Occultation of the Bright Aspects
by Stephen Case
I saw the room where the computers were burned. They were all from the village, mostly
women. The chamber had not been cleaned, and there were bones among the ashes and scraps of
parchment. Whatever they had been calculating, none would pass on the knowledge to others.
The sisters wanted me to see. They wanted to see my reaction, to test the effectiveness of
my training. I did not care. Let them see my tears. I had known these women. My training was not
written on my face anyway. It lived in my arms.
"Do you know what they computed?" I was asked.
I wiped my cheeks but kept my voice even. "Celestial positions. The dance of planets and
"And do you know what they found?"
I turned to face them. My sisters' thick dark robes were dyed illegal shades of blue and
purple and matched my own. "They found whatever it was Mother was seeking," I said. "She will
tell me what I need to know."
This satisfied them, and they led me away from the stench of burning to the council
chamber and left me at the doorway. I waited there in silence, turning over the names of the
Bright Aspects in my mind for calm and focus, until Mother bid me enter.
There were three others with her in the circular stone chamber. I recognized the two men.
The one in cobalt furs with red silk at his wrists was Leto, the guild master of the clothiers and
dyers and the reason our sisters had robes of forbidden hues. The one beside him with long hair
and pierced nose was Cardamom, guild master of the minstrels and instrument makers. The
woman who sat opposite them I did not know.
"Daughter," Mother said, inclining her head a degree. "You are ready."
They were words for which I had been waiting half my life. I had trained among the
Daughters of the Joyous Name for nine winters. Her words, and what the sisters had shown me,
meant I would be given my vocation this night.
"We are also ready," the unknown woman said.
Mother gestured and another figure stepped from the shadows. It was one of the
astronomers, his black face creased with age and his eyes wide. "Tell her what the computations
revealed," Mother ordered. "You alone hold the knowledge now."
"An occultation," the scholar began slowly, "is when the moon moves in front of one of
the Bright Aspects, hiding its light and sheltering us from its influence."
I waited. This was common knowledge.
"We have long anticipated a Grand Occultation," the astronomer went on, his voice
trembling. "A series of occultations, in which one Aspect after another is blocked in sequence,
month after month, as the moon passes." He swallowed. "We knew it was possible, but the path
of the moon is fickle. Each year's measurements improved our forecasts."
Mother cleared her throat softly.
"This fortnight we obtained certainty," the astronomer concluded. "It is coming. It will
begin in a single month's time, and then over a series of the four months following the moon will
block five of the nine great Aspects in sequence."
I considered this. The Aspects bathed the world in their influence and sustained everything
from the cheap glamours of street magicians to the defenses of the witch-held kingdoms to the
east. Their light was the fabric of magic itself.
"Which Aspects?" I asked. "How long is each occultation?"
The astronomer laid a folded parchment on the table with trembling hand. "Only the
computers knew. I have not looked upon their calculations."
"Do so now," Mother ordered. She turned to me. "Commit this to memory. After it is
read in our hearing it will be destroyed."