| Deadly Nightfall |
Silver hair swirled around her form as the star child tumbled through space and time. An arm reached out and held her close as Earth’s surface loomed ahead. Two glowing figures fell out of the sky and plummeted to the ground. Dartana folded his body around Brint and the impact slammed into both of them.
Brint opened her tightly shut eyes and stared up at the sky. “Where are we?” She asked quietly.
Dartana eased her to a sitting position then stood up and looked down at her, his figure blocking the rays of the setting sun. “This is Earth, child.”
Brint’s slight fingers felt the grass around her, and her eyes darted about. “The Earth I watched last night? The shadow children live here?”
Dartana looked around, searching for something while he answered her question. “Yes, the humans live here. Come.” He held his hand out to her. “We must go up to Fulgur Mountain.” He pointed to a mountain higher than all the other mountains that surrounded the stranded stars. “We meet the Realm Traveler there.”
Kessler gripped Porunth’s hand and closed his eyes. A shaft of light shot up from Earth and enveloped them, dragging them down to Earth. Kessler stumbled and caught himself, then felt the hard rock beneath his hands. He looked around in wonder. Before them was a grassy plain that was surrounded by the mountain range.
“Sentries of Earth.” Porunth swept his hand to encompass the mountains. “It is these mountains that are the friends of stranded stars. Here I meet them to take them back to Night.”
“So here we will meet Brint?” Kessler looked up eagerly.
Porunth nodded solemnly. “They must hurry. Night comes, and with Night comes death for any star here on Earth.”
Brint tripped and Dartana’s hand yanked her up. “We cannot wait or rest.” Dartana commanded. “Night is our enemy here on Earth. If Night catches us on Earth, we die.”
Brint’s eyes widened and she hopped to keep up with Dartana’s long stride.
Dartana looked down at his small companion. “What possessed you, young one, to walk into a black hole?”
“I was looking for Kessler,” Brint chirped. “I fell into the Portal of Night first, and he came after me. I needed to find him among the constellations, so we could get back. An old star told me he would be in the black hole.”
Dartana stopped abruptly, then started walking even faster than before. “Unthinkable.” He muttered. “Ah, Realm Traveler!” Dartana lifted his arm in greeting of Porunth, who stood on the ledge of rock above them.
“Please, Dartana.” Brint tugged on his arm. “My belt got caught on that rock back there.” She pointed at a glimmering golden strand some paces back, dangling from a rock. “I tried to get it back, but please, you walked so fast.”
Dartana sighed. A star’s belt was a cherished possession. “It is alright, small one. I shall fetch it for you. Go on to the Realm Traveler.” Dartana turned back to retrieve the belt.
Brint scrambled up the ledge to face Porunth. “Greetings, Realm Traveler.” She bowed gravely.
Porunth did not smile. “Young one, Night is approaching and I can only travel with one star at a time. We must hurry.”
Kessler bounded up next to Brint. “Take her first, Porunth. I shall wait.”
Brint squealed and jumped at the sound of Kessler’s voice. “Oh, I found you!” She exuberantly embraced Kessler. “But I can’t go.” Brint pulled back. “I must wait for Dartana. He is fetching my belt.” She pointed towards the warrior star, still many paces away.
“Oh, leave him.” Kessler said crossly. “It’s you we came for.”
“Leave him? To die!” Brint cried and drew herself up. “I shall stay with him.” She nodded angrily.
“I must take a star now. There is no more time.” Porunth looked grieved. “I have not enough time to take all of you. Umbra is merciless.” He gestured towards the approaching darkness that swiftly swept across the plain towards Fulgur Mountain. “Dartana must stay here. He cannot reach us in time.” Porunth shook his head.
“I shall not leave him!” Brint’s voice rose. “Take him!” She pushed Kessler away from her and towards Porunth. “Take the selfish pig.”
Kessler winced and stared at her. “But Brint, I came for you!”
Brint gestured impatiently at Porunth. “I am not listening to you, Kessler. Your selfishness is a… appalling.”
Kessler opened his mouth to reply angrily but Porunth stopped him. “You will only die with the warrior star, young one. The only way to survive is if I take your inlustris away, your starlight, and change you into humans.”
“To live with the shadow children?” Brint’s eyes lit up. “I shall do it! Do it now!” She pinched her eyes shut.
Porunth sighed and knew he was going to regret this. He held Kessler’s hand and reaching out, took the inlustris from Brint and Dartana. The shaft of light blinded the stars for a moment, then the Realm Traveler disappeared with his unwilling companion.
Brint watched them go, then felt that she had suddenly lost something immeasurably precious. Her light had departed, and her friend was gone. She sat down on the rock and let the darkness of Umbra cover her. Her tears splashed on her shadow hands, and the tears were lusterless. Dartana sat beside her, his glow missing too.
“Thank you,” he whispered, and put an arm around her heaving shoulders.
Umbra looked grimly down on the two stranded stars and sighed.
Photo credit: kjzz.org