One of Empress Moon’s children was missing. For some time now, the Empress had been desperately searching for her daughter. She had followed a trail of causality, star-signs, from the hot, dense, chaotic Core of the Upper Reaches; to the cold, dark expanse of the Rim; and back again. But the Empress’s daughter was nowhere to be found. 

Empress Moon had searched back and forth across the skies, tracking a trail of causality from Sky to the Domain of Land, and o’er the estate of some nobleman. But when she reached the end of the trail, expecting to find her daughter, the Empress saw nothing. Frustrated that she had somehow made a mistake and misread the star-signs, the Empress wheeled her night-mare around and began retracing her steps. Spurring her mount until it had the aspect of a shooting star, Empress Moon set off toward that estate in Land where the trail of causality had mysteriously gone cold.

Fearing for her daughter’s safety, as any good mother would, the Empress tried to quell her fears by telling herself that her daughter might have simply gone ambling for a while. Although the stars seem fixed in the firmament, they are too vital and enthused by existence to long sit idle at their coordinates. That is why they constantly danced orbits around each other, and radiated joyful star-songs for the entire universe to enjoy. 

The Empress knew her children well. Alta was a young star-maid, but full-grown and responsible. She was not some rambunctious, white-hot adolescent; or stodgy, dull-red matron grown fat with age; or a fading crone slowly turning to ash. Alta was young and beautiful; and full of energy, joy, and passion, just like her parents.

So where was she?

The Empress wondered if Alta had gone gamboling across the sky to visit her siblings, and had merely lost track of time singing, dancing, and shamelessly chatting about some handsome comet or dashing meteor whose fiery aspect enflamed her heart. “Ah, love,” thought Empress Moon. “That could spur young lovers to wander off hither and yon. 

But when Empress Moon asked her myriad children whether they had seen their sister, they all said, “No, Mother, Alta has not visited us for quite some while. But when next you see her, please tell her to visit soon. We miss her.”

Hearing that, dread clutched Empress Moon’s heart again. “What if my child is not merely missing?” she wondered, darkly. “What is something horrible has happened to her? What if someone has done something to her?”

That last fearful conjecture seemed impossible, thought Empress Moon; and yet, it filled her heart with foreboding. Empress Moon and Emperor Sun were gods, and so their children were lesser deities. “To harm one of our children would be an affront to the gods. It is unthinkable,” argued the Empress with herself. “And yet, my child is still missing.”

The Empress caught herself. Perhaps she was panicking about nothing. “After all, who has the power to accost a star? And who would have the audacity to do so?” she thought. “But if anyone has done anything to my child,” she vowed, “then woe unto them, for now and ever!”

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