THE NEGAVERSE OF CAESAREA
By Saint Erythros 

PART VII
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________________________________________________________________________

Sailoruranus advanced along the corrider, weapon held at the ready.  She was 
worried; fifteen minutes in the Dark Kingdom, and still no enemy.  This wasn't 
right; in her experience as a warrior, enemies generally leaped out the minute 
she showed up.  Being worried made her irritable. 
An irritable Sailoruranus is not one of the most pleasant comrades in the 
multiverse.  No, indeed.  Sailormercury and Sailorneptune were both well aware 
of this, so both lesser warriors prudently stayed well behind the short-haired 
Senshi and let Uranus scout. 
At last she stopped, at the forking of four dimly-lit hallways; Uranus held up a 
peremptory hand to halt Neptune and Mercury behind her. 
"Quiet," she barely whispered, green eyes narrowing in concrentration.  
"Something not right...." 
No sooner were the words out of her mouth than the shadows around them became 
black-clad soldiers, faces covered by black veils up to their eyes.  A silver 
flame decorated the left breast of the black uniform coats; on one tall form, 
the silver flame was superimposed over a field of twilight gray. 
That man pulled down his veil to reveal a square, brown face; he looked at the 
three Senshi with mingled annoyance and curiosity.  "Names and business here," 
he said curtly. 
"I am Sailoruranus, that is Sailorneptune, and she is Sailormercury," said 
Uranus tightly, trying to keep her all-too-short temper under control.  "We are 
here to find and rescue our comrade, Sailormars." 
The brown man's eyes hardened.  "How thoughtful," he said flatly.  "You're 
human, aren't you."  It wasn't a question; his tone suggested that he had 
pronounced the word "human" in the same manner of voice that he would have used 
to say "cockroach." 
"All of us are human," said Sailorneptune calmly.  She walked forward to stand 
beside her lover, a placating and shielding hand on Uranus' arm.  "And now that 
you know who we are and what we are doing, we would like to ask the same of 
you."  Sailormercury admired the regal tones that Neptune employed; the 
aqua-haired Senshi managed to give off the impression that the tall, square 
young man before her was merely a groom awaiting his lady's orders. 
Apparently the black-clad man felt it too; he scowled, and snapped, "I am Feriom 
sor'Baldur Tarynn, servant of the Iron Throne of Shondar.  We are the Silver 
Flames, allies of King Jadeite, and you are trespassers, uninvited and unwanted. 
 You will come with us to await the judgements of the Dai Shahre and of King 
Jadeite." 
"What if we don't want to?" said Uranus, not moving.  Mercury quietly groaned to 
herself as she recognized the signs of the short-haired and short-tempered 
Senshi getting very very angry.  When Uranus was angry, it was usually better to 
be far far away from her inevitable explosion; Mercury found herself hoping that 
when this explosion came, that Uranus would at least let out most of it on the 
Silver Flame officer. 
Feriom grinned mirthlessly.  "Well, we expected that you won't want to.  After 
all, Himself is in a bad mood today, and I don't think that even humans are 
stupid enough to want to face Himself when his leg's hurting.  So put up a fight 
if you want to, but be quick about it.  We've got other things to do today."  At 
his words, each one of the black-clad soldiers stood readier, looser; Mercury 
noted that at least three of them allowed hands to creep to the hilts of their 
weapons. 
Uranus smiled thinly.  "That'll do nicely, you jerk."  With that, the Space 
Sword was unsheathed and Uranus leaped forward, pressing her blade at the brown 
man. 
Sailorneptune sighed deeply, shaking her head at her lover's impulsiveness.  
Then, without further ado, she gripped her Mirror and began wading through the 
black-clad soldiers to help Uranus clear a path. 
Sailormercury was left with not knowing what quite to do with herself.  "I'm 
weaker than any other Senshi, even now that I'm at full power," she said to 
herself, watching in desperation as Uranus and Neptune were overcome by the 
sheer numbers and fighting efficiency of the Silver Flames.  "I'm only a 
defender, not an attacker. But at least I can try..." 
"SHABON SPRAY!" 
The Silver Flame officer, Feriom, let out a yell of surprise as the gray mists 
of Mercury coated the corridor with invisibility.  "Ledo's Blade!" he roared.  
"What in the Name of God is going ON here?" 
Mercury located her fellow Senshi by sense of touch, and quietly whispered that 
she believed that now would be a very good time to pursue the furthest 
passageway, to Sailormars and to the rest of the Senshi.  Uranus grumbled a bit 
about how she could have fought on, but Neptune quickly hushed her and thanked 
Mercury. 
The three Senshi hurried through the Silver Flames, running down the corridor to 
where Mercury could sense Mars' fiery spirit. 
________________________________________________________________________

The training salle was the single largest room in all of the palace, almost half 
a mile long by half a mile wide, with a vaulted ceiling suitable for high jumps 
and null-gravity training if Jadeite so desired. 
He was proud of his salle; he had designed it himself, back in the days under 
Beryl when fits of boredom had led him to try, in rapid succession, 
architecture, structural engineering, bridge-building, hydrodynamics, and a host 
of other professions too numerous to list.  Jadeite had always had a keen eye 
for proportions and a mind well-suited to such things as design and engineering; 
it had been one of his most valuable traits, both as a Lord General of Earth and 
a King under Beryl. 
He wove faster and faster through the warm-up exercises, letting his mind drift 
as his lean body whipped through the motions. 
Ruling the Dark Kingdom was surprisingly ... not easy, but exceedingly 
satisfying for him.  He'd always thought, watching Beryl, that it would be a 
lark sitting in the throne room and making mystical passes over that damned 
crystal staff; now he'd discovered that there was a lot more to effectively 
governing such a vast kingdom than just holding court. 
Jadeite grimaced as he took a wrong step and almost crashed into the mirrored 
west wall.  Stupid; he couldn't afford to get so caught up in his thoughts that 
he didn't pay attention to where he was going.  He redoubled his efforts, 
leaping and twisting through the dance of the exercises.  He spun in lunges and 
kicks made timelessly elegant by the economic grace of the man who performed 
them. 
They'd had a saying, back in Imperial Terra: "Kunzite thinks standing, Nephrite 
thinks sitting, Jadeite thinks fighting, and Zoisite thinks afterwards."  It had 
been clever, and an undeniable cliché; but true.  Jadeite thought better when he 
was moving, and always had.  He stilled finally, wiping away the sweat that 
poured down his face. 
Jadeite padded over to the plain wooden bench by the door to replace the 
sweat-soaked tunic he'd been wearing with a fresh one.  Kunzite had drilled him 
in that, again and again, until it had become habit: "Always fight in fresh 
clothing, if you possibly can.  Your enemy's nose is keener than your own; you'd 
always better assume that!  Go into battle clean and fresh -- if your enemy 
can't smell you, chances are you can sneak up on him." 
He smiled slightly; Kunzite had been the terror of the Earth forces, but he'd 
been undeniably gifted, both as an instructor and as a commander.  Jadeite owed 
most of his military expertise to him, owed him in fact his life.  Kunzite's 
teachings had saved his skin more than once, both back when he had been a 
trooper under Nephrite's command and when he had been promoted to a command of 
his own. 
Jadeite let his thoughts drift back to ruling the Dark Kingdom as he surveyed 
the rack of weapons, and finally chose the katana that Amberlin Jalia had gifted 
him with. 
As he stood before the mirrors in ready position, poised on the balls of his 
feet with the katana unsheathed, held perpendicular to his body at 
shoulder-level, Jadeite set his mind to solving one of his more pressing kingly 
problems: what the hell to do about the Silver Flames.  They were helpful in 
subduing the more recalcitrant youma, but sooner or later the Shondarins would 
have to leave. 
So: train of thought, set.  Body and weapon, set.  Jadeite smoothly launched 
himself into the dance of the blade, mind whirring as quickly as the golden 
sword whipped through the forms. 
The forms flowed smoothly into each other, as he moved from north to south to 
east to west, spinning to the center then launching out into the strict 
disciplines of the north, passing east to a more flowing, rhythmical dance; 
south to a slash-and-stab school, intent only upon skewering and slicing the 
opponent.  From there, Jadeite went to the western schools of fencing, moving 
gratefully into his favorite: the Dance of the Blade, as graceful as any waltz 
or ballet.  The sword felt light and easy in his grip, almost a part of him.  
Almost?  Hell!  It was far more a part of him than his nose or his ears. 
As he moved with the inner beat of the blade, Jadeite's mind riffled through 
problems, solutions, countersolutions, measures, actions, reactions.  Who had 
ever known that being a ruler could be so hard?  Beryl had been a domineering, 
forceful personality, useful as a living flag and ensign for the Dark Kingdom; 
but she sure as hell hadn't been much of a ruler.  Under her neglect, the 
kingdom had been poor in all things: energy, morale, food, economy, and most of 
all in people.  The few bureaucracies had been a joke.  The non-military 
government had been even more of a joke. 
After reviewing all of Beryl's policies, Jadeite had come to a conclusion, by no 
means for the first time: the military were the only people really suited to 
doing anything.  Instead of arguing that something couldn't be done, they ran 
off and did it. 
Jadeite had made some steady progress, in the months after Aneiron had freed him 
from the crystal and Dhearec's work with the ArchDemon had begun.  He had 
employed military strictness and discipline to the bureaucracy, applying as a 
rule of thumb that if it wasn't necessary, it had to go.  The various 
hierarchies of Court and Cabinet (not that Beryl had ever convened the latter) 
were greatly slimmed; Jadeite was a military man, and he hated the red tape and 
mind-numbing idiocies that the secretariat seemed to thrive on.  Indeed, the 
bureaucrats of the Dark Kingdom were still reeling over the yards of 
revolutionary legislation that Jadeite's latent, newly-awakened forensic mind 
had thrown at them. 
The Dark Kingdom, in short, was prospering much more under Jadeite's rule than 
ever it had under Beryl or Metallia. 
The blade came to a standstill as Jadeite finished his exercises with a motion 
both abrupt and graceful.  He wasn't physically gifted -- not like Zoisite or 
the master swordsman Kunzite -- which meant that he had to drill all of the 
moves into his slow stupid giftless muscles in order to hold his own against a 
"natural" bladesman.  That was partly why he had built this salle in the first 
place: being a general under Beryl meant being quick and sharp with physical 
weapons as well as magickal ones. 
But damn!  With a sword he was slightly better than normal; certainly, no youma 
in the Dark Kingdom could stand against him for more than thirty seconds.  
Kunzite and Zoisite both had been able to disarm him well within five minutes. 
That was with swords, of course.  With polearms -- halberds, spears, pikes, 
lances -- Jadeite had no equal.  Put a stick in his hands and he held the field, 
undisputed. 
That in mind, Jadeite replaced the Blade of Fire on its special rack with an 
affectionate pat, and chose his other gift from the Princess-mage of Shondar: a 
diilyao, a thick-shafted stave with a foot-long curved swordblade at its tip. 
Jadeite had no idea how to use the damn thing, but he was going to have fun 
playing with it, and -- 
He froze as a kindly ancient voice put words straight into his mind. 
#Hold it this way, child.# 
He felt ghostly hands take his own and reposition them on the haft of the 
diilyao. 
#Now,# instructed that oh-so-irritatingly-familiar voice, #your center of 
balance is different than with a pike, so move a bit LOWER and time your 
reactions accordingly.  Swing left so I can get your measure.# 
In pure disbelief, Jadeite obeyed, swinging left.  That voice -- it meant well, 
Jadeite felt that instinctively -- but when it spoke to him ...  Well, it wasn't 
precisely loud, but when it boomed, there was simply no room for anything else 
in Jadeite's head.  And when it spoke.... Jadeite had the creepy feeling that 
someone else was looking through his eyes, that someone else was momentarily 
sharing his mind. 
This was unfamiliar; it wasn't like the feeling he had gotten back when his 
Imperial Terran self and Dark Kingdom persona had been battling for control of 
him.  No, this wasn't a battle.  The voice didn't want control of him, it just 
wanted to... help him. 
#Good,# it commented, apparently satisfied with his effort.  #Right.  The 
diilyao is a more versatile weapon than a mere sword, boy; you can jab, cut, 
thrust, parry, lance, stab, twist, and grapple; and then you can still throw it 
at someone if you've a mind and if you get the trick of flicking your wrist in 
just the right way.  You are a good pupil, boy; your mind is surprisingly open, 
considering that you aren't one of my children by birth.# 
"Who are you?" Jadeite said faintly, still reeling from the feel of something so 
massive in his mind.  Not even Metallia had been able to command all of his 
attention like that. 
There was a faint pause, and invisible hands moved to catch him when he 
staggered.  Jadeite felt a pat on the shoulder, and a wash of welcoming love and 
affection.  For him.  For Jadeite, King of the Dark Kingdom.  Knowing him better 
than he did himself, seeing through his eyes, scanning through his mind, busily 
watching him with one tiny track of its infinite attention and compassion.  
Loving him unconditionally, for he was one of Its children. 
#I am the Soul of Shondar.  I am Roidan.  I am Caesarea.  I am Shondar; I am the 
Soul of Shondar, and you are one of my children.# 
"What?" said Jadeite.  Oh, gods, what had Amberlin Jalia done to him?  He 
gripped the staff with a fury beginning to burn behind his eyes. 
A massive frown.  #You are my son, in whom I am well pleased; my daughter 
Amberylinnissa Artanis Jaliana sor'Chaldra connected you to me.  Take pride, 
take pride, child; you are the only non-Shondarin to ever be a part of the Soul 
of Shondar, to have a voice in the Song of the Empire.  The Saints will cherish 
you, the Emperor and all the Sleeping Ones will be your friends.  You are a part 
of the Soul of Shondar, and you are blessed among the Children of the Creator.# 
Jadeite said something extremely rude; then followed it up with some of the most 
blistering profanity ever dreamed up. 
#Fascinating....# 
Jadeite was saved from going totally mad by the sensation that he was being 
watched.  He spun around, holding the diilyao -- crazily noticing that he held 
it just as the Soul had shown him -- and saw with a feeling of rage and relief 
that Dhearec Madros stood in the doorway. 
"Dhearec, you son of a BITCH," Jadeite half-croaked, half-screamed.  He stopped, 
cleared his throat, tried again.  "Don't ever sneak up on me again." 
The Madros lord tilted his head slightly to one side, as he always did when 
puzzled.  "My lord?" 
"Damn you, Dhearec," Jadeite muttered.  He decided sullenly that he didn't want 
to practice anymore today, and put the diilyao back in its rack on the wall.  
"Just ... don't be so quiet, all right?  Let me know when you're here." 
Dhearec didn't bat an eye.  "Certainly, my lord.  May I have permission to 
apprise you of my findings?" 
"Your findings in regard to what?" Jadeite asked, slightly muffled.  He stripped 
off his tunic -- damn, that's two shirts in one session; I must be getting out 
of shape -- and slid into a fresh black undershirt and his gray uniform coat. 
Dhearec replied, "In regards to ArchDemon Metallia, my lord."  The slender 
giant's azure gaze ticked over the emblem on Jadeite's coat.  "My lord, why do 
you wear the insignia of the Princess Amberylinnissa Artanis?" 
Jadeite worked this out for a moment, then figured out that Dhearec meant 
Amberlin Jalia.  "It was her gift to me that she Healed me of insanity, 
Dhearec," he said off-handedly, his temper cooling.  "If it makes her happy that 
I wear her emblem, then I'll do it.  It's a pretty badge, anyway."  It was; 
Amberlin Jalia's chosen symbol was a golden sun-in-glory crowned by a full 
scarlet, thorny rose.  It suited her; she was as lovely as a rose -- and she was 
as thorny as one of those blossoms when she felt ornery. 
"Yes, Dhearec," he continued.  "Go ahead.  What didja find about the ArchDemon?  
Will the Silver Flames be ready to oust It at last?" 
"I hardly think so," Dhearec said judiciously.  "The ArchDemon would like to 
speak with you, Lord Jadeite." 
This calm, matter-of-fact pronouncement caught Jadeite completely off guard.  
"WHAT?" 
The azure eyes of the Madros lord met Jadeite's own dark blue ones.  "The 
ArchDemon Metallia attempted to speak with me," said Dhearec.  "It was unable to 
make contact; I then asked if there was another to whom It could speak.  It 
replied with your image.  I assumed that you will be able to speak with It 
because of your previous connections with It. After all, were you not linked to 
It, as Its servant and avatar?" 
Jadeite ran his hand distractedly through his hair, without thinking reached out 
and grabbed the diilyao.  "I don't want to talk with the ArchDemon," he growled 
finally.  "I'm busy, Dhearec!  I've got a bloody kingdom to run, not to mention 
a bloody bunch of Shondarins I've got to avoid angering!" 
Dhearec said unsympathetically, "Such is the life of a ruler.  You have, I 
assume, heard of the Sword of Damocles?" 
Jadeite glared at him.  When Dhearec felt like being obstinate, he could be even 
more irritating than Aneiron in the most bouncy mood.  "I am busy," he said, 
biting off each word as if he hated the taste.  "I have no time to speak to an 
ArchDemon that your Dai Shahre swore to me would be gone by the new year.  The 
ArchDemon is asleep, Dhearec, and It does not bother my kingdom.  I'm perfectly 
content to have it so.  If you Shondarins are going to fuck around in my 
kingdom, you'd damn better get results before you totally screw over my land and 
my people.  Understand?  If you're going to muck with ArchDemons, Dhearec, it's 
your responsibility, not mine." 
"If you're finished, my lord," Dhearec said, totally unmoved, "you will speak 
with the ArchDemon now." 
"I won't.  I'm bloody busy.  Get the Dai Shahre to speak with It." 
"You will speak with the ArchDemon," Dhearec repeated.  "The Dai Shahre is .... 
unable to come near demons." 
There was a clash of wills, the massive Madros lord staring down at the shorter 
leaner Jadeite; much to his annoyance and dismay, Jadeite found Dhearec 
immovable. 
"Oh, fine," he said, ungraciously.  "I'll give you five minutes, but then I need 
to get to over to check with my architects." 
"As you wish, my lord," said Dhearec.  He bowed and allowed Jadeite to precede 
him out of the salle. 
As he went, it occured to Jadeite that, even though he had originally 
categorized Aneiron as the more dangerous of the pair, perhaps he had misjudged 
Dhearec. 
The Madros lord might very well prove to be more of a threat than Aneiron ever 
dreamed of being. 
________________________________________________________________________

"I... see," said the Dai Shahre.  "So she has betrayed me.  After I had given 
her specific orders to proceed directly to the Emperor." 
Aneiron fidgeted.  "Well, yeah, if you want to look at it that way..." 
The Dai Shahre stood, very painfully.  His leg was hurting like fire; white-hot 
prickles of agony shot up his thigh every time he moved.  Damn that bitch 
Amberlin Jalia.  Damn her, damn her, damn her.  Pity that she had to be so 
lovely; it annoyed him, destroying something so aesthetically pleasing. 
But there was no doubt in that strange sharp mind that she did have to be 
destroyed; he could put up with her childish tricks and her infuriating love of 
teasing -- but he would never forgive her for disobeying a direct order from the 
Iron Crown. 
Aneiron knew quite well what was passing through dai'Merolan's mind; he knew his 
lord very well, and he also knew that the Dai Shahre was not a one for 
sentiment.  Dai'Merolan would mourn the necessity of killing the sister of his 
dear friend, the darling of the Empire, the Rose of the Sun -- but he'd do it 
anyway.  Probably with a smile on the thin lips.  Because dai'Merolan was both 
unimaginative and brilliant -- brilliant in the same way that a diamond was 
brilliant, all sharp edges and icy reflections, with never a hint of what went 
on in the heart. 
"Dai Shahre," Aneiron began, descending from his midair perch to kneel on the 
floor before the Warlord.  "Dai Shahre, please.  I wouldn't call her a traitor; 
she was... helping a friend." 
"Was she really," said the Dai Shahre, in remote tones.  The gauntletted hand 
wrapped around the diilyao's haft was trembling ever so slightly; in every other 
way, the Dai Shan appeared entirely serene. 
"Dai Shahre, please," Aneiron pleaded.  "She's a good girl, she's just a li'l 
impulsive sometimes." 
"Impulsive." 
"Yeah, like me," Aneiron said desperately.  Then, because he was Aneiron, he 
grinned, and added, "And you like me, don't you, Dai Shahre?" 
"Unaccountably, I do, my brat of a son.  But Amberlin Jalia will die the next 
time I see her."  When Aneiron seemed about to say something, poison-green eyes 
wide in shock, the Dai Shahre made a negating gesture, cutting off all protests. 
 "There is nothing more to say, my son.  She disobeyed me, she is a traitor, she 
will die.  Perhaps in her next incarnation she will have learned some 
discretion.  And some sense." He considered this for a moment, then smiled 
inflexibly. "And most of all, not to dub people with stupid nicknames." 
Aneiron bowed his head miserably.  Lord, this day just got worse and worse. 
________________________________________________________________________

Sailoruranus, relying almost entirely on her olfactory and auditory senses 
rather than her visual in this dim light, caught a whiff and a slight scrape 
just three seconds before she was able to dodge out of the way, and thus just 
barely miss being knocked down by Sailors Jupiter and Venus. 
Mercury and Neptune weren't so lucky; both went down under the combined forces 
of the brunette and blonde Senshi. 
"Oof," commented Jupiter succinctly.  The tall young woman manuevered her way 
out of the Senshi heap, and held out a hand to assist Venus, who was trying 
vainly to get out of the tangle without stepping on Neptune's fanned-out hair. 
Uranus shook her head in pure disgust.  Jupiter would be an excellent warrior if 
she would just pay attention to her surroundings.  And as for Venus.... well, 
Uranus purely didn't like Venus, and that's all there was to it. 
"Get up," Uranus commanded in a low voice.  "We're almost to the center of the 
Dark Kingdom, and we should be near Sailormars by now." 
"How would you know where Sailormars is?" demanded Venus, her hands on her hips. 
 The dislike was, as they say, mutual.  "Who died and made you dog?" 
Uranus' tongue temporarily stalled.  "What?" 
"She means god," said Jupiter heavily.  "And Venus, think about it, yes?  
They've got Mercury with them.  Her computer probably knows where Mars is, to 
within a millimeter." 
"Ten centimeters," said Mercury, looking apologetic. 
"See?" Jupiter threw up her hands in mock despair.  They hurried on down the 
corridor, following Uranus and Mercury, while Jupiter continued to explain 
softly to Venus what exactly was going on. 
"We must be heading towards Metallia's chamber," Jupiter said rapidly, quite 
outpacing the shorter-legged Venus.  Jupiter did tend to walk faster when she 
was excited.  In deference to Uranus' nasty looks and her own sense of military 
deportment, the ponytailed Senshi did at least keep her voice down.  "Mars must 
be with Metallia, and that means that we'd damned well better rescue her quick, 
before whatever demons that Jadeite controls can turn her into a total 
brainwashed zombie!" 
"Actually," said Neptune, who had been listening to this 
less-than-entirely-accurate description with some amusement, "I'm not certain 
that Jadeite is the real threat at all.  I don't have much experience with the 
Dark Kingdom, but it did seem to me that Pluto hinted that it was someone 
entirely out of her experience.  Since she has certainly encountered Jadeite 
before, albeit indirectly by watching the flow of time, then it must be someone 
else who is the threat to Mars, and therefore to the rest of you." 
"Yeah, those two guys with Jadeite," said Venus happily.  "Cool." 
Neptune bit her lip, and said, with a credible show of patience, "Not cool at 
all, Venus -- this is a new enemy, even if it is concentrated in a familiar 
battleground.  Since they took Sailormars, for whatever reason, we must assume 
that they're both unfriendly and clever until proven otherwise." 
Uranus, jogging back to see what was keeping the tardy trio, nodded, somewhat 
impatiently.  "Correct.  We've gotta run, Sailors -- Mercury's computer is 
picking up on a lot of those black-coated jerks up ahead.  We've got to get 
around them to get to Metallia -- oh, and Venus, Jupiter."  Uranus seemed to 
grin, although the expression on her fine-boned face was anything but gleeful.  
"Mercury wanted me to tell you that she's picking up on a pair named Zoisite and 
Kunzite." 
As the jaws of Venus and Jupiter reached their collective knees, Uranus turned 
and marched back up the corridor to rejoin the blue-haired Mercury. 
________________________________________________________________________

They entered the vasty hall of Metallia.  Jadeite almost reeled from the almost 
tangible wash of pure evil that cascaded over him, touching him, curling around 
him in a foul caress. 
He was suddenly stricken with an almost uncontrollable urge to scrub himself 
with iodine, just to get rid of the filthy taint he felt crawling all over his 
mind in a vain effort to find a way in. 
"So, Dhearec," said a tall, dark Shondarin sitting on a plinth.  "I see that 
you've finally managed to locate King Jadeite.  Very good.  That makes -- what?  
Nine hours that you've been gone from your post? Oh, most well done, Dhearec. A 
worthy guardian for an ArchDemon." 
"Thank you," Dhearec said unenthusiastically.  The Madros lord put out a hand to 
steady Lord Jadeite, and continued.  "And why are you here, Xer'Dun?"  Dhearec's 
gaze swept over the scarlet-mazed chamber, and added unhurriedly, "And Kwedja.  
And Sailormars." 
Jadeite hadn't even noticed the presence of others; he had been too busy trying 
not to be sick at the stench of evil that was choking him. 
#Peace, my child.  The Enemy cannot force Its way into you without me standing 
aside.  And I will not.  I will not lose another child to the Enemy, to the 
Shadow.# 
"Well," muttered Jadeite in between gasps.  "That's quite comforting." 
"Did you say something, my lord?" Dhearec inquired. 
"Nothing," Jadeite snapped, wrenching his arm free of the slender giant's grasp 
and leaning heavily on the diilyao.  His infuriated blue glare touched 
Sailormars.  "Why are you here?" 
"I was dragged here by your new allies, King Jadeite," the raven-haired Senshi 
lashed right back.  She folded her arms over her chest, eyes a violet bonfire.  
"And I was freed by Aneiron Jander." 
"Fascinating," noted Dhearec, who didn't look fascinated at all.  "Aneiron seems 
to have a Gift for finding and opening such crystals...." 
"Shut up, Dhearec," Xer'Dun said, watching the blonde king and the jet-haired 
girl with interest.  The al'Linas lord seemed to have stored away his initial 
bad temper and put it somewhere for future use.  Xer'Dun was like that; all of 
his rages were cold ones.  "And," he continued, shifting into High Shondarin so 
that the king and the girl couldn't follow his words, "I'll offer you a wager 
that Sailormars will win." 
Kwedja snapped, "Don't be childish, you brat you.  We are here to report to 
de'Dhearec sor'Wyarven, not to dicker over pointless wagers."  The purple-eyed, 
sweet-faced woman paused, stared at the ceiling.  "Besides, King Jadeite would 
win, I make it." 
Jadeite, caught up in a glaring match with the fiery Senshi and still leaning on 
his staff, heard all of this at a distance; his mind caught it, processed it, 
and sent the gist of the unfamiliar, musical High Shondarin into his 
consciousness. 
"Thank you, Kwedja," he said to the purple-eyed Aquara in the same tongue, not 
even noticing the slip from Japanese to High Shondarin.  It was as if he'd 
spoken the language all his life.  "Xer'Dun, under one of Beryl's own laws, 
wagering against me is High Treason.  Care to be brought before one of my 
Tribunals?" 
Sailormars let down her glare, looked at him in confusion.  "What did you just 
say?" 
Jadeite started to snap that he knew she'd heard what he said, when he stopped, 
traced his mind over the words that had just escaped him.  He snapped his gaze 
over to the chalk-white Xer'Dun and to the astonished-looking Kwedja, who both 
stared at him as if he'd suddenly grown a second head.  Dhearec, naturally, 
appeared completely unmoved. 
"You just spoke in High Shondarin," said Xer'Dun at last. 
Jadeite wanted to say that he knew that; but something held him back.  
Unconsciously he raised a hand to finger the sun-in-glory on his left breast. 
He screamed in sudden, acute agony as Metallia's prison roared in protest and as 
the sunburst shone forth radiantly golden. 
Jadeite collapsed to the floor, still holding on to the staff as if to a 
lifeline.  On the left breast of his coat, the sigil of Amberlin Jalia, the 
Demonsbane of Shondar, shone ever more brilliantly in direct contrast to the 
shadows that began to gather around Metallia's prison. 
Dhearec knelt and held the slender King's body in his strong arms, lifted 
Jadeite effortlessly.  The Madros lord began to carry Jadeite in the direction 
of the blood-crimson, vaguely throbbing plinth of the ArchDemon Metallia, 
despite Jadeite's steadily-increasing screams of pain. 
Xer'Dun, unlike the horror-stricking Mars and Kwedja, smiled and lifted his face 
to the steadily-beating rays of dark energy flowing forth from Metallia.  The 
agony of Jadeite pleased him immensely.  It more than made up for being forced 
to miss the death-throes of the youma he'd tortured. 
As Dhearec prepared to lay Jadeite on the platform before Metallia's prison, 
like a High Priest with his similarly-struggling sacrificial victim, a strident 
voice rang out in protest. 
"Stop right there, Shondarin!  Put down our comrade!" 
Dhearec, without turning to see who had spoken, answered mildly, "Of course." 
And, imbuing the action with gentleness, Dhearec carefully deposited Jadeite's 
semi-conscious body before the prison of Metallia. 
Just as Kunzite and Zoisite rushed forward to save their friend, the ArchDemon 
spoke; and the Dark Kingdom trembled from top to bottom. 
  
END PART VII.
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