(IP) Shadow of the Moon Goddess

The hills opposite the lake glowed, outlined in golden sunlight, lush with crops, lending the background with a gentle, pastoral kind of beauty.

But all of that paled next to the gigantic woman that stood in the dark, murky depths of the lake, drenched to the waist. Her pale, delicate hands hovered around a moss-covered bell tower that had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. Her feminine features were half hidden by the shadows that emerged from the grotto opposite her, and she opened her eyes, letting out a sigh so great that it gusted along the water’s surface, creating miniature waterspouts.

But the most surprising thing about this being was her armor. It looked be ancient, the material dark with age in some spots, others were practically pristine, white and strong; it looked like someone had taken moonlight and forged it into powerful protection for this woman. Forbidding, beautiful, and near-silent, she raised her head and looked around. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust, until she found the cloaked man in the boat, his voice so soft in the cave that even her sharp ears had trouble picking it up at first. She couldn’t even understand him; he was speaking the language of the mountain peoples, something that she hadn’t been fluent in since leaving this plane more than a thousand years ago.

**

He’d journeyed for more than a month to come to this spot. It had taken more than his fair share of blood, sweat, and tears to get here. Years of reading, translating, and chasing what most of his tribe called fairy tales, old wives’ stories, myths and folklore that everyone no longer believed in. The old traditions had long since fallen out of fashion, though he was the son of the chieftains, entrusted with their peoples’ stories, rituals, and traditions.

When he’d heard the story of the Moon Goddess, Chandra, and her ability to grant someone’s heart’s desire, he’d been skeptical at best. The gods and goddesses were most certainly real; he’d grown up hearing all of the stories. But he didn’t know if the stories that they were told were real, or if they were just clever metaphors for processes that happened through nature.

And then his bride, tall and lithe with sun-kissed skin, had taken ill and died suddenly, of causes that he still didn’t know of, not for sure.

Driven by desperation, he’d sought out Chandra to beg her for answers, and perhaps something even better: His bride returned to him from the Underworld, as fresh and new as a budding lotus. And even if she didn’t grant his request, what was the harm in asking?

“O Moon Goddess, Chandra, Keeper of the Night and the Stars, I humbly ask that you grant me answers. The ancient stories tell of your benevolence and generosity. My bride died a mere week after we were married, and I’m not sure what caused it. I have searched for many long months for you, and I am humbled to be standing before a goddess of such might and power.”

The Moon Goddess, for her part, gazed down at him, and she lowered herself so that she was kneeling in front of him, her brow furrowed. She couldn’t understand this man, but she couldn’t doubt the sincerity of his request. She merely nodded, the motion slow and sure.

**