Every few millennia, the full moon shines its light upon a newborn human, blessing them with its power. Once the child is bathed within the moonlight, they are no longer mortal—perhaps, closer to a god. They say such a child has hair and eyes that shimmer silver under the moon. From infancy, they are groomed by their zodiac-year kingdom to become the emperor or empress of a new era.
But to become the ruler of all zodiac kingdoms, comes with risk and danger as well. Should the child meet their untimely end, it would be the end of their era.
It wouldn’t be the first time it has happened. The kingdoms had fallen into disarray and became divided when an emperor, still too young to take the throne, had been slain by the Lunar Wraiths. Their war lasted for centuries until the next ruler was born.
An empress was born on the night of a crescent moon, an occurrence that has never happened before. Blessed by the powers of the crescent moon, the empress’ was born with hair and eyes as dark as the night. She was truly a gifted child, able to see things in the darkness that past rulers couldn’t.
Using her powers, the empress gathered the divided kingdoms and united them once more. Having received the blessings of all twelve kingdoms, her powers grew that she soon attained the status of a goddess.
But in the darkness, demons that sought to wreak havoc in the world lurked beneath them, whispering amongst themselves of the chaos they ought to bring. The key to open the gate of demons was to use the powers of the Lunar Goddess.
Discovering this, the goddess believed staying in the heavens would only bring about the downfall of the kingdoms she worked diligently to unite. In an attempt to hide herself, she descended into the land of mortals below—despite the protests from the zodiac rulers.
Her time with the mortals was slowly changing her. She became humbled, eventually filled with a desire for a life with them. Some rulers claimed she seemed almost human.
Over the next few centuries, the zodiac kingdoms assimilated with the mortals under the goddess’ wishes. There was peace among the gods, demigods, and mortals.
It was perfect.
A sorceress queen from a faraway kingdom had caught wind of the Lunar Goddess’ actions. The queen, who harbored feelings of disgust towards mortals, believed the goddess was not worthy of her powers. To bring an end to the goddess’ rule and bring the zodiac kingdoms to their rightful place in the heavens, she concocted a scheme to seal the goddess’ powers.
The queen turned to the demons, dangling the goddess’ powers of the moon before them. She asked for nothing in exchange, knowing it’s futile to bargain with their kind. Once the plan was set, all she needed to do was lure the goddess out.
She fabricated a meeting with the goddess and the rulers of the zodiac kingdoms, in order to crush the goddess in front of her entire court.
A great battle was unleashed in the heavens, each strike echoing like thunder in the skies. While the zodiac rulers were powerful, they were greatly outnumbered. Even the goddess was at her limit. Forced to her knees and rooted to the ground, the goddess was at the queen’s mercy.
However, before the queen could seal the goddess’ powers, a hero of a valiant sword dashed between them and held the queen at the tip of her blade. What the goddess and zodiac rulers couldn’t, the hero was able to do with only a few strikes.
The queen soon became too weak to fight back and fell to her knees. She looked up to see the Lunar Goddess supported up by the hero. As punishment for her defiance, the queen had her powers sealed and was banished from the heavens, forced to roam the land of mortals for eternity.
But doing so proved to be a great risk to the goddess, the punishment draining the last of her powers, and thus, her lifeline. Though the zodiac kingdoms emerged victorious against the demons and the sorceress queen, they suffered the greatest loss.
To preserve the goddess’ wishes, the kingdoms gathered and formed a friendly alliance. After all she had done, they didn’t wish to see her work be for naught. They had no reason to become divided once more. For the next several millennia, the kingdoms worked to keep the future emperors and empresses from harm and to live until their natural end.
The kingdoms slowly split apart over time, however, to expand their eyes on the lands. Some remained in the heavens to keep other gods in check, and some established their kingdoms among the mortals. Such kingdoms even accepted mortals who wished to enlist as warriors for their court.
However, the rulers soon realized that humans were fickle. Their lands were divided, much like their own kingdom was once, and war was rampant. The zodiac kingdoms that descended to the land of mortals remained, feeling sympathy for the people who lived near their kingdom.
The descended zodiac kingdoms kept close ties with each other, despite the distance. Their alliance held strong, and if needed, they were willing to send their troops to the other for battle. They maintained this lifestyle even after countless emperors and empresses were born, all the while taking care of them.
Despite there being no harm to come to the sovereigns, the zodiac kingdoms had some qualms of the lack of activity from the demons. They were awfully quiet, perhaps too quiet. They couldn’t help but wonder… if they were planning something in the shadows.
Something much bigger than the death of their goddess.
A soft cry pierces a deafeningly silent room, a sound that causes shouts and cries of joy within. A midwife gently holds up a newborn baby with tears streaming down her face. “It’s a girl, ma’am!” The baby cries with vigor, a sign of a healthy infant.
The mother sighs lovingly at the sight of her daughter. “Oh… my little baby…” She relaxes against the pillow and watches the midwife bathe the newborn in a small tub of water. The baby has a bit of chestnut brown hair on her head, almost resembling the shape of an upside down teardrop.
A knock comes from the sliding door. “Mother, are you okay? May I come in?”
“Yes, dear. You can come in.”
A young boy about the age of 7 slides the door open meekly, peeking into the room, before opening it enough to slip inside. “A girl, I heard! A little sister!” he whispers excitedly. “Can I hold her yet?”
“Not yet, young master.” The midwife comes back with the baby nicely wrapped with a blanket. The baby is quiet now, sleeping. She hands her to the mother, who holds her ever so gingerly like a delicate flower. “A healthy daughter, my lady. She will surely live long.”
The baby moves in her sleep as if she recognizes her mother’s touch. The boy’s eyes seem to sparkle.
“So small,” he says as he puts his finger on the baby’s palm. She wraps her hand around it softly in reaction. “Was I like this as a baby too?”
“Oh, you were very much like her. Though, you had quite the grip for a newborn,” the midwife says with a chuckle. “You just wouldn’t let go of your father’s finger, no matter how hard he pulled.
The mother sees her son fidget in his seat impatiently. She smiles. “Would you like to hold her?” She places her into the boy’s arms, shifting his hands to support the baby properly. “There.”
The boy’s eyes grow wide with joy as he lightly bounces her. “She’s so tiny, mother,” he repeats. He looks up at his mother. “Can I take her out to the balcony? I want her to see the moonlight as one of her first experiences."
"Of course, dear, but make sure to be careful with her." She turns to the midwife and requests to watch over them.
The boy walks to another pair of sliding doors, one covered with translucent white paper. As the midwife opens the door, he sits down by the edge of the balcony. "See that big bright circle in the sky?" he asks her. "It's called the moon. It comes up every night to grace us with its light. And what's more, the moon is much bigger than usual today. You're truly blessed, little sister."
The mother smiles in joy to see her son so fond of his new sister already. But the smile fades when the boy suddenly gasps loudly and calls for her in slight panic. When the midwife and she exchange glances, the midwife walks over to the son and gasps as well.
"M, my lady…"
"Is something wrong? Did something happen to her?"
"My lady, she…" The midwife gently takes the baby from her to show the mother. The baby that once had chestnut brown hair had suddenly turned a silvery white, her skin just ever so slightly paler than before. Looking closer, a strange light emanates from her own body. "She has been blessed by the moon…"
The mother's eyes widen. When she's given her daughter, she caresses her daughter's skin and hair. It was genuine. The baby cooes sweetly, unaware of the tears that well up in her mother's eyes. To be blessed by the moon was the sign of a new sovereign, and her daughter was deemed fit to become the next Lunar Empress.
While this is considered a blessing to many, the mother weeps for her daughter and the long winding path ahead of her. She knows the rulers of the zodiac kingdoms will keep her safe, but she surely may face dangers during her time as empress.
And if she ever loses her way… where will her mother and brother be to give her the comfort and answers she needs?
It had only been a week since the baby’s birth, and a letter from the king had arrived a few days after.
Today is a grand day, for the ruler of this land himself is coming to visit the home of the new empress. The mother and son stay huddled at the center of their living room, anxiously waiting for the announcement of His Majesty’s arrival.
Just when they think the room can’t be any quieter, a voice softly announces from outside, “His Majesty of the Kingdom of Rooster, Azir, has arrived. He will be entering shortly.” The two deeply bow their heads, waiting for the sliding door to open.
“Pardon the intrusion,” a different voice calls as the door slides open to a headless body. “My, I never realized how tall I am in other mortals’ homes.” Legs bend lower to carefully squeeze his body through the door and sits before the mother and the son. “Please raise your heads. I am simply here to discuss matters with our new empress.”
As they raise their heads, they lay their eyes upon the ruler of their land, the ruler of the Kingdom of Rooster. He seems like a man with the head and feathers of a bird. But from what they usually see, he is dressed like a humble civilian today.
“Your Majesty, it is an honor to be graced with your presence,” the mother greets with another bow. The boy follows suit. “It is not much, but we have prepared some tea for your visit.” The son politely sets down a tray with a cup of tea and a plate of dumplings.
Azir’s eyes seem to squint as if he’s smiling and slightly bows his head. “No, it is I who is truly humbled by your generosity and hospitality. I understand this can be a difficult situation.” He raises his head and looks at the baby peacefully sleeping in the mother’s arms. “May I?” he asks.
“Of course, Your Majesty.” The mother raises the baby into Azir’s hands, and he cradles her carefully. The baby’s eyes flutter open, but she doesn’t cry at the sight of Azir. She stares in wonder at how different he looks from her human family. When he gently pokes her cheek, she grips his finger and tries to suck it.
Azir chuckles. “Even after all these millennia, I am still fascinated by how small the sovereigns are when they come into this world.”
“Your Majesty, how long will we have with her?” the boy suddenly asks.
“Hold your tongue! That is impolite,” the mother whispers in warning.
“You are worried, my dear boy,” Azir replies. “I understand this very well.” He gently rocks the baby as he continues to explain, “By tradition, we keep the child under the care of their birth family for 6 months. Usually by then, they can endure the travel to their respective kingdom. Considering she was born in the Year of Dog, she will be ascending to the heavens to be taken care of there.”
“Are, are we allowed to go with her?” the boy asks.
Azir closes his eyes and shakes his head. “I’m afraid not. Mortals cannot withstand the ascension into the heavens. It is too powerful for their vessels to endure. Even if they do, they end up crippled. I do not wish such a thing on her family.” He seems to hesitate. “Had it been a kingdom established in your lands, like mine, you would be warmly welcomed into our courts.”
The boy visibly deflates, disappointed he won’t be able to watch his little sister grow. “Oh… I see…”
“What is your name, my dear boy?”
“M-my name is Garen, sir, Your Majesty,” he answers.
“Garen,” he repeats. “What do you wish to be in your future?”
Garen doesn’t hesitate when he answers, “A warrior, Your Majesty. I have always wished to fight for the kingdom that has always treated me well all my life.” When he sees Azir’s eyes squint happily, he suddenly feels self-conscious of how proudly he answered his question.
“When you grow older and still wish to become a warrior, you can enlist in my court.” He sees Garen’s eyes widen and start fidgeting in joy. He chuckles again. “As the empress’ family, I humbly offer my court to be your new home. There is more than enough room, and I can ensure protection should anyone try to bring harm onto you.” He strokes the baby’s face gently with his finger. “And if there ever comes a time the young Empress is allowed to travel to my kingdom, I can arrange a proper meeting. After all, she may not have many memories of you by the time she’s taken.”
The mother’s eyes begin to overflow with tears. “Thank you. Thank you very much, Your Majesty. I am very much in your debt,” she weeps as she bows.
“I will send two of my warriors to escort you to my kingdom in three days. Will that be enough time to gather your bearings?”
“It’s more than enough, Your Majesty. Thank you very much for your generosity.”
Azir nods in satisfaction. “Excellent. I will look forward to your arrival.” He looks back at the baby, who had fallen asleep to Azir’s voice. He hums in curiosity. “What is her name? I don’t believe I’ve gotten it yet.”
Garen smiles at his little sister, the light of his family. “Luxanna. Her name is Luxanna.”
“Luxanna. A wonderful name.”