title: Elusive Thoughts | Chapter 10
rating: PG
author: Mir
email: incandescence@juno.com
website: http://cathedraldragon.tripod.com/sm/
((completely revised - send in your fics!))

disclaimer: Sailor Moon, et al. belongs to Naoko Takeuchi,
etc., etc., and so on and so forth ^_^. The other characters
belong to me...for whatever that's worth. I have no money
to speak of, so suing me will not make you rich. Yes, and
this story was inspired by Melanie Rawn's *Dragon Prince*.
Kudos to her, it's an excellent novel.

AN: It's taken me forever, hasn't it? I don't want to think
about how many promises I've broken (because I promised
to get this out by last Friday). Anyhow, here it is - better
late than never, right? Please enjoy. Dare I say that some
of the middle bits are a bit bumpy? Oh well, that's what I
get for trying to make deadlines (even if I missed it *g*). But
don't worry, I'll smooth everything out in the revision,
whenever that happens ^_^. Happy reading! - and stay
tuned for the sequel.

*Chapter 10*

The music floated lightly across the vast tented expanse as if each
note were born upon tiny silken wings of air. Forgetting her bulging
stomach, Serena grinned contentedly as she allowed Darien to lead her
out onto the area reserved for dancing. Fingers entwined with his, she
fell into step beside him, relaxing as his arm encircled her waist. "If this
is the best you can do then I might as well collect my prize and leave,"
she whispered in jest, giving his left shoulder a light smack for emphasis.

Darien winced in pain, grimacing briefly. "Gently, gently, remember
the the race..." But then his arm tightened around Serena, and he snorted,
pressing her against his chest. "Don't worry, sweetheart, you haven't even
seen the half of it yet." They floated effortlessly across the floor, oblivious
to the multitude of eyes that tracked their progress.

Ariane leaned back in her chair and sighed in smug satisfaction.
'They're finally together' she thought to herself as she folded her hands
in her lap. She risked a glance at the High Prince's table and was
surprised to see Raonus engaged in quiet conversation with a man to his
right. 'I would have thought he'd be seething by now, the way Darien
completely eclipsed him' But she shrugged and aligned her attention back
upon her dazzling pair, ignorant of the bet that had been cast by the
dancing lovebirds.

"My Lady, don't turn around - just listen." The low voice at her
shoulder startled Ariane, and she could barely restrain herself from
twisting around in her chair to glare at the speaker. The voice was
vaguely familiar, a voice accustomed to both giving and receiving orders...
where had she heard it before?

"It is of the utmost importance that Darien hear what I'm about to
tell you, but I can't very well go and pull him off of the dance floor, so
I need you to warn him that his life may be in danger. I've been standing
at the door, and there's a good dozen men in dark Sheridian garb lurking
in the shadows outside." The voice paused to make sure she understood.
"I'm not usually one to point fingers, but I know for sure that those
mercenaries aren't here just to listen to the music. No, they're going to
crash the party...and I'd pay anything to know who invited them."

Ariane jumped as a hand reached over her shoulder and lifted her
desert plate from the table. "Are you finished with your diner, Lady
Araine?" The same voice inquired, this time loud enough for the entire
table to hear. "I do hope that it was entirely to your liking."

And the Lady of the Moonlight, contrary to the speakers orders,
looked over her shoulder - and found herself nose to nose with none
other than Andrew. The words 'I should have known' came instantly to
mind, but she bit back any sort of contrary remark, focusing instead on
the danger the young man had warned her of. "I couldn't have asked for
better. Be sure to let Prince Helder know that his Kersian tubers were

Andrew nodded. "I'll certainly let him know, m'Lady." He
hesitated for a moment, as if unsure of what to do with the plate, then
set off diligently in the direction of the small cooking tent connected to
the far end of the large dining one. If some guests regarded him with
puzzled gazes, he held his chin higher and ignored their stares. He had
warned Ariane, now if only he could find some way to pry Darien
away from Serena....

And the couple, the couple that no one could keep their eyes off
of, drifted across the dance floor, one step leading to the next, and to the
next and to the next. The minutes flew past in rapid secession, and neither
Darien nor Serena took the slightest notice. One had her eyes closed,
her head resting against a warm chest gently rising and falling. The other
had his arms wrapped gently around the woman of his dreams, one hand
caressing her back, the other her shoulders.

- - - - - - - - - -

Invisible to all but the keenest observer, a lithe shadow stalked the
external perimeter of the glowing tent. His footsteps fell as light as the
rolling mist, and his calloused hand was steady as it grasped the edge of
the white tent flap. On his shoulder was a red badge, a solid field with a
serpent rampant. The edge was bordered with a twist of gold and black,
a mark of the order to which he belonged.

But even his stealthy progress did not pass completely unnoticed.
Two pairs of eyes tracked his silhouetted movements, one seated at the
Desert tables, one standing guard by the door. The man moved as if to
duck underneath the lifted flap, but then, in one liquid motion, let the canvas
fall and withdrew back into the darkness. All was quiet; not a single blade
of grass had been disturbed.

If one had looked closely, he might have noticed the muted glow
of heavily shaded lanterns. He might have seen the faint shadows of
black cloaks against the starry backdrop. He might have smelt the
lingering horsy odor of men who had spent too many hours in the saddle.
But no one, save for two, cared.

- - - - - - - - - -

Andrew's brow furrowed in worry, and he wiped sweaty hands
on the legs of his pants. He licked dry lips in nervous anticipation, one
hand creeping downward to the hilt of his sword. It had been a gift
from the Desert monarchs, a wedding gift when he'd exchanged vows
with their lovely daughter. Every part of him ached in her absence,
every moment worse than the one before. 'I will avenge her death; the
Goddess is just and won't let such grievous an act go unpunished'

He rocked back and forth on his heels, suppressing an urge to
hum softly under his breath. It was waiting that was terrible, the waiting
for the inevitable. And then, as events often do, the false serenity of
progressing nightfall vanished into troubled chaos, a fleeting memory
evaporated on the wings of dawn.

"Stop!" The husky bellow cut through the floating music, cut
through the low murmur of idle conversation. The speaker square
himself against the white canvas backdrop, hands on hips and hat tilted
jauntily to the side. "The next one to speak gets a taste of my sword."
And from his hip he made a great show of unsheathing the long blade.

If people hadn't been paying attention before, they certainly were
now. The music died on the musicians' bow, and every few tables a
ceramic teacup crashed unceremoniously upon the silken floor. Ariane
clenched her teeth together, hands pressed firmly against the tablecloth,
temper dangerously rising.

"I ask you, what do you want?" The new speaker rose from his
chair in the center of the room, purple robes falling behind him. The
High Prince held a half-depleted wineglass in one hand, and he raised it
to the intruder, as if he'd forgotten it still rested between his fingertips.

"We want what we've been promised," the black-cloaked man
replied. He stuck the tip of his sword into the hard earth, the hilt resting
easily beneath his hand. "You know us, good Sir, we do our business,
nothing more, nothing less.

"And what business, exactly, do you have tonight?" The guests'
attention shifted to the third speaker - a defiant Darien standing in the
middle of the dance floor with Serena unashamedly by his side. The
other couples had begun to creep back toward the tables, as if wanting
desperately to have something nearby to duck underneath if the scene
deteriorated further.

"Ah, the young Princeling just a cocky as ever." A smile began
to spread across the intruder's face, a quiet dangerous sort, and Ariane
flinched, wondering if her godson was in over his head. 'Why couldn't
he have just keep his mouth shut for once?'

But before either Darien or Raonus could respond, a sharp voice
exclaimed from the entrance, "Darien, it's Sheridia. They're surrounding
the tent!"

"Andrew?" Darien's hand reached for his sword - left resting
within the trunk by his bedside - and he cursed under his breath,
reaching instead for the beltknife at his waist. His fingers closed tightly
around the hilt while his eyes mapped out the most direct route to the
entrance. But before he could act in response to the warning, an
unexpected tug on his arm sent him tumbling to the ground. "What the - "

The anguished scream from the musicians' platform told him all,
and he didn't have to turn around to know that a Sheridian glass knife
had found its way into the flesh of an innocent bystander. He hesitated,
torn between covering Serena's body with his and standing to confront
the attackers head on, but before he could decide on a course of action
the High Prince once again stepped forward.

"Enough of this nonsense!" He exclaimed, unsheathing the
sword (that he'd not hesitated to wear to an occasion where being
armed was the apex of indecorous behavior. "You've disrupted my
dinner, injured one of my finest musicians, and you prance about as
if you own this place. I demand to know why you have the audacity
to intrude upon this celebration!"

If the guests had expected the leader of the Sheridians to
cringe at the High Prince's words, they would have been sorely
disappointed, for he neither flinched nor frowned - but rather,
continued to hold an expression that wavered somewhere between
boredom and impatience. "Empty words, your Highness, will get
you nowhere tonight." He squared his shoulders to Raonus, but
his eyes kept slipped toward the dance floor, watching closely as
Darien helped Serena to her feet.

Only a handful of the guests noticed that his left hand had slid
behind his back, and fewer still understood that the two taps of his
palm against his hip were a signal to his men. Darien was one - and,
not giving her time to protest, he shoved Serena roughly into Ariane's
lap. It only took him a moment to snatch the sword from the nervous
hands of one of the guards, and before Serena had time to blink, he
was by Andrew's side, blade held before him in warning to the Sheridians
outside the tent. "Come one step closer, and I'll stick this in your gut,"
he growled.

"Didn't your parents teach you that it's impolite to use false
threats?" The Sheridian leader replied from the center of the tent. He
chuckled lightly, a casual smile plastered across his face. "Oh, right,
how improper of me to forget. They've been dead for years, haven't

Cursing under his breath, Darien glared back toward the other
man out of the corner of his eye. 'How could I have forgotten about
him? Am I that dumb that I'd leave Serena with the enemy?' Not taking
his eyes off of the mercenaries, he clenched his teeth together, hands
trembling ever so slightly. "You've no right to insult my parents. It's
not their fault that they -"

"Come, come, can't we all deal with this without spilling blood
tonight?" The High Prince interjected. He was remarkably calm - not a
bead of sweat moistened his brow, nor a single tremor seized his voice.
"This is supposed to be a celebration, not a battle."

As all eyes once again turned to Raonus, the Sheridians used the
moment of distraction to shove their way into the tent. Three, no, four
lithe shadows pushed past Darien, the last drawing his sword when he
was almost on top of the prince. The others pressed forward against the
now frantic crowd, brandishing their weapons at anyone who tried to
escape out into the night.

One look into the determined eyes of his attacker, one examination
of the ritual scars that crisscrossed his cheeks, was all that Darien needed
to banish any idea of stopping the flow events before steel clashed against
steel, and he grunted as he threw up his blade to protect himself. "Tell me
who you've been sent to kill."

The Sheridian said nothing, but Darien hadn't expected him to
reply. He ducked, feeling the movement of air from the other's sweep
above his head, and began to move backward toward the center of the
tent. Frantic shouts echoed in his ears, but he could barely distinguish
voices above the bedlam of crashing glasses and breaking chairs.

"Get off of me, you damn bastard!" It was a voice he couldn't
miss, a shriek that fell upon his ears as lightning is drawn to the tallest
tree. One swipe of his sword and his attacker reeled backward clutching
his stomach, while Darien scrambled over the maze of destruction to find

But he'd forgotten her performance at his coronation and at the
races - for by the time he found her huddled underneath a table the
Sheridian had already been disposed of. One glance at the corpse's
features, frozen in intense agony, banished any desire to know what
Serena had done to him, and Darien kicked the body with his boot,
wanting to get it as far away from him as possible.

"Are you alright? He didn't hurt you, did he?" He asked, trying to
make himself heard over the racket, but she shied away from his touch,
crawling on hands and knees toward the opposite end of the table.
Unsure of whether to follow her or continue to deal with the life beyond
the edges of the tablecloth, Darien hesitated. It wouldn't have made any
difference, for his decision was made for him.

The sound of heavy boots clomping near his head caught his
attention, and the voice that followed cut through his concern for Serena.
"He's under one of the tables. I know he's here somewhere!"

So they were after him, were they…Even as the conclusion flashed
though his mind, his words from the other night returned as well. 'I'm a
prince before a man…' He shook his head in frustration; of course his
words would come back to haunt him. And so he slid forth in one fluid
motion, pressing to his feet before he'd been spotted. "I wouldn't have
thought you'd sunk low enough as to hire others to do your dirty work,

The High Prince pivoted sharply, letting the wounded Sheridian
he'd been supporting collapse to the ground. He sneered, mouth twisted
into an oddly satisfied grin. "Good. I was wondering where you'd run
off to. You wouldn't have wanted to miss the grand finale, would you?"
He cleared his throat noisily, eyes locked with Darien's. "Why Darien,
my prince? There you are!"

The shout caught him completely off guard, and the eerie quiet that
settled over the tent thereafter dampened his senses, slowed his reactions.
He didn't even see the Sheridian captain until he was inches from his side,
dagger aimed at his heart. He squeezed his eyes shut, begging Serena to
forgive him if he survived - but the expected blow never came.

"Darien?" A bundle of dirty silk and streaming hair flew toward
him as if propelled by some supernatural force. It stepped over the
fallen Sheridian as if he didn't exist, and clutched the prince's arms like
a set of iron manacles.

The guests, those who hadn't fled from the scene, gawked in awe at
the light that had emanated from the girl, the prince's guardian angel of sorts.
Bless the Goddess, the captain never knew what hit him. "Serena?" Darien
held her as tightly as she clung to him, his eyes scanning for signs of injury
but finding none. "I, I thought…thought I'd never see you again…"

- - - - - - - - - -

The following morning, the sun slowing creeping up over the tired
horizon - two riders sat one behind the other upon a gray stallion by the
name of Daffyd. In spirit with the concept of pathetic fallacy, the air was
light and the sky clear, the epitome of the perfect dawn.

They neared a stretch of open grassland, and the horse stopped to
allow his riders to dismount. Then they walked, hand in hand, gentle
laughter drifting upwards on the morning breeze, a large gray shadow
following at a respectful distance behind.

"What do you think will happen?" Serena asked, shaking her head
slightly and sighing. She already knew the response.

"To Raonus? Nothing…not yet anyway. It was perfect, beautifully
planned. He won either way." Darien paused in his stride, closing his eyes
and inhaling deeply. The lingering remnants of dew clung to the tall grasses,
leaving moist streaks across his pant legs as he walked. "If I died he could
have claimed regency over the Desert until a suitable heir could be found.
If I didn't die he would have the other princes so frightened and suspicious
of each other that they'd jump at the slightest accusation of wrong."

He reached down to snag a handful of grasses, and then let them
fall to the ground while he dried damp fingers on the front of his shirt.
"Do you think they would've believed me if I'd told them that their illustrious
High Prince was the one behind the attack? Not after he'd told them that
he hadn't the vaguest idea who had organized the intrusion."

She placed a hand on his chest, jaw set in solemn honesty but eyes
dancing. "You underestimate yourself. If you talk I'm sure that at least
some will listen."

"Listening's one thing…but believing's another," he replied quietly.
"They'll believe whatever they want to hear." He shrugged, wrapping his
arms around Serena and falling sideways into the soft grass. "But sooner
or later they'll want to hear what we have to say, want to hear it so badly
that they'll do anything to wrench it out of us."

She squirmed in his embrace, managing to free her arms so that she
could play with his hair. "And when will that be?" She asked, teasing his

"Someday, someday soon," was the reply, and anything that would
have followed was smothered by a barrage of well-placed kisses.

*end of Chapter 10*

- - - - - - - - - -

Wow! I can't believe it...It's been four months, but I've finally finished!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who's ever written me
about any of my stories. I want to apologize to all of you who've been
waiting for the next chapter of "Driftwood." That's next on my list of
things to do, I promise! Keep your eyes open for revisions of "Elusive
Thoughts" (I've got some new scenes that I'm going to add in), and
some time in the future there's going to be a sequel as well - I've already
got the plot sort-of planned out...but "Driftwood" first, as promised ^_^.
Email, email, email...tell me what you think!

- Mir 03.20.01

P.S. -

I'm hosting a fanfiction writing contest! It will be for Darien/Serena
(Usagi/Mamoru) stories of any genre. The grand prize will be that I'll
design a website for you (it doesn't necessarily have to be sailor moon).
Send all submissions to incandescence@juno.com before June 1, 2001.
Also, tell your friends about the competition and tell them to mention
your name when they submit their fanfic. There will be a second prize
for whomever spreads the word to the most people! There's no limit
on submissions either, but I'd appreciate it if you didn't send in every fic
you've ever written (pick your favorites). So...calling all sailor moon
authors ^_^. Oh, and if have any ideas for runners-up prizes let me
know, and maybe I'll give them out. Please use the following format:

Name: Your name or pen name
Email: Please provide a valid email address
Friend: If someone told you about the contest please give their name/email
Story Title: Yes, this is important
Story Rating: G, PG, PG-13, R
Teaser: Optional, but it would be greatly appreciated
Hosting Site: If your story is already posted on a site (like ASMR,
SpringLibrary, etc.) please provide the web address

Please attach your story to the email as a .txt, .html, or.zip file

((and visit my website - http://cathedraldragon.tripod.com/sm)) *g*