Whoever owns Ranma 1/2, The Teen Titans Animated, or Sailor Moon, it certainly isn't me.
Daria, Princess of Hades, threw her arm across her eyes as the early morning sun of a Mediterranean summer coming through the bed chamber's east windows finally reached her face. She desperately tried to sink back into slumber, and of course just drove herself into full wakefulness in the process. Whether she liked it or not, her day had started.
Grumbling to herself about the late nights and early mornings of summer, she sat up and rubbed at her face for a moment, ignoring the blanket that had slipped down about her waist to reveal her naked torso. Instead, she gazed down at the snoring woman sharing the bed with her for a few moment, smiling softly, before reaching over and tapping the sleeper on the nose. "Wakey wakey, sleepy," she murmured.
Her bedmate growled and turned away from her, bunding the blanket about her shoulders. "Don' wanna."
Daria's grin turned mischevious, and with one smooth grab and yank she stripped the blanket away, leaving the Queen of Crete naked to the cool morning air.
Celene leaped off the bed with a shriek, grabbing a robe from atop a nearby chest and wrapping it around her before glaring at the now laughing Daria. "Not funny," she muttered with a pout.
"You know, Celene, you're right," Daria replied, sobering for a second before grinning widely. "It was hilarious!" She ignored her now-pouting bedmate and rose from the bed herself to stride naked over to pick up a second robe and wrap it about her.
Celene came up behind her and and wrapped her in a hug. "We could go back to bed..." she murmured, voice sultry, and Daria shuddered at the feel of warm breath on cool skin before shaking her head.
"No, today's the Dance of the Bulls. Besides, there's no better way to maintain your motherly authority than to be alert and at your best when your daughter comes stumbling in all rumpled from her latest conquest, and if we go back to bed you won't be either alert or at your best."
Celene sighed. "Well, there is that," she agreed before reluctantly releasing her lover and turning toward the doorway that led to the bathing facilities, where servants would be waiting to oil and scrape them both free of love sweat before a hot bath. As they walked along, she mused, "But in this case it won't be her 'latest conquest'. Since the Athenian contingent arrived for training, her sole bed partner has been Prince Alexander."
"Really? She's really restricting herself to a single man?" Daria stared at her lover walking beside her before smiling broadly. "Well, we'll have to hope he performs well during the Dance, then, we could use a dynastic link to Athens."
"True," Celene agreed, "fleets and armies can take us only so far. We need to forge links with the mainland cities, bring them into the fold." She paused to lean on a window edge, looking north out across the forest filling Knossos's harbor, masts of the warships, the Cretan fleets gathered here and at other cities for the festivities. "It's going to take a long time to really civilize them," she mused. "Generations."
Daria took her hand and gently tugged her away from the window and toward the baths. "We have time, and your daughter will have even more of it. So let's get ready, I want to see her man."
Sitting in the Queen's Box, Daria smiled appreciatively at the spectacle below her as Celina, Princess of the Moon, spun off the back of the charging bull into the arms of Alexander running along behind it. The two teenagers were dressed solely in the loinclothe that was customary for the dancers, and by now the skin of all six Cretan princesses and the Hellene princes partnering them was coated with sweat-stuck dust.
That certainly helps the older Hellenes focus on the skill involved rather than jiggling pairs of young breasts, Daria thought wryly. Of course, that also meant that some of them were attempting to discreetly ogle the women in the audience — and those women's dresses designed to expose the breasts they supported. It was always amusing for the Princess of Hades, watching outsiders deal with the public display of the source of milk that symbolized why women had the right to rule.
"I don't see your sister among the spectators," Celene said, without turning toward her adviser. Her eyes were fixed on her daughter. "She wasn't at the banquet last night, but I thought she might simply have arrived late."
"You mean avoiding all the barbarians she loathes so much," Daria replied, before shaking her head with a sigh. "No, she's still immured on our estate, sulking. She didn't take it very well when the Council unanimous rejected her proposal that we break off all contact with the Hellenes 'to avoid contamination'."
A gasp from the audience drew Daria's attention back to the arena, just in time to see one of the other princesses tossed off a bull's horn, black hair whipping about as she spun out of control, blood spattering from her bare stomach as she flew.
Then Celina was there, breaking away from her own run at her bull to snatch her ritual sister out of the air, spinning to kill Psykhe's momentum while staying on her feet. She gathered the younger girl up into her arms and sprinted for the entrance to the arena even as the bull turned to follow its victim — and Alexander and another of the Hellene princes and Cytheria, Princess of Aphrodite, were suddenly there, rolling and dodging, distracting it from its prey.
Of course, in the process they had had to break away from their own bulls, and the audience jerked to its feet as the Dance shattered into chaos, bulls charging at any target of opportunity, dancers looking around wildly for bulls that could come from any direction — one dancer actually leaped up and ran across the backs of three bulls to escape the one coming after her. A boy was hooked and thrown, but managed to twist out of the way of the horn tip, he'd escape with just bruises...
Chaos for everyone but Daria. For the Queen's chief adviser, as soon as disaster had struck it had been as if time had slowed to a crawl as her awareness expanded, making her hyper-aware of every move of every person around her as the audience slowly rose to its feet, and in the arena the way young Celina almost missed catching her ritual sister, almost tripped over her lover's foot, was almost brushed by a horn as the bull twisted to follow her ... almost-disaster after almost-disaster and Daria could see exactly what needed to be done to avoid every last one of them and she was stuck up in the Queen's Box with the audience below her in the way and even if she had a clear run she wouldn't be in time — and then Celina was at the gate passing her injured friend off to a priestess to be rushed to the healer, before turning back to try to salvage the Dance.
And Daria staggered as time resumed its normal pace and the roar of the crowd hammered her ears. The Queen caught her elbow to steady her, then slipped her arm around her lover's waist as she started to shake, whispering in her ear, "Hold on for just a little while longer, until this travesty is over. You'll have some time to rest before we salvage what we can."
An exhausted Princess of Hades lay down on her side on her banquet couch, fighting to keep from just flopping onto her back and surrendering to the slumber Hypnos would instantly bring. Celina had made a valiant effort to salvage the Dance, and had actually done a half-decent job. She'd managed to lead the dancers in guiding the bulls back into the required pattern, and had even managed to improvise around being one princess short. Daria couldn't be more proud of the Queen's Heir. Both Daria and the Queen had been busy throughout the rest of the day trying to sell that truth to their people and the visiting Hellenes.
Unfortunately, that truth didn't keep the break in the Dance from almost being the worst kind of omen. All it was missing was the Princess of Cronus dying of her wound — and the healers weren't exactly hopeful.
Still, between her and the Queen they'd managed to calm things down to the point that everyone was jittery, instead of panicking out of fear that the Goddess was angry or would turn her back on them. And we'll have to do it all over again, tomorrow.
The Queen plopped down on Daria's couch with a weary sigh, then pulled her legs up and stretched out on her side, back to Daria. Daria circled her free arm around Celene's waist and pulled her back against her, pressing her bare breasts against Celene's back. She whispered in her lover's ear, "Not that I mind, but this'll make it difficult to eat."
Celene sighed. "I know, I can't stay." Her eyes roamed over the other couches circling the indoor fish pool — and their mostly male occupants politely ignoring the pair. "I need to make the round, make nice with the various ambassadors. I just want to snuggle a little, first. Can you make sure some food is sent to Celina and the other princesses? They're at Psykhe's bedside."
"Of course I —"
The banquet hall seemed to shake as a massive roar of thunder hammered at the palace, and for a second Daria thought that an earthquake had struck. But then the wall of sound passed, and ... the evening light was dimming?
Celene rolled off the couch to her feet and dashed for the nearest window, Daria right behind her, and the two stared north at a rising column of black smoke shot through with streaks of red, the smoke spreading out across the sky. In a flashing instant, Daria knew exactly where her sister was. "That's Thera!" she gasped.
"Thera? No, it can't be," Celene insisted, "that volcano is quiet, held so by the gods so long as our seals over the portal to the demonic realm ... hold..."
The two exchanged glances, then Daria's eyes fell to the forest of masts in the harbor as her mind raced, visualizing an image of Thera to the north of Crete, ripples racing out and hammering across Crete's north shore — and all those fleets in the harbors as their crews celebrated the Dance. "No chance," she whispered even as for the second time that day time again seemed to slow. No chance that any of the crews could be gathered in time to make way, get the ships out of the harbor; no chance that they could warn any of the other cities ... and now, no chance that Crete would be able to civilize the Hellenic barbarians. Her mind clicked through the figures: balances of power, resources available to Crete and the Hellenes, relative morale, and she felt nauseous at the answers she was getting back — Cretan dominance of the eastern Mediterranean was finished and within centuries, perhaps decades, the Hellenes would be landing armies of their own on Crete to sack the cities that had no walls because Crete had had the Fleet that was about to die in its harbors.
And that didn't take into account the demonic forces that had been unleashed on the world, beside which the erupting volcano itself was but an ember.
First things first, Daria thought as time again snapped back to normal. She turned to Celene, to find her friend still staring at the mounting column of ash. Speaking loud enough for her voice to carry to the rest of the room's occupants, she said, "My Queen, there will be a wave coming like none seen since the Flood of ancient legend. You must order everyone to seek high ground, as high as possible. I do not know how soon the wave will arrive, but perhaps we can save most of the city."
Celene turned to stare at her for a long moment, then gave a jerky nod. "Of course." She turned and started snapping orders to the servants in the room (including sending one servant to alert her daughter and the other princesses of what was happening), and Daria turned back to the window to gaze for a moment at the smoke and ash spreading across the sky — mostly east, thank Zephyr, but more than enough coming their way to add to the disaster.
But her gaze shifted to where the volcano was hidden below the horizon. She could only hope that her sister's death had been as quick as it must have been brutal — if not from heat or asphyxiation, from the demons escaping their prison. Tears streaking her cheek, she whispered, "Pandora, what have you done?"
Setsuna, as she was named in her current life, opened her eyes to stare up at her hotel room's ceiling visible in the early morning light seeping around the black-out curtain, then sighed and sat up in her bed. That dream again, it was never good when she revisited the day her world ended.
She wiped at wet cheeks, then rose and grabbed her robe before sitting at the desk where her personal — and secured — laptop sat and booted it up. She had a lot of research to do.
"Jake, I'm going to have to miss the Council meeting," Setsuna said into the cell phone she was holding to an ear with one hand as she stuffed clothes into a suitcase with the other.
"Aw, Set-chan, not again!" Setsuna grimaced at the hated pet-name. "You're the last of the First, the Council needs your guidance and special insight, and you don't get many chances to leave Japan. We need your input on several ques —"
"Jake, I had the Dream again last night."
"Oh." There was a pause, then Jake sighed. "Japan again?"
"What do you think?"
"Right." Jake sighed again. "All right, I'll pass the word to the rest of the Council. Good hunting."
"Thanks, maybe next year we can hold the meeting in Japan." Setsuna sat on her suitcase to get it closed enough for the latch to catch. "Now I have a flight to catch." Hitting the button to break off the call, she slipped the phone into a pocket of her laptop bag, levered her suitcase off of the bed and onto its wheels before pulling out its extended handle, and snatched up her jacket and laptop bag before heading for the door.
Yes, I know, a brand-new story dealing with Ranma/Raven, and she doesn't even show up in the first chapter! That's actually a longstanding tradition, David Weber does it all the time (of course, since he writes books you can turn the page and start the next chapter...). Still, I promise that the next chapter will be all about Raven.
And yes, this is a very "alternate history" version of the Sailor Senshi. I hope you enjoy reading about the different take as much as I've enjoyed dreaming it up.