A writer and an artist, Gem has always preferred to observe the center of attention rather than be it. As such, he doesn't like to make himself or his opinions known to people, and he is largely ignored in school. At home, he is the only child of two parents who, despite their devotion to Gem, downplay his insecurities and eschew heartfelt conversations for surface-level pleasantries. Recently, he has spent his days outside more often than not, and if his parents worry about his well-being, they certainly aren't interested in showing it. What he needs more than anything is change - a star to steer by, or any kind of sign to tell him that despite the rut he currently resides in, his life has purpose and meaning.
On a sweltering and stormy summer's evening, Gem remembers this desire and decides to venture a little further out of his comfort zone than he usually would, walking for miles until dusk and exploring more of the local woodlands than he ever has. But of the many life lessons he has not yet experienced, "be careful what you wish for" is chief among them.
Ari has a taste for the finer things in (his) life: war games, spectacularly terrible horror movies, leather jackets, sarcasm, and whichever whiskey his mother, Yianna, obtained a surplus of that week. Desperately awaiting the day he turns eighteen, he maintains an ill-conceived plan of stealing his mother's car to take himself and his younger brother Elias far away from the place he has been forced to call home his whole life. But after he witnesses an innocent movie night with Elias become a savage beating after his mother returns home, he knows he must accelerate the scheme. He sends Elias to stay at their aunt and uncle's place in Aletheia's capital city of Nysa, while he distracts Yianna and plans an elaborate escape of his own, complete with a trap that, should his mother fall for it, will ensure she keeps her distance for the rest of Ari's life.
Lyra's love for music has gotten her through the best and worst of times, though she has been experiencing mostly the latter as of late. Worried that recent events had drained her creativity permanently, she returns one afternoon and, in the midst of a raging thunderstorm, closes her eyes and begins playing. Before she opens them, four songs have been written - verses, choruses, bridges, the lot. Ecstatic for what feels like the first time in years, Lyra dabbles with lyrical themes for the tunes until the storm subsides, at which point she decides to clear her head with a journey into the forest a half mile from her house.
After several absentminded miles of trekking through the woods on a peaceful summer's evening, she settles down with her guitar on a tree stump to play a fateful concert for only the mighty pines, oaks, and maples to experience... or so she thinks.