Darkest Night: Chapter 1: Preconception
Luna Kaftan was sleeping peacefully in her spacious mansion. It was about four o'clock in the morning.
A Black Widow spider crawled noiselessly toward Luna's vulnerable, sleeping body. It walked delicately on eight legs up her blanket, and stood, waiting, on her face.
Luna felt the tickling on her face and awakened. She saw the spider and jumped back, simultaneously swatting at the arachnid with her right hand. The huge spider leaped off her face and onto the floor, turning human mid-jump.
Luna fell backwards onto her bed. "Grandmother Niobe!" she cried. Her grandmother had become Lachesis, an aspect of Fate, about twenty-five years before.
Niobe smiled at Luna. "Hello, dear. I'm sorry for calling so late at night, but I have some pressing business that has come up. There is to be a major tangle in the tapestry in the future, as the new Chronos has informed me."
Luna's eyes widened. "Satan?"
Fate sighed heavily. "No, that would be much simpler. This is a force more evil, greedy, and desperate than Satan." She shook her head. "Anyway, we have an important message to give you. Atropos can explain this easier." She changed into old Nicholai, the cutter of the threads of Life.
Luna smiled at him. Nicholai was the father of a good friend of Orb's, and he was the only male Aspect of Fate that had ever existed. She knew him well.
Nicholai smiled back at Luna, who was lovely even if she was physically forty-eight. "You look just like Orb - and a bit like Niobe, as well. Anyway, only by two actions can we prevent this major tangle. The first..." A pair of scissors appeared in his hand. "Luna, your thread is destined to end in thirty years."
Luna was not at all disconcerted by this information. Seventy-eight years were a fine length of a lifetime.
Atropos continued. "If, by some strange chance, you happened to live for an extra twenty-five years, the tangle will be greatly simplified. So, we will arrange for another death in your place, and you will live for an extra twenty-five years, dying at the chronological age of 103. Of course, we will give you a youth potion if you agree that will bring you back to a physical age of twenty-three so that you can die at the same physical age you would have. This will, in turn, steer you away from politics, and since your critical vote has been made, you need not stay Senator any longer. A man will become Senator in your stead who will make the tangle even smaller. As to your youthening, the only work left to us if you agree is to decide who will die in your stead."
Luna knew, from one of the many times she had spent having long conversations with Niobe, that usually the thread that was cut in place of another was usually the life of a person who loved the person who would have died. She whispered softly, "Zane..."
For Luna was fully in love with Zane, the current Thanatos, or Death. She had been his consort for the better part of thirty years. She could not bear to think that he would die for her.
Fate changed back to Lachesis, the Aspect who measured the threads of Life. She hugged her granddaughter comfortingly. "Don't worry, dear - Death needn't die! It will be a Senator who is old and useless, and, I think, and thoroughly evil. He will die when you are fifty-three physical years old."
Luna's spirit lifted, and she smiled. Then, abruptly, she became serious. "What is the second hurdle?"
Lachesis shifted to lovely, bouncy Clotho, the spinner of threads. "We need to create a thread where there should not have been one. A child to an infertile couple. Their daughter should not exist, but she will save us all. Your youthening will make this possible."
Luna quickly grasped all the implications. "You mean Zane and I..."
Clotho shifted back to Lachesis. "Yes, dear. You and Death shall have a daughter. Gaea, your aunt..."
"She's more like my sister, and for all purposes, I like to think of Orb as my sister anyway," interjected Luna.
Niobe smiled. "Orb has intervened. We know Thanatos is an Incarnation and that technically your child should not progress beyond the single-cell stage, but the power of my daughter is strong." Niobe looked thoroughly proud of Gaea, which of course was not difficult. "Luna, you will become pregnant the next time you and Zane make love. Since you will be returned to your physical body at the age of twenty-three, I hypothesize that this...occurrence will take place at six o'clock this evening. Of course, Fate could be wrong." Niobe smirked slightly.
Luna smiled fleetingly. "Small chance of that, Grandma."
Niobe became businesslike again. "Your daughter will be a girl of extraordinary talent, beauty and intelligence; much like yourself, Orb, and Orlene. She will be like your best friend. Yet I must warn you - at the age of eighteen, she will leave you."
Luna was a strong woman, yet her lip trembled. She gulped. "She will die at eighteen? How will that simplify the Tapestry?"
Lachesis looked as though she were bracing herself for a big shock. "No, dear, she may not die. You will see her again, many times, though she will not live with you in your home. Your daughter may become an Incarnation - a vital one."
Luna looked defiant. "Which?"
"Nox, Incarnation of the Night and Mistress of Secrets."
A major Incarnation! The emotional upheavals and surprises of the night were too much for Luna. She sank back on her bed in a dead faint.
Lachesis gently stroked her granddaughter's face. "Sleep well, my darling," she whispered. Then she assumed arachnid form and scurried away into the waning night.
Luna woke up around midday feeling groggy. The night's events came back to her in a flash and she sat straight up. Her eyes flicked around the room, looking for some sign of Fate, but instead her eyes rested on a small bottle of sparkling gold fluid and a note that had not been on her bedside table when she fell asleep. Luna eagerly picked the note up, expecting it to be from Niobe. She was wrong.
This is a bottle of the youth potion that Mother requested I bring to you. If you wish to remain physically forty-eight and stay a Senator, you need not drink the liquid; but I must advise you that the welfare of the world s at stake. If I know you, Moth, and I think that I know you better than anyone else except perhaps Thanatos, you will drink the potion. I'm sure of it. I would bet my position as Gaea on your drinking this potion. Saving the world and being young and beautiful again at the same time! What a bargain!
I'm glad you're going to have a child. It's really a unique and wonderful experience. I'm so proud of Orlene, even if I didn't raise her, and she is God, the Incarnation of Good, after all. I just know that you will be as proud of your daughter as I am of mine.
Before you run screaming into Thanatos' arms about your good fortune, I must tell you the catch that is involved. If your daughter finds out about her familial relationships with all of the Incarnations before the time comes, she will be unsuitable for the position of Nox and Atropos will be forced to cut her thread. Be careful, Moth. Tread lightly on your daughter's grave. Yet please try not to lie.
Love from Eyeball
Luna smiled at the note. Moth and Eyeball were she and Orb's nicknames for each other. Luna was not unduly worried about the warning, either. As a Senator she was more than capable of not telling the truth without lying.
Luna picked up the bottle of youth potion, contemplating it. Then she picked it up and drank every last drop.
The potion was quick and painless. Luna was once again physically twenty-three. Her clothes, which had before fitted her perfectly, now hung loose in some places and were embarrassingly tight in other places. Her face lost its wrinkles and signs of age; her hair was once again a shiny and thick chestnut brown. She was truly lovely once more.
Luna ran to her dressing room. She changed into a light green dress, her winged luna moth slippers, and a moonstone pendant given to her by her father that hung perfectly between her breasts. She slipped a headband with star emeralds into her hair and brushed it out. She was putting on some makeup when she heard her door open. Someone had gotten past her griffins and Muir, her Moon Moth, so it had to be Zane. He was here, as planned.
"Luna!" he called. "I have a break in the midst of all of my soul-collecting." For Death took the souls of those people who died and weighed their souls to determine whether they should go to Heaven or Hell.
Zane took off his deathcloak, and then paused. "Luna, where are you? Usually you come running out to see me when I get time off."
Luna tried to hide her once again dulcet voice. "I'm in the dressing room, dear!" she called.
Zane obviously realized there was something not quite right with her voice. He walked toward the dressing room. "Luna, are you all right? You sound..." he opened the door of the room. His jaw dropped and his eyes grew wide.
For a few minutes they just stared at each other. Then Luna regained her voice and said, "It's a gift from Orb, dear."
Thanatos recovered. "Uh, well, um... let's have dinner."
Luna was vaguely disappointed. She had thought he would be interested in other things, with her new body, but she looked at her watch and realized there was another hour before six o'clock. She went to the dinner table with long-gone grace and used a gemstone her father had left her to place a banquet on the table. She sat down and then they began to eat.
Zane looked thoughtful for a moment. "Luna, honey, I know that Orb is your sister, but I really think that Earth rarely acts to give favors, even to her sister, which could threaten the Tapestry, and I know that she never would lengthen anyone's life for twenty-five years without the permission of Fate.
Luna smiled. "My grandmother, you mean?"
Zane frowned. "There is a familial relationship, yet I think you are hiding something from me, Luna." He looked slightly aggrieved.
Luna smiled again, but fleetingly. "You're right, as always. You have a unique sense of the Incarnations - but then, you are one, so I don't see why not." He blushed a bit. "There is a major tangle that will distort the tapestry beyond repair in twenty-five years that I can simplify if I am younger than seventy-three."
Zane nodded. "That makes sense. Well, I think I am done eating," he said, pushing his plate away.
Luna nodded. "Yes, I think that it is time for - other things." She moved into his arms.
They made love, right on schedule, as Lachesis had foretold. Then Luna fell asleep and Thanatos left to collect more souls.
Thanatos visited Luna about once a week. It wasn't until about five weeks later that Luna realized that the Incarnations had been correct. She was pregnant. She had morning sickness, and she felt hungrier more often, and there were some other slight changes in her body.
It wasn't too long before Thanatos figured something was different as well. "Luna, I would have thought you would be glad to have your body back. Instead, it looks like you've gained some weight. I know you gain weight when you are nervous; is something wrong?"
Luna took a deep breath. "It's not that, Zane. It's - I'm - well, I'm pregnant."
Thanatos stared at Luna for a few moments and his face contorted with rage. "Is that how it is, Luna? You get your younger body back and you go off and fine some other man? I can't get you pregnant, it had to be someone else!" He was beyond anger: he was hysterical.
"No, Zane!" cried Luna. "I would never do that to you! I love you! Gaea let me get pregnant as - as - a present."
Zane glared at her. "You're lying, Luna, and I can tell." He was no longer hysterical, but clearly filled with fury.
Luna nodded. "You're right. Orb let me get pregnant because my child shall athwart the tangled skein. She's going to save the world, Zane. But if she knows whom you are- and Orb, and Niobe, and Mym, Natasha, and Orlene; she won't be able to save the world and we'll all die. It's not my fault!" she pleaded.
Thanatos' expression softened from his wrath yet he plainly was still nonplussed. "You knew about this before, Luna? When you got youthened? And you didn't tell me, either. You can tell me anything, I trusted you."
Luna looked at the ground. "I'm sorry, I know I did wrong, but I was afraid of the consequences."
He nodded. He was still upset at Luna, but it was bearable.
Luna's pregnancy continued normally. On Luna's physical twenty-fourth birthday exactly, she gave birth to a healthy daughter. However, the girl's appearance surprised Luna.
Luna, Niobe, Orb and Orlene had all had clover-honey or buckwheat-honey colored hair, until Luna dyed her hair artificially chestnut brown. Luna's new daughter had dark black-brown hair and almost black eyes from birth. Luna saw her and knew that Niobe and Orb had been right - the girl was destined to be Nox.
Luna decided to name her daughter Selena, another name that meant Moon, like Luna and Orb.
Luna wished that she could give Selena a normal, happy life. Yet this was not destined to be. Whatever Selena's life was to be, it would certainly never be normal.
Author's Note: Most of the characters in this story except for Selena are the inventions of Piers Anthony in his Incarnations of Immortality stories. All ideas herein are mine and do not steal them!
Next Story: Selena grows up a bit and some interesting stuff pertaining to a friendship with Death occurs (although they have no idea of the family relationship...)