Arid Seas – Chapter One
by Dreams in Pink
|Chapter Two →|
The scorching sun mercilessly assaulted the desert plains, battling snakes of wind that slithered through the sandy dunes, attempting their escape. Perched like pearls amongst the dirt, a small ivory caravan trekked across the coarse terrain, their tracks instantly vanishing behind them. The convoy consisted mostly of cream robed men whose brows dripped with sweat. Their horses ploughed through the dusty land, muscles rippling with each powerful stride, pulling trunks bearing priceless gifts and offerings of gratitude. In the midst of the parade was a silver plated carriage, trimmed in snowy white. The carriage, which was guarded by four burly men, housed the two most precious jewels – the Queen and Princess of the Moon.
“I know this isn’t exactly where you want to be spending your birthday,” the Queen stated quietly, interrupting the heavy silence that had blanketed the tiny space.
“It’s okay Mother, I don’t mind,” the Princess replied, her gaze still focused out the window, watching the arid seas of sand. They had been travelling for nearly three days and were only half a day’s journey from their final destination – the kingdom of Earth. “I hope things go as planned,” she added, with a hopeful smile.
“I do too,” Selenity nodded lightly in agreement.
For nearly a century the Moon and Earth had been on wavering terms. While the tense relations had never lead to war, unrest was continuing to grow within the core of each planet, and with the desire to suppress extremists from both sides, the rulers agreed to discuss a peace treaty. To appear both amiable and flexible, Queen Selenity and her daughter, Princess Serenity, were en route to Earth’s capital city.
The girl turned suddenly to her mother, “do you believe in the prophecy?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper as she used a silk handkerchief to dab her face which radiated with heat.
“Regardless of any prophecy, a political union between the Earth and Moon would be beneficial to both nations,” the Queen replied, easily avoiding the true nature of the question. Her daughter sighed, allowing her head to fall against the back of the plush seat.
Serenity had always been educated to fully believe what the prophets had seen on August third, nearly two decades ago. That in her sixteenth year, a union of the Earth and Moon would bring salvation and rebirth to the blue planet.
As if reading her daughter’s thoughts, Selenity began uncomfortably, “If they propose a union sealed by marriage…”. The words died quietly in her throat.
“It’s okay. I understand,” the Princess gently grasped her mother’s hand. After much consideration, she realized that a simple union with the Earth could potentially save thousands of lives and create a harmonious future. They could work together to heal the wounds that had been inflicted so many years ago. She decided, with much determination, she would do what was necessary to mend the relationship between the planets.
“Every time I look at you you’re more grown up,” the Queen said proudly. “I know it’s a few days early, but I couldn’t wait to give this to you,” she beamed, pulling out a purple, velvet covered box. Her daughter smiled, noting the excitement that danced in her mother’s royal blue eyes.
“What is it?” Serenity asked curiously, accepting the box from the Queen’s outstretched palm.
“Open it.” Resting on a pillow encased with silk, was a locket. The Princess’s eyes went wide with disbelief as she marvelled in its beauty. Her slender fingers gently traced the intricate patterns that were etched into the silver.
“Mama I –” she started. She knew exactly what it was, and she began to feel overwhelmed. “I can’t take this,” she shook her head.
“Serenity, you can. It’s time,” the queen assured her daughter. “You’re nearly sixteen. I know it’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s time.” Selenity smiled warmly, having the utmost confidence in the young princess.
“Can I open it?” Serenity wondered, fingertips resting on the latch that held the locket closed.
“Of course, but be careful. No one can know what it contains,” the Queen warned, as the girl carefully pried open the clasp. A warmth spread across her face as light poured from the locket’s core. She smoothed her thumb over the fragment of brilliant crystal that lay hidden inside. “If something ever happens – ”
“You would know what to do?” Serenity nodded solemnly. She had grown up on tales explaining the power of the Moon’s mystical Ginzuishou. She knew the stories inside out – how her ancestors had used it to drive the evils from their home and to revive a dying civilization. In the past the crystal had been a cause for war and rebellion, so in order to protect the soul of their planet, they had built a grand tower to house the gem. The tower spiralled from the center of the palace, it’s tall spires kissing the skies as the crystal rested in a chamber at the top, watching protectively over the lands below. The chamber was locked, bound by magic, and legends of a mysterious lost key had been spreading throughout the land since the tower’s formation. However, the key had never truly been lost and was passed down through generations of the Moon’s royal family in the guise of a locket.
“Turn around,” Selenity ordered, taking the necklace from the girl’s hands, stringing it around her neck, and closing the clasp. “It looks beautiful on you.”
“Thank you,” she said, moving closer and wrapping her arms around her mother in a appreciative embrace.
“Protect it with your life.”
“I know. I will,” the princess promised.
Suddenly their carriage came to an abrupt halt, jolting the princess from her seat. She looked at her mother for an answer, “What’s going on? What did we stop?” Serenity asked, alarm settling in the pit of her stomach. S
“Don’t worry, we’ll fig – ” the Queen was cut short by a rapping at the carriage window.
“Your Majesty?” One of the guards said, “our scouts have spotted the Black Cloud in the distance,” he explained, swallowing nervously as he delivered the news.
“Are they approaching?” Selenity asked, her regal face growing tight with anxiety.
“Then ready the men. Hide our most precious treasures, but let them take what they can find. We need to arrive as quickly as possible,” she instructed, knowing full well that the Black Cloud was out for riches, not for blood.
“Yes, my Queen,” the guard bowed, turning sharply on his heel.
“Black Cloud?” The young princess repeated, staring after the guard as he relayed the orders to his men. “What’s going on?”
“Everything will be fine,” her mother replied, once again avoiding the actual question.
“Mama, please! Tell me!” She pleaded, her attention bouncing between the Queen and the guards outside.
“They’re just a band of thieves. All they want is gold. They’re not going to hurt us,” Selenity explained, struggling to keep a calm façade.
Curious, the princess leaned out the window, straining to get a glimpse of what was going on up ahead. Hurricanes of sand were pillaging the air, as a band of men on horseback emerged through the dusty curtain.
“Stay here Serenity,” the Queen ordered, opening the carriage door.
“But Mama -” she started, her protests cut off abruptly as the door slammed shut. She watched as her mother joined the General of their small troop, intending on settling the matter.
‘These bandits don’t look all that frightening,’ she mused, almost disappointedly as she noticed that only half were armed. They seemed to fight solely out of self-defence as they ravaged the crates, assumedly searching for anything of value. The Queen stood off to the side, surrounded by a group of the bandits. She was trying to tell them something, but Serenity was too far away to hear. She felt as if she had been swept away into a fantasy, a myth laden with nomads and thieves, where good was sure to triumph over evil. Always a day dreamer, Serenity revelled in the romantic notions of her imagination, the conflict around her dissolving.
Upon hearing a man’s voice, Serenity was instantaneously wrenched from her fantasy. “Now what do we have here,” he mused aloud, approaching the fair haired girl who remained hanging partially out the window.
“Don’t come any closer,” she warned, panic triggering in the back of her mind.
“Or what?” His paced slowed, yet he continued to move forward, his eyes pointedly devouring her slender form. “You might be the most worthwhile prize here,” he said, flashing her a charming grin which only made her scowl in repulsion.
“You’re disgusting,” the princess hissed, and did the only thing she could muster as a form of defence. She spat.
“What a lovely young lady,” he bit sarcastically, wiping the saliva from his cheek which exposed a streak of tanned, unsoiled flesh.
“Who do you think you are?” She demanded, sky lit eyes glaring at the amused man who stood before her.
“The commander of the Black Cloud,” he bowed deeply, rolling his wrist.
“You’re a coward. Robbing a harmless caravan,” Serenity seethed, her knuckles turning white as she clenched her hands into aggravated fists.
“Those may not be the wisest choice of words,” he whispered, drawing a knife from his belt and pressing its blade intimately against her throat. She stared back at him defiantly, nostrils flaring – there was no way a thief like this was going to get to her. Serenity’s mind reeled as she convinced herself that she was brave and could handle this, after all, she had been through combat training. In a swift movement, he had cut the chain from her neck, grabbing the locket in one fluid motion. Serenity gasped, relief and shock fighting for control of her senses, as her hand caressed the assaulted skin. The man smiled at her and winked, as he jammed his dagger into the door’s lock, hampering her escape. Nodding his head in a mock gesture, he left the fuming girl to find his horse. The one responsibility that had passed on to her was now in jeopardy, and her face washed with anger.
“You can’t take that!” She screamed furiously, forcefully shaking the door. When it didn’t budge, she moved back, kicking the hinges with her feet and letting out frustrated cries. Still nothing. Serenity paused to catch her breath, realizing that the only escape was through the window. She scrambled to her knees, and crouched before the open hole. The princess angled her legs out the window, making sure to tuck her the silken fabric of her dress under her calves. Her arms pulled the rest of her body upright, her legs moving as she balanced herself on the edge. With cautious direction, she let herself slide down the outer wall of the carriage, and onto mounds of sand below. Serenity’s gaze absorbed the chaos around her; cream clashing with a mirage of black and brown. She scanned her surroundings, watching the thief mount his obsidian steed. Without a moment’s thought she beckoned an unattended chestnut horse, her foot finding the stirrup as she heaved herself into the saddle, and took off after the raven haired thief.
|Chapter Two →|