Please, be kind, this is my very first attempt at a fanfic. Please let me know what you think of it. Any constructive criticism would be useful, flames will be returned in kind. Let's see, what else? Oh, yeah. None of these characters belong to me. They are all the property of Naoko Takeuchi, Toei animations, Kodansya Comics, DiC, Bandai, etc. etc. etc. Please don't sue me for using them. ;-) Since I've never seen the Japanese versions, I am going to use the American names of the characters. Enjoy the ride!!

The Generals' Hour -- Prologue
by Renee-chan

A ball room is a stark and lonely place to be when there is no ball in it, thought the General as he gazed around the room. It seems almost dead. He shuddered as a sudden chill crept up his spine. The cold, white walls, the echoing vastness, and the lifeless tapestries which clung to the walls added to the desolate atmosphere. The General wondered what had drawn him down here. His dislike of the Great Ball Room and Banquet Hall were well known. Had any of his subordinates seen him in either, and in the middle of the night, no less, they might have worried that their General was losing his mind. Yet something was definitely wrong. Something, or someone had drawn the General out of a sound sleep to the only place in the Silver Palace that he openly feared to tread.

His eyes searched the room looking for some kind of clue as to what had led him here. His attention was drawn to a shadow - one that looked out of place next to the pillar it projected from. The General began to walk towards it. His instincts were screaming at him to draw a weapon, but he fought them. He moved with a calm purpose, never taking his eyes off that strange shadow. His unbelievable calm, and his sure and steady grace had won him a position high in Her Majesty's Army. In fact, it had earned him Mastery over the four main regiments, and he was second only to Earth's Prince - the Commander of the Army. The purposeful young General finally reached the marble column, and his eyes widened at what they saw there.

A young woman stood in the shadow of the great column, and even in the darkness, she cast her own shadow. This young woman always made the General nervous, as if she were a tightly loaded crossbow, just waiting for a chance to strike him down, strike them all down. Her cold beauty filled people with awe and her icy grace and charms made all who saw her wish to bow their heads in submission. Then there were her eyes. Eyes of cobalt blue, they could ensnare anyone, and in the past had ensnared far stronger men than the General. The Prince himself, one of the General's dearest friends, had fallen victim to that cold gaze.

The General forced himself to meet those eyes, and what he saw in them made him wish he'd listened to his instincts and drawn his sword. Not that it would have done him much good against this one. She was renowned the Universe over for her fighting skills. The General doubted that even one as trained as he was could beat her in a fair fight, and he also knew that this would have been no fair fight. He could feel the magic which permeated her being - a magic that could easily outreach and outlast his own. He would fall in heartbeats if he tried to engage her in such a battle. Sometimes he wished he had the courage to try.

The woman smiled slightly. The smile never warmed her eyes, it only seemed to further stoke the cold flames that burned in her heart. She seemed to take a certain amount of pleasure in his situation, and in his fear. He knew then that she was the one who had called him from his dreams to this dead place. He trembled again at her power. The woman opened her mouth to speak, and in a voice that should have belonged to a goddess, not this ice demon, she said simply, "Good evening, General Malachite." Then she smiled, a predator's smile, "I'm surprised to find you here. Did you wish to oversee the preparations for tomorrow night's ball yourself, or are you just having trouble sleeping?"

It took him a moment to realize that the woman was speaking, "Yes, shadows can be dangerous. You do well to remember that, Malachite. Very well, but not, perhaps, as well as you think." He saw her glance out the great window and smile at the first hint of false dawn, he'd not realized how long they'd been down there. She spoke again, "It grows late, and I must prepare myself for the day's festivities. Good day, Malachite, and may you find that your path be not as hard as the one that you have set yourself upon."

With that she gathered the skirts of her simple white gown, and flowed out of the hall. Malachite shuddered as he watched the last of her long blonde hair follow her out the door. He whispered, "I fear that I have no choice in my path, to follow yours would lead to destruction."

After a moment, though the words of the ancient blessing seemed to stick in his throat, Malachite added, "May the Gods of the Planets watch over you and guide you, Princess Serenity." I fear that you need Their Guidance far more than any one guesses. And I pray that you accept Their Guidance, and soon, for all our sakes. With that last thought he turned and left the hall of the dead to seek what solace he could with the living.

The Graveyard | Part 1
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