Hello, and welcome 'Mists of Time.'
I'll try and keep this short. First, this is a Pluto story. Actually, she's the only senshi in it. Everyone is here, to a greater or lesser degree, but in different incarnations, so names and physical appearances are different. (Hint hint: eye color is usually the same.) Next, I make 3 assumptions. 1, that there is more than one door Pluto guards. So far, I've never seen/heard of more than the one leading between Crystal Tokyo and 'present' Tokyo. 2, that Queen Serenity sent everyone to Earth to be reborn multiple times until their Awakening, and 3, Setsuna's parentage. I know Chronos is her father, but I've never heard of a mother. Mythologically, the wife of Chronos is Rhea. This story takes place in the Arthurian period of Britain. The pagan aspects are accurate to the best of my knowledge, though I have taken certain liberties with the 'special effects' type of magic. Italics are Setsuna's thoughts.
Whew! Ok. The usual stuff-
Sailor Moon and everything associated with it does not belong to me. It belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, DiC Entertainment, Toei Anime, Pocket Mixx and other powerful people. The Arthurian characters belong to everyone who has ever enjoyed their stories, except Arthur, who belongs to himself, because he really is asleep on the Isle of Avalon.
Special thanks to: Marion Zimmer Bradley, for writing "The Mists of Avalon" (which heavily influenced this fic) and Rosemary Sutcliff for writing "Sword at Sunset." Both are truly classics in the field.
I'd love to hear any questions and/or comments. My mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
Mists of Time
Part 1- Time, Who Dwells Alone In the Mist
They have pierced the wall of Time
And let the flood of centuries pour
Down in torrents of abused past
And future follies. Nor
Can the wit of man dam up
This foul stream, polluted
With History's excrement,
Channeled now in convoluted
Ways, cross-currented with tide,
Ebb and neap with storm
From which only few can hide.
Once Upon a Time, as all true fairy tales must begin....
Meioh Setsuna, Sailor Pluto, Daughter of Chronos, Keeper of the Timestaff, Possessor of the Garnet Orb, Princess of Pluto, the Time Space Star, Guardian of the Gates of Time...was incredibly bored.
She folded her arms on the table before her and leaned down, resting her chin on her hand, holding the Timestaff before her, watching it distractedly, with the fascination that comes only from extreme boredom. Between the worlds, guarding the doorways, was an honor.
Yeah. Honor. And I'm Princess of the Moon.
The invisible hands that brought her food and drink whisked away the dinner dishes from the table with silent efficiency. The setting had been beautiful, of course. It always was. Candles, flowers, delicate sweetmeats perfectly spiced with tiny garnishing that the silent hands made so perfectly. She glanced out the windows around her, seeing the swirling mists of time and space brushing the panes of shimmering glass.
Wisk, hisssh. The plate before her was swept away.
Wipsh, shhissh....The hands took the last tray away, softly sighing as they completed their tasks, and the candles in the chandelier high overhead began to wink out.
Looks like its time for bed. Clockwork. Everything on timers. Father, is that some kind of hint to me? Time always running like clockwork? The gears, the seconds ticking, always carefully planned?
She sighed and stood from the table, leaving the dining hall. She patrolled the halls, checking the doors to ensure their closure.
I feel like some useless guard on a castle wall. No one ever comes. No one ever goes. I haven't even seen Father since the Fall of the Earth. Is this all there is for me? To grow at a rate unpredictable?
Not even a millennium had passed since the Battle of Earth. Since the fall of the Silver Millennium. She had been given the Timestaff, given her duties, told the three taboos of time travel. Then sent here, beyond a door to grow up, learning how to fight from a droid in the training hall. It, too, shut down after her lessons with the Staff. Computers hummed in some rooms, murmuring to each other and teaching her about the history of the world, the world gone, the world to come. Sometimes, she was even shown images in the slipstream of time. Lessons such as those fascinated Setsuna. The people in their beautiful clothes, the deadly weapons of barbarian hordes, the grace of a hunter stalking deer in the forest. The image of families rising to protect themselves from any danger, the love between couples whose names would be carved into the annals of time.
She longed to grow up.
She'd been barely eight in biological years when the Timestaff had passed to her. Some hundred and fifty years ago she had a growth spurt. She looked about eleven now. She had the thoughts and emotions of an eleven year old with the knowledge gleaned from centuries of training.
For what? I never use any of my abilities, except against that ridiculous training droid. I passed up its highest skill level sixty years ago. I know, the future will need me. But when is this future to come? I'm told over and over by the blasted computers it will happen 'in time'. But isn't time relative? They show me history. But not the time I wish to learn about most! Why? Why? Setsuna. You know why. Damage to the timestream. Foreknowledge....
Setsuna turned down a hallway, the mists curling around her ankles, breezing past her in the soft wind of the corridor. Each door, carved so beautifully, each door, with so many people, so many adventures behind it! She longed to pluck a key from its chain and thrust it into the keyhole of a door, fling it open and jump inside, to swim in the timestream, to live for once, with people! To have friends.
Friends. Most people have friends. I have a training droid and computers.
She sighed and leaned against the back of a door, then sank down, curling up, tucking her knees under her chin, holding the Timestaff before her. She stared at the door across from her. A soft hazy glow emanated from its corners.
A time of magic, then, with the glow. I wonder who lives there. What magic do they have? Do they know of the Silver Millennium? Are there sorcerers and magic swords?
The light from the door's cracks began to brighten. Setsuna's eyes lifted, puckering her brow.
That's not supposed to happen.
She lifted her head from her knees and looked up and down the hallway. Empty. As always.
I couldn't, could I? Just...go? No one comes, no one goes. Just stand, take the key, push it into the lock. Step through. I'm Guardian of Time. The glow from the doors into the ages of magic...it's not supposed to intensify. I have to...investigate, don't I? It's duty.
She stood, and straightened herself out, brushing off the black skirt and smoothing it, tightening the deep red bow on the back of the skirt. She unfastened a key from the chain around her waist. She pushed it into the lock, and the door opened before her.
"Freak! Freak! You're one of the little dark ones, one of the Dannans!"
"I am not!"
Three boys gathered around the younger girl. They stood barely within range of Cornwall's great castle, its spires and towers visible in the distance. It was a cloudy day, the sun hiding its face behind stormy clouds. She had not thought her taunters would follow her with the threatening sky, not so far from the safety of the castle. The bundle of marsh reeds and plants she had collected so fastidiously were now floating in the pond, snatched from her hands by the boys. They circled her, laughing. One grabbed at her long dark hair and she slapped at him.
"Oh! Our little fairy girl is going to yell!"
"Stop it, Mark! I'm a guest in your house!"
"Yeah. My house. So you have to follow my rules. I'm going to be king of Cornwall, and your father will have to give me tribute!"
"My father isn't your vassal!" She began to tremble in fury. The boys took her shaking differently.
"Aw...look! She's gonna cry!"
"Leave me alone!"
"Alone, huh? Yeah, sure Morgan the faerie! Wait. Morgan the Faerie! Morgan le Fey! That's what I'm going to call you! Morgan le Fey! The daughter of the Dananns!"
"I'm not a fey!" she balled up her fists, ready to fight, her tiny little body still shaking in anger.
"Morgan le Fey! Morgan le Fey!" the boys sang. Mark stopped, sneering. "You want us to leave you alone? Then call your fairyland friends to help you! They're your family! They'll come rescue one of their own!"
Morgan began to take a deep breath to shout again, but as she did this, there was a great boom from the skies, and a shrieking figure hurtled out of the heavens, crashing down on the shocked figures of the boys. A silvery staff flew from the girl's hands, and Morgan caught it as it spun towards her, staggering back. "Huh?" the boys asked in unison. The girl that had landed on them moaned, then shook herself off and opened her eyes. They were the color of garnet, deep and red. Her hair was black, and in the dim light of the day around them, it glinted in shades of emerald. She wore clothes that were not of any design any of them had ever seen, a skirt indecently short and black, with a deep crimson bow on the front and back of the strange uniform. But most of all, Morgan stared at her skin. It was a deep bronze. The same color as her own.
"Dark Sidhe!" Mark screamed in terror. He and his two cronies took off, running as fast as their legs could carry them. Their frightened voices drifted back, calling to each other about red eyes like a demon's. Morgan stared continuously through the episode, clutching the girl's staff. The newcomer shrugged and finally turned to Morgan.
"Can I have my staff back now?" she held out her hand, palm up. Morgan switched between the hand and the eyes. Red. Garnet. Like the orb on the staff. "Ummm...." the girl tilted her head, and gestured with her hand to give her the staff. Morgan reluctantly passed it to her.
So who's this? And what did I interrupt? By the way she looks, and by not running off, she must not have been with them...idiots. Dark Sidhe? An elf? Me?
"Are...are...." the girl across from Setsuna stuttered.
"I am Sailor Pluto, G-" Setsuna coughed roughly once. Don't tell her that!
"Sailor Pluto. Forgive me for dropping in so...abruptly."
"No...it's all right. I'm glad."
They stared at each other.
Setsuna regarded the girl. About Setsuna's age, she was short, delicate and finely boned. Deep bronze skin and wavy black hair, framing a narrow, sharp face. Her eyes were wide and violet, shaped like a hind's. Setsuna loved her clothes, dark, midnight blue, long to the grasses at her feet, sweeping.
"Ah...how are you?"
"I'm fine. Are you? You fell out of the sky."
"Yeah, I guess I did," Setsuna rubbed her backside a moment, grinning faintly. Morgan chuckled. Setsuna giggled. They began to laugh, eventually falling to their knees with laughter, gasping for air.
"You fell...on Mark. On his precious...oh, sweet Lady...oh, the look on his face! Oh, Sailor Pluto, I will remember that forever! You have no idea...how much...I appreciate that...."
"It's okay. It's okay. I saw it! I saw it!" Setsuna wiped laugher tears from her garnet eyes. "What were they saying to you, anyway?"
Morgan grew quiet and distant at Pluto's question. "I..." a determined look set on her face as she decided something. "They were calling me a freak. I will show you why. Since you're like me," Morgan smiled determinedly. "Both of us look funny," she tossed her mane of black hair over her shoulder.
So I look funny, now do I? Well, I suppose you don't mean anything by it....
Morgan was pushing her sleeves up to her elbows. "Sometimes it doesn't work right," she explained. "But I'll try." She crawled over to a bush of wildflowers. She closed her eyes and they flickered. Her hands closed around an emerging bud on a stem. Softly, almost imperceptibly, Morgan's tiny frame began to glow in a shade of deep purple, the misty colors centering on her cupped hands. Whorls of the mist curled around the small bud, and it began to blossom, petals opening slowly, then exploding out as a nova, tiny sparks of light glistening on the petals. Morgan broke from the spell, separating her hands and smiling satisfactorily. She nodded once. "That's why. Mark says I'm a fey."
"And that's bad?"
"Well...no...but..." Morgan looked troubled, and Setsuna felt sorry for her.
"Don't listen to him. Look. I can do magic too," she scrambled to her feet, bringing the Timestaff up. I'll get a new, stronger power when I'm older. I was promised. When I'm ready, the new power will come. For now.... "Temporal Flux!" she shouted, pointing the Timestaff at the pond. A streak of shimmering white light shot out, pulsating into the pond. The water shot up in a geyser of liquid, heavy pellets of water blasting in all directions as the murky bottom of the pond was exposed for a moment, the waters sweeping back in to cover the hole. Morgan stared.
"Pluto. God of Death to the Hellenes and Romans," Morgan whispered and fell to her knees. "Am I to die, then? I would have thought Annwn would come for me, as I am Celt." she pressed her face down into the marshland.
"I guard the Gates, yes, but I'm not the Destroyer, Morgan. Please stand up." Pluto helped her to her feet, yet Morgan still appeared afraid of her. "If I were the Destroyer, do you think I would have fallen out of the sky?"
Morgan quirked an eyebrow. "I suppose not. I always assumed the Destroyer would be the Crone."
"Well...she's...." Setsuna! Watch your mouth! Timestream! Paradoxes! Foreknowledge! "...probably old," Pluto finished lamely. The two girls stared at each other, then grinned sheepishly, turning back to the pond which still churned from Setsuna's blast. "Do you live here?"
"No. This is Cornwall. I'm from Tintagel. Where are you from?"
"Elfland, surely." Morgan nodded her head sagely. Setsuna chuckled.
Morgan explained to Setsuna about the herbs she'd been collecting before Mark's interruption, and the two began to re-collect the lost flora, chatting about fairies and troublesome boys until the sun began to bank in the west. "Will you be here tomorrow, Pluto?" Morgan asked as Setsuna handed her the last bundle of limp cattails and watercress.
Pluto hung her head. "No."
"Back to fairyland."
"You could say that. I'm sorry. I'd stay if I could."
"It's all right. I'll remember what you said about taking boys down if Mark decides to try anything again....we're going home in a fortnight anyway...."
"Two weeks isn't very long."
"No...I suppose not...." Absently, Morgan gathered the last armloads of rushes from the stone they had rested them on. "Farewell, Sailor Pluto."
"Good-bye," Setsuna took a key from her belt and held it aloft in the air with one hand, the other clasping the Timestaff. "I'll miss you, Morgan," Pluto added as she looked upward, then called out, "Onward, to the Road of Light!"
Morgan watched her fade away from sight, into evening's oncoming mist.
The plates were cleared away from the ebony table.
Setsuna left the dining room, the candles dimming behind her as she passed. Clockwork. Always clockwork. She strolled through the mists in the corridors, Timestaff in hand, twirling it between her fingers idly. Everything checked, and no one was the wiser for her escapade the day before. No lightning from the heavens, striking her down for insubordination. The door to...Cornwall...Morgan called it, was still emitting the high glow, but that was all. Cornwall. Setsuna had researched it on returning to the palace.
Cornwall. Southwest England, also called Great Britain. Northern Hemisphere, European Continent. Home to Queen Elizabeth, Shakespeare. Most famous legend: King Arthur. Capitol: London, Londinium. Will be a dominant conquesting culture in the Victorian Era, in approximately...." Setsuna had turned the computer screen off at that point. The Victorians and their global empire didn't concern her at that moment. Setsuna yawned as she completed her patrol, and retired to her room, a place draped in gossamer silk, with the lofty Doric style architecture that had dominated most of the vanished Silver Millennium. She unmorphed, and slipped into a crimson nightgown, crawling into a soft and welcome bed.
"Setsuna, wake up."
A broad, gentle hand touched her shoulder where she slept, and Setsuna started out of her near sleep. "Father!" she shrieked joyously, flinging her arms around his neck. Chronos scooped his daughter up into a fierce hug. He was a large man, a Titan, his black hair crisping in waves around his shoulders, mingling with his wavy beard. Like Setsuna, he had bronze skin. Deep ocean eyes met hers. "Father, where have you been? Where's Mother?" At Chronos' lack of answer, Setsuna pulled away. "Mother's not here, is she? And you're not staying."
"I am staying, Setsuna," she began to gasp in excitement, but froze at his somber countenance. "For a time. Until you to accomplish what you must."
"What I must...?"
"Come. It is time you learned your final lesson," he took her small hand in his larger one, and led her from her chambers, taking her to the corridor of Doorways. "You have excelled in all your tests, Setsuna. And I see that now you have begun to chafe in your surroundings." Setsuna felt her stomach drop out from her. He knew!
He lifted his hand into the air, and the Timestaff formed there. He handed it to her. "Father?" she asked, timidly. He responded by touching her on the head, and her red aural light cascaded around her, garbing her in flowing robes of black and crimson.
"You are of the Royal House of Pluto. A race of fine scholars and scientists, a race that has blood of magic in it, Setsuna. Remember that. You will be told who you are to tell yourself as by those who will meet you. Your powers will remain intact. Use them wisely when they are needed."
"Use them...Father...but...." she spluttered, clutching the Timestaff as a lifeline. "Father...are you telling me...to interfere?" she was stunned.
"This is your final lesson. You will age until you have reached the point you will remain. You must adapt and live among them, as you see fit. You already have, and you already will. Use what you know, Setsuna. Persevere. When you return, I will expect you to know the lesson's purpose. Go," he gestured at a door, which blew open before them. "Go, Setsuna. I will guard the corridors until your return. Go!" he pushed her forward, and she was enveloped by the light.
It swam above her head as she opened her eyes on the floor. Touching her head, she sat up, and immediately grabbed for the Timestaff. She was alone. The liquid patterns of water shifted on the walls of the wide cavern she sat in, light trickling through the patches of water above her, held back by crystallized glass formations, that looked much as ice. The crystal substance covered the walls, made up the floor, the edges catching prismic colors, sending tiny rainbows dancing in the watery light. A flight of steps and a bannister led up into the water above. The cave, otherwise, was empty. Father, where have you sent me? Father, I'm scared. I've never been away...well, almost never....But that was not even an afternoon! Chafe, he said. Is this a punishment? Shouldn't I have come crashing from the sky, like last time? Or can Father control that? Can I? Setsuna, you dummy! What have you done? By the Wheel of Time! I'm all alone. Aren't I? Father said people would tell me...or did he just mean that I'd meet people? Okay, Setsuna. Don't panic. Panic is very bad. I'm safe at the moment...I think. Ummm....I am Meioh Setsuna. Or Setsuna Meioh. I am wearing robes, a gown of sorts, not my fuku, so that I won't attract attention. Father dressed me in this for a reason. He had to have. Hopefully, it's so I'll blend in. Hopefully, being key to that. Key! She fumbled at her waist. The keys were gone, leaving her with only the Timestaff itself.
My keys are gone. My keys are gone! Calm. Don't panic. She looked around the room, taking it all in. There was a narrow table along one of the walls, and an outcropping that had a swath of crimson silk over it. A room? Who's? Mine? The crimson silk...just like the palace.... Otherwise, the crystal cave was empty. Her sight fell on the steps leading upward. I can't stay here forever...might as well get moving.…
She climbed the steps, coming to the top, where the water began. She pushed a hand up through it, and pulled it back. Dry. She grinned. Illusion. Of course. She pushed her head up through the watery hologram, and found herself emerging in a wide lake, near the center. A narrow strip of rock could be seen just a few inches below the water line, leading towards the far shore. The backbone of the cavern below, leading to the shore. Well.... She sent the Timestaff to its dimensional pocket of space. She hitched up her skirts, and walked precariously along the ridge. Algae and had grown to it, and tiny fish darted around her ankles. I'll have to clean that. Clean it? I'm not staying here. Careful, don't want to take another bath.... Her black booted feet hit the thin strip of beach. The trees came almost straight up to the shore on this side of the lake, with a wider expanse of beach on the opposite side. It was a grove of oaks, their broad leafy branches towering above the waters. She looked at the lake. It glittered, sapphire silk in the noonday light, soft waves caressing the shore softly, with patches of watercress along some spots, and lily pads growing out into the right bank. A choir of frogs would likely be croaking their song there in the evening. Willows wept into the opposite bank, their tears trailing greenly in the sweet blue water.
She headed to the right, working her way through the tangle of roots and vines, carefully keeping the sweeping skirts out of the mud on the bank. Her boots were caked with the muck as she got onto the grass at the forest's edge. When she turned a moment to look behind her, she was surprised to see tendrils of mist curling around the roots. But it's noon! There shouldn't be any mist at this time of day. The shoreline behind her began to blur and change as she watched. It remained the same, as well, one shore superimposed on another, one shady and shadowy, the other solid and clear. Which is the real? The shadow, or the solid? The mist curls around the shadow, but penetrates the solid. Surely they can't both exist...can they? She shook her head and turned back to the knoll before her, and was instantly taken aback. Four men on horseback occupied what had been empty space a moment before. Each wore armor, carrying the standards that she had come to recognize as the symbols for the Outer Planets on them, including her own Pluto standard. Each wore the colors of their world. The one in black, carrying the Pluto banner, turned his black palfrey around, and led a tall mare by halter to her. "Your mount, Lady Princess." Setsuna accepted the halter and clambered onto the horse's back.
"Does she have a name?"
Her response was silence, then the jerking of the Plutonian Knight's horse around. I'll take that as a no...Kore. Your name is Kore. The black mare tossed her head as if in agreement. I'm glad you like it, Kore. They pranced off after the four knights, and Setsuna began to wonder what she had gotten herself into.
The ocean crashed into the shore violently along the coastline. They had traveled for nearly two hours at steady pace to the south and west, finally approaching the castle that lay there, hugging the rocky drop cliffs, thick walls expanding long across the city within. Field hands turned as they passed, watching the small procession and the colored banners, guessing that the young girl that rode in the center of the knights was a visiting noble. Pluto and Saturn standards rode to her front, while Uranus and Neptune closed behind her. The castle loomed ahead, and the portcullis groaned its way up as they reached the entrance, the Black Knight of Pluto calling their names and purpose. "In the name of the lady Setsuna, I order the opening of the gates! She is expected by the lady within." After a moment's hesitation, the iron gates shivered up the slats, and they entered. Lady, not Lady Princess. I am noble, but not a princess. Remember. And I am expected. The Black Knight dismounted, and was at Setsuna's side before she could swing off Kore herself.
A woman walked out of an archway to the right, and by her bearing and fine clothing, she was the lady that the Knight had mentioned. The newcomer was strikingly beautiful, Setsuna noticed, with a cascade of auburn hair that fell in waves down her back. Glowing amber eyes gleamed in her face, and brows like wings arched over them, framing them with black lashes. A slightly younger girl accompanied her, looking much the same, but with hair like cornsilk instead of the auburn color. The resemblance was unmistakable. Mother and daughter. The mother spread her arms, holding her hands out, palm up.
"My lady," she curtsied, the long gown billowing around her. "I am Igraine, this is my daughter, Morgawse." Morgawse copied her mother's example. Setsuna curtsied in return, inclining her head generously. They bow first. I am superior in rank. Or at least, they need me, or whatever Father gave them to accept me here. Morgawse does not look pleased. She wears a ring on her finger, intricate. Betrothed? "We are happy to see you have made a safe journey. You are welcome here until your Father sees fit to recall you to Rome." Rome. Recalled? Igraine. Morgawse. Those names...familiar. Sound...fifth century? My early medieval skills are not so sharp as Ancient times...fifth century dress, as well, I believe. Fifth century...Rome is in uproar. The Emperors are tearing Rome to shreds from within. When was Nero again? Blast for a computer! But Rome is dying, splitting in half. Yes....
"The chest of treasure for Morgawse's dower and your keeping was extraordinarily generous, lady Setsuna, far more than we could have ever expected...." Dower. Yes, betrothed. Chest of treasure. Gold? What did you give them, Father? Crystals from the Millennium? Igraine seems nice, regardless. Morgawse....
"Mother! I'm so sorry I'm late!" another figure, younger than Morgawse, tore into the plaza. The figure was small and dark, with black hair and violet eyes.
It was Morgan.
The two girls took only a moment to stare at each other. Setsuna ripped her eyes away, her face closed tightly. Tintagel. We're at Tintagel. South and west. Cornwall. Tintagel is in Cornwall, and we are in Tintagel. Father has sent me back to the time I came to! Why? Tintagel. Cornwall...Igraine, Morgawse...Morgan. Who ignorant boys think is a Sidhe. Castles and horses, knights in armor. An age of magic. The WHEEL! It cannot be! On her face, Setsuna paled as she recognized the names, the places, the age, the era. I am in the age of Arthur.
Morgan watched Sailor Pluto, now wearing the most expensive, beautiful traveling gown she had ever seen, go completely pale under her bronze skin. Setsuna, Mother called her. Daughter of an ancient kinsman in Rome, one of Father's. They had been expecting the girl since two weeks after they had returned from visiting Mothers' cousins in Cornwall castle. The trip had also been to refresh ties with Cornwall, since old king Felix was aging rapidly, and his health faltering. If Mark had not detested her so, she may have been betrothed at this point, a thought that horrified Morgan. She had long since set her sights on Mona, Isle of the Druids. Morgawse's future husband had taken the kingship of Lothian only a year before, still younger than allowed to take rule, but the young lord Lot was strong willed, and had ousted half the court to place himself on the throne when he wished. Lothian was wealthy. Tintagel was not. The proceeds from the chest provided by the mysterious cousin Chronos Meioh in Rome sealed the pact with Lothian, and allowed for new trade. Indirectly, Setsuna's coming was a great blessing on Tintagel. Morgan would not mind it when Morgawse left. She was often patronizing and took the time to tell her how she looked strangely, and that she knew Morgan was really a changeling. Morgan fought a smile. Sailor Pluto. Setsuna. One in the same. And she looked even more fey than Morgan. But the question now became, why was a fey such as Setsuna in Tintagel?
Igraine was continuing. "Your clothes arrived last week, lady, and we have prepared a room for you, to your specifications. Morgawse, would you care to...?"
"Lady Igraine," Setsuna interrupted. "Could Morgan show me? We appear to be of an age."
"Yes. Of course," the direct naming of her daughter was not lost on Igraine. "How is it that you know Morgan?"
"My Father," Setsuna replied smoothly, recovering for her mistake. "I have been told a few things of your home. Forgive me for any lacking of knowledge."
"Of course, lady Setsuna."
"Setsuna, please. To all of you," she ensured that Morgan caught her glance. The three women nodded gracefully.
"Will your knights be remaining with us?"
The knight of Pluto responded for her. "No, my lady. We must take our leave of your court immediately. There are pressing matters in...Rome."
"Then you have my pledge of safe conduct within Tintagel lands. A word of caution. The country remains a hotbed for the throne of Britain. It may be wiser to return by ship. I could provide for you if that is your wish."
"No, my lady. We take the land route," the Black Knight bowed, the red plume in his helmet bobbing.
"As you wish. Go with the gods," the four knights remounted their horses, and cantered back from the main gate of Tintagel.
"Lady Setsuna, eh?" Morgan asked as she led Setsuna down a hallway. "This way. Be careful. These halls twist a lot, and it's easy to get lost."
"I'm used to halls."
"Really? They have castles like this in Elfland?"
"Morgan. I must explain. But first, I ask a question. How long has it been since we met? You look older."
Morgan shrugged as they reached some steps and began climbing. "Some six months. It was early March when we were in Cornwall. Does time in fairyland run differently?"
"It has been but a day for me."
"A day...." They reached the top of the stairs. "You no longer have your big key."
"I have it."
"Ah. Magic. Hidden in a pocket dimension."
"Well...yes," Setsuna was surprised at her term 'dimension'. "I didn't realize you understood the physics it requires to generate a multi-phasic pocket warp such as that."
Morgan stared at her.
"Here is your room. It's adjacent to mine." Father. You knew! You watched me! Almost as if you were waiting for me to...no. Think about that later. Morgan's rooms beside mine. Good. I know someone. And I trust her. I think. "Setsuna, are you all right?"
"Fine. Here," she opened the door easily and brushed inside, passing through the outer chambers. Fresh rushes had been spread across the floor, and sweet candles of beeswax were on the mantle of the fireplace. Candelabras and sconces were set periodically through the room, and a tiny brazier glowed faintly in a corner, several thin punks sticking out of it. Red rose petals were strewn through the rushes, and saffron, in emerald and her aural crimson hung over the bedposts, the same material pooling on the floor to the sides of the narrow windows. Though a small door, there was a tiny room holding a bathing pool. Father. First class, completely. At least I don't need to worry about cleanliness....
"Do you like it? My room's through here." Morgan moved to a small trapdoor on the side of a bookcase. Setsuna went to it, seeing the latch and how Morgan manipulated it. Then she turned to the books. 'The Consolation of Philosophy.' 'The Republic.' 'Poetics.' 'Ethics.' 'The Confessions.' 'The Oedipus Cycle', with 'Antigone.' In this day and age, this must have cost a fortune to assemble.
"Will you let me borrow your books? The trunk was heavy with them." Ah. So they're mine, not Tintagel's. I wonder if they know how valuable these are. She picked up the 'Consolation of Philosophy' and looked at its scripted calligraphy pages. Books. Real books. Not those dratted handcomputers, with fifty books on one disk. How do you curl up with a computer? Scripted black letters were painted across the creamy white pages. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of ink and time. "What are you doing?"
She opened her eyes and replaced the book. "I miss books."
"You don't have books in Elfland? What do you have? Scrolls?"
"Not exactly...but...something like that." Setsuna moved to the window and leaned out, looking over the fields. "It's beautiful here."
"No green fields in...."
"Morgan. Please stop referring to Elfland, fairyland, or any other magical place. I'm not what you think. And no, there are not green fields. Just mist. Lots and lots of mist. And doors."
"Doors? What's so interesting about doors?"
"Nothing. It's what's beyond them."
"Oh," was all Morgan could say. She settled herself down onto the footstool by Setsuna's bed. "You don't know what's going on, do you?"
Setsuna's head snapped around. "What makes you say that?"
"You act like you've never seen the world before."
"Father says this is a lesson of some sort for me."
"What kind of lesson?"
Setsuna shrugged. "He said I have to tell him."
"Oh. One of those," her eyes rolled. "I get those sometimes. You'll probably go to the tutors with me. You can learn...Latin. Well...since you're supposed to be from Rome, you probably already speak it...."
"And Greek, and several others...some you may never have heard of. Japanese, for instance."
"Ja-pan-ese." Morgan tasted the word. "No...Setsuna...could you teach it to me?" she giggled, covering her mouth with her hands. "Setsuna! If we both knew Japanese...then no one else would know what we were saying! That could be useful...." Setsuna flopped down in a rocking chair beside the room's desk.
"Imagine Mark when we start talking in some language he doesn't know!"
Several hours later, a servant had to come up ready to pry the two girls away from Setsuna's room for dinner. To his surprise, he found them dressed in gorgeous gowns, both hidden in Setsuna's clothing chest. Morgan in ocean blue, Setsuna in shimmering red. Setsuna had bound Morgan's hair up in twin pigtails, telling her it made her look like a princess of the moon. Morgan had giggled and insisted that the Goddess lived in the moon, and that she would most likely not wear what Setsuna was calling 'odango.'
"Let me do your hair!" Morgan had begged.
"No! I love my odango just how it is!"
"Dumpling...." Morgan said thoughtfully. "Hey! I am not a dumpling head!" Setsuna had laughed at that, somewhat knowingly.
"Come on. We'll be late."