Chapter 6

The Sky King’s retinue rode swiftly through the night towards the barony of His Lordship Charles Lewis. Master Kevin Galwynn, who knew where Lord Lewis dwelled, led the way. The Sky King, Lt. Aaron Nimbus, and the Doubting Wizard, followed close behind. Finally, the largest squad of Ethereal Legionnaires who were not engaged elsewhere in the kingdom, followed their liege.

The celestial riders galloped across fields of sky the color of coal dust, and over hills of clouds the color of lapis lazuli and sapphire; while the ponding hoofbeats of their chargers sounded like rolling thunder. They rode so swiftly in their flight, that stars, constellations, planets, nebulae, and comets rose above the horizon before them; soared overhead; and then set beyond the edge of the horizon behind them.

From time to time, Master Galwynn looked down through a clear patch of sky as if he was examining a map spread across a campaign table. There he would spy a landmark hill, river, or hamlet. Then getting his bearings, he would turn back to the Sky King and shout a change of course.

To his credit, Kevin managed to stay ahorse on his courser, Zephyr, quite well. His first gallop with the Ethereal Legion to Castle Castellanus had been good practice for his current journey. But even if he had had trouble keeping pace, his ever-watchful bodyguard, Aaron Nimbus, rode behind him on his left, ready to lend assistance.

Onward through the night, they rode. The muscles of Galwynn’s mount rippled rhythmically beneath him. The wind whistled past his ears, stung his eyes, and snapped the tail of his riding cloak like a whip. And yet onward, they rode.

Once, when Kevin looked back to whence the riders had come, he saw an awesome and fearsome sight. Galwynn knew the day and the hour, but the moon was not in the sky where he expected it to be. Proportions are misleading in Sky, but what he saw was no mistake. An enormous, starry silhouette set against the background of the starry night sky, loomed over the clouds. The silhouette was feminine in form, and taller that the arc of sky from zenith to horizon. Being black upon black, the immense figure was hard for Kevin to see. But when the silhouette moved, it was like a ripple crossing a placid pool as it mirrors the night sky.

The apparition was Empress Moon, swiftly riding her night-mare east to west and back again, as she relentlessly searched for someone. The Empress carried her bone-white war staff in one gloved hand; while its long cat-o’-nine-tails tassels, which were beaded with pentagrams, planetoids, crescent moons, and comet tails, flowed far behind. On her saddle, she slung her moon-bow of pale colors, and a quiver of arrows as sharp as meteor traces. 

Empress Moon was swaddled in her ebony hunting cloak sequined with stardust, and had pulled its black hood low so only a sliver of her silver face was visible. Her hunting cloak had great ceremonial significance. She only wore it when seeking truth, making peace, or waging war.

Kevin Galwynn looked at Empress Moon as she hunted the skies, and trembled. Galwynn keenly remembered that Mistress De Lune’s astrologers’s had predicted that everyone he knew, loved, and held dear was going to die. At the time, the Mistress of Stargazers did not know exactly when everyone’s doom would come. But now that Kevin had seen the Empress searching both Land and Sky for her lost child, and how worried and relentless she was on her hunt, Kevin knew that if he didn’t find the star-child first, the doom he feared was nigh.

Kevin was now more concerned about this night’s outcome than ever before. But he reminded himself that his king, his land, and everyone he held dear, was depending on him. Galwynn screwed his courage to the sticking place, leaned low in his saddle, and spurred his mount onward. Zephyr whinnied her grudging compliance, and then galloped headlong into the darkness.

Onward, rode Kevin Galwynn and the celestial host; ever onward.

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