THE SORCERESS OF NY
based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Chapter 6: "Mastermind"

By Bill K.

"Well, Princess Serenity?" Princess Nocturn said, hovering
ominously over the prone and defenseless Sailor Moon. "My patience
runs short! Give me the pendant or I take my retribution out on your
companions!"

The anguish shone clear and bright on Sailor Moon's face. She
knew she didn't dare give the pendant over. Luna had warned her not
to do so and she trusted Luna to be right. And she didn't trust the
shadow princess to keep her word.

But she just couldn't bring herself to risk her friends. It
was the same as always. Other enemies had used this Achilles Heel
against her before; now it was happening again. She hated herself
for her weakness. And she knew her friends hated her for her
weakness, though they would never say so - - except Rei.

But none of them understood just how deep was the trauma of
what she'd experienced that time at D-Point of the North Pole. The
absolute horror of watching her friends die one by one in terrific
agony, alone in a frozen and desolate wasteland, had been so painful
for her to endure. She didn't want to experience it the first time
- - and she'd endured it twice, the second time against Galaxia, and
it had almost done her in then. She just couldn't bear to go through
that again.

With tears stinging her eyes, Sailor Moon reached up. Her hand
closed around the silver pendant around her neck. Slowly she lifted
the pendant chain above her head.

"Jupiter!" Jupiter's voice boomed over the clearing. "Oak
Evolution!"

As the powerful electrical bursts exploded around them, Nocturn
lunged for the pendant. Sailor Moon managed to duck out of the way
of both Nocturn and the electric blasts in time.

Pivoting to deal with the attack, Princess Nocturn raised her
hands up above her head, as if conducting a symphony. Jupiter gasped
in alarm as shadowy tendrils rose from the ground and snaked around
her feet and ankles. Jupiter struggled to pull free as the tendrils
slithered up her legs.

"MAKO-CHAN!" screeched Sailor Moon.

The tentacles began pulling Jupiter down into the soil. The
mighty girl resisted with every ounce of strength available to her,
but she had no leverage and nothing to grasp onto. She could not
halt her slow descent into the ground.

"Moon Tiara Action!" Sailor Moon cried desperately, flinging
her tiara at the tentacles. But the energy disk passed harmlessly
through them as if they were nothing but shadows. By now Luna and
Sailor Mercury had arrived. The cat spotted Nocturn turning on
Sailor Moon again.

"Mercury!" shouted Luna. "Drop your hand to your side and yell
'Mercury Aqua Rhapsody'!"

"Mercury Aqua Rhapsody!" yelled Mercury.

A wave of water engulfed Princess Nocturn. She clutched at her
throat in panic, deprived of oxygen. Then she contracted into a fetal
ball as an inky shadow surrounded her. When the shadow disappeared,
Nocturn was gone.

"Did-Did I kill her?" Mercury gaped in confusion.

"Come on!" Sailor Moon called. "We still have to help
Jupiter!"

But as Sailor Moon ran for Jupiter, she was stopped by a giant
shadow that rose up before her. Two hands lunged from the shadow and
clutched Sailor Moon around the throat.

"Give me the pendant!" growled Nocturn, revealed when the
shadow dissipated. "I will not be defeated! I will not see
Apollonia victorious! If any are to rule over Ny, it will be me!"

The woman shook Sailor Moon as she choked her. Feeling her
brain rattling in her skull, Sailor Moon grasped her attacker by the
forearms and tried to pull them off. She could feel the knotted
sinews under the long black gloves. They felt like steel cable.

Then she heard Nocturn shriek and opened her eyes to see what
had happened. Luna had jumped on her head again, claws out.
However, a violent shake of the head threw Luna off her. The act
horrified Sailor Moon, but not as much as what else she saw.

Nocturn's pale beauty was slipping away. Every second she
stayed in contact with Sailor Moon, she began to age and wither. The
woman's pale face and supple arms began to line and age years before
the girl's eyes. And as she withered, her grip loosened on Sailor
Moon's throat.

Finally Sailor Moon managed to shove Nocturn away. The shadow
princess staggered backwards, ultimately losing her balance. The
woman tumbled to the ground and came to a stop in a patch of
sunlight. She had just enough time to throw a hand up over her face
and look up at the sun before Princess Nocturn burst into flame.

"Mercury! Help her!" cried Sailor Moon. Mercury seemed
perplexed for a moment.

"Um, Mercury Aqua Rhapsody?" she guessed, unsure if she
correctly recalled the power phrase she'd used moments ago.

The flames extinguished the moment the wave hit. But it was
too late. Princess Nocturn's body exploded into soggy ash upon
impact with the water and coated the ground as it subsided.

"What a way to die," Sailor Moon said mournfully.

"Good riddance," sneered Jupiter. With Nocturn gone, the
shadow tendrils had dissipated and she was pulling herself out of the
ground.

Sailor Moon looked at her, puzzled. She turned to Luna.

"I don't understand," Sailor Moon said. "If Princess Nocturn's
- - you know - - shouldn't they be back to normal?"

"You're asking me?" Luna replied. "I'm not an expert on
magic!"

"Well maybe we should ask an expert on magic," Mercury
suggested.

"Quite right, and I'll wager Venus is still cowering at the
steps to the Sorceress's shrine," Luna added. "Perhaps it would be
prudent if we collected her."

As they neared the steps to the shrine, the group could see
Venus huddled next to the steps. The blonde nervously peeked up at
them. When she saw Sailor Moon, she jumped up and ran to her,
wrapping her arms tightly around the girl.

"Oh, Sailor Moon!" Venus wailed. "I was so scared that
something happened to you!" Venus began to cry uncontrollably.

"It's all right, Mina-chan," Sailor Moon whispered, patting her
back. "I'm back and I'm safe."

"And-and I was so frightened something was going to attack me!"
Venus continued. "I-I was all alone and I heard noises! It was
awful!"

"Nothing attacked you. You're fine," Sailor Moon reassured her
while Jupiter impatiently rolled her eyes. "Now let's just climb up
the stairs and see the Sorceress so we can undo Nocturn's spell."

Venus took a timid step forward, then pulled back.

"No! I-It's too high! Please!" whimpered Venus, clinging to
Sailor Moon. "Please don't make me climb those stairs! It's too
high! It's scary!"

While Venus was protesting, Jupiter crept silently up behind
Venus and Sailor Moon. Crouching down, she inched closer and closer
until she was directly behind them.

"GET UP THE STAIRS!" she bellowed as loudly and as fiercely as
she could. Venus shrieked in terror and raced up the stairs, as
Sailor Moon squealed in surprise and flopped forward, landing on the
first step. Picking herself up, she looked up and found Venus
cowering twenty-five steps up, quaking in terror. "Don't make me
come and get you," warned Jupiter as she ascended step four. They
all saw Venus's eyes grow to saucers and she quickly scrambled up the
steps on her hands and knees.

"Mako-chan!" Sailor Moon said remonstratively. Jupiter ignored
her.

"Oh, come along, Sailor Moon," Luna sighed as she leaped up to
the second step. "As detestable as Jupiter's way is, it seems to be
the quickest way to get poor Venus up there."

Sailor Moon's lower lip pushed out. Petulantly she grabbed
Mercury's hand and climbed the stairs after them.

Once they were at the top, Sailor Moon pushed passed Jupiter
and knelt beside the cowering Venus.

"It's all right, Venus," Sailor Moon whispered. "No one's
going to hurt you now. Please try to calm down."

"B-B-But Jupiter was going to," Venus stammered out. Her arms
still covered her head protectively.

"Jupiter won't touch you," Sailor Moon said. "I promise!"

"Don't make promises you can't keep," Jupiter muttered. Sailor
Moon shot her an angry glare.

Once Venus was coaxed to her feet, the four girls and one cat
ventured to the shrine door. Jupiter was prepared to force it, but
it opened with ease. She strode arrogantly into the inner chamber of
the shrine, the others following behind her. Mercury looked around
in wonder, while Venus searched for any signs of imminent danger.

Suddenly a great flame erupted from the center of the room. It
shot up thirty-five feet into the air, the tip of the flame touching
the high ceiling of the room. The body of the flame burned brightly,
a brilliant red flecked with fleeting streaks of yellow. Venus fell
to the floor and hid her face, curling up into a protective ball.
The others fell back until they realized that no heat came from the
flame.

"Who disturbs the Sorceress of Ny?" came a voice from the
flame. It was low and seductive, a voice that spoke to them from a
higher plane of consciousness, a voice that looked down on them as
lesser creatures not from arrogance, but from simple fact.

"You don't frighten me!" bellowed Jupiter belligerently. "Give
me back my golden heart!"

"Be gone, low creature," the voice replied disdainfully. "The
Sorceress of Ny does not brook threatens from lesser beings."

"I'll show you how much of a 'lesser being' I am!" snarled
Jupiter.

Sailor Moon saw the lightning rod extend from Jupiter's tiara.
Sighing in frustration, she abandoned her spot beside Sailor Venus
and purposefully walked over to Jupiter.

"Jupiter," Sailor Moon said impatiently, grasping Jupiter by
her upper arms. "Please stop." It was not a request.

Before Jupiter could protest, Sailor Moon turned to the flame.

"Forgive her, please. She's under a spell. In fact all my
friends are under spells. That's why we've come."

"I sense power in you," the flame replied. "I sense that which
places you above the others. I am willing to hear you."

Sailor Moon stared for the longest time at the flame. Luna
gasped in amazement, for it was hardly the time for Usagi to zone
out.

"Your voice," Sailor Moon said at last and Luna realized that
she hadn't zoned out at all. "There's something familiar about your
voice."

"Indeed?" mused Luna. "Perhaps this bears investigating."
Quietly she eased away from the others and began searching the room.

"That is no concern of mine," the voice replied. "State your
business or go."

"Oh, yes! Forgive me," Sailor Moon said, shaking herself.
"It's my friends. They've had their greatest facet taken from them
by an evil woman named Princess Nocturn."

"Then it would behoove you to go to Princess Nocturn and get
her to restore what she took," replied the flame.

"Yes, well," Sailor Moon faltered, looking down in
embarrassment. "We can't."

"Do you fear Princess Nocturn?"

"No. Well, not much. You see, she attacked us and, well, she
died."

The flame seemed to expand and grow brighter.

"She is dead?" the flame asked.

"Yes. Were you friends with her?"

"Sailor Moon!" Luna called out suddenly. Sailor Moon searched
the room until she spotted the cat by an opened door on the far side
of the room. "Come here, quickly!"

"Pay no attention to the creature!" roared the flame.

Initially torn between obeying Luna and respecting the
Sorceress, her curiosity finally won out and she raced over to Luna.
Following the cat into the room, Sailor Moon found an incredible
sight.

Inside the brightly-lit room was a pillar that seemed to be
made of pure sunlight. It stood in the exact center of the room.
Painted on the walls of the room were runes of an unknown language.
One of the characters seemed to resemble the sun. But Sailor Moon's
eyes locked onto a single sight. Strapped to the pillar with cords
of spun gold, her hands above her head, was Sailor Mars. Her eyes
were jammed shut and her head tossed weakly from side to side, as if
the pillar were drawing the very life from her.

"Rei-chan!" Sailor Moon howled. She lurched forward, only to
be stopped by Mars' hoarse, whispered voice.

"U-Usagi," Mars gasped. "Stay away. Too dangerous."

"Let her go!" Sailor Moon wailed, turning and looking up at
nothing in particular. "Please let her go! You're hurting her!"

"Princess Serenity," rumbled the voice, even more ominous and
intense in this room. "On your honor as royalty, do you swear that
you speak the truth? Is Princess Nocturn dead?"

"Yes, yes! Now let her go!"

Like magic, the cords unraveled. Freed of their grip, Sailor
Mars slumped to the floor in exhaustion. Sailor Moon raced to her
side and let the girl's head rest in her lap.

"Rei-chan," Sailor Moon whispered urgently, gently stroking the
girl's face. "Are you all right?"

Mars looked up to her and smiled weakly. "It's about time you
got here."

"You ungrateful thing," Sailor Moon grinned meekly.

"I knew it!" hissed Luna. Sailor Moon looked up from tending
to Mars and found Princess Apollonia standing before her. The woman
smiled as sweetly and as innocently as before.

"Well," the princess said pleasantly, "it looks as if you've
found me out."

"I don't understand," Sailor Moon said. "Where's the Sorceress
of Ny?"

"There is no sorceress," Mars whispered weakly.

"Of that you are mistaken, my lady," Apollonia said sweetly.
"You are the Sorceress of Ny - - after a fact." She twittered a
delicate little laugh.

"What?" Sailor Moon asked, confused.

"She was draining my psychic energy," Mars gasped out. "Using
it to manufacture the mystical signature of this fictional Sorceress
of Ny as a front."

"Why?" Sailor Moon asked, staring at Apollonia with a look of
betrayal.

"It was necessary, in case Princess Nocturn gained your pendant
and managed to harness its power. She most surely would have struck
at me. I had to shield myself." Apollonia smiled sweetly.

"Perhaps you'd care to explain just what this has all been
about?" Luna asked pointedly. She felt emboldened to confront
Apollonia, for Mercury, Venus and Jupiter stood in the doorway,
listening.

"Very well," Apollonia said graciously. "For a long time,
Princess Nocturn had been gathering strength and allies to eventually
move against me and plunge Ny into eternal darkness."

"So you moved to stop her," Luna replied.

"Yes. For I was aware of the existence of Princess Serenity in
your dimension. And I was aware of the great and powerful crystal
she possesses."

"So she brought us all to Ny," Mars interjected.

"Indeed," smiled Apollonia. "For I knew that once Princess
Nocturn sensed the power of your crystal, she could not resist it."

"But you also knew she couldn't safely control Sailor Moon's
power," Mars said, staring accusingly.

"Yes," Apollonia admitted, still smiling as if butter couldn't
melt in her mouth. "I knew I could ill afford a protracted battle
with Princess Nocturn, for win or lose I would be quite weakened.
But I knew Princess Nocturn would destroy herself with her lust and
impatience for victory if I gave her the opportunity." And Apollonia
continued to smile innocently.

"That's . . ." gasped Sailor Moon, "that's horrible!"

"No more horrible than what you did," Apollonia responded
gently. "She died by your hand, and yet it was self-defense and her
own avarice that did her in. I, too, was merely acting in
self-defense."

"And the senshi?" Luna asked, dissecting Apollonia with her
eyes. "Nocturn didn't cast those spells on them, did she? You did."

"It's true," Apollonia admitted, looking like a naughty little
girl.

"You did this?" Sailor Moon cried, appalled.

"Yes, Princess. It was necessary, so you would play your part.
You were needed to bait Princess Nocturn into her rash act."

"How cold-bloodedly calculating you are," Luna remarked.

"What about my friends?" snapped Sailor Moon. "Change them
back!"

"Change them back yourself. You possess the power. You always
have."

"But - - I can't summon the Moon Tier! I've tried!"

"Well this is Ny, not your world. Your power crystal has taken
a different form in this dimension."

Sailor Moon gaped in confusion. Then she glanced down at the
silver pendant with the heart-shaped etching hanging from her neck.

"Precisely," smiled Princess Apollonia. Then her hand flew to
her mouth and poorly concealed her smirk. "Did I forget to tell you
that? I do apologize."

"So what happens now?" Luna asked warily.

"I shall spread my influence over all of Ny," she said grandly.
"And all the inhabitants will know an abundance of light and I shall
bask in their praise and good wishes."

"And what of those who don't wish to partake of your glorious
realm of eternal light?" Luna pointed out. "Those who allied
themselves with Nocturn, for instance?"

"They will adapt," smiled Apollonia. "What other choice will
they have?"

"Unless we stop you," Sailor Moon said, rising to her feet.

"Princess Serenity," Apollonia replied gently. "Would you
expend precious time and energy in battle with me when you could be
curing your friends and taking them home? I seem to recall those
were your most fervent wishes."

"Oh, you're good," Mars glared.

Sailor Moon looked down, torn by conflicting emotions. And in
that moment of indecision, Apollonia jabbed her hands into the air.
The room was flooded with a blinding light.
* * * *
"Hold still, Mina-chan!" groused Sailor Moon. She was pointing
the Moon Tier at Sailor Venus, who cowered in terror from it. "It's
not going to hurt you! I promise!"

"Stop yelling at me!" Venus sobbed. They, Luna and the other
senshi were all back in Rei's bedroom in the shrine, as if they had
never left.

"So how are you doing, Ami?" Jupiter asked timidly.

"It feels like a steel box has been removed from around my
brain," Mercury sighed. "Oh, it feels so good to be me again! How
about you?"

"I'm back," Jupiter whispered contritely. "And I'm feeling
really bad about the way I treated you guys."

"Don't," grinned Mercury. "We all know you weren't yourself.
I'll consider the matter closed - - just as long as nobody uses me
and the word 'stupid' in the same sentence ever again."

"Thanks," Jupiter smiled shyly. "But study group's at my place
tomorrow and don't be surprised if there's a great big plate of
pastry waiting for all of you." She glanced at Luna. "And a great
big can of tuna if you want to stop by."

"Hmm," Luna said, her ears perking up. "I accept," and she
licked her whiskers.

"Are you all right now?" Sailor Moon asked Venus.

"Yeah," Venus sighed gratefully. "Oh man, I NEVER want to go
through anything like that again! I'm going to be having nightmares
about this for months! Thanks, Usagi." Venus ran her fingers
through her hair, then suddenly sat bolt upright. "NOBODY says
ANYTHING to Artemis about this!"

"I can be convinced," Mars said, smirking, "for a price."

"Rei-chan!" admonished Sailor Moon.

"Oh, I'm just kidding," Mars responded, then glanced at Venus.
"Partly."

"Man, that Princess Apollonia was a real piece of work, wasn't
she?" Makoto said, allowing her Sailor Jupiter form to fade.

"She sure had me fooled," Usagi commented.

"First grade level riddles have you fooled," needled Rei.

"Shut up, Rei! Really, I'm worried about the people of Ny - -
especially those cute little tree spirits. How are they going to get
along under her rule?"

"I don't know," Ami shrugged. "But too much of anything, even
eternal light, can't be a good thing."

"Yeah," nodded Rei. "Life's usually best when opposing
elements are balanced in harmony - - yin and yang, you know? When
one side gains too much power, it rarely works out."

"Yeah," Usagi added. "Like how would you know when to go to
sleep in a place that had eternal day?"

Luna rolled her eyes. "Only you would think of something like
that!"

"You know what I mean!" Usagi replied petulantly.

"Well if it bothers you that much, we should go back and set
things right," Minako suggested. "That is our job, after all."

"That's fine as far as it goes," Rei replied, "but how do we
get there? Apollonia brought us to Ny and she sent us back."

Minako looked at Usagi.

"Don't look at me," Usagi replied. "I barely know the way
home."

"Well, there are going to be things that are beyond us," Ami
said. "I suppose this is one of those things."

The group slumped dejectedly as one.

"Well this bites," muttered Minako.

THE END