“But I’ve only just arrived,” Kya said, taking the queen’s hand nonetheless. She cast her hungry eyes about the hall, drinking in the glowing white stone of the walls, the smooth, delicate throne of ivory, and the black marble floor shot through with stars.
The queen gestured to a round door that opened silently on its own. “Not all visits happen along the times of our choosing.” They stepped through, and to Kya’s surprise, she found herself back at the harbor, The Curious Leaf bobbing gently against the white ash dock while the sand leading up to the harbor gleamed like crushed diamonds bursting with moonlight.
She turned to the queen, her mind ripe with questions. “How . . . ?”
The Moon Queen plucked a milky white flower with a yellow star at its center from one of the trees lining the pathway up to the harbor. She pressed it gently to her lips before tucking it into Kya’s hair. “You’ll need this where you’re going. Remember that even in the darkest night, somewhere the stars are shining and the moon is up and about, even if you can’t see her face.”
“I don’t know where I’m going.” The burden of the moon dragon weighed down on a corner of her heart, and she could almost feel his gaze as though his thoughts were turning toward her as well.
The Moon Queen pointed a dainty finger at The Curious Leaf, and Kya felt a surge of pride at the gleaming deck and the bright golden letters painted across its bow. Whatever else it might have been, it was her ship.
“What goes up must always come down. If your ship is fit, the compass will guide you true.”
Kya cast one last look of longing at the moon’s country with all its quaint little buildings and beautiful plants and pathways that led to a thousand different destinations. The queen intercepted her gaze and patted her cheek.
“This isn’t farewell. You’ll be back. You’ve an apple to deliver, remember?”
Kya nodded and curtseyed goodbye. Her steps as she walked to her ship were curiously both heavy and light. She could almost feel the sky winds brushing against her cheeks again, and the triumph of leaving behind a place she knew too well for places she had yet to discover.
And yet as she stepped from the gangplank back onto the deck of The Curious Leaf, she couldn’t help but feel as though she was leaving behind the smallest part of her heart.
She turned and waved to the queen before making her way to the helm. She put Hearthorne back on the podium where she belonged and placed one of the moon dragon’s apples next to the silver pot.
“We’ve a quest to fulfill,” she told the ship, relieved when the orrery-like balls and spindles sprang to life, whirring pleasantly as they set the new course.
“Are you ready?” Hearthorne asked, tucking her roots deep into the rich black soil in the pot and sighing with contentment.
In reply, Kya spun the wheel, steering The Curious Leaf out of the harbor and back into the wilds of the sky. She allowed herself to look back only once, to ease the pinpricks of—not homesickness exactly, but perhaps a sister or cousin of homesickness—longing already blooming white and radiant in a quiet corner of her heart.
Two queens—one pale and one dark—had a hand extended toward the girl in a ship that was steadily gaining speed. One hand moved as if to call her back, while the other waved good luck and good will in the wake the ship left behind it.
“I’ll come back once I’ve riddled out the answer,” Kya whispered as the ship rounded a bend and the moon disappeared from sight. Her heart, contenting itself with this promise, quieted down to a gentle ache.
It could wait. In the meantime, it had roots to grow.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved. Originally published in Curiosities of the Moon.
I hope you’re enjoying the journey so far. The moon is one of my favorite storyscapes, and I’m sorry to leave it behind just as we were becoming acquainted. But never fear, we will return. Someday. In the meantime, join me the double next Monday to see where the wind, and their fate, takes them. Journey forth, brave Wonder-kin, for the next adventure awaits!
Come back tomorrow to journey with Gwyn as she fights her way through the Garden in The Faerie Thief.