Consigned to Moonlight
by Shaoni C. White
Illustrated by Aurelijus Langvinis | Edited by Hal Y. Zhang
Copyedited by Chelle Parker
3070 words — Reading time: around 15 minutes
This story contains threats of torture.
[The Last Will and Testament of Onorei Foxcroft, submitted to and recognized by the Ministry of Records, Verdigris City, as of January 19.]
I, Onorei Foxcroft, Second Runewriter of Verdigris City, being of sound mind and skytouched body, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament. I do hereby revoke any and all wills and codicils made jointly or severally by me that may precede or contest this. I further declare that this last will and testament reflects my personal wishes, influenced by none but the moon above.
I surrender the executorship of this testament to the duly appointed representative of Verdigris City.
After payment of all personal debts, expenses, and liabilities, I request and direct that my property be bequeathed as follows:
To Sybald Marchpane, I give the attached diagram, trusting that the message conferred within will demonstrate the degree of my respect for his work.
[Archival note: The attached “diagram” is a detailed charcoal illustration of a hand with the middle finger extended. After cross-referencing with the Order of Runewriters’ biometric data, the depicted hand appears to be Ms. Foxcroft’s. The document has been declared evidence in the posthumous trial of Onorei Foxcroft and confiscated by the court.]
To Rilda Croze, I give the contents of the chest that may be found beneath the desk in my workroom, as well as my sincerest apology.
I give the remainder of my property, whether real property, personal property, or both, of whatever kind and wherever situated, to the Order of Runewriters and to Verdigris City.
Upon my death, I direct that my remains be consigned to moonlight.
In witness whereof, I hereby subscribe my name to this last will and testament as of the date set forth below. I do this within sight of the unbounded sky, which shall serve as the attesting witness, as is my right as a recognized Runewriter of Verdigris City.
[Excerpts from the personal journal of Rilda Croze, née Foxcroft. Shopkeeper. Aged 43 years. Sister of Onorei Foxcroft and only known kin.]
Got another letter from guess-fucking-who today. Not opening it.
I’m throwing it out. Not even going to store it with Onorei’s other letters. Should toss the whole lot of them, really. She wants to talk to me, she can quit her job first.
Didn’t end up throwing her letters out. Tried to. Couldn’t.
Don’t know why. I’d bet my ass it’s just the same shitty half-baked justifications she had lined up six years ago, dusted off in time for the new year. “Once I have a solid position in the Order I can influence it”…. Uh huh. Because she’s done so much of THAT. I mean, has she done fucking ANYTHING with the Order of Runewriters except make weapons and collect her paycheck?
I guess feeling bad about people profiting off the violent deaths of strangers gets less attractive when you start profiting off it too.
Got the paper delivered. Can’t believe I still order it, seeing as they just can’t get enough of our astounding, talented, game-changing, brand-new war-profiteer-in-chief Second Runewriter Onorei Foxcroft!!!!!! If The Verdigris Inquirer adds any more exclamation points after their headlines, they’re going to use up the City’s entire supply and then the guys in charge of wartime rationing will confiscate their printer.
(Pretty sure that’s how printing works. Ninety percent sure.)
It would be great if they stopped publishing, actually. I would LOVE to go about my business for a day, just ONE day, and not absorb any facts at all about Onorei and whatever morally bankrupt bullshit she’s up to lately.
I was in the store this morning and some lady walking by went, “Oh my goodness, you look JUST LIKE the Second Runewriter!” And then she whipped out an old copy of the Inquirer and waved it in front of my face, real close, I mean, she nearly dinged me in the nose. It was the special edition with the sketch of Onorei and her best buddy First Runewriter Marzipan or whatever his name is. I think the article was about the Order of Runewriters signing off on a shipment of distilled moonlight that was heading to the front lines. Didn’t read it too closely when it came out — honestly I don’t like thinking about distilled moonlight any more than I have to. Some real creepy shit, that is.
Anyways, this woman was standing there, all excited, waiting for me to say something. Didn’t know how to respond to that, so I just told her to buy something or get out.
Okay, so, actually, I DID know how to respond to that. Or at least I know how Onorei would’ve responded to that, back before she fucking sold out. I miss when we were kids and would take turns being snide about rude strangers in Dad’s store. No one is snide like Onorei is snide. No one else has the style. You’ve got to be funny, not just mean, and you’ve got to know when to stop. I’m no good at knowing when to stop.
Sometimes I think that sooner or later she’ll have a wakeup call and tell the Order and the military to go fuck themselves, and then she’ll come home and everything will be fine again. And then I check my temperature, because obviously I’ve gone delusional with fever.
[Archival note: A number of pages at the back of Rilda Croze’s journal have been torn out. Croze appears to have disposed of the pages bearing her most recent entries via her fireplace (see investigative report, page 9). The burnt entries were mostly unrecoverable, but the following excerpts have been retrieved.]
getting me involved in this, what if
doesn’t work, what if he figures it out? Ever think of that, Onorei, you moron? Or did you
wasn’t even READING your letters, you gigantic idiot, what if I read the news and still never bothered to open them? What if I sold you out? I could run to Marchpane with this right now and you’d still be dead and none of it would even have mattered, you
fuck you fuck you FUCK YOU why couldn’t you have tried something else YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO DIE
[Article in The Verdigris Inquirer, dated February 7.]
EXCLUSIVE!!!! Shocking BETRAYAL Behind Attack on Runewriter Headquarters REVEALED!!
The Inquirer has obtained evidence that the attack on the Order headquarters was not a product of enemy action, but an INSIDE JOB!
An Order official anonymously provided this reporter with data extracted from surveillance runes active on the night of the attack. The Inquirer’s investigation revealed that a high-ranking member of the Order DELIBERATELY exposed a series of runes to distilled moonlight.
That high-ranking Order member? None other than Second Runewriter Onorei Foxcroft, who was CAUGHT IN THE ACT by another Runewriter, who VALIANTLY SLEW Foxcroft in single combat.
As has been reported EXCLUSIVELY in the Inquirer, a number of runes that serve as key components of the infrastructure that allows the City’s runic weaponry to function were DESTROYED in the attack. In response to their destruction, the City military has directed several contingents to retreat. For more news from the front lines, see page 5.
The Order of Runewriters has not yet released an official statement on the matter of Foxcroft’s BETRAYAL. However, this reporter directly interviewed First Runewriter Marchpane, who stated, “Who are you? How did you get my address?”
When asked what the Order is doing to prevent more individuals like Foxcroft from infiltrating their ranks, he went on to say, “If you don’t remove yourself from my sight in the next 120 seconds, I’ll summon the authorities.”
[Transcript of interview with Rilda Croze, née Foxcroft. Interviewer: Sybald Marchpane. Aged 52 years. Profession: First Runewriter of Verdigris City. Dated February 10. Recorded automatically via transcription runes installed in interrogation chamber. Extracted from runes and entered into evidence on February 23 as a substitute for the testimony of Sybald Marchpane, who will not be available as a witness during the posthumous trial of Onorei Foxcroft.]
MARCHPANE: I’m ever so sorry to keep you waiting, Mrs. Croze. May I get you anything? Tea?
MARCHPANE: If you insist. Well, first of all, please allow me to offer my condolences on the—
MARCHPANE: Excuse me?
CROZE: No. No way. I’m not listening to “condolences” about my sister from the guy who killed her.
MARCHPANE: Mrs. Croze, whatever gave you the idea that I killed your sister?
CROZE: It’s front page news.
MARCHPANE: Please tell me where you read this rumor. I would like to speak to whichever journalist has been spreading it so carelessly.
CROZE: They don’t say it was you. I just know you’re the only one with the firepower to take her down. So will you cut the bullshit already? Get to the point.
MARCHPANE: Very well. What did you intend to do with it?
MARCHPANE: The distilled moonlight Onorei stole from me for her little stunt. She only used eighty percent of it at most. What did she tell you to do with it?
CROZE: Buddy, do I look like a Runewriter to you? What would I be doing with your shitty sky juice?
MARCHPANE: There’s no need for these tiresome denials. I already know everything.
CROZE: Must be nice, ‘cause I sure as hell don’t.
MARCHPANE: The investigative team went through your home.
CROZE: Great. Then you know I’ve got exactly zero moonlight.
MARCHPANE: Oh, I’m well aware that you don’t currently possess any. But the investigative team found your journal. I know Onorei was corresponding with you. So: What did she ask you to do with the remainder of the distilled moonlight?
CROZE: She didn’t ask me to do anything. We weren’t on speaking terms.
MARCHPANE: Mrs. Croze, are you aware that concealing evidence of treasonous activities is a crime punishable by up to fifty years of imprisonment within continuous sight of the sky?
CROZE: Good thing I’m not concealing anything, then.
MARCHPANE: Treason itself merits a sentence of a minimum of fifty years of imprisonment within continuous sight of the sky.
CROZE: Is the rest of this just gonna be you listing off things that aren’t relevant, or…?
MARCHPANE: I understand the pull of loyalty — Onorei could be so charismatic when she wanted to be! — but staying loyal now will not bring her back to life. Nor will it rescue her plans. She has already failed. Yes, she damaged a large swathe of Verdigris City’s military runic infrastructure, but that infrastructure will eventually be rebuilt. Keeping her secrets is—
CROZE: But you can’t remake anything erased by moonlight.
MARCHPANE: It’s true that we cannot simply replace what she destroyed with an identical copy. But nothing is stopping us from reinventing new ways to implement what we’ve had in the past, and hardly a challenge at all, not when she was only able to deactivate the runes that she personally controlled. The heart of the infrastructure is linked to me, and — despite her best efforts — I am still alive.
MARCHPANE: Onorei will be tried posthumously for treason. It would be an awful shame to see you tried alongside her. Just tell me this one thing — one simple thing — and I’ll ensure the courts forget this conversation ever happened.
CROZE: I keep telling you: She didn’t tell me shit.
MARCHPANE: She sent you letters.
CROZE: Which I never opened.
MARCHPANE: Very well. Let’s say I choose to believe you. Where are they, then? What did you do with Onorei’s letters?
CROZE: Burned ‘em.
MARCHPANE: You burned them.
MARCHPANE: And why did you do that?
CROZE: They, uh. They made me sad.
MARCHPANE: So it had nothing to do with obscuring evidence of a crime.
CROZE: Nope. Nothing to do with that.
MARCHPANE: Mrs. Croze, I’m not sure you understand the severity of your situation. We know exactly where the rest of the stolen moonlight is. We know exactly how Onorei planned to deliver it to you. The only thing we’re unsure of is what she wanted you, an ordinary citizen without the ability to manipulate runes, to do with it. But we don’t need to know that to convict you. Your refusal to cooperate will not give you an escape route. I am—
CROZE: You know where the moonlight is?
MARCHPANE: Of course.
CROZE: How— How do you know where it is?
MARCHPANE: Do you recognize this document?
MARCHPANE: Must I repeat my question? I am a busy man, Mrs. Croze, and I am starting to become impatient. Answer me, or I will make you.
CROZE: There’s no rune that can make someone tell the truth. Everyone knows that.
MARCHPANE: And yet there are so very many that can cause pain.
MARCHPANE: Do you recognize this document, Mrs. Croze?
CROZE: I mean, I know it’s Onorei’s will. I can read. But I’ve never seen it before, if that’s what you’re asking. Well, unless you count the drawing. I’d say I’m pretty familiar with Onorei’s middle finger.
MARCHPANE: Were you aware that she intended to leave the chest in her workroom to you?
CROZE: No. I had no idea she’d left me anything.
MARCHPANE: Technically, she did not. This will is not valid.
MARCHPANE: She wrote, “I do this within sight of the unbounded sky, which shall serve as the attesting witness, as is my right as a recognized Runewriter of Verdigris City.” But she forfeited the privileges of a Runewriter when she betrayed us. Her witness is therefore not legally valid, and neither is her will.
CROZE: Bullshit. That’s bullshit.
MARCHPANE: Yes, you’ve said. It is, however, legal bullshit. Instead, her property will default to the possession of the Order. It’s really rather sad; I thought Onorei would’ve been smarter than this.
CROZE: Fuck you.
MARCHPANE: I suppose I should give her more credit; she did put a few precautions in place. The chest in her workroom that she intended to leave to you bears a runic lock. It won’t open to anyone’s touch except yours.
CROZE: So that’s why you brought me here. You need me to get it open.
MARCHPANE: Oh, I didn’t bring you here for that. I brought you here to tell me why Onorei would attempt such a strange maneuver. But no matter; I see you are in no mood for civil conversation. I’ll be leaving now. Good luck at your trial.
CROZE: You want your distilled moonlight back, don’t you? I haven’t agreed to open the chest. We could make a deal. I could—
MARCHPANE: What a sense of humor you have! I’m afraid you’ve exhausted my patience already. There will be no deals. I will return to collect you tomorrow, and you will either unlock it willingly, or I will cut off your hands and press them to the lock until it opens. The choice is entirely yours.
[Excerpt from the professional log of Sybald Marchpane, dated February 11. Recorded automatically via personal transcription rune. Extracted from runes and entered into evidence on February 23 as a supplement to the previous interview transcript.]
This is Marchpane speaking. I am in Ms. Foxcroft’s workroom, alongside Rilda Croze, who is in temporary custody for the duration of the investigation. I will be recording my actions here for documentation purposes.
Ms. Foxcroft’s workroom appears just as I left it yesterday morning at 7 a.m. The surveillance runes on the doors and windows indicate no disturbance. I am now taking the locked chest and placing it on Ms. Foxcroft’s desk. The runic lock is unchanged.
I am now directing Mrs. Croze toward the desk.
Now, Mrs. Croze.
No, my “recording thingy” will not register your complaint; it is keyed to my voice alone. Please approach the desk or I will be forced to log this as willful obstruction, which, as I’m sure you know, is an offense punishable by—
Good. Good. I’m glad we can cooperate in this matter. Place your hand on top of the chest, please. Yes, like that. Good.
The rune is shifting into an unlocked form. Open the lid, Mrs. Croze.
Slowly. Do it slowly.
Excellent. Now back away. Further back than that.
I’m unable to see anything inside the chest from my current position. I am deactivating my protective runes for the sake of visibility and am now approaching the desk.
There is something drawn on the inside of the lid. It appears to be a rune of some kind, but not one I’ve encountered before. It’s drawn with a silvery-white substance…. Moonlight? Yes, distilled moonlight. But what…. Curious. It has the structure of an offense-based rune, but if it were such a rune, it should have activated when Ms. Croze opened the chest. Unless…. Hmm. There are markings on the outer edge that I suspect place a trigger condition on the rune — a certain circumstance under which activation will occur. A particular time or location, perhaps? …No, the base structure doesn’t match. Is the trigger condition the presence of a particular individual, then? But who—
[Statement of Rilda Croze, née Foxcroft, on the death of Sybald Marchpane. Dated February 12. Recorded automatically via transcription rune. Extracted from runes and entered into evidence on February 23.]
Listen, how was I supposed to know what the rune was going to do? I’m not a Runewriter. It’s all just glowy squiggles to me. I was just doing what he told me to do. He said, “Open the box.” I did. He said, “Back away.” I did. He got closer, the rune got brighter, and next thing I knew, he was dissolving into light.
And that’s it. He’s gone and so is all that runic infrastructure he was talking about. Consigned to moonlight, just like they do to the bodies of all the dead Runewriters. Bet the Order’ll have fun trying to fix that.
Ha — you know what he said earlier? “I thought Onorei would’ve been smarter than this.” Well, guess what, buddy….
Damn, if only she were alive to see the look on his face. I hope she’s laughing. Wherever she is, I hope she’s laughing.