Disclaimer: Sailor Moon does not belong to me. It belongs to Naoko
Takeuchi and a great many wonderful people who, if they were so
inclined, could make things very unpleasant for me. (However, they
are all MUCH too generous and benevolent to do any such thing.) This
is a work of fiction and while the original idea does not belong to
me, this story does. Remember that, because if you don't, I'm
sending the Senshi after you . . . .

Hi, minna! The idea for this came to me a long time ago in a dream.
However, I just recently decided to write this story, since I became
rather inspired by Crystal Heart's "Masquerade". This has *nothing*
to do with any of my other 'fics. (Part One of the Prequel to "Past
Loves" *will* be out hopefully sometime soon. I'll be continuing "In
Another Life: The Legend's Beginning" and am hoping to get started on
a couple more of my 'fics. Thank you for your patience.) This story
is set in an alternate universe, if it is not immediately apparent.
Oh yes, please forgive me my thees and thous.

This is for all of my dearest friends. Minna, you know who you are.
And to Jay-chan, the best Oneechan anyone could ask for, for her
*extraordinary* patience in waiting for her birthday 'fic, which I am
STILL working on. ^^;;;

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

~How many lives can one person live? In the case of some . . . the
number is infinite.~


Fairy tales? Why of course they're real! Don't be silly, dear.
They exist right there. Where? In your heart of course. Just
because you can't see them doesn't mean that they're not true. Every
story is as true as you want it to be . . . Hmmm? You want to hear
a *true* fairy tale? All right then, this is a tale of a princess
and her prince . . . No, you haven't heard this one before, I assure
you. It's brand new, right off the top of my head. How can it be
true then? Because it is . . . it is . . . It's true for me and it
can be true for you too . . . if you let it. Now settle back and
don't interrupt. This is a long one . . .

This is a tale of a princess and her prince, and all of their friends
too . . . And of the evil that descended upon their kingdoms and
threatened their happiness . . . And of course, of the journeys that
they had to make and the quests they had to go through to regain that
happiness . . .


Castles and Kingdoms

by Fushigi Kismet


~Chapter One~
Introductions



"What art thou waiting for?! Come over here!" a voice shouted,
laughingly.
Holding in her own laughter, Lady Immara galloped her horse over,
amidst a flurry of green skirts. "Honestly, Your Highness, thou art
so impatient! I'd think that a princess of Reyre would have more
patience." The words were chiding, but her green eyes sparkled with
laughter and good humor.
The princess gazed back at her fellow noblewoman and second
cousin, her eyes equally as bright and her face flushed, but with
excitement, not shame. "Immie, thou doth get worse every day! Thou
art beginning to sound like Monica!"
"Ah, if thou wast anyone else, I would take great offense at that.
However, thou *art* my cousin and my princess. Family is important
to me, after all." He voice was soft as she said the last.
The princess instantly sobered, all trace of laughter leaving her
eyes. "I didn't mean to upset thee, dear. Please don't be sad. I
*am* thy family now, remember?"
Immara looked up and wiped a few stray tears from her eyes. "Thou
art a dear friend and the closest that I'll ever get to a true
sister. Thank thee, Serenity."
Princess Serenity brushed her thanks aside. "Forget it. We're
*family*, Immara. And don't thou forget that."
Immara smiled. She smiled more when Serenity proclaimed, "Enough
riding for the day! I've become bored. 'Tis time to head back to
the castle, is it not?"
"Yes, it seems so. However, I sense it is not boredom that calls
thee home, dearest. Is it not the memory of the sweet chimes of
dinner bell that harkens thee in haste to return?"
Serenity frowned a little at her friend. "Now, don't go saying
that *I* cannot skip a meal-ah, and easily too-from time to time.
Thou makest me out to be some manner of gluttonous beast! Thy
remarks are quite cruel."
"'Tis not to be cruel, darling. 'Tis only . . . I've seen thee
eat."
"Ah!" Serenity cried sharply. "Thou hath hurt me to the quick. I
shan't forgive you for that one . . . unless you race me to the
forest gate!" She cried the last aloud as she dug her heels a little
into her horse, and galloped off down the trail.
"Serenity! Wait up! Thy races art never fair! Thou always gives
thyself a head start! What would thy mother say?! Thou wilt hurt
thyself, Serenity!" Immara exclaimed, riding quickly after her.
Serenity laughed. "Thou soundst *just* like Monica!"
Startled, she fumbled with the reigns and the horse faltered
uncertainly in it's stride, stopping, as his rider yelled, wisps of
auburn hair flying about her face, "I do NOT! Now, look . . . I've
fallen behind! 'Twas a low blow, Princess."
The Princess of Reyre smiled back, amused. "No, silly . . . 'twas
quick thinking! Now . . . thou wilt just have to catch up!"

* * *

The two women raced past a band of weary men and horses at the
forest gate, nearly colliding with the group of five men in front,
but managing to direct her horse aside just in time. "Sorry!"
Serenity cried, galloping past, her loose golden hair cascading
behind her in a shower of sun-glinted gold.
"Pardon!" Immara yelled, laughing, red-brown hair bouncing about
her shoulders. "Princess! Wait up!"
"Jadyrn," Endymion said quietly, his eyes on Serenity's slender
figure riding off on her horse.
"Yes?" his aide-de-camp, a lesser lord posing as his "Guardian,"
asked.
"That girl . . . I wish to make her acquaintance."
"As thou wishes, Sire." The man turned his gaze to look after the
girl, a studied expression on his face beneath the blonde hair, and
solemnity in his blue eyes.

* * *

"I won!" Serenity declared, as she and Immara reined in their
horses in the palace courtyard in front of the stables. She
dismounted and handed her horse over to a stable boy.
"What dost thou mean?" Immara protested, dismounting and handing
her horse to another stable boy. "I got here first!"
"Ah-ah-ah," Serenity wagged her finger. "The race was to the
forest gate and I won."
"Only because there were all of those men there and I couldn't
maneuver!"
"Excuses, excuses. I'll race thee to dinner!" The princess
gathered up her skirts and ran off towards the dining hall.
"Serenity!" Immara groaned, then followed her errant princess.
"Wait 'til I catch thee!"

* * *

The night was dark as the slow moving band of men reached the same
castle that the princess and her cousin had reached hours ago.
Just my luck one of the horses had to throw a shoe, Endymion
thought, disgruntled.
He dismounted swiftly, tossing the mount's reins to Jadyrn
who caught them expertly and flashed his prince a rare smile.
"Tired, my Liege?"
"Can you doubt it? Two weeks of riding . . . Who wouldn't be?"
"Indeed." Jadyrn hid another smile as he tended to the horse,
stroking his long dark nose. "There, there, Darius. Thou shalt be
in a nice stall with some good hay and oats to bide thee by soon. If
thou art a good horse, mayhap, I shalt bring thee a carrot later."
The horse behind him whinnied in annoyance. Jadyrn turned,
looking at the horse with an actual boyish smile and Endymion could
almost think of Jadyrn as being his own age instead of seven years
his senior. "No, I did not forget thee, Ravius. I shalt bring thee
a carrot as well."
The bay horse snorted and shook his head up and down vigorously,
causing Endymion to smile. "Thou hast such a way with animals,
Jadyrn. 'Tis a wonder thou art not Master of the Hunt."
Jadyrn's eyes narrowed and he turned away. "'Twas not as though
the position was not offered me by thy late father. I refused, of
course. My duty is to guard thee and the animals can get along very
well without me." The words "as thou cannot" were left unsaid.
Instead, Endymion answered with a mild, "Indeed," to which Jadyrn
made no reply, merely leading the two horses away.
Endymion sighed in frustration as he watched his Guardian Lord go.
"What's the matter with him?!"
Nephrayn appeared behind him, clapping his prince lightly on his
armored shoulder. "Seven years with him and thou still canst not
understand the man, eh, Prince?"
Endymion turned with a grimace. "Nay, not a bit. And thou? Dost
thou understand him better?"
Nephrayn shook his head reluctantly. "I fought in the wars with
him. Two years together. We slept in the same tent, ate the same
bread, fought the same battle, watching each other's backs as we
went. The ground was hard, the food was hard, and the fighting was
hard . . . and still, I know no more about him than thee."
"Two years?" Endymion murmured. "Did the war change him much?"
Here, Nephrayn frowned. "Hardly. He is the same hard,
emotionless self that he ever was. If he has ever been different,
then it was before I knew him."
"Well, then we shall never know." Endymion threw his hands into
the air.
"Not so," Nephrayn interjected, wagging a finger at his prince.
"Kunzyn knew him as a child. They lived in the same village when
they were but lads. Kunzyn, of course, was called away to the wars
two years before Jadyrn, so there are two years unaccounted for, but
he, if anyone, will know the story."
Endymion rolled his eyes. "I suppose that he will direct us to
Zoyzer for the answers?"
"Nay. Zoyzer knew only Kunzyn before we joined your service,
Sire."
"How dost thou KNOW all this?!" Endymion demanded.
Nephrayn gestured vaguely. "The stars know everything."
"And thou art an incurable gossip."
"Well, that too . . ."
Endymion looked exasperatedly at his Guardian Lord and gestured.
"Hurry, or we'll be late!"
"Why hurry?" Nephrayn asked innocently. "We should enjoy the
night air. We've already missed dinner."
"And how dost thou know *that*?!" Endymion asked, pausing in his
stride to glance back at the slightly taller man.
"As I said before, the stars know all . . . and the torches for
the dining hall seem to have been recently lighted and extinguished."
Endymion groaned, hearing his stomach growl in protest.

* * *
The next morning, after an early breakfast, skipping the main meal
with everyone . . .
* * *

The two of them casually strolled down the hallway, light
filtering through the elaborate scaffolding covering the roof and
making strange patterns on the tiled floor. Serenity's attention was
captured by the light, and as she walked, she gazed absorbedly at the
floor.
After they had walked in silence for a time, she spoke up, still
watching the floor (and incidentally, her steps). "Immara, I do not
see why we must meet with these strangers."
"Thou knowst perfectly well that it is required that we meet with
them . . . it *is* proper etiquette . . ."
Serenity sighed. "If thou doth say so. Still, I have ne'er heard
of them before."
Immara's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Thou must have . . .
Dalayne is a center of much commerce. Its ports art well visited by
traders. The kingdom itself is quite wealthy and of good standing
and the Prince's reputation is not so little that thou wouldst not
have heard of him. Think hard, Serenity. Hast thou not met him
before now?"
Serenity considered for a moment, then shook her head decidedly.
"Nay, Immie, not a wit, not a word."
"Surely he brought something to thy Royal Nameday celebration . .
. ?"
"I was but one year old. How am I to recall?! Besides, he would
not have been of such a great age himself at the time. Mayhap the
Kingdom of Dalayne neglected to send a messenger and gift?" the
Princess suggested.
"What dost thou say? Not send a messenger or gift? That would be
adding insult to injury . . . Dalayne would not chance it. Kingdoms
have gone to war for less."
"Over a Nameday present?" Serenity asked, incredulously. "Thou
canst not be serious."
"Aye, indeed I am. No kingdom would accept such a slight . . .
though, mayhap, Their Highnesses overlooked the transgression."
Immara tapped her lips with her finger before her eyes lighted up and
she turned to the Princess excitedly. "Perhaps the party from
Dalayne has come to deliver thy present now! Thy sixteenth Nameday
is in a bare fortnight. The gifts shall be revealed then . . . They
must have realized the error of their ways and brought their offering
just in time for the unveiling . . ."
"Thou art *definitely* letting thy imagination run away with
thee."
Immara voiced a confused, "Huh?" just as Serenity swept past her.
"It is simply some matter that Dalayne wishes to resolve with my
father. Nothing more."
"Hmmph!" Immara pouted. "Princess, thou art no fun today!"
"I don't want to be fun. I don't want to think about the
strangers. Thinking about all of this nonsense makes my head hurt.
All I want to do is saddle up the horses and go for a nice ride in
the country."
"Princess, thou canst not simply ignore politics forever. Or thy
duties, for that matter. Thou art the Princess of a vast kingdom.
Thy people wilt depend on thee for guidance someday."
"Someday," the Princess sighed. Her expression brightened. "But
not today!"
The brunette noblewoman could not keep from laughing. "What a
silly girl thou art!"
She bowed swiftly, her eyes shimmering with girlish delight.
"Well, thou *didst* say that thou did find my company dull to-day, so
I shall lighten things up for thee. Art thou up for a ride?"
"Most certainly, Your Highness." A devilish expression appeared
on Immara's face. "I'll race thee to the horses!" She took off.
Serenity stared after her friend, displeasure written all over her
face. "How odd. She seems to be taking after me . . . IMMIE!!!!
WAIT!!!!!"

* * *

Serenity and Immara rode along the paths that they had worn down
over the past several years. Beautiful green countryside surrounded
them on all sides, gurgling streams, sunny green woods. Serenity
shut her eyes and tilted her face up to the bright sunshine which
shone down on her, strands of her hair shining like golden rivers.
"Thou shalt not have this for long." Immara's expression grew
bleak.
"Whyever not?" Serenity asked innocently, opening her eyes.
"One day soon, thy father shalt arrange a betrothal for thee and
marry thee off."
The young princess made a face. "How dreadful! Marry a man that
I do not know? Never! I refuse!"
"Thou canst not *refuse.* Thou art a princess . . . and
princesses marry."
"But must it be for convenience alone? For the alliances forged
between two nations? Or can it be for love?" Serenity asked
wistfully.
"Thou knows the answer to that as well as I. No marriages for
women of our rank arise from love. Politics rule our lives. 'Tis a
sad fact, but a true one."
"But I have ne'er thought of marrying a man I do not love . . .
let alone marrying at all!"
Immara was a bit surprised by this. Surely the princess had
considered the future . . . "Hast thou never thought of marriage?"
"Scarcely."
That was not entirely true. She had heard of her parents speaking
of it three nights before . . .

She had been walking down the hallway when she had passed the
slightly open door to her father's study. Overhearing voices, she
had stopped to investigate, peeking through the door. Her mother and
father were arguing.
"Lucent," her mother exclaimed, "I do not see why this is
necessary. She's just a child!"
"Girls younger than she are married! Sere is old enough to wed,
Selenity. Thou knows that as well as I."
"But, how can we force her into this marriage? Why can't we just
wait and let her meet someone . . . fall in love?"
"Marriage is not about love. It is about politics. Thou didst
not love me when thou married me and thou dost not love me now."
"It is true." Selenity's voice was high and quiet.
"That is not to say that I am not proud of having such a beautiful
and accomplished wife . . . Selenity. But . . . thou dost not love
me."
"But, I love my daughter!"
"She is our daughter and I decide what's best for her."
"Why thou? Why not me? I'm her mother!"
"And I'm her father! Selenity . . . please, thou knowst what lies
ahead. I just . . . I just want Sere to be protected. I just want
her to stay out of danger. She needs someone there to take care of
her."
"She can take care of herself! Why, there's not a man in the
kingdom that can outride her."
"Riding's not good enough. She can't fight, and fighting's what's
needed. I only want the best for her."
Selenity turned away. "Why? Why can't thou just leave her be?
She's happy! What more is there to want for her? What more can we
do? Why can't she stay my little girl forever? Why can't she stay
safe here?"
"Because she can't, Selenity. Because she can't."
Serenity had left then, as her mother sobbed and her father
watched impassively.

"Marriage," Serenity declared, "is a terrible institution."
Immara simply shook her head, smiling. "Not so terrible,
Serenity. One day . . . thou shalt see the truth of the matter."
Serenity rolled her eyes. "Never, Immie," she vowed. "The day I
decide to marry is the day I learn to fly!"
"Love oft times makes people feel like they have been
indulging in flight."
Serenity shot Immara a *look*. "And how wouldst *thou* know?"
Immara shut her mouth abruptly and blushed, eliciting a giggle
from her princess. She sent her horse racing with a touch of the
reins and a gentle kick. "Not one word to you, Your Highness. Not
one word."
"Come now, Immara, tell me!" Serenity cried, urging her own steed forward.
They rode, friendly banter being tossed about between them, until
Serenity finally caught up and gave in to her friend's obstinance.

* * *

Serenity arrived home. Immara was called off to other duties so
the princess decided to visit her gardens. While crossing a
courtyard, she stopped short. Who is that?
The armored man leaned casually against the wall, twirling a dark
red rose in his fingers.
"I am Crown Prince Endymion of Dalayne."
Serenity stared bemused for a moment that he had answered her
unasked question, then curtsied elegantly and said with a charmingly
enchanting smile, "I remember thee! I passed thee on my ride last
night. I am terribly sorry about that. I was in quite a hurry and
did not see thee and thy party."
"'Tis quite all right." Endymion straightened and bowed swiftly,
presenting the rose to Serenity.
She took it with another smile. "Thou art quite gallant, Lord
Prince."
"How else should one act in the presence of a lady?"
"Oh! Where have my manners flown to? I have not introduced
myself. I am Crown Princess Serenity of Reyre."
He caught her hand and brushed his lips across it. "I know."
His intense dark blue eyes met her amused bright blue ones, as she
said, pulling away her hand, "Doth thee now?"
"I do."
"Then I shalt see thee tonight at the ball, Lord Prince of
Dalayne."
"Even so, Lady Princess of Reyre. Do save me a dance, my lady."
He bowed and bent over her hand again.
"Mayhap, I will. Mayhap, I won't. We shall see."
"That we shall." Once more he kissed her hand, then let it go,
pressing the rose into it.
"Mayhap . . . one," she whispered, hastening away.
Endymion allowed a brief smile to cross his face, his dark blue
eyes sparkling with barely contained amusement. Quite timid, art
thou? Well . . . one is enough for now, Princess. We shall proceed
slowly for now. And then, finally, I shall be able to profess this
love that I have for thee . . . have always had for thee . . . from
the first time I set eyes on thee . . . so long ago. Dost thou
remember me, Princess? Or am I but a dream to thee, a half forgotten
dream lingering at the edges of thy sleep? Pray . . . I am more than
that, Princess. My dearest, most beautiful, Serenity. Shall I call
thee that once more? The name that has not passed from mine lips for
a decade? Serenity . . .
His midnight blue eyes stared after her, filled with an aching
longing to run up to her and hold her fast to him, never letting go.
Serenity . . .

To be continued . . .

Short, I know, but the best I could do without giving away too much
plot. Trust me . . . this is *not* your ordinary love story. At
least, I hope not. ^_^