Circles
by NaruMolly (aka Gwenne-chan, or Bard)

PART FOURTEEN: Endings

* * * * * * * *

Nathan leaned his back against the boulder and slid down it, clutching at his chest, each breath stabbing him in the chest like a hot knife. Another blast of dark energy hit the boulder he was sheltering behind, and he dragged himself to his feet, stumbling after Molly and her mother to the next boulder, not daring to look back at the pursuit. He wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth before either of the others could see managing not to cough, though the effort cost him a great deal of pain. "We can't keep this up forever!" Molly said, fumbling for her wand, flinching when the boulder they rested behind was cracked with the force of the blast, though it held. "I'm so tired--"

Nathan grunted, not able to draw enough breath to reply without causing too much pain. He could feel sharp pains that grew worse with each breath, each breath also growing harder to draw. Molly's mother gripped the musician's arm. "What'll we do?"

"I--I’ll--think--" he choked, tasting more blood, but swallowing it before either could make any comment, clutching at his chest where Joerdan had kicked him. "--o’somethin’," he managed to finish.

An explosion filled the cavern, and they all instinctively flinched, all of the color draining from Nathan’s face at the jolting movement--but the blast wasn’t near them. It was back they way they had run--from where Beryl waited.

Gathering their nerves, the three of them hesitantly peered back towards the Lake.

A battle was joined there--more and more fighters pouring into the vast cavern that housed the Black Lake from the catacombs--but wilted and crushed flower chains, or scraps of brightly colored cloth bedecked those that was engaging Beryl’s forces. Nathan could make out Cerulean, standing near the exit of the catacombs calling out orders and encouragements to his emerging forces.

Nathan put his back to the boulder and slid to the ground in relief as their pursuers ran back to join the fray. He coughed, wrackingly, almost blacking out from the pain--intensifying in one side of his chest. He hunched over his knees, again wiping the blood off his face before Molly or her mother could see as the girl dropped to her knees beside him. Molly looked back at him in concern. "A-are you--"

"Fine," he mouthed, trying to clear the blurring and dark edges of his vision with a shake of his head. He gathered enough strength to lift his arm. Molly, worry and doubt on her face, curled up under it, snuggling against his chest carefully while her mother leaned on his other side. "We--we--c’n only--wait--now--"

* * * * * * * *

"Shit!" Jared's mount leapt over the adonni, and he leaned low, swinging with the blade Nuada had loaned him to carve a long, nasty cut in the adonni’s tough hide, though it didn’t seem to phase the beast much. "I've never ridden bare back, Tuli!! Take it easy, dammit!" He cursed, wincing as his leg sent a fiery jolt of pain when he tightened his leg around the unicorn's flanks to stay on.

Tuli looked back over his shoulder at the yellow-haired man apologetically, then jabbed and lunged at the adonni he had just jumped over with his horn. Jared cursed and swung at another youma who came up to his side, looking around for some sign of a break in the enemy lines.

But there was none. They were outnumbered, and this time, there were no tricks.

* * * * * * * *

"Mol--"

She turned and looked at Nathan in alarm, hearing a strange rasp to his words, almost a gurgle. His face was pale beneath his sweat-damp hair, a nasty looking whiteness around his eyes. "N-Nathan?"

"Mol--t-take yer mother--r--run fer th’ b-back of th’alcove. T-there’s--a--narrow--crevasse--th-that--leads to near the--entrance to the catacombs--if--if I remember--" His words were faint, barely audible, and each word obviously cost him a great deal of pain. He breath was rasping and wheezing, straining and gasping, as though he couldn’t get enough air to fill his lungs.

"What?" Molly's mother sat up, looking at him. "What will you be doing?"

Nathan coughed again, this time letting the blood trickle from the corner of his mouth. "Stayin’ here. C-can’t--m-make it."

"Nathan! N-No!" Molly gasped clutching at his face, her eyes anguished.

"Mol--y’must--go."

"Not without you."

"Don't--" he choked again, fighting off the pain. "--don't be a dolt, Mol. I--can't make it, an’--I bloody kn-know it." He closed his eyes a moment, resting his head against the boulder. "I--I'm sorry. I--wanted t’show you--m’home." He opened his eyes again, the deep blue glassy with pain. "I'm--sorry, Mol. I--love you."

"No--" she moaned.

"Mol--go--p-please. M'lung's punctured--‘p-prolly a-already--collapsed. It--it's only a matter--o’ time," he raised his hand to touch her hair. "Go."

Molly put her arms around his neck, a choking sob wracking her. Nathan turned her head a little and kissed her gently. "Nathan--please--don’t die--don’t leave me alone again!"

"I'm--there's--a-always next lifetime--" He kissed her cheek, pushing her away slightly. "I--messed up--enough th-this--lifetime. I--I'll be back."

Molly's mother pulled her daughter back slowly, tears tracking down her own face. "I'm--sorry, Mr. Malley." Her daughter seemed numb, going where she was directed, though her eyes remained on Nathan’s pain-wracked form.

"Do-don't be." he closed his eyes again. "Go. Hurry. G-get--t’safety."

Molly had to be pulled away physically by her mother, a wail of despair escaping her lips. She struggled a little, then just slumped against her mother’s side, tears running openly down her face. Nathan opened his eyes long enough to see them slip around a boulder and into the darkness in the direction he had indicated. Then, one last time, he closed his eyes.

And they didn't reopen.

* * * * * * * *

Somehow, she knew they were dead; Nathan and Malcolm were dead. ZoŽ looked up at Beryl where the Queen stood near the shore of the Lake--though safely out of the range of the Lake’s reach. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter of a mile, but it might as well have been leagues with the heavy, violent fighting between them. She spared a glance for Jared, then, where he rode on the back of the unicorn stallion, his sword swings getting slower. **That leg wound’s straining him--it’s started bleeding again.**

It was only a matter of time.

For her as well. She wasn't going to even try to fool herself. The broken collarbone would have been serious enough a wound as it was, but the bone had shifted, poking through the flesh and skin to send blood coursing down her side. She had bound it--but she had lost a lot of blood, and she could feel her muscles shaking with every motion.

She closed her eyes, a momentary break in the fighting around her allowing her to temporarily catch her breath. "I'm sorry we--didn't talk Mal; we should have talked. Nathan--" she found a flicker of power from somewhere deep within as she felt a dark anger at the loss of her friends welling inside her. "Jared--be careful, you idiot. Chase girls--talk recipes with that dragon. Please--be happy; don't--do anything stupid," she whispered.

A nearby youma looked at her curiously, shoving a few withered strands of what looked like daisies from its eyes. It backed away from her suddenly as she felt the dark rage growing, filling her tired bones with a borrowed strength, a large, dark crystal blade appeared in her good hand.

"M-my Lady--"

"Haven't you ever seen an ice blade before?"

"N-not like that one, Lady." The youma blanched and moved to join the fray.

ZoŽ tossed her head, and charged off through the crowd, the freezing blade carving a path before her. Most were wise enough to get out of the way of the enraged woman. Those that didn't move--

--her allies she knocked aside with the flat, they gaining a line of cold-burn where the crystal touched. Her enemies--

--shattered into a million frozen fragments as soon as the blade pierced the surface of their skin.

* * * * * * * *

Cerulean heard a short cry to his side, and turned to catch Lita as she stumbled against him. A set of parallel slashes reached from her left shoulder, across her hip and down to her right hip from the half-dragon-like thing she had been facing.

They were pressed far too closely for her or Rei to use their powers. The scouts were keeping their own, but it was obvious that neither of them were used to having to fight things with talons, teeth, and magic only with her fists.

Grimly, he pulled her arm around his shoulders so she could stay standing long enough to recover as one of the Sidge dispatched the creature that had wounded her. Cerulean kept fighting, though, as she managed to send out kicks enough to dissuade anything from coming closer on her side.

But there was, of course, still the danger from magic. He just hoped that no one realized that he and his wounded companion were wide open.

"ZoŽ! No!"

Cerulean's eyes widened and he turned towards where Darien fought back to back with Serena, both of them certain to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of attackers surrounding them. The blonde woman was running for the pair of them, a long blade of crystal held in her good hand. She cut a path through the creatures pressing Serena and Darien easily--but didn’t stop, continuing on her unerring path towards where Beryl stood--to where the Queen was aiming a large ball of dark energy at the two.

Youma and minions alike fell to ZoŽ’s her black blade, each that she cut down freezing and falling to shatter on the stone underfoot. Soon, many dropped their weapons, just fleeing out of her path.

Then there was only Joerdan and a score of adonni between her and the Queen.

Cerulean's jaw dropped.

For a moment, it almost looked as though she was going to make it. Beryl actually dropped her hands, staring in open shock as the raging girl even started cutting down the adonni as if they were paper dolls. Cerulean wondered where the dark bruise on the Queen's chin had come from--but the bruise was forgotten almost immediately.

One of the creatures, bare feet from striking range of the Queen, reached out and grabbed ZoŽ by the throat and shook her roughly, the wet snap carrying like a gun shot to Cerulean as the blonde woman suddenly went still. Her sword dropping from her suddenly limp fingers and shattering on the floor, the fragments dissipating into mist.

The Queen laughed as the adonni flung her aside carelessly aside, like a rag doll. She fell to the ground in a heap a good distance away, and lay still. Cerulean could only close his eyes in pain, and keep fighting.

There was nothing he could do.

* * * * * * * *

Jared flung himself off Tuli's back at ZoŽ’s side, heedless of the pain it cost him. Tears streamed from his eyes, and his hands shook as he started to reach towards her jaw, to feel for a pulse--then dropped to his side as he bowed his head, sobbing. Her neck rested at an unnatural angle, her position too boneless for anything alive. **By the gods; Lady Zoisite.**

Mina and Rei made it through the fighting to reach his side, staring down at the broken body in no little shock. "Oh--no--"

Jared reached out a shaking hand, closing ZoŽ’s sightless eyes. The yellow-haired man's usually mobile face tightened into a hideous mask and he turned from the two scouts, dragging himself back onto the waiting unicorn's back and driving back off into the battle, fighting like a madman.

* * * * * * * *

"I do not like this," Nuada called to Cerulean, fighting his way to the man's side. "There is no sign of our captured friends," said Nuada.

"Even if this Beryl is more naive than Bridgette claims--there is no way she would have not pressed her advantage and flaunted them before now. We are in trouble--but we are still decimating her forces, despite our obvious problems."

Cerulean nodded distractedly, seeing Jared battling furiously to one side, his blade glowing almost white-hot with energy. "I don't know, my Lord. Perhaps--perhaps they escaped."

Nuada looked at him sharply--then turned back to the main battle.

"Lord Nuada! Reinforcements!"

The Sidhe lord lost his dignity and spat out a string of words in his native, liquid language that had to be curses vile enough to peel paint. "Damn!" he cursed, looking at Riversong. "Where are they coming from?"

"No, my lord!" The birdman laughed in relief. They're ours--from the Island. And they brought the big beastie with them," Riversong crowed in delight. Grinning, he reached to his quiver and fired the last of the strange, exploding crystalline arrows into a tight knot of Beryl’s forces, taking down most of them with the single shot.

Nuada blinked, then laughed out loud, startling all around him. Cerulean grinned, feeling lighter. "We--"

"My lord!" Cerulean turned to see Gallia struggling through the press towards him. "My lord! Sailor Earth and another human just appeared from a narrow crevasse near the head of the catacombs--I believe it is the one that we were fighting through to save!"

"That is good! One less thing to worry about." Cerulean almost felt cheerful.

"No, my lord." The commander bit his lip, looking at Gallia, his elation fading. "Lord Nephlite--is dead."

* * * * * * * *

Molly left her mother in the protection of a couple of slightly wounded youma who had been pulled from the fight to guard her. "I’ll be back, Momma."

Ignoring her mother’s cry of protest, she turned and charged into the battle, slinging small blasts of stones or opening ragged fissures when she could. Beryl’s followers fell before her one by one, or in groups as she fought her way through towards Rei and Mina. She blasted a rank or youma out of the way with a controlled wave of lava, and joined the other two scouts.

"Molly!" Mina gasped, hugging the smaller girl. The fighting moved away from them for a moment, and she paused to catch her breath, looking at the other girl’s face in concern. "Wh--what's wrong?"

Molly dashed tears from her eyes. "We're going to find Beryl--and--and Joerdan--and we're going to kill them. We--we'll use the things that Bridgette gave us, and we’re going to make them pay."

Rei pulled the small burnt orange colored pebble from her pocket then looked back at Molly with a sort of flat curiosity. "What--what's gotten into you?"

"Nathan--Nathan's dead; so's Malcolm--if--if Joerdan was telling the truth."

Mina paled, here eyes filling at the news. Then she sighed, pointing to one side of the fighting where there was s crumpled figure in gray with blood-stained golden hair. "ZoŽ--ZoŽ’s dead too. And Jared--he--" she pointed across the battle to the furious man on the unicorn.

Molly nodded once. "Let's--find Serena, Ami, and Lita and go get them. We can’t let them hurt anyone else."

Rei nodded once. "I owe Beryl one, too." She touched a few silvery white hairs wrapped around one wrist.

Molly and Mina nodded, and the three girls began fighting their way towards Serena and Darien.

* * * * * * * *

Ami frantically tapped at her computer, yelling out new information to the runners that had been assigned to her, relaying the information back to the commanders in the thick of the fray. Before her stood two huge cats, the size of cave lions, snarling and keeping the youma at bay. One was pure white but for a crescent moon in the center of his forehead. The other massive feline was a dark blue-gray with a matching marking on its brow.

Luna and Artemis.

"They're trying to flank us on the right, and Beryl's gathering her power again to do something."

The slender youma with the almost chrome skin saluted in acknowledgement, and ran off to the commanders. "Ami!"

She turned to see Rei pushing between Luna and Artemis. The raven-haired girl’s eyes were on fire with some dark emotion. "Rei? What is it?"

"Come on; and get out that stone Bridgette gave you. We're going to get them. Now."

* * * * * * * *

Lita was managing to keep her own feet now, aiming the smaller blasts of lightning she had learned to control out at her attackers. **ZoŽ and Nathan dead--and more going to be soon.** She dared to turn her eyes from her assailant to peek over her shoulder and over Cerulean's as well since he put his back to hers so they could protect themselves more efficiently. **That's not Jared in there,** she thought with a shudder. **He isn't like that. He cooks and tells jokes and is like a big brother to anyone--he doesn’t do that.**

The yellow-haired man had gotten power from somewhere, and was using them with a vengeance. Energies crackled around his hands and down his blade to destroy youma and the human minions alike when they came too close. The unicorn he rode seemed to have picked up on his rider's rage. It leapt about like an avenging demon, slashing with its horn and hooves, its silvery-white coat and gleaming horn dulled with all of the splashed blood and ichor from the hundreds of Beryl’s followers that it had slain.

"Lita!"

She turned to see Serena coming towards her, striking out with the moon wand. Somehow, the slender girl made it through the ranks of enemy to where she, Cerulean, and Nuada fought. Darien was close to her back, the other scouts fighting their way through from other angles, considerably lessening the press of attackers all trying to take down the command team. "Sailor Moon! What--" began Cerulean.

"We're going to try to break through; a straight rush," said Darien, his hand on Serena's shoulder, though his eyes were fixed on Molly. "We can't take much more of this pitched battle."

Nuada opened his mouth, then looked at Molly himself, as though he could see behind her determined, pained eyes to what burned behind them. "I see. Perhaps that will be enough." He raised his head and called out in his strange tongue the command that they had all been taught. "*Ndak!*"

Charge.

The army surged forward.

* * * * * * * *

"What's that?" asked Melvin, grabbing Quicksilver's shoulder and pointing, his hand shaking in fear.

The healer looked up from his bloody hands and stared. A bright point of light was hovering over Bridgette's head where she clutched Malcolm's body close to her shoulder. "I--I don't know, Melvin. I--"

There was a flash--and Bridgette was gone, Malcolm's corpse falling to the soft grass gently, as though someone eased him down. The light vanished with a final twinkle.

* * * * * * * *

Jedite was more than a little startled by the amount of power that Jared’s fury had summoned. He had no clue where the musician was summoning the strength to sent out flares of power that Jedite would have been proud managing, even had be been fully rested.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he heard faint music. When he concentrated on it--he realized it matched the attacks to a tea--and that part of Jared’s mind was filled with a faint light--as though some being waited and watched with a candle for his coming.

Jedite could do nothing but let Jared's fury carve him through the ranks of youma towards where Beryl waited.

Then a clear baritone rose over the sounds of battle, a ringing word. "Ndak! "

**Jared. Jared we're charging.**

**I know that. What in hell do you think I've been doing?**

Jedite said nothing more to his host, but muttered a prayer to anyone that they would get through this as the rebel army gave a low cry and surged forward.

* * * * * * * *

"What are they doing?" asked Beryl, turning to Joerdan.

"I do not know, my queen." Joerdan squinted through the dim light to the gathering of the leaders, taking his eyes of the frightening prowess of his former lord and his mount. "Perhaps a planning--"

The tall, silver-haired man with the silver arm cried out a single ringing word. The rebels stopped fighting their individual battles instantly, and turned as one--

--charging straight for their position.

"My Queen--perhaps we should retreat--"

"Silence!" she knocked Joerdan back, closer to the edge of the Lake. Joerdan scrambled to his hands and knees and rolled away just before a tentacle struck the stone where he had just been. "I will not retreat!"

Joerdan winced. He eyed all the directions, but there were no escapes, but death or a teleport. The rebel army's line was cutting down his forces like paper dolls, curving around to trap them before the lake--and he knew that Beryl would kill him even before he had gathered enough power to even think about teleporting out. **So I won't gather power.** He reached into his pocket, pulling out a deep red crystal; one he had found on the roof of the school near a pile of discarded equipment. Just enough energy to get across the cavern.

* * * * * * * *

"She's in range!" Ami screamed, tossing aside her computer and pulling out a heavy dark pebble from where she'd put it in the top of her glove.

"Now!"

Each of the Scouts clutched their respective pebbles in their hands, screaming out their commands in unison so that the words all blended together into one cry. Darien pulled a rose from the inside of his jacket, pausing, his eyes on the Scouts. Masses of energy built up around them, gathering in front of Serena's moon wand in a multi-colored, crackling ball of light. Molly's voice spoke up again, somehow carrying over the roar of the gathered power. "For Nathan--and Nephlite!"

Rei snarled, "For Kali!"

Ami frowned. "For ZoŽ."

The power surged blindingly bright and Serena released it with a shout.

The raging blast smashed its way through the youma and into the place where Beryl stood.

* * * * * * * *

"Oh--shit!" Joerdan crushed the life crystal in his hand just as the Sailor Scouts released the incredible blast. He panted, breathing a sigh of relief and laughing a little hysterically as he appeared in the shadows across the cavern. He looked back, his heart pounding in his chest from the near brush with death.

Between the line of Scouts and Beryl there was nothing left standing. The very stone was polished to a glassy smoothness along the path that the blast had taken. But Beryl had only been pushed back a step. The Queen laughed. "Is that the best you can do? I have life-forces enough to turn you all to dust." She sneered, her hands raising as power began crackling around her--

Jared and his mount slammed into Beryl, knocking the three of them into the Lake.

* * * * * * * *

"The Lake has no Master," Cerulean muttered in faint horror as the Lake bubbled and surged around where the three had gone in, vanishing under the black surface.

"Jared! No!"

Cerulean turned and caught Lita before she could go any closer to the writing surface. "Lita--there's nothing we can do--we must get out of here. Now."

She sagged against his shoulder sobbing bitterly, but allowed herself to be led across the cavern, away from the Lake. Gallia approached from one side, cradling the limp, blood-smeared form of Nephlite in her arms, her eyes fixed on the entrance to the catacombs, looking to neither side, only intent on getting out of there. Ami blinked back a fresh wave of tears, rubbing the back of her dirty glove over her eyes. "Did--anyone else see--that? That fl--flash of light just before--Jared went in?"

Cerulean shook his head, shoulders drooped as he helped Lita along. "No. I--couldn't watch."

Nuada looked at Lita strangely, his arms around Molly's blank-faced form, guiding her along. "I thought that you cared for Lord Cerulean, Lady Jupiter."

"Jar--Jared was--"

"He's our damned friend," Rei snapped. "Even you can understand loosing a friend to something--something like that. " Rei turned away, trying to ignore the tears running down her cheeks. "He was like a big brother to all of us--and--and Lita already lost one family."

* * * * * * * *

Joerdan blinked at the churning Lake, shaking his head. "Still a sentimental fool," he sneered a little, brushing his jacket off and turning away with a shudder.

He started picking his way across the body-littered caverns towards the catacombs, meaning to hide in their passages before the rebel army started to make their way back through them. Then he stopped, catching some motion out of the corner of his eye as a lone figure stepped into his path. "For my daughter. And for that boy."

Miss Baker drove the borrowed blade deep into the Commander's chest and turned away, not even looking back as Joerdan choked, falling to the ground, his eyes closing forever.

* * * * * * * *

Silence.

Dust settling around the collapsed entrance to the catacombs.

A dragon trying to comfort a distraught girl.

"A Gate," Nuada said softly, looking around the stunned army. "To the Island."

Cerulean, looked up, his hands stroking Lita's hair. "We have quite a way back to the Gate to take us--"

"No; not that sort of Gate." Nuada looked the new leader in the eyes. "I helped to create this place once; I can manage that much, at least."

Cerulean nodded. "Do it."

The Sidhe lord looked at him sideways, then smiled. "When Mortals order the Sidhe, then, 'it is time to check the fish for legs,' as a Bard friend of mine once said." He turned and raised his hands, drawing power around him like a second cloak.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 15

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury