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 . . . .


Castles and Kingdoms

by Fushigi Kismet


Chapter Five
~Adversity Shared~



"When thou didst leave . . . I couldst not but feel that something was
amiss. I made as though to follow thee but Aros stayed me . . ." Marayr
looked thoughtfully over at Monica. "He does know what he is about."
Zoyzer nodded. "So I have seen."
Monica sniffed contemptuously and would meet neither of their eyes.
They spared a moment to look at her curiously before Marayr continued.
"Aros had sensed that trouble wast brewing and told me to hurry to their
lodgings and bring the rest of Endymion's retinue, rounding up as many of the
men as I could on the way. As I made my way to the exit I managed to gather
three, but we were pressed for time and made our way out of the dance.
Something ominous pervaded the air and I feared for our safety."
She shook her head against remembered terror and continued. "We quickly
rounded up the rest of the remaining men. They numbered twelve altogether.
While we were returning to the ballroom, Aros met us with the Lady Marayr and
informed us that invaders from Estvia had come over the far wall and that the
king and queen were dead. Caution was needed, he informed us. The men
continued on to see what could be done about the hostages after agreeing on a
place to meet . . . this shelter, which Monica suggested. Monica was to lead
us to it, and, once ascertaining its position, he was to return to meet with
the men and provide them with what assistance he could and lead them and any
survivors back here. As we were making our way through one of the gardens,
the approach of several of the invaders forced us into hiding, whereupon we
discovered thou. We brought thou to this shelter and Aros has gone to meet
with Endymion's retinue."
He caught her hand up in his. "Truly, I owe thee, Monica, and Aros a debt
too great to ever be repaid."
Her cheeks flushed pink and she smiled soothingly at him. "'Twas
something anyone would do. Thou didst almost give thy life in defense of us.
'Tis I should be thanking you."
He wanted to pull her closer to him so that he could drink in the richness
of her eyes, could test the softness of her lips, but with the presence of
Monica and in his present state that was an impossibility. Instead, he
settled for saying, "The beauty of thy eyes art thanks enough for me."
Any reply she might have made to that remark was forever lost as the sound
of sobbing and cries of pain rent the air.
Monica reported from where she sat near the door, "It seems as though
Aros's mission was successful . . . The survivors have arrived."
Marayr shut her eyes and gave thanks.
"Then everyone is safe?" Zoyzer asked, pressing Marayr's hands tighter as
she seemed to squeeze his for strength.
Her blue eyes looked steadily into his. "But for the dead and wounded.
'Tis yet to be seen who may still be unaccounted for."

"Art thou all right?" Nephrayn queried, his eyes on Immara as he returned
from his short scouting expedition in the woods.
"Yes," she replied, still short of breath from their frantic flight.
"Have we lost our pursuers?"
"Indeed, my lady," he said, crouching down next to her and glancing around
the large tree trunk they were hiding behind.
"And the others?" she asked.
"There is no sign."
She sighed. Whether in exhaustion or despair he could not be certain. In
the darkness they had quickly been separated from the rest. It had been
nearly six hours since they had seen anyone but the Mrrukians who were still
doggedly pursuing them. They had seen the last of the Mrrukians a little
over an hour ago, and both were doubtful that they had lost them for good.
Feeling that he should say something to lighten the mood and reassure her
and himself, Nephrayn said, "Fear not, they wilt be found."
"I have no doubt of it, but by whom is the question. Us . . . or them?"
In the confusion of their escape he had been able to piece together very
little of what had occurred, but he was certain he had seen Aros putting
order to the chaos. "Aros is a good man. If it is indeed he who didst
organize the rescue, then they are in good hands, Lady."
"Forgive me. I did not mean to malign the name of thy friend. 'Tis
simply . . . Serenity, Harmony, and the others art the only family remaining
to me. I fear for their safety more than for my own." She couldn't suppress
the tears trailing down her cheeks.
"Thou dost well to think of their welfare before thy own," he murmured,
gently brushing away her tears. "But worry wilt do neither them nor thou any
good, my Lady Immara."
She looked up at him, her green eyes luminous in the starlight. "I have
behaved as a spoiled child with thou in the past. Please, I would be most
honored were thou to address me as Immara."
"Immara then," he said, smiling, pleased despite himself. "Dry thy eyes,
Immara, and we wilt be on our way."
She brushed the tears from her eyes and smiling tremulously, took his hand
in hers. "Thank thee, Lord Nephrayn, for thy understanding."

The Mrrukian sailor paced amongst them, flinging down bowls of foul-
smelling gruel whose contents had been hastily filled and half of which as
hastily slopped out upon contact with the straw-covered wooden floor. "Eat,
ye vermin," he hissed out, staring at them and eyeing the women in a manner
that made both Artana and Raslym want to scratch out his eyes. Fearful for
their safety, however, they satisfied themselves with spitting on him.
He laughed. "Feisty, eh? Ye won't be so feisty once our buyers have ye
flat on your backs." He moved closer to Raslym, leering, his eyes roaming
over her body. "I wouldn't mind having ye flat on yer back right now,
firebrand."
She shrank away from him, fear filling her eyes.
"The lady will have nothing to do with thee, sir. And if thou wilt kindly
remember thy Captain's mandate I wilt not be forced to make that mandate
*painfully* clear," Jadyrn gritted out.
"Aye," the sailor said, turning his head and spitting. "And ye're the one
who spoiled all our fun this go around. We've never 'ad t'keep away from
them wenches afore. Ship's cargo are fair game." He sneered. "And they'd
be too, iffen you hadden gone interferin'."
"But think of all the money thou shalt make," Jadyrn said calmly,
recognizing that behind all his bluster the sailor would not dare to make a
move on the women.
"All the money the *Captain*'ll make, ye mean! He'll fill 'is pocket sure
enough and leave us scrabblin' fer a few coins."
"Surely not. And even so, there will likely be enough for you to buy
yourself the services of a few cheap whores."
Artana and Raslym blinked at the vulgar language and Artana looked on
Jadyrn with slowly growing understanding.
The Mrrukian snorted. "Aye, the last shipload we brought over. I've
sampled their wares often enough." He leered once more at Raslym. "A few of
them were feisty enough to take you on. But we broke 'em in soon enough."
His eyes glittered malevolently in remembrance. "'Tis a shame. I *like* the
wild ones."
With another look at Jadyrn's cold eyes, he turned away. "I've wasted
enough time 'ere with you fishbait. Eat yer meal. It might be a clear day
afore ye see another."
"Pardon," Jadyrn said grimly and with less courtesy than the word implied,
"but there art only three bowls."
"Eh? Wassat ye say? Three bowls?"
"Yes, three!" Kunzyn said from across the hold, noting his and Artana's
two. "Can't you count?"
"I sees four," the Mrukkian said, shrugging. "An' if we be a little
short, who's to know? Iffen I can't have my share o' other pleasures I'll
settle fer a full stomach." He looked at Jadyrn, his eyes gleaming. "If
ye've such an objection, then ye can go without. You'll find none o' that
gen'rous nature that you ascribe t'from me, pretty boy."
"Very well," Jadyrn said stiffly. "But leave the women be."
He glared at the blonde Guardian with thinly masked malevolence. "Well, I
'ave me orders, don' I?" He strode out of the hold, his boots clumping
across the floor.

Artana pulled as far away as she could as he passed and found herself
pressed against Kunzyn. She flushed and made as though to pull away, but he
held her close and their eyes met for an instant, luminous in the dark of the
hold.
When the sound of the sailor's boots had faded and the sound of the hold
door closing met their ears, leaving them in near complete darkness once
more, Kunzyn gently removed the arm that had been holding her against him.
"Apologies, Lady Artana."
She nodded in reply, unable to see his face for the darkness, but she did
not move from her position against him, her breath coming overly loud to her
ears. Despite her many suitors, she had rarely been so close to a man.
Certainly not while dancing, which was where decorum had to be observed at
all times. Even potential suitors could not take advantage of opportunities
for closeness for fear of causing a scandal and disgracing themselves and
their Houses. She wondered if a man like Kunzyn would take advantage of such
a situation as the one they found themselves in or if he was as honor-bound
as the rest . . . as Jadyrn seemed to be. It was then she realized that she
had yet to dance with this man.
"Thou owest me a dance," she whispered.
He tugged at the heavy links chaining his leg to the ring in the floor.
"'Tis a bit hard to dance well like this," he said apologetically.
"Nevertheless," she protested, "I did promise thee a dance."
He bent his head to her ear and whispered, "Aye, I shall take thou at thy
word and come to claim my dance someday, Lady Artana."
And she wondered if a dance was all that he would claim.
"Here," he said, pushing a bowl of gruel towards her, "eat. Thou shalt
need thy strength for the voyage ahead."
Her nose wrinkled in disgust and she looked appealingly up at him as
though she expected it was within his power to turn the gruel into a proper
feast. He stifled the laugh that rose at the little girl pleading in her
eyes. I'm glad I'm not her father.
Her lips formed into a pout that he found simply delightful and she
shifted against him, reaching for the cracked bowl of foul-smelling gruel.
As she blew on the contents to cool them and he stared at her kissable lips,
he again thought, more fervently than before, I'm glad I'm not her father.
She turned to look at him and asked, "Art thou not going to eat thine?"
whereupon he was startled out of his study of her and hastily picked up his
own bowl. They clicked them together carefully because of the glop that was
oozing down the side of his and oozing through the cracks in hers.
They each took a sip, made a face of disgust, and continued eating.
Kunzyn paused to yell, "Worry not, Jadyrn, thou hast not missed out on
anything edible! If thou wisht mine, I wilt attempt sliding it towards
thee."
Jadyrn waved a hand in dismissal. "'Twould be a waste to have it topple
over."
"'Twould not!" Kunzyn shot back after another taste.
Raslym held out her bowl to him. "Please, eat some of mine."
"The Lady needs her sustenance," he said, pushing it gently back.
"And if my protector has no strength?" she asked archly. "Who wilt
protect me from the advances of the Mrrukians?"
The edge of his mouth twitched in what might have been a smile. "The Lady
seems quite capable of keeping the beasts at bay."
"Please?" And there was an element of true sincerity in that word that he
could not deny. He took the bowl, sipped at the gruel, and passed it back to
her.
"Thou simply wishes for me to eat it so thou hast less of it," he accused
her lightly.
"Yes! Please," she moaned, staring at it. They looked at one another and
laughed gently.

The survivors of the raid on the castle rested in the Mytten Caverns,
fifteen miles south of the castle. They had stayed in the uncertain safety
of the shelter in the woods while the wounded were tended to, then Aros had
forced them to march until a few of the ladies' legs had begun to give out,
and the wounded had not been able to go on further. The Mytten Caverns,
before a place of spiritual renewal was now a temporary home to a wayward
band of homeless Reyrese nobles and Dalaynian guards. A few fish and rabbits
roasted over several paltry fires they had started with the first light of
morning in an attempt to warm frozen bodies and comfort despairing hearts.
"We cannot remain long," Aros reminded the group once again, but most of
them had drifted off into an uneasy sleep. Even now they were fearful that
the Mrrukians would see the trails of smoke and discover their whereabouts.
"At least they sleep," Monica said softly, from behind where he sat,
bringing with her a handful of wild berries she had found in the surrounding
woods and deemed safe for ingestion. "They feel safe enough for that, at
least."
He looked at her for a long instant, wishing he could tell her that he
wished that she was safe, that she had never been involved in this whole mess
to begin with. That he wished he could go back eight years and make right
his wrongs. Instead, he said, turning away, "Yes, and thank the Gods they
have this moment to rest."
He felt her fingers curling around his hand, opening it and placing some
of the berries inside before withdrawing. He looked up at her and she looked
back for an instant before looking away. "You should get some rest, too,"
she murmured, standing and moving away. She let her fingers rest lightly on
Zoyzer's shoulder, depositing the rest of the berries in his hand as she sat
down next to him. "Both of you."
Marayr stirred from her spot on the ground, her head leaning against
Zoyzer's arm which she had barely finished bandaging before dropping off into
light slumber. She opened her eyes and moved her lips around the berry that
had been inserted in her mouth. Swallowing, she looked at Zoyzer, who winked
at her and, having divided his share in two, handed her half over. She took
them gratefully as she sat upright with a murmured apology for having
inconvenienced him, sleeping on his injured arm, no less, which he waved off,
replying that it was hard to remember that he even hurt when every inch of
him was injured. Her smiling face had worked more wonders on that arm than
all the healing herbs in the world, to which she had smiled. She ate the
berries one by one . . . seeking to make the taste last and perhaps fill the
emptiness in her stomach.
"At least everyone's organized and we know who isn't accounted for," Aros
said, drawing in the dirt with a stick he had picked up off the ground.
Zoyzer shrugged as best he could with his injuries. "We do what we can."
"How are Harmony and the others?" Marayr asked, glancing over at the three
unconscious women who lay near another campfire.
"Harmony stirred a bit," Monica reported. "They should be rousing soon."
"Which is good," Aros said, with a sigh. "'Tis difficult enough to move
about without carting around three unconscious women."
Marayr forced herself to be silent and continue eating berries. Aros had
saved them and he was stretched to the breaking point at the moment. Unkind
words could not be blamed on anything but his desperation at the situation
they found themselves in. Zoyzer's comforting hand on hers made her
gratitude towards him all the greater. She turned her attention back to what
Aros.
"Our best bet is to head for Dalayne," Aros said, urgently. "We can get
reinforcements and bring the King's Army to counter Estvia's forces. Their
attack on Reyre while the head of Dalayne was here, no less, can surely be
construed as an attack against Dalayne itself. If I know Endymion as well as
I believe, then our prince wilt surely be heading there as we speak."
"And if Serenity is indeed in his company," Marayr cried, with dawning
hope.
"But who wilt care for the injured and keep these people safe?" Monica
demanded. "Estvia has laid claim to Reyre. We can do nothing for the common
people now that their army has control, but for the nobles . . . They are
the heads of the country now. If the princess cannot be found, the future of
Reyre depends upon them."
"Yes," Aros said, pondering, "we must keep them safe."
"They cannot yet have penetrated to the sea," Marayr said slowly. "They
wilt concentrate on establishing a central power in the capital first, wilt
they not? If we can make it to the sea . . ."
"Indeed," Aros said. "The city of Sancte on the island of Milpa should be
a safe enough place to keep them for the time being."
"But which ports are safe?" Zoyzer demanded. "They have to have access to
the Western ports at least."
"Amisu."
They turned to look at Marayr, who was looking at them fiercely. "The
village of my birth is on the Eastern coast. It must be safe."
"But it's a ways from Milpa," Aros argued. "The port of Wilta is closer
and, I bargain, also free from Estvian influence so far."
"However," Zoyzer interjected, "for those traveling to Dalayne, Amisu is a
safer bet."
"Do I take it that thou art volunteering?" Aros asked, with a small smile.
"Aye. I know the route by sea well enough and can charter a ship. We
wilt land in Amaran and that will acquire us the help we need quick enough.
There's not a man, woman, or child I do not know in that fair city."
"But how wilt thou be sure that the ship and crew from Amisu are to be
trusted? Surely, the Estvians must have some spies."
"I shall accompany him," Marayr said suddenly, making up her mind.
"There's not a trick in the book that wilt get past me. I was born and bred
there . . . I shalt find thou the sturdiest, fastest ship on the sea."
"That's that then," Aros said, settling the matter as Zoyzer and Marayr
gazed at one another, the one with eyes full of worry, the other with shining
determination. "But I am not familiar enough with the terrain of Reyre to
get these people to Wilta."
"I shall be thy guide," Monica said calmly, rising and dusting off her
dress. "There is not a city in all of Reyre that I have not been to in the
company of Her Highness."
Aros inclined his head in response to her offer. "I thank thee."
"I am not doing it for thee," she said coldly.
"And did thee think to take us into account?" a voice said from behind
them.
They whirled around in alarm to see Harmony, Odele, and Simyra standing
behind them, bloody certainly, and a bit worse for wear, but smiling
nonetheless.
"We will go to the island of Yanithas," Harmony said, smiling with cracked
and bloodied lips, her hand holding her other, injured arm. "I know for a
fact that half the Reyre fleet is on maneuvers there."
"Harmony, thou art in no shape-" Marayr protested, getting to her feet,
but Harmony cut her off with a wave of her hand.
"Is my cousin among the survivors?" she asked quietly, and Marayr knew she
was speaking of Immara.
"Lady Immara was last seen while the rest of us were making good our
escape," Monica said calmly. "Several of them," she gestured towards the
exhausted refugees, "reported seeing both Immara and Nephrayn behind them.
We can only assume that they were separated in the fray, but to the extent of
our knowledge, she is alive."
"Thank the Gods for that," Odele said quietly, speaking for her life
partner Harmony who was attempting to blink back tears.
"I promised her," Harmony said slowly. "I promised her that I would stay
alive. She has to do the same. Immara, thou must stay alive."
"It will be all right," Simyra put in. "Nephrayn seems trustworthy
enough. She is safe in his keeping."
"Aye. Nephrayn will take excellent care of the lady," Aros said. "No
need to fear on that account. Now, what's this about the Reyre navy?"
"Leave the fetching of them in our hands," Harmony said sharply. "I thank
thee for thy care and shall entrust the care of these people to thee, but the
three of us will fetch them."
"Harmony, rest awhile first," Marayr said, looking at her with eyes that
said, 'be reasonable.' "The first light is only just broken . . . there's
time enough to travel after a bit of rest. Let us solidify our plans first."
"Very well," Harmony said, and the three newly awakened seated themselves
around the fire. Her eyes were on Aros as she spoke and he inclined his head
in acknowledgement and using his stick, began drawing a crude map in the dirt
by his feet. He started outlining the plan.
Zoyzer pulled Marayr outside the little group, his eyes anxious. "'Tis a
dangerous mission thou hast volunteered thyself for. I would beg thee to
reconsider, but I must admit that I have need of thy skills."
She smiled at him. "I shalt not fail thee. And no worries, dear friend,
'twill be a warm day in the Northlands before I fail to carry through on a
promise made. We wilt make it to thy city of Amaran . . . and we wilt bring
the help that Reyre so desperately needs."
He grasped her hands in his. "Aye, Lady. Then 'twill be so."


To be continued . . .

Yes, I know. Serenity and Endymion were conspicuously absent. More on them
and Nephrayn and Immara later on. This Chapter was supposed to be ~Securing
Passage~ but I didn't even get that far. ^^;;; So either ~Securing Passage~
or another chapter will be next . . . As the groups get farther and farther
apart, more and more of the chapter will be devoted to one specific pair, and
the next chapter will focus on a different one. Well, until we start getting
to the end, that is . . . but that's a LOOOOONG ways away. As always, you
can find the character list and descriptions on the "C&K" page at
http://www.geocities.com/fushigikismet/

I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Expect more soon! ^_^