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Ficlet: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Words in the Heroes' Tongue
I have a variable-sword. I urge calm.
Ficlet: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
I’m celebrating my birthday with an indulgence ficlet (now Part 1 of a three-part story titled ‘The Whole of the Moon’). It’s in the ‘Tabula Avatar’ universe, in the near future of the main story, but it doesn’t contain any spoilers as such and doesn’t feature any of the Buffyverse characters – although the events in the ficlet are going to have a colossal effect upon them later. It’s not one of my funny ones. 2,000 words exactly, R for language. The goddess Shar pays a visit to her long-estranged sister. It doesn’t go well…

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Selûne was in her form as a dusky-skinned maiden with ivory hair. She wore her silver scale mail, its discs glowing softly, and she carried the Wand of Four Moons. Her eyes were cold as she glared at Shar. “Well? What do you want, sister?”

“An end to this war between us,” Shar replied. She wore only her purple robes and bore no weapon. “I have already informed my worshippers that they are no longer to attack yours without provocation, and to fight them only in self-defense, and no longer must my priests slay one of yours in order to gain entry into the Dark Justiciars.”

“And what do you ask in return?”

“That you give similar orders to your followers. They are not to attack mine without provocation either. And I want you to apologize.”

“Apologize?” Selûne almost spat the word out. “For what?”

“I was wrong to extinguish your lights, and to break your handiwork, I admit it,” Shar said, “but it was you who resorted first to violence. This conflict between us is as much your fault as it is mine. Admit it, and apologize, and perhaps we can find peace.”

“There was no other way to stop you,” Selûne said.

“You did not even try.” Shar’s lips tightened briefly. She paused, made a conscious effort to relax, and spoke again more quietly. “It is not my desire to go over old wrongs. I apologize for my part in our quarrel. Do the same and we can bring this to an end.”

“Yes, we shall bring this to an end,” Selûne said grimly. “You were a fool to come here, sister.” She raised her wand. Light shone forth, a beam of searing brilliance, lighting up the floor, the walls, and the roof above. “In my own realm I am paramount. Your greater strength counts for nothing.”

Shar recoiled, futilely because the light came from every direction, and raised an arm to cover her eyes. “So you reject my offer? Yet I shall not rescind my orders immediately. I shall give you a chance to reconsider before I once more send forth my clerics to slay yours.”

“They will be powerless without their goddess,” Selûne said.

Shar lowered her arm and her eyes widened before screwing up half-shut against the light once more. “What? You intend to detain me here? I came in good faith.”

“Nothing you do is in good faith,” Selûne spat out. “Everything you say is a lie, a deception, manipulation in the cause of Evil. You seek to gain something. I shall not be taken in.”

“I seek to conserve my strength for my struggle against Lolth,” Shar told her. “Would it not be wise for you to do the same, and concentrate your efforts against your true foe Umberlee, rather than wasting your powers and the lives of your followers in a pointless conflict with me?” Her tone had grown harsh but it softened again. “There was a time when we were so close that we were almost one being. I do not expect our relationship ever to return to that state but could not we, at least, live in peace with each other?”

“Never!” Selûne snapped.

Shar shook her head. “I have offered an olive branch. I can do no more. Farewell, then, my sister. I hope that you come to your senses and reconsider.”

“What makes you think you are leaving?” Selûne snapped her fingers. Thirty shining figures materialized in a circle around the two goddesses. “Without you your priests will be powerless.”

“And you’re supposed to be the good one?” Shar said bitterly. “I’m leaving. If your Shards try to stop me then the pain they will suffer is on your hands.” She turned to walk away.

Selûne snapped her fingers again. “Take her!” she ordered her servitors, the Shards, Celestial planetars in the forms of young women. “Bind her in chains of light.” The Shards raised gleaming maces. Ten of them grew wings and took to the air.

“Selûne, do not do this,” Shar appealed. Selûne made no reply other than to beckon her forces to the attack. Shar bared her teeth, summoned the Disk of Night into her hand, and threw it at an approaching Shard. The magical chakram melted away in the light before it made contact. “So,” Shar said, “I shall have to do this the hard way.”

She dodged a mace blow from one of Selûne’s servitors and struck back with her bare hand. The heel of her palm took the Shard under the chin and sent the being crashing to the ground. Shar tore off her robes, threw them over the head of a diving winged Shard, and danced lightly away. The other Shards pursued and hurled themselves upon the fleeing goddess.

Shar caught the arm of an attacker, pulled, and brought up her elbow. The Shard reeled away with Celestial blood streaming from a smashed nose. A spinning kick felled another. Shar drove stiff fingers into a throat, lashed the back of her fist into a face, and stamped out to take another Shard in the stomach.

Selûne stared in amazement. She had fought her sister before and had never seen her displaying such prowess in unarmed combat. Two more Shards fell in quick succession. Where had this new martial arts skill come from? If Selûne had ever seen Buffy, or Sorkatani, in action she would have known the answer. As it was she was taken completely by surprise.

One of the Shards threw her arms around Shar from behind. Shar drove an elbow into the planetar’s stomach, used the room gained to seize one of the grasping arms, and twisted hard. She threw the Shard over her shoulder and kicked her in the face as she went down.

The next attacker missed with a mace blow and was seized. Shar pulled the Shard close and planted her lips on those of the planetar. For a second the Shard resisted but then succumbed and kissed back. Shar released her grip; the Shard immediately turned around and raised her mace against her sisters.

Shar pulled a flying attacker from the air, slammed her to the ground, and stamped on her. She took a glancing blow from a mace but retaliated with a hand-sword blow to the throat that left the Shard writhing and choking on the floor. The exit from the realm was in sight and enough of the Shards were down injured, or were struggling to subdue their former comrade who was now attacking them with berserk fury, that it seemed as if nothing could stop Shar from escaping.

Selûne raised a hand and spoke a word of command. In front of Shar a shimmering wall of light appeared; a Wall of Moonlight many times stronger than those Selûne’s clerics could conjure. Shar recoiled. Passing through it would cause her dreadful injury.

A smile appeared on Shar’s face. “Tear down these walls they keep raising for me,” she sang. The Wall of Moonlight vanished. Selûne’s jaw dropped in amazement. Shar ran on.

“I will not allow this,” Selûne growled. She shaped the Wand of Four Moons into the form of a mace and teleported herself into Shar’s path.

Shar’s own ability to teleport was negated in Selûne’s realm or she would already have escaped. She came to a halt, although her feet continued to move in her perpetual dance, and stared at Selûne. “Out of my way, sister. I did not come here to fight. You forced it upon me. I would never have expected such treachery from one who has always claimed to be good.”

“Good does not mean stupid,” Selûne said. “I would be foolish to pass up such an opportunity.” She fired a sudden beam of light into her sister’s eyes. Shar was blinded. Selûne brought her mace around in a swing at Shar’s jaw. Shar was moving back, covering her eyes, and the blow was only a glancing one. It was enough to spin her half around, staggering, and left her open to Selûne’s next blow. The mace connected solidly with the back of Shar’s head and the Mistress of the Night toppled to the ground and lay still.

“Bind her!” Selûne commanded. Her Shards, bar those who lay injured or unconscious and three who grappled with the defector, rushed to obey. “Imprison her in a dungeon of light. There must be no shadows at all. Everything must glow.”

When Shar opened her eyes she was chained to a post within a cage formed from beams of light. The post shone brilliantly, the chains glowed as brightly as if they had been white hot, and both floor and ceiling emitted a shining radiance. The rogue Shard was chained in similar fashion in a matching cage nearby. Selûne stood just outside the bars of Shar’s cage.

“At last this war is over,” Selûne said, when she saw that Shar had regained consciousness, “and I am the victor.”

“Victor by treachery,” Shar snarled. She shook her head and winced. “How could you do this? Such a betrayal is against all the ideals you claim to stand for.”

“By capturing you, and thus weakening your church to the point where it will not survive, I am saving the lives of thousands,” Selûne said. “I am a Power of Chaos, sister, as you should know. I see no wrong in breaking an agreement with one such as you.” She gestured in the direction of the chained Shard. “I see now what your plan was. You intended to give me a ‘sisterly’ kiss and thus gain control of me.”

Shar rolled her eyes. “Idiot! The Kiss of Shar would not have worked on a goddess, especially not in her own realm, and in fact I’m surprised that it worked on your Shard. I tried it only in sheer desperation.”

“So you say. I care not. I have you now, sister, and I shall keep you until your worshippers have dwindled away and your power is gone.”

Shar tensed in her chains. “You must not do this. You are condemning thousands to death and torment. Without my protection Lolth will slaughter my followers.”

Selûne’s face was impassive. “Why should I care what happens to those who have slaughtered my followers for millennia?”

“My new converts have done nothing to you,” Shar said. “Please. I beg you. At least extend protection, on my behalf, to my Chosen.”

“Your Chosen?”

“Viconia De’Vir, my Flame of Darkness,” Shar explained. “She was a Priestess of Lolth before she came to me and Lolth punishes apostates with unimaginable torments. Without my protection she will be set upon by yochlols and dragged off to the Abyss.”

“A just punishment for one stupid enough to worship you,” Selûne said.

“Please. You cannot object to opposing the Demon Queen of Spiders,” Shar said. “Do this small thing and I shall swear service to you for a century.” She saw the stony cast of Selûne’s face and appealed again. “For a thousand years, then. I beg you, sister, just this one thing. Please. You cannot condemn to death someone who has never harmed you, or any of your followers, and who is friend to worshippers of your friends Liira and Lathander.”

“I tire of listening to your lies,” Selûne said. She turned on her heel and took a step towards the dungeon door. “You can stay here and rot,” she said, over her shoulder, “and your Chosen can go to hell.”

“No!” Shar screamed. “Please! I beg…” She stopped her pleas as Selûne continued on, unmoved, and reached the door. “You fucking bitch!” Shar yelled, tugging at her chains. “How could you do this? You’re supposed to be the good one! When did you turn into the treacherous… lying…” The door slammed behind Selûne and Shar gave up her struggles and sagged in her chains. Her head sank down until her chin was almost on her chest and, very quietly, she started to weep.

Continued in Inconstant Moon

Disclaimer: Shar and Selûne are the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. The lyrics quoted by Shar are from Runrig’s ‘Tear Down These Walls’. And, of course, I’ve pinched the title from Robert A. Heinlein.

Tags: , , , ,
Current Music: Manfred Mann's Earth Band, "Blinded by the Light"

42 comments or speak 2 me
thismaz From: thismaz Date: October 4th, 2008 09:56 am (UTC) (Link)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 4th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
ffutures From: ffutures Date: October 4th, 2008 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Happy birthday!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 4th, 2008 10:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
curiouswombat From: curiouswombat Date: October 4th, 2008 10:40 am (UTC) (Link)
That's cruel!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 4th, 2008 10:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I was going to call the fic 'Cruel Sister', but I decided that it was too obvious and spoilery; then I thought of 'O Cho Meallt', but that was too obscure for non Gaelic speakers; next I thought of 'Blinded by the Light' but, again, it was too spoilery.

There was always a thing with D&D where the Good characters were much more bloodthirsty and unforgiving than the Evil ones. They would see it as a crusade to stamp out Evil; the Evil characters just wanted to get rich and powerful and were happy to slaughter Good people if necessary but, if it wasn't, they really couldn't be bothered.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 4th, 2008 10:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, you are happily re-arranging the pantheon of the FR, I see. ^^ I don´t mind much, in comparison to what WotC did to the Realms, this is fairly minor and, to be honest, not that unlikely to happen, were Shar to change her position in such a way. The gods of the FR have been portrayed as very fallible and lots of times quite petty, to say the least. So I can definitely see this happening.

speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 4th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC) (Link)
There are a lot of strange things about FR canon. For instance, BG is officially set in 1368, and BG2 in 1369, and yet one of the books you can find in Athkatla contains the events of 1370! I blame Philip Athans, the writer of the official tie-in novels, which have been decreed to be canon even though they contain some glaring blunders and inconsistencies (and they are utterly appallingly written and star the most obnoxious and unappealing 'hero' ever to feature in a Sword and Sorcery novel). I decided long ago that I wasn't going to take anything as being written in stone. I'm following canon only when it suits me, secure in the knowledge that WotC are busy screwing it up worse than I ever could. Just wait for the companion piece to this - which I hope would have Lisa Smedman turning in her grave if she was dead.
ljs From: ljs Date: October 4th, 2008 11:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Happy birthday! May your next year be a good one. :-)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 5th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
kathyh From: kathyh Date: October 4th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Have a wonderful birthday.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 5th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 5th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 5th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
From: ottawa_fan Date: October 4th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Happy Birthday!!!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 5th, 2008 07:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
bogwitch From: bogwitch Date: October 4th, 2008 10:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Happy Birthday!!
myxale From: myxale Date: October 4th, 2008 11:18 pm (UTC) (Link)


Indeed a fitting Title! (Aproved)
Well written. I have no idea what inspired this one, but it was still epic even with 2000 words.

I really felt for Shar. I always like her, and even more so sinve your Avatar series!
Selune just sunk deep.
I hope someone will bail the Dark Maiden out!
From: arkeus Date: October 5th, 2008 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Sniff, poor Selune :/

Oh well, i do hope this won't get too bad :/
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 5th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Selûne? I thought she was being a total bitch! Understandably, perhaps, as the War of Light and Darkness has being going on since before sentient life arose on Toril, but still reprehensibly.
desdemonaspace From: desdemonaspace Date: October 5th, 2008 12:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Happy belated birthday!!!

Well, I read, and the ficlet is well-written as usual, but the title faked me out. I was expecting you to have veered off into the Robert Heinleinesque. Not that it wasn't thoroughly enjoyable!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 5th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!

No, the title refers to Selûne being the Moon Goddess and being the villain in this story.
magista From: magista Date: October 5th, 2008 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for the wishes! Same back to you.

'Twas an interesting tale, even though I know absolutely nothing about the characters or world in question.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 8th, 2008 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
timeofchange From: timeofchange Date: October 5th, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Happy belated birthday. I hope you had a wonderful day!
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: October 8th, 2008 11:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! Actually I didn't have a particularly wonderful day, I'm afraid, as having to sleep during the day and then do a ten-hour shift at work during the night tends to put something of a damper on things.
From: basilio_the_cat Date: November 10th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very intriguing. I can't wait to see what repercussion this will bring to the Tabula 'verse.
speakr2customrs From: speakr2customrs Date: November 13th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
42 comments or speak 2 me