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This would be the ninth time Lirela participated in the Conjuring of the Second Moon. She had been present at the annual celebration every year since she joined the Church of Selune at the age of eighteen. She had progressed through the ranks of Selunite clergy quickly, demonstrating a natural gift for sharing Selune's blessings with others and bringing them into the faith. Five years ago she became a Silverstar, advocating freedom and tolerance wherever she traveled in the name of Selune. Though she often gave in to wanderlust, Lirela always returned to her home church in Waterdeep for holidays. This year was no different.
Lirela was staying in a modest chamber at the House of the Moon, which was bustling with activity outside her door. The sun would be setting in a few hours, and the ceremony would begin. She had just finished supper and was now getting ready for the ritual. About a half hour before sunset those participating in the rite would start for the site of their ceremony, a large clearing in a nearby forest.
Lirela decided to spend some of the time before the ceremony praying. She left her room, climbed the stairs at the end of the hall and emerged onto the flat roof of the dormitories, the large, shiny dome roof of the sanctuary nearby. She went through her own private ritual of prayer and, as was her custom, reflected upon the journey that brought her to this point in her life.
Returning to her chamber, Lirela discovered she had been on the roof longer than she realized. She needed to begin getting ready now if she would be on time to this very important ceremony. She carefully dressed in her finest robes of silvery-blue and placed her matching embroidered satin shoes on her feet. Around her neck she wore a polished silver holy symbol of Selune, and from her belt hung a satin pouch tied with a silver cord. She debated whether to remove her nose stud, and decided to wear it as she always did. She cleaned her glasses, checked that her fingernails were clean, and slipped a shiny platinum ring set with a glowing moonstone onto her finger. She played with her hair, first putting it all up, then just some of it, then braiding it. Finally she decided to leave it down to drape over her shoulders, and she placed on her head a platinum circlet with a deep blue stone containing silver flecks resembling stars in the night sky. Checking herself in the mirror, she took a deep breath and smiled. She loved this ceremony most of all the others in the church year. With a silent prayer to Selune, she left her chamber and descended to the sanctuary to meet with the other priests.
As a small multitude of Selunite clergy exited the House of the Moon, Lirela could hear the sounds of a small crowd on the street. Every year a number of residents in Waterdeep came to the temple to see them off. Surrounded by her friends and fellow priests of Selune, Lirela walked to the site of the ceremony. When they arrived, she was delighted to see how the clearing had been decorated.
Flickering, dancing magical lights illuminated the edges of the elliptical clearing, appearing as stars in the darkness. In a ring about ten feet inside the edge of the clearing stood twelve simple white pedestals topped with glowing moonstone orbs. Toward the eastern end stood a circular altar, its marble top looking like the face of the full moon. A large shiny silver bowl rested in the center of the altar, and beautiful wild flowers lay on the ground around it, broken by a series of stepping stones from due north of the altar. Toward the west, three steps led up to a large circular moonlit dais. This too was surrounded by fragrant wild flowers, and a small cluster of the dancing magical lights hovered over the platform. Lirela trembled slightly as she saw this.
The priests gathered around the clearing just inside the ring of pedestals. Bright moonlight shone down on the gathering, and the ceremony began with a blessing and prayer, followed by song. The High Priestess blessed the contents of the silver bowl on the altar, then removed it and walked with it along the stepping stones to a small ring of glowing pebbles, and while the assembly of priests chanted in unison, she poured some milk from the bowl into the earth. She then passed the bowl to one of the priestesses, who took a drink of the blessed milk and passed it on. Each priest in turn drank from the bowl which was then returned to the altar and another prayer of thanks was spoken.
The High Priestess then walked to the other end of the clearing, where the dais stood. Standing next to it, she led a chant which started quiet, then grew louder and more animated as it repeated itself over and over, until one final climactic moment, while what appeared to be seven stars floated down from the heavens. In a brilliant flash of light they were transfigured into seven beautiful women with silvery blue hair and luminescent robes. These were the Shards, the cadre around which the Church of Selune was built.
The Shards landed in a circle around the dais, each touching down softly in the grass. Their robes were illuminated with moonlight, and their hair shimmered beautifully. These seven women prayed in unison to Selune to bless the night and the faithful assembled there, then led the crowd in one final chant.
A group of bards played for the crowd as they celebrated Selune's blessings until morning with dance, song, food and wine. Lirela enjoyed herself thoroughly, for this was a night to let all worries fade away, and reflect on the many blessings that came with the light of the full moon.
As the sky began to lighten with the approaching day, the Shards returned to the celebration after rooting out and destroying a prominent Sharran temple in Waterdeep. Here was Lirela's favorite moment in the entire church year. The Shards would elevate one priestess here to their order. It was a magnificent sight, and she remembered clearly each such ceremony she had witnessed. She looked around, wondering who it would be this year.
The music stopped, and the seven luminescent women were the center of attention once again. One of the women by the name of Airen, whom Lirela recognized, seemed to lead the small party. She stepped forward to speak, her voice resonant and commanding.
"My fellow faithful worshippers of the Moonmaiden, we return to you this morning, victorious over the Sharran temple that has given you so much trouble these past months!" The crowd exploded with the sounds of cheers and clapping. Airen waited for the crowd to calm down before she continued. "Let us give thanks to Our Lady of Silver for blessing our battle and bringing us out of it triumphant!" The crowd roared once again. Airen's voice then turned more serious. "This year, Selune has chosen a very special woman to join the Shards, a woman whom I have known many years. She is kind and benevolent, immensely patient and tolerant of others, and above all wise and understanding. She has demonstrated infallible faith in Selune despite hardship and pain, and has shared that faith with countless others, bringing them to the many blessings of Selune. Please join me in welcoming Lirela Cr'ysalia to the order of Shards."
Lirela felt as if her heart had stopped. Her head swam. She could hardly believe what she had just heard. Her friends and fellow priests roared and cheered for her, and ushered her toward the front of the crowd. Airen hugged her tightly, kissed her lightly on the cheek, and led her up to the top of the dais. Lirela blinked a few times and shook her head. This was actually happening, and she was not going to miss it due to shock.
As Airen backed away, she and the other Shards formed a circle around the dais. They chanted in unison as a brilliant beam of moonlight shot down from the heavens and illuminated the place where Lirela stood. A feeling of warmth and love washed over her. She closed her eyes and reached up toward the sky, feeling as though she could touch the moon itself. As she rose off the platform, she opened her eyes to watch the heavens draw closer. She ascended in the shaft of moonlight, the seven Shards beginning to rise below her. She stopped above the tops of the trees and felt herself begin to rotate slowly. A breeze blew her hair around, and as she watched the strands flying above her head she could see that they were changing from her natural light brown color to the same silvery blue as the other Shards. Lirela felt that Selune was there with her, holding her up in the sky over the clearing. As Selune bestowed the powers of the Shards upon her, Lirela closed her eyes and could see the face of her goddess smiling down on her from above.
Lirela basked in the feeling for a few moments, then slowly opened her eyes. She felt herself descending toward the ground again, and the Shards were already there waiting for her with Airen standing on the dais. As her feet touched down on the platform, the shaft of moonlight from above dissipated and Airen's arms were there to support her as she collapsed from exhaustion. The only sounds to be heard were the sounds of a forest just before dawn, and these were the last sounds Lirela heard before falling into a deep, restful slumber filled with dreams of her goddess.
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