Last night, I dreamed of my mother. It’s always the same dream. She’s lying in the birthing room beneath the glaring clinical lights. Shackled to the bed, she thrashes and tries to escape, but it’s useless. She screams and pushes and so I am born. I scream, too, like all babies do if they have any sense. Who wouldn’t protest entering such a world?

The Sisters of High Calling take me away and my mother’s eyes follow, trying to catch one small glimpse. Please, don’t take my baby, she cries. A needle is plunged into her arm and she falls back on the sweat-soaked sheets. I look down on her thin, drawn face. Hair spread across the pillow like the flames of a sun. The blood-red necklace around her neck sends waves of terror through my body.

Just as my mother stared so hard as her baby was taken away, I stare at her, and the more I do, the further away she goes until she is but one of hundreds of women lying in that grey room. Which one is my mother? They all look the same in row after row.

I wake up with remnants of tears on my cheeks. I only cry in my dreams.

I have not had this dream for many years. Why did it come back to me now? I am only 29. But during that time, I spent almost 100 years on another planet where my body did not age. Now, I am broken and bruised, I have open sores all over my body that, when they heal, appear once again. Over and over without end. Yet I refuse to die. I languish on the Red Moon, in a cell deep beneath the Burning Mountain. The Redirectors tortured me for so long, even they finally grew weary. I have watched others die horrible deaths. And still I live. I am shackled by the Eipia metal, only found on the Red Moon. A necklace just as my mother wore in my dream. Eipia is the enemy of the alchemist. Or the sorcerer.

For I am more than an alchemist. I am a sorcerer. I will never forget the night I heard Stryker Gunn call me by what I truly am: a sorcerer. He was the first to raise me to those heights.

In my younger days, from the age of 14 to 22, I was a pleasure goddess on the Blue Moon. I lived in a palace and fulfilled desires of the highest ranking officials of Oran. This I was trained to do from the age of ten. Groomed for the elite of the planet.

To hold power on Oran is to want for nothing. The general population lives under the strictest laws of hard work and chastity. On Oran, people pray at sunrise and at noon to the Vishku Sun. They pray at sunset, first to the Eipia, or Red Moon, and then to the Peira, or Blue Moon. They rise in the night to pray again. The powerful pretend to do the same. They are liars and hypocrites. Their debauchery knows no limit. Even on Oran, while they pretend to follow the precepts of religion, they do as they please.

At the age of ten, it was determined I would be a pleasure goddess, and so I was sent to Dovar Monastery in the Qu’Ohar Desert to be trained in the pleasure arts. Before that, I resided, as all children do from birth until ten years of age, at the Edic Sanctuary. Between the age of nine and ten, children are given a series of attribute tests. These tests determined the course of each child’s life. Once determined, that course can never be changed.

I was rebellious at the sanctuary. I saw things differently than the others. Sometimes, I saw flashes of light at the corner of my vision. At night, I often escaped from the dorm and out into the forest. Escaping came naturally to me. I was able to find my way out of doors and over walls. For hours, I happily wandered beneath a sky bright with stars, surrounded by mysterious shadows in the forest. Silvery beings flitted in and out of the trees but never came near. No animal, no wolf or bear, harmed me. Back in my bed, at the edge of sleep, whispered voices called to me.

Once, when I was out on a nature walk with other children, we rested by a pool. As I stared into the depths, a wave of perhaps two feet welled up and crashed onto the ground at my feet. The other children gasped in surprise and the two Sisters who chaperoned us clucked and beat us with sticks because of our unseemly display of emotion. They were stupid women, thankfully, and never suspected what might have happened. I wasn’t sure myself. Had I caused the water to rise? I knew better than to ask any of the sisters or the Mother Immaculate. I hid who I was and kept the questions to myself.

The extensive tests at the age of ten determined I was of the highest intelligence. It was a stressful time for all of us. Our entire futures would be determined. I had a friend, a sickly girl named Inauz, who was picked on by the others and whom I defended. She was found one morning during the testing period hanging from a tree in the courtyard where we were taken to be disciplined. It was said she killed herself. I didn’t believe it. I was sure her main tormentor, Sister Betchu, had killed her. I saw how she cut down Inauz’s body with contempt and triumph, telling us all this was what happened to evil dissenters.

At dinner that night, I stood up and let loose, yelling about what I thought and how they could all go to the Red Moon! A mortal sin. No speaking was allowed at meals, let alone such an outburst. With my intelligence, I should have been sent to the Seat of Et for the highest education in alchemy. But for this affront, and for my previous rebellions, I was sent immediately to the Dovar Monastery to be trained as a pleasure slave.

On the morning of my departure, Sister Betchu was found hanging from the same tree. I had put her there in the night, with the force of my will, but of course, no one knew this.

I endured years of abuse in the monastery, learning my trade. Humiliated, brought low. Those years taught me how to behave on the surface, in order to survive. But I never forgot who I was inside.

It was a terrible weight, knowing I had the power to kill, to move objects, all of these unnatural things, and yet I could not use those powers. I had to be careful. If anyone ever found out, I would be imprisoned forever on the Red Moon.

Once I left the Dovar Monastery, I was taken to the Blue Moon to begin my work. I was one of thousands who lived as a pleasure goddess or god. And I was better off than most. I wasn’t physically abused. We all had our special abilities and were used accordingly. I was for sexual pleasure. Some were used for physical violence. But even with them, there were varying degrees of abuse. Some were lightly abused. Others heavily. The heavily abused didn’t tend to live long and were replaced often.

We were well taken care of otherwise, mind you. Fed well, housed well. Given one day off out of every week. I never left the Blue Moon. I never even left the Pleasure Palace. It was my universe. I heard stories of Oran. I remembered my childhood wandering in the forest. I longed to see the wild steppes, the craggy cliffs and beaches, the great city of Aarabaythia. I could see the planet shining far in the distant. I dreamed of escaping and going there.

On the Blue Moon, the city is lit with many colors, making it impossible to tell whether it’s day or night. The streets are filled with excitement, music, dancing. I have spent many hours observing the wild antics of the streets from the balconies of the Pleasure Palace. The Pleasure Palace is the most exclusive holiday location on the moon, frequented by the elite of Oran. I remained a prisoner within the palace walls for five years. There I endured every kind of sexual perversion the politicians, religious, and corporate leaders could think of. I don’t know how it is in the lower castes. There, at least, pleasure and pain are played out on a simpler level. The elite can afford to make even the most bizarre or extravagant fantasy into reality. They can have whatever they want. Their complete lack of empathy, never considering that I might be human just like them, caused something hard and determined to grow inside of me. Where others in my position gave in more and more to their fates, I steadily steeled my heart against it.

I don’t know what terrible crime I might have committed to satiate my growing hatred if Lord Fauchet hadn’t saved me. He was a member of the Oran council and one of my regulars. At a certain point, he decided he wanted me all to himself. After fierce negotiations with the director of the Pleasure Palace, he took me back to Oran, to his mansion within the walls of Aarabaythia. I became his mistress and my life improved somewhat. He was a man of strange tastes on occasion, but not unduly harsh. And as time went on, he used me less. Rather, he wanted me on his arm to show his power. Some evenings, we even had a pleasant time, playing board games in the study or discussing philosophy and religion. He was an intelligent man and he appreciated the intelligence in me.

But I still hated him. I hated all those who used their power to crush those beneath them into submission. I pushed down my true feelings and did my best to convince him of my compliance and fealty. As a result, I obtained more freedom, and by the end of the first year, I was allowed to go into the city to do certain errands. One day, I had just left a shop of healing, a place I was always attracted to, when a man who had been in the shop as well approached me. This was illegal. Everyone on Oran wore the clothing of their caste. Specific colors with emblems and numbers as identification. I was veiled and wore the black robe of the council slaves. There was no crime on Oran; no one disobeyed the rules. All they had to do was look up at the Red Moon and any thought of deviance from the law was quelled.

This old man shocked me by pulling me aside and into a quiet alleyway. I was about to cry out, but something in his face stopped me. No one had ever talked to me or even looked at me in the eyes when I went out, as this was forbidden. My curiosity and hunger for connection with others overcame my fear. Quietly, he introduced himself as the alchemist Master Treward. He wasted no time in telling me I had a special quality and he wanted to teach me. I was so taken aback I didn’t know how to react.

I left him without an answer. But once back in my room, I couldn’t forget what he had said. I had a special quality. Childhood memories of my visions and strange experiences flooded my mind. Memories I had suppressed since my coming to Aarabaythia because I feared them and the trouble they would bring upon me.

***

For all installments from Luminaria, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1: Come to Me — Lana
  2. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 1
  3. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 2
  4. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 1
  5. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 2
  6. Chapter 4: Wrong Turn — Lilly, Part 1
  7. Chapter 4: Wrong Turn — Lilly, Part 2
  8. Chapter 5: How it Happened — Adonai