Warmth of Light
I was created for the dark, yet I often wonder what else this universe has to offer. I’m not allowed into the light. My grandmother tells me stories of what it feels like to break the night with golden rays. She taught the light how to whispers to the dark until even the shadows have nowhere to hide. She speaks of Oceans turning from black ink to bright inviting blues and greens. Does she know how lucky she is? She is the great, Aurora, and is privileged to bring the dawn. She has no limitations to what she gets to see. I feel so stuck.
“Asteria?” My father’s voice traveled through the galaxy.
I shifted my weight. The large rock I was sitting on, at the edge of Orion’s lake, was causing my butt to go numb. I really didn’t want to answer my dad. I had not been doing my job. I was supposed to be collecting energy from the nebulas, but I preferred sneaking off and cooling my feet in Orion’s calm waters. The sand was soft as silk. The shores were made from the shedding of the stars old skin, which only happened every thousand years. In a couple of days this beach would be showered with a fresh layer of star-dust marking another millennium’s passing.
“Asteria?” This time his voice boomed.
I took one last look at the faded light dancing across the waters ripples. Callisto was the closest moon to me and her light flickered like a dying firefly. I tied my sandals onto my damp feet and grabbed my energy sack. Closing my eyes I concentrated on where I needed to travel, to Oberon. With a warm whoosh
I was at my father’s side.
“Yes, Dad?” I was out of breath.
He was in our kitchen pouring cream from the Milky Way into his ambrosia. He took a seat at our onyx glass table and gestured me to do the same. His large hands engulfed his cup as he drank. I waited for him to speak for what seemed to be forever. Was I in trouble? Probably, I was really bad at doing as instructed. Finally he wiped his mouth and beard dry with the flowing sleeve of his robe.
“Did you finish gathering energy for the oracles?”
I didn’t answer. It was all I could do to look away.
“Asteria you have to do your job. We all have our place in the cosmos. I cannot allow you to disgrace our name. You are a princess. What would your Mother say?”
“I don’t know Dad. I never get to see her she is always fulfilling her duties on Earth.”
Dad slammed his cup against the table creating a crack that looked like a spider’s web. “You listen here young lady, your Mother does as she is required. She has no lack of love for you. I’m having a hard enough time stabilizing the celestial axes without having to keep a constant watch over you.” He took a giant breath and seized hold of my hands. “Asteria, you are a star goddess. You must take care of them, tend to them and they will tend to you.”
“But I don’t want to be a star goddess, I want to see the dawn. I want to see the blistering rays of the day as they press down on earth. I’m sick of the dark.”
Father covered my mouth and looked around the room. “Hush child. If someone heard you the punishment would be harsh, and I could do nothing about the consequence. You are who you were destined to be. Please except your fate.”
A single tear formed in my left eye. It grew until it flowed down my cheek splattering against the glass. I gave my father a nod of acceptance.
He patted my hand and released his grasp. He stood and walked over to one of our windows. With his back to me he spoke. “There is another matter that needs to be attended to.”
I straightened my posture, this sounded serious.
“It’s Dagda,” dad turned back towards me. “He is threatening to close the gates to the realm of the dead if we can’t put an end to human greed.”
“What does that have to do with me?” What could little old me do? After all I was just a star goddess.
Father took a seat once again. “We need an insider. I need to keep a close watch on the underworld and… and that’s why I have offered you to Dagda’s son, to be Aengus’s wife.”
“Aengus? Aengus… Dad I really don’t like him. He bugged the heck out of me in school. I’m not ready to be paired. I want to be in love. I want to marry my promised heart. I don’t want to work the stars and go home to Aengus in the bowls of the underworld. Dad I will not do it.”
“You will do as you’re told and that’s final. It does not have to last forever, but for now it’s what has to be done. I have already spoken with your Mother and she agrees. You will be wed the night of the star’s shedding.”
I clinched my teeth. I wanted to bite down so hard that my smile would turn to dust.
My father closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. “I love you Asteria, I do. Sometimes we must do things for the better of our people.” He pointed to the calendar on our fridge. It had pictures of different constellations for each month. “Tomorrow you will travel to the fourth dark corner and visit Proteus, he will fit you for your bridal gown.
“I said no buts.” Father rose, his stature was large and muscular. “There is one more thing.” What else could he possibly ask of me
“You need to deliver a single portion of star energy to an oracle tonight. He lives in the village by the sea. You will meet with him in the ivory tower, and then you must come straight home and get some sleep.”
I stared blankly into my father’s deep eyes.
“Did you hear me?”
I grabbed my energy sack. At least I had collected enough for a single serving. I closed my eyes and pictured my destination, the village by the sea. Balmy air encircled me like a tornado, whipping my long dark hair against my bare skin. The short chiton I wore flapped against my knees. When I opened my eyes I was on the shore of the green sea. It looked black and uninviting to me. I had heard stories of mortals swimming during the light of the day in sparkling waters. What was that like? To my right a pale stoned tower stood, the water lapped at its base. Why was this called the ivory tower when it is made of stone? Humans are a curious bunch. I took my time walking up the dusty spiral stairs. All along the walls torches burned, lighting the way. At the top was an enormous wooden door. It looked sturdy enough to last eons. I pushed it open with my shoulder until there was a crack large enough for me to slip through.
“Hello?” My voice echoed through the room.
A controlled fire was blazing in the center of the room. “Hello?” I repeated.
Something stirred in the corner next to a loophole. Blue light from the moon was seeping through the small slit. I wondered if my mother had swept the moon tonight.
A tall figure came forward from out of the darkness, towards the honey glow of the fire. “You’re here.” He said. “ I’m Cyprus.”
The soft light highlighted his strong features. I had never been around someone who made my heart pound like this. Cyprus was gorgeous.
I stepped towards him, my energy sack shaking as I tried to keep my cool.
“I’m Asteria and I’m here to give you your dose of star-dust.” My voice quivered.
He looked me up and down and I hoped that he liked what he was seeing.
“I’m supposed to use the dust tonight to look into the future. Our king wants to know if going to war is the answer.”
“Why does your king want to go to war?”
Cyprus raised his muscular shoulders, shrugging at my question. “I don’t know. The rumors are that he wants to gain power and riches.”
I thought about how my father warned of Dagda closing the gates to eternal life if the mortals could not control their greed. Cyprus stepped in closer to me.
“ What’s your name?” He asked.
“Asteria.” I replied as I got lost in the pouty shape of his lips. He couldn’t have been more than four years older than my physical body. As a goddess I had been around for a long time, but I was young in my world. “What do you think of the king wanting more power and riches?”
Cyprus looked back to the slit in the wall. “I think he has more than enough, I should know. He’s my Father.” Cyprus’s golden hair was cut to his shoulders. He reminded me of a God, I didn’t know mortals could be so beautiful.
I held out my energy sack so that Cyprus could mix the dust with the nectar and drink.
“I’m not ready yet,” he said as he circled me. “I want to know more about you, like why do you ask so many questions? I’ve never met a God or Goddess that even cared to speak with an oracle.”
“I just want to learn about your world and about being human. I can’t even comprehend death. All I know is darkness and immortality.” I furrowed my brows. What was it like to truly live? “I’ve never even seen a sun rise or set.”
“Your beauty is being wasted.” Cyprus’s smile widened. “What a sad thought to never see you in the light of day.”
My hands clammed up and I dropped my sack. “Your words are kind.” I felt my face heating up.
“I know how you feel.” He came close enough to brush my hair behind my ear. “I feel stuck within the walls of my word. I have never even left the castle grounds in all of my twenty-three years.” Cyprus took hold of both my hands. “I want to see the world, there’s even more to it than sunrises.”
My head was spinning. I hated my job, I was about to be forced into a dark marriage, and I didn’t even know who I was. These emotions swirled through me and still there was something else, a pulsating urge to be with Cyprus. I was drawn to him with no sense of control. Was it possible to have a human as your promised heart? I ran to the slit in the wall and studied the placement of the stars. My grandmother would be bringing dawn soon.
I started to run to the door, “I have to go, my Father is going to banish me to the Thick Black.”
“Your energy is in the sack, goodbye.”
Cyprus grabbed my arm and pulled me tightly against his body. I could feel my breast against his chest with every nervous breath I took.
“Why not stay with me?” He asked.
I shook my head, not because I didn’t want to, it was out of fear. “I…I can’t.”
“Why Asteria? Why not?” Why
?...Why? Is he crazy? I’m a Goddess. I have my duties. Time was running out, I needed to return to the Celestials. But wait… What about my happiness.
Cyprus’s lips grazed my ear as he whispered. “We could experience life together. I will take care of you and someday you would be Queen.”
Queen? A thought flashed into my clogged brain. If I had the power of human persuasion by being someone of importance I could help the people move away from their earthly greed. It was a win, win. I would be fulfilling my duty.
“At dawn there is no going back for me.” I said. “Once the rays reach my skin I will become mortal.”
“And I will become yours.” Cyprus pressed his warm lips against mine. I felt as if shooting stars were combusting inside of me.
“Follow me.” He said grabbing a hold of my arm. We rushed out the door and down the stairs.
We ran to the sea’s edge and looked up to the sky. Aurora, my Grandmother was coming. Cyprus held me tight as I watched. Rays of light broke through the clouds illuminating the dark waters. Orange burst reached towards the earth and I felt a promise, the promise of life. My eyes welled up, it was glorious. I could have died in that moment and it would have been all worth it. My world was no longer shades of grey. I would grow old, but I would age surrounded by beauty. I was happy.
“Asteria?” It was my father. He floated down from the heavens, a heavy sadness weighing down his face. “Why my daughter? You can never come home. I will have to see my baby die.”
“Father, it’s what I choose. This is what I want. I can do much good on earth. I will teach the people about greed. I can do more here than I could in the underworld.”
My father took me in his arms. “You are wise and I love you. I will be watching you. You are who you were destined to be. This is your fate. Whenever you need your Mother or I just call out to us. You might see more of her now that you are here, on earth.” He kissed my forehead and slowly rose back to the heavens.
“It’s not goodbye Father.” I whispered. “I will see you again.”
In the warmth of the light I stood on the shores watching my world come to color.
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