Note: this story takes place between the end of Sailor Moon R and the start of Sailor Moon S, so contains spoilers for those who have not seen to the end of Sailor Moon R or have only seen the translated episodes released by DIC in 1995. Names are as in the original Japanese series, not as in the DIC translation.
Standard fanfic disclaimers apply.
Standard fanfic disclaimers apply.
Rei took one long look at the paper Ami had just handed her, tossed it back across the table and picked up her ice cream spoon again. "Ami, are you just trying to annoy me or did you really expect me to read that?"
Ami barely caught the photocopy before it sailed off the edge of the table. "Well, I did translate the most difficult words..."
"I couldn't read your translations either. They looked like technical terms, something about astronomy."
"Yeah, whatever." Rei ate another spoonful of ice cream from her banana split. "Since you read it already, you tell me what it says."
Ami sighed. "Last week, a group of astronomers published the results of a study of the magnetosphere over the arctic that has been going on for several weeks."
"You invited me out to lunch to talk about aurora borealis?"
Ami rummaged through her school bag, ignoring Rei's obvious impatience. "Have a look at this." She handed Rei another photocopy, this one a map. "That was in the same article."
Rei looked at the map and frowned. "These lines, they're wrapped around the point where we.."
Ami nodded. Where we died. Since the time their memories of their fight with the Dark Kingdom had been returned, it seemed to have become an unspoken agreement that they could never directly refer to that.
"Those lines show the areas of strongest activity. I've been looking through back-issues to see if there were similar events just before the Dark Kingdom emerged there." She reached into her bag again. " So far I've found..."
Ami started at Rei's sharp tone. She looked up to see Rei's stern expression. "What is it?"
"Luna and Artemis were over at the temple yesterday. They've told me about all the other stuff you've been reading."
"Oh." Ami looked down, embarrassed.
"Why did you suddenly come to me with this, instead of going to them like you've been doing?"
Still looking down, Ami tonelessly gave the answer that Rei already knew: "Because they won't listen anymore."
Ami was startled when Rei suddenly took her hand and clasped it tightly. She looked up to see that Rei's expression had softened, if only a little. "Ami, I know what this is about. Ever since we came back from Crystal Tokyo, we've hardly seen you. I thought you just needed some time to yourself. After what we went through, I could understand that. But you've become obsessed."
Ami pulled her hand away. "How can you say that? We know that in just a few years something is going to freeze over the Earth. If there is a way we can prevent it, we have to try. Isn't it our duty as sailor senshi?"
"And how do you know that will happen?"
Ami became angry at being asked yet another rhetorical question."You know very well how. King Endymion told us."
"Mamoru asked Sailor Pluto about what would happen. Do you remember her answer?"
"Of course I remember. She said it was a mistake to have shown us the future in the first place."
Rei became aware of just how upset Ami was. "Ami, I'm sorry I have to say this, but what you're doing is a perfect example of why it was a mistake. Just look at the stuff you've been studying. Comets, sunspots, volcanoes, the ozone layer, then biblical prophecy and astrology just to round things off."
Ami looked down again, containing her anger. "You've made your point."
"Ami, you're not the only one, believe me. There's a lot of it about, it's called millennial rapture. Do you know how many people have called our temple asking to rent it as their private sanctuary on New Year's Eve 1999? You don't need to get a glimpse of the future to become convinced that the world is coming to an end."
Ami looked up at Rei again. "But the difference is that I saw it. How can I just ignore that?"
"You want me to tell you a secret? For the first couple of weeks after Chibi-usa went back to Crystal Tokyo, I spent every night in front of the fire praying for some sign about what would really happen to the Earth. You know what I found?"
"Exactly what I wanted to find: lots of images of ice and snow and all the living things in a deep slumber. The images would be particularly strong just before a cold snap hit Tokyo."
Rei was relieved to see that Ami looked more thoughtful than angry now. "Maybe you're right," Ami said with a sad smile. "Maybe I am reading too much into this."
"At least try to relax a bit and sleep on it, okay?" Rei ate some more of her ice cream in silence for a few minutes. Then she picked up the map again. "Still, I don't like the looks of this. I guess it can't hurt to try doing a reading, as long as I'm focused on this."
Ami's face immediately brightened. "You mean it?"
"Sure. Not being obsessed doesn't mean not being on our guard. Like you said, it's our duty. And that's fine, as long as you at least take the time to feed yourself."
"That sherbet you haven't touched has all melted. Should I go get you a straw?"
* * * * *
Ami, Makoto and Minako were in Rei's study, sitting on the floor around the low table and finishing their tea. Occasionally they could faintly hear Usagi's laughter from the next room. As soon as Rei had gone to prepare the fire for her reading, Usagi had taken the opportunity to go rummage through Rei's manga collection.
Ami had spent the past week reading back issues of various astronomical and geological journals. Since the apparently inexplicable wave of natural disasters that had accompanied the Dark Kingdom's last aborted assault on the Earth, the world's oceans were teeming with research ships trying to make sense of what had happened. There was suddenly a wealth of data to draw on. Since many of the journals were only available in English, it had been difficult work, but it had borne fruit. Taken separately, various reports of anomalous temperature changes in the arctic ocean, earth tremors and magnetic anomalies in the upper atmosphere could be seen as simple after-effects of earlier events.
But if you knew exactly where to look, a repetition of the pattern preceding the Dark Kingdom's last emergence could be clearly seen.
Minako looked at the maps again and shook her head. "Honestly, I don't know how you see a new threat from the Dark Kingdom in just a few lines on a map."
Ami smiled. "I keep telling you there's nothing definite, just a pattern. Rei should be able to confirm if there's anything to it." Ami suspected that nobody but her really expected to find anything. Rei had probably agreed to do this reading just to set Ami's mind to rest. Luna and Artemis, who would probably be here if they thought there was anything to Ami's concerns, were conspicuously absent.
Makoto finished her tea and pushed her cup away from her. "Ami, I can take your word for it that you've done your homework on this, but you've been really vague about what all these numbers might mean. Do you really think the Dark Kingdom could make a comeback so soon?"
"The last time they were put down with the power of the Silver Crystal, it was a thousand years before they were heard from again," Minako added.
Ami thought for a moment. "We know so little about the Dark Kingdom. About all we know for certain is that they control a very powerful source of magical energy. We don't know what it is, but we've seen the effects using that energy has on the natural world."
"Sort of like pollution," Minako suggested.
"Something like that. Anyway, if I'm right then somebody is making use of that same energy source again."
"But I thought we had wiped them out!" Makoto suddenly said, thumping her fist down on the table in frustration.
"Not necessarily. Queen Beryl took most of their gathered energy into herself, and we destroyed that along with her stronghold. But they must have their own way of drawing magical energy from the Earth itself. That's how they built up their strength over the centuries."
"So why did they start taking energy directly from humans?"
"Probably because it was quicker, maybe they just got impatient."
"So what if Rei says it's them?" Minako asked.
Makoto sighed. "In the end, I guess that's up to Usagi."
They sat in silence for a while. "I'm worried about her," Minako finally said.
"How so?" Ami asked, genuinely concerned. Ami had recently become very much aware of how her obsession with millennial doom prophecies had put her out of touch with what was going on with her friends.
"I just think seeing Chibi-Usa leave was harder on her than she's willing to admit."
"Well, she seems to have gotten over it nicely," Makoto said, smiling and nodding toward the bedroom.
Minako shook her head. "I don't know, it just seems we see less of her these days."
Makoto nodded, looking more serious now. "I guess we've all needed some time on our own to think things over, after all that we saw. I can see why Pluto was so worried about us seeing the future. For days I could hardly sleep, thinking about what's to come. It must have been a lot worse for Usagi."
"How are she and Mamoru getting along?" Ami asked.
Minako shrugged. "Okay, as far as I know. They're going out a lot. Still, it's got to be weird having seen what their lives together are going to be like. At least now Usagi can really say they're destined for each other!"
But do they get married before or after the world freezes over, Ami thought. There I go again. Trying to ignore it wasn't going to be that easy.
The door to the hallway slid open. Rei walked in, wearing her shrine maiden robes. "Okay, we're all set." She looked around. "Where's....? Oh Buddha's buns!" She marched across the room and slid open the door to her bedroom with a bang. "Usagi! Could we please focus?"
* * * * *
Rei did her readings in the largest room of her temple, a place big enough to hold scores of worshippers. Ami loved the way this room looked during the day, the sunlight making it come alive. As shinto shrines went it was rather plain, but somehow Ami found its simplicity elegant and comforting. How different it seemed now with the five of them gathered around Rei's small fire. Looking into the dancing flames, the room seemed to disappear altogether, they might as well have been lost on an infinite floor of bamboo mats.
Rei sat directly in front of the fire pit, her chanting barely audible. Her four friends sat in a row behind her, watching in silence. As Rei's chanting continued, the flame slowly changed colour. The orange-white fire that fed off the burning wood was replaced by a blue-white flame that fed off no earthly fuel. Suddenly Rei shouted, "sacred flame, show us our new enemy!"
The fire suddenly erupted towards the ceiling, and in it's midst a flurry of images flashed by. Pieces of an enchanted forest faded in and out, strange trees and flowers, waterfalls and babbling brooks, all seemingly surrounded by steep cliffs or rough walls, all illuminated under an alien sun. Then suddenly they were looking at the backs of people, a large congregation all kneeling with hands upraised as if in worship. In front of the crowd, in the distance, a silhouette of a woman upon a high stone pedestal, with four other figures at her feet, all shrouded in blinding backlit mist. Before they could come into focus, the flame abruptly dissipated.
They sat in silence for a few moments. They were once again illuminated by an ordinary wood fire. Rei turned to face the others. Her eyes rested on Usagi, and she frowned. "Usagi, what's wrong?"
The others looked to see that Usagi was still regarding the fire with what looked like shock and fear. Minako leaned over from where she knelt and placed an arm on the frightened girl's shoulder. "Usagi, what is it? What did you see?"
Usagi looked down, shook her head. "That woman. I... I think it was Queen Beryl."
The rest of them looked at each other in stunned silence. Their own memories of Beryl were very sketchy, having seen her only when their spirits had rallied to help Princess Serenity destroy her. But Usagi's memories of the evil and twisted queen who had struck down her beloved Endymion would be all too vivid.
"No, she can't be alive!" Makoto exclaimed.
"I don't think she is," Rei said. "Those figures in the background, I didn't get any sense that they were living. They had the feeling of statues. Stone idols."
"Then what does it mean?" Minako asked.
"That somebody still worships that Beryl as a goddess," Rei said bitterly.
"Then I guess that makes her four generals arch-angels," Minako suggested half jokingly. It was as good an explanation as any for the four shadowy figures that they had seen surrounding Beryl's image. "But what was that weird forest?"
"Caves," Ami said absently. They all looked at her, and she seemed surprised that she had spoken aloud. "Well, I got the feeling that all this was in caves, deep under the ocean floor, under some sort of artificial sun."
"That makes sense," Rei said. "During the reading I had this claustrophobic feeling. That could explain it. And those people..." She shivered. "I felt awe and worship, but... also hatred. Like..." she fought for the right words. "Almost like they were getting ready for a Jihad."
"Jihad?" Minako asked, looking puzzled.
"A holy war," Ami said.
"Did you get a feeling for how strong they are?" Makoto asked Rei.
"I got a feeling of intense evil from the crowd of people, but not the concentration of evil magic I would feel from a demon," Rei answered. "Certainly nothing like what I felt from Beryl and her generals. The power I felt came more from that forest and the odd globe that lit it up. It was a neutral sort of energy."
"It's just like you said," Minako said, looking at Ami. "They're tapping into some natural energy, building their strength. They must be trying to rebuild the Dark Kingdom!"
"I just don't understand how we can detect them so early so easily," Rei said. "Last time we couldn't find their stronghold until they actually broke onto the surface. It makes no sense."
"I can't believe it's starting so quickly," Makoto said, shaking her head.
Rei shook her head. "It's starting, but they don't seem to have much strength yet. It might be many years before they even try anything."
There was an awkward silence. Each in their own way, they were still trying to deal with what they knew or what they thought they knew about the coming future. They still hadn't reached the point where they could easily talk about it. Nobody would voice the question now going through their minds: what happens if the denizens of the Dark Kingdom emerge from their realm to find all the life on the surface lying helplessly in frozen slumber?
The others had not noticed that since she dropped her bombshell about recognizing Queen Beryl, Usagi had been sitting quietly, lost in thought. She abruptly turned to face Ami. "Ami, do you think we can teleport there?"
All the others gasped in unison. Ami looked back at Usagi, her surprised look slowly giving way as she considered this. After a moment she nodded. "Yes, I think so. I might be able to get us a picture of what the caves look like, that would make it a lot safer. If I take all these seismic surveys they've been doing in the arctic lately, feed them into Luna's computer... yes, I think it would work."
Usagi smiled, somewhat sadly it seemed. "I'll leave it to you."
"Usagi, are you serious?" Rei asked. "What are you planning?"
Usagi regarded Rei calmly, but still somewhat sadly. "I plan to destroy that energy source."
They all looked at her in silence. It suddenly seemed to them that Usagi's place had once again been taken by Neo Queen Serenity, her self from the distant future. The ease with which she made such a bold decision was eerie. The spell was broken when the sadness of her expression suddenly intensified. Usagi's lip trembled, and as she dropped her gaze down to the floor a tear crept down her face.
Minako moved closer to her, and gently wiped the tear away. "Usagi...?"
Usagi sniffed, look back up and tried to smile. "I'm sorry. I just... if we can do this now, once and for all, I won't have to go through that again." She looked down again, as if embarrassed. "Last time, the Silver Crystal brought us all back." She clutched the broach where she kept the Crystal. "But we know it's power isn't infinite. It might not be able to do that again. If we let them become more powerful, and we have to fight them again, they may take you away from me for good. I... I love you all so much, I couldn't bear it..." she closed her tear-filled eyes, unable to speak any further.
Usagi's friends were overwhelmed with emotion. Like the others, Ami was suddenly confronted with her half-restored memories of their final battle with Beryl. The memory of her own death was the thing she could not approach, the thing she must never look at, the thing that required her to keep that day buried deeply. The dying itself had been easy, almost a relief. But Ami was suddenly aware of how infinitely more painful it had been to watch Sailor Jupiter die impaled on that magic-spawned pillar of ice, suddenly aware of what Usagi must have gone through watching all four of them die.
Finally, Makoto slid over to Usagi and hugged her tightly from behind. "Don't worry. We'll go there and put and end to it, just like you said. It will be okay."
It was not too difficult to get Usagi to stop crying, especially when Makoto brought out the sweet bean paste manju she had made for them all.
* * * * *
Ami was just keying the last of the arctic geological survey data into her PC when the phone rang. She glanced at the clock as she picked up the phone, noting that she had lost track of time and wondering who would be calling at this hour.
"Hi, Sad Eyes."
Ryou Urawa normally talked with Ami either by letter or electronic mail, so she was surprised to hear his voice on the phone. Ami was suddenly flooded with warm memories of Urawa's last visit. Just days after the sailor senshi had destroyed Wiseman's Dark Gate, Urawa had shown up in town again. It had been mutually understood that his story about accompanying his father on a business trip to Tokyo was a little white lie. Naturally, Ami had telephoned him immediately after they had destroyed the Gate, to let him know that she was all right, but even without that call he could of course have gathered that she had been involved it its destruction. They had spent most of the weekend together just walking around and talking. Against her better judgement, she had told him everything about what she had seen and been told while in Crystal Tokyo. Somehow she also ended up telling him everything about the Silver Millennium as well. For the most part he had seemed content to just listen intently. He had hung on every word, but never prompted her for more than what she had volunteered. But being worried that her experiences had damaged her cheerful disposition, he had teased her by calling her Sad Eyes. That had quickly become his standard term of endearment for her.
"Are you in Tokyo?"
"I just got off the train, I'll be heading to my Uncle's place right away. I just wanted to call when I knew you'd be home, to let you know I was in town."
"Great. Can we meet somewhere tomorrow?"
"Actually, I thought tomorrow morning we could have breakfast and then start working on your problem."
Ami was taken by surprise. "Problem?"
"Yes, you mentioned it in your last letter. You want to find a way to transfer that geological data into that fancy computer of yours."
Ami laughed nervously. "Oh, that! You're teasing me again, you know I only read that stuff to practice my English. And as for analyzing that data, I'm just practicing using the computer."
"You mean practicing for the next time the Dark Kingdom tries to surface again?"
Ami was stunned. "How did you know?" she said in a small voice.
"I didn't, but it was a good guess."
Ami knew she'd been outmaneuvered. "You did it again! You make me believe you're using your precognition and you're just getting me to confirm a wild guess of yours!"
"I'm sorry, Ami. But I'd really like to help."
"I know. I forgive you. It looks like I can't hide anything from you, though."
"Oh, you can, but I don't think you wanted to. I just had to read between the lines."
Ami sighed. "Even if you can't help with this, I'm glad you're here."
"You'd be surprised. I bet you're expecting to find caves below the ocean floor, right?"
"You figured that out just from my letter?"
"Like I said, between the lines."
"You're right. Of course normally there could be no natural caves there, that's why the researchers who are collecting this data aren't even considering the possibility. They're totally misinterpreting their data, but I think with my computer I can actually map out the caves!"
"I think so too. But I also think the problem is a little more subtle than an obsessive data collector like you might suspect. We should talk about it."
"You're getting cold noodles for breakfast, mister."
"Sounds great. What time?"
* * * * *
"If Rei can confirm this with a reading, I think we've got it." Ami hit the print screen key. In the next room, the noisy impact printer began the slow process of printing out the map she had generated.
Urawa finished the last of his coffee. "If we're right, you can teleport straight into that caves." He sat down on the floor, leaned back on Ami's bed and rubbed his eyes. "I haven't done an all-nighter like that in a long time. I feel awful."
Ami walked over to sit down beside him. "It might have taken me days to do this alone, together we got it done in one weekend." She squeezed his arm. "Thank you, Ryou."
He held up a fist and winked. "Geniuses of the world, unite."
"Now tell me what's wrong."
Urawa's smile faded. He crossed his arms over his knees and seemed to stare intently into space. "Ami, I suspected the sailor senshi were planning to do something. When you kept talking about the stuff going on in the arctic, that just resolved me to my original purpose in coming here."
"To see if I'd have to beg you not to go." Urawa looked at Ami, who was clearly startled. "Since you casually mentioned that arctic atmospheric data, I've had a premonition that you were about to do something that you'd regret. I know what you want to say, I lost that power when I lost the Rainbow Crystal, I shouldn't trust it anymore. But the fact is, that power didn't really go away. I just had to learn to trust my instinct again. Whatever the Rainbow Crystal gave me is still with me. It doesn't matter whether you call it precognition or whether you explain it away as some unconscious data processing in the brain. If I get a precognition about something, I go and collect data. If the precognition goes away, it was a fluke. But if it stays or just changes a little, I've learned that I can trust it."
Ami turned to face Urawa. "And what is it telling you right now?"
Urawa closed his eyes. "That you will come back. That you will succeed and you will all come back safely." He opened his eyes and looked at Ami. "But it won't work out the way you think. You'll have to do something you don't want to do, and when you come back you will be very sad."
Ami tried to smile. "I like the part about coming back."
Urawa didn't return the smile. "That's the only reason I'm not begging you not to go."
When the printer finally decided to finish, it just accentuated the silence.
Gradually feeling awkward, Ami asked "What do you think I'll have to do that will make me so sad? What could be sad about destroying the Dark Kingdom once and for all?"
"It just may not be the Dark Kingdom that you know." He wouldn't tell her anything more.
* * * * *
When Ami climbed to the top of the stairs leading to the temple grounds, Minako was already there talking with Rei. Like Ami, she was wearing her warmest jacket. The mist only made the early morning chill bite all that much harder. Last night, another of Rei's readings had very strongly confirmed Ami's analysis. The caves were right where she had predicted, and somewhere within them was the newly emerging energy of the Dark Kingdom. They had decided to meet the next morning and teleport directly there. Since they knew little except where to go and how to find the energy source once they were there, ironically not much planning was required. It was most important that they all start off with a good night's sleep. Though they hoped for this to be a quick strike and return, it could involve hours of walking through the caverns. It might be a full day before they could return.
Rei and Minako greeted her just as if they were meeting to go to the mall. This had long since become their way of dealing with a coming battle, and they slid into their casual banter with practiced ease. Minako hoped they'd be back in time for her to try out for the volleyball team tomorrow. A little light exercise tossing the Venus Love Me Chain at the denizens of the Dark Kingdom was just the ticket.
Ami made her standard reply, she hoped to get some extra studying in for next week's calculus test. Even before she and Urawa had parted, she had resolved not to mention Urawa's premonition to the others. It's not just that it would break the delicate mood they so carefully constructed, but she was now much more aware of what a two edged sword precognition could be.
Their talk was interrupted by familiar sounds of shouting from the bottom of the stairs. The sound carried perfectly in the still morning air. This was Rei's cue to wonder aloud whether Usagi planned on announcing their presence this loudly in the Dark Kingdom.
Usagi's monologue grew louder as she approached and the three of them listened and found out in no uncertain terms that Usagi felt cold, clammy, sleepy and was sick and tired of climbing these stupid stairs. Two silhouettes could be seen through the mist as they topped the stairs. The tall, willowy shadow walking beside Usagi left no doubt that Makoto was the recipient of this tantrum. As they approached, two small figures could be seen flanking them. Somebody had to make sure Usagi woke up and got here on time. Luna, Artemis and Makoto had the detail this time.
When they approached the other girls, Usagi made a production of crossing her arms and shivering. She looked accusingly at Rei. "I distinctly recall meeting at this hour being your idea."
Rei beamed. "Nice to see you too, Usagi."
"Rei, did you check on your grandfather and Yuichiro?" Luna asked.
"Fast asleep. We're all alone, so we can start any time."
"Great!" Makoto slammed her fist into her hand. "If we hurry, we can get this done and be back in time for lunch!"
"Then let's go!" Minako said.
Reading the mood with his usual impeccable timing, Artemis said in a clear voice "Okay everyone, time to transform!"
Ami already had her pen clasped in her hand. It tingled her hand with what felt like static charge, already responding to her wish to become Sailor Mercury. How different from the first time she had done this, she thought as she raised it over her head. A lifetime ago a monster had shattered the nice, orderly world of her cram school and suddenly nothing had made sense anymore. In the midst of this madness, the terrified girl hadn't thought twice when a talking cat told her how she could make things right again. Then, as now, the words "Mercury Power!" plunged her into a dazzling kaleidoscope of dancing blue light. What had seemed then to take an eternity she now understood happened in the blink of an eye. The tingling in her hand raced up her arm and then up and down her whole body, quickly infusing every inch of her with fresh energy. And just as quickly it was over. The intense light, the sound like a thousand wind chimes in a hurricane and the feeling of being a lightning rod should have left her blinded, deafened and stunned, but when it ended the transformation abruptly left her with senses all the more heightened. Now, trees that had been hidden in the mist were clear and sharp. Rei's two crows, whose incessant cawing at the other ends of the grounds had seemed to come from the other end of the world seemed so much closer. She could feel the mist as a physical presence, identify a dozen distinct smells all at once. More so than the powers the transformation allowed her to unleash, it was this heightened awareness that Ami most marvelled at.
The other four sailor senshi stood before her. She was aware that they were looking to her to start the next move. "Okay, we should lay out the map." Mars went over to a bench and picked up the sticks she had left there. She walked over to Mercury and handed her one, then went to hand the rest to the rest of the sailor senshi. Mercury went over to the spot they had decided upon. She started drawing her part of the map in the fine gravel. From the work she had done she had a vivid image of the network of caves they would be teleporting into, but for this to work it was important that all of them have the same image. They had agreed the best way to ensure this was to have them all take turns at drawing parts of the map, just before trying the teleportation.
Mercury knelt down and drew the outline of the cave they would be teleporting into. Each of the sailor senshi in turn drew one more tunnel, one more cave, working from memory. After two rounds of this, they had their complete map. Ami noted with satisfaction that it matched her own mental image of the caves. Even Sailor Moon had done her part accurately. No doubt memorizing the map had kept her up much of the night.
As the final touch, Mercury drew a small circle in the centre of the cave. "That's the spot. Remember everyone, if at any time you think it's not going right, just break the circle. If these caves look the way we think they do, we should be able to image them clearly." She stood up in front of the map. The others formed a circle around the map and clasped hands.
"Good luck, everyone!" Luna said.
"Be careful" Artemis added.
Mercury closed her eyes and imagined the map lying at her feet. Her mental image seemed to become more distinct, details filling themselves in of their own volition. A small part of her thought, we've got it! This sharpening of the image from that of simple mental concentration to that of a distinct image like in a dream was the sign that they had made contact with the place they wanted to go. She did what she was supposed to: let the process happen as the concentration of the five senshi reinforced each others' dream image in a positive feedback.
Though she was expecting it this time, the sudden spontaneous expansion of the dream image of the caves still made her stomach turn. With a swiftness to induce vertigo, the caves leapt out at her, and suddenly she was in them. The now familiar sense of weightlessness came, and she knew they were past the point of no return. They were headed into the heart of the Dark Kingdom.
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