Just want to say three things. First, I am SOOO SORRY for the delay. Second, this is the longest chapter I have written, so I hope it makes up for the dry spell. And lastly a big thank you to the best darn editor in the world, Meg. Oh yea an this '&' means that it's a diff. scene.
There were no doubts in Endymion's mind that Fate was a woman. None other than a woman could make life so complicated. There could be no simplicity in the world. No one chose the easy path but instead veered to the path of complexity. And yet with the complications and difficulty created by Fate, the magnificent deity produced such wonders. The proof was the beautiful Serenity, sleeping peacefully, cradled in his arms.
But one deity Endymion refused to believe in was the sister of Fate. The master of all. Destiny. Never will there be one more cruel or more sadistic than Destiny. Every soul in the universe was born with puppet strings and Destiny held them all in her powerful hand. Though he tried, begged, and willed his body and mind to hate Destiny, he could not. It was Destiny that thrust his and Serenity's life together. And no matter how hard he struggled to be free, Endymion would forever serve Destiny.
The thought of eternal servitude to an entity that seemed to have only one goal, tormenting him, didn't sit well with him. Yet he accepted it. He decided then and there he wouldn't lose anymore sleep thinking of life without Fate and Destiny. He accepted that Fate and Destiny would eternally remain hand in hand, which coincidentally, so did he and Serenity. Endymion turned his head, looking down at the sleeping angel nestled against his body. Kissing her forehead, he carefully untangled himself from her warm embrace.
Endymion slid into his pants, casting a last glance at Serenity, he walked out into the sunrise. There were only a few women outside. Some were just enjoying the calming effect the rising sun seemed to have, while others were getting an early start to their daily chores. Endymion looked upon the village and its occupants as a King would his kingdom. He could sense the coming evil. He knew it was only a matter of days before it reached this secret world. Fear started to slowly consume his soul. If what Serenity said was true, then he would have to fight his closest friend. There was still a chance Malachite would be able to overcome The Dark Lord. But Endymion couldn't help but wonder. What evil would he be faced with?
Warm rays of sunlight filtered through the roof of Serenity's hut. Try as she might, turning each and every way, it seemed the victor of this fight would be the sun. Her eyes fluttered open, gradually adjusting to the bright light. Stretching her arms out and feeling the open space of her bed brought back the memories of the previous night. Vivid pictures of last night's activities caught up with her and had her blushing to the empty room. Empty. Serenity shot up in bed, her eyes scanning the room.
Serenity wrapped her cotton blanket around her lithe body and walked toward the entrance of her hut. Her breath caught in her throat. There was Endymion, being taught how to milk a cow. The women were around him, watching, all trying to contain their laughter, as the dumbfounded Prince felt around for the cow's utters. Serenity sighed at the sight before her. Still holding the cotton close to her body, she leaned casually against the doorframe of her hut; her head tilting ever so much to the left, pure joy in her eyes. A bright smile lit her face at the look of triumph on Endymion's face when a small squirt of milk was produced by his own hands.
Her smile was short-lived as she saw her four closest friends walking toward her, the looks on their faces already telling her everything. Taking one last look at Endymion struggling with the fussy cow, Serenity turned and walked back into the hut, her friends entering shortly after her. Serenity could feel their eyes on her. Waiting for her to begin speaking so that what they had to say would flow easier. She refused them that luxury. Instead, she released her grip on the cotton cover and began dressing, her back still to her loyal companions.
"Serenity you are too attached!" Rei burst. Serenity smiled. 'I knew she'd break first.' She continued to dress, ignoring the raging outburst.
"Serenity please...." Ami's gentle voice broke through, grabbing at Serenity. Serenity shivered when she felt Ami place a soothing hand on her shoulder. Serenity inhaled deeply then released her breath slowly as if to stop time. Rei, Ami, Mina, and Lita just stood patiently, waiting for the next words to be spoken. This time Serenity knew none of them would break the silence before her.
"I know." Serenity spoke quietly, turning her head away, as if ashamed of her feelings. 'Ashamed of what? Finally finding love?! Never.' "But I did not realize that I..." Serenity paused, finding it hard to speak all of a sudden.
"Realize what?" This time Rei spoke calmly, her words sympathetic.
"That I had fallen in love with him." None of the women before her had the reaction she was expecting. None of them gasped or yelled or told her she had committed treason. Serenity hung her head, tears falling silently from her pained eyes.
Rei stepped forward. Picking up Serenity's head, the priestess looked directly into her Queen's eye; her gaze never faltering. There was no anger in the Priestess' eyes, no disgust, just sympathy. For a second, Serenity thought she saw jealousy in the raven haired woman's eyes.
"It was destined. He completes you, as you do him." She spoke so matter-of-factly. It was almost unnerving how much this woman with violet eyes knew.
"We all know what has to be done. That is," Mina spoke, turning her head toward Serenity, a smile tugging at her lips, "with your permission." Serenity stared, completely shocked. She just stood there dumbfounded. No sounds were coming from her. She looked like someone had hit her across the face with a cold fish. Realization finally sunk in and she smiled. Her smile continued growing in size until she was laughing. All five women embraced each other.
It was dusk when Serenity called the meeting that would forever change the lives of everyone in the village. She knew she could make the decision without any of her warrior's permission, but she still needed it. Serenity knew they would never accept her choice unless they were given their own. So Serenity now stood before her loyal friends. Endymion was to the left of her, Rei was directly to the her right, followed by Mina. Ami and Lita were on her left, after Endymion.
"I am in love with the man next to me," Serenity stated immediately. 'No use beating around the bush.' She waited for the gasps and the whispers to quiet down, including that of Endymion. Serenity smiled for a moment.
"He is a good ruler and an even better man. I wish to free him of his sentence. I want—need your approval." Serenity indicated to everyone in the crowd. She saw the fear in their eyes, the fear of allowing an outsider in. She also saw anger that was fueled by releasing this man of his sentence. And yet after the fear and anger subsided, then came the understanding; the joy that their Queen had at last found love.
The women were looking from one to the other, looking for the correct answer to give their patiently awaiting queen. Slowly, but surely, smiles seemed to be taking hold of them. Then, the answer came unanimously.
Serenity felt an enormous weight being lifted from her shoulders. Endymion leaned in and spoke softly into her ear. "I love you too." Serenity immediately looked down, trying to cover the blush now staining her cheeks. Shaking her head she stepped forward and waited. After a brief silence Serenity turned annoyed eyes upon Endymion and motioned for him to step forward. Smiling apologetically he stepped beside her. Serenity turned to face Endymion.
"Kneel warrior." Endymion gave her a confused look, but did as he was told.
"Endymion Darien Terran, you have been sentenced to death by the next full moon. You have, since then, proven yourself to be worthy of life. I, Serenity, only daughter to the goddess Selene, hereby release you." Serenity placed a gentle hand on Endymion's forearm, where the armband rested. A bright, silver light encased her hand and Endymion felt the armband fall from his body.
Endymion panted heavily as he rolled off of Serenity carefully. Serenity lay next to Endymion basking in the warmth that only he seemed to evoke in her. Her eyes were starting to droop. The comfort of having him next to her was so surreal. She was afraid she would wake up from this beautiful dream. Before her eyelids shut Endymion spoke.
"Serenity, I know I have been waiting my whole life to be with you. That for me, there will never be another. I love you with my entire heart and soul."
Serenity smiled, she was about to reassure him that she felt the same, but he continued. "I want to be with you forever. Will you do me the greatest honor," he paused here, sitting up to look down at her flushed face and glistening skin. Anticipation was in her eyes. "Will you be my wife?" He watched as her eyes slowly closed and then re-opened, tears sparkling in her eyes.
"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Serenity yelled moving out of his grasp and off the bed to stare angrily at him. To say he was a bit stunned was the understatement of the century. He too, got off the bed, standing in front of her.
"Aren't women supposed to be waiting their entire lives for that question?" Endymion asked before he could stop himself. He couldn't help it, that was the first clear thought to enter his head. He did just bare his soul to the woman he loved and get a cruel rejection in return.
Walking over to where Endymion stood, she stood directly in front of him, glaring up at him. Then she did the unexpected, she flicked him on the forehead. Not sure if that had actually just happened, Endymion brought a hand experimentally up to his forehead. Sure enough the abused area was already starting to swell.
"What game are you playing? You are fully aware of the danger getting closer and closer, are you not?!" Endymion, still shocked by her outburst, shook his head 'yes.' "And you ask me this!? Now!? I thought....." Serenity turned away, tears falling down her face. She refused to let him see her being weak. She was surprised when she felt his arms encircle her. At first she struggled against him not wanting to be seduced by his warmth. Her attempts stopped.
"I play no game love. I am aware of the danger, that is why I wish to be bound to you. Whether we have seven days or seventy years together, I want us to forever be together. I want you to be my wife." He spoke his loving words into her hair. He could feel her body shaking with sobs. Whether they were out of happiness or anger he was unaware, he only wanted her to be happy.
Serenity turned in his embrace to face him; her face now looking directly into his chest. She wasn't ready to look into his eyes yet. She needed to think. She needed her mind to be clear and sharp. And if she looked into his eyes...Her eyes slowly drifted upwards, past his broad shoulders and pulsing neck; glancing over his well chiseled jaw that showed stubble already returning to his features and over his cheekbones, looking past his eyelashes. Losing her will, Serenity finally locked gazes with Endymion. The sincerity was obvious in his cobalt eyes. The intensity of his stare almost made her knees turn to jello. He was oozing sensuality. Any person in the room could see and feel how much this man loved the small Amazonian woman in front of him. If a person looked closer they could see her love for him. She gave him a wan smile.
"Yes...." was her whispered response.
Endymion slowly led Serenity outside where the rest of the women were waiting for the two of them. Again the residents of the secluded village were called to an urgent meeting. There were whispers among the women, rumors were being spread at an alarming rate. Dangerous rumors, rumors that caused deadly trouble.
Nyari sat, speaking to two of her friends. She spoke to them as though they were children. She controlled these two women in front of her. Nyari told them of how she had overheard Serenity's guard speaking of her announcement and of how Serenity was planning on leaving the village with her lover and forsaking all those who remained.
"Nyari, I just cannot believe it. Our Queen would never leave us!" A woman with dirty blonde hair spoke angrily. Not for a second did she believe her Queen would betray them for a man.
"Well start believing Mayari! She will betray us for her lover! I speak no lies!" Nyari spoke in an angry whisper, trying not to draw attention to them. What she was planning was mutiny. If she were caught, she was sure she would be killed. All she needed were a few women to help her. Nyari needed people to place the blame if her plan failed. There was no way in heaven or hell she would be persecuted. If need be, she would kill the two women who were surrounding her.
"But Nyari, what you are planning.....surely you do not wish it to be so extreme? If we proceed with your plan, we place our Queen in danger. She could be hurt or worse killed! I will play no part in a mutiny!" The dark haired woman spoke; her name was Lias. She and Mayari had known Nyari was planning something dangerous, but never did they think she would go as far as to hurt their Queen. 'Nyari has changed so much. Ever since that night of Tienva's murder.'
Nyari's eyes flashed dangerously. She knew it would take some persuasion to get her friends to cooperate. Her face changed suddenly, going from anger to sorrow. 'Time for plan B.'
"Please my friends....." A tear started to cascade down her delicate face. "I only want justice for my sister's death. I promise the Queen will not be placed in any danger." Nyari honestly didn't care what happened to their grand Queen. As far as Nyari was concerned, Serenity had already betrayed them by allowing that man to live. Nyari smiled as she watched her friends sigh and slowly nod their heads in agreement. All three women turned their attention to Endymion and Serenity.
"My warriors, Endymion and I are to be binded." Serenity spoke, tears glistening in her eyes. Endymion was at her side, their hands linked together. All the women couldn't help but notice the love radiating from the two. Serenity's guards stood behind the couple. Their faces held no emotion. Serenity spoke again, this time she stepped forward, away from Endymion.
"The ceremony will be held in two days time. We wish for you all to be witnesses." Serenity paused as she heard the collective gasps emitting from the crowd. She knew they would fear the union between her and Endymion.
"Please, have no fear or doubts. You will not serve Endymion. He feels no dominance over any of female. Endymion believes we are equals." Serenity spoke reassuringly. She was greatly pleased when the women began nodding their heads.
"Unacceptable!" Serenity's head shot in the direction of the voice; fierce blue eyes scanning the crowd for the disturbance.
"Come forward!" Serenity commanded to the crowd, directing her voice at who had spoken out. Pity came to her eyes as she watched Nyari, followed by Mayari and Lias step forward. She noticed Mayari and Lias had their heads down, 'They are ashamed of their actions.' Serenity's eyes went back to Nyari's figure, she had stepped a few feet ahead of her friends.
"I refuse to have this man," she spat the word out as though it were acid burning her mouth, "live out his life in our village! You disgrace our goddess, YOUR MOTHER, by allowing this man to live! Every breath he takes is a desecration of the Goddess Selene. Tienva dies and he survives! I see no justice!" Nyari was breathing heavily, her chest rising and falling hard.
"Nyari, please have faith. I would not bind myself unless I was sure the Gods and Goddesses blessed our union, my mother especially. As for Tienva...." Serenity paused, looking for the right words. "We were ALL saddened by her death and we continue the search for her murderer, but know this, Endymion is not him! You are not looking for justice, but for vengeance. I will never allow any person in this village to take part in that. It is not our way."
"Our way! Ha! You spit on our ways! You choose a man over those who are loyal to you!" Nyari's voice was loud now. Serenity's eyes narrowed dangerously at the accusation placed on her. She stepped forward, standing only a foot away from Nyari now. Her voice came out cold and hard, her words slow and precise.
"And you call yourself loyal to me?!" Serenity stepped close to Nyari. Serenity being the taller of the two, was now towering over Nyari, looking down at her with anger in her eyes. "Know this now child, this village and all who live in it, will always come first. I choose to be binded to Endymion and he WILL live here. If you do not agree with the circumstances then leave." Serenity's words were like ice on Nyari's skin.
Holding her head high, Nyari bowed down to Serenity. Her voice was even and held no emotion when she spoke.
"As you wish, my Queen." Nyari turned around, she began walking away from Serenity. She stopped when she came to her friends, both still had their heads down, but neither made any attempt to leave with her. Contempt entered Nyari's eyes. She continued past them without a word. She stopped at the front of the crowd and turned around one last time.
"But know this, I will have my, what did you call it? Oh yes, my vengeance. I will see Endymion dead!" With that Nyari walked straight out of the village. Silence reigned in the village. No one spoke, everyone's eyes were cast down. Serenity stared out among the women she thought her family. Her eyes turned towards Mayari and Lias.
"What of you two? Is there any loyalty remaining in either of you?" There was no contempt, nor resentment in her words. At her voice all eyes shot up, resting on their Queen, guilt and shame dancing in their eyes and on their faces. Mayari and Lias both walked in front of Serenity. In unison they both went to one knee. Mayari took hold of Serenity's right hand, Lias took her left. The two girls placed a kiss on her palm and bowed their heads, still holding Serenity's hands.
"Forgive us, my Queen. We are forever loyal to you." Mayari's voice came out in a whisper, fear and tears mingling. Serenity sighed, all of a sudden she felt like she were a hundred years old.
"Please, my sisters, you can share your fears with me. I only want you to be happy." Serenity spoke earnestly. She desperately wanted the women to accept Endymion. Mayari and Lias got up and walked back into the crowd. Slowly a narrow opening began to form in the crowd. The women were moving aside to let someone pass. Serenity's eyes rested upon Jeha, the eldest and most knowledgeable healer in the village.
Jeha stopped two feet in front of the crowd. Her hair was evenly streaked with white and contrasted beautifully with her deep green eyes. Her body was thin, yet strong and her skin was a dark honey color. Although she was the eldest, she had very few wrinkles.
"My Queen, you have our blessing." Jeha bowed her head down. Slowly, one by one, all the women in the crowd were bowing their heads; a sign of deep respect.
Nyari had been walking for five hours now. The sun was already in the middle of the sky. Where she was walking to she didn't know. She just remembered walking North when fighting Endymion's army. Nyari prayed that his army remained where they had camped. She was going to need their help to carry out her plan.
Another thirty minutes had passed and Nyari was exceptionally thirsty. Spotting a small pond half a mile up, she began moving faster. She refused to die from dehydration. When she finally reached the pond, Nyari nearly collapsed in the water. She quickly fell to her knees and plunged her hands into the cool water. Cupping her hands, she hastily brought the refreshing liquid to her mouth.
When she was finally refreshed, Nyari sat back on her knees and scanned her surroundings. Never had she been more then a mile away from the village, surely she was at least ten now. Bitter tears sprang into her eyes as she thought of why she was here. It was because of him. He turned their Queen against them and so enthralled with him, Serenity turned her back on them. It would be only a matter of time before Endymion had Serenity make the women obedient toward him. Then, when he had full control over them, he would kill Serenity and make slaves out of the warriors.
She might even have to kill Serenity when she returns to kill Endymion. Thinking of killing Serenity brought a smile to Nyari's face. Although she had never thought about it before, the idea of leading the Nahakra was an interesting notion. With her as their leader they would be unstoppable. No longer would they have to remain in total seclusion, but they would venture out into the world. They would conquer all those who got in their way. With a Goddess on their side, no opposing army would stand a chance.
Then another thought hit Nyari. Would Selene really protect those who killed her daughter? No good mother would. But she would have to! She vowed to always protect the Nahakra. To give us the strength to defeat our enemies. Mother or no mother, Selene will be bound by her sacred oath.
So wrapped up in thoughts, Nyari didn't hear the footsteps that were slowly creeping up on her. For if she were not so deep in thought, she may have felt another presence before she felt the sharp point of a sword, directly between her shoulder blades. Her breathing hitched as she felt a light trickle of blood drip down her back at the pressure the sword was held at.
"Stand woman." The voice held no remorse, no sympathy. Nyari did as she was told slowly.
"Turn around, SLOWLY, and face me. Do not try anything, for I will not hesitate to slide my sword into your exquisite body." The voice sneered, mocking her. Nyari turned around, slowly, as she was told. Disgust was written on her features. However, the disgust was being slowly replaced with fear at the look on the soldiers face. He was appraising her body. His eyes began at her feet and slowly moved up, pausing for a moment to leer at her full bosom. When his eyes finally were resting on her face, he reached an experimental hand toward her.
Nyari closed her eyes tight, as his calloused hand attempted to caress her delicate face. She abruptly opened her eyes, when his hand gripped her jaw roughly. His eyes looked deeply into her as if daring her to retaliate. When she did nothing, he spoke to her.
"You are now the prisoner of General Malachite. I will take you to our camp, where he will decide your fate." She could not even object as he brought down the hilt of his sword against the back of her head. She was unconscious immediately.
Nyari awoke to jarring bumps. Her eyes opened, fully alarmed. But she immediately shut them to the blinding rays of the sun. Slowly her eyes fluttered open, adjusting to the light. Before she could register her surroundings she was hauled to her feet by her hair. Nyari let out a grunt at the pain.
"So this is her?" Her mind began acknowledging the people around her. There was the man who captured her standing just behind her and then the man directly in front of her. He was extremely handsome. He had shoulder length, white hair, a large, strong build. But what grabbed her attention were the man's eyes. They were unnaturally dark; she had to hold back a shiver.
"I found her three hundred kilometers from our camp." The man who captured her spoke as though she wasn't even in the room. The man with the white hair never took his eyes off her. Nyari felt drawn to this man, just looking in his eyes, she felt hypnotized. The man smiled at her, a charming smile.
"Leave us." He spoke in a dismissive manner. All the other men in the room nodded their heads and left them alone. Nyari was feeling nervous being alone with this man who had such a strong control over her. Nyari wanted nothing more than to have his lips all over her body.
He continued to circle her as a panther would its prey. Nyari kept her eyes cast down, afraid to make direct eye contact with this man. Hell, he was more than a man, he was a God in her eyes. He stopped behind her, his breath on her neck, sending shivers down her back.
"Are you afraid, little one?" His lips brushed against her ear. Unable to speak, Nyari shook her head. The next sensation she felt was of his hand caressing her neck. Nyari let out a small moan. He ceased his movements and turned her around to face him.
"You were looking for my camp. Why?" Nyari smiled at the man as she brought her hand up to stroke his face.
"I wish to kill your Prince and my Queen. I am going to need help am I not?" The smile remained on her face even after the man grabbed her hand from his face and held an iron grip on her.
"And what makes you think I would want my Prince dead?" His voice held no hint as to what he truly wished for.
"Why else would I not already be dead? I wish for Endymion and Serenity to die." Nyari spoke so calmly, no fear left in her features. She watched him, as he debated his options. She was so confused by this man. It was obvious he wished Endymion dead and the capture of the warriors, and yet he didn't.
"And what of the Nahakra?" He spoke to her, trying to retrieve as much information as he could.
"They are mine. I wish to replace Serenity." Nyari had a devious smile on her face, her eyes held an unusual glint. She watched him, as he debated her offer once again. Then, he spoke:
"Tell me of your plans."
Soon preparations were made for a hasty wedding. And so two days later, Serenity and Endymion stood before the entire village. Since Rei was the only priestess in the village, she of course volunteered to bind Serenity and Endymion.
Ami, Mina, and Lita had agreed to be Serenity's brides' maids. Lita prepared the foods that Endymion told her were custom and Mina helped Serenity create her gown. Though she was comfortable being wed in her war attire, Endymion had convinced her otherwise. He agreed to dress elegantly if she did. And Ami put together a beautiful alter. The alter had Spartan Iris's intricately woven into the wood and was painted a deep shade of blue. At the top of the alter was a crescent moon with a red rose lying diagonally across it.
The ceremony took place half an hour after dusk. The stars were exceptionally bright, illuminating the black night's sky. The only other light came from two torches; one was placed five feet behind Endymion and the other was placed five feet behind Serenity. Serenity stood on the right and Endymion was to the left, both were facing forward, toward the raven haired Priestess, whose violet eyes held tears in them.
"Warriors of the Nahakra. We come together on this special night to witness the love our Queen holds for this man. They have written their own vows and would like to speak them now." Rei spoke elegantly and gestured for Endymion to begin.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought I would marry a woman like you. You are the light in my darkness. It's unusual to say that a war brought us together. Only death and sadness are attributed to war, but that only proves how special our love is." Endymion paused here, the emotion behind his words evident in his voice. "If I were to die tomorrow, surely I would die happy. For you complete my soul. I give you my heart, my soul, and my love." Endymion never took his eyes from Serenity. He wanted to remember every detail of the moment; every tear, every word, and every look. Right now, he doubted he would ever forget the loving look Serenity graciously gave to him. Now it was Serenity's turn.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought I would marry a man like you, let alone a man. Maybe in my wildest nightmares....." She gave him a teasing smile as a ripple of laughter passed over the women watching. "I could never ask for another, because for me, you are all there is. You are all that I want and need. I believe that for the rest of my life I will be thanking every God and Goddess in the universe for bringing you into this world, into my world. You brought out a side of me I never knew I had. You see things in me I didn't believe existed, you believe in me. You complete me. I give you my heart, my soul, and my love." Serenity spoke, unwavering in emotion.
"As a Priestess of the Goddess Selene, I bless you with her love and protection. By the power of Selene, I bind you Endymion Darien Terran to this woman." Rei gently touched her first finger and her middle finger to Endymion's forehead. She made the shape of a crescent moon and then touched Serenity's forehead. "By the power of Selene, I bind you Serenity Selene to this man." Rei repeated the same motion on Serenity.
"In the eyes of Selene and all who bore witness to this splendid ceremony, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Endymion, you may now kiss your bride." Rei said with a wink and stepped back, away from the couple. Endymion stepped closer to Serenity, they were mere inches a part now.
"I have waited all eternity for you," Endymion whispered as he lowered his lips upon hers. Serenity sighed contentedly. She opened her eyes, however, when Endymion's entire body stiffened. They locked gazes and Serenity saw fear in his eyes. The screams of her warriors were drowned out, by the sudden darkness that seemed to cover Serenity's world; all she saw, all she knew, was that the tip of an arrow that was protruding from Endymion, just below his left shoulder. The only sounds Serenity could hear were her own screams as she watched Endymion fall to his knees.
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