Imr looked unhappily at the dark sky. He didn't like this black, moonless night one bit. He felt weak without the moon, naked without its power. High above the bright stars seemed to mock him. It was thus every month, but he knew he would never get used to it, nor grow to accept it. As an apprentice of the moon clan, training for the priesthood, he was supposed to spend this night in quiet meditation but Imr didn't care about religious traditions. He was young. Sitting on a simple straw mat that he had woven himself, he stared at the stars with anger in his eyes. In the distance he could hear the soft chanting of the priests and priestesses of the blossoming star sect. This added to his anger.
The star sect was very young compared to the moon
clan. The craft of star magic - using the faint magical power of
starlight instead of moonlight - had only come to the kindred of
Iiana two generations ago from the far off shores of magical Araviel
Mantrakat but in that short time the star sect had risen to such
prominence that now the moon clan was forced to share the holy mountain
with them. Imr didn't approve of their heresy and their fake gods.
He didn't approve of them having the power too. To him it seemed
that only the priests and priestesses of the Moon Clan should be
able to master the arcane arts.
After carefully making sure that nobody was watching him he got up. A few months ago he wouldn't have bothered to check - knowing that all priests and apprentices would be meditating - but now there were these unbelievers to take into account. Quietly he jumped down from the terrace of his room. All rooms of apprentices and priests had such a balcony: a place to worship the moon and the Gods but Imr didn't care about worship. He was solely interested in the powers of magic he was learning. He didn't believe in the Gods either, or rather believed in them as inactive beings. Not as anything that should be taken into account. He detested the heresy of the Star Sect despite his lack of religious faith only because it was one more reason to dislike them.
He snuck around in the temple gardens that the Moon Clan now shared with the flourishing Star Sect. The mountain was holy because it was the highest in the land, and the temple was higher than any clouds would ever come. For this reason the Moon Clan had claimed it centuries ago and for the same reason the Star Sect wanted to abide there. It was cold this high, so Imr held his black cloak wrapped tightly around him. He swiftly walked in the direction of the star temple as he had done on the same night the previous months. He didn't know why but he had done it ever since the Star Sect had arrived there. Carefully he snuck closer to the forest clearing that the Star Sect used for their heathen rituals, wishing that the moon was there so he could cast a spell of invisibility or fog to hide his movements but without his source of magic he couldn't cast anything.
Two months ago he had found the perfect place to look from and it was to that spot that he went again. Behind some bushes he could observe the ceremony from close by without having to fear being seen. The priestesses' seated forms formed a pentagram, while the priests were seated in a pentagon around that, thus forming the symbol of their sect. At the shared points of the Pentagram and Pentagon were seated the high priests of the order. Everything was so linear, so exotic to Imr's eyes, so different from the circles and chaos he was used to. The strange chant continued. The five high priests provided the lead of a song that streamed through the ranks of priests and priestesses. The volume went up and down in irregular intervals, like the waves of a stormy sea. Imr didn't understand the words nor the meaning of the strange ceremony. Nothing much was ever said about the Star Sect by the Moon priests that taught him, though they didn't seem to object against them either. If it were up to Imr he would drive the entire Sect of the mountain.
"Hey, you there, boy." The voice of a girl came from behind Imr. For a split second he froze in terror, then he jumped up and turned around, his eyes darting through the darkness. She was sitting on a low branch of a tree and was wearing the blue cape identifying her as an apprentice priestess of the stars. "Caught" was the first thought speeding through Imr's mind, but he managed to keep his cool. She was but an apprentice like he was and was likely supposed to be at the ceremony. Theoretically she wasn't supposed to be there any more than he was. Still not entirely at ease - after all, it could well be she was set there as a guard - he looked up at her defiantly. She laughed softly at him. To Imr, laughter was a distant memory. All priests he knew were old and serious, and though they were gentle, they never laughed.
"You are one of the moonboys aren't you?" she asked, dimming her voice. Imr didn't approve of the title 'moonboy' but nodded to confirm it nonetheless. The fact that she apparently didn't dare raise her voice assured him she wasn't supposed to be there either. This knowledge comforted him, though he couldn't shake the feeling that he had been caught doing something he shouldn't. She gestured him to come sit on the branch next to her. "I won't hurt you." she said when he hesitated.
For a moment Imr stood undecided, then his pride
got the better of him and he climbed up the tree.
"So who are you?" he asked, when he sat down next to her, "My name is Imr." He added, remembering his manners.
"I'm called Tara, though my real name is Iäda. I'm an atiawa of the Nirad. Or as you would say: an apprentice of the Star Sect. I saw you spying on us last month, so I waited here to see if you'd come back."
"Shouldn't you be performing the ritual with the rest of them?"
"Yes," she said undisturbed, "and you should be in meditation if I'm not mistaken." She grinned. "It doesn't matter, neither of us seems to take these ceremonies very seriously. I don't understand something though. I do not attend the prayer because I think there are better ways to spend the night of our power. You however have no power at all now, why do you come out at all?"
With these words she unintentionally fed the fire of Imr's anger who was sure she was humiliating him on purpose. Without knowing she had put salt on the open wounds of Imr's self-esteem. To him it was clear that she did in fact know, and was making fun of him. Before he could think he blurted out "The moon's magic is far greater than that of some tiny stars."
Tara frowned and looked at Imr with eyes that could freeze the sun. "I could turn you into a frog right there, you know." she said with a level voice that carried an icy threat. Imr jumped up almost falling from the branch. "You said you wouldn't hu " he started, but she finished his sentence.
"Wouldn't hurt you. Yes, I meant it. Don't worry, I won't change you into anything. But you agree that I could then?" Her voice sounded joyful now, as if she'd only made a joke.
"Well yes, I guess so but "
"But so could you, if only the moon were here, right?"
With a sigh Imr put himself down again. Without the moon as his source of magic, he couldn't do anything. He felt like a little boy. He in fact really was a little boy. When he had been found to have the gift of magic and was sent to the temple by his parents, he had only been six, and that was now seven years ago. Tara was three years older than him but hadn't joined the Star temple before she turned eight, so she had only had one year of training more. Experience and maturity don't stem from training alone though and in all aspects Tara was wiser than Imr though neither had the wisdom of the old priests and priestesses. Imr didn't see it that way though, to him Tara was an insolent unbeliever and he was dead set on proving he was mightier than she.
"What I said still stands true though, the moon's magic is stronger than that of any star."
"True enough, but there are so many stars, and where's your moon now? Every month your powers get stronger and weaker, and one day of the month you must do without any powers at all. The stars are always there. I don't understand it myself. In nature everything is in balance. Winter is followed by spring. A rainy day is followed by sunshine. The wolf is stronger but the rabbit is faster. Dragons are immensely powerful but wise enough not to abuse their power. Everywhere you turn all is balanced. With magic however, everything would be in balance if there were only one star, or a few."
She went on like that, speaking to herself more than to Imr, and he listened reluctantly to her explanation. Rage filled him, though he did not let it show. How dare she call her copycat star magic stronger than his ancient moon powers. He couldn't stop her now though, as she had said this was the night of his weakness and her strength. Having no other option, he tried to find a flaw in her reasoning but Tara had thought about these things a lot and Imr knew very little about the power of the star sect.
"If there had been only a few stars," Tara continued, "moon magic at its peak would be stronger than the magic of the stars, because as you pointed out the magical strength of the moon is far greater than that of any star. The balance would be there: a constant but weaker star magic and a moon magic that though great in strength could not always be counted on."
"You admit your so called star magic is weaker than the strength of the moon then?" Imr asked even though he had understood very well that this was not the case.
Tara remained patient at her listener's apparent lack of understanding; in fact she didn't even seem surprised. "No, because there are not a few stars, there are a great many of them and combined their magic is as great as the moon's. Sometimes I think the gods just didn't think we would try to use several stars at once. I know it sounds like heresy, but I think it just sort of slipped their minds. What do you think?"
Imr had gotten sadder and sadder while listening to her explanation. He couldn't reason against it because he knew that what she said was true. He had seen the doings of the starpeople, and compared with that, the magic of his own tutors seemed blank. Still, he refused to just give up, if just somehow he could stop the stars. But how can one fight magic itself?
Tara - not discouraged by her companion's lack of response - pointed up and continued: "You see that star over there?" Imr looked up but didn't see any star that looked different from the others. All stars looked the same to him. "That is the centre star, Aliana it's called. All other stars slowly rotate around that one." Tara continued to explain how that star was always in the same spot and could be used to navigate the seas or find the way in the desert but Imr wasn't listening anymore. A plan was forming in his mind, suddenly he knew how to end this fake religion. He imagined the stars to work the same as a slingshot. In a slingshot you would rotate a stone around a centre by binding it to a wire, when you let go of the wire, the stone would fly away. The slingshot was his favourite hunting weapon. If only he could destroy the centre star or cut the wires, the others would fly away. Even Tara agreed that the moon's magic strength was far greater than that of any star, why would Aliana be any different? He would wait fourteen days until the moon was at its fullest and then destroy it. He would be the hero of the entire Moon Clan.
"Magic is a strange thing." said Tara who didn't have the slightest idea what was going through Imr's mind.
Imr was already getting up, "Yes, I guess so
I got to go now or they will notice I'm gone."
He didn't really have to go but wanted to get away from what he
perceived to be an enemy. He also wanted to look up some things
in the secret library and this was the only night that that wasn't
"Goodbye then, maybe I'll see you later." Tara said but Imr didn't hear her, he had jumped of the branch and was speeding of as fast as he could to set his plans in motions. Tara watched him as he ran out of sight. "What a strange boy." she said to herself and then looked up at the stars again in quiet contemplation.
Imr ran towards the main temple building as fast as he could manage without his magic. He knew exactly where he was going. It was no secret that there was a secret library, and even its location was well known. He had never dared enter it though, not even at nights like these. He had never gone there on a moonless night mainly because he believed he studied enough already and had no interest in doing so in his "free" time. Now he ran towards it because he needed more knowledge. As he entered the building he wondered how he would get into the library. There was no guard of course, since all priests of the Moon Clan were meditating, but the library had a door and he feared that it might have a lock. It didn't. When he pushed the door to try, it flung right open. Imr didn't know that the door was normally held closed by a powerful spell, which this night was turned void because of the lack of moonshine. The priests of course knew this but they had never imagined somebody breaking into the library on a night that everybody was meditating. That night in the secret library and the fourteen days and nights after that, Imr studied the dark powers of destruction. He looked for a spell that could destroy a star. He couldn't find a spell made for his goal specifically of course as nobody in the past had ever attempted it, but he found some pointers and a few spells of destruction hidden in the dark books of the secret library. Spells that were never intended for use by students or even priests. The books were kept there only to protect the temple if somebody from outside attacked the Clan or kindred with one of these spells.
When the full moon was finally there, Imr managed to escape from the boring ceremony that marked the night of their power. There were only twenty-eight apprentices in the Moon Clan but he knew he would not be missed. The moon ceremony was far more chaotic than it's linear counterpart of the Star Sect. Alone, he climbed up the mountain to find the open spot in the forest that he had discovered a few days earlier. It suited his purpose perfectly. Carefully he picked up stones and put them in a circle around the spot, al the while carefully following the exact instructions he had memorized from the book of fear. He didn't know what parts of the spell were ceremony and what parts were essential to do the job so he didn't dare leave anything out. When all the stones were put in the right places and the pattern was complete, Imr sat himself down in the middle with his legs crossed and started to chant words he didn't understand.
It was hence that they found him two days later, though his chanting had stopped. He was cold and unconscious but alive, albeit barely. Twelve days later he was still consumed by unnatural sleep and the priests who were looking after him were worried. If he did not wake before two more days passed and the night of darkness came, their already weakened spells of healing would cease to exist entirely. If that happened he would surely die. The priests at first couldn't perceive what had happened, but the mystery dissolved over time. It soon became clear to healers and other priests alike that Imr had attempted a spell that was too powerful for him. Nobody could identify the pattern he had made on the ground though for the lore of destruction was not taught in the temple. Ten days after the incident, a priest had seen his greatest fears realised when he recognised the intricate design in the book of fear. Even then they did not understand what Imr had tried to destroy and without that knowledge there was little hope they would be able to heal him. The only way they knew to heal him was to repair the damage he had done. On the twelfth day Tara, who had learned what had happened, told her story to the high priest and soon after it became clear what had been Imr's target.
When a day later Imr awoke the priests were debating what should be done with the boy.
Half a month later, at the high night of the moon,
the council of elders of both the Moon Clan as the Star Sect sat
together in the great hall to present their ruling to Imr who had
only partly recovered from the wounds to his soul. He didn't dare
look up at anybody. Not a trace of his pride and arrogance remained
in his beaten body. Trembling he slowly walked into the room where
the elders were seated and stood still in the middle of the great
hall where in worse times criminals had been tried. He did not care.
He expected to be executed or banished or locked up forever, but
he did not care. When he had fought the star he had learned a lesson
in modesty. He had seen the star as it was and it was big, unbelievably
big, bigger than the moon or even the sun. Only then had he realized
how truly small he was. How of little consequence. He had never
felt so small in his life. If they'd rule him to die, it would make
They ruled differently.
It was the belief of the elders that the mistakes of the boy were partly their own. They could not blame themselves for his arrogance, but they could blame their teaching for his ignorance. He had no idea what would have happened if he had succeeded, could not imagine the consequences of his act. Therefore the elders decided to punish themselves for that part of the boy's doings. This left only his arrogance to deal with and of that the boy seemed to be cured.
"Are you the one named Imr?" asked one of the elders of the Moon Clan. Protocol and ceremony would be observed.
Imr nodded. His head bowed in guilt.
"Then listen here, for we have decreed that you shall spend the length of one year in a room of the temple tower."
Imr was surprised by the mildness of his sentence. He had thought a far greater punishment was in order for trying to destroy the world. The elder continued: "In this room you will be taught the mysteries of Star and Moon alike, by your teachers that can thus make up for their failing. It is hoped that you will thus understand the binds between those two crafts and perhaps someday create a magic greater than any before, to the benefit of the people."
Now Imr was totally stumped. It seemed to him that
he was being rewarded instead of punished. The revelation of the
star had not only made him humble but had also given him a thirst
for knowledge, a will to learn. He didn't understand it but could
not utter anything but four words: "I am not worthy."
The elder looked at him intently for a while and then leaned back. "Maybe not, but we give you the chance to become worthy of it. You have seen something none of us have, and you have proven yourself a quick learner, though driven by the wrong ends. Now you can use your intelligence for more noble causes." With a less formal, gentle tone, he added: "You have learned your lesson, the memory of that night one month ago will never leave you. After what you saw and learned, you will not use your powers for evil anymore which makes you the only one that can be entrusted with the knowledge of the dark powers, to protect the light."
Imr wanted to say something but before he got a chance to find the right words, everybody in the room stood up at once and left, without saying another word.
They left Imr in the large hall, his head bowed and looking at the floor. He felt weak and alone