Sailor Moon Fan Fiction ❯ Holding out for Everything ❯ Rainstorms and Tents ( Chapter 4 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Chapter 4
Rainstorms and Tents

For two days they traveled with nice weather and light hearts. The pace was quick and the fields and villages passed by like nothing. One hour rolled into the next and each night came speedily. On the third day the clouds rolled in and covered the sun as the group was approaching their first forest. As they began to enter the wooded area, the rain started to fall. It was a small drizzle at first, one that kept the air damp but didn’t do much more.

Mamoru was glad they were in the trees finally since it made keeping up to the group and keeping out of sight much easier. He had tried blending in dressed in his uniform but it was difficult to not be noticed in such a small group. He had been hoping there would be at least a hundred men traveling to keep the princess safe but alas, such luck was not with him. Now at least he could stick to the small paths off the main road. The road was down in a bit of a valley so keeping an eye on them from above was advantageous.

Puddles and mud covered the roadway now and the horses had to drop down to a slower pace. Mamoru rode ahead always and stopped to watch the ring of soldiers with the princess in the middle of them. They encountered a few travelers on the road but not many, and most of them were all too happy to move aside for the party to pass, rather than be trampled. There was no tavern or inn for them to stop at within half a day’s ride so he knew they would be setting up camp. He preferred it when Serenity had four sturdy walls around her and guards posted at every exit but he knew things wouldn’t always be ideal.

They stopped and set up camp as the rain started to come down harder. The small clearing they found was cramped for all the tents and horses but it proved to be good for keeping the princess’s tent surrounded. Mamoru made his own fire that night under a heavily-leafed tree. He cursed as he tried to get a spark going but eventually the wood began to smolder and crackle. He stretched his leather tent out between the branches and led his horse under it with him to keep him dry. With the rain falling more steadily, he doubted the small fire would last until morning but it was enough for him to heat up some soup he was carrying in a leather skin. The small pot warmed it up fast and soon he had a belly full of warm food.

Once he finished his meal and his horse was tied up, he walked through the trees to the clearing where everyone else was staying in. His hood hid his face and he left his cloak open just enough to show his uniform to avoid any questions. Small pavilions were going up to keep campfires dry over which pots of stew were simmering. The smells wafting from the pots were spicy and heavenly, holding the promise of rich broth and hearty chunks of meat and vegetables. Even though he had just eaten, Mamoru's mouth watered.

He walked through the crowd, keeping his head low, until he reached the biggest tent in the center. Four guardsmen stood at the entrance, each armed and ready to serve her Grace. They kept an eye on the men milling about, occasionally swapping joking insults or laughs.

Mamoru walked around the tent, noting strategically placed lookouts. Not wanting to look out of place, he walked over to her Grace’s horse that was under a small covering just to the side of her tent. He pulled a small brush from his cloak and began to groom the animal. Faintly he could hear voices from within the tent, a male and female voice, the latter sounding rather unhappy. He strained his ear to try and make out the muffled words.

“I’m freezing and wet and I’m fairly certain I’m getting a cold. What do you mean I can’t have a hot bath?”

Mamoru raised his eyebrow as he listened to the male voice respond. “Your Grace, I understand you are suffering through much on this trek and it pains me to see it. However, by the time we could find your bath tub and get it filled with hot water, it would be almost time to pack up and leave. The stream is fairly far away and carting so much water would take time.”

“So then I suppose it doesn’t matter that I’m chilled to the bone,” she snapped. “His Majesty won’t mind getting an ill ice-cube for a wife.”

“I’m certain a nice warm fire would ease the chill from your Grace and a bowl of stew followed by some hot tea would do wonders.” The man sounded almost as if he were trying desperately to appease a stubborn child.

There was a moment of silence. Mamoru could feel the tension in the air from where he was standing. He inclined his head, straining to hear.

“It better be very hot stew and tea.”

“Yes, your Grace.”

“And it better be here soon.”

“Of course, your Grace.”

He nothing for a few moments and soon the snap of the tent flap opening reached his ears as the male exited the tent. He heard the guards murmur something to him before he stalked away, his boots making soft squishing noises in the mud.

Letting out a low sigh, he continued to groom the horse but no more sounds came from the tent. He gave the filly a gently pat on her rump before leaving the small covered area. She nickered in appreciation as he walked away. The rain was falling more heavily and Mamoru pulled his hood more over his face. There was no wind thankfully but even so everyone was getting soaked. It was dark and the men were treading around carefully.

Mamoru reached his small little camp. The leather tent was doing wonders in keeping his horse fairly dry. The beast still gave him a grumpy look, ungrateful creature. Mamoru had to smile as he gave his horse a gentle rub-down too. There were still embers left of the small fire he had made earlier so he tossed in a little more wood. It was lightly damp but the water soon evaporated and flames licked at the wood happily.

Once his horse was satisfied and had eaten a hand-full of oats from his hand, Mamoru sat down and leaned against the tree, soon dozing off. It wasn’t until the first rumble of thunder came that he opened his eyes again. The fire was almost completely out once more. He had to add a few smaller pieces of timber this time before the fire came to life again and warmed him.

He was ready to doze off again when he heard the faint, far off yelling of men. The sound was muffled by the falling rain but Mamoru was awake and up in a heartbeat, grabbing his cloak and making his way back to the royal camp.

The sky above him rumbled again and lightning illuminated the forest. He could hear the shouts louder now, men yelling something about intruders. Mamoru pick up his pace, walking carefully over logs, rocks, and brush.

How he managed to walk into the camp he wasn’t really sure. Fires were blazing under covered areas everywhere and soldiers were running to and fro. The air was filled with shouts, clanking steel, and occasional rumbles from the heavens.

He made his way to the Princess’ tent. Men were swarming around it like bees trying to protect their queen bee. Keeping his hand on the hilt of his sword he tried to blend in with them. The rain was helping as were the dancing shadows the fires were casting. There was no sign of any intruders so far. Mamoru inched his way towards the tent until he was right near its entrance. This time the thunder and lightning hit almost simultaneously and the dancing shadows caused all the soldiers to tense and focus their attention away from the door just long enough for Mamoru to slip behind the flap.

And then he was inside. The sound of rain was muffled only slightly by the tent but it was warmer than outside at least. It was pitch dark so Mamoru stayed where he was while his eyes adjusted to the dim interior. There was a small entry way which opened up into the larger part of the tent where a young frightened girl sat upright with her blankets clutched to her chest. Mamoru was grateful suddenly that he hadn't moved since entering. He was still mostly behind a small flap that separated the two parts of the tent. As his eyes adjusted he could make her out more clearly. Her eyes were glued to the ceiling of the, no doubt waiting to see the next flash of lightning.

Outside, the rain pelted the leathery pavilion. There was still a commotion going on but the sounds were muted by the thick walls. When the next rumble of thunder came, it completely drowned out the noise from the outside. He could hear the princess let out a sharp gasp and watched as she gripped the blankets tighter.

He was starting to think he hadn't made a very wise decision coming inside the tent. He couldn't leave too easily without being spotted, he couldn't stay standing there still all night, and he couldn't very well walk over to the girl and start up a vibrant conversation. Once she was asleep he could make his escape more easily, but with all the excitement going on, he didn't think she'd be dozing off any time soon.

Thunder rumbled once more, the boom making the ground almost quiver. The tent walls seemed to sway with the sound, only... the wall was opening. Mamoru saw the thin opening grow as a sword was run down the length of it. Almost immediately there were men pouring through the opening, three of them, and all of them heading right for the princess. Dark cloaks draped them in darkness as they dashed for the girl.

She let out a cry, but they were on her fast. The wind and the rain muffled the noise from inside of the tent probably as well as the outside. One of the intruders had a hand clamped firmly around her mouth almost instantly, forcing her to remain silent.

Thanking any deities out there that he had come inside the tent after all, Mamoru moved into action. There were grunts and urgent whispers coming from the bed where he could see Serenity flailing in a vain attempt to ward off her attackers or abductors, but to no avail. They were three strong men, three strong men with a very specific purpose and goal. Mamoru held his breath and silently glided over to them.

Three steps and he was behind them. On the first step he had drawn his sword, on the second pulled it back, and on the third run it through the closest man. He let out a grunt and gurgle as he fell to the floor lifelessly, the cold steel already sliding out of his ribcage.

The other two, startled by the sound, turned to see what was going on. One of them found himself without an arm from the elbow down and the other felt himself being slammed in the jaw by a sharp, strong blow. He staggered to his knees as his companion let out a cry of dismay, mingled with the scream of Serenity. Mamoru winced, both blessing and cursing her apparently phenomenal vocal chords. At least now some help would come even if he was deaf.

Mamoru brought his knee into the stomach of the armless man, causing him to keel over with a whimper, then knocked the pommel of his sword hard against the head of the one trying to get up from his knees. He fell to the ground, unconscious. That hadn't been much of a fight. The element of surprise was truly a powerful one.

Mamoru looked over to Serenity, already hearing the tent door being opened and a flurry of men rushing in, all shouting. He grabbed her hand to snap her out of her panicked state and tugged roughly. "Are you hurt?"  he asked quickly and quietly as he leaned against the bed, his gaze trailing over her to see if she was harmed. He could feel her rapid pulse under his thumb as he gripped her wrist, his calloused fingers completely encircling the delicate appendage.

"I-I don't think so," she breathed shakily as she glanced down at his blood-spattered uniform. Tear trails glistened on her face as she brought her other hand up and placed it against her cheek. Mamoru nodded and gave her quivering hand a quick squeeze before turning around.

"What the hell happened in here?"

"Princess, are you all right?!"

"Who are these men?"

"Who was watching the tent?"

A thousand questions seemed to fill the air and the guards scrambled around lighting oil lamps and assessing the situation. Two of them had already found the hole in the tent and were standing outside to keep watch. Mamoru melted among them and  decided it was time he made his escape before someone started asking him questions.

"I-I don't know, I as sitting here when they broke in and one of the guards saved--" Serenity's shaky voice disappeared as Mamoru walked from the tent, eyeing all the men around. They seemed to have a good handle on things and were focused on her Grace's tent fully now. He walked past the silver haired man he'd seen leaving the tent earlier, his light locks plastered to his head and face. He was carrying a torch and looking around fiercely at everything that moved or made noise.             &nb sp;                    
"I want to know what happened and who saw what. Bring the men who were on watch to me and for heaven's sake get some more fires going. I want the area--" Mamoru walked by, not slowing once, as the young Artemis barked orders and delegated duties.

They would be more careful and alert now.

Mamoru slipped into the shadows of the tree line and made way for his small camp. The embers were still bright this time, but he didn't bother adding more fire wood now. It was better if he was unseen at this point. If any of the men from the camp found him now they would probably stab first, ask questions later. Overall he hadn't done bad. He'd stopped an abduction of the princess, left one of the captors dead, one alive and resentful, and one injured and desperate.

He let out a shaky breath as he closed his eyes, nestled against the tree. That had been close. Too close. Serenity should never have been so vulnerable. A corner of Mamoru's lip curled into a smile. She probably wouldn't have an ounce of privacy the rest of the trip. Her Grace wouldn't like that, he knew. She would probably put up quite a fuss eventually but as long as she stayed safe, it would be worth it.

The hard ground and cool air didn't make for the most comfortable sleeping arrangement but at least the thunder and lightning had vanished. The young man fell asleep with the smell of damp leaves and earth in his nostrils and no more noise save for the gentle pattering of rain.

I do not own the rights to Sailor Moon or any of the characters. That honour belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, and I am simply a lowly author who can use her characters for my plots.
Converting /tmp/phplMpCsF to /dev/stdout