The sky brightened from slate gray to yellow, streaked with bands of delicate clouds. The purple moon was nowhere in sight. Instead, two smaller moons occupied the sky, one green and the other blue.
Crupper climbed a wide, flat rock and removed his helmet and gauntlets. Erik followed and flopped down, happy for a chance to rest. Katharine sat on the grass, her legs stretched before her, wiggling her toes. She munched on a sharga fruit, her eyes on Erik.
“Beautiful, are they not?” said Crupper.
Erik flinched and looked away from Katharine’s legs. “Well, you know …”
Crupper pointed to the sky. “The moons, lad. The moons.”
“Oh, er, yes. I’ve never seen a green moon before. Or a blue one.”
Crupper’s eyebrows shot up. “Is that so? Well, the green one is Grom, named after our Lord Ur’Grohm a’ course. The blue one is Rill, after the Lady T’rilliah.”
Erik was too tired for a history lesson, so didn’t bother to ask who those people might be. Leaders, probably, or mythological figures. “That’s nice. We only have one moon where I’m from, and it’s just sort of gray.”
“Gray?” Crupper frowned. “What sort of god is gray?”
It was Erik’s turn to frown. “What? Not a god, a moon.”
Crupper scratched an ear. “The moons house the spirits o’ the gods and goddesses. Ur’Grohm is the god o’ Terras. His essence–his power–is green. T’rilliah is the goddess o’ Qualus, so her essence is blue. See?”
“Not really, but that’s okay. What I’d like to know is where the sun has been hiding.”
Crupper hesitated. “Whose son do ye mean, lad?”
“No, no. The sun. Up in the sky.” He pointed, feeling like an idiot.
“What are ye jabberin’ about now?”
Erik rubbed his eyes. “The sun, Crupper. I haven’t seen it once since I came here … wherever here is.”
Crupper glanced at Katharine, who shrugged. “Is ‘sun’ some other kind o’ moon where yer from?”
Erik exhaled, exasperated by the whole conversation. “Maybe you know it by a different word. The huge ball of fire that lights the sky and warms the Earth, feeding plants and trees and keeping everything alive. That sun. Where is it?”
They both returned blank expressions.
Katharine spoke around a mouthful of food. “The skies are lit by tiny starlings. Thousands of them, or at least there used to be thousands, before the Cataclysm. The starlings shed Lumis, which is light. They’re not made of fire, Erik. Only primitive tribes believe starlings are made of fire.”
Crupper nodded. “Like she said, lad. There ain’t no huge ball o’ fire in the sky.”
Erik sat in stunned silence. This was getting more and more weird, not that he should be surprised anymore. He had a more vivid imagination than he realized. “Well, on my world there is a sun—just one, and it warms everything.”
Katharine laughed. “How can one starling warm your entire world?” Her tone was laden with skepticism. “Much of it must remain in darkness and be terribly cold.”
“What’s yer world called?”
Crupper shrugged. “Never heard of it. Kind o’ dull, as names go.”
Erik was about to explain what little he remembered about astronomy, but realized they’d only continue to make jokes, especially if he mentioned that they’d dubbed their moon “the Moon.” He exhaled a weary breath. “It doesn’t matter, Crup. So long as I can find a way back.”