“Callisto, come on down, honey bear.”
I blow out a sigh. This is temporary. I have to keep reminding myself over and over again that tonight is no longer than every other night of my life. It might drag itself out for as long as it can, clawing at the remnants of time as it makes every single second unbearable, but I’ll make it through like I have each day since the beginning of my life.
I survived last year when Niko decided to play by the dam that inevitably burst and sent him careening into the next village. His stunt probably shaved off six years of my life. If we were closely related to cats, I would still have plenty of time. Since we live our lives connected to the moon and the beasts that came before us, I really can’t afford anymore scares or infirmary stays.
I survived three years ago when dad went out to an inventors’ meeting and never came back, throwing me in charge of this entire farm while mom took to the streets looking for any little sign of him.
I’ve survived and that is all that really matters in getting me down the stairs and out towards the group that’s gathered for tonight’s event.
We don’t have any typical farm accessories here, I think, as I stand at my window and look out at the expanses of fields that belong to our family. There aren’t horses or cows or sheep. There’s enough human farms that can take care of those needs. We don’t use traditional pulley systems or build silos to hold grain for the next year. The Hati family farm is a special place.
“Callisto, it’s nearly time.”
Grandmother’s tone is not to be trifled with tonight. She’s more on edge than anyone else. This means more to her than to anyone else, too, I suppose.
It’s an old tradition. I thought it would be one that I skipped completely, but my life has fallen out of my hands since both of my parents disappeared. No longer a woman fiddling with the pieces on a chessboard, I’m merely a checker being moved about the simpler game with ease.
Go here, Callisto. Make your family proud. Hold your chin up when you speak to these men, Callisto, and know that someday it will not matter that you managed to keep your family alive for years without help because you’ll still be expected to marry one of these under-qualified oafs.
I should have gone down earlier when there were less people and attempted to drown myself in the punch bowl. Grandmother is going to be at my side every step of the way from here until the dawn’s first lights. My fingers curl around the windowsill. There’s a crack in the next moment. I stare down at the dark claws extending from my hands and then glance at the splintered wood scattered over the floor.
I’m supposed to be able to trust my instincts. Instead, they seem to be getting the better of me. I sweep the bigger pieces under my bed while Grandmother calls for a third time.
I really have to go down there.
Soon, the clouds will pull away from the sky and the full moon will wink down on our lush fields and we’ll know whether or not the Midnight Goddess is going to bless us for another year. If I miss an appointment with the lady of the sky, my grandmother will never forgive me.
Here goes absolutely nothing.
Trudging downstairs in the lavender, silk gown Grandmother had designed specifically for this night, I tilt my chin up and assume the haughty expression demanded on eldest daughters. Grandmother is at the foot of the stairs. She’s unconvinced by my stiff shoulders and casual movements. No matter. The point is to trick the people into appointing me to this annoying council. Grandmother is stepping down and her vote has already been cast for me.
“Took your sweet time, honey bear,” Grandmother grumbles as I curl my fingers around her elbow and allow her to lead me into the greater part of the house.
I’ve known this place my entire life. It’s my home, my shelter, my forever and always if the council has their way in determining the course of my life. It, however, looks nothing like the memory of my childhood.
The shadows are darker in each of the corners. All of my nicknacks have been removed and replaced with ancient relics meant to bring good luck and well being to the head of the household. To me. I have no idea if any of it is working as I sneeze on a breath of lavender and sage and wish that I didn’t have to go through with this entire ordeal.
“Head up, Callisto. We cannot show weakness in front of the council.”
I know. She has told me a thousand times in the last fortnight.
Don’t scuff your shoes, Callisto. Head up, eyes forward, keep your face expressionless. Be a leader. Prepare to be led to your doom.
Well, she didn’t say the last part, but I feel it in every vein of my body. Something is going to go wrong here tonight.
And it’ll probably be my fault.
“I’m ready,” I answer instead of confiding my concerns and insecurities.
We don’t have time to deal with negative emotions. We hardly have time to recognize celebrations and good moments. It’s incredibly hard work to keep magic alive in the world. Humans don’t even understand the importance of our work. The council takes us for granted. It’s best to keep a stern expression and shoulder the weight of reality without murmuring a complaint.
We make it out of the den and past the dining room. I try not to think about the way my stomach grumbles. I don’t think I’ve eaten since yesterday. I forgot. I keep forgetting. There’s so much to do and so little time for myself between it all.
I hope there’ll be some ham left over for me.
The thought almost tips me into a fit of giggles. Almost. I’m a mature adult. I’m the head of my household and positioning myself for an esteemed seat on the council. Thoughts about food are frivolous.
Besides, my brothers aren’t going to leave a morsel for anyone else.
We’re outside in the next moment, Grandmother and I stepping through the large, open door as one. She doesn’t offer any final pieces of advice. Perhaps she’s just as nervous as I am.
Little lights flit throughout the tall grass in the fields. Fireflies, humans say. Fairies, I think to myself. Evidence that magic is real and alive here in the Hati farmlands.
A single path has been mowed through the grass. Grandmother and I enter it together, the bits of greenery seeming to lean closer and brush our shoulders. It’s a caress of good luck. It’s a warning to watch our backs. Some of them linger longer than others. All of them wish for our safe return.
The council is erected in a large circle somewhere fifty yards away from the main house. We’re directly under the fullest point of the moon. It’s here that my fate will be decided.
Entering the main area, I keep my chin high as Grandmother bows. I don’t dare stoop into a curtsy. It’s far too early in my life to be throwing respect to everyone around me with the kind of enthusiasm of a child tossing confetti. These men should be tipping their heads for me. Instead, we stand across from each other with tension thickening the air.
“Callisto Hati, your arrival was predetermined in the stars.”
It wasn’t. I keep that to myself, though. Nobody knew my parents would be gone by now. These kinds of rituals are more interesting when we blame the stars rather than the people who hurt us.
“Are you prepared to receive your share of the Midnight Goddess’ power?”
“I will take whatever she deems appropriate,” I answer carefully, heeding Grandmother’s warning to not be too excited for power in front of these hyenas.
There are more speeches. They go over my history, my lineage, and some of my successes of the last few years. None of them truly understand who I am. To them, I’m a data sheet with a couple of major accomplishments. I’m not a person. Soon, once they know what kind of magic fills my veins, I’ll be no more than a possession.
Run, the wind seems to whisper as it whips by my face.
There isn’t time. The clouds begin to part. Candles around this circle are extinguished. We bask in the coming glow of the moon.
The next moments pass by in a haze. Moonlight dances over our circle. It seems to shrink away from the men in an attempt to sidle closer to me. My veins are on fire. There’s power and magic tingling along my skin.
Potential. Something big.
“Are you ready for this, Callisto Hati?”
It’s a woman’s voice, but not my grandmother. The Goddess. I can’t answer. My voice is frozen somewhere with the air in my lungs.
Yes. No. I truly hope so.
“You’re meant for more than this world,” she murmurs so close to my ear that I feel she’s really in my head, looking at my soul and poking around in my personal bits.
I don’t know what that means. I don’t get a chance to ask. The Midnight Goddess wraps her arms around me and chooses my fate.
The world I’ve always known disappears with the blink of an eye.
Happy stormy Saturday!!! Thanks for visiting my page. I hope you enjoyed a little family story with a little magic and a lot of potential. Callisto Hati is a spur of the moment character I crafted for this particular story, so leave likes and comments down below to let me know what you think!
As always, please take an extra moment to read my writing partner’s story on the same prompt. Bridgette White: https://bridgettetales.com/
And if you’re looking for more, please check out Lore: Lore by Angelica Reece
We’ll see you next weekend!
One thought on “Midnight Moon”
Oh, I love this story! It’s so vivid and interesting. I want to know more about what happens. I love how you always write such strong women characters!
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