The Hunt

Ok, so I am so sorry this has taken so long. I started taking classes during the Spring Semester at my local college and it has been hectic with all the reading and test and such, and on top of all that my daughter had chicken pox and now the flu! But here is the next chapter. Enjoy and Please, please, please REVIEW! (it really helps to know what you guys think.)

The night was dark and long as the two princesses fought for the sleep they desperately needed. Both blonde and beautiful, both thinking of the men they wanted but neither one knowing how to succeed. Finally Serena got up and pulled the little silver book that was her sanctuary out of the vanity. She silently lit a small candle and began to pour her soul into the words.

I'm not even sure what day it is right now. I'm not even sure my big idea was all that great. I should have accepted my fate and went knowingly to Prince Darien. I don't understand him. He is cold and hot in a moment. Prince Andrew however, is ever steadfast and predictable. I feel safe in his presence, but with Prince Darien I feel…I feel free. Like I've just jumped off a cliff and am free falling. It is like holding a flame to the coldest ice. It is beautifully terrifying to be near. So here I am, not knowing where to go. I hate the thought of hurting Mina, and at the same time I know she will get over it. Tomorrow or well very possibly today is the hunt. I must rest.

~Serenity~

Only a few doors down the other blonde sat up in her bed. Thinking of all the things she could do tomorrow to get Andrew alone. "I could sprain my ankle and insist he take me back to the castle…no that wouldn't be good because then I couldn't dance at the ball that afternoon. Hmmm… I could ask Darien what his favorite color is and wear that color dress. Yes that is a start. And I have it, Oh.. I'm so smart. But now sleep is what I need. I hope Serena forgives me."

The morning finally came and brought a small chill with it, the perfect weather for the hunt. The castle was also buzzing with the knowledge of the hunt and the ball that would follow. Serena was sitting in front of her mirror brushing her hair when a small polite knock came at her door.

"Enter" Serena called. The door opened and Molly walked in.

"Mistress, the King and Queen require all of our presence in the royal chambers."

"Well let us not keep them waiting. Will you help me put my hair up?"

Molly nodded in agreement.

The two moved quickly to finish Serena's hair and gathered with the other princesses

"Ready" Serena asked

The five other ladies nodded and entered to see the king and queen and to everyone's disappointment Beryl. Beryl curtsied as the princesses approached and they returned the gesture.

"Girls, we have some news." The king began.

"Lady Molly will be going back to the moon today with the sole purpose of finding each of you a lady in waiting from your own planet. These ladies will be paired with one lady from our court and they will assist you in everything from dressing to delivering correspondences."

"With all due respect your highness, we are not accustomed to such a thing." Princess Lita commented.

"Yes, we are aware of that but we think it will help the treaties." The Queen added.

"Your Majesties, If I may…" Serena began.

"Would it be imprudent to ask why we are subject this sudden interest in protocol? I mean we were shipped down here against our will, strapped to a man that is our betrothed, and now we are supposed to allow complete strangers into our personal spaces?" Serena was breathing heavily after her agitated speech.

"My dear, we are only trying to make this transition as easy as possible. After your weddings you will be expected to adhere to Earth's protocol and conduct your responsibilities to each region accordingly. The young ladies we have selected will serve only to help, I assure you." The Queen soothed.

"We will agree to your terms only if we are allowed to dismiss these women when we see fit, and after our marriages, we should be all together free of their company." Serena bargained.

"Alright my dear, but if we accept these terms you must also give up your charade." King Terrance added.

"Then King Terrance, you have a deal." Serena bowed with her response.

King Terrance motioned for a servant to approach. "Please send for my son and his fellow comrades and notify them to report to me at once."

"Well ladies say your goodbyes to Lady Molly. She needs to pack while we wait."

"Molly, tell my mother I love her and find out how things are at home." Serena instructed.

"Yes mistress, of course. Are there any other messages I should be required to relay from you girls?"

Each princess gave Molly a message of love and curiosity for their families and friends. By the time they were finished the Princes' had arrived.

Each prince walked up to their princess, bowed, and then turned to face the king and queen repeating the gesture.

"Mother, Father, you asked to see us?" Darien spoke in that confident authoritative command that made him attractive to nearly all the women in the room.

"Yes, son we did. The princesses here have something they would like to speak with you about."

Andrew's heart pounded making the veins in his forehead protrude, slightly reddening the color around his face. His heart was already too deeply involved with the surrounding orb of seductive passion produced by the girls, to hear anything that would disappoint his aroused affections. "Well then, let them speak quickly to shed light upon the nature of this meeting." Andrew demanded.

"We have a confession to make." Serena began

"Is Princess Serenity no longer allowed to speak for the group?" Andrew questioned.

"I am Princess Serenity of the Moon. This is Princess Minuette of Venus." Mina stepped forward to take her place along side Serenity. "Princess Litanna and Princess Reianne, step forward and reveal your true identity as well." Serenity's eyes focused with that of Darien's as the two other princesses took their place. "No deception was ever attached to Princess Aimee. She wished to keep her identity true throughout the experiment."

"But, why?" Andrew asked, confused by the flood of emotions he experienced immediately. He found himself somewhat relieved of pressure when the Princess of Venus stepped forward beside Serenity. Feeling a quiet affection for both ladies, Andrew secretly desired the Serenity whom he previously thought was betrothed to his best friend.

"We felt the balance of power was unequally placed in favor of the Princes. You all knew each one of us, while we were left in the dark about you. Too much was riding on the line for our people to go quietly into a fate that our souls couldn't have bared. Our powers multiply ten times in the presence of passion and our true love. Forgive us." Mina answered

"Why have you now decided to reveal yourselves?" Jaden spat. "And why should we trust that you are who you say you are?"

"Prince Darien spoiled our illustrious deception sooner than we anticipated, so we decided that we must come forth and put this charade behind all of us." Lita answered.

Prince Sandre's interest in Aimee left him curiously seeking answers to the question of why she would remain neutral in this affair. "Please help me to better understand the situation as it pertains to Aimee. Princesses Serenity and Minuette switched places, as well as Reianne and Litanna, but why did you refuse participate Princess Aimee?" Sandre questioned.

"I feel every experiment must have one control subject, and seeing as I am not one for these types of frivolities, I offered to be that control." Aimee replied with a flirtatious smile and batted her eyes Sandre's way.

Her answer pleased Prince Sandre who was slightly blushing from the kindness in her reply. Prince Andrew stood straight and reserved during the remainder of the conversation until he could no longer stand his confused frustration.

"Excuse me your majesties," Andrew insisted as he bowed and exited the room. Mina took a step to follow him but was met with Serena's hand.

"Let him go. He is confused." She ordered.

The other three princes stood no less confused, taking in the information they had just been made privy to. Suddenly Nephlyte and Jaden spoke together in unison. "You mean I don't have to marry the shrew," as they pointed simultaneously towards Lita and Rei.

The mood in the room seemed to lighten as King Terrance laughed. "No, gentlemen, you no longer have to marry the woman you once thought, but you will still be wed to the other." King Terrance witnessed the two men's faces fall from utter relief back to despair, as Lita and Rei glared at them furiously.

"Princesses, the time for the hunt is near. Please be excused to your chambers to prepare as we ready the horses." Darien interceded with a sly glance towards Mina and then Serena.

Recognizing the look Darien gave her, Mina spoke up quickly. "Prince Darien, I am dressed, as you can see, and would love to walk with you to take a look at the horses." She swept her hand across her dress.

"Yes, I see that. If your fellow friends do not object, then please join us." Darien smiled and held out his arm.

Mina looked back their way seeking approval and walked slowly to Darien's arm. The four remaining girls nodded their head in response to their friend's request. The young royals exited the chambers in their two distinct groups. Everyone walked away pondering to themselves about the events that would be unfolding shortly.

The sun continued it's eternal traipse around the sky unnoticed by one young prince. Prince Andrew sat under the shade of a cherry blossom tree in full bloom. The wind blew a gentle breeze causing a single pink blossom to drift down and settle in his hair. "Switched… why would they do such a thing? I feel... I feel a connection with her. I have felt a connection with her since she stepped off of that ship. She is beautiful, but I wonder if she feels the same way? What if she has developed feelings for Darien? I will fight for her, even against Darien. He has no claim on my happiness or hers. Let the hunt begin!" With his last thought Andrew stood up and made his way for the stables. When he rounded the corner the sight he was greeted with made his blood boil. Minuette was leaning against an old oak tree, and Darien was leaning in towards her. He was very close, too close for Andrew to like it. Andrew approached, determined to separate the two.

"So Darien, what do you think our next step is?" Mina questioned coyly.

"It looks like it is already in play. Andrew is walking quickly this way, and he doesn't look too happy! "Laugh," Darien requested as he smiled an evil smile.

"What? Why?" Mina questioned.

"Just do it, now!" He commanded

The two began to laugh together and Mina playfully struck Darien against the chest.

"What's so funny?" Andrew asked

"Well, the Princess Minuette was just telling me an interesting story. Tell me Andrew, did you truly lose to her five times at draughts last night?" Darien asked mockingly.

"Oh Darien, please just call me Mina. I hate feeling so formal." Mina said flirting.

"Yes, the Princess is very good." Andrew blushed

"You too Andrew, call me Mina!" Mina insisted.

"As you wish Mina." Andrew let her name roll off his tongue, savoring the way it sounded.

An awkward silence fell between the three but was soon to be interrupted by the rest of the remaining princes and princesses. "Ladies, you look wonderfully festive." Darien complimented. Since revealing their true identities, the girls were afresh with a renewed confidence. Seeking to make a good first impression of who they truly were, the girls sauntered into the presence of four men biding for their hearts. They were all wearing dresses that came just to the ankle. Each was thinner at the bottom designed for easy riding. The girls each wore the color of their native planet, but the dresses were trimmed and accented with the colors of Earth's regions. Aimee wore an aqua blue dress with teal accents, Rei wore crimson and purple, Lita wore a dark green with silver, and Mina wore orange with gold. Serena's dress was the most exquisite. Her dress was made of an iridescent material which possessed every color of the princesses' home planets, and was trimmed in ivory.

"Mina, you forgot your hat." Serenity said as she offered it to her friend.

"Thank you. Can you imagine what a scandal I would have caused with out it?" Mina laughed.

"We must go now. The hunt will begin as soon as we arrive." Jaden said as he offered his arm to Rei. Each Prince followed suit except for Darien, he reached out for Mina earning himself a ghastly gaze from Andrew.

"May I," Darien asked Mina, holding his stare into the eyes of Andrew.

"No, you most certainly may not. I am Mina's escort," Andrew avowed taking her arm from Darien's grasp.

An unnoticed wink passed between Darien and Mina as Andrew furiously pulled his date away from the stables.

The remaining party arrived just in time to help the ladies mount their horses and ride in regally.

"Today, dear friends, we not only celebrate our annual hunt, but we also celebrate a new alliance. Let us hope we bring in a large stag in honor of our guests and future Princesses of Earth! Hufordo, will you please release the dogs on my signal? Ladies remain with at least one gentleman for your own safety, and above all, have fun!" With a simple flourish of his hand Hufordo let loose the dogs, followed only seconds later by the emblazoned shouts filled with youthful lusts associated with young sporting heirs. The next few minutes steamed ferociously by in a frenzy of jumbled horse hooves and laughter.

"So Serenity, Do you think you can keep up?" Darien asked as smoothly as he ever had.

"Why Darien, do call me Serena. I will do well to lead the pack if the acidic sound of your voice doesn't slow me down. Surely you won't mind if I ask you to impede." Serena spat her response with every bit of the distaste she embodied since the moment he had hurt her friend's feelings.

"Oh don't be like that dear; you know you would love to hear me say more appealing things to you." Darien leaned in and whispered dangerously close to her ear. Serena whipped her head around to yell at Darien but was cut off by his lips crushing hers. The kiss lasted only a second but was just enough to start a fire in the pit of her stomach. When Darien broke the kiss off he smirked a simple crooked little smile and spurred his horse on, leaving Serena no chance to give him his just desserts. Darien came to a very sudden stop causing Serena to nearly fly off her horse.

"Why you obstinate…" Serena began to scream but was cut off by Darien's hand. He pointed off to the left of them where a large buck was grazing lazily. Darien reached very quietly behind him and grabbed his bow. With a grace Serena had never seen a man use he notched an arrow and pulled it back. Only a second later, he let the arrow loose. Time seemed to slow down for Serena. She had never witnessed anything like it. With deadly precision the arrow penetrated the stag's the lungs, and he fell over dead. Serena slowly turned her head in Darien's direction. A huge smile was across his face, and his eyes were alight with success. In that moment Serena noticed how terribly handsome he was, and dreamed that maybe she could begin like him.

"My Lady, the hunt is surely ours. I have never seen anyone return with such a prize!" Darien exclaimed.

"Then we should return with it." Serena replied equally excited about their accomplishment.

"No, let's wait. We will make a grand entrance." Darien suggested

"Alright but what do we do until then?" Serena questioned

"Well first of all, we tie him up to the back of my horse. Then we can proceed to a small meadow that I'm familiar with. It isn't far and you will be fond of it." Darien informed her as he dismounted and led his horse over to the fallen deer. After he was finished, they departed for the meadow, but not before running into Andrew and Mina.

"Mina, Andrew! What a surprise! Any luck?" asked Serena.

"Not yet." Mina sighed

"We were just on our way to a meadow Darien knows. Join us!" Serena invited

"What about the hunt?" Andrew asked disappointedly, not being able to impress Mina with a large stag.

"You will surly never beat what we have." Darien said mockingly.

"Let's see then!" Andrew insisted jealously.

Darien turned his horse around so Andrew and Mina could see the massive deer slain on the ground. Andrew's face fell. He was beat again.

"Well let's go then!" Mina said ready for a change of pace. Hunting was not exactly her idea of a good time.

"Fine," Andrew wined. The two groups made their way lazily through the forest until they found the opening. Darien let the two women go first. The meadow was majestic. It was large and filled with wild flowers. Off in the distance, the sound of a small stream resonated throughout the peaceful meadow.

"Oh Darien it is absolutely wonderful," exclaimed Mina, as he helped her down from her horse. Not wanting to be outdone, Andrew helped Serena, then ran to Mina's side and took her arm from Darien.

"Mina, did you know that Darien back there wet his bed until he was twelve. How terrible to be approaching man hood and still bed wetting?" Andrew was laughing heartily as Mina and Serena joined in.

"Yes, well if I remember correctly, Andrew over here didn't take a woman until just a few months ago. His mother says he is a late bloomer." Darien smiled as Mina and Serena laughed even harder at this. Andrew however glared knives into Darien as he walked away towards the brook. The next few hours went on as such, Darien and Andrew bantering back and forth, both trying to win what neither knew they already had. Finally the time came for them to make their way back. Darien and Serena rode quietly in front of Mina and Andrew for the short way.

"AH… Darien, Andrew. Have you shown these two ladies a good time?" King Terrance boomed.

"Yes father, I'd say we did." Darien smiled.

"Well, I believe we have a winner. Princess Litanna has killed a eight point stag already." King Terrance said a bit impressed

"Do not hand out the honors so soon father, we have something." Darien smirked

"Do you now, better than an eight?" King Terrance said shocked.

"Yes!" Serena nearly screamed she was so excited

"Let's see it then." The King demanded

Darien walked his horse to the center of the field and pulled the large beast to the ground, he waited only a moment to build suspense and then ripped the cloth off the massive beast. He was a nineteen point stag. Everyone was shocked but soon applauded as Darien and Serena proudly stood by their kill.

"Well, it seems I was mistaken. The winners are Darien and Serena!" King Terrance exclaimed excitedly "They will open our ball tonight with the first dance!"

The whole group cheered and shouted for the two. Darien glanced over at Mina, who was clinging to Andrew. This last look proved to be too much for Andrew. Darien's arrogance and condescending nature set off the badly beaten and ego bruised prince. He wanted nothing more than to take out his frustrations on Darien that moment. "How dare he! Can't he see Mina is finally starting to like me, and why do this to someone as sweet as Serena! I can't stand this pretentious ass any longer! I am taking back my honor and the respect of my acquaintance" Andrew thought.

"Darien!!" Andrew roared

"Yes…" Darien turned around lazily, met by a Andrew's fury.

"We duel, NOW!" Andrew roared with all the anger inside him flowing freely to the surface.

"Now, now, what brought this on old friend?" Darien asked honestly with his hands raised for protection.

"You are arrogant, and I have my honor to protect! Engarde!" Andrew shouted and drew his sword in an instant.

Not having any time to think, Darien reacted to the apparent onslaught of violence produced by his usual diplomatic acquaintance. He drew his sword as well and a regretful duel commenced between the two allies.

"Why are you doing this Andrew?" Darien asked

"Because I like her, and you are always taking things that don't belong to you!" Andrew screamed furiously. Tears filled Andrew's eyes as his emotions controlled him.

"Mina or Serena?" Darien then asked completely confused

"Mina! And how dare you disrespect Serena by flirting with her best friend? She is awesome Darien, and she deserves better." Andrew kept the blows coming faster and faster!

"I can't beat him, he would never forgive me" Darien thought "But maybe we can draw!"

"Andrew, if I vow here in front of everyone never to 'flirt' with Mina again, can we put this nonsense aside?" Darien pleaded.

The onslaught of blows finally stopped as Andrew breathlessly considered. He risked a small glance in Mina's direction seeking her approval. She nodded back to Andrew, wishing he would put an end to this. The moment her prince spoke up her heart was his.

"Keep your hands and your eyes to yourself in respect to my betrothed, and I will allow you to retain your dignity and honor." Andrew retreated his sword willingly, no longer needing to vent his anger towards Darien.

Darien lowered his sword and bowed his head "I accept your terms and offer my deepest apologies to you if you will accept." He said cautiously.

Andrew took a second to ponder this once more and returned the gesture.

King Terrance seized control of the situation once again in his usual manner saying "Now if we are all done with our temper tantrums, can we proceed to make ready for the ball?"