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The Lady of the Moon
Deep in the Ambarian trenches, dug by the very prisoners that they confined, the never-ending battle between good and evil seemed to be coming to a momentary close. Prisoner 4,862 watched with horror as the two mistresses of the realm finished a dispute with an outcome that would most likely make life much worse for the people of Ambar.
“Leave this place, Cariania of Lunar! Leave and never come back, for you know what consequences await it you do!” The wicked one shrieked a mixture of anger and delight shone through on her usually emotionless face.
The Lady of the Moon nodded solemnly and replied with only a twinge of sorrow seeping into her melodious voice “As you wish, dear sister. I shan’t return. You may rely on that.” A sad smile appeared on her face as she added, “Try not to be too cruel to the prisoners. You know as well as I do that the majority of them don’t deserve to be here.”
The wicked on snorted as the Lady of the Moon left. She whispered to herself in a voice that made the air on prisoner 4,862’s neck stand up, “Anyone who defies me will receive any fate I wish upon them. Ta-ta, dear sister. May we never meet again.”
The wicked one’s evil cackling didn’t seem to end. Prisoner 4,862 slumped down to the ground, trying to rock himself to sleep. He had only been stuck in this cell two out of the eight years of his life, but he already had an idea of what sort of torture the wicked one would inflict now that her sister wouldn’t be around to stop her. And what was worse, the fact that the wicked on wouldn’t let her sister live anywhere in the realm, so she would either be murdered by the wicked one’s henchmen, or be forced to enter the mundane world. The Lady of the Moon was the only one who could save the Realm of Ambar from the coming dark ages. Cariania had nowhere survivable to hide from the despicable Eskedielia.
“Come on boys! Keep it moving! I see you walking, Kenny!” I screamed at my men. Patrolling the borderlands was dangerous business. We needed to make sure none of the mundane worlders came to our realm. And why was this dangerous? Some of them brought weapons. Deadly weapons.
“Stopppp! Take a break men. Eat, rest, discuss those pretty little girls who are waiting for you back home. You get half an hour.” I bellowed. At the mention of women, some of the younger boys chuckled.
After everyone was settled by our fires, I took a walk through the borderland woods. Crack. The sound of twigs breaking under a foot that wasn’t mine surprised me. None of my men would waste their free time and come after me, so it wasn’t one of my men. Also, the sound was dainty, feminine.
I quietly looked around trying to see who had made the noise. My eyes landed on the silhouette of a girl roughly around my age so still she could be a statue.
I look at her, unsure if the long day was making me imagine things, “Hello? I can see you.”
She twitched her hand to her waist, reaching for something, seemed to think better of it, and simply said, in an accent I didn’t recognize, “Hello. I didn’t mean to scare you. I’m just crossing over.”
Her voice implied she was hiding something. If I wasn’t already suspicious of a young girl lurking in the woods near the borderlands at night, now I was.
“You know civilians aren’t allowed to cross over. What are you doing here?”
I could sense the smirk she wore on her face when I said that. She already had a response planned, “Well, there’s an easy answer for that. I’m not a civilian. Not to mention this isn’t the first time I’ve been to the mundane realm. Between you and me, being here is what I shouldn’t be doing. So, unless you want to make me continue to break your beloved queen’s rules, let me return to my banishment.”
“Banishment?” I gulped, “We only banish dangerous people. What are you doing here? Wait, if you aren’t a civilian, what are you?”
The smirk returned, “You know that she doesn’t banish people who are dangerous to the public; she banishes people who are a danger to her. I, frankly, am the letter. She hates me, and my principles.”
“Answer my other question. I have laser touch, and I’m not afraid to use it.” I said, straining not to crack my voice.
The mysterious woman clucked her tongue on the roof of her mouth, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” This time her voice had no trace of a smile in it.
“Try me,” I chocked, “I’ve heard a lot of impossible things that were, in fact, possible.”
“You know the second queen that just disappeared off the face of the realm a year ago? Well, she went to the mundane realm. Um… actually no. Not her, ne. My sister banished me because she wanted the whole thrown for herself, and she disagreed with how I handled things. She resorts to torture…. I don’t. Do you believe me?” She said, hope barely audible though her hard tone. I can tell she was fighting back tears.
My head was spinning. I believed her all right. I remember the day Queen E told us of her tragic disappearance without so much as a single tear.
“Cariania.” I whispered.
“So she has told people that I disappeared.” She said, her voice unreadable, “Though I suppose you didn’t hear the whole truth. Why would she? Then she’d have a rebellion on her hands. Uh, just slightly off topic here, how long ago did she start having you patrol the border lands?”
I had to think about it. I had been assigned as a General for this project since it started which was…. “A year ago. Three days after the Queen told us you disappeared.”
“Huh,” Cariania said absentmindedly, reminding me of back when I would stand in the giant crowd and listen to her speeches. Back then she was strong and unguarded. Somehow that one interjection reminded me of back then. She was so young and innocent, “I guess that’s probably three days after she banished me since she needed to make sure I couldn’t come back.”
“Yeah, about that. Why are you here if you’re supposed to never come back?”
She took a step towards me, “To remind myself why I can’t come back.”
All I could do was blink like an idiot. Why couldn’t she come back? What could her sister do to her? They’re both equally powerful, and Cariania has more people willing to help her.
“Why?” I finally asked.
She looked at me, confused, “Why, what?”
“Why,” I sighed, “Can’t you come back?”
Something in what I just said had broken whatever thin armor she put on her emotions. I heard the quiet, sharp inhale of a person who has finally succumbed to their tears. “She’ll torture him, kill everyone he cares about in front of him, and torture him more until the day he dies.”
My throat grew dry, and it seemed like an eternity had passed until I finally asked her, “Who is he?”
Wiping away her tears, she sniffled and weakly said, “Arthur.”
“What’s his last name?” I demanded, fear taking control of my mind and body.
“Carter.” She said, and with the name came more of her painfully, beautiful and graceful tears.
No. That wasn’t possible. It couldn’t be right. I realized I said it out loud because she asked, miserably, “And why would you assume now of all times I wasn’t telling the truth?”
“Because I’m Po. Arthur Carter is my brother.” I blurted out. So this was the fair maiden my brother told me about? His forbidden love that ripped out his heart when she stopped meeting him in secret in the middle of the night? Did he not know she was forced to leave, or did he tell me that because he could think of no better explanation for his broken heart? While I was pondering this, Cariania started to run. I didn’t know why she did, all I knew was that I had to follow her, and catch her. For Arthur.
She was fast, but I was faster. I caught her just as she was about to climb up a tree. She thrashed in my arms and spoke gibberish. Slowly I realized it wasn’t gibberish that graced her tongue, but a sentence being repeated many times: No, she’ll hurt Arthur, no!”
“Stop, struggling,” I managed to say while tying her hands behind her back and attempting to tie her to the very tree was going to climb to escape. When I finished I asked her a question.
“Why did you run?”
She looked helplessly into her eyes. Her eyes were a light grey that reminded me of a foggy day; filled with mystery and surprise. “He told me about his brother. He said ‘Po would do anything to make me happy, but all I do is disappoint him.’ It was hard to imagine Arthur disappointing anyone, but wanting to make him happy took up my every thought. It didn’t surprise me someone else was the same way.
“You asked why I ran. I ran because if what Arthur said was true, you will make sure he sees me… and finds me. I cannot let that happen. And I will not put him in anymore danger than I already have.”
I looked at her, bewildered, “I can’t let you go, your highness.”
“I don’t need you to untie me. I need you to leave. The rest I can handle. Please, just don’t utter a word of this to anyone.” She pleaded, her grim expression softening.
Anger swelled up inside of me, “No! You are NOT leaving these woods until I bring Arthur! The past year has been horrid, watching him beat himself up because of you. Knowing you’re alive will be like bringing back the sun for him.”
“There’s your problem right there, Po. I’m the moon, not the sun. Although it is true people think of me as the bearer of light, that is not my destiny. The only reason they think that is because Eskedeilia is so evil, and I’m not. I’m the veil that’s supposed to separate good and evil, light and dark, but Miri, my other triplet, was supposed to be the light until her untimely death. You can try to go get Arthur, but by the time you get back, I’ll be gone.”
My anger faded to depression. All I had to do was run back to camp and grab Arthur. He was a part of my military force. But… if we weren’t fast enough, she’d be gone before we got here, “Where will you go? Where have you been?”
“The mundane world,” she said, stressed, “It’s where I’ve been and where I’ll go. I have a life there. It’s sad, lonely, and pitiful, but it’s something. Po, I know no matter what that you will tell Arthur, but when you do, tell him I’m begging him not to come. It’s not safe, and my only consolation when I wake up every morning is that he is safe.”
I didn’t say anything more to Cariania, but I did add many more constraints to buy me more time. My plan was to rush back to camp, compose a group of five men, and go search for her in the mundane world. Easy as pie.
When I got back to camp I immediately told everyone that a guy called Gary was in charge, and that I needed Arthur, Miles, Ricks, Brandon, and Ethan to assemble. We were going on a mission.
As soon as we were out of earshot from the group, I debriefed everyone on what had happened. They all stared at Arthur in awe. Arthur was smiling like a little kid, even when I told him she didn’t want him to come. At that he just said, “She knows I’ll come no matter what, she just said that to make me think about it and delay us, so let’s go!”
And with that we ran into the mundane realm.
When we arrived in the mundane world it was nothing like what I expected. For one, I didn’t see humans with overgrown facial hair clambering around wearing animal pelts. Some more unexpected things were the tall buildings, littered roads, metal machines driving cleanly shaven humans around, and the smoke that filled my lungs and burned my eyes as I walked. The smoke was everywhere.
Eventually after walking around cluelessly, without being able to track her, we decided to ask where we were.
“Oh, Hun, rough night last night? Probably too much to drink, huh? Well you’re in the fine city of New York, New York! Hope you can find whatever you’re looking for, dear.” A kindly old woman with wispy white hair said when we asked. She patted our shoulders and gave us sad smiles.
At first I didn’t think we would, but then I heard a familiar girl scream out of a high window above us, down at the old lady.
“Listen, Mams, I’m going out tonight with Latisha. Oh Mams, who are you talking to? Remember, no talking to strangers.” The voice was Cariania’s.
Before the old lady had a chance to respond, Arthur yelled up to Cariania, “Sorry about the bother! We were just asking this nice lady where we were! We’ve had a confusing night and it turns out we’re a long way from home! I don’t know what we’ll do!”
The surprise was so apparent on Cariania’s face that I could have laughed. Luckily, the old lady intervened before I did, “Oh, Hun, can’t we let these nice fellows stay with us for one night? They look like they’ve been through a lot.”
“I… uh…” Cariania stumbled with her words and soon enough the woman seemed to take her silence as an answer.
“Great!” She cheered, “I need to go get some groceries, but I’ll take them up there first.”
It seems like this mission was going to be easier than I thought.
I was a stupid, careless girl for going home for even an
hour. Now six boys from Ambar are in my living room talking to my adoptive mother. Just great!
When I talked in, I tried to act natural, I could talk to these guys when Mams left. That’s what I call my adoptive mom: Mams. It was weird being in front of these guys wearing jean shorts and a tank top that said ‘I love New York!’ on it. So much of my skin was showing that shouldn’t be back in the realm.
I decided that until they brought up who I was and what happened, I was going to play ignorant. I put on an awkward smile, extended my hand towards my long-lost love and said as breezily as I could, “Hey, my name is Cara. Good to see my mams has grabbed another handful of freeloaders. What’s with the clothes? Did you get wasted at a renaissance fair?”
Shock showed visibly on Arthur’s face. I think it was my New York accent that I was talking in that bugged him the most. “Hello, I’m Arthur. And yes, we got totally wasted?” Arthur said unsurely.
I winked at him and said, “You guys must have killer hangovers. I’ll go get you some Advil. Mams, here is the shopping list, we’ll be ok here. I’ll get them some decent clothes from the lost and found.”
I left the room and waited for the front door to close, signally that Mams was gone. When I walked back in everyone was staring at me, but I just sat lazily on a couch and opened my pop.
When Po finally cleared his throat I said “”Oh sorry, clothes I forgot. You guys obviously aren’t hung over, so I doubt you’ll need the painkillers.”
Arthur shot up when I was about to open the door, “Wait!” He exclaimed.
“Yes Arthur?” I asked, half hoping he would kiss me and half hoping they’d all just disappear.
“Cara, was it?” He asked, biting his lower lip, a bad habit I love about him.
I put on a smile and sweetly said, “Yes?”
“I once knew a Cariania.” He began, “I quite loved her, but it was a long time ago. Do you think there’s any chance she still feels the same way?”
I felt the tears rising in my eyes as I lamely said, “With a guy who’s as hot as you, she’d be stupid not to.”
Arthur looked really confused and was about to say something more when one of the other guys who came along started talking, “Look, girl, we don’t have time for this. Are you, or aren’t you Cariania, the Lady of the Moon, one of the two surviving Triplets of the Crown?!”
“Well when you put it so nicely,” I began but then stopped when I saw his eyes glaring at me, “Yes. You found me. Ask me what you want and then please leave. I have a party to go to tonight and Mams can’t afford to feed all of you.”
At the moment Arthur ran to me, wrapping his arms around me so tightly I thought I couldn’t breathe. When he whispered in my ear, my heart melted and I fell into his arms, “Cariania, I love you. I have always loved you.”
I felt weak, lying in his arms, and I had to stop myself from running from what made me leave my realm. I muttered into Arthur’s tunic as best as I could, “This isn’t safe for you. If Eskedeilia found out…”
We just stood there for a while, trapped in our pathetic embrace. Sure it’s not the meeting I’ve dreamed about, but I got to hold him close to me once more, and that was enough for me.
“Ok… So what now, Po?” Asked the guy who asked if I was Cariania. Wow, I really need to learn his name. “Do we bring her back?”
That made me jump which separated me from Arthur, “No!” I yelled.
When they all looked at me, utterly confused, I knew I had to explain more. “If I come back, my sister will bring even more suffering. Plus… Arthur, I assume Po told you how she convinced me to leave in the first place.”
Arthur grabbed my shoulder with one hand, and raised my chin so I was looking up at him with the other, “It is torture having you gone. I would rather fight your sister with a chance of being with you, then going back to a life of misery and regret.”
I thought for a second that he was going to kiss me, but then I remembered all of the PDA rules back home. You never kiss while others are there. It’s one of the many reasons I like human culture better.
Arthur, I can’t come back, and you can’t stay here forever, either. You can stay the night, and then I’ll show you how to get back to Ambar in the morning.” I said as one silent, single tear crawled down my face, moving so slowly, it was as if it wanted to go backward, and reunite with my eye. Arthur gently wiped in off my cheek.
Arthur started intently into my eyes and said softly, but forcefully, “I’m not leaving you now that I have you back again.”
I closed my eyes and whispered, “We’re still only 17, so you still have plenty of time to find someone else.”
Arthur’s laugh was short and without warmth, “No. Cariania, you can’t make me leave, just like I can’t make you leave.”
I tried to protest, but he just put his index finger on my lips and said, “So, I guess we need new clothes. Let’s get working.”
I returned with a big box of clothes that should fit them, and even when Arthur tried to take the box away from me, because it was obviously too large for my petite frame to carry, I just pulled away and set it on the table. I’m not a delicate little princess anymore. When we got them all dressed I had to laugh. Ambarian people look so weird in human clothing. With our perfectly symmetrical faces, and absurd colored eyes, we look barely human, and positively beautiful.
Arthur pulled me aside and looked me up and down, “Cara… what are you wearing?”
I rolled my eyes at the comment, “We’re not in Ambar anymore. This is what people wear here. I can show a little cleavage without an adult hunting me down for it. Oh, and guess what? I have legs. Long legs actually. See, now that I’m not wearing a giant dress, people can see that.”
“That’s what worries me…” Arthur muttered, looking at his feet and his cheeks turning crimson red.