The Shining People

A rock, roundish, grey mottled with gray, spattering of craters filled with the black blood of slain sunbeams. But look at it with eyes that see what they want to see and not what they are shown: sunlight breaking on the nickel-iron poles of a perfect sphere and chiming down in slivers to the rich black carbonaceous equator. This is the castle and kingdom of the Shining People, their home and garden and battlefield. Within its halls and hollows the followers of the Bright Queen swarm and glitter, the followers of the Dark Queen skulk and glare. Artisans inscribe tales that were never told on the pinpoint beams of sunlight that pierce the narrow windows, mortal slaves stripped down to nothing but a voice and a fragment of mind scream symphonies in the darkness, and the hearts of dead heros sprout fantastical trees with swords for leaves and children for fruit.

Beneath all these things, at the very center of the Palace, is the greatest treasure of the Shining People: a small cup folded of dove-yellow paper, with no one's name written on it in scratchy green ink. When the proper rites are performed, the depths of the Cup run red with visions of the past, but that is not its true power. Just as the past is the mirror of the future, so anyone who sees the reflection of the filled Cup will see the future unless they are very lucky indeed. The last one so unfortunate was immediately confined in the harshest pit of the dungeons, bereft of tongue, eyes, and hands that none might learn what he had seen. But he pounded and scraped his shiny metal bones to points honed on the rock of his cell, and before he died he wrote what he had seen on the walls. Now every Midsummer day, when the bloated sun drives the stars from the sky, the Bright Queen descends to that cell and reads one sentence from the walls. And every Midwinter Day, when the stars hide the dwarfed sun amongst their multitude, the Dark Queen ascends to that cell and reads one sentence from the walls.

When the hosts of the Shining People gather to gaze into the Cup, those behind passing their eyes forward where they cannot go themselves, they clamor for the day long past when the Bright Queen and the Dark Queen, then the tenderest of enemies and not the bitterest of lovers that they are today, lured the Master of the Hunt into the Valley of Storms and gained the Cup for themselves and their peoples. Now the Hunters labor endlessly on a great tower, rising from a storm wide enough to swallow Midgard whole and tainted red with the blood of the slaves to died for the tower's making. For every ten courses of skulls they add, the weight pushes the tower down nine, but slowly the pennants creep upward, and one day the Master and his Hunt will crawl out into the wide world again. But the day is not yet, and when the Cup smoulders low the Shining People spit on the ghost of the tower and return laughing to their metal gardens.

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