Back to book 3 this week. I’m still writing fast to get this finished in time to publish it next month. I know I’m going to cut it close, but I’ve also started working with a new editor who can help me reach my deadline.
Today’s excerpt contains major spoilers for book 1 and book 2 (and part of book 3, since it comes late in the novel). Don’t read if you don’t want hints of what’s going on.
If you’re still here, this scene is about research. You may know that Quilla, the moon goddess, was banished and all references to her were forbidden. Riwenne has been searching desperately for information about her patron goddess to find out the truth behind the propaganda declaring her evil. She thought that the sun goddess’s followers were lying when they called Quilla the goddess of death.
But Riwenne finds out that Quilla has two faces: the bright moon and the dark moon. And the dark side rules death. What does that mean? This scene will shed some light on her dual nature.
Now, as an aside, this also relates to Riwenne’s character development. She started out very immature in book 1, whiny and complaining about doing any work. She seemed to get stronger over the course of the first book, but as readers have noticed, the events at the end of the first book crushed her so much that she actually got worse in book 2. Despite the help of her friends, Riwenne retreated further into her childish habits throughout the events of Bionic Witches, failing to rise to the greater challenges in front of her.
I wanted to show Riwenne at her lowest. Everything was calculated to break her down so she would do the worst thing she was capable of: kill. She had to learn an important lesson about what it feels like to take a life. This helps her understand Quilla’s death aspect–and resist it.
Fortunately, I can say that in book 3, Riwenne will be getting stronger again. Her positive traits will start to come out more and the whining will be less frequent. I hope you’ll patient with her as she develops on her journey.
The Book of the Moon
I flipped earlier in the book to find a more detailed description of Quilla’s two aspects.
When her face is light, Quilla is kind and benevolent. She helps with pregnancy and childbirth. She brings clarity to muddied situations. She is not just an imitation of Chysa, her sister, but her complement. When she is in her light aspect, she can bring healing, life, and creation to the world. But if she is thwarted, she is angry and vengeful. She defends her charges like a mother bear with her cubs.
In pen, the book’s owner had scribbled out the word “not” and added in the margin, “Quilla will never be as great as Chysa! She tries to eclipse her sister out of jealousy!”
I skimmed to find more information about Quilla’s other half.
When her face is dark, Quilla becomes more secretive. She helps with women’s moon blood and can expel an unwanted pregnancy. She rules over dreams and sometimes brings visions. As the avatar of death, she brings rest and peace to those at the end of their life. She brings balance to the world through destroying what is no longer needed. Instead of anger, she is more prone to sadness and depression. She mourns the loss of life as she guides the souls of the dead to their next destination.
“Lies!” the margin-writer scribbled in furious, slanted script. The word “death” was underlined three times.
I rubbed my forehead. The extra commentary was getting tiresome to read. “Did my mother write these?” I asked Tika, pointing to the notes. I didn’t really know what Lyda’s handwriting looked like.
“Check the front of the book,” the sandpiper said.
I went to the first page. In that sloppy handwriting, I saw the inscription:
This book belongs to the personal library of Ylnauta, the first empress of Arkia and sworn champion of Chysa.
“No way.” I stared at the words. “This has to be fake. Someone else put this in, right?”
Tika peered closer. “Nope, looks like her. She insisted on calling herself ‘empress.’ After her death, they decided to ditch the imperial title and they called the head priestess ‘Mother.’ She’s supposed to guide her people like a parent, not rule over them.”
I guess I knew where the hatred for Quilla had come from. When Ylnauta founded the empire in Chysa’s name, she’d turned people away from the worship of Quilla. That helped Chysa’s campaign against her sister.
I tucked the book under my arm. I’d take it home to study and then show it to Eberet for his thoughts. But from just a little reading, I could already see things falling into place.
Every time I’d spoken to Quilla before, it was during her light aspect, often on the full moon. Her dark side was new to me, except for the dreams she sent. Visions to warn me about the future.
But her dark side wasn’t bad anymore than her light side was good. One version could get angry, the other one got sad, like any human would feel upset when things went wrong. Each side also had their positive aspects. I’d just have to learn what to expect in each part of the month.
For the first time since I’d summoned the moon goddess, I was beginning to understand her. I wasn’t so overwhelmed by her strange powers. She was still stronger than me, but I could put limits on what she did, at least through me. Maybe I could manage being her champion after all.
When I thought about it, I had two sides, too. One side was whiny, immature, and got depressed by all this death and destruction. I’d been a real downer for months now as I let the stress of my job get to me. But I could also be cheerful, enthusiastic, and support my friends. That was the part of me I wanted to emphasize. If I worked on my faults and tried to remember my strengths, I could be a better person, too. I still didn’t feel like a leader or a role model for anyone else, but I could at least try to be the best version of myself.