run, ignoring the way that everyone was staring at me. The quickest way would be through the central atrium, and then--

"Sumire! Wait... up..."

I stopped dead in my tracks. "Luna? What are you doing here?"

"Following... you..." the cat replied. She seemed to be having trouble getting her breath back.

"I can see that. But why?"

"Because I know about Rhea."

"You what?"

"I know who Rhea's father is," the little black cat repeated. "It never mattered before, but now she's Serena's closest surviving female relative -- and Serena is dead." There was an incredible depth of pain in Luna's voice.

I didn't want to waste any more time standing here in the hallway, but I could see that Luna had more to say, so I scooped her up and made sure that she was securely slung across my shoulder before I continued my jog down the corridor.

"What about Rini?" I asked.

"I'm not certain that we can salvage Rini," Luna admitted. "Perhaps Diana can get through to her, but I doubt it. Serena could have, as she did before, but now..." She didn't bother to repeat the painful words. I think they were engraved on both our brains anyway. Serena is dead. It was incredible. Unbelievable. An era of history had just ended.

"What if we cleanse her with the Crescent Moon Wand?"

"Would you permit your daughter to wield it?"

"No, but I'm sure Sammy would do it, if he pulls through -- and if he doesn't, Phaeton can use it."

"No male has ever used the Crescent Moon Wand."

I rolled my eyes. "No male has ever tried to anchor Phoebe's Ward before, either. Just because it's never been done doesn't mean that it can't be, and I am not going to let Rhea get mixed up in this."

"Still--"

"I am not going to listen to this, Luna." I made my voice as cold as I could manage. Then I had no breath left for argument, because I was taking a flight of stairs three or four at a time.

I pounded on Rhea's door, and, when she didn't open it immediately, backed up a bit to put myself in a position to kick it down. As a result, when Rhea did open the door a few seconds later, I just about kicked her face in.

"Mom, what do you think you're doing?"

"Sorry, kiddo, I'm a bit on edge. Come on." I grabbed her wrist and began to drag her back towards the stairs.

"Can I at least get dressed?"

I paused and glanced back at her. She was wearing a filmy nightgown, which wasn't exactly practical for running around the palace.

"Throw on a robe and grab some clothes," I told her. "You can dress when we get there." If you're willing to ignore the fact that there'll be three men in the room, and two of them are even conscious. Well, there were semi-private alcoves. She would just have to make do.

She didn't bother to ask any more questions as she put on her robe and slippers and selected some clothing. I breathed a sigh of relief.

It looked like it was going to be all right.

Malachite

I allowed the boomerang in my left hand to dissipate as soon as the youma were all either dead or fled, and turned the other into a sword. I wasn't about to disarm myself completely. Not when the seconds required to create a new weapon might mean the difference between life and death.

Beside me, Marcasite slumped against the wall, wiping pale pink blood from a shallow cut on the left side of his face. Fortunately for him, he'd had the presence of mind to grab his favorite weapons, a pair of matched swords, before we'd left his family home.

<<Fifty-three,>> he observed to me, surveying the carnage.

<<Give or take a few,>> I agreed. <<Are you all right?>>

<<Fine, my King. Thank you for asking.>>

I could tell that he was lying, but I let it pass. If he wanted to play the stoic, far be it from me to stop him.

<<How much further?>> he asked.

<<Not very far, so long as another wave of crazy youma doesn't hit.>> The chances of more of them finding us were better than I liked to think about, though. I suspected that the demon was guiding them. Fifty-three youma had been waiting in ambush for us when we entered this corridor. Given the total number of youma in the Negaverse who could have been affected by the demon, and their locations in the kingdom, that was far too many for it to be a coincidence.

I was trying to get us back to the central areas, where the throne room and the passages through to the Earth Realm were. Hopefully, Jasper and the other junior Generals would be waiting for us there.

The fact that there would also be a lot more youma in that area was another one of those things that I was trying very hard not to think about.

The wall behind me rippled. I swore softly and rose to my feet, holding my sword at the ready, able to guess what was coming.

Marcasite wasn't so fortunate, or perhaps I should say that he wasn't so well-informed. He had only made it to his knees when the wall struck.

I am aware of how ridiculous that sounds, but the wall wasn't exactly a wall at that moment, it was alive and trying to engulf Marcasite, and I knew I had only one chance to save him. I probed quickly for the magical concentration inside the grey stone, then stabbed it with my conjured sword. The grey stuff gave, but it was rubbery and elastic, and with magical augmentation being applied to both qualities, my blade just wouldn't cut it properly.

<<Get it off of me!>> Marcasite was encased up to the thighs in grey-green pseudostone now, firing lightning into it from his fingertips to no apparent effect.

<<Patience,>> I told him, pushing the sword deeper into the creature's body. Then, suddenly, the blade shot forward about three inches, and I knew that I'd penetrated deep enough.

I channeled lightning down the length of my sword and took grim satisfaction in hearing Marcasite's attacker scream. She released him and melted into a sort of puddle on the floor -- unconscious or dead, I didn't know which, but at any rate, he was free.

As I helped him to his feet, he asked, <<What was that?>>

<<One of the youma under Zantisa's command,>> I replied. <<Tadathaki. She has -- had -- the ability to merge herself with inanimate substances. One of the Negaverse's many oddities. But we've wasted enough time here. Come.>>

I led the way down the corridor and deeper into Beryl's palace. We had almost reached the corridor outside the throne room before we met anyone or anything else. Fortunately, this time the new arrivals were on our side.

<<My King?>>

<<Aventurine? What are you doing here?>>

She grounded the butt of her spear and gestured for the youma who were with her to back off. <<Looking for Kyanite.>>

<<It's all right, he's safe. In the Earth Realm, believe it or not. Alexandrite is with him. Where's Demantoid?>> I would need his help. I knew what I needed to do now, thanks to Adamant and Kyanite, but I wanted a formally-trained Crystal Weaver to assist me, and Demantoid was the only one we had.

<<We don't know. Tourmaline went to look for him, but she hasn't come back.>>

<<Tourmaline? Whatever possessed you to send her?>> The woman from the Enclaves wasn't exactly our strongest fighter. Not for the first time, I cursed one of the compromises I had had to make: although we had hundreds of spirit crystals in our possession and could have revived just about anyone from the Enclaves or the Dark Moon, I'd decided that bringing unknown Nemisians back to life was just too dangerous. I'd chosen to revive the Enclavites first, but one at a time, giving each of them a chance to assimilate into our society before we revived the next. If we'd dared revive their more powerful descendants, or just to bring more of them back to life more quickly...

<<Because just about everyone else was either recovering from the demon's takeover, or nursing someone who was. I had to stay behind and give orders, and I sent Zircon after Kyanite. That left Tourmaline. She seems to be all right so far. I don't normally get much from the Weave-link, but I would know if she was hurt. So would Jasper, now that he's recovered.>>

I frowned, but there wasn't much I could do about the situation just now. I needed to figure out what resources we had on hand, and get a good tactical briefing.

<<Take us to the others,>> I ordered. <<I want to talk to your brother.>>

Alexandrite

There were points at which I thought I would have to carry him. I'd healed Kyanite's injuries, but he still hadn't come out of shock, and he was very tired.

Poor kid. I shook my head. He wasn't even a week old. He didn't deserve to be involved in something like this. Still, he was bearing up a lot more bravely than I thought I would have in the same situation.

I wished we could teleport, but under the circumstances, I didn't think it was wise. If we didn't arrive in the right place... No, walking was safer. I just wished that it didn't have to take so damned long!

<<Are you all right?>> I asked my charge.

<<Fine,>> came the listless reply.

<<All right, I'll take your word for it for now.>> I didn't have much of a choice. I'm not really a psychiatrist, and I wasn't qualified to deal with Kyanite's emotional state, although I'd come to the conclusion that it was pretty seriously screwed up. Then again, anyone who had to live in the same household with Zoisite would inevitably end up kind of screwed up.

The night was quiet. Too quiet, really. But I couldn't see or sense anything wrong. I really do hate cities. My instincts just don't seem to function very well in an urban environment, and there aren't nearly as many animals to talk to as there are out in the country. And most of the animals that do live there can be divided into five categories: stray domestic pets (and their descendants), rats, pigeons, crows, and small birds like starlings. Most of the birds had already bedded down for the night, I hate talking to rats, and a cat or dog would have the same ground's-eye view of this place as we had. Still, I sent out a call, hoping that there would be some sort of useful creature in range.

"Whoooo? Whoooo?"

The call was very faint, very far above, and I wasn't about to ask the poor owl to duck down between the buildings to join us if it wasn't already so inclined, so I reached out to it with my mind instead.

<<What do you see?>>

The image that flashed to life inside my mind was... odd, in a number of ways. Completely colourless, for one thing, and the owl was moving, so it twisted and shifted a lot. It's fortunate that I've never been one to get motion sick. But it was an aerial view of our immediate surroundings, and I could interpret it.

Buildings, mostly dark and empty... Well, it was two o'clock in the morning, and this was a commercial district. Almost nothing moving, except for Kyanite and I. Far off to the west, I could just barely see a force dome, probably the one established by Malachite to contain his youma forces. And in almost exactly the opposite direction, something human-sized, leaping from roof to roof.

I directed the owl downwards a bit, but not too far down. I didn't want to force the bird too close to whatever that creature was, just in case it turned out to be dangerous.

Then the owl got in range to give me a good look at it, and I swore. It wasn't merely dangerous, it was a danger that I recognized. Volvo the Vulture. One of the Seven Shadows. Damn.

<<Thank you,>> I told the owl, letting it fly free. Then I extended my hands in front of me.

Unlike most of the others, I don't have a favorite weapon, or it might be more accurate to say that I dislike all weapons equally. However, it seemed to me that a spear was probably my best choice under the circumstances, so I created one. Mom -- Aventurine -- had taught me how to use one, during my second childhood, and it felt easy in my hands.

<<Wait here,>> I told Kyanite.

<<Is something wrong?>>

<<Not if I take care of it right now. Wait here,>> I repeated. <<I'll be back.>>

I floated up into the air, moving slowly until I was up above building level, not wanting to brain myself on a fire escape. In fact, I had to use the butt of my spear to fend myself off one of those at one point. Then I was up above the lower building to my left, and I spun in midair, trying to locate my target.

It came at me from above, off the top of the taller building, but I'd been expecting something like that and was ready to meet it. They always come from the direction that's most awkward for you.

I spun the spear in my hands, but I didn't quite manage to get it pointed in the right direction before the boxing-gloved youma slammed into me. Or rather, slammed into my foot. When I'd realized that the spear wasn't going to work, I'd kicked at the creature instead.

It folded over my boot with a satisfying oof, then recovered enough to take a swing at me. Fortunately, my leg was the only part of me in range of its fists, and with the gloves on it wouldn't be able to do more than raise a few bruises.

It stopped even being able to do that anymore when I reversed the spear again and whacked it over the head. Dazed, it fell from its precarious perch (I was the only thing keeping it up at that point -- its wings were useless when it wasn't moving), tumbling down towards the ground. I bit back a curse and dove after it. After all, it wasn't just a youma that was falling. There was a human being somewhere inside that body, too, an innocent who didn't deserve to go splat! against the pavement at the bottom of the alleyway. I wasn't going to lose sight of that. Yes, the Second Shadow had been my opponent, but we'd finished our fight and I'd won, and I've never been the sort of person who holds a grudge.

I caught up with the falling creature about midway to the ground and managed to slow our fall enough that we only hit the ground a bit uncomfortably hard. Quickly, I conjured some tough vines and bound the Second Shadow hand and foot. It would stay put for a while that way, at least. I'd have to remember to send a detachment of the palace guard down here to pick it up when Kyanite and I reached our destination. I didn't want it to starve before it was found by anyone willing to release it.

<<Lord Alexandrite?>>

I jumped a bit. I hadn't exactly forgotten that Kyanite was there, but he'd been so silent during the fight...

<<What is it?>> I asked.

<<You... you're good at that. Fighting, I mean.>>

I stared down at the securely bound youma. Yes, I guess I am. What a strange feeling. What a very strange feeling.

I offered Kyanite a crooked half-smile. <<Well, you didn't think that Malachite would have asked me to escort you if he'd thought I was bad at it, did you?>>

<<Well, no, but... It's just a couple of things that your mother said about you...>>

<<I forgot that she'd been assigned as your instructor,>> I admitted. Avi and I... We loved each other, of course, but she'd never understood me or had much in common with me, and my feelings toward her had always been... confused. I remembered her as a little girl sitting under my cherry tree, one of the few places in the Earth Realm where I think she actually felt safe, but she was also my mother, the only mother that I could really remember. My original parents, the ones I had shared with Jay, had long ago faded from my mind. I couldn't even remember their faces, or our siblings'.

I'd always dealt with the problem by trying to block, inside my mind, the association between that young girl and the woman she had become. Usually, it worked. But not always.

I sighed and turned away from the youma.

<<Come on, we've still got more ground to cover,>> I reminded Kyanite.

Goto Chapter 14


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