When blood sun sets,
And full moon rises,
Look east to the weeping maiden.
When nightingale sings,
And nighthawk cries,
Look west as the lost sun rises.
Two figures disturbed the evening stillness of the valley. They moved through the brittle grass and bare trees, grabbing for handholds to climb the slope, and a sweet voice drifted on the wind.
“Stop the infernal humming,” the boy said, yanking his shirt away from a thorn bush.
Ahead of him, the girl reached the top of the slope. Beyond lay rolling hills, muted gray in the dimming light.
“Look,” she said, pointing. “The weeping maiden.”
A thin tree stood alone, a veil of curling leaves brushing the grass. In the dying light, it seemed a weeping woman, head bent, and the wind stirring her hair. The first sliver of a white moon lifted above the horizon, and behind them, the red disk of the sun cast a glow over the forest.
A bird burst out of the underbrush, calling, before circling and flying toward the distant mountains.
“Now what?” the boy asked, panting.
“Now we wait.”
They sat with their backs to the valley, watching the colors dance on the clouds.
“How will we see the star if the sun is in the way?” the boy asked, and the girl grinned.
“Gran says it’s not at a star. Gran says it’s an evil spirit.”
The moon glistened, spinning silver mists over the grass, and the girl turned to watch it, the light glowing on her upturned face.
“What kind of evil spirit?” the boy asked.
“The bad kind, I suppose.” She leaned her head back against his neck. “Why? Are you frightened?”
He snorted. “It’s only an ancient song. All that’s going to happen is we’ll get wet from this dew.”
The golden edge of the sun touched the horizon like a brand, scattering red sparks over the forest.
“Nita,” the boy whispered, but the girl sat, eyes wide and unblinking, staring at the cold moon. Her lips moved with silent song.
The boy struggled to his knees. The red light ran over his skin and clothing, dripping into the grass. He tried uselessly to wipe it away. The sun flared, spears of light piercing him; he screamed a long, wavering cry.
The girl leapt to her feet, her face pale with silver light. “Astor?”
But she didn’t turn. Her arms hung at her sides though she struggled. “Let me go, Astor. You’re hurting me! Let me go!”
Behind her, empty grass whispered. The sun sank below the horizon, leaving a red glow like embers on the dark clouds. The girl stood frozen, bound by the moon’s silver chains. She hid her face and wept.
Somewhere in the growing twilight, a nightingale sang.