“The Ghosts of Dreams We Left Behind”

by

Crawlspace

 

 

Chapter 4:  Death is There to Keep Us Honest

 

            Breathing hard, Saturn leaned heavily on her glaive and limped the last few paces to the doors of the throne room.  Scattered behind her lay the bodies of the planet’s elite guard, their blood dripping from her blade and staining her uniform.

 

            There would be no forgiveness now.

 

            She reached up to grasp her pendent, longing for warmth on her cold and hostile homeworld.  But as her fingers touched only flesh, she was reminded that she had left it behind, wrapped in a note and lying on Setsuna’s dresser.

 

            Setsuna.

 

            Fresh tears stung her eyes.  When she left, there had at least been a chance they could still be together.  A chance, however slim, that her queen would understand her need to save her brother and absolve her people.  In that understanding, Saturn had hoped she would be offered pardon.  That notion of pardon had disappeared with the first swing of her glaive as she fought her way from the landing pad to the palace proper.  Now, if she managed to survive this confrontation with Sentil, the best she could hope for was eternal banishment to Titan.  At worst…

 

            She laughed bitterly as she pulled herself together and reached for the heavily fortified door.  Her brother was lost to her, she accepted that.  In his madness, he had taken the lives of their parents, their relatives, and any unfortunate soul who had even the most tenuous grasp on the throne.  She couldn’t save him, but perhaps she could save her people.  To do that, though, she would first have to deal with Sentil.

 

            Her hand rested against the cold, gilded metal of the door, its strength openly defying her wish to pass.  It was a futile defiance, though, the purple glow that emerged beneath her palm causing it to screech and whine as it collapsed in upon itself.  Her face expressionless, Saturn watched a miniature black hole form, its edges glowing and swirling the deep purple of her eyes, and within seconds, the final physical barrier in her quest had been removed.  And through the gaping hole it left, she saw him.

 

            Sentil smiled at her from atop their father’s throne.  “Welcome home, Hotaru.”

 

            Her steps stopped halfway into the room, her senses alert to the guards who stayed hidden in the shadows.  Leveling her glaive at him and almost immediately missing the support it provided, she asked in a hoarse voice, “Why?”

 

            Her brother threw his head back and laughed, the sound chilling.  “For you, of course.”  He stood and slowly began to descend the half dozen steps that raised the royal thrones above any visitors they might receive.  “And for me, as well as the good of our people.  I told you I would bring you home one day, and that together we would rule.  That together we would claim our birthright in spite of the machinations of a foreign invader.  Have you forgotten?  Or have you become accustomed to being treated as an object?  Are you happy that you were traded away in exchange for your father’s false power?”  He stepped up to her, no fear in his features as he stared down the shaft of her glaive.  “This is your home, Hotaru.  I can overlook everything you’ve done up until now because of what’s been done to you.  Will the Moon’s queen?”  He tapped the blade of her glaive, moving it slightly to the side.  “Come home, little sister.  Come back to me and your people.”

 

            Saturn stared into eyes that were a mirror of her own.  She had once found warmth and love in those eyes and comfort in his voice.  Those things were still there, albeit shadowed, the boy in him trying to keep a promise he’d made the day she was thrown away by their father.  And that made what she was about to do all that much harder.

 

            Gritting her teeth and stepping back several paces, Saturn steadied her glaive, the point coming to rest over Sentil’s heart.  “I am not an object or a possession for either you or Serenity.  And I can’t let you do this.  It will destroy our world, Sentil.  I can’t allow it.”

 

            “It’s already done,” answered her brother quietly, all the warmth he’d had left for her disappearing behind a stony visage.  He stepped back from her as his guards slowly began to advance from their hiding places.  “The people of this world recognize me as their king and they know where their future lies.  They know everything now begins with me, not with a foreign queen,” he went on as his feet reached the stairs to the throne.  He raised his hand.  “They see that you have been corrupted just as our father was.  You are a traitor, Hotaru, to the crown and to the people.  You know what the penalty is.”

 

            Her grip on her glaive tightened just as Sentil dropped his hand.  In one smooth, graceful sweep she sliced across two guards charging from the right, in their death throes hearing a new truth.  Her glaive arced up and around, quickly taking down two more on the left before they could stop their approach.  As the sound of bodies and broken swords clattered against the floor, she wept for her people.  She had lost their trust just as surely as she had lost Serenity’s.

 

            Three more behind her, and without conscious thought a shield of pale purple appeared around her.  Their weapons might have been made of paper for all the good they did, and their fear became palpable when she turned to face them.  “Demon!” they screamed, and she knew what they were seeing as they tried to run, stumbling over each other in their haste and falling to the cold and bloodied floor.  She could sense her planetary symbol burning against her forehead and felt the specter of death in the depth of her eyes.  Again her glaive was raised, and their screams cut off abruptly, their blood pooling around her feet.

 

            Now, there was only one left.

 

            Turning back to her brother, she saw in him the same fear she had in his guards.  He took a step backwards and stumbled, falling onto the steps.  He tried to find purchase but only scrambled ineffectually against the smooth marble.

 

            She advanced at a measured pace, perhaps subconsciously willing him to flee.  But his fear held him steady, and as she came upon him, she looked down on him with hollow eyes.  The blade of her glaive hovered over his chest, and she said softly, “I’m sorry, Sentil.  I can’t come home,” then thrust the blade forward one last time.

 

            Silently, the light faded from his eyes, and Saturn pulled back her blade.  The royal house of Saturn was dead, her people were traitors to the alliance, and she was…

 

            “Alone.”

 

            With slightly trembling hands she took several steps back and turned away from her brother’s body.  Taking a deep breath, she held her glaive in front of her and closed her eyes.  Upon landing on this world she had found a deadly power within herself, and as she stood there listening to the whispers of the universe, she found her ultimate strength, that dark light that ensured she would be the only one.  This time, rather than run from it, she embraced it.

 

            Her glaive was lifted as a purple glow so deep it was almost black emanated from her chest and rippled along her body.  The words were whispered in her ear, and she repeated them soundlessly, feeling the slow drop of her glaive.

 

            “Hotaru!”

 

            She froze.  No.  It couldn’t be.

 

            “Hotaru, stop!” was called out in a frantic pitch and she opened her eyes to see Pluto running towards her.  The other girl was abruptly stopped by Venus as their leader grabbed her arm and jerked her back.  Venus’ eyes carried the horror of what she’d seen in the palace corridors, and her voice cracked just a bit as she barked out a command for Saturn to stand down.

 

            Hotaru looked over to Pluto.  Jupiter held her in place as the others crowded in around them.  “I’m sorry,” she said softly as one hand let loose of the glaive and extended out.

 

            Before they had a chance to react, a Silence Shield was thrown up around them, trapping them where they stood and muting their voices to her.  She watch Pluto rush forward, her fists hitting the dome as Venus began frantically shouting into her communicator.

 

            Then she closed her eyes again.  Wrapped in the cold silence of the universe, the last thing she felt was the slow, steady fall of her glaive.

 

 

 

            Hotaru hugged her pillow and huddled against the headboard of her bed.  In the soft glow of her nightlights, two thin trails of tears glistened silently.