A TALE OF TWO MOONS
A long time ago, when there were only stars in the sky, there were two young sisters who loved to play in the woods. Their favourite game was "Wolf and Rabbit". Nyx, the firstborn, would play the role of wolf and Lyssa, the younger, would be the rabbit. For hours and hours Nyx would chase Lyssa, howling and laughing, while Lyssa would squeal in delight, uncaring that she would always eventually be caught by her sister.
For years they played this game, finding time even when their responsibilities to the tribe grew. It was their sacred time to play and strengthen their bond as sisters. Nothing was more important to them.
Then one day, something strange happened. Nyx did not catch Lyssa before the sun set and they had to return home before the darkness of night overtook the forest.
“Nyx, are you not well?” Lyssa asked her sister.
Nyx’ breath was heavy, but she was still smiling when she answered. “Do not worry, Lyssa, sometimes the rabbit does get away.”
Lyssa laughed. That was true. She was simply so used to being caught the idea of getting away seemed foreign to her.
They continued their playful custom day after day, but it slowly became more common for Lyssa to escape, and for Nyx to be left breathless after their chase. Though Lyssa thought she might enjoy winning for a change, all it did was worry her. Nyx would always smile whenever Lyssa expressed her concerns and would tease her younger sister, saying that perhaps Lyssa finally grew faster after all their years of practice.
But Nyx steadily grew slower. Her skin turned paler. And Lyssa was no longer convinced that all was well.
Lyssa told her older sister that she refused to play until she saw the healer.
“I already have,” Nyx replied, with a smile that did not reach her eyes.
“What did they say?”
“That my time left in this body is short. We have tried many medicines, but nothing will work. Please, do not be angry, sister. I only wanted to play with you until the end.”
Like a storm unleashed, Lyssa flew to the healer’s yurt, her wild red hair billowing behind her.
“You must heal my sister!” Lyssa demanded.
The healer frowned and shook her head. “We have done everything, little Lyssa. Searched for herbs. Prayed for guidance. Spoken to elders from other tribes. There is nothing left to do but bring her comfort.”
Lyssa tore out of the yurt and fell to her knees in front of the communal fire, screaming her pain into the flames.
“I’ll do anything! Anything at all!” Lyssa begged, but her desperate pleas were swallowed by the crackling flames.
Nyx knelt beside her sister, wrapping her in her arms. “Please, Lyssa, let us return to our yurt. I am tired, and do not wish to be alone.”
That night, Lyssa cried herself to sleep in Nyx’s arms, and fell into a deep slumber.
Her dream was very familiar. She was running through the forest like she always did with Nyx. But this time, the sky was dark and full of stars, even though they were always warned not to play at night. And in front of her, a strange white rabbit sat delicately on a rock, glowing faintly under the light of the starry sky.
Lyssa looked over her shoulder, and saw her sister behind her, face as pale as ever.
“Nyx!” Lyssa called out.
Lyssa turned her head sharply forward. Though the words were not spoken out loud, she was certain the strange voice came from the rabbit.
Again she turned her head back to look at her sister. “Did you hear that, Nyx?”
“I did,” Nyx called back.
“Should we follow?”
Nyx smiled. “I will chase you anywhere you go, little sister.”
Lyssa smiled back before turning her attention once more to the rabbit. “Where will you take us, rabbit?”
Lyssa did not understand, but it mattered little to her. She was being chased by her sister once again, and if she chased a rabbit in turn, so be it.
As a sign of acknowledgement, the rabbit turned and leapt into the darkness. The game was on.
Through the forest they ran and ran, past the trees they knew so well. The mysterious rabbit moved with an uncanny agility, as if it was made of nothing but starlight itself. But despite the darkness and shifting shadows all around them, Lyssa’s feet felt light, as did her heart. Nyx must have felt the same, for though her voice was weak, she howled into the night.
They only paused when they reached the river they were told never to cross. A marker for the territory the elders considered safe.
“This is too far,” Lyssa said.
“Not far enough.”
The rabbit led them down the river where rocks and logs made it possible to cross. With graceful leaps it bounded to the other side and took off into the woods.
“Wait!” Lyssa cried, but the rabbit would not wait.
She looked back at Nyx who was smiling again, though her teeth looked sharper than usual. “I will chase you wherever you go, little sister,” she said again.
Knowing her sister would follow, Lyssa crossed the river, and found the rabbit with ease as soon as she entered the forbidden woods, resuming the chase once more.
Though the trees looked familiar, there was something strange about them. They seemed to bend and sway, though there was no wind. Twinkles of white light would catch the corner of Lyssa’s eye, but would disappear as soon as she turned to look. Chirps and howls could be heard all around them, yet not a single creature appeared.
It should have unnerved her, but it only made Lyssa bolder. She laughed loudly, tossing her wild, red hair, and leapt forward, no longer holding herself back.
A familiar howl answered her laughter, and Lyssa turned to see Nyx bounding after her on all fours, full of an energy she hadn’t had since they were children.
Lyssa’s heart quickened in excitement, pounding against her ribcage, faster than she was used to. She needed to move quicker or Nyx would catch her!
With a leap forward she too went onto all fours, mimicking the rabbit in front of her. Together they made their way over gnarled, black roots that seemed to get bigger and bigger, and around trees that towered above them, blocking out the sky.
For a moment Lyssa wondered how she could see, but it quickly seemed unimportant. Only getting away from Nyx mattered. Her sister’s face had elongated, and her limbs had grown to be equal in size. Her robes were now tattered, billowing out behind her along with her long, black hair.
Lyssa wouldn’t lose this time. She could feel the power in her hind legs, her large feet pushing her forward. And now she could see beady eyes in the dark, and shadows scurrying around. How she had missed them before, she didn’t know. It all seemed as obvious as the sounds she had heard before.
A loud howl made Lyssa jump, before she squeaked out a laugh. Never before had Nyx howled so loud! How happy Lyssa was. Nyx must be feeling better.
She looked behind her and saw her sister, her fur glistening under the soft, white glow of little insects that flew all around. Lyssa wondered why she thought Nyx would be feeling unwell in the first place. She seemed to be in perfect health, and if Lyssa was not careful, she would be caught in that big maw.
Almost where? Lyssa wondered, and wanted to ask, but she couldn’t remember how to form words with her small mouth. It seemed easier to just think the words anyway. She was sure the rabbit would understand.
Around the monstrous trees they ran and ran, black masses that seemed to breathe just as they did. Until they reached a large pond and the rabbit stopped at the edge.
“You said you’d do anything, and you were true to your word. You followed me as I asked, and now a wish is yours.”
“A wish?” Lyssa replied.
The rabbit smiled.
How strange, thought Lyssa, rabbits should not be able to smile like that. Or stand on their two feet like that. It seemed so much larger now.
“State your wish, and I’ll make it come true.”
From behind Lyssa felt Nyx’ muzzle rub lovingly against her side. She lifted her paw, and rested it on her sister’s on the ground next to her. She knew there was something she was supposed to be wishing for, but she couldn’t remember anymore, so she replied with the only desire she could find in her heart.
“I wish to be chased by my sister forever and ever.”
Nyx and Lyssa were missing in the morning, with no sign of either one. The tribe searched for them all day, but it was not until night that they discovered the sisters' fate.
For up in the sky, where there were once only stars, were two moons. One large and pale trailing behind one small and tinted red. Chasing each other all through the night, and every night thereafter.