Secret Garden 3: Final Battle

Chapter 1

Queen Serenity was standing in the royal gardens, her eyes on the heavens when the doors opened behind her. A frown creased her face, her forehead puckering ungracefully. "I thought I left explicit orders not to be disturbed!" Her voice was tight and strained, cracking across the yard.

"Mother." The hesitant voice floated over the garden.

The Queen spun. "Serenity?"

Princess Serenity ran towards her mother, arms outstretched as her royal gown flared and billowed about her in the low gravity as she wrapped her arms around her mother's waist. She hugged her tight, receiving a hug about the shoulders in return and a kiss on the forehead.

"Oh, my darling, welcome home. Let me look at you." Queen Serenity held her at arm's length. "You look so grown up and absolutely lovely!" The smile never left her face or her eyes as she looked around. "Where is Endymion?"

"He is putting our things in our room. He will join us shortly." Princess Serenity blushed slightly, no quite meeting her mother's gaze. Surely her mother knew what went on between man and wife, but she wasn't about to talk about it!

A knowing smile cross Queen Serenity's face - but also understanding - as she well remembered where her daughter's train of thought would be taking her. "Was your honeymoon everything you dreamed it would be, my dear?"

The blush that had blossomed on the Princess' cheeks deepened as she nodded. "More, mother, much, much more. Endymion was so patient with me - so caring! I knew he was before, but now..." Blue eyes filled with worry, her excitement turning to trepidation. "Mother, we are going to be going to war and I may lose him! I do not know what I would do." Her face twisted in anguish with the thought of losing her beloved husband before she closed her eyes briefly, taking a deep breath. "I would not be able to go on living without him, mother."

Queen Serenity hugged her again. "Do not dwell on such things, Serenity; they will simply eat at your insides. If you have to continue without him you will, it is that simple." The flash of pain in Queen Serenity's eyes was just as real as her daughter's. "I had to go on without your father and if you and Endymion are separated you will have to live without him."

Princess Serenity's eyes glimmered with tears. "I am not that strong, mother. I may very well loose him in the coming months and I do not have a daughter or son to care for should something happen to him."

Stroking her daughter's satin smooth cheek, Queen Serenity marveled at the change in the young woman before her. Her daughter had left a woman-child on the verge of adult hood and returned a woman, her core shining through with the radiance of happiness. "Soon, Serenity, you too will have a young one to care for." Her voice was so soft that Princess Serenity strained to hear the words, her eyes flying to her mother's.

"Do you know something I do not?"

Her mother's smile was kind. "We Moon folk have a habit of conceiving on the honeymoon, darling. You are most likely with child even now."

Jaw dropping in disbelief, she stared at her mother. "You cannot be serious - I am not ready to be a mother yet!"

The Queen hugged her daughter tightly. "You are more ready than you know, daughter. Time will tell if they bend or break you."

Nodding once, Princess Serenity looked up and changed the subject. The idea of being a parent was too new and foreign to even contemplate. "How go the preparations?"

"I will show you - Endymion can meet us in the war room."

Following her mother out of the royal garden, the doors closed behind them with a ring of finality.

--

The war room was an organized mess of silver screens, tactical charts and information runs that Princess Serenity couldn't yet decipher. It was circular, with a bending screen of liquid moon ore that could display any given point in the galaxy, or anything the Queen and battle commanders wished to see.

There were two guards posted on the communications station, one monitoring incoming information, the other handling the outgoing. She marveled at how efficient it was to have two people doing the job. Luna and Artemis were huddled together at one of the consoles, their human forms oddly out of place among the Lunarians on duty. Watching, completely fascinated, as her mother called up an open channel to the outposts where Uranus and Neptune were stationed, the real time communication slightly distorted by the distance.

The mature visages of the senshi filled the screen, Neptune and Uranus bowing their heads in deference to her. "My Queen." They spoke in unison, as they were in a habit of doing.

Queen Serenity inclined her head to them by way of greeting. "What news?" she asked without preamble.

The boyish senshi from Uranus reported first, as was typical. "The Dark Moon has amassed a large army of creatures, my Queen, some of them are unknown to us, and are believed to be from outside our borders. This is a diagram of them," the screen changed to show a black background with stars and lines connecting the stars. It made some kind of winged creature with a pointy mouth area, skinny front legs and massive hind legs.

The Queen frowned as she looked at the picture and Uranus continued. "This creature is said to be immensely powerful and the readings on our charts are off the scale for energy. From what little we are able to receive from the Dark Moon, these creatures are going to be the brunt of their fighting force. Uranus out."

Queen Serenity nodded once to the darkened screen. "I think it's time to renew old acquaintances," she murmured thoughtfully. "Neptune, what have you to report?"

The senshi of the sea smiled her calm smile. "Nothing nearly so drastic or unsettling my Queen." Her assurance was a balm after Uranus' tense briefing. "My readings from outside the system have fluxuated very little since I have been at my post. The only concern is that near the beginning of last month, a large energy surge shorted out from of the sensors near earth, but they were back online in a matter of moments. Since then the only strange readings I have had, have been occasional spikes of power from Earth's darker regions."

Princess Serenity gasped, grabbing her mother's arm. "Beryl. Mother, the Lady Beryl promised to ruin things, could she be the darkness in the prophecy?"

Queen Serenity turned to her daughter. "Perhaps, Angel..." they both looked to the door as it opened and Endymion stepped though. "My son," the Queen moved towards him and opened her arms in an unexpected gesture.

Endymion blinked once before smiling slightly, a mere curve of his lips, before taking the Queen into a gentle hug. Princess Serenity looked on from the side, her gaze locking on her husband's as he released her mother, approval written all over her face.

"You are looking well, Queen Serenity." Endymion's compliment was given as Princess Serenity walked over and slid her arm about his waist in a very un-royal like show of affection. He responded in kind by sliding his arm about her shoulders.

"Thank you." Queen Serenity turned her gaze back over her shoulder and then turned to face Neptune once more. The serene senshi had a tolerant smile on her face for the Prince and Princess in the background. "Continue Neptune."

"Thank you, m'queen. To make a long report short, nothing has been happening in the omega sector of the galaxy. Alpha Centuari, as you know from my partner's report, is brimming with action. I will keep you informed about Earth and the developments should there be any. Neptune out."

The screen blanked.

"What is this about my world?" Endymion asked his Angel softly.

"Neptune detected some kind of readings there," she shivered, which resulted in her being tucked closer into his body and on the inside of his cape - noting that his armor didn't seem to dig into her body as much anymore... or maybe she'd just gotten used to it. "I think it may be Beryl; I hope I am wrong."

Endymion gave her shoulders a squeeze. "I will protect you. Do not worry, my love, she will not harm you."

She put her head on his shoulder, her left hand creeping up his chest to rest over his heart, lightly on top of his armor. "I know, Endymion. I know."

Queen Serenity pulled the diagram Uranus had shown her and turned to the young couple. "Endymion, are you familiar with the millennium war that happened 5000 years ago?"

"I am. It was part of my history courses and, if I recall correctly, it was the last time - before the Earth was labeled forbidden territory – in which the Earth and the Moon worked together as allies."

"You would be correct. It was also the last time in the millennium that the Earth and Moon were joined together in a marriage match." Her smile took them both in. "This match will last where the other one failed. Theirs was torn asunder when the Moon and the Earth were split, each having a duty to their homelands, their children split between the two and unable to communicate. If you weather this coming war, that fate will never befall the two of you."

Serenity clenched her fist against Endymion's breastplate. "Mother, get to the point."

"My point, Serenity, dear, is that if Endymion knows of the war, he may know what these are."

Endymion glanced at the pictures and then froze, his body going rigid, "Is that what I believe it to be, Queen Serenity? A Griffin from beyond the borders? I thought they were only stories."

"The allies of the Terrans in the past, and now the allies of the Dark Moon Kingdom. I do not know what they were promised for their help, but I do believe it is time we spoke to the sun kingdom about getting involved in this conflict. The Sunicorns may be our one defense against the Griffins should they choose to invade or attack the Moon."

Endymion slowly shook his head. "The plot thickens. I do believe it is time that I spoke to my father and mother about this. Perhaps they can help find an alternative."

"Must you leave already? We just arrived!" Serenity looked up at him with pleading blue eyes. "Let me go with you, at least?"

He shook his head, his ebony hair falling into his eyes. She reached up unconsciously and brushed it back as he spoke. "No, Angel. Stay here and help your mother. I will be back within a week with news on our preparations back on earth."

"A week!" A stricken look crossed her face for a moment before she composed herself and nodded once - albeit reluctantly. "If you must, my darling, then you must. I will see you in a week." Slipping out from under his arm, she stretch up to place a gentle kiss on his lips before walking quickly out of the room to leave her mother and husband alone.

Endymion watched her leave, his brow furrowing.

"She does not like the thought of being separated from you, Endymion. Can you blame her after having your attentions to herself for an entire month? Give her time, she will adapt once again to everyday living."

"I know. It is how much time that will take that will be difficult. Pardon me, your majesty, but I believe I will go find my wife. If I am to leave her," he looked at her with a slight smile. "I would not want to do so on the wrong terms. Good day."

Queen Serenity grinned as he exited the room but it faded as she turned back to the screen with the Griffin's image glowing in stars. If only the brief separation of her daughter and her husband were the only worries. She sighed. Life was going to be interesting now that the Prince and Princess were back from their honeymoon.

Very interesting indeed.

--

Serenity opened the doors to her old room and looked about. Gone were the trappings that had made the room virginal and hers.

It was now decorated in black and red with silver and gold highlights. The bed was huge, taking up about an eighth of the available space and resting in the spot her bed had been before, directly under the window. Her dressing table was gone, replaced by a chest of drawers with a mirror and a basin of water on top of it. A white towel rested to the side of it and she looked at her reflection in the mirror, frowning slightly. She raised one hand and brushed her bangs away from the crescent moon in the middle of her forehead. Dropping her hand, she turned her back on the melancholy expression, and walked to the bed, crawling across it to lay her arms on the window sill and stare at the Earth. She sighed, feeling Endymion's concern for her vibrate through their link.

I am alright, my love, she said silently, trying to convey a sense of melancholy acceptance. The frown she could picture him wearing in her mind and the uncertainty she felt in his heart told her that he didn't believe her. There was no need to look at the door as she felt, more than heard, his approach to it. The sound of the handle moving was as soft as the pressure change as the door opened and then closed. His boots made no sound as they crossed the ankle deep carpet but she felt the bed give under his weight as he sat on the edge of the mattress.

"What is wrong, Angel?"

She refused to look at him, knowing that if she did she would be fighting tears. "You know what is wrong."

His sigh was soft as his hands slid gently over the small of her back and then around her waist, spanning it. The mattress gave as he moved towards her and settled next to her, one of his hands sliding up to gently trace the proud jut of her jaw. "I do not wish to leave you here, Serenity, but I need to go and see how the preparations for the war are coming back on Earth."

"And you are homesick." Still not looking at him, she could feel his eyes on her face, drinking in the details and storing them to memory. "Mayhap a painter should be called. A portrait would last longer."

Glancing at him then, she caught his smile as he shook his head. "You believe that a painter could catch your beauty and grace? Your spirit? You are mistaken, Angel. No one could ever catch your essence and no portrait would outlast the image of you that is burned into my heart, nor the love that is engraved in my soul."

Her cheeks lit with a soft rose color. "Nor mine for you." Turning at last, she looked deeply into his eyes. "It does not make being parted from you any easier."

Tears welled in her eyes and he gently framed her face with his hands, rubbing his thumbs underneath her eyes. "And you think it is for me? You are my soul Serenity; do not cry when we part, for I am not really gone. My eyes will miss looking at you, my hands will miss touching you, but my soul - my heart - is joined to yours." He dropped one hand to grasp hers and gently laid her fingers against his heart. "Do not forget that, even though we may be separated physically."

"I cannot forget it, but," she smiled through her tears, running her hand up to caress the base of his throat. "It does not make the physical parting any easier."

He laughed. "No, it does not. Come here." He tugged on her face and saw her eyes flutter closed just before closing his own and capturing her mouth in a lingering kiss. Tasting the salt of her sorrow, he looked at her as she bit her lip and pulled back.

Lifting one hand to scrub at her streaked cheeks, he stopped her and gently wiped them dry. "I will be back before the week is done, Angel. I do not wish to leave you, but we need to grasp this quickly. Something tells me that Diamond and Beryl are behind this, and now that we are back, they will not wait long to strike."

Serenity took a deep shuddering breath and nodded, leaning forward to wrap her arms around his waist and lay her head on his chest. Sprawled at an unusual angle across the bed and his chest, she didn't seem to mind as his arms slid around her shoulder and into the silken tangle of her hair. He carefully removed the golden strands from the buns and spread it across her back with gentle, soothing strokes. She closed her eyes and purred as his hands worked their magic, barely aware as he pulled her with him, onto his chest, as he lay back. He shifted her into a comfortable looking position and she curled into him.

"Can we just let the Moon and the Earth take care of themselves for a little while longer?" Lethargy permeated her tone, making it husky - as if she was on the verge of falling asleep.

"How much longer would you like?"

"One more day, that is all I ask." She yawned, snuggling her head against the cool metal of his breast plate.

"And tomorrow?"

"Let tomorrow take care of itself. Tonight I want to sleep one last time in your arms."

His grip on her tightened fractionally and he lifted her off him, sliding out of bed before bending down to whisper to her softly."Once I remove my armor, Angel, you can stay in my arms as long as you like."

She opened one eye to look at him and opened her arms. "Forever and longer. Come here,"

Shedding his armor, the metal landed without a sound in the plush carpet before he crawled back onto the bed and pulled her into his arms again. Tucking her into the shelter of his body while planting a soft kiss on the top of her head, he held her close. "Sleep, Serenity, I will be here when you wake."

"Promise?"

"I swear."

She snuggled her head under his chin and sighed, her legs sliding against his through the fabric of her dress as she pressed closer. With a long, content sigh, she drifted off to sleep.

Holding her tenderly, Endymion ran his strong hands through her hair, careful not to catch and pull it so not to wake her. He stared at the blue-green orb hanging in the sky through the window; he did miss home, she was right about that, but he would miss her more than he missed the Earth. Perhaps there was some way he could bring her with him... A faint smile crossed his lips as he dismissed the thought and just focused his attention on holding his beloved - his wife.

Tomorrow he would make arrangements to go home for a couple of days. He closed his eyes... tomorrow...

--

Gentle hands skimmed over his chest, the slim fingers lazily tracing a path from the base of his neck to his navel and back. He rolled towards the touch, reaching out to capture the fingers quickly in his own and then brought them to his mouth, placing a soft kiss on each tip. He opened his eyes to see Serenity's eyes widen as he nipped at one of her finger tips. "Good morning."

"I think it is night."

He could feel the heat begin to spiral through her as her words hitched and smiled. "Probably. We missed dinner?"

She nodded, her eyes glued to his mouth. He licked the tips of her fingers between his words, sending shivers of electricity through her system, down her spine, to coil low in her belly. After nearly a month of treatments and teasing designed to arouse her, the technique quickly achieved its desired effect and she began to shiver.

Endymion pulled her closer into his body, aligning them heart to heart as his head bent to hers. Her foot slid up his calf muscle, curling around back and gripping the fabric of his pants in surprisingly dexterous toes. Their lips met and melded as his hands slid down to her shoulders and he rolled on top of her, never breaking the kiss, and deepening it instead, teasing her lips, the roof of her mouth and the line of her teeth with elusive darts of his tongue. She moaned, gripping the back of his head and curling her fingers into his hair as his whole length pressed her into the soft mattress.

Breaking the kiss, he nuzzled her neck. "I should have been gone by now," his voice was muffled by her skin as he nipped at her throat.

"I-" she gasped as he bit her gently, her neck arching. "I know," she stammered.

Smiling, he nipped her neck again and elicited another moan and catch of breath. "I love how sensitive you are to my kisses," he told her softly, breathing into her ear as he nibbled his way up and finally traced the shell of her ear with his tongue. He pulled away to look at her face, absorbing her features with eyes the color of night, a tender smile on his lips. One of his hands pushed the gentle honey colored strands out of her face and she slowly opened her eyes to look at him.

"What are you looking at?"

"Only the most gorgeous creature in the heavens. I have to keep telling myself you are real, Serenity, for fear that I will open my eyes one day to find all this a dream."

"Never. You and I are one, my love." She grasped his face between both of her hands and looked deeply into his eyes. "Joined, heart, mind, soul and body; Nothing, not even death, can part us. You are inside me in every possible way, Endymion, and you will never leave."

"I know, Angel, but it does not stop my fears that this may someday end. I do not wish to lose this happiness, this peace, with you - though I know war will soon be upon us."

Serenity gently brushed his bangs out of his eyes. "Think of me, Endymion, and you will find all the peace - all the love - to see you through any situation. Think of me, and I will carry you through."

He silenced her with a kiss, his feelings and emotions welling through their bond and telling her without words that no matter what came, they would always have each other.