"Hold still, princess," cried Ivy, the maid of honor, in frustration as she tried for the umpteenth time to pin Terra's hair up.
"Forget it, Ivy, I'll wear it down," Terra decided spontaneously.
Terra shot a scowl at Ivy.
"I mean Terra," the maid corrected herself, "You know very well that wearing your hair down isn't very stylish, it's rather childish. You remember that you weren't aloud to wear your hair up until you were nine. It's a privilege, and it's trendy. You know very well that none of the young ladies at the ball will be wearing their hair down."
"Correction," announced Terra, "One of them will. If I have to go to this ball, then I'm going to wear my hair the way I please. It doesn't look bad when it's down, does it?"
"No milady, it looks lovely, but it just isn't done . . ."
"It is now," replied Terra, resolutely.
"Very well," said Ivy frustratedly.
She turned to the east closet, where all of Terra's evening gowns were. There were most likely at least a hundred of them, ranging in color from the palest green to the darkest, from the greyest to the brightest. This was the mark of her royalty. Tradition forbade her from wearing any color other than green, except on two occasions. She might wear white at her wedding, and black at her mother's funeral. At all other times, she had to wear green. It was a badge of royalty and of patriotism.
"Now princess, which dress do you want to wear?"
Impishly Terra grinned, "The green one."
Play opening song
Series Title, Sailor Moon Remembered Senshi
Episode Title, (7) Secrets Revealed
Aspen stood in the courtier's end on the ball room. Diplomats and functionaries were gathered around discussing incredibly dull matters of court and sipping fruit wines. All of the action of the ball was happening at the other end, near the chamber ensemble and the cascade. It was said that a promise made on the lee side of the fall with a flower petal dropped in for all it encompassed, would never be broken. Popularly it was the site of many betrothals, and a place shrouded by romance and mysticism.
However, Terra had not yet made an appearance at the ball, and Aspen was being stalked by a commitment hungry Viscountess, a certain Lady D'Mellon who had chased him in the past. She had even gone so far as to follow him to his Knight training until she made such a nuisance of herself that the commander had her removed. Now she was back and ready to pounce on him as soon as he left this circle of protective boredom. Dullness, complicated thoughts, and the threat of intelligent albeit boring conversation warded her away.
Aspen was determined not to leave this bubble until Terra arrived. No doubt the princess of the realms could fend of a marriage-happy member of the lower aristocracy. He hoped so. He could not imagine having the joy of having Terra on his arm and having the humiliation of Crocus D'Mellon following him.
Whenever she threatened him with her presence, he pretended to be engrossed in a conversation about the High Queen's bedroom habits, the current hot topic in the palace. The courtier he pretended to talk to didn't know the difference and was all the better for the conversation, even though it didn't really happen.
Suddenly the mazurka that was being played was halted, and the chamber group took to playing a light lilting melody with just the fifes and violins. Aspen knew the tune well. It was the song he'd hummed so many times in the darkness. It was Terra's own melody. It had been written by Ceres's most famous composer after she had volunteered to retrieve some errant sheet music that had been caught in the top branches of a tall beech tree. Before Aspen could stop her, she had scurried up the tree and back down again. The composer had been much amused by the peppery princess, and had composed the melody that same day. He fondly referred to Terra as his 'tiny squirrel.' He still privately thought of the song as the 'Squirrel's Sonata,' yet, it was formally known as 'The Swallow of the Laterose,' the princess's formal title. He had never spoken of the incident to anyone, knowing full well that if he did, Terra would be reprimanded for a breach of etiquette, and the palace's rumor mill would grind for weeks.
Quietly Terra entered the room and curtsied to the nobles. They curtsied in return. She was followed by the High Queen who was decked in gold and silver and bejeweled in all finery. The room, Terra included, bowed low in response to the High Queen's entrance. After a self-satisfied smirk, she took her place on the dias and commanded the dancing to resume.
Once again, Aspen was completely taken by the princess. She wore a long silk dress in the same style as she'd worn earlier only a deep, hunter green, with the bird's wings trails pooling about her on the floor. She wore no jewelry except for simple tumbled green emerald earrings, and the darkness of the dress contrasted nicely with her pale skin. Her hair was lovely and long, with tresses falling everywhere, with a few stems of calla lilies entwined to add contrast.
Aspen knew she was the most sought after of all the dancing partners at the ball, and was at her side immediately. Despite his quick reaction, two lads got the better of him, and he found himself in a line behind Birch Longstem, Duke of the Southern Forest, and Hickory Newbud, Count of Seadeep. Aspen hoped Terra would be rid of them quickly.
Birch was a nervous uptight man. He was being pushed into courting the princess by his overzealous mother. However Terra and Birch were friends and had worked out a deal. Terra would pretend to act amused by Birch and dance a few sets with him to get his mother off his back as long as it never became serious and Birch would smuggle her out of the palace occasionally and into the countryside. Their agreement worked, and so far, no one at the rumor-mill was the wiser.
"M-m-may I have this dance, your majesty?" he bowed and asked nervously, keeping an eye out for his mother.
Terra winked as she curtsied and replied, "Only if you call me Terra again, Birch."
Birch looked relieved and took her hand gingerly and they stepped onto the floor. Aspen seethed in jealousy. He had no way of knowing about Terra and Birch's agreement. He probably wouldn't have cared. What he knew was that Birch, was touching Aspen's princess. His princess who as far as he knew didn't give a second thought to balls and betrothals. A sinking fear rooted itself in his stomach. What if he'd returned to win his princess' heart too late?
Terra and Birch went through several simple reels and waltzes, all of them very casual, but they parted ways as soon as the music for the dance of Ceres, the complicated Mirauet, began to play. Aspen saw his chance.
"May I have this dance?"
She looked surprised and embarrassed. Surprised and happy that he asked her, confused and embarrassed because . . .
It was Aspen's turn to be surprised.
"What? What? Why won't you dance with me? You danced with Duke Longstem."
"That was different."
"Why was it different?"
"Well, you see, um, you know those harpsichord lessons I've been skipping out on?"
"Um, gee, I bet you can't guess what lessons's right after it."
"You've been skipping your dancing lesson?"
"Five weeks straight now. Never reported. I dunno, maybe the master's dead."
"You're telling me you don't know how to do your planet's dance?"
She bowed her head, expecting a reprimand. Instead, Aspen chuckled.
"You really are something."
Terra smiled. He held out his hand.
"Well, if you don't know, I'm just going to have to teach you."
"Out there?" Terra gasped as she gestured to the ball room, "But there are people out there! They'll see I don't know!"
"No, they won't."
"But I don't know the steps!"
"Do you think anyone can see your feet in that dress? You just have to glide. Can you glide?"
"But I'll fall down!"
"I won't let you fall down."
"But . . . "
"No buts. I dare you."
Terra got that look and set her jaw. She fearlessly put her hand in his and strode purposefully toward the floor. Once they began, they were wonderful, the most graceful pair on the floor. Aspen was a marvelous dancer. Terra just followed, and glided.
"Is this what they taught you in Knight training?" she asked smilingly as they whirled around the floor.
"You'd be surprised."
"Announcing her excellency, the High Queen Iris. All hail," cried the crier, and the dias quartet struck up an unnerving and domineering march with its two trumpets and coronet paving the way. The High Queen in her usual palace dress, which was still richly decorated with emeralds and jadestones, strode across the floor purposefully and settled herself in the carved ivory and gold throne.
Terra was at court as well. She was seated on a small stool carved from a natural growth rowan to the right of the High Queen. The seat to the left, the seat of the Lord Duke, the Queen's husband, had long been empty. The Lord Duke Oaklawn suffered from a devastating illness that kept him away from matters of state. Terra would have much rather been in the palace gardens wandering by her father and pushing him in his wheel-cart, but the High Queen demanded her presence in the throne room at all times, especially during hearings of the ministers.
The hearings of the ministers were the actual business part of the Ceres court. Each of the ministers would come forth and report to the High Queen and she would make judgements and rulings based generally on her moods. Terra thought it was extraordinarily dull because she could see no rhyme or reason behind the High Queen's decisions (probably because there was none) except for the machinations of the Prime Minister, one Ageratum Thornbush.
She disliked Thornbush. It seemed to Terra that all the sacred rites were broken when he arrived in power. She sighed. He did have the High Queen's ear. Terra did not doubt for a moment that the High Queen would take Thornbush's word over hers.
Suddenly a face caught her eye. Watching silently from a corner was Aspen. He observed all that was said silently, and contemplated it. He was not pleased by what he was hearing.
"Her excellency calls out Duke Gingko Palmswept, Minister of Finance," cried the crier.
The quiet, homely man rose and shuffled to the center of the floor. He bowed lowly and reverently.
"If it pleases your Excellency, taxes are low, yet the treasury is stocked. We can lower taxes yet again, excellency."
Iris thought it over, then announced, "Raise them anyway. They won't mind, this is for the glory of Ceres!"
The minister looked startled, yet shrugged and nodded, "As her excellency wishes."
He retired quickly and quietly. He did not wish to incur the Queen's wrath.
"Her excellency calls out Lord Heath Highlawn, Minister of the Royal Library."
A tall stately man dressed in long brown robes walked steadily until he was standing directly in front of Iris. He nodded his head toward the High Queen and began to report. Iris stopped him in mid-sentence.
"Is that the proper way to greet your High Queen?"
The librarian looked pained. He began to grunt, and labored to bend. A look of amusement passed over the face of the High Queen. A look of disgust passed over Aspen's face. Terra could stand it no longer, she leapt from her place at the High Queen's side and ran to help her friend and confidant.
"Mother, you know very well that Lord Highlawn has a back dystrophy. He can bend only a small way without injuring himself." She helped the man stand.
"Guards, seize that man for a breach of etiquette," said the High Queen casually gesturing to the librarian Terra was protecting.
"No! Mother! You cannot pretend this is right! You will not take him!"
"Seat yourself princess, or you may find yourself in the tower with this man," advised the Prime Minister.
"I will not. By Demeter, this travesty is not what the High Court of Ceres was meant to be. It was not meant to be a play room for a sadist Queen who chooses to amuse herself by torturing her courtiers!"
"That is enough," said Thornbrush satisfactorily.
"It is not, if you could only see what you've become . . ." cried Terra.
"We see only too well your princes-ship. We see what a traitor you've become from listening to that librarian! I told you excellency!" taunted Thornbrush, "Guards, escort the princess back to her room and keep her there until you receive further orders."
The guards raised their spears and started forward. Suddenly a black whip flashed through the room and Aspen stood before the High Queen and in front of Terra and Lord Highlawn. He warded off the guards with his whip.
"Do not touch the princess if you value you lives."
"Who are you, insolent wretch, and why is this business of yours?" asked the High Queen.
"I am Aspen of the Bald Hills and Lord Knight of Ceres, in all but name. It is my solemn duty to protect Sailor Ceres from everything, even you, High Queen."
"But you see, sadly there is no Sailor Ceres. She died a long time ago when the Moon betrayed us."
"It did no such thing. You betrayed it, for Demeter only knows the reason!" supplied Terra taking up a fighter stance, even though she'd been out of training for five years, "And as to there being no Sailor Ceres, I doubt that! Jadestone, to me!"
The jadestone that hovered over the High Queen's scepter shot to Terra's hand. She held it high and chanted,
"CERES EMERALD POWER!"
Terra was washed in a deep green hue. She let the crystal generate a net of vines which wrapped around her. They wrapped around her body, making a white body suit. They wrapped around her legs, making a pair of white knee boots with green trim. The vines curled around her throat to make an emerald green collar and green choker with a golden heart on it. The vines swirled on her chest to make a heart-shaped emerald broach rimmed in gold, and a light green bow tied itself underneath the broach at the same time another with long trails tied in the back. The vines wrapped around her arms and made a pair of white gloves trimmed in green, and then wrapped around her waist to make an emerald green skirt. Then they wrapped around her forehead, making a golden tiara with an emerald stone in it that curved downwards, and a pair of emerald earrings. Finally, one vine became the Ceres Power Key, a green wand with golden rings around it and the jadestone fitted itself at the end, in the nest of golden leaves. She posed with both hands behind her back, feet apart, in an attention pose.
"I am Sailor Ceres, the defender of the weak. In the name of Ceres and the Goddess Demeter, I will not let you hurt any more people, mother."
"That's what you think Terra. I knew that I couldn't trust you. Emerald Jadestone, return to your Mistress," said High Queen Iris
The Jadestone returned to her hands, and Sailor Ceres immediately de-transformed back into Princess Terra.
"Well Princess, it looks like you didn't practice long enough. I don't think you're in any position to protect anything or anyone," observed Thornbrush.
"Rest well tonight Terra," said the High Queen, "Tomorrow you will make your new home in the tower."
"Don't you think that's a little drastic excellency?" asked Celeus, coming forward.
"You hold your tongue, traitor. You will be joining her."
"Seize them all!" cried High Queen Iris
The palace soldiers surrounded Terra, Aspen, and Lord Highlawn. Suddenly the room was filled with vivid green smoke and Terra heard a voice murmur inside her mind,
"Sleep well indeed my princess, but be awake and ready to flee this palace at twelve tonight. I swear by my oath as a Knight that no one will touch you. Be ready."
She felt a hand brush hers and then the smoke cleared and Aspen was no where to be seen.
Birch Longstem brought his roan blood mare to a full gallop as he jumped the bushes and stone walls of the countryside directly outside the palace. He always went on a spirited ride after dinner, sometimes accompanied by his friend, the elusive Princess Terra. He rode harder than he generally did because he was troubled by what had happened at the palace that day. He had
not been present at the day's hearing of ministers, but palace rumors placed the princess in the tower before sunrise. He cursed himself for his inaction. He wanted desperately to help the princess, but didn't know where to begin. He slowed his horse to a stop and dismounted. He had to think of a way to help the princess. Suddenly, he heard hoof-beats speeding toward him and he turned. There, directly in front of him, stood a man clothed all in black with thin new green trappings and a black whip coiled at his waist. Birch immediately recognized him as the princess' protector, Aspen, and he was wearing the full regalia of Ceres Knight.
"To what do I owe this honor, Lord Knight Aspen?" asked Birch tentatively. He had also heard of the sorcery that had allowed the Knight to escape the palace.
"I am afraid I did not come to compliment you on your choice of horses, although yours is lovely. I am here on royal business. The business of the crown."
"If you serve that creature Iris, I want nothing to do with you."
"Ceres Knight has always served the princess. I serve the true crown, her excellency, Princess Terra."
"I believe that Terra should be on the throne. It is obvious that the High Queen is mad. However, she still has the support of the nobles and unfortunately the Emerald Jadestone. This is the reason I come to you. Can I trust you with the princess?"
"I would give my life for her any day of the week."
"Then it is settled. Terra needs some place safe where she can stay until I find a safer haven for her off planet. Can you help?"
Birch looked perplexed, "She cannot stay at my castle. My mother is a vehement supporter of Iris. She would betray the princess in an instant if she had the chance. But there is one place . . ."
"My lodge. I'm the only one who knows of it. It's just a small cabin deep in the southern forest, miles and miles away from another dwelling. It would be perfect if the princess wouldn't mind."
"She won't, and she's in no position to pick and choose anyway. Can you be ready tonight at midnight?"
"Yes I can, most certainly, But the palace will be guarded well. How do you expect to find an exit?"
"There is one that will no be guarded. Be at the edge of the eastern flank forest of the palace and bring an extra horse for the princess."
"I will. Thank you, Lord Knight Ceres."
"For giving me the chance to help the princess."
The palace guards were none too much for brains, so after they bolted the window in her room, from the inside, they settled themselves outside the closed door of Terra's room, determined not to let her escape. Terra was busily packing a small bag when Celeus woke up from the 'sleep' the guards had knocked him into.
"What are you doing majesty?"
"I'm packing a bag, Celeus. What does it look like I'm doing?"
"But why? You know that the High Queen will not let us take anything to the tower."
"I am not going to the tower."
"Do you want to go to the tower?"
"But her excellency ordered it. The guards will take us to the tower tomorrow at sunrise, whether I want to go or not."
"I'm not going to be here at sunrise. And if you'll come, neither will you."
"But how majesty?"
"You have to swear your loyalty and secrecy first Celeus, and break your bond to the High Queen."
"You know that I never swore fealty to her. Only to you. I am your guardian cat you know."
"I'm sorry Celeus, I had to make sure."
"I understand, excellency."
"The High Queen is dead to me."
"Very well Celeus, We will escape tonight at midnight . . ."
There were guards at the door to Terra's room, but that didn't daunt Ceres Knight. Apparently none of the guards thought that Aspen could pull off his teleportation trick twice. Little did they know . . .
On to Part 2 of this Episode