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

(August 30-September 13, 3023 AD)

Interlude IV: Peace is Despaired

© 2001 by E. Liddell

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The city had finally settled down, but its defenders knew that it was only the calm before the storm. The monsters were still there, in hiding, and they would have to be found and rooted out before the municipality would truly be at peace.

The young man who stood on the balcony overlooking the palace gardens, watching the sun rise in its weak and watery splendour, knew all of this. And it frightened him. Badly.

Am I going to be strong enough? Mom? Dad?

He turned a black rose over and over again in his hands, then, in a gesture of frustration, tossed it over the edge of the balcony. It struck ground in the middle of one of the lesser paths through the gardens and exploded, spraying gravel everywhere. The young man ignored it, instead turning to go back inside and assume the role of leadership that his parents' deaths had thrown upon him. He wanted to hate them, for dying so soon and so inopportunely, but that would mean a return to a self that he was beginning to despise. And so he mourned them instead.

Others were also mourning. The black cat lay curled on a cushion on the ground floor of the palace, unable to weep for the woman who had been almost as much of a daughter to her as her own kitten. Instead, she kneaded the cushion with her front claws until she felt it begin to shred, unable to make a decision even though she knew that she must choose. It was no longer clear where her duty lay. Once, she would have said that she was obliged to help the correct female heir assume the throne, but the true heir had committed high treason, and the only possible replacement was a bastard of a collateral line who was unaware of her heritage. But a more legitimate male heir was now attempting to become the ruler. Was she to support him? Phoebe, grant me the vision to see my way through this tangle!

And elsewhere in the city, a group of women, no longer young, had met at a temple to grieve over the death of one who had been both a friend and a life's work to almost all of them. The former blonde kneeling at the far left edge of the group with her head bowed was choking on a guilt so thick that it almost strangled her. I could have warned you. If I'd been a little smarter, I would have had the chance to save you. Oh, Serena!

The green-haired woman beside her bore a guilt of her own. I failed my charge. I'm sorry, Queen Serenity. I should go, alone, to try to salvage something, but I know that creature will kill me if I can't avoid it. And so I have to rely on their strength and courage, once again. I pray that it will be the last time. They failed once before, and eventually, they will fail again. I'm certain of it. But that was a future that she had carefully avoided looking for.

Only one person mourned either of the dead as people, without any concern for the offices they had held. She had no leisure to show how she felt. Indeed, she was forcing herself to remain commanding and impassive as she directed her several squads of youma. Her job was something that had to be done, and now. But every so often, she allowed herself to remember a playground or a school in the old city of Tokyo, and a blonde girl her own age who had been her closest friend.

She lowered a hand to her belt, clenching it around the hilt of her sword. None of them were to go unarmed now. Malachite had ordered it.

The last link to my old life is gone. Serena was the last person that I was ever close to as a human. It was a strange, hollow feeling, one that she'd known was coming but had been unable to prepare for. She could hardly wait until she could return home to make her preparations for the coming expedition, and lose herself, if only for a few moments, in her husband's arms. She still loved him, and their children, desperately. Perhaps the love would help to fill up a little bit of the peculiar emptiness she felt inside.

There was another who had barely known the two who had died, but felt guilty about it, despite his lack of contribution to the events which had occurred, as he scrubbed his face as thoroughly as he could manage. He refused to so much as glance at the mirror above the sink, not now because he felt that the thin, dark, odd-eyed face displayed there wasn't his, but because he was worried that it wasn't his own mis-matched eyes that he would be looking into.

Damn it, I know you made me for a reason, and that it has something to do with the demon and the sword. Why won't you tell me?!

But the voice within remained silent, offering him no enlightenment. He raised his hand and deliberately punched the mirror, feeling the twinge of pain as the action jarred the armband that he wore hidden under his jacket. He ignored the slivers of silvered glass that fell into the sink, his hand having been protected by his wards.

I'll get to the bottom of this somehow. Maybe I'll sneak along on the expedition into the Timestream, head back in time to talk to the real you. At least if you're in a separate body, I can hold a knife to your throat and make you cough up a little information!

Course of action decided, he strode back to his room to make some preparations of his own.

Several stories above him, a white-haired man tossed and turned in an otherwise empty bed that was more than large enough for two. He knew that he could not waste much more time on this attempt to sleep, but was loath to rise and confront what was about to come.

He had known that it was the only decision that he could make. His Weave was the only force capable of distracting Mena Kimlubeniz and keeping Sailor Pluto safe until she found her staff. He had chosen someone to remain behind and rule in his place, but it galled him to be forced to leave the kingdom that he had built when it was facing a serious crisis, and it disturbed him even more that he had been forced to leave it in the hands of an inexperienced, demon-touched man.

But it has to be Jasper, he reminded himself. Marcasite may be more powerful, but he's even less experienced, and Demantoid, who's more senior, doesn't have the right leadership qualities.

He hid from himself the fact that he wasn't touching on the true reason for his reluctance. That reason was something that he absolutely must not consider. It had to do with the empty place inside his head where someone else's voice should have been. It had to do with the pillow that lay beside him, exuding the faint scent of cherry blossoms. It had to do with losing the hidden source of his strength, almost as completely as if the other had died again. He tried to refuse to think about it, but a tear leaked from his eye all the same.


Then he firmly quashed even the memory of a memory. He would be strong, and go on. He had done that before.

Many miles distant from him, a dark-haired, young-seeming man smoothed the soil around the roots of a small tree as he considered problems of his own.

I have to tell them.

But I don't want to.

He sighed and flicked the tip of his single braid with soil-covered fingers. His parents deserved to know the truth about him. He knew that. And he really should tell them before he left with the others. But he knew that cowardice would get the better of him, as usual. It was odd that he had the courage required to face down one of the Seven Shadows, but couldn't bring himself to say a simple thing like, "I am the original Alexandrite reincarnated," to his parents.

Another equally tongue-tied person sat by the bedside of a white-haired figure crowned in gold, while her daughter had fallen asleep in a chair across the room.

I should tell them. I should tell them both. It would be more honest. But would it be right to complicate their lives that way? I don't want Rhea to have to be queen. I watched Serenity get ground away by the responsibility, year after year after year. I don't want that to happen to my daughter.

She shook the white-haired man gently, but he didn't even stir.

I wonder if I could heal him. If I dared. She reached out to stroke the shaft of the huge weapon that leaned against the wall beside her at a precarious angle. But she knew that she would never dare use her healing powers, even to save the life of her king.

I loved you once. I had a daughter with you. Now I must serve you, if you live. What are we to each other now?

On a world far, far above her, a fanged and taloned figure knelt, in chains, beside a throne occupied by a creature that was both more and less than human. He rattled his chain a bit as he shifted his weight, rocking on his heels, ignoring the warm liquid which ran down his back and sides. He had long since ceased noticing the pain. It was just another part of this nightmare in which he found himself.

How long have I been here? Hours? Days? Oh, Pyrope...

But he had long since ceased hoping for rescue, either.

And in a grey place that was apart from all these others, but capable of observing them, a creature searched for something that had been dropped by one who had been fleeing its wrath, enraged because it could not find that single, simple item it needed to navigate through the Timestream unaided.

Eventually, it drew itself into a small, unobtrusive ball and hid itself in the mists. If it couldn't find the item itself, it would wait for the owner to come back. She would surely want to retrieve it, and when she tried, it would snatch it from her.

But damn Adamant and all these bastard heirs of his for making me wait!

To be continued

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