This chapter-by-chapter summary is for people who are joining us mid-story or who’ve just lost track. (This story was originally named Sisters.)
Chapter 1 introduces D’ara, high priestess of Dal, the dominant of the three moon goddesses. It is Dal’s festival night and D’ara and the other priestesses of Dal spend the night in an exhausting ritual atop Dal’s tower.
D’ara’s daughter Elish, next in line to be high priestess, would rather spend her days playing with a boy from the clan of Sav, infuriating her mother. But on Dal’s festival night Elish’s curiosity overcomes her and she sneaks in to observe. The ritual does not go well, Elish is discovered, and D’ara blames her for angering Dal. D’ara beats Elish and threatens to kill her; the other priestesses separate the two. As the night ends, the priestesses notice a new goddess in the night sky.
It’s been a ten-day since Dal’s night. Sav’s fields were soaked but not destroyed, and Rufi’s family has been working to prepare them for planting. Rufi is worried about his friend Elish, and doesn’t know which rumors of her fate to believe.
Elish is being hidden in the home of Ala, one of the priestesses who rescued her that night, and her husband Garon. The consequences will be severe if D’ara learns what they’ve done, and the “evidence” they’d set up of Elish’s escape and death hadn’t convinced D’ara. Everybody’s trying to be careful, but they do have young children.
The warlord of Mel seeks out the warlord of Sav. They agree that Dal has been too powerful for too long, and the time is right for a new order in the land.
As Sav’s night approaches, Ala seeks out Rufi’s family. Eril, Rufi’s mother, distrusts anybody from Dal but agrees to hear her out and, in the end, agrees to take Elish and send her to kin on another isle. If anything goes wrong, though, she says, Ala will be the one to take the fall.
The council of Sav is arguing about what the new signs in the sky mean. Some feel that the ancient prophecy is coming true and Sav will dominate Dal; others say that the newcomer is responsible for Dal’s troubles and they wonder how said newcomer feels about Sav. The high priestess wearies of the philosophical argument with no concrete outcome.
A pack of Dal children are playing in the square and trading rumors about what happened on Dal’s night. When somebody says Elish was dead Ina, Ala’s youngest, says “no, that’s not true”, and then realizes she’d said too much. Someone else says she’d defected to Mel, causing a burst of laughter, and it seems Ina’s slip might be forgotten. The warlord of Sav quietly observes the whole exchange.
D’ara and fellow priestess Efa are discussing the newcomer as the wind howls and thunder claps on Sav’s night. Efa doesn’t think the newcomer is responsible for their troubles, saying she is too small and has unpredictable movements. Efa also shares something she heard from her son Koro, who was playing in the square earlier — that Ala’s youngest might know something about Elish. D’ara is ready to put an obvious traitor on public trial, but Efa persuades her to investigate quietly.
In the midst of the storm Ala takes Elish to Eril. Eril’s husband says they cannot sail tonight in this storm; it will have to be tomorrow. Elish settles into a pile of blankets silently.
In the morning, Ina is bored and goes in search of other kids to play with. She meets an old woman and helps her clear a tree branch from her roof, though she suspects she shouldn’t because it’s not a Dal house. The woman invites her inside for fresh bread, fruit, and lots of sweet-drink. The woman steers the conversation to Elish and learns from Ina that Elish is alive, in hiding, and possibly now off the island. After Ina leaves, the warlord of Sav steps into the room and thanks his mother for her help.
Acting on a tip from Efa, D’ara interrogates Ala about Elish’s fate. Ala sticks to her story, not knowing that while they speak the warlord of Dal is raiding her house, beating up her husband Garon, and frightening her children.
Eril, who has been hiding Elish since last night, tells her son Rufi that she needs him to make a delivery to their kin on the far isle —leaving tonight. He objects, pointing out that this is a dangerous time to sail near Fire Isle, especially once he learns that he is to do it alone. His mother insists that it is necessary and he consents, only finding out what (who) his cargo is after reaching the next isle in the chain and taking cover.
The warlord of Sav consults the priestess of Sav. He has observed the discord within Dal, at least between D’ara and Ala, and suggests they use that. The priestess again refers to the prophecy that Dal will be weakened from within, and wonders whether the runaway priestess-heir is the key to that. She agrees to the warlord’s suggestion to send out searchers and suggests that Ala could become their ally in time, if she’s turned from D’ara. The warlord of Sav meets with the warlord of Mel and tells him to sow discord — something he suspects he’s good at — in Dal.
Rufi and Elish make their way from isle to isle. To stay out of Dal’s sight they sail only when Dal is not in the sky, so most of their sailing is at night. They catch glimpses of distant sails, wondering who else would be out at such hours. At one point pursuers reach the isle where they are currently hiding, but the arrogance of the men prompts the scout they met to deny that any boats have been there.
A few days later the children are playing in the square again. Ina is not with them, which prompts them to share rumors about the priestesses and more. When a boy reports the attack on Ala’s house the consensus is that D’ara has gone nuts, but when someone says that D’ara has gone after Rufi, Koro is shocked. “She’s going after Sav?!”
As they prepare to sail that night, Elish and Rufi notice that the newcomer has not moved since morning. They wonder about this, but set to work preparing for their most dangerous night of sailing — past Fire Isle. As they draw near to the isle belching smoke and lava, they decide they cannot keep hugging the shores as they skip from isle to isle and set out across open sea, racing a storm. The wind picks up as they try to steer and their mast cracks, knocking them both out. They awaken after dawn, nothing but water all around them, and look up at Dal.
Dal is again full, and during the ritual Efa finds her thoughts turning to her concerns about D’ara. Elsewhere, Eril complains skyward that Dal took her son, Rufi, from her.
Ala has been excluded from Dal’s circle this night. She and her husband Garon discuss their worsening situation. Ala begins to question her dedication to Dal. Meanwhile, the priestess of Sav, having learned that Ala is being pushed out from the circle of Dal priestesses, instructs her warlord to lure Ala to them soon — it has become urgent, she says.
A glum mood overhangs the Dal children playing the next day. One says Dal is weakening, and another asks if they are safe from Sav. Koro, Efa’s son, replies that they’re safe from Sav, but he wonders about the leaders of Dal.
The warlords of Sav and Mel have not found Elish and give up the search. The warlord of Sav instructs the warlord of Mel to continue stirring the pot — his specialty.
Ala’s family continues to be pushed out of Dal when the warlord of Mel works behind the scenes to deny them access to communal resources. Ala and Garon discuss the situation and learn from their daughter Ina about the “nice old lady” who might help them. Ala pays a visit to the elder woman, Usaygo of the clan of Sav, and asks for protection.
D’ara is still stewing about Ala’s treachery. The priestess Efa pushes her to forget about Ala and Elish and focus on what Dal needs. D’ara snaps at her friend — what does she know about what Dal needs? D’ara admits that nothing makes sense any more and she doesn’t know if the newcomer is to blame.
Elish wakes up in a place of strange smells and sounds and harsh white lights.
Elish is visited by a strange man, a doctor, who treats her dehydration with equipment foreign to her. They cannot understand each other. After the doctor leaves, Elish explores her surroundings, wondering where Rufi is. She reflects on their time adrift, conserving food and water until there was no more, and wondering how many days have passed since then.
Dr. Richardson overhears the ship’s captain talking by radio with another ship. Captain MacPherson had assumed that Elish, Rufi, and their boat were part of the wargame currently in progress — spies sent by the other team. When he learns that the other captain knows nothing about them either, MacPherson concludes that his impending retirement might be delayed.
Usaygo, of the clan of Sav, welcomes Ala and her family into her home and under her protection. She questions Ala about why she’s been cast out of Dal, and Ala says that she helped Elish escape D’ara but doesn’t know where the girl is now. Usaygo says Sav could protect her if they knew what had happened to her, and is Ala sure she has no further information?
The warlords of Sav and Mel watch Mel chase Dal across the night sky. “Your goddess grows stronger,” the warlord of Sav says, and the warlord of Mel agrees that they have been blessed in gaining Ala’s trust. They talk about using Ala to find Elish, and the warlord of Sav gazes at the newcomer and speculates about other ways to use Ala.
Usaygo and the warlord of Sav discuss finding Elish. They know Ala helped her escape the island, and Usaygo suggests a new path to investigate.
On board the ship, Elish and Rufi try to make sense of their surroundings. The doctor brings them up onto the deck at nightfall, where the captain hopes they can use the stars to provide some hint about where they came from. Communication remains challenging.
The group of Dal children who play together is getting smaller and smaller, as more families grow concerned about safety. The group asks Koro, whose mother Efa is a priestess, what he knows; all he knows is that his mother is worried about Dal, both the goddess and the clan.
Usaygo approaches S’ilu, high priestess of Sav, with an idea to use Ala against Dal. S’ilu says she is considering it only because it comes from Usaygo.
On Sav’s night, S’ilu prepares to ask her goddess about the newcomer. On Usaygo’s advice, she pulls only lightly from the ritual pipe before the ritual so she can keep her head clear. In the morning she announces that the newcomer is a new goddess, named Kir, from Dal and rejected by Dal.
Koro and his mother Efa discuss the situation in Dal. People are worried, Koro says, and he asks Efa if D’ara is fit to lead. No, Efa says, and silently resolves to act.
The ship carrying Elish and Rufi is approaching its home base. The men on board discuss finding someone to care for them. Meanwhile, the warlord of Sav persuades Eril to tell him where she sent her son Rufi with Elish, suggesting that Sav can bring them back.
Chapter 12: this is the current chapter.
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