Chapter Two introduces Wess, Luna's friend. It also reveals the truth behind Luna and the visit of the Order to Gaea.
Almost eight years have passed since the mysterious "Order of the Pure Earth" visited the homely village of Gaea, warning the inhabitants of the town of a mysterious beast, and of their eventual return to kill it. Much changed in those years. A war over land started between the kingdom of Umbranda, and the neighboring kingdom of Blackwood. Several inhabitants have been pressed into service, and Caesar has been commissioned to produce swords for the militia with no pay other than materials and food. Amana teaches her daughter the ways of magic in secret, as the kingdom they are warring against has laws against magic, and Umbranda is losing the war. At ten, almost, Luna has proven to be an intelligent and resourceful girl.
Luna is surrounded in total darkness. It is midday, and the upper room of the family cabin is usually well lit at this hour, but curtains and boards have been hung to keep out all light. Luna repeats a string of words, struggling to pronounce a particular short but heavily accented word. She completes the incantation and a brief flash of bright light fills the room, temporarily blinding her and her mother, who sat across from her on the floor.
"Good," her mother said, taking her daughter's hand into her own, "You said it right, but you took too long. When you build up that much energy, it can be difficult to control its release properly. Try again."
Luna begins to repeat the incantation again, with more haste. Shortly after, a sphere of dim light forms in her hands, providing enough light for her to see her mother before her in the darkness.
"Good. You're learning quickly. It took me a month just to be able to do that." She repeats the incantation her daughter had just completed, and a sphere of light forms in her hand as well, but much brighter than the first, fully illuminating the parts of the room that weren't shielded from the light. "It took me a year of practice to do this. At the rate you're learning, though, you'll be able to do that by the end of the week. Maybe tomorrow. Anyway, that'll be all for now. I need to rethink my lessons, genius."
"What? It's not my fault I'm a fast learner. I kinda got the magic touch from both sides. I know dad can use some magic. He can see the future! He always seems to know what we're about to say." Luna's optimism shines, and Amana looks away in guilt. She was going to have to tell her eventually.
"Not really. He can use telepathy. He can read our minds and know what we're thinking.."
"Oh. Oh well. You can use magic, too, though."
"Magic has nothing to do with who your parents are. If I had never used magic, you would be just as adept as it as you are now."
"Really? So, I'm just good?" Luna smiles as her mother lets out a laugh.
"Yes, you're very good at learning. Not just magic, either. You did teach yourself to read, after all."
"I learned from you, actually. I listened to you read your books and figured out what you had read, and learned the words. Anyway, I'm going to go see Wess. Can you make me a sandwich?"
"Yeah. He's supposed to be helping dad at the smithy, but I know he'll just be lazy and watch. He's not really into the smithing, just the training dad gives him afterward."
Wess was Luna's childhood friend. They had known each other since Luna was born. His parents, the couple that owned the sundries store, lived on the neighboring farmland, and were good friends of the family.
"Well, I suppose you can go visit your dad. Tell Wess to say hello to Sandy for me, okay?"
"Sure mom. I'll be back for supper!"
The girl ran over to the trapdoor of the attic, and almost jumped to the ground floor. She only used one rung of the ladder to catch her halfway down, and dropped the rest of the way as her mother began her descent. She dashed out the door, saying bye as she left. Luna was infatuated with the boy, and her mother knew it, but they were both young and innocent, and nothing bad could come from their current relationship.
- - - -
"Hey, Luna," Caesar said as the fur curtain of his smithy swung open. "What brings you here? Does your mother want me?"
"No, dad. Is Wess busy?" Luna predicted the answer was no. It wasn't a hard prediction to make. Everything she had told her mother earlier was true.
"No, he's not. We won't be doing any training later, anyway, so he's not helping me with my smithing. That's the only reason he helps me, you know."
"Yeah, I know. Can we get together for a bit?"
"Sure. He's in back."
Luna swings open the door to the only enclosed portion of the smithy. It was where all of his unsold merchandise was stored, save for the covered racks of things no one in town needed. It was also where the leather and unused metal ingots were stored, along with the smithy's books. During the night, this building was the most secure in town, with multiple locks on the door and each window, as well as a protective magical ward.
Wess looks up from his own work. He was re-wrapping the hilt of his favorite dagger. He did this frequently, and sharpened it just as often, even when it had a perfectly good edge. It was just a way to pass the time. "Hey, Luna."
"What? How else do you expect me to greet you?"
"Maybe some way that isn't exactly like my father?"
"I didn't realize it bothered you that much. I'll try to say something different."
"So, what did you come here for?"
"To say hi."
"That it, huh?" Wess replied sarcastically, "I'm flattered."
"No, you dummy! I came to ask if you wanted to come to my birthday party."
"Well, the whole town is invited, isn't it?"
"It's an open party, yes, but I wanted to ask you myself."
"Sure, I'll come. Thanks for asking." Well looks out the window, "Hey want to go down to the well?"
"Sure. Race you there!"
"I'll get there first!"
The two dashed out of the smithy, past Luna's father, who looked up so find the source of the giggles, only to find the fur curtain swinging shut. "Kids. Always scurrying around." He lets out a chuckle. His child was definitely energetic, just like her mother.
The well was Wess and Luna's private place. It wasn't the town's well, but rather the well on Wess's parents' land. It was there before them, and had provided their family water throughout the generations. It is where the two kids would come when they had nothing better to do. They would watch the clouds, pick herbs and flowers and see who could come up with the best paint pigment, leading to seemingly rainbow stonework around the well, until the next rains came to wash the paint away. It was also where Wess kept his sword. He had forged it himself, in secret, while Caesar was out of town. His parents did not like weapons in the home, so he kept it in a hollowed out tree. It was his treasure, and he cherished it ten times as much as his knife. He wished to be a warrior, and he saw his apprenticeship with Caesar and the training he got afterward as the only thing that might get him that in this town.
When they had arrived, Wess reached into the spot he hid his sword into, and pulled out a wooden box. "Here," he said, offering the box to Luna.
Luna opens the box and lifts the cloth dust flap. It contained a bracelet of copper intertwined with steel, with a silver spiral wrapped around the center. "Wow."
"Your father and I made it. It was meant for your birthday, but I think you should wear it to your party. You can't do that if it's in a box sitting under a pile of presents, can you?"
"Thank you. I'll be sure to wear it."
Wess looked over his surroundings, making sure he had not forgotten anything. "I guess I'll see you later?"
"Okay. See ya."
Wess started to say something, but decided against it. He walked off, leaving Luna alone with the box. She smiles and takes the bracelet out of the box, and places it on the side of the well.
- - - -
Night had fallen over Gaea, and Luna's attic room was once again, dark. This time, however, the boards kept the moonlight out, rather than the sunlight.
"Okay, try the incantation I taught you again," Amana says as she holds her daughter's hands in the darkness.
Luna's hands slip out of her mother's grasp as she cups them in front of her, repeating the series of words required to cast the light spell she had used earlier that day. She speaks the last word, and a light ball forms in her hand. It was brighter than the one her mother had formed, and illuminated the entire room effortlessly.
"Wow," Amana looks away from the light after seeing how bright Luna had managed to make it. "Stable, too. You are gifted, child. Gifted indeed."
"What is this?" Luna notices the tome her mother held in her lap, which was hidden by the darkness before.
"It belonged to your birth mother."
Luna is dumbstruck. "But you're my mother!"
"I love you as I would my own, but I did not give birth to you. My child died at birth."
"Why haven't you told me before? You've been lying to me my whole life?" Luna struggles to hold back tears as she processes this new information.
"It would endanger you. Your mother was not like us. You do not remember, as you were too young, but some years ago, men came to our village looking for an evil beast. There were and are no evil beasts in this town, but they were looking for your mother. She was of a race called kitsune. They are fox spirits of great power. The incantation you just learned in two days took me a year to master. You are gifted, and this book will tell you more, but you must never tell anyone what you and your mother are."
"Or they'll hunt me down, right?" A note of cynicism crept into her normally blissful voice.
"Most likely. It is a great risk, and I wish no harm to come to you. I raised you as my daughter, after all."
"Why didn't my birth mother raise me?"
"You would be in more danger with her than with human parents. There are other reasons, but I think your mother would be the best person to tell you. Here, take this as well." Amana reaches into the satchel that lied on the floor and removes a cloth bundle. She hands it to Luna.
She unwraps the bundle, revealing a wooden carving of a fox head, with nine tails where the neck would be. The carving was inlaid with mother of pearl, and a chamber in the bottom held a crystal of great beauty, which could be seen through the hollowed out eyes of the carving.
"It is called a kitsune-ishi: fox stone. Keep the ishi with you at all times, but do not let anyone see it. It is an object of immense power. I'll let your mother explain."
"You keep saying my mother will tell me things, but she's not here!" Luna finally breaks. "You're not making any sense! I can't take it! Will no one tell me what is going on?"
"The book, child. The book. Open it. But wait until I leave. It is something you must do alone." Amana gets up and walks to the trapdoor. "I'll be downstairs."
"But what--" Luna begins, but is cut short by the sound of the latch of the trapdoor catching.