The moon called Aria hung in the sky like a bright gibbous egg.
Strands of effervescent webbing stretched through the air, replacing the cloud cover with wispy pulsing veins of energy. The weather was unusually cool and a light rain dropped water piecemeal over the thriving city below. The city lumbered along slowly.
Xandri wiped her brow, lifting her goggles from her face. Dinner would be in an hour or so. Her aunt mentioned making fishsteaks. She was looking forward to it after a long day of repairing various poorly-documented and broken parts.
Someday, she wanted to be the head architect that directed and kept the mechanisms of the Shelled one operating smoothly.
There were only a few giant manabeasts left. The larger ones had cannibalized their smaller brethren. This beast known as The Shelled carried the entire city on the flat dome of its head as it walked along. The manabeast was programmed with instructions written carefully using runescript and imprinted onto a metal tablet with stamps.
The cry came out from the garage. Xandri smiled and peeled off her greasy jacket, heading inside. The kitchen smelled amazing, like fresh herbs and grilled fish. Pale grey light spilled in through the openings of the windows, wide open to the night air to let in the sounds of the street and a gentle breeze that blew through.
Xandri was grateful to be home. She was here for the winter, done with her intense summer training to prepare her for her later career.
She bounced from foot to foot, flipping off her sandals with one practiced kick after the other and landed into the wooden chair with another bounce that rocked it dangerously from side to side.
Her aunt pointed at the sink and she went to wash her hands first before sitting down to eat. Another pointed finger interrupted her as she stabbed the fish on the plate.
“What do we say?”
The finger turned into an open hand. Xandri placed her young calloused palm into her aunt’s hand, which held it gently.
“Grace to the Allmoon, Faith to the many, thank Losus for the food, may there be plenty.”
The aunt nodded perfunctorily and they began eating. The first bite was toothsome. Xandri hummed in pleasure. “Mmm! What’s your secret ingredient?”
“No, what is it really?”
“Plenty of dried citrus rind and a little bit of pickled Pendalosan pimiento.”
“I love it, you should definitely make this dish again! The orange really goes with the meaty texture of the soma eel.”
Her aunt just smiled shyly, covering her face with her hand. She was too demure to take a compliment at face value. Egotism was frowned on and humility was seen as a virtue.
Her aunt dropped her fork.
“Something wrong?” Xandri asked, looking up.
The dishes and plates jumped up from the table, bouncing around and the glass fell the floor, covering the woken mats in broken glass. They screamed. Xandri leapt up.
A huge piece of glass stabbed directly into her foot, making her scream again.
She happened to be looking out the window.
Everything was far too bright.
She couldn’t understand what she was seeing.
At first, she thought maybe it was just the leylines flooding again. That happened sometimes, just a simple weather phenomenon like a storm which the city’s mages would shortly correct as the grid re-aligned. But no… it wasn’t passing. There was no sound of the invisible flood, the sound of a hundred harps gently plucking strings as magic prettily and musically overflowed into the air.
There was always a low-grade hum of energy keeping everything flowing correctly. That omnipresent hum was gone. It was like the color had been drained from her world and she felt just a little less alive.
And she felt strange. The wind had died. No, the Shelled One had stopped walking.
It was getting worse.
The sky had split in half like a broken plate. No, not the sky. The moon.
The moon had separated.
No longer feeling the glass in her foot, Xandri limped outside in shock in order to see it better. Her aunt followed her, just as dazed. Everywhere, people were pointing and screaming and looking up.
Something was climbing out of the moon. A huge pointed shape and twisted spirals, spirals with more glowing spheres on the end. She squinted. The curls feathered out, over and over, each one repeating the larger shape in smaller form. One line was getting wider at the end. She could see the cluster of white shapes at the end of it grow.
Her aunt fell to her knees, praying loudly, cursing the Shelled One and cursing Losus and alternatively apologizing.
“We have sinned! We are sorry! Sad child, look what the state of us has brought!”
“Why are we responsible?” Xandri asked. “How could us, just one family in a city of thousands, possibly make a difference?”
She thought it was so ridiculous, so impossible. The line kept growing.
Her aunt had no answer, she just wept silently and clasped her carved flower brooch with an eye in the middle. Failing them now… Her aunt had been given it by the Order, a representation of the precious fruit that kept their city fed every dual harvest and the mana flowing to the Shelled One.
Xandri realized slowly, it wasn’t growing wider.
It continued to get bigger and clearer.
It was growing closer.
The end of the spiraling branch was reaching toward them.
She held her aunt and shivered.
Her aunt continued to stroke the brooch.
Xandri just stared at it, the eye in the center of the petals. And she looked up again, toward the broken moon. The white clusters, the dark twists. She recognized the fruit again, impossibly, up in the sky.
“It’s the fruit of Losus.”
Her aunt nodded, squeezing the brooch.
Xandri shook her head and pointed up and her aunt followed her finger now, in the direction of the demon consuming their moon and sky.
“It’s another Losus.”
Another tear dropped onto the dirt and mingled in with the raindrops, indistinguishable.
In another hour, it would all be indistinguishable again.