“I am the light coursing in the soul of the moon.”
Bearing her crescent moonblade, Diana fights as a warrior of the Lunari, a faith all but quashed in the lands around Mount Targon. Clad in shimmering armor the color of winter snow at night, she is a living embodiment of the silver moon’s power. Imbued with the essence of an Aspect from beyond Targon’s towering summit, Diana is no longer wholly human, and struggles to divine her power and purpose in this world.
Diana was born as her mother and father sheltered from a storm on the unforgiving slopes of Mount Targon. They had travelled from a distant land, drawn by dreams of a mountain they had never seen and the promise of revelation. Exhaustion and blinding stormwinds overwhelmed them on the eastern slopes of the mountain, and there, beneath cold, pitiless moonlight, Diana came into the world as her mother breathed her last.
Hunters from the nearby Solari Temple found her the next day as the storm abated and the sun reached its zenith, wrapped in bearskin and cradled in the arms of her dead father. They brought her to the temple, where the foundling child was presented to the sun and named Diana. The girl with the sable hair was raised as one of the Solari, a faith that dominated the lands around Mount Targon. Diana became an initiate, and was raised to venerate the sun in all its aspects. She learned the legends of the sun and trained every day with the Ra-Horak, the warrior templars of the Solari.
The Solari elders taught that all life came from the sun, and that the light of the moon was false, offering no nourishment and crafting shadows in which only creatures of darkness found succor. Yet Diana found moonlight entrancing and beautiful in a way the harsh sun glaring down the mountain could never match. Every night the young girl would wake from dreams of climbing the mountain to sneak from the initiates’ dormitories to pick night-blooming flowers and watch freshwater springs turn silver in the moonlight.
As the years went by, Diana found herself ever at odds with the elders and their teachings. She couldn’t help but question all she was told, always suspecting there was more that went unsaid in every teaching, as though what she was being taught was willfully incomplete. As she grew, Diana’s sense of isolation only became stronger as childhood friends distanced themselves from the mordant, questioning girl who never quite fit in. At night, watching the silver moon rise over the impossibly distant summit, she felt more and more like an outcast. The urge to climb the mountain’s flanks was like an itch that could never be scratched, but everything she had been taught since birth told her the mountain would claim more than just her life should she ever try. Only the most worthy and heroic dared make such an ascent. With every passing day, Diana felt more alone and more certain that some vital aspect of her life remained unfulfilled.
Her first clue as to what that might be came when she was sweeping the temple library as punishment for arguing with one of her elders. A glint of light behind a sagging bookcase drew Diana’s eyes, and upon investigation, she discovered the partially burned pages of an ancient manuscript. Diana took the pages and read them beneath the full moon that very night, and what she read unlocked a door into her soul.
Diana learned of an all-but-extinct group known as the Lunari, whose faith saw the moon as a source of life and balance. From what Diana could glean from the fragmentary texts, the Lunari spoke of the eternal cycle — night and day, sun and moon — as essential for universal harmony. This was a revelation to the girl with the sable hair, and as she looked beyond the moonlit temple walls, she saw an elderly woman wrapped in a bearskin cloak trudging up the far path that eventually led to the mountain’s summit. The woman’s steps were faltering and she leaned on a carved staff of willow to remain upright. She saw Diana and called for help, saying that she had to reach the top of the mountain before morning — an ambition Diana knew was utterly impossible.
Diana’s desire to help the woman and climb the mountain warred with everything the Solari taught. The mountain was for the worthy, and Diana had never felt worthy of anything. Again the woman asked for her help, and this time Diana did not hesitate. She scrambled over the walls and took the woman’s arm, leading her up the mountain, amazed someone so aged had even made it this far. They climbed for hours, above the clouds and into the chill air where the moon and stars glittered like diamonds. Despite her age, the woman kept climbing, urging Diana onwards when she stumbled or when the air grew thin and cold.
As the night wore on, Diana lost track of time as the stars wheeled overhead and all but the mountain faded from view. Together, Diana and the woman climbed ever upwards and each time her steps faltered, she drew strength from the pale glow of the moon. Eventually Diana fell to her knees, exhausted and weary beyond imagining, her entire body strained to the limits of exhaustion. When Diana looked up, it was to see that somehow they had reached the mountaintop, a feat that should not have been possible in a single night. The summit was wreathed in cascades of spectral illumination, veils of brilliant light, spirals of vivid color and the glimmering ghost of a vast city of silver and gold hovering in the air.
She searched for her companion, but the woman was nowhere to be seen — only the bearskin cloak mantling Diana’s shoulders suggested she had existed at all. Looking into the light, Diana saw the promise of the emptiness within her being filled, of acceptance and the chance to be part of something greater than she could ever imagine. This was what Diana had sought all her life without truly knowing it, and fresh vitality flowed through her limbs as she rose to her feet. She took a hesitant step towards the incredible vista, her resolve growing stronger with every breath.
The light surged and Diana screamed as it poured into her, a union with something vast and inhuman, impossibly ancient and powerful. The sensation was painful, but also joyous - a moment or an eternity that was both revelatory and hallucinatory. When the light faded, the sense of loss was an ache like nothing she had known before.
Diana stumbled down the mountain in a fugue state, oblivious to her surroundings, until she found herself before a cleft in the mountainside; a cave mouth that would have been invisible but for the moonlight shadows. Cold and needing shelter for the night, Diana sought refuge within the cave. Inside, the narrow cleft widened into the crumbling ruin of what might once have been a temple or vast audience chamber. Its crumbling walls were painted in faded frescoes depicting warriors of silver and gold fighting back to back against an unending host of grotesque monsters as the sky rained comets of searing light.
At the center of the chamber stood a crescent sword and a suit of armor unlike any other; a mail shirt of spun silver rings and wondrously crafted warplate of polished steel. Reflected in the gleam of the armor, Diana saw her once sable hair was now purest white, and a rune shone on her forehead with incandescent light. She recognized the symbol so exquisitely etched into the plates of the armor; the same symbol depicted in the pages of the burned manuscript she had found in the library. This was Diana’s moment of truth. She could turn away from this destiny or choose to embrace it.
Diana reached out, and as her fingers touched the cold steel of the armor, her mind exploded with images of lives she had never lived, memories she had never experienced and sensations she had never known. Scraps of ancient history raged like a blizzard in her mind; secret knowledge she but dimly grasped and innumerable futures scattered like wind-blown dust.
When the visions faded, Diana saw she was now fully clad in the silver warplate, armor that fitted her as though wrought especially for her. Her mind was still afire with newly-acquired knowledge, but much of it remained frustratingly out of reach, like a picture half in shadow, half in light. She was still Diana, but she was also something more, something eternal. Feeling vindicated with this new knowledge, Diana left the mountain cave and made her way unerringly towards the Solari Temple, knowing she had to tell the elders what she had learned.
She was met at the temple gates by Leona, the master of the Ra-Horak and the Solari’s greatest warrior. Diana was brought before the temple elders, who listened with mounting horror as she told of what she had learned of the Lunari. When she had finished her tale, the elders immediately denounced her as a heretic, a blasphemer and peddler of false gods. For such a heinous crime, only one punishment could suffice; death.
Diana was appalled. How could the elders reject what was so patently true? How could they turn their back on revelations brought from the very summit of the holy mountain? Her fury built at their willful blindness, and blazing orbs of silver fire spun in the air around her. With a scream of rage-fueled frustration, Diana’s sword swept out, and where it struck, silver fire burned with killing light. Again and again, Diana lashed out and when her fury ebbed, she saw the carnage she had unleashed. The elders were dead and Leona lay on her back, her armor smoking as though fresh from the forge. Appalled at what she had done, Diana fled the site of the massacre, escaping into the wilds of Mount Targon as the Solari reeled from the savagery of her attack.
Hunted by the warriors of the Ra-Horak, Diana now seeks to piece together the fragmentary memories of the Lunari hidden within her mind. Driven by half-remembered truths and glimpses of ancient knowledge, Diana has only one truth to cling to — that the Lunari and the Solari need not be foes, that there is a greater destiny for her than that of a simple warrior. What her destiny might be is unknown, but Diana will find it, whatever the cost.
Night had always been Diana’s favorite time, even as a child. It had been that way since she was old enough to scramble over the walls of the Solari temple and watch the moon traverse the vault of stars. She looked up through the dense forest canopy, her violet eyes scanning for the silver moon, but seeing only its diffuse glow through the thick clouds and dark branches.
The trees were pressing in, black and moss-covered, their branches like crooked limbs reaching for the sky. She could no longer see the path, her route forward obscured by rank weeds and grasping briars. Wind-blown thorns scraped the curved plates of her armor, and Diana closed her eyes as she felt a memory stir within her.
A memory, yes, but not her own. This was something else, something drawn from the fractured recollections of the celestial essence that shared her flesh. When she opened her eyes, a shimmering image of a forest overlaid the close-packed trees before her. She saw the same trees, but from a different time, from when they were young and fruitful and the path between them was dappled with light and edged in wildflowers.
Raised in the harsh environs of Mount Targon, Diana had never seen a forest like this. She knew what she was seeing was an echo of the past, but the scents of honeysuckle and jasmine were as real as anything she had experienced.
“Thank you,” she whispered, following the spectral outline of the ancient path.
It led Diana through overgrown and withered trees that ought to have been long dead. It climbed the slopes of rocky highlands, and passed through stands of twisted pine and wild fir. It crossed tumbling mountain streams and wound its way around sheer slopes before bringing her to a rocky plateau overlooking a vast lake of cold, dark water.
At the center of the plateau was a circle of towering stones, each carved with looping spirals and curving sigils. On every stone Diana saw the same rune that shimmered upon her forehead and knew she had reached her destination. Her skin tingled with a sense of febrile anticipation, a sensation she had come to associate with wild and dangerous magic. Wary now, she approached the circle, eyes scanning for threats. Diana saw nothing, but she knew something was here, something utterly hostile and yet somehow familiar.
Diana moved to the center of the circle and drew her sword. Its crescent blade glittered like diamond in the wan moonlight penetrating the clouds. She knelt with her head bowed, the blade’s tip resting on the ground, its quillons at her cheeks.
She felt them before she saw them.
A sudden drop in pressure. A raw charge to the air.
Diana surged to her feet as the spaces between the stones split apart. The air buckled and a trio of screeching beasts charged her with ferocious speed; ivory flesh, bone-white carapaces of segmented armor and steel talons.
Diana dived beneath a snapping jaw filled with teeth like polished ebony, slashing her sword in an overhead arc that clove the first monster’s skull to its heavy shoulders. The creature fell, its flesh instantly unraveling. She rolled to her feet as the others circled like pack hunters, now wary of her gleaming blade. The creature she had killed now resembled a pool of bubbling tar.
They came at her again, one from each side. Their flesh was already darkening to a bruised purple, hissing in this world’s hostile atmosphere. Diana leapt over the leftmost beast and swung her sword in a crescent arc towards its neck plates. She yelled one of the Lunari’s holy words and incandescent light blazed from the blade.
The beast blew apart from the inside, gobbets of newly-wrought flesh disintegrating before the moonblade’s power. She landed and swayed aside from the last beast’s attack. Not fast enough. Razored talons punched through the steel of her pauldrons and dragged her around. The beast’s chest split apart, revealing a glutinous mass of sense organs and hooked teeth. It bit into the meat of her shoulder and Diana screamed as numbing cold spread from the wound. She spun her sword, holding the grip like a dagger and rammed it into the beast’s body. It screeched, relinquishing its hold. Steaming black ichor poured from its ruptured body. Diana spun away, biting down on the pain racing around her body. She held her moonblade out to the side as the clouds began to thin.
The beast had tasted her blood and hissed with predatory hunger. Its armored form was now entirely gloss black and venomous purple. Bladed arms unfolded and remade themselves in a fan of hooks and talons. Unnatural flesh flowed like wax to seal the awful wound her blade had ripped.
The essence within Diana surged. It filled her thoughts with undying hatred from a distant epoch. She glimpsed ancient battles so terrible that entire worlds had been lost in the fires of their waging; a war that had almost unmade this very world and still might.
The creature charged Diana, its body rippling with the raw power of another realm of existence.
Clouds parted and a brilliant shaft of silver speared downwards. Diana’s sword drank in the radiance of distant moons and light burned along its edge. She brought it down in an executioner’s arc, cleaving plated bone and woven flesh with the power of the night’s illumination.
The beast came apart in an explosive detonation of light, its body utterly unmade by her blow. Its flesh melted into the night, leaving Diana alone on the plateau, her chest heaving with exertion as the power she had joined with on the mountain withdrew to the far reaches of her flesh.
She blinked away after-images of a city that echoed with emptiness where once it had pulsed with life. Sadness filled her, though she had never known this place, but even as she mourned it, the memory faded and she was Diana again.
The creatures were gone and the stones of the circle gleamed with threads of silver radiance. Freed from the touch of the hateful place on the other side of the veil, their healing power seeped into the earth. Diana felt it spreading into the landscape, carried through rock and root to the very bones of the world.
“This night’s work is done,” she said. “The way is sealed.”
She turned to where the moon’s reflection shimmered in the waters of the lake. It beckoned to her, its irresistible pull lodged deep in her soul as it drew her ever onwards.
“But there is always another night’s work,” said Diana.