The Wars of Light and Shadow - All Darkness Met
by E. Liddell
* * * * * * * *
The Silver Crystal
It was the touch of the darkness that woke us. We had been hovering on the edge of consciousness for some indefinable period of time, since we had felt the touch of a familiar kind of mind--a Crystal Weaver mind, although strangely twisted--but true wakefulness required a second stimulus.
The darkness was prying at us, trying to corrupt us to its purpose. This was intolerable. A pulse of energy served to discourage it, but we knew that it would be back.
<<You will never have us. Never!>> It was part warning and part defiance.
"Oh, but I will," the darkness whispered back. However, it did not resume its prodding. That left us free. Trapped as we were--no, as I was--inside the Crystal, with the others, there was little to do but dream and remember.
Identity was slowly returning to me. I had a name: Demantoid. I had been a Crystal Weaver, the Center of a Battle-Weave formed in those last desperate days of the Empyrean War. And I had given up my life--indeed, my very self, or so I had believed at the time--in order to give the humans one final weapon against our ancient foe, should they ever return. It should have been impossible for me to return to consciousness. What had happened here?
<<Onyx?>> The only other survivor of my Weave failed to respond, and, now that I thought to check, I could tell that the forces that should have linked us no longer existed. He was dead, then, with all the others, his spirit crystal destroyed. But then who had used the Crystal? The mind that had touched me had been that of a stranger, I recalled. Had there been other survivors? How much time had passed since the end of the war?
The darkness was still trying out subtle adjustments which it presumably hoped might shape us to its purpose. I ignored it and concentrated instead on reaching beyond. There! Two Crystal Weavers--but neither was the one I remembered. Near them, something that might be an Empyrean. So perhaps the war wasn't over after all. One Crystal Weaver, alone, and another, both minds strangely clouded with darkness, the second to the point that I had almost missed it. And three more. Two close together, sharing the bond of a common Weave. One of them was the one who had used the Silver Crystal and begun the process of waking me all those months ago. The third was watching those two. He was another one of the clouded ones.
I traced the lines of power more carefully. The pair I had found first and one of the clouded ones were also part of the Weave Centered by the one I had sought. So.
At the very limit of my perceptions, I sensed another mind. This person was not a Crystal Weaver, although she had some of the feel I would have associated with an unempowered infant of our folk. Strange, that.
Pain, resonating from a powerful but only partly trained mind, singed the edges of my consciousness. The maybe-Empyrean was attacking the first pair I had found. Something would have to be done about that.
* * * * * * * *
We hid in an alcove as a group of Beryl's palace guard ran past, most likely headed for the main armory, which was located on this level. If so, at least one of Nephrite's squads had found its way to its target. Our plan had achieved that much.
<<Not much farther,>> I observed. <<Are you ready?>>
<<As much so as I'll ever be.>> Zoisite tested the edge of his sword with his thumb. <<Damn! Must have blunted it. Oh, well, I won't be using it for anything more than clubbing that damned globe open, anyway.>>
A wave of pain slammed into us both. Something was wrong with Nephrite and Almandite. There was no more time for conversation. I rose from my crouch.
The mental voice was unfamiliar to me. Jasper? Citrine?
<<Please! Your Weavemates are in danger! You must help them!>>
<<I know they're in danger, damn you! This has gone beyond the point where we have a choice! And who are you to pry into our private affairs?>> This was bizarre to the point of insanity!
The air in the corridor outside our alcove wavered. At first, I thought I was seeing a very strange teleport effect, but the person who appeared there never entirely solidified.
He appeared to be a young man, perhaps in his early twenties, with long, pale green hair and dark eyes, but I was certain that he was far, far older than he seemed. Something in me instinctively recognized him as a fellow Crystal Weaver, although his spirit crystal was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps it was hidden under the armor he wore. He looked like he had been in a recent battle. His breastplate was dented, and splattered here and there with blood.
<<My name was Demantoid,>> he told me.
<<Was?>> I demanded.
<<I'm basically dead. I gave up my life energy to create the Silver Crystal. Actually, I should never have been able to regain consciousness of myself as an independent entity, and I'm not quite certain what happened. But that isn't important. What you do need to know is that an Empyrean is attacking two other members of your Weave. And it's winning.>>
<<He's winning,>> I corrected absently. <<And he isn't in this alone. We're hoping to take out his power source.>>
<<The darkness,>> Demantoid mused.
<<Yes. The Negaforce.>>
<<You can't. Not the two of you alone. It's too strong.>>
I gritted my teeth, not wanting to admit that I was afraid he was right. <<Then what do you suggest? Even if Zoisite and I rescue Nephrite and Almandite, the Negaforce still has control of the last member of our Weave. I doubt that the four of us could do much more good than we two alone.>>
<<Perhaps not. That creature is attacking me, now. I think I can keep it distracted for a few more hours at least. Four of you might be enough, but two certainly will not be. Seek them. And . . .>>
<<Yes?>> I prompted impatiently.
<<One of the shadowed ones is watching you. I cannot determine whether or not it is your Weavemate.>>
"Thanks for nothing," I muttered aloud as Demantoid's image faded.
<<Do you believe him?>> Zoisite asked.
I reviewed the conversation in my mind. <<Oddly enough, I do.>>
Pain shot through me again, centering on my right shoulder. Beside me, Zoisite stiffened. Nephrite, you've done it again, haven't you? I sighed.
<<We'd better go after them,>> I told Zoisite. <<Even if it turns out that we don't need their help, neither of us is going to accomplish much if their pain is tying us up in convulsions. We should have thought of this when we split ourselves up. In retrospect, the problem is obvious.>>
<<Even you can't predict everything.>>
<<It's my destiny to try, my love. Surely you realize that.>>
Sacrificing stealth for speed, I probed the surrounding area to locate Nephrite, then waited for the next wave of pain to pass before initiating my teleport.
* * * * * * * *
The second most senior general in the Negaverse, and I've been reduced to pest control. Why am I always the one who has to deal with those sailor-suited brats?
Although they didn't realize it, the Scouts were thoroughly lost. I had been watching them go around in circles for the past several minutes, aided, no doubt, by the fact that one portion of corridor in Beryl's palace looks much like any other to someone who isn't sensitive to negative energies. The discreetly placed symbols on the walls that would have marked the way for me or any other Negaverse denizen were a closed book to them.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I was rapidly becoming bored out of my mind. Time to up the stakes a bit.
"Which way, Mercury?" Sailor Moon asked.
"I don't know . . . There's too much interference from the rock again."
"Perhaps I can offer you some directions," I suggested, teleporting into place in front of them. "Directions to Oblivion, that is!" Perhaps not the best line I had ever come up with, but being in proximity to those brats has always brought out the worst of my melodramatic tendencies.
To my surprise, they didn't bother to make any silly speeches about love and justice. Instead, Sailor Moon screamed, "Run!" and all of the others followed her directions. I jogged along after them, occasionally concealing doorways and intersections so that they were herded in the direction I wanted them to go. Once we were in a deserted section of the palace, I would be able to drop the roof on them, or do anything else that I pleased, without any possibility of repercussions. Beryl wouldn't get angry at me for following her orders in any case, but I had no wish to annoy the youma cleaning staff, not when I had to live at the palace.
And once the Scouts were gone . . . well. Perhaps I had been too hasty in giving Amber to Jasper, after all. She was attractive enough, and I had been alone for a very long time . . .
* * * * * * * *
White light tore a furrow in the floor in front of me. Frantically, I knocked Molly--No, Almandite, I have to remember that. Why am I worrying about details of nomenclature at a time like this?--out of the way. Passing a little too close for comfort, the beam singed my oft-mangled right shoulder. Too tired to curse, I rolled out of the way of another blast, gathering blue and white fire in my hand in preparation for a counterattack.
Almandite recovered before I did, and send a stream of yellow darts in Citrine's direction. One of them tore the left sleeve of his tunic a bit, but all the others were deflected. Likewise, my fire splashed uselessly against an invisible shield.
Then a blast from the right, although failing to do any actual damage, catapulted Citrine off Beryl's throne. He didn't quite hit the ground, but I still found the display encouraging.
"We thought you could use a little help," Malachite remarked as he and Zoisite appeared beside me.
"I'll say. We've run out of cannon fodder." I waved a hand to indicate the bodies littering the room, all that remained of the youma attack force that had accompanied Almandite and myself. A few were still twitching feebly.
There was no further time for conversation. Citrine had picked himself up off the floor and was blasting at us again.
<<We have to keep him busy!>> Malachite told me, without specifying why.
Well, if it was busy he wanted, and not dead . . .
I used my powers to create a wind that tore at Citrine's hair, blinding him and spoiling his aim. It provided us with a moment of breathing space. I took the opportunity to look around.
Zoisite was stalking Citrine, a mundane knife in his hand. It was all I could do not to give him away. To distract our enemy from whatever expression might have been on my face, I launched another attack. It failed, but I took comfort in the knowledge that the tables would be turned in a few seconds' time.
* * * * * * * *
I had been following Malachite for quite some time when I sensed a bizarre concentration of energies nearby. I couldn't analyze it. Whenever I tried to touch it, it burned me. I was, however, able to creep close enough to observe the arrival and subsequent disappearance of a silent apparition in the corridor outside the hiding place of my assigned quarry. The moment it was gone, Malachite and his companion teleported.
I tried to trace them, but was interrupted by Citrine.
<<They're with me,>> he told me. <<They seem to have come to rescue their friends. Don't worry. I can handle them myself.>>
I was more than a little dubious about this, but I chose not to say anything. He was senior to me, and had the authority to give me reasonable orders, and in any case, I still found him disturbing. The less contact I had with him, the better I would feel.
<<I'll leave them to you, then,>> I told him, and decided to return to my quarters to check on my prisoners.
The boy was still scrubbing halfheartedly at the floor. I kicked his bucket over in passing, and watched while he scrambled to retrieve it. Oddly enough, I took no pleasure in the act.
The woman, Amber, was perched awkwardly on the edge of a chair, watching me.
"Get up," I ordered her.
She did nothing, only sitting frozen in place. I reached out with my powers and lifted her off the chair. She hung suspended in midair, her eyes precisely level with mine. Those damned grey eyes, still refusing to accuse me. Refusing to hate.
"Are you all right, Jas?" she asked softly.
The back of my hand struck her face, giving her a set of bruises precisely symmetrical with the ones on the other cheek. "Speak when you're spoken to, or I'll have your tongue cut out!" I snapped, then turned away from her in disgust, pacing to dissipate a bit of my tension.
Who was she, and why did she disquiet me so?
I frowned. There were two possibilities--either she lied to me, or she told the truth. If she had been lying when she had declared herself to be my mother (Why would anyone invent so ridiculous a lie?) then either I had met her somewhere else, or, more likely, Lord Jadeite had chosen her because she resembled someone I had once known.
If she told the truth, then my entire life was a lie. I wouldn't, couldn't believe that. I knew the bond of affection between myself and Jadeite existed and was solid. Hadn't he called me his son? But still . . . Those damnable grey eyes weren't all that different from what I saw in the mirror every morning . . .
I muttered a frustrated curse and spread my wings wide, nearly knocking the human boy unconscious. The tips of the outermost feathers barely touched the walls of the room. Then I froze and slowly smiled.
Perhaps there was a way for me to test her words after all.
* * * * * * * *
The knife must have missed Citrine's heart by mere fractions of an inch. The blade was longer than my hand, and Zoisite had sunk it into his back right up to the handle. Citrine reeled back. Blood spurted from the wound, then was slowed to a trickle by his powers. I didn't need my meager healer's knowledge to realize that it wouldn't be possible for him to bleed to death. A sudden, jerky movement on his part, and the knife was out of him. He flung it to the floor.
His eyes . . . Well, they weren't exactly glowing. Nor were they normal. Looking into them was like looking into the heart of a thunderstorm. Darkness shot with lightning.
"You dare." He raised his hands in front of him. No light gathered between there, or darkness, or any kind of object. Instead, there was the faintest of shimmers, like a heat haze. Pure power, none of it wasted on display.
I felt tension shoot through Nephrite's body where my hand still rested on his shoulder. I could sense the tension in the air. Zoisite still stood a little in front of Malachite, between his lover and Citrine, as though to shield the one from the other. Which was absurd, of course. The green-eyed man wasn't powerful enough to provide any defense for the Center of our Weave.
Nephrite stepped forward. "Understand this. If you attack one of us, you face all of us."
Feeling more than a little sick, I stepped forward as well. We're going to die. We're all going to die. I didn't want to do this. I wanted to run away. I wanted to take Nephrite with me. But the others . . . Even though I disliked Malachite, and sometimes outright hated Zoisite, they were teammates. And more. They were almost family. Did Serena ever feel like this? She must have. Despite the fact that she never got along with Raye, they came to each others' rescue each and every time.
Nephrite wrapped his arm around me as I took my place beside him. <<Don't worry. It will be all right. Be prepared to join with the others.>>
My left hand, the one that wasn't pinned between us, reached up to close around my spirit crystal. Maybe we had a chance. One chance. If we all acted together. It was becoming obvious that Citrine, his powers augmented by the Negaforce, was too strong for any of us alone. Citrine himself was leaning casually against Beryl's throne, smirking.
<<Now,>> Malachite told us.
I focused all my power, let it flow through me and out to Nephrite, felt the combined energy of the two of us pass from him to Malachite, saw our combined powers gather between our leader's hands as a ball of energy not unlike the one Citrine held . . .
Felt the sudden imbalance, the grating collapse of the energy pattern, as Malachite instinctively reached for something that wasn't there, needing it to complete the pattern of force. Jadeite, I realized. Onyx warned us. There are supposed to be five of us. With only four, the Weave is unbalanced . . . and we die.
Citrine's smile was far more chillingly cold than anything Zoisite had ever managed as he released what he held. I didn't even have time to turn toward Nephrite. The instant as the air solidified around us is frozen in my mind. I can see Zoisite, standing in front of Malachite. The white-haired man had his arms around his lover. Both of them looked resigned. Beside me, Nephrite's expression was calm and a bit tired. I myself was empty of all feeling, even regret.
The inside of the crystal was excruciatingly cold. I might have screamed then, but I couldn't. I couldn't even draw in a breath. I was paralyzed, surrounded by ice that would maintain me this way forever, or until it sapped all my energy and I died. Even Nephrite's arm, still wrapped around me, was loosing its warmth.
<<It could be worse.>> His thought was so faint that I had to strain to hear it. <<At least none of us got frozen in the sort of pose Jadeite fetched up with. Farewell, my love. We'll meet again in eternity, and then no one will be able to separate us.>>
And there was darkness.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 15
The Crystal Weaver Saga Index
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury