Luna shot up from her bed. A piercing headache stabbed behind her eyes, making her cringe and rock back and forth. She groaned in frustration, threw her legs to the side of her bed, and took a moment to breath. Darkness hung like the heavy curtain. She couldn’t even find her little window cloaked in night’s satin. With a deep breath, she hoisted herself onto her feet and stumbled towards it. Gently she brushed the curtain aside and gazed outward. The night sky faded away and a royal blue sky began to bloom. Some of the sun’s rays could be seen on the tips of the trees, staining the leaves a golden color. She sharply inhaled through her nose. The morning air was chill. She tied up the curtain and then stretched her arms high in hopes to get her blood moving. With every motion, the headache lessened.
Bit by bit, her body returned to life. Luna turned away from the morning light and faced her darkness. Already it has moved to the farthest end of her room, inching away from the morning glow. She felt the dirt ground with her feet, walking in half circles while reentering the shadows. On her third step, she bashed the side of her foot into a leather-bound book. She bit her lips together, swallowing the yelp that was building in her throat. Her punishment for leaving her night-reading on the floor. She squatted down and picked it up. The morning sun had crept in a bit more and lit up the golden lettering. Creatures That Can’t be Seen. Her lips curled into a smile.
“I will find it,” she whispered, “I will.”
Birds began to sing outside, as if encouraging Luna to throw on her clothes and to seize the day. She listened to them as she glided to her work clothes that were neatly folded on a stone table. She placed the book down and deconstructed her neat pile. Cotton pants went on first, then the bosom wrap. Her light, loose top followed and then she slipped her feet into her closed-toed shoes. She picked up her book and brought it to her blue satchel which hung by her door. It slid in with ease when she put it in and swung as she lifted it from its post.
Her fingers quickly ran through her long hair. Even with the constant stroking, certain pieces poked out. She walked to the side of her bed where a little wooden box of ribbons splayed open. She pulled out a ribbon that matched the morning sky and pulled her hair back into a pony-tail. Feeling fresher with her hair out of her face, Luna opened the door and stepped outside.
The area was deserted, a sight Luna wasn’t terribly used to. As the morning sun continued to climb the sky, she wondered if she was the only one awake. Since she lived in the western part of the city, it was the last spot to receive any sunlight. Maybe if she lived farther east more people would be up. But she wouldn’t know. She’d never been to east side before.
The bumpy dirt path changed into a smooth dirt road, and Luna followed it south onto Market street. Fellow city folk began to join her on her path, greeting her with the usual, “Good morning,” and then continuing on their way. She watched shops owners local and foreign begin their open-preparations of cleaning and restocking. One of them was a library, a high-end sanctuary that connects the local people with those of the Court. It was Luna’s favorite place, second to her own store, of course. Her hand found the book she was reading and gently she rubbed it.
Up ahead she saw the shop and shifted into trot. Her other hand caught the doorknob as her feet lessened their stride, slowing her down into a halt. She turned the knob and pushed on the white wooden door. A little bell rung, filling up the shop with sound.
“Ah, Luna?” Called a voice from the back of the shop, “Is that you?” Luna locked the door behind her before heading to the back.
“Yes, Keiko, it’s me.” She pushed back the curtains and saw the shopkeeper sorting through scrolls and books upon her wooden table. Her long grey hair was pulled out of her face, yet a few lose strands managed to slip through. She looked up at her with a concerned look on her face.
“I’ve never seen you up so early,” she said, “Are you alright?” Luna slouched her shoulders for a moment.
“I’m very alright, thank you.” The lady smiled.
“I can’t recall the last time you were here this early.” Luna removed her satchel and placed it on the corner of the table.
“Yeah, me neither.”
“Since you’re here, you can help me sort these.”
“That’s a lot of stuff,” Luna replied, reaching for the scrolls. She’d lost count after bringing them all towards her, compiling them in a pile. Once she had a decent mound, she unrolled one and read its material.
“The merchants from our sister villages had a lot of new material,” Keiko replied softly.
“Wonder why the boost in literature.” Luna set the scroll down. It explained different fighting forms of the east. She reached for another one and opened it. This one explained the history of its origin; a town not too far from city was known as the village of metal. Every warrior who graduates from the Crystal Academy must venture to the town and create their own weapon of choice. Luna rolled her eyes and placed it well away from the fighting scroll. Seeing these kinds of things made her blood boil.
“They were overstocked,” the shopkeeper answered.
“Overstocked? How’s that possible?” Luna watched the old lady frowned. Her shoulders hunched over slightly.
“Another village got attack.” Luna stopped her sorting. Keiko’s lips trembled slightly before letting out a sigh. “We need to keep these books in good hands. That’s why we have so many.” She turned to Luna and tried to smile.
“Wonderful.” Luna tried to follow her footsteps and stay positive, but the new collection suddenly felt heavy. She carefully rolled up the scroll she was reading and placed it with the others.
“Fear not, my child,” Keiko said, resting a loving hand on Luna’s shoulder. “The Court is summoning all’ve the councilmen together. Soon enough a solution will be found, and peace will return.” She picked up a small, blue leather bound book and showed it to Luna. “Our job is to keep these safe.” Luna nodded in agreement.
She already knew how powerful books could be.
“But on a lighter note,” Keikobegan, “Our favorite section is growing quite nicely.”
“You think?” She asked, excitement slipping through her voice.
“I know. With this shipment and the one I’m gathering today, we’ll soon have a decent sized history section.” Luna’s smiled grew as big as it could. She wished that she could read faster, and begin reading the new material Keiko intended to bring.
The two organized the new scrolls and books into their collection, stopping every now and then to flip through the pages to get a taste as to what it held. Once the last scroll was set in place, Luna let out a sigh and stretched herself out. Keikopulled back the curtains of the bookshop, letting the full glow of the sun light up the place.
“Oh my,” Keikomuttered. Luna came to her boss’s side and looked outside. Her eyes grew wide at the sight of the crowded streets. “I guess the councilmen are starting to arrive.”
“We gotta get those materials then before anyone else does,” Luna suggested. Keiko nodded, leaving Luna at the window and returning to the back.
“If I go out now, can I leave the shop to you?” She shouted.
“Of course!” Keikoreturned with a little shawl over her shoulders and two straw baskets on either arm and two satchels on either side. “Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Keiko shook her head.
“I’ve been collecting manuscripts from these people for years,” she replied, “I know that they’ll sell their history texts to any councilmen without hesitation if they were to get there first. At least when I arrive, I can haggle with them long enough that they’ll hand it over.” The woman let out an evil giggle.
“You’re a brilliant woman, Keiko.”
“As are you, Luna dear. Now! I’m off. Should anything happen…?”
“I’ll contact the City Guards.”
Keiko waved good-bye and left Luna alone in the shop.
She quickly sprinted to the back and pulled out her book. The moments Keiko was out collecting materials gave Luna time to do her own research, one of personal nature. Keiko told her that finding any scrolls on Enternia’s history was like finding a sapphire pearl in the sea. “You just need to know where to look. The best parts are always where you don’t expect.”
But something else haunted Luna’s mind that brought her to Keiko history selection: Dragons. Particularly water dragons.
Many years ago, she had this dream. A large dragon with scales shining every shade of blue appeared before her beneath a sea. It didn’t say anything, but with an extended claw pointed to her stomach, just below the navel. They began to glow, and a sudden wave of warmth rushed over her. Her body began to dissolve, and blended with water. With every movement she made, the motion of the waves followed. With every breath, new waves came forth. It was exhilarating, and Luna felt completely whole. But right when she was about to dive further, she’d wake up.
And after that, dark blue scale marks appeared below her bellybutton.
Ever since, she has tried her best to learn as much as she could about Enternia, and where one could find water dragons. It was the only logical explanation as to what her marks represented. But how? And why? It was too strange that after such a dream, the actual marks remained.
This time is too precious to waste, she thought, gently stroking the spine of her book. Her finger found the gap in the pages and she pulled it open. A blue ribbon rest comfortably in the center, unmoved since she placed it there last night. She began to read, dissolving from the world around her and into the world of wonder. For the first few hours, no one bothered her.
Then, a shadow hovered in her light.
Luna rolled her eyes to take a glance and the customer. She didn’t see much in the glowing silhouette. “Can I help you?” She asked.
“Hopefully,” he answered, “I’m looking for a book on single blade forms. It could be a scroll too.” Luna thought for a moment.
“Hang on a second,” she replied, rising out of her seat. The shelf by the entrance carried the weapon information. She guided the cloaked man towards it and scanned the shelves. At the sight of the scroll version, she smiled. “There it is.” Her fingers slid around the parchment. As she pulled it out, she heard the man sigh in relief.
“Good. I’m glad it’s here.”
“Are you a swordsman?” Luna asked, leading him back to her table. She pulled out the shop’s bookkeep.
The man laughed. “Is it that obvious?” Luna smiled.
“All men join the Court’s army. It’s the best way to keep the Wild-Ones at bay. At least, that’s what they say.” She quickly lowered her glance to her bookkeep. The words tumbled out of her mouth too quick to catch. Her cheeks flush with embarrassment and she quickly scribbled the scroll’s information. Once finished, she presented the gentleman with his purchase. “That’ll be two silvers.” She lifted her eyes again, this time catching a vague outline of his face. His eyes like bright pools caught a ray of the morning sun.
Without rustling his cloak, he produced two shiny silver pieces. The two exchanged items and he thanked her.
“Anytime,” She replied. He smiled ever so slightly before turning around. He took a few steps towards the door before pausing.
“Can I ask you something?” He asked, “After all, you seem just as eager to protect your land as any man.” Luna shrugged her shoulders, but he didn’t seem to notice.
“Sure.” Now he turned around, the shadow of his hood hiding his features once more.
“Do you have any particular markings on you? Maybe on your stomach perhaps?”
Luna’s blood temperature rose to high, boiling temperatures. She tried to take a few deep breaths to cool it down, but it wasn’t working. An attempt to swallow only created a lump in her throat. Her head nodded towards the door. “I think you should leave now,”she calmly said.
After a moment of silence, the guy opened the door and slipped out, like one fluid motion.
Luna slumped into her seat. The sun blinded her, forcing her to keep her eyes shut. How did he know that? Was all that echoed in her mind? Like waves crashing against the walls, the same question rung. And then, another one popped up: Why? Why did he ask her about that mark? In one breath, she rose to her feet and turned her back away from the sun. If there were any answers that could be found, it would be here. She knew it.
Starting with the shelves on weaponry, she began to filter through her stock. A few customers strolled in and admired her supply, but only some bought a thing or two. However, Luna didn’t mind. Her mind was too occupied with other thoughts anyway to really worry about selling her products. And besides, she needed them. What if one of her sold items held the key information about her marking? Why she had blue shaded scale-shapes on her body?
The sun had reached it’s highest point by the time Luna had finished skimming through the last book. Nothing had any information about scaled markings. Why could that be? She’d been told by many travelers how vast her collection was. How was it that she couldn’t find what she was looking for?
A frustrated sigh blew out of her nose. Her eyes glanced over to her work desk. Lying open where she left off was her book. One of the few history books she had.
“Of course!” She exclaimed, rushing to it. Frantically, like a rushing river banging against the rocks, she fumbled through the pages. Thus far in her readings, she hadn’t found much. It seemed that no matter how far back in time she read, it didn’t seem old enough. Deep within herself, she knew that there was something about Enternia that no one knew about, and it was connected to her markings.
When she flipped to the back of the book, four colorful symbols etched the end. A dragon, phoenix, crane, and butterfly-winged horse symbol were placed in unison.She pressed her index finger against the dragon symbol. With her other hand, she flipped back a page and read the last paragraph.
Any other records of Enternia’s history were passed down orally as ancient tales of days long ago. Evidence of such tales cannot be presented, but they shall be respected nonetheless. For there may come a time when the Balance of Enternia will be tilted, and all that once was will no longer be.
Luna skimmed over the previous paragraphs, but they only talked about human evolution. So then why was there this blurb at the end of the volume?
The painful grumble in her stomach eventually distracted her from her research. She hadn’t eaten anything yet. She grumbled with her stomach. I was just getting started…
Luna untied the sheer curtains beneath the heavier ones and let them fall. She flipped the sign and locked up before entering the current of people heading towards the entrance for the city. Her favorite lunch spot was close to the entrance, and usually the walk wasn’t terrible. But when the flow of the city got congested with tourists who didn’t know where to go, it frustrated her to no ends. Especially when her determination was stronger than ever.
The slow flow eventually guided her just off the main street. Luna slipped out, shook her head, and twisted herself. It feels good to have some personal space again.
A breeze carried the smell of herbs and spices towards Luna, guiding her towards a small small garden outside a flourishing herbal shop. Beaded curtains represented the door, and Luna walked through. The beads clacked together like bamboo, but it didn’t fill the shop. In fact, it barely made a sound. So many travelers huddled together, sniffing and tasting an assortment of different spices. With a deep breath, she strode into the crowd, swimming as best as she could towards the back of the shop.
“Miss Luna!” Luna looked up and saw a plump woman wave at her. Luna tried to wave back, but her arm seemed sandwiched in between some customers. The woman turned around and shouted something that Luna couldn’t hear. Still pushing through, she finally made it to the counter.
“How the Wild’s-nation did this happen?” she asked. The woman grinned with pride.
“Because the Court is gathering, everyone wants a taste of Sax’s multiple spices!” She shimmied and giggled. “Hopefully you’re just as busy.”
“No, but I’m okay with that.” Luna glanced towards the back before returning her focus on the woman. “Is Rose around?”
“Of course she is. She’s tending to the garden out back.” She waved her arm for Luna to follow, led her behind the counter, and through another line of beaded curtains. A guy around Luna’s age was running around, sorting and filtering and making what looked like a mess. The woman rested her hands on her hips.
“Daniel, you’ve got to slow down!” The woman approached him and held his hands to stop him from moving.
“Mom, I gotta get this order out! A councilman specifically asked to have these spices blended in that order.”
“And if you paid attention to your botanist studies, you would know that the combination you’re making is deadly!” She let go of him and smacked him on top of his head. He winced and shouted, “Hey!” before acknowledging Luna. His posture fell when his stare returned to his mom.
“Could you not do that in front of people?” He asked through his teeth.
“When you start using that head of yours, yes.” She turned around and smiled at Luna. “Why don’t you get Rose and set up for lunch. I’ll get something prepared.”
“Thank you.” Luna quickly walked to the door and left the mother and son alone.
On this side of the door, the sounds of the city couldn’t be heard. Birds were chirping and insects were buzzing their wings. After a few steps, Luna spotted a girl hunched over, tending to a small plant. She did her best to tip-toe towards her, but the girl straightened her back and sighed.
“I know you’re there, Luna.” She turned around. “This garden always tells me when someone’s nearby.”
“And a hello to you too, Rose.”
“Is it lunch time already?” She nodded. Rose got up, inhaling slowly through her nose and exhaling through her mouth. “I love being here.”
“It’s much nicer than main street,” Luna replied, “I can’t believe how many people can be crammed into one city.”
“A lot of those people are from neighboring villages,” Rose mentioned, “Have you heard?”
Luna nodded. “They destroyed another village. What else s new.” The two headed towards a stone-made circle. Rose tilted her head to the side, her green eyes capturing Luna’s attention.
“Innocent people died, Luna,” she reminded her, “If anything it’s a good thing the Court’s gathering. Something needs to be done before…” She shook her head.
“They won’t get through,” Luna assured, “I read a few nights ago how this city was built. It’s completely barabrian-proof, making it a safe-haven for villages that wanted to remain in the Wildlands.”
“Those villages are disappearing quickly,” Rose said with worry. Luna wanted to reply, but pinched her lips together. She and Rose talk about the Wild-Ones everyday, and every time the two come to the same conclusion: they’re getting closer, and something needs to be done.
The sound of footsteps caught Roses’s attention first as Daniel appeared with a tray of lunch. Luna’s stomach grumbled loud enough for the two to turn their heads. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks in embarrassment. Daniel offered the tray to her, and she gladly accepted it. Cold meats, cheeses, and berries made her mouth water. She gathered a few onto her clay plate before passing the tray to Rose.
“I can’t wait until everyone leaves,” Daniel shared once the tray got to him. “These orders are getting ridiculous.”
“How crazy is it?” Luna asked, her mouth full of food.
“Like a sandstorm.” He faced Luna, elbow propped on his knee, a flat hand pointing towards her. “Personal orders from councilmen themselves have been pouring in asking for these blends[ deadly blends to fight off the rebels. ] I’ve never heard of before! Mom says they’re pretty poisonous.” He created a little meat sandwich and took a huge bit.
“Poisonous,” Rose repeated, popping a berry into her mouth, “That doesn’t sound terribly peaceful.”
“But they deserve it,” Luna replied, smacking her lips together. Her stomach was already beginning to be at ease. “Look at how many people are now fleeing into the city? Their homes are destroyed, people they loved are gone; these barbarians have done nothing but cause pain.”
“But look at how many survived,” Rose pointed out, “We should be glad that there’re that many survivors[ These “survivors” are those who agreed to side with the council as well as chosen a side in this war between races].” Luna sighed in defeat.
“That’s true. The fact that there’re many people today shows how many managed to escape.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Very fortunate.” Rose reached out to her friend and held her hand.
“We’re very fortunate too.” Luna smiled and thanked her friend.
“No we’re not,” Daniel replied, spoiling the moment. Rose closed her eyes and slowly turned her head towards her coworker.
“What’s your problem?” she asked, “Just because you’ve never encountered them doesn’t mean they’re less scary behind these walls.” Her words didn’t seem to affect him, and Rose snorted at that. Luna tossed a berry into her mouth and tried to hid her smile.
She liked it when Rose showed her more feisty side. It made herself seem as true as her name.
Luna wasn’t thrilled to dive back into the sea of people. Even on the cool, spring[ Or hot summer. Need to decide. ] day, the smell of the people just made it unbearable. She walked as fast as the crowd would allow, but it felt as if she was walking a never-ending pathway. When she crossed over and slammed her body into the door of her bookshop, she noticed that the curtain was pulled back. New energy stirring in her stomach brought forth excitement and she opened the door. Keiko was reading while munching on some lunch of her own when Luna walked in. She looked up and smiled at her.
“Luna!” She said, rising out of her seat. Another does of excitement filled the room. “What a bundle I scored today. You’ll be so thrilled.” She led her apprentice into the back. This time on the table, scrolls and random parchments covered the wooden table. They had yellowed with time, edges curling or crumbling. Some papers even had burnt edges on them. Luna’s smile burst forth.
“Oh wow!” She walked around the table once before sitting down and sorting through it. Many parchments had strange images and writings on them, an encouraging sign of how old they were. Already Luna was figuring out what sources to turn to to decode these precious documents.
“Here, Luna, look at this.” Keikowalked over to her and showed her a faded picture. It was done in black ink—what looked like water colors of some sort—of mystical creatures roaming on a flourishing land. “Is this something you’ve seen in your readings?” Luna took the parchment from Keikohands and examined it a little closer. She couldn’t make out much of the picture, but there was one grouping of lines that she couldn’t tear her eyes away from. Whatever it was, it was hovering over some squiggly lines that she believed couldhave been water. However, she shook her head.
“Nor I,” Keikoreplied. She gently slapped a clear spot on the table. “Let’s set everything we’re unfamiliar with here. We should look into them more before selling them to the public.” Luna nodded in agreement. She got up to drop off the parchment when it caught the afternoon sunlight. The light brought forth lines within the paper that suddenly completed the picture. Luna gasped.
“What’s wrong?” Keikoasked, glancing from the picture to Luna. Her dark eyes finally settled in, noticing the new features of the picture. “Oh my…” she whispered.
“Keiko,” Luna blurted, “Could I be excused? I know it’s in the middle of my shift, but—” Keikoraised her hand before placing it onto Luna’s.
“Go,” she encouraged, “And tell me what you find.” Luna thanked her mentor and bowed. She then collected her book and satchel, placing the parchment in the book before placing it in. She waved to Keikoonce more before stepping outside and heading towards the Main City Library.
“Is there anything I can assist you with?” The merchant asked, hands folded on top of one another, and hunched over as if physically humbling himself. The cloaked gentleman raised his hand.
“No thanks.” The merchant rolled his hands around, trying to resist his simple decline. He opened his mouth to speak before the man spoke again. “I think she needs help.” The merchant perked up like a bunny rabbit and followed his stare.
“Oh dear,” he whimpered, “She’s back.” The gentleman chuckled beneath his coat, and the merchant could’ve sworn he saw a smile appear across his lips.
“I knew she’d come here.” He quickly shot out an icy breath before changing position. He wasn’t ready for her to see him. Not yet.
The merchant rolled his eyes as his defeat and trotted over to the customer. Her long black hair was tied back in a sky-blue ribbon, and it swished from side to side in harmony with her head. A few strands had managed to escape from the bunch, but she kept them in check behind her ears. When the merchant tapped her shoulder, she spun her head around, whipping her pony-tail like a whiplash of water around. The merchant greeted her.
“I’m wondering if you’ve stumbled upon any ancient Entertain works as of late,” she asked promptly, not skipping a beat. The merchant shrugged his shoulders and shook his head in a circular motion.
“Nothing that would be of use, I assure you,” he said. She pouted for a second before shrugging her shoulders.
“Then I’m content just browsing.” She smiled and waved. “Thank you.” Before he could try and stop her, another customer had walked in. With a sigh of defeat, he let her peruse his collection.
The gentleman rubbed his finger beneath his nose. He’d expected nothing less from her. With a careful eye on her, he straightened himself and gently rolled his head in a circle. Silently he slid over the ground, not disturbing a spec of dust as he shifted a few rows over. She’d picked up a few scrolls and carried them as a bundle in her arms. One slipped out of the crook of her arm and fell onto the floor. She swore quietly as she bent down to pick it up, careful as to not disturb the other scrolls within her grasp. Behind him were rows of tables, and she immediately headed towards them. The one cloaked in shadows was where she lowered the scrolls. She wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, letting out a huge sigh. Her eyes were closed for a minute. He took the opportunity to move a little closer.
“It would be a lot easier if you could just confront me rather than sneaking around.” The gentleman froze mid-motion. She opened her eyes and fixed her stare on him. They were sharp and shined like sapphires at twilight.
It was her alright. There was no doubt about it now.
He raised his hands up shoulder height and took two steps forward.“Alright then.” After a moments pause, he moved one above his head and curled his fingers around the hem of his hood. In one motion he pulled it back, returning his hand back to match the other.
“I’ve been looking for someone for some time now…and I think I’ve found her.”
“And why’s that?” She asked hastily, “All I did was give you what you asked for.”
“You don’t get out much do you,” he commented. She inhaled sharply through her nose and broke her stare[ To show that she has been out, but can’t say that due to her family’s massacre. ] from him for a second. As she exhaled, she returned her focus.
“I get out enough,” she replied coldly. He lowered his head and tried to hide his smile.
“Girls here don’t fight. They have no interest and they don’t want to. They’ll defend it if they’re attacked, but they won’t look for a fight. Men usually do.”
“Seems natural,” she shared, “The women keep the home base in check while the men scope out the area.” She glanced at the ground. “Who would want to disturb that balance?”
“Someone who’s seen the dragon might.” That caught her attention. She didn’t show it, but he saw her muscles tense at that word.
“Who are you?” She finally asked. He raised his hand over his heart and bowed slightly.
“My name’s Rain, and I’m the Guardian of the Water Pillar.”