Welcome to the Asterism ⭐
“You can’t sit with us,” the other stars said, cooling themselves in their starpool.
“But why not,” Cassiopeia complained, feeling left out.
“Tsk. You’re new here, aren’t you?” Schedar waved her away dismissively. She was tanned and full-breasted, with an aura of bright orange.
A smaller star came close to Cassiopeia and offered her hand. She was thin and glowed white. “Hello, and welcome to the asterism. I’m Caph. Who are you?”
Cassiopeia squinted against the brightness and tried to weigh the stars around her. She was the Seated Queen, more beautiful than the sea nymphs. She wasn’t gonna get rejected by these lazy stars, no matter how much older they were than she. She faked a smile and shook the delicate hand. “I’m Cassiopeia, Queen of Aethiopia. Nice to meet you.”
The star who was leaning on her back snorted loudly, for everyone to hear. She had her knees bent and close to her body, but otherwise she was naked, dressed only in starlight, just like the others. “I bet your hubby found a new queen already, since you’re up here now.”
“Ruchbah, be nice to our new friend,” Caph said in her tingly voice.
Ruchbah leaned back as she were before, presenting everyone with a full view of her legs and what was between them, seeming indifferent of the whole situation.
Cassiopeia tried to be friendly. “Okay, let me see if I got this. You are Caph,” she pointed at the small white star, who nodded happily back. “And the one on her back with her knees up is Ruchbah, and the big-breasted one is Schedar. And what about her?” She pointed at the flickering star on the side of the starpool.
Caph leaned in and whispered, “Oh, she’s Gamma. We don’t know her name, she never speaks. She’s fine, I guess, but she’s not all there, know what I mean? It’s like she flickers in and out of presence. You might get a few words out of her, but don’t count on it.” Then she turned to flickering star and spoke louder. “Gamma? The new star says ‘hello.’”
Caph shrugged. “See? Don’t take it personally, she’s just like that.”
“Okay,” Cassiopeia said, taking it all in. Four stars, plus her, made five. But there was something missing. It took her a while but then she got it. “Hey, Caph? You’re all glowing, right. Your aura?”
Caph giggled. “Yes, silly. We’re stars. What did you expect?”
Cassiopeia looked down at herself. She was still dressed in her queeny robes and definitely not glowing. The stars on the other hand were butt-naked and wore only their starlight. “Well, I’m not.”
Caph bit her lip, looking worried. “I noticed, of course, but it was rude to point it out.”
Cassiopeia raised a demanding hand, just like she did with her subjects. “I don’t care, I’m not offended. Just tell me how to get my starlight.”
Caph thought about it for a moment. “I’m not sure…”
The big-breasted one spoke up. “If you’re not gonna contribute to the Asterism, then we have no use for you, dear. Beat it.”
“No, I will!” Cassiopeia said defensively. Gods, she hadn’t felt so dismissed ever since she was a child. “I just need to figure out how.”
Ruchbah snorted again and crossed her legs, showing them all her butt. “A star that doesn’t shine. What’s the use?”
Cassiopeia was now getting pissed off. But she forced herself to cool down, she needed to figure this out. “Okay, help me out here, Caph.”
“Sure! But what can I do?”
“Talk me through it. What did you do to get sent up here?”
Caph turned to look at the rest of her Asterism. “What do you mean? We were always up here. Not assigned together, not at first, but that’s how it always was.”
“Yeah, but I was a mortal, not a star. I was banished in the sky,” Cassiopeia said, reliving the pompous words that brought the ire of Poseidon.
Schedar shook her head and her big breasts bounced left and right. Somehow even her orange light looked dismissive. “A mortal… What will they send us next? An animal?”
“Ooh, I’d like a dog!” Caph said, hopping in place.
“Ugh… Shuddup,” Ruchbah said, crossing her legs in the air the other way.
Cassiopeia dismissed the rude stars and tapped her chin, thoughtful. “Okay, so I’m here, it’s done, I don’t think I can do anything to change that. And this is an Asterism, right? A group of stars?”
Caph nodded happily in acknowledgement.
“Okay. And an Asterism does what? Shines bright? That’s it?”
“-And points the way to seamen and wanderers,” a voice came from somewhere. It was distorted, crackling.
“Who was that- Oh,” Cassiopeia said, realising who had spoken.
The flickering star had somehow registered Cassiopeia’s arrival, and had butted in in the conversation. Gamma locked eyes with her, so she assumed her mind was here as well, at least for now. “Hey, Gamma right? I’m Cassiopeia. Yes, that’s helpful, thank you very much. Do you know what else I should do to get my starlight?”
The star flickered for a few long moments.
Schedar sighed. “She’s gone, that was it. She might have a reply for you in a few centuries or something, or she might just ask you what the question was. She’s stupid.”
Ruchbah stood up, which surprised everyone there. “Hey, don’t call her stupid! She has issues, okay? Just ignore her if you don’t wanna talk to her, but don’t badmouth her.” She sat crosslegged next to the starpool, frowning with menace as the Schedar. The orange star just scoffed at her and crossed her arms under her bosom, making it bounce around even more.
Cassiopeia saw it at that point. The camaraderie. They might seem off, and the definition of ‘off’ was under debate since these weren’t people, but they had each other’s backs. That’s what she needed to do, perhaps?
She walked close to them, ignoring the initial warning of Schedar, and reached the far end of the starpool, which was a bit outside their imaginary inner circle. She pulled her sleeve up and leaned in to look in the starpool. It was brilliant and twinkling, just like the starry night. And there was some sort of dark liquid but you couldn’t see through it. Cassiopeia reached in to touch it.
There was silence, and she had a bad feeling about this. She looked around to see what the stars were doing.
Schedar was still crossing her arms and perking her breasts up, but her attention was on Cassiopeia and the starpool.
Caph looked absolutely horrified, her pale face a mask of pure shock.
Gamma was out of it, staring at someplace far away, flickering like always.
And Ruchbah was cross-legged and leaning in, her face looking coy, as if she was waiting to see a woman get burned on a hot stove.
Cassiopeia pulled her hand back.
Schedar and Caph sighed in relief, Ruchbah tsked, disappointed.
Cassiopeia squinted at them all, it was necessary since they were all illuminated. She went through their conversations in her mind. What was the first thing they said to her?
She had to admit that she wasn’t a Queen anymore. She wasn’t even a woman. She was just a star.
Cassiopeia stepped inside the inner circle, despite Schedar’s stare that was pointing daggers of light at her.
Then she took another step, and even Ruchbah seemed she was about to hop up and pounce at her.
And then another step, and Caph seemed delighted to see her.
And a final step. They all turned to Gamma. She flickered brightly, making them all squint at the sudden flash of light. “Take your seat,” she finally said, then tuned out entirely.
Cassiopeia felt assured then. “I was right,” she said, and took her royal dress off, letting it slide on the floor that wasn’t really there. It disappeared into lethe as soon as it left her toes. She plopped herself down next to the others by the starpool. Naked, just like a star.
Then she reached into the starpool, and cupped some light with her hand.
The stars stared at her, now looking impatient.
She drank it, and her skin shone blue and white.