Basal 25th, 1030

Light scattered across the library floor, dust motes suspended in the rainbow rays. The musky smell of old paper mixed with the sweet smell of the vanilla scented candle burning atop the receptionist desk was a comforting one. A silence stretched across the building, punctuated only by the creaky wheels of the book cart, and for a wonderfully tranquil moment, it was as if Juniper was the only person in the world. Or at the very least, he should have been the only person in the Primrose Meadow Library today.

The pitter-patter of little feet running on carpet ruined the moment. Juniper huffed, turning to see his younger sister, Clover, running at him full speed. Her face and hands were covered in blue and gold paints, still gleaming in that tell-tale way that meant they were still too sticky to be touching anything-especially books. Not that she had much interest in them yet, like he did.

"The library is closed. You're not supposed to be in here, Clover." As if that had ever stopped her before. He had expected getting a part time job would give him time away from his sister and their mother, but Clover just dropped by all times of the day to bother him anyway. Worse, the librarian, Ms. Rowan, encouraged her.

"Neither are you! Mom said you had to take me to the festival! Why're you at work?"

"Unity Fest lasts all week," he said. Juniper didn't even want to go to the festival in the first place. Why should he have to let Clover drag him around it? It was loud and bright and crowded- no, he would rather be somewhere less chaotic. He could just as well celebrate in his own way: peacefully, with a history book.

"Yeah, but the Eve of Unity is only one day! The books aren't going anywhere. C'mon, I want to see the Quasar announced with you, Juni," she whined, trying to grab his arm. He yanked it out of her reach before she smeared paint on his sleeve. Cautiously, he scooted the book cart between her and himself before adjusting his glasses.

"They only get selected sometime before midnight. We probably won't know who they are until tomorrow or later this week, you know," Juniper explained. She would have known as much if she paid attention in class instead of doodling; this particular Unity Fest was a once in a lifetime celebration. Quasars were only chosen once every hundred years, though Unity Fest was celebrated yearly. On the back of her hand was a crudely painted Cachet, mimicking the one that would appear on one Quasar in Fern Helion, and another in Lacus Mare.

"Well, we might know, if they're from Primrose Meadow! If it was someone in town they'd tell us, and then we could be the very first to know," she argued.

"I can't imagine the Sol God would favor anyone from here." Juniper hadn't meant for Clover to hear that, muttering it under his breath. But her brown cheeks flushed, and she crossed her arms across her blue dress.

"I like Primrose Meadow."

She would say that; it was the only town she'd ever been in. He still remembered when she was a baby, when their father was alive. He'd take Juniper on trips with him to the castle, and each time he got Juniper a new book and some shiny trinket, like ancient coins they used in the dark era, or pretty necklaces made of silver. The last time they had gone together his father had barely been able to walk, but he'd still bought Juniper a small pocket knife with a star engraved on the side and wrapped it despite the shake in his hands. His mother had scolded his father, telling him a knife was a poor gift for an eleven year old. It was the last gift he had received from him. His father passed away three weeks later.

He swallowed both the memory and the lump in his throat.

"Primrose Meadows is...quaint. You'd understand if you went to the capital. It's much nicer there. The castle library is so big that it takes a full hour to walk; it's got three floors!"

Clover stared at the floor, uncharacteristically quiet for a moment. Juniper sighed, pushing the cart aside and kneeling down to her level.


"You're gonna leave when you become an adult and live there," Clover mumbled. There was no point in denying it; he was interning at the local library now to get experience before he applied to the castle's library when he turned nineteen in four years.

"Yeah, that's the plan. I can still come back and visit. And hey, when you get old enough, you can live wherever you want and visit me at any time."

"I can? Anytime?" Her big brown eyes sparkled with hope, and he felt a little guilty for avoiding her so much lately. She could be clingy, but she was a kid, and his sister.

"Yes, of course. Now...why don't you go have fun at the festival? I know your little friends would love to be playing with you right now-"

"But I wanted to go with you. Mom says it's not good for you to stay cooped up all alone all day."

Juniper's stomach churned at the thought of the crowd outside. The walls muffled the commotion, but he had been through town earlier and it had already been busy while the booths were being set up. Now that everything was in full swing, there would be no reprieve once he left the safe haven of the library. And once the sun set, those precious four hours of dark would be filled with explosive fireworks. He felt like his heart would leap out of his throat just thinking about it. It was far too loud, and what if a stray one started a fire, or crashed onto their home, or-

Clover reached out and grabbed his hand in her little one, beaming a smile up at him.

"It'll be fun! Please?"

"Alright, alright...let me put out the candle and grab my bag, I'll meet you outside," he said.

Clover jumped up and down, whooping and pumping her fist in the air.

"Okay, don't take too long!" she yelled, taking off for the door.

"Don't run in the library!" he called after her.

Juniper sighed, heading to the front desk. The vanilla candle was infused with diluted violet Thauma to enhance the air for a studious atmosphere. He unlocked Ms. Rowan's desk drawer and pulled out his work Wonderworking Wand, waving it over the candle to extinguish the Thauma. He had only gotten his license to work with violet Thauma a few weeks ago; otherwise he would have had to bother her to do something mundane as extinguish the infused candle. It was fortunate that violet had been his natural choice, despite the fact that his mother had been gunning for him to use amber, like she did. But he'd never had any interest in being a healer, or a tailor who worked with both violet and gold like his late father.

Juniper stared down at the violet liquid pooling in the glass jar, plumes of translucent purple mist rising, before he tightened the lid and locked it with a click. He put the Wonderworking Wand back in his belt holster and locked the drawer too.

Ms. Rowan had some gold Thauma in there, too, and it would have been bad if some unlicensed person got that. She let him get into that drawer, of course, as her trusted intern. She knew he'd never had an inclination to use gold anyway. He did have blurry, distant memories of his father using it to help him make clothes and dye his hair from gray to black again.

His father's Wonderworking Wand was still on the mantle. Still pristine, still waiting to be used. There were perhaps even a few small bottles of gold Thauma in his old office, still not turned into the Thaumaturgers like they should've been; he couldn't blame his mother for not immediately rushing to rid the house of any trace of her husband's presence.

He had given Juniper his blessing to inherit his Wonderworking Wand when he passed. Juniper had never worked up the nerve, and after passing his Thauma exam, he went out and got his own brand new one.

Juniper snapped himself out of taking another waltz down memory lane. It had been four years- he was fifteen, too old to be still so emotional over this. Clover was waiting on him. He took a deep breath. He silently repeated a manta of reassurances to himself, squeezing his eyes shut and giving himself forty full seconds before he stepped out into the warm dappled sunlight.

There was a row of booths on either side of the street, and paper lanterns decorated in suns and moons suspended from the row of pergolas ahead. The pink stoned path was painted with street murals of both the Sol and Lunar God's symbols by the town's most talented artists.

Juniper saw the booth that did Clover's face and hand paints to his left. To his right, their mother was at a booth with their aunt serving fruit bouquets with the pieces cut into star shapes. The women both waved, and Juniper offered a tense smile back. Clover was tugging him so quickly down the street that he only caught glimpses of the other booths: one with sparkling glass-blown figurines, one with books- oh, how he wanted to look closer at that one- one offering hats to protect from the sun, one with a Wonderworker throwing up water and using gold Thauma to turn it into ice before their eyes to make ice treats all passed dizzily. Clover shot clear past them all, and weaved around people much quicker than Juniper could at his height. For a brief moment, he worried he would lose her as he awkwardly stumbled around people, muttering apologies.

He had to stop and take a few deep breaths when they finally stopped; his face felt hot and his lungs burned. He couldn't understand how she seemed to have boundless energy. Even when he had been her age, he was never that hyper! They were in front of the forest that bordered the road up to Coral Point further north. Everyone in town was congested at the town square where the festival was happening. It was blissfully quiet here.

"Why are we out here? I-I thought you wanted to go have fun at the festival," he panted. Clover nodded, pulling out parchment and a pen from her own bag.

"I did, but I had something I wanted to do first. 'Cause the real fun doesn't start until dark anyway. I thought we could write letters to Fern Helion's Quasar," she explained. She was already settling into the grass that was still damp from yesterday's rain. She didn't seem to mind, but Juniper couldn't help but cringe as he sat down and the earth made a squelching sound under him. He would have to scrub both of their clothes as soon as they got home or he'd hear it from their mother. He was the older sibling, she'd always say, it was his responsibility to make sure Clover didn't get into things and get dirty. Yet she'd let Clover get paint all over herself...

"You want to do that now? You know we can't send them any thanks for their sacrifice until we know who they are, right?" he asked. She held out a pen and paper to him.

"I know they haven't gotten picked yet, but, y'know, we can come back and add their name later! If we write ours now, then we can send them as soon as they get announced, and ours will be the first letters they get! They had us write practice thank you letters in class last week."

Admittedly, Juniper thought it was pointless to write the letters. It wasn't as if he was ungrateful for the Quasar's sacrifices for them all; it was a huge honor, and he didn't mean any disrespect to the God's chosen two, but...they likely wouldn't even read the letters, considering how many thousands they would get. They would be receiving all sorts of gifts and praise and live a spoiled life up until the Ceremony; they would be treated not only as the God's favored but the people's, as well. And why shouldn't they? They were saviors. People that were so important seemed as distant as the royals at the castle; they had no reason to read every single letter, or care for thanks from children.

He wasn't going to tell that to Clover. It was something children and romantics followed with full-hearted enthusiasm and adoration; it wasn't something he cared about, personally, but it was going to be in history books one day, as all the Quasars before the newest were. He was grateful to be able to witness history, and perhaps even document it himself, if nothing else.

"Okay. Hmm, how should we start the letters?" Juniper prompted Clover. She often would come to him for help with her homework, and he always tried to encourage her creativity, hoping she could one day love stories as much as he did.

She hummed, then smiled, pressing her pen against the paper. "I know!" she started, "Dear-leave this part blank- thank you for saving the universe from dying."

Juniper couldn't help the small laugh that escaped him. That was such a child's way of understanding it; it was sweet, in a way. Her little pout said she didn't appreciate him laughing.

"Aw, I got paint on my paper! Juni, I need to wash my hands and start over." Clover held up her hands to him after crumpling her first page up.

"Of course you do; I don't want to do anymore running just yet, hang on, I think I have some water with me..." He dug around in his bag, feeling triumphant that he was right. He always carried water with him; along with every other necessity so he wouldn't have to ask anyone to borrow everyday items like pens or calculators.

Clover offered her hand, holding it far away from her dress so it wouldn't be splashed by water.

Juniper ran water over her hands, paint smearing on his own hands as he tried to get the stubborn gold paint to let go of her skin and now his own, too.

The more he scrubbed, the more apparent it was that it wasn't coming off. He stared at the gold emblem, stark and bright on warm brown skin.

"Juni?" Clover's voice sounded small and far off. "Juniper?"

He snapped back to reality. Clover's face was scrunched up in concern.

She hadn't seen it yet. He took her hand in his. It was warm, and he could feel her pulse thumping. Or maybe it was his own pulse he was feeling hammering in his ears.

"Soap," he said nonchalantly, still in a distant daze, "Come on, let's run home and get some soap, that'll come right off."

"What? We're going all the way home for soap? We could stop by Aunt Ivy's-" she tried. Juniper shook his head, cramming all of his belongings back into his bag at a breakneck speed, running fully on autopilot. All of his things were getting rumpled up, and he had never cared less.

"No. Father's study- he had some very...special soap in there. We're going to use that, okay? It'll get that right off and fix this up."

"Really? Dad's study? Mom says we aren't supposed to go in there..."

"Yes. You're ready to see it. Just don't let go of my hand on the walk there, okay?" Juniper swallowed, trying to keep his voice steady, "I don't want to lose you, Clover."

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