Fina had decided long ago that she'd never get used to the sunlight.
The Elders had warned her that the Moons would be much brighter than she had been used to in the Great Silver Shrine, much more intense, their effects stronger on her skin. The cold emptiness of space had protected her from their light back at home, they had said, although she didn't quite understand how so much nothing could protect anyone from anything. But on Arcadia, on the face of the world for which they had been crafted in the Old Times, their light would shine in all of its glory, changing the face of the world and the lives of those who lived there. Including hers, they'd concluded time and time again, waggling their fingers at her for good measure. And so she had listened to the wisdom of the Elders like a good Silvite, and she had nodded and promised that she would be careful of the night and the moonlight.
But the moonlight... well, it might not have felt the same back home, but at least it was familiar. At least she'd studied enough about the Moons and their affinities that it didn't feel so strange. Not like the sun - oh, yes, she'd seen the sun before. She'd even felt its rays. But seeing the sun hanging in the blackness of space, almost always in the same place against the stars and the darkness that surrounded them, wasn't the same as seeing it rise in its full glory over the edge of Crescent Isle. It wasn't the same as feeling its rays on her back, fiercer and more punishing than any of the Red Moon's beams. And seeing the sun setting, seeing it sink down below the clouds... watching the last beams that were strong enough to pierce the cloud layer below the Deep Sky cast rainbow lights against the clouds above them... it was beautiful, and sometimes she wondered why the Elders hadn't told her about it.
Probably because they hadn't known. Fina pondered the thought as she dug in the garden that Vyse and Aika had just helped her clear. They'd been watching the people of Arcadia, not Arcadia itself. They'd never known how beautiful the world had become after its destruction.
They hadn't been looking for beauty, anyway, she thought with a touch of sadness. Just ugliness and hatred and fear. She didn't want to think ill of them, not after what they'd done, but... well, it wasn't wrong to acknowledge that they'd been wrong, was it? They'd always told her to learn from the mistakes of those around her, especially those who believed themselves to be wise. In a way, she was honoring them by doing what they'd asked her to do as a little girl, so many years ago.
"Y'know, for someone who's finally got the garden she wanted so badly you look awfully serious," Vyse said from behind her, without warning. Fina couldn't help but jump just a little, but she relaxed as she felt his gloved hand on her wrist. "Whoa, sorry! Didn't mean to scare you!"
"That's okay," she said, smiling and turning to look at him - directly into the sunlight. She couldn't help but squint as she looked at him; her eyes were dry and achy already, and the light was making it worse. "What is it?"
"Uh, let me come over here first," he said quickly, stepping to the side. "Sorry."
"Oh, don't worry, it's fine," she said quickly, not wanting to be troublesome... but she had to admit that the light was a lot easier to tolerate once she'd turned to face him again.
"Fina, you were squinting! When someone talks to you and the sun's in your eyes if you're looking at them, it's okay to ask them to move. Trust me." He smiled and patted her on the back. "Anyway, that's kind of why Aika sent me out here."
"To talk about the sun?"
"To give you this."
Vyse held something up in his other hand, something that Fina hadn't noticed before. There were still spots swimming in her vision as she took it and peered at it. It was large and round and floppy, and it took her a moment to recognize... "A hat," she said. "Like the ones they wore in Yaufotoma?"
"Not quite, but close enough. It'll keep some of the sun off of your face." He grinned sheepishly. "I hope you don't mind wearing my old stuff, though."
"This was yours?"
"Yeah. Long time ago - well, okay, not that long. But one of my neighbors wove it for me, and my mother insisted I wear it every day for a month so that she'd see how much I liked it. I got sick of it, so I stashed it in Aika's house and told her it had blown over the edge." He shrugged. "Guess Aika decided to keep it.
"That was very nice of her," she said, smiling. She put the hat on her head, frowned as she wondered for a moment why it didn't fit, then realized that the ponytail was getting in the way after a second and pulled her hair free. "Does it look nice?"
"Of course. On you, anything would."
She giggled. That was the sort of line that Aika would have rolled her eyes at, but Fina still thought it was cute. Of course, so did Aika; she was just trying to stop Vyse from being quite so corny, she swore. But Fina could always tell that she really wanted to smile. "So the hat doesn't look silly on me?"
"Not at all. And it should help keep the sunlight off of your face." He looked around at the field. "How's it coming?"
"All right. I've found a few Red Moon Stones, though. Aika told me to be careful with them. They'll scorch the crops."
"Yeah, definitely. We'll want to keep an eye on the moon, make sure we cover the garden somehow when the stones start to fall again." He scratched his chin. "Tell you what - I'll talk to Kirala when she gets back. She might be able to build something for that."
"Thank you, Vyse!" She wanted to give him a hug, not just say the words, but she was in what had been clean grey coveralls before - Aika had insisted she wear them, instead of her usual outfit. Fina could see why now - she was absolutely covered in dirt. "You two have been so helpful with this... I didn't know anything about gardens when I started this, and now I feel like I know so much!"
"Oh, believe me, we're learning it right along with you." He patted her on the shoulder; dust flew everywhere. "But Aika told me to tell you that you need to come in soon. She says that if you work too hard you'll be too sore to work tomorrow. Of course, from the looks of it, might be a good thing we're not setting sail for a few days..."
"I'll be careful, Vyse. Don't worry."
"I know. Here, drink this before you start up again. I have to go." He pressed a glass bottle into her hand; she almost dropped it. She wasn't used to the gloves yet. "I'll be back tomorrow morning, okay? You and Aika will have to take care of things while I'm gone. And you'll be sure to take care of Aika, won't you? She pushed herself too hard, I can tell. She needs to rest."
"Of course." She nodded, and she might've blushed a little bit, but not that much. She was getting used to this by now. "Good-bye, Vyse. You be careful too."
"What are you talking about? I'm always careful." But his grip was tight on her shoulder, in a comforting sort of way. "It's just a quick trip to Nasrad. I'll bring you girls something nice from the Bazaar."
"As long as it's you bringing it back, I'll be happy."
He shook his head, still grinning. "Oh, geez. And Aika says my lines are corny."
She put her hand over her mouth, feigning worry. "Oh, my. I didn't think it was that bad!"
"What? No! That was sarcasm, okay? Remember, we -" He stopped in mid-sentence, as she started to laugh. "Oh. Okay, I see how it goes."
"I'm sorry!" Fina said between giggles. "I couldn't resist!"
"Oh, Fina. Aika and I have taught you well, haven't we?" He leaned over and kissed her, ignoring the dust. "Don't worry. And don't work too hard."
"I won't, Vyse. I'll see you tomorrow."
"That's more like it."
She watched him walk to the docks, and he turned and waved to her as she watched, just like he always did. That was Vyse for you, Fina thought. It was hard to believe that someone as silly as he was had saved the world; she'd always thought that heroes had to be serious, like the ones in the storybooks back home...
No, she decided. No more thinking about back home. Not until she finished tilling the garden.
The sun was still beating down on her, even through the floppy straw hat. Somehow, though, she was finding that it helped keep the thoughts of home away. It helped to remind her that she was here, in her new life on Crescent Isle, and that she had one person who would be waiting for her at home by the time she finished, and another who would be coming back to join them again soon. She might never get used to it, but that didn't mean she couldn't learn to love it... like she had learned to love so many other things.
She smiled to herself as she started to dig again.