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A Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon story
by Elsa Bibat

A story set in "A Dance Set to the Music of Time" sequence

Disclaimer: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon belongs to Takeuchi Naoko, Koudansha, TV Asahi, and Toei Douga, and DIC. This is used without permission.

This disclaimer also applies to several intellectual properties referred to in the text. Please be guided accordingly.

Foreword: A little interlude for something I've been working on. It's pretty much freestanding, but it hints at several things that will show up in several of my upcoming fics.

I think I'm a bit rusty with first-person and I most likely got a few tenses wrong. Damn it, I'm an English teacher and I'm starting to forget my tenses! The horror! Soon I won't know what a present progressive participle is or what a clause is! ^_^

Also the fact that the narrative voice of Luna seems to slip to Edith Wharton or Louisa May Alcott is another problem…

Anyway, C&C is always welcome.


It has been a long time since I've been here.

Oddly enough, now that I've been reminded of it by Senshi Pluto, I remember being in here for a long time.

I smiled as I looked at the bright, blue sky and the white clouds to the sound of the river Skai. I was on my way to Ulthar, the city where no man may harm a cat, and since this was the first time I've been here since being awakened, I decided to travel to Ulthar like the first time I came there, when my mother first taught me to walk down the steps to the Gates to this wonderful and terrible land of dreams.

I could fly if I wanted to. Soar high up into the sky and see the lands beneath me, the city of Dylath Leen on the coast, the country of Celephais, the islands of Pegana, and a dozen more places that have been here since my youth. I also know some new places, those that have survived the Fringelands and have become true parts of this world: the dark Metropolis with its shadowy guardians and masked people, the foggy, murderer-infested coastal city of Lundun, and a few more places that I swear I've seen Usagi watch on TV in the waking world.

I look around and see verdant forests, evergreens, willows and birches, along with a dozen other trees — some of whom I think don't even exist in the waking world; flocks of multicolored birds in flight, picturesque as they move through the sky; the occasional flowerbed — peonies and marigolds and several other flowers. I was walking far off the beaten path. Hiking would be the better word.

I run my hands through my black hair — hands that I don't have in the world outside of sleep — and smooth the wrinkles on my sable vest. I had chosen to wear my traveling clothes: the all-black ensemble of breeches, boots and shirt under a double-breasted vest, all of them with a feminine touch. The daggers by my side were a formality; I was probably one of the most dangerous beings walking these lands right now, and if any idiot didn't know that from the mark on my forehead, they had no right to be walking the Dream. Besides, I was going to Ulthar, and in Ulthar no man may raise a hand against a cat.

The Zoogs know me, and they were keeping careful distance, although I noted the rustle of fur at the edge of my hearing and the scent of the furry little minks.

Approaching the main road, I think of Artemis.

The idiot must already be at the Inn of a Thousand Sleeping Cats, sipping at his mead. He always did love the shortcut. I sometimes wonder what I see in him. A man is a man, whether he be a person or a cat. He does have his good points, though, and he can be really quite sweet if he puts his mind to it.

I stretch a little as I reach the well-trodden road to Ulthar. Feline instincts still take over sometimes when I choose to walk in this form, and for a moment I have this irresistible urge to lick myself. I raise my leather-gloved hand and put it to my cheek, caressing, feeling the smooth harshness of the leather on my skin, running from the side of my face to my mouth. As my lips parted to give my hand/paw a lick, a crashing sound came a little down the road.

It wasn't just a crashing sound; more like the sound a truckload of coals make when dumped to the ground, combined with the derailment of a train and the tinny sound of a steamboat whistle. This was mixed with the sound of crunching tree trunks and a sound I have rarely ever heard in this, the land of dreams.

Gunshots.

My eyes widened and I ran to see what in Serenity's name was happening. The sight that was before me amazed me. A mechanical creature, with steam pistons working its limbs and large brass muscles mingled with iron and exposed gears, was running amok. Electric bulbs with wiring panels ran up and down the vaguely humanoid shape, and, to top it all off, a long stovepipe protruded from its back, acrid black smoke pouring from it. Several broken tree trunks surrounded it, and it held a particularly thick one in its large metal hands. It radiated an aura of pain and horror, matching the majesty that it seemed to project from its metallic face.

The object of the thing's ire was similarly awe-inspiring. A white unicorn — one of the old-breed creatures that had escaped the Cataclysm by entering this land — and its rider were dodging the wide swings of the mechanical giant. The unicorn was a magnificent specimen of the species, exceedingly beautiful for a race known for beauty and magnificence. The alabaster skin, powerful flanks, agile legs and, of course, the crystalline horn that shone with an incredible light were a sight to behold.

But the rider of this incredible creature was what drew my eyes to the pair. A black rider on a pale horse, the figure was tall and swathed in black. The jet-black cloak that she — for no other rider but a virgin maiden could ever ride a unicorn — wore covered her body entirely, and I could glimpse a flash of red lining now and then whenever she dodged the metal giant's strikes. Black-clad, leather-gloved arms held two guns — guns?! — while she held on to the unicorn with her legs alone. An excellent rider, to be able to do that bareback. Her face was obscured by the upturned collar of the long cloak, the other features covered by the shadow of the slouch hat that went on her head. I could only see her eyes; burning orbs of unstoppable will that seemed to bear down on the creature before her. She blasted the creature again with the two guns, both of them booming like the hand-cannons of the Silver Millennium.

The metallic titan roared as the bullets somehow managed to punch through steel, leaving holes as large as dinner plates in its brass musculature. It was the roar I heard earlier, all sound and fury, menacing in its power. The dark rider would eventually win, but the thing before me would give quite a good fight before going down.

The black rider responded with a laugh. Not just a laugh; but a cackle of mirth that seemed to tremble with a power of its own in the clearing by the road on the way to Ulthar. It boded triumph and menace, that laughter which seemed to come from everywhere at once. Her gearwork opponent seemed to be rattled at the sound, fear coming to the dial-like eyes of the creature. It turned to go and, by some ill chance, it saw me.

Ill chance for it, of course.

It charged for me. I still don't know why. Maybe it was trying to distract its opponent. Maybe it wanted to kill something before it went into the Great Dark.

For such a large thing, it was quite fast on its feet. It had traveled half the distance between us when its shadowy opponent noticed me and deduced what the creature was thinking of doing. She spurred her steed to try and intercept it, shooting the creature with her guns. She wouldn't be able to stop it.

I went into my stance, legs slightly apart, open hands, palms facing outward.

The metal abomination was almost upon me. I could see the holes that must have been drilled by earlier gunshots dripping a red and black liquid. I could see the pistons pushing up and down, hear the gears clacking as the thing before me raised the wide tree trunk to smash me flat.

Then I closed my eyes, moved my hands in the forms, my body joining in harmony with the world that is a dream. Palms going clockwise and counterclockwise.

Hand Waving A Mirror.

Parting Water.

Rolling Clouds.

And without even thinking about it, I ripped the construct before me to shreds.

Not exactly to shreds, and not exactly ripped. My mother and the Queen once told me it was like … unweaving, unraveling a piece of quilt.

Taking a thread apart from a quilt.

Piece by piece.

And it screamed its scream all the way as I sent it to the Great Dark, where the light cannot shine and where all must go in the end.

I stopped in the stance that the Queen had called Climbing The Mountain Rolling Down. It had seemed an eternity, yet it had lasted only a minute or so. Maybe even less. Time when one is in Harmony is often hard to determine.

The dark rider was before me, and I could see in those blazing eyes respect from another Dreamer. She had pocketed her guns and bowed a little to me, the unicorn bearing her giving me the same honor.

"I thank you, Milady. I have hunted that creature for a long time, and though it pains me not to have killed it myself, I recognize who you are and give you my thanks and respect. I am honored."

I smiled a little in response as she continued.

"I see now that you bear the Mark. And you match the description. My grandfather told me of you. I would have pitied the Tick-Tock for charging at you like that, had I noticed the Mark earlier. Your name is whispered still in the alleys of Ulthar to the backstreets of Celephais. Even in the newer lands where I come from, you are feared by men who would do evil."

"Which one of the new countries have you come from?"

"The monstrosity that you dispatched, and myself, come from the Metropolis."

Hmmm… Strange things seem to be brewing again. At least around here, I am more than just a helpless cat.

"I thank you again, Milady. And I must ask forgiveness. I must make haste to my lands again, to report that the Tick-Tock has been dispatched and see if any more are still abroad."

The sable-clad rider turned her steed to the other direction, away from Ulthar to Dylath-Leen. She would most likely be spreading news of my return to this land. She turned to look at me again. Her eyes seemed to have softened a little, losing a bit of the fire that I had seen earlier.

"May I ask you something, Milady?"

I arched an eyebrow and nodded.

"Where is the White Shadow?"

I quirked my lips into a thin smile. "Most likely off drunk at the Inn of a Thousand Sleeping Cats."

The dark woman laughed. This laugh was more like the tinkling of small crystal bells than the one she had used earlier, the one earlier being like the toll of the Great Bells of the Elysium, resounding with power. This laugh was gentle and lady-like, mirth-filled and tinged with nostalgia.

"Just like the old tales. It will be an interesting time again, Milady, won't it?"

I shook my head with a smile and turned my back on her as she galloped down the road.

It seems I will have to rouse Artemis again.

I walk down the road, toward Ulthar, toward the Inn of a Thousand Sleeping Cats, and toward Artemis and adventure.

It has been a long time.


"Humph. And she complains about me sleeping too much."

Usagi pouted as she went out of her room, leaving a sleeping Luna on her bed.

A smile was on the black cat's lips as she took a little catnap.

 


Author's notes: To the people I have to blame:

  • Dr. Davide Mana, the greatest unknown Italian Cthulhu Mythos writer who ever lived. Damn it, the man is a god — an Elder God, to be exact — and the Lizard King and the MiB, whose speculations on the Dreamlands on the DGML helped shape my DL.
  • …and Brian Lumley and Roger Zelazny, who introduced me to the Mythos in the first place.
  • …and Maxwell Grant, the man who made The Shadow.
  • …and the several authors, both fanfic and commercial, whose creations are mentioned briefly. Guess who? ^_^
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