Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
Love it. Has a very good feel for the Moon People.

"Stern Folk" -- that's great, and of course how the Moon People would see the Zath.


I started writing something but this week has been hell at work, and DST is kicking my butt.
Thanks. Keep in mind that Tani is very young. I imagined an 8 year old when I wrote her. She may be older or younger depending on the development pattern of the Moon Folk, but that's about how far she is along the mental development curve.

I imagined the ability to navigate the Twilight Roads as an innate ability only some of the Moon Folk possess, which may deviate from your intent. This can be explained away by claiming The Gift is telepathy, and that while all of the Moon Folk possess the ability to use the Twilight World, those with The Gift do it as naturally as walking. Of course, young and inexperienced walkers sometimes stumble!

I have not intentionally restricted The Gift only to females. These two simply happened to be female. You may choose to set that rule either way. After having re-read the story it occurred to me that as written it may appear sexist, but then, as written, the culture works for me. Males and females without The Gift do the heavy lifting, animal husbandry, and trading, while females with The Gift open the paths to the next destination.

I have not considered the Twilight Road to be anything more than the Ethereal Plane. It would have well traveled roads the Moon Folk use, and smaller trails they have mapped out, but wandering off the road 'exploring' could be very dangerous. For example, there are many creatures who use the Ether or are native to it.

A youngster of the Moon Folk might know their family's regular stops, but would not be familiar the roads going places they have never been. Overland travel to destinations from which The Gifted may enter the Twilight Road gives them the familiarity they require to return. Alternately, one Gifted may telepathicly give such memories to another.

Occasionally, young Moon Folk form an exploration group. These unmarried teens form around a peer who is Gifted and travel overland to discover new trading opportunities. More often, older teens trade out between the wandering folk who meet up in secret places:

Moon Dance!

The Rittivi Family was friendly, and Bissel was her world now, but Gia was looking forward to seeing Mother again. Grandmother Rittivi never smiled, seldom spoke, and always looked at her with her sharp, black eyes like she was a fly in her cup. Mother was every bit as good as Grandmother Rittivi at finding the way, but she had no sour looks, no disapproving grunts, so sharp looks or barbed comments that Gia had to endure.

But tonight even Grandmother Rittivi could not take the glaze off of her anticipation. They were headed to the Three Giants! At least six families would meet them there: maybe more. The Three Giants were dead, and had been since the world was made, but their stony bulk surrounded a central plaza of smooth, black stone that mirrored the sky. Only the Twilight Roads went in or out. It was a holy place.

She shuffled through her trunk, trying to decide which of her best gowns she would wear tonight. She wanted to dance! Mothef said it was her Gift, more prized because true dancers were so rare. She wanted Bissel to watch her, to make him jealous of the other men who would be watching too. She wanted to out-dance the fiddler and the piper. She wanted...

What was this? A small box, down at the bottom of her chest, hidden beneath her red linen skirt. She had never seen it before. It was of plain wood, and her name was carved into the top. It looked like Father's hand.

She sat on the bunk she shared with Marga'nivet-drammir, inspecting the plain wooden box. It was about the size of her two fists. It was unpainted. It was old. Older than the carving of her name. She found the hidden latch and opened it.

Within was dark blue velvet, and a piece of parchment, and jewels! There were a dozen rings, some gold and silver chains, and...

By all that was Good! A ruby! A ruby the size of a songbird's egg hung from a gold chain with twenty smaller ones set in every third link. And matching ear rings! A matching bracelet with hundreds of tiny rubies. A ring with a flat stone almost the size of the pendant.

It was a treasure! Why was it here? In a box with her name on it? Perhaps the parchment would tell her.

It was a letter, folded in thirds. It looked like Mother's hand.

"My Firstborn, beloved daughter.

I write because even now so many years between then and now I find the pain too hard to bear. The wound has never healed. I promised myself I would tell you when you were older, but every time I set out to say, my courage failed me. So, here is my confession.

Beri was my first love. He was, for a time, my life. He was a good man, a good husband, a good provider. I wanted nothing but to travel the world with him. When you were born he proved to be a good father who loved you so much that, at times, I was jealous of you. Petty, I know, but I wanted him all to myself. And when he di... (the word was scratched out.) When he died a part of me died as well, and you were all I had left of him.

Please forgive me the mistakes I made in those crazy years. Grief was my master, and you were my only joy, though every time I looked at you since then has been a reminder of my loss. If I could give only one gift to you it would be the love we shared, but I would keep the grief for myself.

Youth is a time for joy, and you have so much of it to share. Life will be hard, sometimes, but even hard times can bring two people closer in ways that you will understand one day. But never let joy leave you. Share it freely, give it back in the place of anger, and when all the world is dark and you feel lost, dance for joy. This is how you helped me to learn to live with my grief, and how you lead me to Tinnini. He will never replace your father, I know, but he was right for us at the time, and he tried his best to be the friend we needed. I do love him, and I know you do as well.

The jewelry in this box is yours, gifts to me from Beri. No man likes to see his woman wearing jewels given by another man, and so I put them aside, forgotten until now. Tinnini doesn't know of them, so please keep my secret... (she looked again at her name on the box, more certain than ever that his hand had carved the letters.)

There are so many things I want to say, but the time to say them is past or yet to come. My love for you is matched only by my pride for the young woman you have become.

Aho'dani-tinnini"

She folded the note and put it back in the box. For a while she tried to remember Father, but all that came to mind was a sound of laughing, heard through the walls of Mother's house wagon.

Marga came in and spoke to her, but she didn't answer. Marga left and Nivet came in moments later. A little prompting got her started, and thw story spilled out. She showed the box, the letter, the jewels. She told her future husband's mother things she could never have said to her own mother. They cried together. Gia never remembered crying for her father, and they cried for that too.

Somehow they ended up talking about what she would wear to the dance.

***

The Moon was rising over the shoulder of a fallen giant, and the wagons were parked in an arc along the bare stone plaza. The musicians were tuning their instruments and sharing a jug of wine when Grandmother signalled the beginning of the dance. The musicians lifted their instruments and began a wild song.

From between the wagons Gia flew, tumbling like a leaf blown before the wind, but timed with the music. She wore the rubies, (actually spinels, according to Nivet, but even great kings couldn't tell the difference,) and her red skirt which almost matched their color. And she wore a silk blouse of white with billowy sleeves and a tight bodice. She danced barefoot, and the eyes of everyone there was watching her.

She laughed as the music pulled her into the spinning, kicking, and tumbling patterns of the Moondance. A horn player faltered and dropped out as the pace increased. Her feet kept the time, and she pushed the musicians faster. A piper dropped out, then a drummer. One by one the musicians dropped out, and she danced the pattern faster, faster, faster!

There was only a fiddler now, sweat pouring into his eyes as he sawed his instrument with the bow. The families were clapping the beat, off time as often as not, but Bissel stood there, jaw dropped. (Was he drooling?) Her pattern tightened, she danced for him now, her feet slapping stone, faster with each repetition...

"Prang!" went a string on the fiddle, and finally the music stopped, but Gia completed the final pattern before coming to a halt before Bissel, her breath in gasps, sweat streaking her face, plastering the blouse to her body. The gathering cheered, poured wine, sang her praise.

"Gods, you're beautiful," Bissel finally said.

Then the music began again, without the fiddler, and everyone stepped onto the plaza to dance, except Grandfather and Grandmother Ritivi. Smiling, Gia took her awestruck fiance by the hands and pulled him onto the bare, warm stone. The dance would go on so long as the moon was in the sky.