| Fallen Stars |
A taffy-colored skirt swished as slender fingers rushed to whisk the steaming pot off the stove and onto the rugged table. Tarnished spoons clattered next to carved wooden bowls as she ladled out the thick stew. The door blew open and gently measured steps walked in, accompanied by a brisk gust of autumn wind.
“John asked after you, Brint.” The gentle voice belied the man’s powerful stature as he dropped a weighty burlap sack onto the creaking floorboards.
Tossing her long silver hair over her shoulder, Brint’s smile was amused as she sat down in one of the two chairs at the table. “You know the answer to silly questions like that, Dartana.”
His chair scraped on the wooden floor as he sat down across from Brint. “I must say, I do not understand your attitude towards him or any of the other boys, Brint.”
“The matter does not require explaining.” Her tone was merry and lilting as she spooned some stew into her mouth.
Dartana leaned over the table, studying her. “Is this about Kessler?”
Brint’s countenance sobered and she flinched without knowing it. No answer came as she avoided Dartana’s gaze.
He leaned back; worried that she was still holding onto a boy that she had left years ago. “In human years you are fifteen already, Brint. Certainly it is time for you to let go and consider some of the shadow lads.”
“No!” Brint snapped, her head jerking up to glare at the former star warrior. “I am not a shadow girl, I never will be.”
Holding her gaze for a moment, Dartana was silent. Then, “Willem is wanting to see you as well.”
With a laugh that she forced to sound incredulous, Brint stood and quickly scooping up her now empty bowl, strode to the washtub.
“Dark clouds are gathering over the mountains. The herdsmen are worried. They say that there will be a violent storm tonight and tomorrow.” Dartana remarked casually, leaning back in his chair as he enjoyed his stew.
Brint didn’t glance at him. “I am assuming that Fulgur Mountain is too far away to be affected by the storm.”
“Actually, the clouds are most thick over the peak. Goodman Matthews says there will be much lightning.”
Something clattered by the stove as Brint turned around rapidly to look at him. “Lightning?” Her eyes were lit up.
Dartana’s chair creaked suddenly as he stared at her. Then he spoke slowly. “Brint, you have no reason to be on Fulgur Mountain during a storm.”
Her excitement did not diminish. “Lightning, Dartana! The Realm Traveler will come!”
The small room became quiet as Dartana stood up. “Do you really think we can go back? We cannot, Brint. We fell to Earth and we will die on Earth. We are human now.”
Brint shook her head, silent yet defiantly hopeful. Dartana sighed and placed a hand on her shoulder. It felt heavy to her, just like his words.
“You will not go to Fulgur Mountain tonight, Brint.”
The decree was quietly ominous. Concern was in Dartana’s eyes as he gazed at the former star child he had rescued. He considered saying something more to soften the blow, but instead he turned and walked away to his room in silence.
Brint stood still for a moment, heedless rebellion tingling in her fingers and on her lips. Glancing out the window at the darkening sky, her decision was already made.
The door rasped quietly as it eased shut. In his room, Dartana didn’t hear. But the thunder was already loud in Brint’s ears.
“Brint, I think I might have to stay here tomorrow…” Dartana’s voice dropped slowly as he realized she wasn’t in the cottage. His hand slammed into the doorframe. “I was a fool to think that she would listen to me.” He muttered as he grabbed his heavy coat from the peg by the front door, noticing that Brint’s smaller coat still dangled there. He stared at it angrily for a moment, and then his countenance relaxed. “She just wants to go home.” He reminded himself softly as he draped her coat over his arm and closed the door securely behind him.
Rain pounded relentlessly on the stones all around Brint as she made her way up the mountain path that led to the peak. The mountain was christened Fulgur Mountain by the villagers because of the amount of lightning that struck it during storms. They didn’t know why and none of them dared climb to the peak, claiming that witches and spirits that called down the lighting inhabited the mountain. But Brint and Dartana knew why lightning struck there so often. The Realm Traveler appeared to human eyes as a bolt of forked lightning because of the light that emanated from him.
Wiping away the drops that blurred her vision, Brint took in a soggy breath as she strained to see the path through the deluge. She was soaked and shivering, her steps getting slower as she forced herself onwards. A startling reverberation of thunder shook the ground she stood on and with a cry that no one heard, she slipped and tumbled off the slick stone path as a flash of lightning blinded her temporarily.
Panicked thoughts forced themselves into a scream as Brint hurtled towards the outcropping of rocks below the path. Her outstretched hand collided with the stone, sending agonizing streaks of pain up her arm as the rest of her thudded into the ground. Bright bursts of pain and lightning seared her vision as tears forced their way out of her eyes. With a groan, Brint rolled over carefully and pushed herself up with her good hand and looked up at the path. Kessler had once told her that she was too stubborn to listen to anybody else. She had disagreed at the time. Now she was painfully aware that he had been right.
Her penitent thoughts were interrupted by another fork of lightning descending from the sky, except Brint saw a man with a white beard and an upright staff with gleaming silver clothing descend.
“The Realm Traveler!” She gasped, choking on her own words. Standing up stiffly, she dashed heedlessly back towards the path.
A well-known voice stopped her.
Dartana. He had come for her. He always did.
“You cannot go to him, Brint.” Dartana’s voice was strong, but his arms were stronger as they wrapped around her waist and held her back.
She fought against him uselessly, suppressing her yelp of pain. “No, Dartana, he can take us back!”
She was shivering and Dartana could feel it. “Brint, we can’t go back.” He repeated gently but firmly, carefully wrapping her coat around her shaking shoulders.
“Please, I want to go back. I do not belong here.” Brint sobbed, still trying to pull away from him.
Dartana’s arms were unyielding as he picked her up and strode to the path that led down the mountain and away from the Realm Traveler at the peak. “I’ll explain when we get to the cottage. You have to trust me this time, Brint.”
“I want to go back…” she cried like a child, her lips trembling and her wet hair plastered to her face.
“I know. Me too.”