The night of the ball arrives and the excitement in the air builds as princess after princess comes forward to dance with King Darien. Kaleb swings Mina into a waltz and they search the room for any sign of trouble. Ned dances by with one of the visiting princesses shaking his head at something she's saying or possibly suggesting. An hour passes, then two and finally, the main event of the evening: the arrival of the Moon's Monarchy.

Serenity and Selune scan the crowded room, trying without success to spot the one person they've been looking for; their own lost princess. They make their way to where Darien is standing by his throne. He bows and offers Selune his arm. As they head for the dance floor Darien says softly,

"We have her hidden for now. Keep dancing and listen. When my advisors came back they had a small blonde girl with them. Her name is Bunny and for all we can tell, she is your missing princess. She was suffering from amnesia for almost this entire time. I think she started remembering a few days ago. Nothing concrete, but she did have a small crescent moon on her forehead one day when we were out flying."

"That's usually an indicator of trouble. What happened?"

"I fell asleep and she was watching over me. If not for her scream and then the sigil shining, I'm not sure I would have woken up. Basically, she saved our lives."

Selune thinks about that day, just a few days ago, when she and Serenity had finally felt the presence of their lost one. Serenity had tried for almost a full day and night to contact their princess, but something or someone is still blocking their efforts.

Darien can sense the distress that is slowly overtaking his guest, "What is it, my Lady?"

"Our... we have a mental link to her, or we should have. At this close range, we should be able to communicate with her and she with us, but it's like we can't get through to her."

Darien nods, "I think part of that, and forgive us for doing this, is due to me and my advisors. When we started thinking that Bunny might be your princess, we put our own mental shielding around her. We still have some traitors in our midst and we don't want to tip our hand until they have arrived. It is for her protection, as well as the other innocents around us."

Selune shakes her head, "No, you don't understand. This is a familial link. We can usually feel that other person even through a shield. We are this close, and we still only sense each other, not Serena."

Darien thinks, "Would a head trauma cause it? Ned said that she'd been wounded; comatose for a few days after they'd found her. She had then and still has very little memory prior to five years ago."

Selune nods, "That would make sense. A head wound, or trauma might bend the bond just enough that we can't feel where exactly she is."

Selune suddenly stiffens, "You didn't tell me that you had someone here from the Dark Moon Kingdom."

Darien looks around and the only newcomers are Beryl and Melvin (Raye and Zander). He escorts Selune to Serenity's side then goes to where Mina is dancing with Kaleb and taps the other man on the shoulder. Bowing gracefully to his lady, Kaleb nods to Darien that he's seen the arrival of the last couple.

Darien dances Mina around the ballroom floor a few times, telling her what he's learned from Selune. She smiles and laughs as if they were having a normal conversation, then when he returns her to Kaleb's side, informs him of the king's findings. The next half hour proceeds in much the same way; Darien dances with the ladies and if they are one of his advisors, he tells that particular lady about Selune's beliefs and that lady conveys the information to her husband.

Michelle takes a break long enough to dance with Darien and he informs her also about the possibility of Beryl and Melvin belonging to the Dark Moon Family. Not letting her alarm show on her face, she nods and laughs as if he's just told her a funny anecdote. Heather can tell immediately that something has upset her partner but as she is supposed to be part of the Royal Guard, does nothing to indicate that she knows something is going on.

Lita comes out of the kitchens, in theory checking on the buffet tables, but also to do a quick surveillance. Seeing where everyone is, she nods to Darien when he offers her his arm and does her quick trip around the ballroom floor with him.

"Our rabbit is still with Amy. Do you want me to send either of them out?"

"We need Amy just to keep up appearances. Then I'll have Ned apparently trip and that will be his cue to go get the rabbit. Be prepared for anything; Selune says we have the Black Moon family here and that could be the battle we planned on but were not expecting."

Lita nods and laughs as she dances her way back to the kitchens. Once in there, she hurries to the infirmary and tells Amy it's her turn to dance with their king. Amy can tell that something isn't quite right and Lita gives a subtle nod in Bunny's direction. Slipping into her higher heeled shoes, Amy glides out onto the dance floor where Darien immediately lays claim to her.

Darien smiles as he mutters, "Keep Bunny by your side until Ned comes in. I think we have more trouble than we were originally expecting."

Amy gives him one of her shy smiles as she asks, "Do we have anything we can use to protect ourselves if it is that serious?"

Darien shakes his head, "Not unless I transform, and that might be just what we need to do. I don't know what the Moon's Monarchy has for powers. I know what legends I've heard over time, but I don't know how much of it actually is legend and what is the truth."

Amy nods thoughtfully and smiles up at him, "Are they the ones who sensed the evil you weren't expecting?" At Darien's nod she smiles again, "Let them lead. We have the two soldiers that they aren't expecting here and if I remember the legends correctly, there will be at least one or two more that will show up just in the nick of time so to speak."

Smiling as he leads her off the dance floor, Darien looks around, making sure that if he has to change, he can do so without scaring his guests. Kaleb comes over to him and asks what their plan is and Darien shakes his head.

"Just be ready," he tells him and Kaleb frowns as he tries to figure out what his liege lord, his friend might be plotting. Inhaling his frustration, he heads back over to Mina and pulls her into his arms for the next dance. Watching without trying to tip their hand, they both stiffen slightly when Beryl/Raye heads over for her dance with their king.

They watch uncomfortably as she twists and turns in his arms, trying without success to seduce the man who is still their king. He shakes his head at her, and she flounces back over to Melvin/Zander who glares at Darien with so much malice that they all know that whatever happens, will definitely be happening that evening.

For his own part, Darien's not going to reveal the Beast inside until it's absolutely necessary and he needs the advisors to be just as surprised as everyone else if they're going to pull this off successfully. Yes they all know what he is, what he becomes, but with almost two hours still remaining until he has to change into his beastly form and the dance is over, no one will be expecting the transformation until it's actually upon him.

tbc