As soon as they caught sight of the orange-and-gray tiny planetoid with its partner-moon, both Phobos and Deimos started speaking at once, making observations about the planet that might help them decide which design would fit the appearance best. Serenity paused, content to let them discuss their plans without her, and concentrated, using the new crystal to create a bubble of air around the twins. She moved away, the barrier stayed, and she smiled – this might work after all. The young pair continued to deliberate, and Serenity turned her attention to the planet itself, thinking about the growing child of Chronos and her star-seed status; depending on how old the fetus was, a star seed might already be assigned to it, and their plan would fall to ruin. Could she afford to wait, to leave the crystal now, seek out the child, and eventually return to claim it, hopefully before the Cauldron sent in a seed for the child? Or could she simply…
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and directed the power of the silver crystal out away from her, and then in, deep into the small planet. Farther she reached until… there it was. The star seed of the planet – a Sailor Crystal. How could she obtain it? Tentatively she thought to the crystal, asking for it to pull at the seed, and thought herself for the seed, asking it to come with her, to be born into a senshi that would protect life in this System…
And, slowly, it came.
Euphoric, she continued to ask with her mind, her heart, and pull with the power of the silver crystal, but as soon as the seed reached the surface of the planet, it dissolved again, its power returning to the planetary center as though magnetically attracted. Serenity opened her eyes and sighed, wiping a fine layer of sweat from her brow, observing the twins floating somewhat nearer the surface of the planet, already working on pulling the materials they would need out of its makeup. Holding her crystal in hand, she turned and flew back towards Earth. Perhaps the crystal needed a host immediately as it left the planet itself… she would need to find the daughter of Chronos immediately and find out.
"Serenity!" Luna rushed forward at a run, her paws pumping furiously to meet her. Artemis was less than a step behind, the white cat looking just as determinedly happy as his partner. Serenity touched down in the scraggly field and took a few steps towards them, then, deciding that running would not be a good idea right now and that their expressions were not hinting that they were in danger, she fell as softly as she could to her knees and waited for them to reach her. Luna ran right up to her, placing her paws on her thighs, and with tears of joy in her eyes she exclaimed, "Serenity you won't believe this! There are whole groups of people here who believe that the planets are embodiments of their gods!"
Serenity was speechless – this could make things so much easier… if they were to find a group of devout followers and explained the situation… that the girls would be the embodiment of the planet, and so, too, maybe, an embodiment of their gods… it was almost perfect, like a gift, but Luna wasn't finished yet. "Serenity! Their stories name the Goddess of the Moon 'Selene'!"
"Selene?" she repeated, her heart beating even faster, "but that's so close to…"
"Your name!" Luna exclaimed, her front legs hopping in excitement.
"It's almost like fate…" she breathed, her eyes losing focus at their good luck. Was this the Universe's way of telling her that she was indeed meant to find this planetary system around Sol? She felt like feinting, she was so grateful for all of the good fortune she had come across. … but there was one part of her that wondered why. What was behind this? Was she expected to do something great? … or was this just karma for defeating Necroma?
"And on top of that," Artemis broke in, "the name of the moon itself is "Luna"." She turned her head quickly to him, as if to gauge whether it was just a joke, but his cheeky smile told her he was telling the truth. The miraculous, too-good-to-be-true truth.
"Well, then…" she smiled, and laughed, tucking her worries away for the time being, "Go! Go find out more about them! See if the potential is real! Find a leader of a sect for a specific planet and quietly introduce yourself as my voice!" She reached up and pet their heads fondly. Both pushed back into her hand with love before they ran off.
She used her wings to help her stand and watched until the pair of them disappeared, then turned around to look off in the other direction, wondering where she should go. As she stood there, Phobos and Deimos were creating a castle on the farthest planet, readying for the child of Chronos. She took a deep breath – where should she start? She took to the sky, high enough that she wouldn't be noticed by sunset cloud-watchers below, and just flew. She took a random direction and started off, looking below and ahead of her, enjoying the wind. Every now and again she changed direction for no reason, just looking at the towns and occasional cities that she passed, following rivers and fields. As the sun was finally disappearing completely behind the horizon, she got the sudden urge to land.
It was then that she started to question why. She paused, hovering, and looked down to see a caravan pulled into a loose circle below. Dozens of horses stood tethered off to the side, and a giant fire blazed in the center of the band. She had been led here by the god. At the same time she felt violated, yet thankful – violated because the control was so light that she hadn't noticed; thankful that she wouldn't have to go around asking random women if they had been together with any gods lately.
So she landed, with as much dignity and will power as possible, wondering if he would control her actions in the events following, and walked towards the circle of covered wagons and the fire beyond with as much grace as her long dress, heels, and extremely round belly would allow. Immediately she felt eyes on her, cautious and wondering; long before she reached the nearest wagon she was approached by two men, spotting a child running off towards the center of activity. Lively music played in the background, voices raised in song, hands clapping merrily, and shadows dancing wherever the campfire light reached. However, the general festivity in the air seemed lost on the two fellows who stood together, blocking her path. Their clothing was bright and colorful, with scarves and vests and delicate yet bold jewelry in silver, gold, and a myriad of gems. Their eyes fought to appear strong, but she sensed the cautionary wonder behind their gaze.
She twitched her wings once, the light from the fire thrown around by their iridescence, hoping to draw more attention to them and her place as a person of importance, and inclined her face in a regal nod. She chose to address them first – Eos's mother always started the conversation; watching her, Serenity felt speaking first conveyed a certain amount of control over an exchange, and being a stranger on a strange world, she needed any extra control she could muster. "Good evening," she chimed, turning her eyes on both supposed guards.
They looked to each other in surprise, "Good evening," one replied, hesitantly, his brown eyebrows knitted together in confusion.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" the other suspiciously inquired.
She took in a deep breath through her nose and framed her answer, her eyes silent and compelling, trying for all the world to appear as a goddess. "I am Selene of the Moon," she replied, not exactly lying, "And I would enjoy the warmth of your hearth with you." She did not ask – deities do not ask, but rather inform. She was nervous, of course; they had weapons by their side and large muscles bulging on their arms; she would rather not have to fight them. She said nothing more, watching their faces and waiting for their reaction to gauge how this interaction would continue.
Another man approached, this one taller than the other two, with longer, curly dark brown hair streaked with gray. He wore a bright red scarf around the top of his head, keeping his hair out of his face, and when he smiled a glint of gold glittered off of his canine teeth. The long sleeves of his shirt poofed out away from him, hanging stylishly from his arms and gathered at his wrists. He gave her a sidelong look, leaning in for the second guard to whisper something in his ear. Straining her ears, she deciphered "Selene" "Moon" and "Goddess", and fought to keep the smile off of her face.
"We have heard of you," the man said, straightening, his eyes avoiding hers . He bowed graciously, "I am Shayenra Merconair, leader of this family and Caravan. I would be honored to share a fire with you, Flower of the Night Sky. Please," he offered her his elbow, which she took gracefully, and hoped she wouldn't trip as they walked through the circle of wagons into the campfire area beyond.
Voices chanted merrily to an alien tune as figures danced by the fire and hands clapped to keep the beat of the drums, guitars and tambourines. When finally she passed through the outer circles of arranged carriages, the aura surrounding the campsite fully engulfed her, her blood seeming to sing with the music that so many danced to. Wine and food were passed from person to person as the song sung through their hearts, feet stomping the beat whether seated or standing. Her guide bellowed a call, a lead into the song, and started clapping merrily, arching his shoulder so signal her to follow. She fell into step behind him, walking lightly through the narrow pathway between seated revelers and weaving dancers, aware of the stares and finding none to be overly accusatory or fearful. They must have had unquestioning trust in their leader to not even pause in their song as a stranger walked amongst them.
He took his seat upon a throne of furs, surrounded by people that looked close enough like him to probably be his family, and offered her the seat on the felled log beside him. She nodded her head thankfully to him and sat down as gracefully as she could muster. She threw out her senses all around her, watching the dancers in colorful attire whirl and the occasional green eyes seek to stare at her; smelling the cooked meat and the more delicate aromas of fruit waft about the campsite, a welcoming distraction from the slight smell of horses and sweat; listening to the music and the faint, low voices behind her, the whispers of her nearest neighbors; and feeling the heat of the flames, the pounding of the Earth below her, and the inquisitive fingers stretching towards her wings. She fluttered them once again, more to ward off the curious than to draw attention to herself, and waited to see what Shayenra Merconair intended for her, if anything.
As the song ended, acts of acrobatics nearly taking her breath away as people jumped off of each other to gain higher altitudes, flipping and twisting and turning to miraculously land on their feet with a great smile on their faces, the leader of the caravan stood, spreading his arms wide to the applause. People quieted, looking at him with respect. Forks stopped their scraping, bells stopped jingling; all that could be heard through the relative silence were the horses whickering off somewhere behind them, the branches snapping in the fire, and the dancers panting to regain their composure.
"Tonight," the great man spoke, his voice ringing off of the wagons, "We have been graced with a visitor who wishes to share in our nightly revelry! We have all heard of her but I will be the first to admit –" he turned aside to smile towards her, "I do apologize," he said, loud enough for people to hear but quiet enough to be counted as an aside; he continued in his booming voice, "I had not truly believed until this night. With us sits the Goddess of the Moon, Selene!" There followed a murmur throughout the crowd, of mingled disbelief and wonder, and, finally:
"It appears to me, the Moon tonight is full!" a man somewhere in the crowd cried out. Shayenra looked to the sky to see the waxing face of the moon staring back at him and looked confused, but then the leader's eyes fell back on her and understanding flickered through his eyes. His laugh was like a bark when he realized what the man had meant; Serenity smiled and laid a hand delicately on her growing stomach, arching her brows to show that she understood, too, what the jokester had hinted.
She stood gracefully, thankful for the strength in her legs that she did not falter, and nodded to the crowd. "Thank you for having me, jubilant family of the Merconair. Please," she urged, "continue to celebrate the night."
"You heard her!" Shayenra bellowed jubilantly, and the music started all over again; but before bodies started to move hectically, Serenity caught the eye of a beautiful young woman sitting to their left, a small distance from the main throng, watching her and then pointedly looking away, and Serenity knew that it was this young woman that she had come for.
She turned back to the caravan leader and tilted her head toward the young woman, "Shayenra," she addressed, "Who is that woman?"
The man stood for a second to get a good look, then sat back down, "She is the new wife of my third son; Trinna is her name."
"I would speak with her," she stated.
The man shrugged, his eyes smiling, "It is no concern of mine, Sky Flower."
Taking that for his permission, she wove through the crowd over to the young woman. Her skin, like theirs, was tanned from the sun, her features dark and wonderful, her eyes black yet bright; Serenity smiled, 'So she is whom a God seeks as a companion.' She wore a long dark and full skirt with a shirt with sleeves that billowed, and a vest tied from her stomach to above her bosoms. A bandana kept her long hair from her guarded face. Serenity motioned to her, catching her dark eyes and holding them momentarily before she moved off between two wagons; this conversation was best left private. Obediently, if warily, the girl followed.
"Trinna," Serenity addressed when she stopped, the girl standing a pace behind and averting her gaze, "Are you aware you are with child?"
The young woman's head jerked up, finally meeting her gaze full-on, her emotions transparent on her face: wonder, fear, pride. "This news is wonderful," she stated softly, "a baby is a blessing from the gods; that I have only been with my husband for a short time and find myself to already be with his child is wonderful news, thank you, Moon Flower."
Serenity looked at her, wondering how to continue, resisting the urge to bite her lip as she thought. "Trinna… this child is not one you have with your husband," she continued in hushed tones, the words a secret between them. "Can you remember any other man that has been with you?"
She froze, her face a mask of anger and denial, "No! Only him, only Sherro! Anything other would be impure, and I would be—" she paused, a realization softening her features and her voice, as though a forgotten memory was just then dawning on her, causing her to question her own vindication. "Expelled…" she finished her sentence. In her eyes her heart was breaking, and she looked upon Serenity guiltily. Serenity stared back at her impassively, wishing to help the girl but knowing that this truth needed to surface. The dark-eyed girl broke eye-contact and continued, her voice nearly too soft to hear over the celebrations. "The dream. I had a dream wherein I was visited by a beautiful man and…" she paused, embarrassed, but gained the courage to look back at Serenity, her eyes pleading. "But it couldn't possibly – it was just a dream!"
Serenity shook her head minutely, "Though it might have come to you as a dream, it was real. You were visited by the God of Time, Chronos, and now carry his daughter within you. I—" she broke off as Trinna suddenly burst into tears, her hands reaching up to cover her eyes and stifle her sobs. Her heart falling, Serenity lurched forward to embrace her, bringing the crying young woman towards her to offer what comfort she could. "It's okay," she murmured into the bandana that held back the girl's hair, her hand stroking Trinna's head softly. "It's okay," she repeated, her voice cracking as tears escaped her own eyes.
"No," Trinna mumbled wetly, "No, it's not! They will expel me, Moon Goddess! I will have nowhere to go, nowhere to live! My own family would disown me for being impure, unfaithful!" Though her heart was in her sobs, she somehow managed to stay quiet; Serenity held her tighter, knowing that her strength even now was to protect herself from the family she had been brought in to. If any within the circle saw them or heard them, she would be brought before everyone and made to confess, and her fears would come to pass that quicker. "No one would love me ever again, and I would be contaminated and forced to live with – but—" she pushed back, her hands gripping Serenity's shoulders as she stared up into her face, "You are a Goddess – could you not put a stop to this pregnancy?"
Serenity shook her head, her distaste for the very idea watered with the pity she felt for the poor, frightened girl, "No, but—"
"Than what if –" her eyes looked away, thinking, and came back to her quickly, "what if I raise her as Sherro's daughter? None would know!"
Serenity offered a sad smile, "You would know, Trinna."
The girl's face crumpled as she rushed back into Serenity's full embrace, and Serenity held her there, softly, comfortingly, letting the girl sob silently for a few long moments before she spoke again. "I have a plan for the child, Trinna." The sobbing stopped, and the girl sniffed loudly, "and for you, too, if you would listen." Trinna nodded once into her shoulder, listening. "Trinna, when your daughter is born she will have powers, not only the powers of her father, Chronos, but of a planetary guardian. I would like to take you both up to the Moon Kingdom with me; there you will be taken care of, and you will be given a castle of your own on one of the planets within this system. You would be a Queen as well, Trinna," she paused, "how about that?"
She was quiet, considering the proposal. Certainly, Serenity mused, what she offered was amazing to a girl in her situation – she was giving the girl her own kingdom, a place of power and freedom for her and her daughter; a place of peace, without judgment for being 'impure'. She would live at the Moon Palace for a while, Serenity mused, with those others Luna and Artemis can convince to join us… and when the palace on the farthest, smallest planet is finished in its construction, Trinna would move out there with her daughter and – "No." Serenity blinked, confused, and pulled the girl back to look at her. Her dark face was flushed, her eyes red from crying, but she appeared resolute. "No," she repeated.
"But, why?" Serenity asked, not caring how she sounded.
"I… You want me to be a Queen, be mother to the daughter of a God, live in a Kingdom on the Moon –" Trinna started, but Serenity interrupted.
"You would have your own Kingdom on another planet—"
Trinna shook her head violently, "I don't want my own Kingdom on a planet in space! I want none of those things!" she paused, quieting her voice, "I want to be Trinna, wife of Sherro of the Merconair Caravan, daughter of Lasher and Brianna of the Tacongar Caravan. I want to have Sherro's children, raise to a place of importance within my own family! I want the freedom allowed in moving from place to place, not to be stuck in some Kingdom for the rest of my life!" Her words strengthened her, and while Serenity's heart fell for what she knew must happen, she respected the girl for her strong conviction in what she wanted from her life. The tears like a distant memory, Trinna continued, "I do not want this child, Goddess Selene of the Moon."
Serenity took a deep breath, closing her eyes to steel herself, "Well, Trinna, wife of Sherro of the Merconair Caravan, you will have her." Trinna looked rebellious, but Serenity continued, "You will carry her to term, and live with me on the Moon until you give birth to her. If then, after you hold your daughter in your arms and see her with your own eyes, if then you still wish to return to this life, I will allow you to leave."
Trinna's eyes softened, thinking, and finally nodded. Without another word, Serenity took the child by the hand and stalked back into camp, taking a moment to wipe any tear streak from her own cheek before reentering the circle of celebrators. She brought the girl with her back towards Shayenra's thrown of fur, putting a graceful smile on her face as they approached. The man looked confused and intrigued, a dark eyebrow piquing as she came to a stop before them. With a wave of his hand, the music died down and, with it, the movement and merriment of the camp.
She projected her voice for all to hear. "To thank you for allowing me into your camp this night, I wish to honor your family by taking this young woman into my service. She will accompany me to the Palace on the Moon and live with me and my people for three months, after which time she shall return to you."
Shayenra stood, his eyes wide, "One of our own to serve a Goddess… the honor you bestow upon us is vast, Moon Flower, and for the span to be as great as three months makes my heart swell with pride for my third son's new wife. Please, allow me to create for you a tiara of gold, simple yet striking and incredibly beautiful, as I see you right now. This tiara would be the crowning achievement of all of my years as a jewelry maker, as a thanks to you for generosity."
She bowed her head, not knowing any other way to reply to such an offer, "Thank you, Shayenra Merconair, that would be wonderful."
Less than an hour later, the man's hands working swiftly and delicately, Serenity's head was crowned by a delicate golden tiara that stretched across her forehead; in the center of her brow now rested a thin golden upward-facing crescent moon, supported and held in place by a string of tiny golden balls and beautiful pearls. As he promised, it was simple, yet striking and beautiful, and she adored the piece of jewelry as soon as she positioned it on her brow. She thanked him kindly, fighting the girlish urge to jump up and down at being given such a marvelous trinket, and looked around for Trinna. The Romani girl gave her husband one last kiss, then approached her, a small suitcase in one hand. Serenity took hold of her free hand and invoked a small touch of the magic left to her to raise them into the air gently. Her wings beating and the consort of the God of Time in hand, she took to the Moon.