The Crystal Weaver Saga: An Ill Fate Marshalling
by E. Liddell
* * * * * * * *
I cried silently into my pillow. Nephrite was already asleep. This hadn't affected him the way it had me. His only ties to the Earth Realm were through me, after all. If there had ever been anyone important to him out there, they'd long ago vanished into time, irrecoverable.
What happened? I don't understand. The same question and complaint that had been running through my mind every few minutes since Serena had fallen to her knees in the middle of the frozen street.
I wiped my tears away and rolled over to study my husband's profile. Nine tenths of my life was him, and my work in the Negaverse, and . . . My hand fell to touch my stomach. But there were parts of me, my human friendships, my mother and other relatives, that weren't part of this life. I'm sorry, Mom. I promised you that you'd live to see your grandchildren. I thought we had more time. And she still might meet them, some day. They'd be grown up by that time, of course. And then some. A thousand years . . . But at least Nephrite and I are together. I don't know what Serena's going to do.
Nor did I know what I was going to do about Serena. She'd refused supper and instead had gone to hide in her room. I could only presume that she was feeling as sorry for herself as I had been a few moments ago. She had every right to be, and one skipped meal wouldn't hurt her, but I was worried about what would happen to her and Rini if she kept refusing food. If I felt this rotten, she must be downright suicidal, and a miscarriage would be the last straw. I'll have to watch her carefully. At least it would give me something to do. Work was probably the best antidote for my own depression.
What right did I have to feel this way, when Serena had lost so much more? And Cuprite? As far as I could tell, whatever had happened to him had blinded him for life. And then there was the mysterious Dark Moon Crystal Weaver that Malachite had brought back, who was in a deep coma with no signs of ever emerging. Lost love, lost health, and lost life, or as good as . . . Really, I was a pretty lucky person by comparison.
I rolled over so that my head was pillowed on Nephrite's chest, and closed my eyes. Have to keep myself busy tomorrow. Well, Malachite's probably going to have a dozen and one organizing jobs for us to do, now that we're cut off again . . .
* * * * * * * *
"You have failed me," Wise Man said. The strange acoustics of this place made his voice seem more sonorous than usual.
"I have," I agreed, kneeling, head bowed, before him. I watched the patterns of multicolored light twist and shift across the grayness of the floor and tried not to think about what would be happening next.
I didn't understand what this place was, or why Wise Man had brought me here. I would have expected him to take me back to the future to explain my failures to Prince Diamond. Or had he abandoned that particular masquerade? I'd known from the first time I saw them together that his subservience to Diamond was feigned. The only surprising part about it was that the prince had never realized it.
"What am I to do with one who has failed me, Lapis? You--Aargh!" Suddenly, the robed figure was crouched, clutching at his abdomen. The crystal ball which normally floated in the air in front of him toppled to the ground, making a chiming sound as it struck the shifting grey. I didn't quite dare rise and move forward to offer my help, though. On Nemesis, those who tried to see what was hidden under Wise Man's cowl died.
Slowly, he straightened. "It's that Moon-brat's cursed Crystal," he muttered. "The wounds burn . . ."
I said nothing, trying to puzzle out the meaning of his words. The Moon-brat's Crystal . . . Had Sailor Moon attacked him? And when had she had the chance? Had he followed Rubius back to that earlier time period when he was supposed to destroy the Sailor Scouts?
"You are fortunate that it appears you must serve," Wise Man added. "I will send the other survivors to you, Lapis. Guard this place with your lives."
Startled, I raised my head and looked past him. We were in a grey-walled room--I couldn't tell how large it was, or how small, or even if the dimensions were constant. At the center there was a column of white light which was the visual manifestation of an immensely powerful ward. It flickered from time to time, though, as though some component of the spell had been damaged. On the floor between us and the white wall lay the crystals. Hundreds of them. The spirit crystals of every Nemisian and every Enclave Crystal Weaver (except Pyrope's--where was he? I had expected him to give up his imposture once he realized what had happened to twenty-first century Earth) since the Silver Millennium, mine included. I was mystified as to what Wise Man wanted with them.
He had turned toward the white column, watching as it flickered again, almost exposing something that lay at its center.
"Five thousand years," he murmured, and I again recognized the words as not being meant for me. "Five thousand years since it was cast--more than two thousand since his death--and only now does it begin to fail. And it must not be recast."
I shivered. I wouldn't have thought it possible for someone's voice to express such a depth of anger and hatred. As Wise Man turned back toward me, the light from the ward slid under his cowl, and I thought I glimpsed it reflecting off the ivory bone of a naked skull.
"Remain here," he ordered. "I will return shortly."
* * * * * * * *
April 10, 2002
The time was almost here. I could feel it.
Premonitions feel like oncoming storms to me. They always have. It's a weird, tingly feeling, as though I'm about to be struck by lightning. As a side effect, it makes me terrible at weather forecasts, but I've learned to live with that. Now . . . I don't understand how it was possible for me to have the same feeling when I no longer had a body, but I did.
And then the lightning struck, and I had The Answer. I finally understood the why of the chain of events that I'd begun twelve hundred years ago. I knew why I'd been inspired to create the Silver Crystal, why I'd needed to preserve myself for this time and this place. Before, I'd only known that it had been necessary.
And soon, the others would understand too.
* * * * * * * *
Aack. Another pounding headache. Did I faint again? What did I do to deserve this?
And then I woke up a little more, and remembered. Zoisite. Jasper. Pyrope. The blue-haired woman. And that damned staff. No wonder my head hurts. I inhaled, smelling a cold dampness that was beginning to become familiar. I'm back in the Negaverse. I'm not sure whether that's good or not.
Finally, I opened my eyes. It was pitch black. I'd been expecting that. They'd left me in the dark the last time, too. I sighed, closed my eyes, and rested a little before struggling into a sitting position that would let me touch the globe on the wall. I rubbed my hand against it, then glanced around me.
Still nothing. Absolute darkness. Or . . . was it? I frowned and squinted. Was there something there? Yes! A faint red-violet glow, coming from . . . what? My vision was fuzzy, out- of-focus. Slowly, the image resolved into five fingers, resting against something dark and veined with green. My hand. And the wall. What the . . . ?
I raised my other hand in front of my face and studied it, fascinated. The light was brightest at the center of my palm, right where the burn on my left hand had been after that night at Serena's apartment. There was a bright streak running up my arm, too. The rest of my flesh was paler, the tips of my fingers almost ephemeral. It was all webbed over with a network of faint grey lines.
I could see better, now. The walls were deep green, almost black, with brighter veins, the wardrobe and bed darker yet. Where the blankets touched my body, I could see a red-violet glow through the sheets. And below me, lying right beside the bed, just out of my sight, there was something terribly, incredibly bright. I leaned over to take a look.
It should have been blinding. I closed my eyes, only to discover that it didn't seem to make any difference. Giving up, I reached down, and felt a familiar, faintly warm smoothness against my hand. My staff. Or Sailor Pluto's staff. I thought it was white at first, but as I studied it, I realized that it was really every color I had ever heard of, and a lot more that I hadn't, all mixed together.
I rolled over and buried my face in my pillow, which finally succeeded in making the weirdly changed world go away. This is . . . What in hell is happening to me? What am I seeing? Or . . . not really seeing. Maybe. I'm not sure whether it has anything to do with my eyes or not! That flash, when I swung at Pyrope . . . did it blind me? Or did it do something else that I don't have a word for yet?
What had glowed? Myself, the staff, and, very faintly, the walls . . . all magical, one way or the other. The distinctly mundane bed and wardrobe gave off no light of their own, and didn't seem to reflect much, either. Just enough for me to tell that they were there, if I concentrated. Is that it? Am I "seeing" magic?
I remembered the featureless grey eyes of the Cuprite from the future, and shuddered. Talk about a cursed gift! Or . . . maybe I was temporarily blinded by the flash from the staff, and this is my magic sensitivity taking over until my regular sight comes back. I hope. Oh God, I hope!
I reached down to stroke the staff, hating it but at the same time needing the mysterious comfort that it gave me. The others. What happened to them? Obviously, Malachite must have brought me back here, and Jasper, too, but what about Pyrope? Did they leave him there with her?
I tossed the blankets aside and stood up, supporting myself with the staff. I need to find out what happened to him, I thought as I shuffled toward the wardrobe and struggled into a grey uniform. It was grey even to my altered vision, glowing dimly with some kind of Negaverse spell. A ward, maybe? And why do I care?
Dressed, I pushed the door open. I'd have to ask a youma for directions. But I was going to get there.
I didn't know what I could do to help, but I didn't want my oldest and best friend to end up paying for my mistakes.
* * * * * * * *
I turned the lump of ice over again in my hands. I still don't understand how it could have done this.
Shortly after we had returned to the Negaverse, Malachite had rather peremptorily ordered me to figure out what kind of spell had frozen the Earth, handed me this chunk of ice, and departed for a conference with General Nephrite, General Jadeite, and that green-skinned youma captain with the horns--what was her name, Zantisa?--and I'd barely seen him since. Since it was obviously something he expected Zoisite to be both willing and able to do, I'd accepted the ice chunk and retreated into Zoisite's private laboratory. Or rather, I'd hidden in one of the less-used areas of the palace until I could catch a youma and strip its mind to get an idea of where things were around here, and then I'd decided to hide out in the sometime Prince Consort's lab. I hadn't even left it to sleep. I still wasn't quite sure what would happen if Malachite tried to do more than kiss me, and pretending to work around the clock was safer than finding out.
I was becoming less and less comfortable, as time went on, with the idea of usurping Zoisite's life. Malachite attracted me, but he also frightened me. As did the knowledge of what I was really here to do.
The cold radiating from the ice was beginning to burn my hands again, even through Zoisite's uniform gloves, which I'd discovered to be warded against cold. Hardly surprising when you considered that ice crystals were his favorite weapon. I sighed and put the irregular chunk down, then swung my booted feet up onto the battered table beside it. I still didn't understand how the stabilization spell that had held Lapis's ship in this time had been distorted to create the endless ice.
But I did have the strangest feeling that the staff Cuprite was carrying around had something to do with it. I cursed myself again for never having asked Lapis exactly why killing or suborning my old friend was so vital to the Wise Man's plans for the conquest of humanity. Could it be the staff? Certainly Cuprite-the- coward wasn't dangerous in himself, even though his initiation into the Negaverse seemed to have increased his powers, much as mine had been enhanced when Wise Man had infused me with the power of the Dark Moon.
Still, he had successfully attacked poor Grossularite, who was lying on a bed in a locked room somewhere in Nephrite's home. No one had yet succeeded in waking him, and I suspected that his mind might very well be gone. When I'd helped carry him in there, there had been an emptiness inside him the likes of which I'd never felt before. I couldn't bring myself to mourn much. The blonde man had been an annoying, arrogant son-of-a-bitch, like most of the thirtieth-century officers of the Dark Moon. But his "death" did mean that I would have to make few slight changes in my plans. I still needed Cuprite to end up dead, before he did whatever-it-was that was so important. But now I'd have to do it myself, and without committing suicide in the process. And without freezing up at a critical moment. He had been my friend, after all--No, best not to think of that. I was here to do a job, which I rather doubted that the nebulous evil of the Dark Moon would let me refuse to finish, especially if that refusal came as a consequence of my emotional state. And I had no wish to feel again the sensation of having a red-hot poker driven through my brain that was typically associated with any show of sentiment on my part.
A sudden thought struck me, and I smiled. Did Cuprite even know that it wasn't me that he had attacked? Maybe, if I was very, very lucky, he'd go into shock and never wake up either.
Beware wishful thinking, I told myself, and swung my feet back down to the floor. Perhaps it was time to go check on my wayward cousin.
The hall outside Zoisite's workshop was very dimly lit. Glancing upward, I realized why: the glowing fungus that adorned the ceiling in most of the Negaverse's public places was rather thin here, and some specimens were brown instead of a healthy phosphorescent green. Apparently the Prince Consort hadn't, for whatever reason, bothered to tell the youma maintenance crews about the problem before his . . . untimely disappearance. Perhaps I should do so myself, although after dinner last night, I didn't want to think too much about mushrooms. And dinner tonight would probably be more of the same. Malachite hadn't exactly had much time to lay in supplies before the Earth Realm had frozen over.
I was so preoccupied with this horrible vision that I almost walked into someone as I turned a corner. A short person, wearing grey and carrying a staff. Cuprite. The last I'd heard, he was still in bed, and Almandite hadn't been sure that he would ever recover his eyesight. Apparently she'd been wrong--or had she? His eyes were opaque grey orbs in which I couldn't see the pupils.
"Looking for something?" I asked, noticing the unintended irony only after the words were out of my mouth.
"Sort of." His voice was a bit hoarse, probably from disuse. "I . . . You must have been one of the people who found me and Jasper. Was there anyone else with us?"
"And what if there was?" He's looking for me, or at least, for the person he assumes to be me. Genuine brotherly affection. How . . . quaint. But I still felt an odd twinge of disquiet that even the evil power that held me in its grip couldn't entirely mute, an awareness that I had liked this man once and should have felt something for him other than a willingness to murder him in cold blood.
"My . . . cousin. Pyrope. The Dark Moon must have gotten to him somehow. Please tell me that you didn't just leave him there!"
I shook my head, wondering if he was able to perceive the gesture. "He's at Nephrite's. Almandite wanted to be able to keep a close eye on him. They're not quite certain that he's ever going to wake up. I'll take you there, if you like." I was curious to see what he wanted to do once he got there.
"Thank you. Thank you very much, Lord Zoisite."
I barely managed to stop myself from looking over my shoulder to see where the green-eyed Prince Consort was standing. Zoisite, Zoisite, Zoisite! I reminded myself. That's your name, and you have no other! There is no such person as Pyrope!
Even with my enhanced powers, it was all I could do to teleport both of us. When we arrived at Nephrite's, I had to support myself by leaning against a doorframe, lest my knees give way. Cuprite pushed forward, past me, and then stopped, a puzzled expression on his face. Evidently even he could tell that the man that Almandite was leaning over as she spoke to Serena was not me.
"Have you found out how to reverse the spell yet? Or, at least, what caused it?" a rather subdued Sailor Moon was asking.
Almandite shook her head. "Not a thing . . . unless your research project is going better?" she added, looking hopefully in my direction.
"Unfortunately, there's nothing new," I said. "I'd guess, based on the evidence, that the spell was originally cast on that chunk of crystal on board the Dark Moon ship, and probably had something to do with keeping it here in its past. When Malachite and I destroyed the crystal, the spell became unstable, and I think Cuprite's staff contributed to the mess. I suppose that the way it turned out makes a certain amount of sense--it just became a more powerful stasis spell, of sorts. But all this is just speculation. I doubt we'll ever know for sure." I stopped abruptly. Don't talk too much, idiot, I reminded myself. Zoisite's voice was just a little higher-pitched than my own, and imitating it was hard on my throat. I didn't want to turn up unexpectedly hoarse.
Cuprite looked sick. "Are you trying to say that whatever happened is all my fault?"
"Damned if I know," I muttered, and faked a cough. My cousin lost interest and moved over to stand beside Grossularite.
"Lady Almandite, who is this?" he asked. "He doesn't seem to be the same man who attacked me--for one thing, he's too tall."
She shrugged. "Jasper says he is. Apparently he was using some sort of illusion spell when you fought, and it disintegrated when you knocked him unconscious."
Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief. Just so long as he doesn't try asking the wrong questions, I might still be safe.
* * * * * * * *
"We need answers," Zoisite complained, "and unless you've made progress in your attempts to wake up Sleeping Beauty over there, it doesn't look like we're going to get them."
There was something odd about the look in his eyes. It was shifty, even for him. I frowned, and sent a probe along the Weave-link that should have joined our minds, but it was like he was very far away. Or blocking me. Nephrite had mentioned the previous evening that he thought that Malachite's pet weasel had been acting a bit odd lately, but Zoisite had always been secretive and peculiar. Maybe he and Malachite were hatching something that they didn't want the rest of us to know about.
I shook my head. "Then we're not going to get them. There doesn't seem to be anything actually wrong with him--he just won't wake up. I've tried pretty well everything I know without any luck. If I didn't know better, I'd think there just wasn't anybody home, so to speak."
"You mean that you think his mind is gone?" he asked. Damn, that was even less tactful than usual. Why is he refusing to touch anyone's mind these days? "Wouldn't that kill him?"
<<Not necessarily,>> I replied, trying for at least a minimal amount of discretion. <<You hear of cases occasionally--humans who survive for years in a coma, on life support, without ever waking up . . . The only way to find out for certain would be to have Jadeite strip his mind, and I'm not quite prepared to ask him to do that yet.>>
"What do you think would happen if I used the Silver Crystal on him?" Serena asked. "I mean, it could be some weird Dark Moon spell that's keeping him asleep, couldn't it? They tried something like that on me, once."
I sighed. Oh, Serena. Even in eight years, you haven't really changed.
"Using the Silver Crystal on him will kill him," Zoisite snapped. The look of fear in his eyes seemed to be all out of proportion to the threat. Or was I just imagining it?
"That's what happens when it's used on a Negaverse Crystal Weaver. I used it on the Four Sisters, from the Dark Moon, and it didn't hurt them."
"They weren't Crystal Weavers," I replied. I'd examined both Prisma and Birdy, and determined them to be humans with a little magic, nothing more. Like Serena's beloved Darien. "But . . . I don't know. Maybe it's worth a try. Certainly he'll never wake up otherwise."
"That isn't--" Zoisite began frantically, but Serena had her locket in her hand before he could finish his sentence. I invoked a ward which would cover both of us, and waited.
"Moon Crystal Hea--"
The voice was vaguely familiar, but I, for one, hadn't heard it in a long time.
"Demantoid?" Sailor Moon whispered hesitantly. How can she hear him?
<<Listen to me, Sailor Moon,>> the spirit of the Silver Crystal continued. <<Your companion was correct-- invoking the Crystal will kill the one that you seek to help. Place the Silver Crystal on the fallen one's chest, and step back. Quickly!>>
<<What are you going to do?>> I asked.
<<What I must. There is no saving this one, but . . .>>
Serena had already stepped forward and back again.
<<Cover your eyes, all of you,>> Demantoid ordered.
I was a little slow to obey, and so I saw the Crystal start to glow green, the color arching over to touch the forehead of the unconscious Dark Moon Crystal Weaver. Then my sleeve was between my eyes and the bed. It didn't completely block the white flash that followed, however. The light then dimmed to red and slowly began to die away. I lowered my arm.
It wasn't the blonde man that was lying on the bed, anymore. In his place was a taller man, with light green hair that had been singed short along one side of his head. He wore a dented steel breastplate over a chainmail shirt over a silver-trimmed midnight blue ensemble that might almost have been some sort of uniform. When he sat up, rubbing at his temples as though to dispel a headache, I saw that he was wearing a cape, as well, pale green lined with much darker green. Dark eyes met mine, and he smiled ruefully.
<<You'd think that after twelve centuries inside that damned rock my hair would at least have grown back out, wouldn't you? I suppose that I really shouldn't be surprised, though. It's been a very long, very strange trip.>> As he stood up, a heavy silver ring set with a pale green stone slid out of the blankets and onto the floor. He scooped it up and slid it onto his finger.
<<I must speak to Malachite,>> Demantoid informed us. <<There is a great deal that you all must know.>>
* * * * * * * *
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The Crystal Weaver Saga Index
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury