With every hour that slips through my fingers, a part of me withers away.
I can feel my soul fleeing, the magic of the moon depleting, creating an empty void that I am being dragged into.
I pressed my chin against the pale skin of my chest, hiding my face in the shimmering ivory hair that fell against my cheeks. Through the corner of my eye, the glittering pale blue streaks against the off-white strands sparkled against the light of the moon like a waterfall.
I lifted the necklace that hung limply around my long skinny neck and turned it over a few times. Inspecting it. Feeling its power intertwine around the muscles of my fingers, up to my arm, and buzzing within my head like bees in a hive.
I lifted my gaze to that of the moon, daring it to look straight into my eyes.
Daring it to look at the girl with the crescent moon pupils, and the soft gray-blue irises.
Daring it to look at its child.
Clibin abodiar Callisto.
“I will be with you again shortly, mee’iy promartisu. Don’t give up on me quite yet.”
I don’t belong in this world, I don’t belong on Earth, and because of that, I am slowly disappearing. Shards of my soul disintegrate among the night sky, becoming the stars that earthlings rave over. All they see are beautiful little lights illuminating their planet, while I see them for what they are: My loved ones trapped forever within the prison of the night sky.
And I am becoming one of them as my time to return home eludes me.
I am a kidinor quar gei galea’k, Lunar Language, or Lunarian, for a child of the moon.
They call me Callisto, named after one of the moons of Jupiter. Our distant cousins.
Gei Galeaken Reliar is what I call home. The Lunar Realm.
I repeat this over and over again, so I don’t forget, so I don’t succumb to the night sky that is stealing my soul.
The moon is calling me home, and I need to follow.
I looked down at the necklace once more. It was made of moonstone, a crystal associated with the great power of the lunar cycle.
It speaks to me and gives me visions.
Each vision directs me towards a piece of the moonstone key, the necklace that lies around my neck, and a clue to the whereabouts of the gates for which they open. Behind these gates lie Gie Greaak Galeaken Sta’herid. The great stairway that will take me home. The bridge that fuses two contradicting existences: Earth and the Lunar Realm. I have found four out of the five pieces of the moonstone key, one more piece and I can finally return home.
The moonstone key is given to those who are banished from the Lunar Realm. It is a sort of test, and if they pass, they can return home, relieved of any punishments. However, if they fail, they have to live on Earth. A death sentence, for children of the moon cannot live on Earth when they were made to live within the Lunar Realm. So, those who fail the test of the moonstone key are doomed to eternal imprisonment within the night sky. They then become the twinkling balls of light forced to watch over Earth, preventing them from forgetting their failures.
The task is not as simple as finding missing pieces of the moonstone key using the assistance of its visions.
Not even close.
With each vision received, a monster is unleashed.
In the Lunar Realm, banishment is not finding an alternative location to settle down.
Banishment is a trek toward your grave. A grave among the stars.
That is why no one has ever returned.
Why didn’t I just go through with the marriage as my father ordered, as the King ordered? I just had to go and get banished for something as simple as not wanting to spend my entire life with an unmitigated stranger. If mother were still alive, she would never have let this happen.
“Galea’ks, you need to focus Callisto,” I said to myself, the lack of confidence painfully obvious.
I looked around the outside of the cave, to the rusty sign that lay just beyond. It read “Clippity-Clop Caverns,” in sloppy earthling handwriting.
Earthlings come up with the strangest names for their territories.
I laid my eyes upon the mouth of the cave, its darkness beckoning me. Trusting the vision of the moonstone key and determined to be reunited with my people, I took a step inside.
I scanned the walls of the cavern, the ground worn from the hundreds of tourists that have journeyed down the same passage. Each one of my footsteps echoed, reminding me of my last vision that led me to a grand palace in a faraway land, with grainy hot terrain that shifted beneath my feet. However, instead of luxurious paintings and large bodies of water, I was looking at daunting stones jutting out from every crevice of the rocky abode.
I ran my bony hands across the moist stones. Dirt was embedded beneath my nails and scars slashed across my skin from the years of travel I have spent battling monsters and searching for the pieces of the moonstone key.
At last, I’m so close to finding the last one.
The location of the previous pieces flashed across my mind, so I began searching, assuming this piece will be hidden similarly. The previous piece comprised the eye of a lion statue, twinkling as if it would come to life at any second.
And with my luck, it did.
Except with more teeth and it had wings of course.
That was one of the more difficult monsters to defeat throughout this treacherous journey. My mind began to wander, imagining the last monster that I would have to conquer.
Would it be bigger?
Would it have larger fangs?
Would this be where my journey ends?
I shook away the thought, a haze of determination blinding me from the overwhelming fear.
I was about to continue my trek down the rocky passage, scanning the shifting shadows that lay within the fissures, when something stopped me.
Something was twinkling beyond, shimmering within the darkness of the caverns. I took a step closer, and the light beamed a little brighter. The distance between myself and this mysterious illumination diminished, and I was able to make out what it was.
The lights formed the shape of a crescent moon, and the girl with the crescent moon eyes stared back.
Clibin abodiar Callisto.
It whispered to me, caressing the pale skin of my large, pointed ears, just like the moon.
“I hear you, and I’m coming.”
I reached out my hand, my long bony fingers turning a pale blue, an illusion of the light that was being emitted.
There was an explosion of bright light, and my hands flew up to my face to shield my eyes. The light warmed my face like the sun on a sweltering day, and beads of sweat began to accumulate on my flesh. I brushed away the dew on my forehead and squinted above my hands to get a glimpse of what was occurring before me. Just as I got my eyes to adjust, the light vanished. Darkness took its place like a black blanket was thrown over the source of illumination.
And something else.
There was a crescent moon statue with thousands of crystals embedded into its flesh. The moon poured its light through the aperture above, creating a sort of spotlight, and the statue was center stage.
My gaze swept across the carving until my eyes stopped on the stone in the center.
There it was. The last piece of the moonstone key. I was finally going to return home. Then I remembered.
Fear replaced any excitement I might have obtained, but I was not the feeble girl running from an arranged marriage anymore. I was stronger. I heard my ancestors calling out to me,
trapped within the dark abyss of the night sky. They told me to keep going and to trust the light of the moon within me.
My name is Callisto.
I am a kidinor quar gei galea’k.
A child of the moon.
Gei Galeaken Reliar is what I call home. The Lunar Realm.
I may have been banished, but I will return home no matter what it takes.
I felt a tingling sensation within my head, running down my arms and through my fingers. A cracking sound filled my ears, as the last piece of the moonstone key emerged from the statue and hovered before me, leaving a trail of silvery-blue dust.
I stared at the stone in front of me with my mouth hanging open.
It was so beautiful.
It levitated towards the necklace and connected to the key, emitting a bright light before settling back onto my chest.
I looked around in anticipation.
It was utterly silent. I slowly reached my hand down to my side and unsheathed my dagger. Ready to fight. No longer afraid.
I was about to start backing out of the cave, but then I heard it.
I felt it.
Hot breath against my cheek, the feeling of being watched. I slowly turned around, and inches away from my face, stood a dragon. We looked directly into each other’s eyes, and I realized that its pupils took the form of a crescent moon as well. Its slender body was covered in glittering scales, a collage of silver and pale blue.
I took a step back and pointed my dagger directly toward the throat of the beast before me, my feet planted into the ground.
“I am not here to fight you, Callisto.” Steam encircled the dragon’s head as she spoke. Her calmingly neutral voice echoed throughout the cave, almost as if the cave was speaking back.
“Who…who are you, and how do you know my name?” I stuttered, trying to contain the nerves that were rising into my throat, but I refused to move, holding my stance. The only thing between myself and the dragon was the dagger, and I was determined to keep it that way.
“My name is Elara, named after one of the moons of Jupiter, much like yourself.”
Her gaze did not falter, the intensity of her eyes shot bullets into my own.
“What is your point? My patience is waning.” I did not crumble before her gaze, instead, I lifted my chin and returned the intensity of her stare.
“My point is that I am no different than you little one. I too am willing to do anything to return to my home and be reunited with my family. If you pass, the gates to Gie Greaak Galeaken Sta’herid will open, giving me time to slip inside. I am willing to assist you so we may both return to the Lunar Realm, but only if you are willing to assist me in entering the gates.”
I lowered my dagger as I considered this proposition. She seemed sincere.
“Do you not trust me, Callisto?” Elara tilted her head, expecting a response.
“Why should I?”
“Why should you not?”
I hesitated. What could be the harm in helping her? After all, I would rather not find out what happens if I say no.
“Fine. But if you try to pull any tricks, this dagger slicing open your throat will be the last thing your eyes gaze upon,” I pointed my dagger at her, hoping it would add some intensity to my threat.
“You will not be disappointed little one.” A puff of smoke escaped her nostrils, almost like a sigh of relief.
I did not like being called little one after threatening to slit her throat, but I had more perfervid problems.
“So, what’s the final test?”
“You have to answer a question,” Elara replied matter of factly.
“Well, what is it?”
“Who am I?”
Who is she? That is the question that will decide my fate?
“Don’t forget about our deal. You promised to help, and there is no chance of you entering those gates without me.” There was no way I was going to be able to solve this riddle on my own either, and I wanted to make sure she was aware of the fact that I was not going to let her take advantage of me. I didn’t get this far by letting people walk all over me.
“Well, of course, our deal did not elude me that quickly. Two moons, one planet, that is my clue.”
“Galea’ks, that’s it? I thought you were so desperate to return home.” If she really wanted to be reunited with the Lunar Realm, she would have given me a clue that was more obliging. Suspicion was beginning to creep into my consciousness.
“That is all the Lunar Realm allows. If it were up to me, I would simply give you the answer, but it is not, so that is all I am able to give.” I glanced down at her claw that was tapping against the rocky terrain. She seemed nervous.
The suspicion began to creep away. Perhaps I was just being paranoid.
Two moons, one planet. Think Callisto.
There are multiple planets that have more than one moon. Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and………..Jupiter.
My name is Elara, named after one of the moons of Jupiter, much like yourself.
Much like myself. Could it be?
I scrunched my brow deep in thought, trying to remember the last conversation with my mother.
That was her last word before her final breath escaped her lungs. For years, I was trying to decipher what she said. It all made sense now.
“You’re……you’re my….my sister.”
She smiled a sweet gentle smile, slowly nodding her head.
“How….why…….” I was at a loss for words as a thousand questions swarmed my brain.
“Our mother, Mona, used to be Dilognas quar gei Galeaken Reliar, Queen of the Lunar Realm. Despite not wanting to adhere to this position, she was forced to marry King Aibek, a man for whom she felt no love. About a year later, Mona gave birth to a baby girl. She named her Elara, after one of the moons of Jupiter which was the land she was Queen of before being forced to abandon her home to be married off to an unmitigated stranger.”
A giggle escaped my mouth as I remembered what I had thought to myself earlier today.
I just had to go and get banished for something as simple as not wanting to spend my entire life with an unmitigated stranger.
I was beginning to see the resemblance.
“Did I miss something?”
“No not at all, please, do continue.”
A puff of smoke was released into the air as she rolled her eyes, adjusting the large scaly wings that lay upon her back.
“Galea’ks, right, where was I……Oh yes. Elara was born, referring to myself if you have not caught on. Mona simply longed for a healthy baby, but King Aibek had differing intentions. He desired a baby boy so he could train him to be the ruler of the Lunar Ream and take his place as King. When he discovered that his child was a girl, wrath overcame him, for the King is accustomed to getting what he wants. He sent our mother into exile and promised her that when I turned eighteen, I would be banished. Sent to complete the test of the moonstone key. Mother was devastated, but she held a secret.
“She held special powers that only those from the moons of Jupiter obtained. She knew that she could not alter the decision of the King, but she could assist me when the time came.
“The years came and went, but amidst this time, mother had finally found true love. A man named Atlas, who I came to call my father. We were a happy family with the outskirts of the kingdom being our humble abode, and I was ecstatic at the thought of finally having a sibling. Nine months later, you were born. However, my eighteenth birthday was rapidly approaching. Mother knew that somehow, King Aibek would find a reason to banish you, being the evil man he is. So, she cast a spell on me that would transform me into a dragon if I were to fail the test of the moonstone key. She put all of her trust in you Callisto, for, in order for her plan to work, you had to pass the test. She knew that your strength was greater than others due to the powers of Jupiter flowing in your veins. She knew that when you reached me, we would both be able to return.”
The pieces in the puzzle of my life began to fit into place.
Her wheezy voice, full of struggle and pain, echoed in my ears as I recalled her final words. Despite the grasp of death consuming her, she was willing to use her final breaths to help her daughters.
Mother knew the question I would have to answer if I passed the test of the moonstone key.
Mother knew that if Elara failed and I passed, we would both be able to return home.
Father tried to force me into an arranged marriage because he knew my inevitable banishment if I did not honor the king’s wishes, meeting the same fate as my mother.
I stared blankly into Elara’s eyes as I attempted to sort through the jumble of emotions. It was as if a dam had been broken, and I was being thrown about as the water carried me away.
Elara took a step closer, each one of her claws tapped against the stone floor like pieces of metal dropped into a can.
“I don’t know what to say. I….”
“I know sister, I know. There are many years that have separated us, but the moon is calling to us, can you feel it? What do you say we answer and get caught up back home?”
We both looked to the aperture above the crescent moon statue, where the moon showered its light upon us.
We looked at each other and smiled.
A loud creaking sound diverted our attention as a frigid wind blew against my face and threw my hair behind my back.
I reached up to brush the strands of ivory hair from my face and gasped in awe at what lay before us. Huge gates took the place of the crescent moon statue, made of shimmering silver iron with intricate designs of the different phases of the moon. Just beyond the gates lay Gie Greaak Galeaken Sta’herid, the stairway that led to the Lunar Realm.
The stairway that led home.
The gates opened, sending silver sparks skittering across the floor, coating a blanket of silvery dust upon my feet.
Light blasted from within the opening gates and we both shielded our eyes, a look of excitement plastered on our faces from behind our hands.
I rubbed my eyes, assuming it was just an illusion caused by the brief blinding of light, but when I opened them once more, she was still there.
Elara was no longer a dragon.
It was as if our mother had resurrected from the dead, the resemblance was overwhelming.
Long wavy silver hair fell against her slender body. Similar to my own, long pointed ears protruded from either side of her head, poking out from within the confines of her thick hair. A bluish tint was smudged across her sophisticated cheekbones, and silvery-white freckles were powdered throughout her face, like twinkling stars among the night sky.
But what stood out the most, were her eyes, a replica of my own.
I stared in awe, taking in her radiating beauty.
“You look just like mom……….except for that one addition.” I looked down to divert her attention. She followed my gaze and giggled at what she saw. A scaly tail was still attached to her body, slithering like a snake around her ankles. She held it in her hands, her long fingernails stroking the shimmering flesh.
“Well, at least it was only the tail that refused to part ways…….Besides, it could be useful.” A mischievous smile appeared as she whipped her tail at my feet, causing me to perform a clumsy dance to avoid the scaly protrusion.
We laughed until tears filled our eyes as I stumbled to the ground, something I didn’t even know I missed. We slowly regained our composure, our heavy breathing echoing throughout the caverns.
Elara wiped her eyes and smiled, reaching out her hand.
“Are you ready, Callisto?”
My gaze returned to the gate before me, focusing on the crescent moon delicately molded within the intricate designs. While part of it is revealed, bathed in the light of the sun, the rest of it remains cloaked in darkness. Not entirely visible from a distance, but its presence is ensured.
The story of my life.
As I wander closer, the more the light of truth illuminates the secrets shrouded in darkness. What else could be hidden within the shadows? Well, I’ll leave that for you to decide earthling. I leave the secrets of the moon with you.
My gaze returned to my sister. A smile engulfing my features.
“Yes sister, I am ready.”
Together, we took a step inside, for we are children of the moon, and children of the moon always answer when the moon calls.
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