When we were children, roaming the beaches of Haven’s shore, my sister and I chased after moon crabs. Other mer call them mud crabs, for they burrow under the mud, when attacked, and pop up unexpectedly behind you to attack back.
But to us, they were round as the twin moons Jone and Jode, and their eggs shone bright in the silver light.
The crabs left twisting trails along the beach, and we invented games following them, watching to see what we might uncover. I found a pearl, once, in a leather pouch washed up in the sand. Twig found a necklace. Our mother praised us. “We will never eat crab legs, my sprigs,” she said, “not after your friends of the beach have brought such treasures!”
Living in Haven, with Khajiit traders and Saxhleel refugees, I didn’t realize what a departure from custom these words represented. My mother’s mother would have feared that Y’ffre would curse us back to Ooze to hear we’d roast fern frond rather than flesh.
We grew up between culture, Twig and I. How is it that the seeds of a person’s life are sown before, even, the events that define that life?
On my last night with Twig, before she was taken, we looked out the window of the stable loft at the sky, lit up with twin moons.
“Look,” I said to Twig. “There we are.”
“We’re the moons?”
“Which one am I? The little one?”
“No,” I replied. “You’re the one in front.”
“Because I am always following you.”
She was gone the next day, when I returned from scavenging.
I cursed the Saxhleel who took her. The Khajiit told me that they took her to be a slave.
“Now they have their freedom,” he said, “they take the babes of others, for slaves of their own.”
The Saxhleel I knew, refugees who’d escaped to Haven, would never do that. But the Khajiit twisted each of my protestations.
“They are free now,” he said, “and justice has demands. Little ones like your sister pay the exchange.”
The Khajiit merchant offered me to stay. I could work in his stall, deliver and trade, help his wife with what she needed doing, caring for cubs and hunting forests.
I left, though I had only just stepped out of childhood. My sister, still a child, was out there, in the galley, perhaps, of a ship sailing to Auridon or Shimmerine, Davon’s Watch or Vivec City. Or maybe she climbed the mast and looked out over the sea, up to the sky, watching the two moons, knowing that I would follow her, wondering when I would come.
Only the moons kept me going, some nights, when the bare land stretched around me, and I walked, alone, down the trails scratched into the red earth.
I gazed at Jode, the big moon at the fore. Sometimes, I saw my sister before me, grown into a hardened look on her soft face.
She stood always before me, an illusion in the moonlight, and after her, I chased.