"...Everything has two things in common: a beginning and an end.
Where or how it starts does not determine its end. But in the end,
the life in between is determined by the steps taken after the first..."
Nightfall, Terra Spring 1207; Year Six...
The crystal mounted on the wall began to dim until it was just a faint sphere of light, filling the bedroom with darkness. A robed figure sat on a chair underneath the sphere; the pendent that hung from his neck appeared to shimmer in the dark. He gave a small sigh and closed the thick worn book he held in his hands. His eyes, glowing red underneath the cowl, passed over the two tiny beds at either side of him. The occupier of the bed on the left turned over to face him, her eyes tiny, bright and curious.
The figure smiled underneath his cowl and leaned towards her. "What is it, Sitara?"
"Da," she began slowly, her voice soft and sweet. "Are all Ground-Striders as mean as they were in the story?"
"It's hard to say, dear. You can't tell who someone is if you've never met them before." He pulled back his cowl to reveal long, white ears. He thought a moment as he scratched them then continued. "Only the Moon People who live in Brownboo Village on Blue Terra really known what humans are like."
"Humans?" the child repeated. "Is that what the Ground-Striders are called now? Like we call ourselves Moon People?"
The girl breathed in thought. Then she sat up suddenly, her long ears standing straight up with excitement. "Why don't we go to Blue Terra, Da? We can see them and know if they're mean or not. And see real trees! I want to see what a forest is like!"
The father shook his head. "It's dangerous down there, Sitara, just like it is up here on the Yellow Moon. Besides we don't have the Moon Ship here anymore to travel down to the planet."
"Why don't we have it?" she asked loudly. "Can't we ask them to bring it back?"
"Hush, Sitara! You'll wake up your sister."
"But can't we?" the child persisted in a softer voice. "Everyone should know what Blue Terra is like. And what humans are. I wanna know!" The father was silent for a time, watching his daughter's blue eyes sparkle in the crystal light. Her eager smile soon turned into a frown as the seconds ticked past and she became impatient. "Can't we go to Blue Terra?"
The father finally stood and set the book down on the chair. "If it was here and you were a little older, I would take you," he answered slowly. "But it's not here so we can't. Besides, your mother is happy here in Yellow Drops and I can't leave her here by herself."
Deflated, the girl's ears drooped and she looked away from her father towards the door. "It's not fair, Da."
"I know it's not dear but a lot of things aren't. We just have to do what we can with what's given to us. Do you understand?"
She sighed. "Yes Da."
Her father stepped towards the other bed where the other daughter slept and kissed her on the side of the head. When he had turned around, Sitara's ears had perked up a little. Expecting more questions, he waited.
Finally, she asked one. "How did the Ancients get to the moons and back then? The Moon Ship wasn't there then."
Another voice suddenly piped up, this one less high-pitched as Sitara's. "They had magic, you cotton head. Didn't you hear the last part?"
The father whipped around to give the small figure in the other bed a hard look. She was facing the opposite wall though and didn't see his eyes. "Ciara! Don't call your baby sister names! It's not nice."
"We're twins, Da. She's not that much younger than me." The other daughter rolled halfway over—just enough to look at her father with one squinted eye. "And we don't even look like twins."
The father continued to glare his disapproval at his daughter as he folded his arms across his chest. "You're still family through, Ciara, you need to get along with her better. Apologize to your sister right now."
There was a groan of protest but no back talk. After a few seconds she grumbled, "Sorry."
"Sit up and look at her so she knows you mean it," the father ordered.
"Alright Da!" said a disgruntled Ciara.
She sat up in her bed and swung her legs out to square up with her sister, revealing the long, narrow feet and curved hindquarters similar to a rabbit's. The two locked eyes after the father had moved off to the side a bit. Sitara's ears drooped and she fought the instinct to look away from her sister's red, angry eyes. Ciara grumbled something unintelligible underneath her breath. When she spoke, it sounded like she wanted to spit.
"I'm sorry, Sitara, for calling you a cotton head. I didn't mean it."
Her father failed to notice the hostility in her voice but Sitara did. It made her want to cover her face with the bed sheets. When she didn't respond, her father turned to her. "What do you say?"
"…It's ok, Ciara," she replied timidly. "I forgive you…"
Ciara's bed scrunched loudly from the force she threw herself down into it. Turning her back to them both, she yanked the bed sheets over her head and was silent.
"—better…" The father sighed silently in frustration and proceeded to tuck Ciara in. The moment he was done though, she wiggled and the bed sheets came loose again. He didn't try again.
Instead, he just turned back to his youngest child. Her blue eyes were downcast and staring at her little hands. He kneeled down at her bedside—there wasn't enough room for him to sit on it—and rubbed her on the head between her ears. "She didn't mean any harm, Sitara," he said gently. "She's just really tired and wants to sleep. That's all."
"No. She did mean it, Da," she murmured, lying down on her side towards the door. "Ciara hates me. She's always picking on me. Just like everyone else…"
"Don't use 'hate' Sitara," he said sternly. "It's a strong word. You should be careful when you use it."
"I know, Da," she replied. "It just hurts though when people are mean to me."
Her father stood and leaned over her to tuck her in like he did with Ciara. As he did, he whispered, almost to himself even, "I know it hurts. You didn't do anything wrong…"
He straightened up and smoothed his robe before picking up the book from the chair. He heard Sitara turn over on her other side and felt her eyes on him. He couldn't help smiling when he turned around and saw her staring at him with her little eyes.
"Are you ever going to stop rolling around and go to sleep?" he asked in a weary but good-natured voice.
The child's face lit up as she broke a smile; it made him smile even more. "No," she said coyly. "Not till I have some carrot juice."
"Again?" He put his hands on his sides, the book hanging from one padded hand. One of his eyes slanted with suspicion. "Sitara…you know I can't bring you another glass after bedtime. Your mother will box my ears for that."
"Aww. Come on." She sat up and gestured for him to come closer, which he did. "I'll be your best friend forever," she whispered.
The father chuckled and rubbed his nose against hers in affection. "You already are, Sitara." He laid her down and tucked her back in. "Now if you go to sleep," he said. "I'll take you on a walk with me tomorrow."
Sitara's eyes lit up. That meant they could walk around not only the inside of town, but the outsidetoo—near the Moon Sea. Yellow Drops was so boring and she knew that she wouldn't be able to get beyond the gates otherwise. Her father's eyes widened slightly as he turned his head slightly to the side; she could see his thick grey eyebrows raised up underneath his cowl, trying to tempt her into taking the proposition.
She beamed. "Deal!"
Her father leaned over one more time to kiss her on the forehead then rubbed her shoulder with his free hand. "Good night then, Sitara."
She heard him close the door but he left a slight crack to let in some of the light from the living room. The crystal on the wall flickered completely out now and his footsteps faded away. Sitara, usually scared of the dark and anxious without her father's presence, wasn't this time. Excitement coursed through her at the thought of exploring the Moon Sea with her father—so much so that she couldn't fall asleep for almost two hours. Finally, weariness forced her eye lids down and she fell fast asleep.
In the other bed though, Ciara stared out the window towards Blue Terra, which was just starting to poke up from behind the rocky hills surrounding their house. She was wide awake and mulling over the story that her da had told earlier. It made her blood boil thinking about how greedy the humans were to seize power that they would try to kill an entire group of people for it. Now the Moon People were stuck here on this worthless lump of rock because of it and the humans got to live where it was beautiful, green, and wide—at least that's the impression she got from the story.
She too shared her twin sister's ambitions to go to Blue Terra but she cared less about seeing the humans. Why bother with them? she thought. They'll only try to hurt us again! The feathers in her pillow balled up in one spot by her ear drum, irritating her. She punched it to break it up then turned over on her other side.
She could see Sitara's slow, even breathing against the light coming in through the door. That only made her mad. She flipped to the other side again to avoid seeing her and crossed her arms tightly across her chest. She wished that she could punch her sister but the house echoed and her parents would hear any conflicts in their bedroom. Da is taking Sitara with him tomorrow too…I hate how she's his favorite. She looked back over at Sitara. On her face was a smile that made her fur itch something fierce.
"Cotton head," she snorted at her before rolling back over.