Vow of Serenity
'My names are numerous, the reasons for each just as numerous. I am child, adult, commander, mage, wife, queen, friend, warrior, mother. I am Serenity, and I am so much more than I once was. I look back and see a girl-child, frightened and nervous about something so simple as setting up tables for her sister's ball. A sister that, two years later, that girl-child would slay to save a kingdom- nay, several kingdoms.
Blood is on my hands. I am not pure like they say. No one who has taken the lives I have, seen the sights I've seen, done the things I've done, can be called 'pure.' And yet that single word is added to the long list of my names.
'Your vision,' my husband tells me. It is my vision, my friends say, that is pure. It is not pure, I think, only simple- a world where people have bread for their table, a source of income to provide for families, a confidence that their rights will be upheld to those to whom their livelihood is entrusted. Is that purity? If it is, then surely purity is something everyone strives for.
I made that assumption during the first year of my reign, and I struggled for it until I realized that the lords and ladies of the Old Court would not be won over by 'pure' visions of a fair and just society. So sad. I honestly hoped they would understand, that they would see that I only wanted happiness for everyone, including them. When the last of them had been done away with after the rebellion had been snuffed out, I cried for them, even as they spat at me before they'd swung. I cried for the ones who would have seen my vision shattered. Is that purity? If so, then purity is a pain well concealed with pretty words and praising ballads. But it is a pain I bear gladly, that most of the time I hardly notice.
I am happy, I've realized. I once thought it was not possible for me. But here I am- Queen of the people that I love, wife to a man I cherish, friend to those to whom I am devoted, mother to a child who is as of yet still innocent as she grows in me. It has been five years since the rebellion was crushed, seven years since the old Namorisian royal line was brought to an end.
But the story is far from over, and I only pray that my 'pure' vision will be able to see the last chapter close as happily as mine has.'
"Are you reading my diary?" The shriek came from the same voice responsible for the eloquent inner monologue Minako had been reading, and now guiltily slammed shut and shoved into a heavy drawer. The blond whirled, full sleeves of her ivory blouse billowing as innocent blue eyes met those of her friend and Queen.
"Of course not, Serenity," she replied smoothly.
"Uh-huh." Serenity strode into the room, quite a feat considering the definite waddle her gait had taken on lately. The sight of her friend's swelling belly made Minako smile, despite her precarious situation. "What are you laughing at?" The silver-haired monarch snipped, only making Minako's smile widen as Serenity moved past her to yank the drawer open and snatch out the slim leather bound volume and clutch to her swollen bosom protectively.
"Motherhood becomes you, Renity," Minako told her, still grinning. Serenity snorted.
"Like a horse's tack fits me, sure," she retorted, grumbling. But there was a smile in her voice as one hand moved from the book to her belly. "She's kicking a lot…"
"Ami says your time is soon."
"Hopefully not too soon," Serenity said with a wince. "So not looking forward to the pain and the blood and the ick…"
"Fear of blood and pain, from our legendary White WarMage?" Minako raised an amused eyebrow. Serenity shot her a warning glance accompanied by another snort.
"That, and I refuse to be bedridden for your wedding," Serenity informed her sternly, sweeping past her guardian to set her book down by the two insanely plushy chairs situated on either side of a tall, vaulted window.
Minako's cheery, amused demeanor faltered for a moment. She watched to see if Serenity had noticed, but it seemed she hadn't. For a moment she contemplated letting it stay that way, contemplated forgetting the original reason she had come here intending to meet up with her friend and queen.
"What's wrong, Mina?" The soft inquiry came before Serenity had even turned away from the window, and with a jolt in the pit of her stomach Minako realized she hadn't managed to hide her underlying mood after all. Serenity came away from the window, taking one of Minako's hands in hers. "Tell me."
And so she told her.
"I am not second guessing my decision to marry Kunzite," Minako said, clearing that up first off with a determined gleam in her eye. "But…" the gleam softened. "Recently, seeing this new kingdom come together, seeing what a difference a monarch can make… Serenity, I know my past has been kept somewhat under the table. Not discussed, not brought up. I am not ashamed of my exile. But lately…" She blew blonde bangs from her eyes. "But lately, Serenity, I have begun to feel ashamed that I gave into it, ashamed that I have been so content all these years to let imposters reign over people that are, by all rightful laws, mine to protect, just as you have risen to protect the people of Namoris."
Serenity nodded, gripping Minako's hands in her own tightly.
"It is not your fault, Minako. You were a child when your parents were usurped- you were lucky your bodyguards and maid managed to get you out of the kingdom and were fortunate enough to be granted asylum at one of Elysian's temples." It had been at one of those temples where, eventually, Minako had met Rei, sister-in-law to Elysian's young king, Endymion, now husband to Serenity herself. It was a tangled web of coincidences and politics that had brought together the unlikely band of five women who now consisted of Serenity herself and her highest guardians and consults.
"The political climate in Lushavan, Serenity, it is…" she sighed, looking away from Serenity's concerned cerulean gaze. "I had always avoided news of my home, but when the allied themselves with us to overcome Beryl, I didn't have a choice anymore- I had to look at it again. I…I've been watching, Serenity, and things there…"
Serenity nodded in understanding. The hounding of the Lushavan ambassador for funds, well endowed brides for floundering Lushavan lords, favors and treaties to aid the bankrupt kingdom came nearly weekly.
"You cannot blame yourself." Serenity told her sternly. "You were not there-"
"Exactly." Minako met Serenity's stare once again, and a dropping sensation gripped Serenity's insides as she knew, all at once, what her friend was thinking of.
"You are needed here."
"Is that the queen talking, or my friend?"
Serenity hesitated, then with a frustrated pout she replied, "Both!"
Their conversation was abruptly cut short as a loud knocking at the large double doors echoed within the expansive chamber. A moment later a blue-haired head peeked inside, the face beneath the cobalt fringes lighting with satisfaction when she spied Serenity.
"There you are!" The lithe body followed the head, carrying a bulging sack. "I didn't come all the way down from the mountain villages in the middle of sick season just to tend to the future princess, you know- I can to see her mother, as well! Are you avoiding me, Serenity?"
"No, just your vile potions," came the dry drawl from behind Ami. Ami turned as Serenity and Minako strained to look around her.
"Makoto!" The queen flounced past her blonde and blue haired friends to embrace the brunette. "We weren't expecting you for another week!"
"We made good time; we had an excellent captain-"
"Yes, and the sudden, inexplicable wind storm that whipped out of nowhere to blow us all the way into the harbor was pure coincidence."
"Rei!" She would recognize that sarcasm anywhere, for the rest of her life. As soon as Makoto had been embraced she was released, replaced with an armful of black, satiny hair.
"It is good to see you well, Silvertop." The nickname brought a sizable grin to Serenity's face when she and the Princess-Priestess Rei pulled apart. "How is my brother? I haven't seen him yet."
"He's out with Kunzite today, surveying the southern fields. There was flooding…"
"Look at you, concerned with such a thing as a flooded field." Makoto was genuinely amused. Serenity looked at her with genuine confusion.
"Why wouldn't I be concerned…?"
"From drowning troops to drowning turnips," Rei said with a shake of her head. "Quite a leap."
"Will you guys never cease with the war references? It's been nearly a decade…"
"Only seven years, Serenity, don't exaggerate." Ami admonished. She'd set up the contents of the bag she'd brought in on the desk, and motioned for Serenity to sit. With a sigh and distasteful grimace towards the concoctions and instruments she spied on the desktop, she obeyed. While Ami did her weekly poking and prodding to ensure all was well with the unborn Princess, she quizzed Makoto and Rei on their trip back from Elysian, where Rei served as the reigning monarch in Endymion's absence. When last she'd returned, Makoto had gone with her for reasons that, at the time, had made perfect sense. Now, the only reason Serenity could remember was the unspoken one, and its name was Nephlite.
"How are things in Elysian?"
"You don't read the reports?" Rei shot Serenity a glance.
"If there's anything important, Endymion will tell me," Serenity said, suddenly flushed and sheepish, her voice sounding defensive. Rei snorted. Sometimes, it was a mystery how Serenity was such an adept ruler and how her people were flourishing so steadily. Were Endymion in residence constantly, she would chalk it up to her brother's experience and calm hand, but he wasn't in Namoris constantly; quite the opposite. Serenity was, despite all appearances to those who met her, a very, very good Queen.
"Things are fine, Ren," Makoto replied for Rei. "People have by and large accepted the new alliance with Namoris, and trade is booming, there."
"Trade is good here, too," Serenity added happily before obediently pinching her nose and slamming back a small cup of something vile and viscous Ami had handed her to ingest.
There was, inexplicably, silence for a long moment. It was not uncomfortable or awkward, rather it was the silence that came with a realization that had come at once to all five of them; this was the first time they had all been together in the same room for many years. It had seemed inconceivable, at the end of the war, that they would ever be separated. But reality had eventually pried them apart to their separate duties and callings, their paths crossing more often than not, but still not nearly often enough for their liking. Minako and Serenity were the only ones constantly together –even more so than Serenity and her own husband- but even that arrangement was soon to end. Either by Minako's impending marriage to General Kunzite, or by way of the idea that had gripped Minako and had been refusing to let go concerning her birthright.
"We take the little gifts we are given," Rei said solemnly, softly. It was no secret that they all contemplated similar thoughts. "Be it time together, or the messages we send to one another, or the simple knowledge that we are all alive and well."
"Yes, but sometimes," Serenity stood and winced as she put a hand to the small of back, the grimace immediately replaced with a mischievous smile. "Sometimes, we are entitled to be greedy with those gifts. Whose up for cake the kitchen?" Amused laughter followed the woman's flippant inquiry, and they filed out of the grand chamber down to the kitchen for cake and more much earned laughter, for who knew, once the princess was born and they scattered again, when they would be together again?
The End (no, really).
I mean, really over. Yeah, the last chapter was the end, but this is really the end. Four years and one month in the making… I really kinda can't wrap my head around it.
I had a really hard time writing the epilogue. It started out almost like a sequel squashed into one really long chapter, which wasn't working for me. In the end I decided a short and sweet piece was best, an 'alls well for now' kinda thing. There was obviously heavy references to what Minako intends to do, a set up for the sequel (fair warning; it may be long time in coming).
I can't thank you all enough, you who read this, who stuck with me from the beginning and who only just clicked the link today. It means the world. I think I'll just leave it at that. Til next story!
P.S. I'm thinking of changing my username to something closer to my real name. What do you all think?