Welcome back. I have rewritten this fiction with new names for some characters and places, hoping to make it more "mine" than it was before. Even if you've read it before, you might want to read through it again to make sure about the new names and changes. Any and all criticism and/or affirmation that are, in some way, constructive will be appreciated and most likely used. Remember, all characters and places belong to me. If you want to use them, please ask me before doing so and tell me how you want to use them. A note to my friends: any peace mentioned in this story is the antique kind. Don't ask.

The Color of Moonlight, Chapter One: A False Alarm

By Lómiel


The sun was beginning to slip towards the horizon, spilling ever-darkening rays over the tips of the west mountains. In the valley between the two ranges, the silver snow-fed river curled like a snake, its far-off hiss on sharp stones carrying even up the slopes of the mountains on either side. A path, little-used and overgrown from years of neglect, wound up the side of the eastern range from a small town at the foot to a low pass, crowned by a pair of trees.
The trees were anxious. Shimoyo could tell by the way they whispered to one another in anticipation. Their leaves rustled in an invisible breeze, the gold veins in the fresh green leaves catching flashes and glimmers of the dying rays. To a human, or those not used to their voices, the trees would sound like nothing but branches in the wind. But to Shimoyo, the slender white branches bending and shivering in the light wind spoke of apprehensiveness. She tightened her grip on the branch next to her, feeling the steady, ancient confidence of the giant tree pulse like a heartbeat through her hold. All the same, Shimoyo pulled her six magnificent wings closer around her and peered cautiously through the green and gold leaves to the path beyond.
For a long moment, nothing stirred but the grass and trees in the wind. Shimoyo strained her ears and was about to give up when cheerful voices floated up the pathway to her. The seraph relaxed only slightly. No army-no invasion, not today. As the humans rounded the last bend in the path, Shimoyo could finally see them clearly in the light of the setting sun. One was a tall boy; a youth by human standards, with yellowish hair and a tall, thin build. The other was shorter, with hair the shade of wet earth, with a slightly more round appearance. It seemed the first was encouraging the latter to finish the last steep section of the path to the pass beyond.
"Come on! We're almost there! I think I can see a bit of white!"
Out of breath, the shorter boy puffed up behind. "Are you sure? It's getting late, we should go back."
"No! There it is! I can see it!" The blond boy grabbed his companion's arm and dragged him the last few yards to stand in front of the twin trees. The trees rustled uncomfortably. They disliked humans from a distance, and it had been many years since the last time humans had stood before them. They mistrusted these humans, young as they were.
Shimoyo's eyes, deep blue in the golden sunlight, narrowed as she glared down through the branches at the two boys beyond. She was well hidden in the gold- and green-cloaked branches, but she didn't necessarily want to stay hidden. These humans, naïve as they were, would not be allowed to live to touch one of the trees or to pass between them. Shimoyo shifted her position in the tree, freeing both her hands and keeping her balance with her six wings. The feathers were almost transparent and glittered with soft iridescence in the dying sunlight. As soon as the sun slipped beneath the jagged line of the western mountains and the moon rose, the feathers would change from translucence to solidity, silvery-white and opaque in the moonlight.
The seraph watched anxiously as the two boys stepped slowly forward, both reverence and fear shining in their eyes. Shimoyo tensed, but held herself back from lunging at the two boys. It was one of the most basic laws of the Seraphim-never kill unless there is no other option. Shimoyo's pointed ears, modeled after those who created her, easily picked up the conversation below.
"This is amazing! Look how beautiful they are!"
The trees shivered irritably. They did not wish to be complimented by humans.
The blond boy turned to his dark-haired comrade and spoke in a hushed, secretive whisper, easily overheard by the ever-watchful seraph. "I dare you to touch the one on the right."
The shorter boy's eyes grew round with shock and excitement. Shimoyo didn't move, but her own twilight-blue eyes, streaked with silver, reflected in their depths a combination of horror and hatred. It was an abomination. This lower, traitorous race would never dirty the trees by laying their hands on them. Shimoyo whispered a single word under her breath, if it could be called a word. It glided through the evening air, half song and half word, a sound of liquid calm and cool darkness. The air under Shimoyo's right hand glittered and flashed with frosty light, then seemed to freeze into a longbow, made from the whitish-grey bark of the trees of her home and decorated with lines and shapes of a flowing, whitish metal.
"Wh-what about the guardians? My dad says they have eight heads and ten dragon wings and they eat anyone who tries to even get near the trees!"
Despite herself, Shimoyo rolled her eyes and smiled slightly. The humans had obviously twisted the stories of the Seraphim far beyond truth. All the better for keeping them out. The yellow-haired boy nodded solemnly and looked around the clearing. "I've heard worse but...I don't see any around here. I think you're safe." The brown-haired boy nodded, swallowed and stepped forward, shaking visibly. Shimoyo held on to her longbow with both hands, summoning an arrow with another liquid word. The seraph watched as the boy headed toward the opening between the two trees on Shimoyo's left. The southern tree, the one on the boys' right, shuddered violently as the human drew closer, although the wind was only a slight breeze. The child sent a look of round-eyed fear over his shoulder to his friend, who only nodded in encouragement. He shuffled closer and closer to the southern tree, and Shimoyo in the northern tree notched an arrow in her bowstring and took careful aim through the leaves. The round little boy took another step closer to the tree, and reached out his hand. Shimoyo pulled back the arrow just a bit farther. There was one law in Círa that overruled all the rest-above all, protect and preserve the realm of Círa until the rightful rulers returned to claim it. That was the task the Seraphim had been created for. If that meant killing a few humans who were foolish enough to attempt to touch or enter Círa, so be it. Shimoyo made a small adjustment to her aim began to loosen her hold on the string.
Suddenly, the sound of clear bells came bouncing up the sides of the mountain ranges from the town by the river below. Both boys froze, their eyes wide. Shimoyo tightened her grip on the string in surprise, noting in the back of her mind that the sun had slid almost halfway below the horizon. The brown-haired boy looked even more terrified then he had moments ago, if that was possible. "The gate bell! If I'm not home, Mother will kill me!"
The chime rang again, strangely cheerful in the tense silence. The two boys seemed to reach an unspoken agreement, and simultaneously dashed off down the mountain.
Shimoyo let herself breathe again, realizing for the first time that she had been holding her breath. Her strength seemed to drain out of her, and she slumped against the strong white trunk of the ancient tree she sat in. Sighing, she pulled herself to her feet after a moment and, folding her wings close against her, dropped lightly to the ground, then walked across the pass to the other tree. She gently touched the soft silvery bark of the southern tree, which was still quivering slightly, and whispered several words of comfort to it. Gradually, the indignant anger of the majestic tree faded, leaving the trademark calm confidence native to all Círäin trees. Shimoyo turned from the tree to face the sun just as the last bit of liquid gold slid below the jagged black line of mountains in the west. She breathed a sigh of relief. All the Seraphim were more comfortable in the cool calm of night than under the heat of the sun. Shimoyo shook her head and leapt up into the branches of the southern tree. The soothing sound of the leaves in the wind slowly lulled her into a peaceful but watchful sleep.