Aaaand, after a million years of no posts comes another one! I hope you enjoy it! Things are starting to get interesting. I don’t know when the next post will come, but I hope you enjoy it! <3 😀 There is actually a pronunciation guide this time. 😀
Since I’d appeared in Antarctica under a pile of snow more often than I would have liked, the bracing cold was almost expected. I gritted my teeth and sat up, brushing the snow off my shoulders and shivering. Sólene was beside me, pulling her sweater tight around herself. “Smooth planning, there.”
“Very,” I agreed sarcastically, getting to my feet. “And since the bags are with Teresa we can’t get any food or layers. I hope we aren’t too far away.”
Sólene said some very colorful things under her breath in Myrathian. “That really sucks. So, do we keep going?”
“Unless you’d rather freeze.”
We set off down the slope, skidding down snowbanks and slipping on patches of ice. The cold was like daggers, stabbing down into my bones and numbing my joints to the point I could barely move. My hands were in my pockets in a vain attempt to keep some heat, but I needed them to stabilize myself as I basically fell my way in the direction of nowhere. The two of us staggered across the barren wasteland with methodical movements. I hoped that the others landed in a more hospitable place.
As the day wore on, I noticed that the snow seemed considerably trampled. Sólene and I exchanged looks. Perhaps…
An hour later, we stood, blinking, before rows upon rows of tents that camouflaged into the surroundings. And at the tail end stood the research facility. I beckoned, grinning broadly, to Sólene, then we took off down to the sea of tents.
Jeffrius looked up as the two of us approached the research facility. “Eískel? Is that you?”
“Hi, Jeffrius,” I said, giving him a stiff-jawed smile. “How are you?”
“Better than you are looking,” he said bluntly. “You two look half frozen! Come on inside. Terrus and Amelia are in conference. What is your name?” He asked, turning to Sólene, who gave him what he asked as he gave us more appropriate clothing for a polar ice cap.
I got assigned to a tent with my friends from the mind reader barracks. Lithal and Bracy were curled up in front of the tent, arguing with Caden, who was in front of another tent. “Hey, guys!” I called, approaching the two girls.
“Eískel!” Bracy squealed, hopping up and crushing me with a hug. “I want to hear all about your mission, but at the moment, we are dealing with that rogue over there.” She pointed an accusatory finger in Caden’s direction. “He’s been poking fun at Dmitri and I thought I’d put him in his place.”
“Bracy, please, let’s not start feuds already!” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “We have a war to fight. Last thing we need is people going head over heels over an argument. So, this is our tent?”
“Yep,” Lithal confirmed, stepping in and glaring at Bracy, saying something on a private send that sounded like We’ll talk about this later. “Not much to show. It’s a tent. What do you expect?”
“Uh… A tent?”
“Precisely. Well, dining tent is closer to the research facility. They have some good food, but not any fresh fruit, unfortunately. We told Amelia that we should have brought some from the gardens, but she didn’t listen.”
“Okay, thanks,” I said, smiling at the two of them then I set off through the camp to food.
The people of the research facility were very accommodating to four thousand recruits camped out on their property. Terrus helped us grow a garden in a greenhouse with temperatures regulated by all the kids with fire demons and earth demons. Jeffrius and water/moon demon kids doubled as medics, because the hostile environment of Antarctica contained many injuries ranging from frostbite to cuts and scrapes on account of sensitive skin. Amelia and Katherine drew up charts for camp duties and I found myself one evening paired with Clara on dish duty. It was by far the most uncomfortable job day yet, because even though we continued to spend a lot of time together, it didn’t mean we were by any means on friendly terms. I just kept my eyes down on the endless supply of dirty plates and utensils, and she stuck with her job, until she broke the silence. “So, I can’t pretend you aren’t here.”
“What?” I asked, jumping at the sudden noise, for stillness of before had been ringing in my ears.
She shrugged. “Well, I think if we are going to spend time doing dishes together, we should break the ice a bit, so to speak. We’ve been a little cold with each other.
We? Is there a mouse in your pocket? I cocked my head at her. “If we are going to do that, I am going to be a bit blunt with you. What is it you have against me?”
Her hands paused in the act of washing a bowl, the water dripping off it in sudsy drops. “Wh-what do you mean?”
“When we were in Augusta, after we got our demons. You were very quick to fight and you lashed out. And in the Myrathian Realm, you were very bitter. You’ve been really distant and it seems like you hate everything.”
In hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have said everything, but I was sick and tired of constantly bracing myself for an explosive retort or something quite hurtful coming from her. Sure enough.
She all but threw the dish back in the water, anger flashing through her eyes. “What do I have against you? What do I have against you? Everything! You lead your perfect little life in your perfect little house in your perfect little world! You had great parents, a great brother, and you have a powerful demon! As for me, I lived in a living nightmare. My mother and father were-” She made a gesture here. “-and my siblings hated me, and then come the Choosing Ceremony, I get a counselor demon of all demons while everyone else gets these grand demons of amazingness! What do I have against you indeed.”
I stood up and put the dish down. “You think perfect little life, Clara? I lived a life of headache, of fear, of hoping that I do not do anything to reveal my power. My parents were completely clueless and just thought my migraines came from my grandmother. Then Aleksei gets taken away from me because he hosts a forcefield demon, which is banned, and then my parents begin to blame me for doing things I did not do because they had lost Aleksei. So, perfect life, you say? Think again.”
In response, she just threw the towel down to join the bowl and stormed out of the tent.
I was floored. What was with her? I knew she had a tough childhood, but that didn’t mean she needed to explode at every turn. Her brain was also too well shielded with emotion to get by and see memories, not like I wanted to. Slowly, I picked up the dish I’d put down and continued to scrub, my mind mulling over what had happened.
When I had done my allotted number of dishes, I stood up and walked out, tugging my coat tighter about my shoulders and jamming my hands in my pockets. Deep in thought, I didn’t notice Teresa until I practically bumped into her. “Oh, sorry.”
“It’s okay.” She smiled down at me and helped me up. “Beautiful day, isn’t it? Should be new moon tonight.”
“I- what?” I cocked my head at her, trying to figure out why she was being weird. Her expression seemed slack, her eyes glazed. “Teresa, are you okay?”
“Perfectly fine,” she said. “Why?”
“Just wondering. You seem a little odd.”
“Do I? Huh. Okay.” She gave me a dazed looking smile, which made me even more concerned. “I’ll see you around?”
“I, uh, guess?” I tried to probe her mind, but surprisingly, it was strongly shielded by something dark and cold. Thoroughly freaked, I skedaddled off to my tent and fell straight asleep.
I was woken up to someone shaking me frantically. Blinking blearily, I opened my eyes and turned to see Lithal sitting next to me, her eyes flashing with fear. “Eískel, something’s wrong with Teresa.”
“What?” I sat up and fumbled for my coat. “What’s going on?”
“She- she’s taken off her necklace. And she’s out of control.”
I said something in hindsight I shouldn’t have said and jammed my feet into my boots. Lithal unzipped the tent, earning some sleepy protests from Bracy, and we stepped outside. It was frigid, without a cloud in sight and a cold wind was blowing across the tents, rattling the rain flies. I stuffed my hands into my pockets and followed Lithal down the never ending rows of expensive camping gear and to where Katherine, Sólene, and Amelia were standing. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“You know that necklace Teresa always wears?” Katherine asked me. “I just realized. It’s a shield rune. I didn’t know what it protects her from. Until now. Come with me.”
The five of us sprinted through the tents, past the research facility, and onto a plain where nothing was set up. Teresa was a dark spot against the snow, except her pale face caught the stars. She seemed to be cloaked in dark energy and radiating some sort of power. Her necklace lay at her feet. As I watched, she lifted up her arms and reached up to the sky. Her feet seemed to leave the ground slightly.
Staring in horrified interest, Teresa’s words from the past echoed through my head. Put my necklace back on. I sprinted forward, snatched the pendant from the ground, and tossed it over Teresa’s neck. Her eyes immediately focused and she fell out of the sky, screaming, on top of me. I grunted and staggered, placing her on the ground. She was trembling and crying. I exchanged looks with Katherine and then turned my attention to Teresa. “What was that? Are you okay?”
She shook her head and wiped her eyes. “No. I- I’ve got a lot of explaining to do.” Despite her shocked state, she turned to me. “I- I’m not who you think I am. This whole Teresa thing, it’s a cover up. My real name is Melaniya. Melaniya Lunangelia.”
Shock crashed down on me, freezing my limbs in place. I remembered what Katherine said about the female Lunangelias. Teresa-, no, Melaniya, was the oldest female Lunangelia in existence. “How are you alive?” Amelia whispered.
Melaniya sniffed. “It’s a long story. It has to do with my necklace.”
“How about we do explaining things inside,” Katherine suggested. “Come on.” She came forward and wrapped an arm around Melaniya’s shoulders, lifting her up and letting her lean on her. Amelia, Lithal, Sólene, and I followed. Once we were inside the research facility, seated and with hot cocoa or coffee, Melaniya finally began.”
“I had a twin sister named Zariya. She got her demon long before I did, when we were seven. She had a moon angel for a demon. It really wasn’t surprising, because she already had a strong connection to the moon, but especially the full moon. Most Lunangelia females were devoured during a partial moon phase, but it was clear when she’d be devoured, it would be on a full moon. As for me, I was connected to the new moon. It explains my dark magic.” She hunched over her hot cocoa, pulling her blanket tighter. “I can’t do this. It hurts too much.”
“I have an idea,” Katherine suggested. “How about you let Eískel or Lithal see the memories. You don’t have to tell the rest of us, but you might want to tell Sólene later. Heck, you don’t have to even show Eískel. You can keep it until you’re ready.”
Melaniya shook her head. “No. I have been holding it in for six years. It’s time.” She looked me in the eye. “Would you be willing?”
I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be willing to do, because I have been getting snippets of mind without permission for years, but I nodded. “As long as you are.”
The memory opened up full force. Melaniya and another girl who I assumed was Zariya were outside at night. It was a full moon, and Zariya was standing barefoot in the yard, silver hair glistening on her back and her skin practically glowing. She was dancing to a tune in her head, but the image was hauntingly beautiful. She smiled a dazzling smile and turned to Melaniya. “Come dance with me!”
I turned. In the shadows, Melaniya sat, curled up on a chair. “Zar, you know you aren’t supposed to be out here! When Mommy finds out-”
“She won’t, because you won’t tell her,” Zariya said. “Do you honestly think girls are eaten by the moon? It’s a friend! And we are meant to be out in it. We’re moon angels, for crying out loud!”
Melaniya still didn’t look convinced. “I don’t want you to get eaten!”
Zariya rolled her eyes. “It’s because it’s a full moon. Mark my words. In a new moon, you’re going to be out here and I’m going to be urging you to go back to bed.”
The memory changed. It was about two weeks later. Zariya was out in the yard, playing with a friend. Melaniya was swinging on a swingset, seemingly on her own, but she was secretly eavesdropping.”
“Look!” Zariya cried, leaping around and manipulating a bolt of moonlight around her hands. “See that patch of dried grass? Watch!” With her friend focused on her, she whirled around and shot the bolt at the grass. At momentary contact, the grass was alive and full again.”
“Wow!” The friend was amazed. “I want to be a moon angel!”
“Well, you can’t,” Zariya said with a grin. “You aren’t a Lunangelia. You’re probably something amazing.”
The friend smiled. “Thanks.”
“Oh get this.” Zariya flopped down onto the grass. “Mel was telling me the other night that the girls in our family are eaten by the moon before they turn twelve. Isn’t that absurd? Frankly, I don’t believe it. How does a moon eat people?”
“It could be a curse,” the friend suggested.
“I don’t think so,” Zariya said. “If it was a curse, then why are we Lunangelias? I think it’s a ploy to make it so I don’t go out in the moon anymore.”
“If so, it’s a really thought of ploy,” the friend said doubtfully.
Melaniya stopped swinging and looked at the ground, her face downcast. Oh Zar, if only you knew…
The memory changed again. Melaniya was woken up one night to her mother shaking her. “Are you awake, hon?”
“Barely,” she said, sitting up. “What is it?”
Her mother sat on her bed. “Your father and I have been talking. You are the only Lunangelia with dark magic. You don’t know this, but your father does. It also means you are connected to the new moon. He made this for you. I would have given it to you this morning, but he told me the magic is best activated at night. It is a niaru, a shield rune.”
“What is that?” Melaniya asked.
A necklace was placed into her hands. She went to the window and opened the curtains. The light of the stars illuminated the shield rune carved into the unknown rock. “What is it for?” she asked.
“It is to protect you from the moon,” her mother whispered. “You’ll get eaten eventually. But this will keep you as long as possible.”
“What about Zariya?” Melaniya questioned.
Her mother sighed sadly. “He tried to give a niaru to her. She refused. She doesn’t believe in the moon devouring the girls.”
Melaniya curled up on the bed. “I don’t want to lose her.”
“I don’t either, Mel. I don’t either.”
The memory changed again. It was another night. Melaniya was asleep, but she woke up to Zariya screaming.
She was up and out of the bed before she was even awake. Zariya was outside, screaming her head off. Melaniya skidded to a halt in the grass, gazing in horror as Zariya was caught in the light, silvery blue eyes wide with fear. “Zariya!”
“Help!” Zariya thrashed in the light. She was already above the trees. Melaniya ran to a tree in a vain attempt to climb up and rescue her sister. Her mother and father were out of the house, her father trying to fly up and rescue his daughter, but the Lunangelia curse kept the men on the ground. Only the women were claimed. Were devoured by the light that so called to them. It was all over in a few minutes. In a flash of light and one last high pitched scream from Zariya, she was gone. The moon had devoured her. All that was left behind was the necklace that Zariya had refused, lying in the grass. Mocking their loss.
Her mother was in hysterics. “You must be hidden,” she babbled. “Shed the Lunangelia name. You’re father and I have been talking. You’ll lose the title of Lunangelia. Even your name. You’re now Teresa Obscuri.
The memory vanished. I gazed into Melaniya’s silvery blue eyes which were filled with tears. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I’m so sorry.”