Mother Earth, full with child, gently tossed on her blanket of fallen leaves and twigs. Soon her baby would be born. She groaned as the child struggled for life. Her thin, brown fingers clutched the dry leaves beneath her. Suddenly the sky moved and a mighty hush descended on the forest. A soft sigh broke the stillness, then all was silent more. Father Sun beamed down hotly on the land. The baby had been born.
Slowly Mother Earth reached for her child. She stopped, her face golden with delight. Her joyous laughter rang through the forest, for there were two babies, not one.
Mother Earth gently wrapped the shivering infants in her bearskin robe. One child was black as a raven's wing, while the other was pale as a crocus petal. Mother Earth stroked the fairy wisps of soft, baby hair. To her white daughter she said, "I will name you Moonshine." To her dark daughter she added, "You, I shall call Nightshadow." Her joy was complete.
As the seasons passed, the twins grew and became very different from one another. Moonshine was vivacious and lively, whereas Nightshadow was quiet and gentle. Although both daughters were silent talented singers, many admitted that Nightshadow had a higher, sweeter voice. Whenever another praised her dark sister, Moonshine would feel a hot, angry dart pierce through her. Sometimes she even wished Nightshadow had never been born.
One day Mother Earth called her daughters to her and said, "The time has come. My children must serve the earth from whence they came. You, Nightshadow, shall have dominion over the night sky, to darken it in order that the creatures of the earth may rest. For this task you will need this." She held aloft an ebony cloak, which she draped about Nightshadow's shoulders.
"Moonshine, you shall lighten your sister's darkness, in order that those creatures which prefer to live and hunt in the dark may see."
As it was their duty, both sisters rose to the sky. Nightshadow sat with her cape flowing across the heavens. Moonshine, glowing like a shiny penny, was by her side.
As time passed, Moonshine began to begrudge her sister's dominion of the night. She felt that since she was prettier and brighter, she should reign over the sky. As night followed night, Moonshine's jealousy grew within her. At last, she could contain it no longer.
She went to Nightshadow and whispered in her ear, "Do you know why it is that the creatures of the earth remain hidden in their caves and burrows when you are in the sky?" She paused, then said triumphantly, "It is because they find your dark face ugly and are afraid of you."
Even as she spoke, something dark and sorrowful welled up within her heart. Moonshine knew this cruel lie would hurt her sister.
Nightshadow quivered. A dark tear, like a black dewdrop, trickled down her cheek. "Is this true, Moonshine?" she asked.
"Yes," Moonshine lied, "all of the earth fears you and your ugliness."
Nightshadow's quiet sorrow filled the air like a dark cloud. She turned to her sister. "Will you look after the creatures of the earth for me?"
Moonshine nodded dumbly, her spirit trapped between joy and misery.
"Good-bye, dear sister," Nightshadow said. Then, spreading her cape like a huge black kite, she was gone.
With Nightshadow gone, Moonshine tried to enjoy her reign over the heavens. But after several nights of frolicking across the pale blue sky, she missed her sister's quiet company. Often she wished to see Nightshadow's dark face and to hear her sweet voice trilling out through the night air. No matter how much she missed her sister, though, Moonshine couldn't bear the thought of having to share the heavens ever again.
One night, as she made her pale voyage across the sky, she noticed that all the creatures of the earth had gathered together and were gazing upwards. Thinking that they had come to speak of her shining beauty, Moonshine flew low to the earth in order to hear their words. All of the animal voices were raised in loud protest...
Brother Bear said, "How is it that the night sky no longer brings darkness in its wake?"
Sister Deer said, "Neither I nor my children can sleep without the darkness. We have not rested once since the night became day."
"What has happened to the beautiful moon which once brightened the darkness and aided me in my search for food?'' questioned Brother Fox.
When she heard this, Moonshine was puzzled. How could it be that some of the animals needed her to lighten the night sky, while others needed Nightshadow to darken it? Slowly, while she sat lost in thought, Moonshine realized that Nightshadow would always be able to do some things better than she, and that she would always be able to do some things better than Nightshadow. At this realization, it was as if a gentle wind blew all of the darkness away from inside of her and left a pure, white flame.
"I must find my sister," Moonshine resolved. So she traveled far and wide, searching the ground below her for traces of Nightshadow. One day she spotted a cave and swooped down from the sky to rest near the entrance.
As she drew near, something within the cave stirred. Suddenly, from within the blackness, Nightshadow's face appeared.
"Nightshadow?" Moonshine squealed.
"Dear sister, is it truly you?" Nightshadow asked as she embraced her sister.
As Moonshine looked at Nightshadow, warm, joyous sunshine flooded over her heart. She was glad she had found her sister; her spirit was troubled no more.
"Oh Nightshadow, you must please forgive me," she begged.
"Whatever for?" Nightshadow asked, bewildered.
"Because I told a terrible lie. The animals of the earth do not fear you. They love you and need you to come back and once more darken the sky for them."
"Why would you lie to me?" asked Nightshadow in her soft voice.
Moonshine bowed her head, and the words poured out of her. "When Mother Earth gave you dominion over the sky, I thought that you were greater than I. I became jealous of you. Now I realize that I have special talents just as you do." She looked at her sister, who remained silent. "I need you, Nightshadow. Although we are good alone, we are even better together."
Nightshadow smiled. She leapt from the cave and, taking her sister's hand, flew to join the sky.
Many seasons have passed. And now, whenever Nightshadow darkens the sky, Moonshine is by her side, softly glowing like a large pearl. The two sisters have discovered that, because of their differences, they will always be best together.
(by Laurie Dawn Ouellet, ‘Brilliant Star’, January-February 1990)