Luna didn’t have a history she ever wanted to remember. She was an orphan, end of story. Her family, wherever they were, meant nothing to her. She’d never known them.
Living in the orphanage, Luna found she had a knack for reading. She loved reading. From an early age, she knew her life was atypical, and so she used reading to escape from the reality around her. Year after year, she mowed through the books in the orphanage library until she came upon a book of glyphs. It was the only book of glyphs in the entire orphanage. She read it from cover to cover. She learned every single glyph. And she found out quickly that she could actually use the glyphs. All but one; there was one glyph within the book that did not have an example drawn. She’d never figured out what the glyph looked like. But sometimes she wished she had. For that one glyph was the reason she’d been captured.
Most of Luna’s childhood blurred together into a mass of memories that she never had the energy to access. The first of the memories she could remember was the beginning of the worst time of her life.
She’d been alone in the orphanage, which wasn’t uncommon; Luna liked her privacy. She was reading, of course, when the Thief stepped through the door to her bedroom and grabbed her. He held her with such strength she thought a man made of stone seized her. She considered screaming, but Luna was so practical at such an early age that she figured screaming would do no good. She would have to wait for the perfect time and use the glyphs she’d learned from her book.
The Thief walked back across the room as if he were casually carrying a duffle bag, opened the door to a black void, and stepped through. Cool air blew through Luna’s hair and flush against her face, followed by bright light. Before she could make out her surroundings, a second man came out of nowhere and placed a hand over her face, dropping her into unconsciousness.
Luna awoke in a bedroom. Whatever the unseen man had done to her, it made her forget, and for a moment, she thought she might be back in her room at the orphanage. But, as if they’d been watching her, waiting for her to wake up, the second she sat up in the bed, the door opened.
Ani entered the room. From this first moment she saw him, she knew he would not be her friend. He took time to explain his need for her to demonstrate her abilities. Thinking back on it, Luna remembered Ani’s strain to be friendly. She’d been his first victim, so she’d also been his first attempt to find the wish glyph within in a child.
Unfortunately, Luna had no idea what he wanted from her. All he could tell her was that he needed the wish glyph. He didn’t know what it looked like or how to evoke its power. Luna didn’t know those things either. The book at the orphanage didn’t tell the history of the wish glyph, didn’t even tell its name. She guessed that the pictureless entry in the book had been for the wish glyph, but she wasn’t the child blessed with the power.
Ani’s temper had a very short fuse and he didn’t waste much time in losing it. He hit her, several times, until he thought she wouldn’t act out at all. Then he brought in a couple of his drones. They manhandled her out of the room and into a new one where they strapped her down on an examination table. They removed her clothing save for her underwear and tank top.
“Make sure she doesn’t get out or squirm free,” he ordered his men. Then he stood over her, looked down into her frightened eyes. “It is a shame that this burden must be laid upon the children. I don’t feel guilty about this, young girl, understand. You deserve this as much as I deserve what I’m looking for. You see, the power of my ancestors has been watered down, thinned to near extinction. You and your families, you are the ones who’ve ruined the lines of our people. And now, you will never use these powers again.”
Luna, head strapped down to the table, could do nothing but stare up at the ceiling and cry. She cried from shear fright. She cried because she had no other options at the moment. And then she screamed.
The glyphs burned agonizingly into her skin and solidified like molten metal being poured on a cold stone. She felt the power sinking into her veins, into her muscles and bones. She wept loudly, screaming and squealing as Ani tortured her to turn her into a monster like his drones.
Thinking the process over, Ani then loomed over her face once more. She redoubled her panting and sobbing as the evil man began scripting more glyphs across the left side of her face. She couldn’t move, couldn’t wiggle at all. She couldn’t do a single thing to stop this man from tracing pain into her being. So much pain engulfed her as darkness began closing in around the edges of her vision. Her limbs burned like fire and she knew her helplessness only increased the pleasure Ani felt.
The horrible man stood up straight and smiled at his work. She could only barely hear and see him. “I will finish you up in a moment,” he said gleefully. “My back does start to ache after so long. Your face will look much better when the other half is finished.”
Ani stretched his arms over his head and yawned, treating this whole ordeal as if he were out for a Sunday stroll. He did move to begin tattooing her again, but someone crashed into the room like a furious bull.
Luna’s vision suddenly flashed clear as the sounds of the room being dismantled flooded her with hope. Out her periphery, she saw a muscular man fighting for her life. She began to cry. Ani retreated immediately, only proving his cowardice. Once the goons were disposed of, Lee unstrapped Luna, lifted her up gently and cradled her away.
Luna sighed while she poured herself a glass of iced tea under her willow trees. She poured a second cup and brought them both to the blanket where she and Josh sat. Luna enjoyed color coordination very much. All greens or all blues, or all whatever was a very appealing color scheme. She knew this to be the main reason Edward Scissorhands had instantly become her favorite movie. She wanted desperately, and very privately, to live in that perfect little color-coordinated town.
When she looked at Josh, she had a hard time keeping any winces or frowns to herself. Seeing the truth about people was not a particularly enjoyable talent. She’d trade it for a chance to write glyphs again. Of course, she’d trade her entire lineage to go back in time and tell herself to run away. Seeing Josh’s truths turned out to be very difficult. But at the same time, they were excruciatingly compelling.
Any time she let her guard down, Luna could see Alice’s desire to go to prom and kiss a boy and dance with him. She could see Check’s admiration for snowboarders and subsequent hatred of himself for being in a situation that would never allow him to be normal. The worst of them all, however, was Josh’s truth. The truths about Alice and Check weren’t distressing. And any time they were in the same room, Luna could see their wedding days in the future. With Josh, though, she could only see sad things.
The truth about Josh haunted her. And now that they were becoming very close, they haunted her even more. She could see so many possible truths for Josh that she didn’t know what to think. His courage and intelligence, his quick thinking, his compassion, all of these truths, so advanced for a boy his age. Unfortunately, none of them directed him into a positive outcome. She didn’t understand why Josh needed to die. He proved himself to be sweet and understanding. He possessed a level of empathy that thirty-year olds don’t even have. Saddest of all, his feelings for Luna had a very clear line when she looked at him.
“I have a plan after we free ourselves from Ani’s clutches,” Josh remarked. He downed his iced tea and then lay flat on his back. The willows rustled like freshly washed sheets as a warm breeze blew through.
“What is your plan,” Luna asked plainly.
“Well, I’m hoping that once we figure out how to get rid of the wish glyph,” he explained, “I’ll have a chance to use it one last time. I would use it to remove all of your tattoos. I know how much you hate them.”
She felt a moment of shock, but knew this was Josh’s nature. “You would use one last wish for that?”
“You think you’re ugly with the tattoos.”
Josh grunted and shook his head. “Luna, I’m not very old. Almost fourteen and a half now. I haven’t seen many girls and don’t really understand what girls mean to me yet. But I know that my dad used to call my mom beautiful everyday. And so I know what beautiful means. And I know that you are beautiful.”
Luna burst into tears. Josh had been at the mansion for a while now. They’d been close for most of that time. And he could still say things that touched her so deeply that she could do nothing in response but weep with happiness.
Luna lied down next to Josh and they both stared at the blue sky through the wispy branches of the willows. Lying next to Josh had become a comfort to her over the past year. Check, Alice, and her were easily unsocial, thrown into a situation that none of them wanted. Before Josh, the mansion was a prison. But Josh’s arrival brought something new. His attitude turned the mansion into a home. All of them knew it too. He had managed to get all three of them to drop their guard and accept each other. It didn’t shock Luna that Josh was supposed to be there. He obviously held the power to end this struggle.
Luna sat up after a few peaceful minutes. “I need to check on something,” she said. “I’ll be right back.” Without letting Josh respond, she jumped up and vanished behind her changing screen. She asked Alice a while ago to conjure a nice little hand mirror. Luna picked up the ornate piece and looked at herself in its flawless surface. This was the only way for Luna to see her own truths. Sometimes she had trouble knowing what to do next. She put a lot of pressure on herself to have all the answers. After all, she couldn’t write glyphs.
Furious hatred began welling up inside of her as she gazed at her own horrifying visage. She didn’t understand how Josh saw any beauty in this ruined face.
With a bit of effort, Luna managed to look past her anger to the truth lying there. She’d determined a while ago that she needed to explain a few things about glyph writing to Josh. They were frightening things. The four of them knew normal glyphs, and now they knew the Verboten Glyphs. But there were still two more glyphs that did not appear in any books. Nobody kept track of these two glyphs because they were…different. Numerous times, she looked into her mirror to assure herself that she should tell Josh about the one that she knew extensively.
Luna reappeared from behind the changing screen. Josh had fallen asleep on the blanket, so she went to him and gently roused him awake.
“You’re back,” he said with a smile.
“We have something to talk about,” Luna told him gravely. His face immediately became serious and he maneuvered into a cross-legged sitting position.
“What is it?” he asked.
She sat down in front of him. “I’ve been wondering for a while how I should explain to you the information I have. I think it will end up being a very important part of our fight against Ani.”
“Okay,” Josh said, always open to new ideas. “What is it?”
“There are three categories of glyph. We’ve seen two. There are normal glyphs, like the ones in the bookcase. There are the Verboten Glyphs. And there is a third group, with only two glyphs in it.”
Josh’s brow furrowed intently. “That’s interesting. Can we use them?”
She shook her head. “No. I don’t think so. You can’t use them unless you have it in your blood. You have to be a part of the lineage. Remember that story Lee told us when you first arrived, about the wish glyph?”
“Well, at the part of the story when the elders brought the town together to wipe their minds of the wish glyph, two groups of writers broke away. Each group had developed a very powerful glyph that they kept only to themselves. They left because they were afraid the elders would wipe their minds.”
“This is way exciting!” Josh cheered. “I’m totally pumped to hear the rest of this story.”
Luna giggled and continued. “One of the groups has become a very… opportunistic…no, I guess…well they’re like mercenaries. They don’t fight, they sell their powerful glyphs. There is one in Yadwiga. You and I use it every day. The glyph on the door to this valley is called a Rift Glyph. The Rift Glyph was created by the Dimensioneers.”
“Whoa! Awesome name. Who are they?”
“They’re what I just told you. They’re providers of the Rift Glyph.”
“So, can I use it?”
“Not if you aren’t from a line of Dimensioneers.”
“I can recreate that glyph on the door though.”
Luna shook her head. “It won’t work for you. Go ahead and try it.”
Always determined, Josh drew the Rift Glyph in his sketch book. It was extremely complicated, but Josh managed to get it down right. He placed his hand over the design and closed his eyes. Nothing happened.
He looked at the paper incredulously. “Well, I guess you know what you’re talking about. What does it do?”
“Duh. Why would I lie to you? Anyway, the Rift Glyph is invoked mostly with the mind. Every glyph is the same, but the user’s mind forms the dimension that the glyph creates. The Rift Glyph builds a rift with a dimension inside it. Just like this valley.”
“That’s incredible, but what’s the purpose of telling me about the Rift Glyph?”
Luna shrugged. She really didn’t know what this information would do for them. She only knew that they needed it. She had suspected before that the Dimensioneers would end up being an important part of their fight against Ani. But she didn’t know any Dimensioneers.
Josh sighed. “Okay then. What’s the other group?”
Now Luna sighed. “Well, I don’t know anything about them. They are even more mysterious than the Dimensioneers. They’re called the Chimera. They are pretty much the only Glyph Writer-related thing I don’t know about.”
“Then what good does that do?” Josh grumped.
“One of us is a Chimera. It’s Check.”
“Does he know?”
“I’m sure he does. But…the Chimera are violent, animalistic people. It’s part of their nature. And anybody with Chimera in their bloodline that doesn’t exist within their society usually doesn’t like the fact that they are a Chimera.”
Josh looked down at his bare feet. “That’s tricky. I would like to talk to him about it. What is the glyph they use?”
“It’s called the Morph Glyph.”
“Oh. I think I might know what it does just by the name.”
Luna nodded. “It’s pretty self explanatory.”
“And scary. Do they stick to animal forms?”
“Yeah, I need to talk to Check about it. If he could embrace his heritage, that would give us a second fighter. You and a bear or something might be a pretty successful team.”
Luna couldn’t help but smile. Josh’s mind always ran at the speed of light, coming up with new ideas by the second. And he was usually right on target. Luna could handle herself in a fight, sure. But if she were fighting alongside a tiger or something that would greatly increase her chances of survival.
Josh pulled his knees into his chest and wrapped his arms around them in thought. He seemed to be forming a plan or trying to figure out a problem. He did that often lately. Luna wondered if he was close to deciding something big.
Abruptly, he looked up at her. “I did something interesting the other day,” he said. “A glyph I learned to utilize a little differently.”
Luna smiled. “Show me.”
“I will. It’s a present for you.”
Josh drew a conjuration glyph in the air in front of him and then pulled a wash cloth out of it. He grinned at her. Then he laid the cloth on the ground and drew a different glyph. The design of it indicated an alteration glyph of some sort.
“Hold your arm out for me,” he said softly. She did so. He took her hand in his and gently wiped the glyph side of the cloth from her tattooed shoulder to her tattooed wrist. As the cloth passed over her arm, the hideous tattoos faded away, leaving bare skin behind. Tears instantly welled up in Luna’s eyes. She turned her glistening gaze onto Josh, whose wide smile showed her he’d wanted to do this for her very badly.
“How,” she muttered as she tried to hold back sobs.
“It’s a concealment glyph,” he said. “I adjusted it to work like makeup. It only lasts for a bit, maybe an hour. But I thought you’d like to see your skin again once in a while.”
Luna smiled as she began crying freely. “You make me cry too much,” she laughed.
Josh laughed too. “I’m sorry. Aside from our fight against Ani, you’re all I think about. I’ve been working on this for a while. It’s for you.” He handed her the washcloth and lied back down.
Luna did what she could to control her breathing before curling up on the ground next to Josh. She’d never felt so comfortable and secure in her life.