Greetings, everyone! Here we are again with what I hope to become my blog’s IT thing. In the meantime, I am continuing work on Drew and Cassie’s story. I really need to come up with a title for it. Can’t call it my April Camp draft because I’m no longer participating. Rest assured, I will make a post about a title. It’ll be something worth sharing with the readers. I think we all can relate to the moment when we discover a story’s title.
As today’s sampling concludes what I have available of FALLEN STAR, next Sunday will feature another on my projects. Happy reading!
Fallen Star, Chapter Two
The tent looked just as they left it, indicating that their father had not returned yet. Lucas knew from experiences past that whenever he met up with fellow astronomers, the conversation was never lacking. He swept his gaze over the immediate area. The neighboring tents looked empty as well. Checking his watch, Lucas deduced that people had begun making their way to the plain that would offer the best view of the meteor shower. He exhaled in relief. It was better to keep this strange encounter from as many people as possible.
Jewel went ahead first, removing the blocks that held the bottom of the tent in place and unzipping the entrance. She opened it as wide as possible, then moved aside. The armored man approached it and paused. Lucas soon realized that the opening was not large enough to admit him. At a loss, he tried to come up with a secondary method when the man calmly strode in. Those parts of his body that did not fit within the opening passed through the material as if he were a ghost.
“Did you see that?” Jewel whispered, awestruck. Lucas nodded absently, adding the man’s mysterious power to faze through tents to the list of questions he wanted to ask, before motioning her inside. She flashed him an eager grin and entered.
When Lucas stepped in, his guest had just laid the girl down on a blanket. He leaned back on his haunches, looking puzzled over the jacket. At seeing his hands reach for the zipper, Lucas felt his cheeks flush. Clearing his throat, and hoping his voice didn’t betray his embarrassment, he said, “We might have some clothes that will fit her.”
“Your gesture is appreciated, young one. However,” the armored man said, giving a soft exclamation at having figured out how to unzip the jacket. “Starlight will not only sustain her, but shield her as well.” Having undone the jacket, he pulled it open. Lucas quickly averted his gaze. Jewel caught sight of his embarrassment and giggled. He scowled at her. He had never been given the opportunity to become anything more than an object of ridicule to girls his own age.
Movement drew him from his thoughts. Glancing over, glad that the armored man’s bulk shielded the girl from view, Lucas watched him remove two other crystals from his pouch. One he laid on her throat, the other on her abdomen. Lucas frowned thoughtfully. They looked a lot like his own necklace.
The gems merged with the girl, extending over her body like a shimmering, purple cloak. One section spread out at her collarbone, creating an arcing neckline that extended beyond her upper arms. A choker, bisected by a single, thick band formed next, connecting itself to the collar. Armlets appeared from wrist to elbow, calf-length boots covered her feet, and the rest of her was concealed by a full bodysuit. An angled belt adorned with the second crystal formed last. It was the most bizarre clothing Lucas had ever seen, but then again, nothing else would have been appropriate.
“Sir,” he began, a little undone by what he had just witnessed. “Who are you? And who is she?”
“Yes,” the man murmured. “You have earned the right to know.” Turning and assuming a position Lucas believed impossible due to his armor, he beckoned the siblings closer. Lucas took a step, nearly being shoved aside by Jewel as she enthusiastically took a place at the girl’s feet. “First, I would like to know your names.”
Lucas introduced himself, then gestured to Jewel. She smiled when he spoke her name.
“Lucas and Jewel,” the man repeated, as if trying to familiarize himself with them. “You are siblings, correct? I see a resemblance.”
“Yep!” Jewel replied jovially. “He’s seventeen. I’ll be twelve in May,” she added with pride.
The man smiled. “A great age to be,” he said, and Jewel’s face lit up. “You have asked who we are. That in itself is a difficult feat for humans to understand. But I will do my best to explain.” He touched his chest. “I am Rigel, Third of the Celestial Knights. She,” he said, laying a hand on the girl’s forehead. “She is to become the next Sirius.”
Lucas immediately reacted to the names. Rigel and Sirius were two of the brightest stars in the sky. Jewel’s next words indicated she followed his train of thought perfectly. “I know those names,” she exclaimed. She quickly rose to her feet and retrieved Lucas’ textbook. After flipping through some pages, she hurried to Rigel. “Look,” she instructed, pointing at the page. “There’s Rigel. Do you live there?”
Rigel peered at the book. “A guidebook to the heavens,” he said, surprised. “How did you come across one?”
“It’s Lucas’,” Jewel answered. “He’s studying to be an astronomer just like Daddy. They both taught me things about the stars,” she explained.
Rigel glanced at Lucas with renewed interest. His gaze, he noted, lingered on the necklace. “Fascinating,” he murmured to himself. Turning his attention to Jewel, he smiled. “I do not ‘live there’ as you understand it. I am Rigel.”
Her eyes bulged. “So, the Rigel we see in the sky is really you? Even right now?”
“What you see now is my spirit. My armor”—he touched it with a hand sheathed in a copper gauntlet— “maintains its physical form. The star you see is my body. All stars are made as such.”
Lucas felt his mind reeling. Was it just moments ago he had lamented how his view of stars differed from others? But here, in the flesh, was a man- a being– claiming to be Rigel. The revelation turned all he ever learned about the stars inside out.
Jewel clapped in delight and turned to Lucas. Her eyes were bright. “It’s all true! What you believe and Mama’s stories, they’re real!”
So surprised by what Rigel had said, he just nodded absently to his sister’s words. “What does Sirius have to do with this?” he asked, grasping for something that made some, if not just as incredible, sense.
A dark frown crossed Rigel’s face. His hands curled into fists. “Sirius has betrayed the Celestial Knights. He dishonors the role of First.”
Jewel gave a little gasp. “What did he do?”
Rigel looked down at the sleeping girl. He placed his large hand on her cheek. “I was charged with bringing the new star to Sirius. While we were en route, his minions descended upon us. Most of my power had been focused on keeping her in stasis, so I could not fight them off. They managed to separate us, but lost track of her when she fell to Earth. Only after I had entered the atmosphere could I pinpoint her energy signature.” His eyes softened. “I care not to dwell on what might have happened had she not come across allies.”
There was a short pause. Then, feeling angry and not entirely sure why, Lucas asked, “Why would Sirius try to hurt her?”
“He exhibits a strange reluctance to die,” Rigel answered with a shake of the head. “Star spirits, even the most powerful, burn out, making replacements necessary. To think he’d flout the natural order of things, just for self-preservation, galls me. The Celestial Knights will hear of this,” he growled.
“What will happen now?” Jewel asked, casting a worried glance the girl’s way. “Star isn’t safe here, right?”
“Star?” Rigel repeated, raising a brow.
Jewel blushed slightly. “It’s what I call her.”
“Star,” Rigel said again, this time with an approving smile. “Normally we do not name our new stars, for it may cause confusion in their mind. They are born knowing they are to be the replacement spirit. But in this case, disassociation with Sirius will benefit her,” he added with grim understatement. He nodded and touched her forehead. “Star she will be,” he decreed.
Jewel smiled with pleasure at having her chosen name accepted. Lucas also smiled, finding that it suited her, before giving a start. Something brushed against his ear, like a whisper. It took him a moment to realize that it resonated not without, but from within. Though the words were barely audible, there was no mistaking it. It was his name.
Shifting his gaze to Star, he gasped at seeing her stir. Rigel, too, must have sensed it, for he also glanced down.
Star’s brow furrowed, then her eyes slid open. Rigel expressed relief at seeing her awaken and touched her shoulder. “My Lady Star,” he said with reverence. Star turned her head slightly, recognition entering her eyes. She touched the hand that rested upon her shoulder. Rigel’s face softened with tenderness. “It is good to see you again. Come, meet the one responsible for your salvation,” Rigel said, gesturing toward Lucas.
His heart had already started beating rapidly well before she fixed her gaze on him. The moment she did, the same sensation of time stilling overcame him. She had the most mesmerizing eyes he’d ever seen on a girl despite their light, purple color. She reached for him. Lucas’ hand moved seemingly of its own accord, his fingers brushing hers. A soft smile touched her lips.
Your name is Lucas, whispered her voice. It was reminiscent of wind chimes.
Rigel watched their interaction with undisguised amazement. His hushed murmur of, ‘Astounding,’ snapped Lucas back to reality. As he drew back, confused by his reaction to her, Rigel closed his mighty hand over Star’s. She pulled herself up until she rested against his chest. Her eyes closed, and a contented sigh passed her lips.
“She did it again,” Lucas managed. He found it hard to tear his gaze away from her.
“Again, you say,” Rigel repeated. He nodded to himself. “Young stars are capable of telepathic speech, something done only with their chosen guardians. For her to reach out to you is fascinating.” He glanced once more at Lucas’ necklace, but said nothing. His expression, however, spoke volumes. Lucas wondered what Rigel found so intriguing about it.
“Star must like him,” Jewel declared with a smile.
Lucas felt his cheeks heat and shot her a glance, which she ignored. She took a step closer and knelt down, reaching for Star with the hesitation usually reserved for a wild animal. Star touched her palm to Jewel’s. “Hello,” she ventured. “I’m Jewel. Do you remember me?” When Star bowed her head, Jewel’s smile widened. Looking to Rigel, she asked, “What will you do now?”
“I must go to Polaris. Once there, I will summon the other Celestial Knights. We will not allow Sirius to carry out his dastardly scheme,” Rigel replied. A worried look crossed Star’s face, and she sat up. She stared into Rigel’s white eyes, her small hands pressed against his armor. Rigel’s expression revealed sorrow. “Yes, it is true. Your brother plots against you. Worry not, Lady Star. I will see to it you are protected.”
Star looked relieved at that, but when she glanced over at Lucas, sorrow flashed in her eyes. He swallowed, wishing there was something he could say.
Rigel rose to his feet, taking Star with him. She steadied herself against him and turned to Jewel. She extended her hand, smiling when Jewel placed her palm over it. A mixture of sadness and delight shone on Jewel’s face. “It was nice meeting you, Star. Be careful, okay?”
Star smiled in response, then stepped toward Lucas. He rose to his feet, compelled to do so by the same magnetic attraction that sparked between them. Though he barely knew Star, part of him would miss her very, very much. It seemed she felt the same way, for the next moment she had taken his hand and laid it against her cheek. She closed her eyes, her smile soft, warm. An image of his mother doing the exact same thing to his father came to mind. It was something she always did before she went to sleep or work, and when she came home. Lucas had associated the gesture with how much his parents loved each other. Seeing Star do the same to him only made his heart beat faster.
Rigel touched Star’s shoulder, interrupting the moment. As Star stepped back, Rigel’s helmet manifested in one hand. He placed it over his head before approaching Lucas. “May the stars always light your path,” he said, the words reminiscent of a ritual farewell. He touched Lucas’ chest, his hand grazing the necklace. His brow furrowed. “Could this be—”
Suddenly, a purple-armored figure passed through the tent wall close to where Jewel stood. She cried out and fell onto her backside just it swiped the air with a glowing sword. It repeated the motion, but missed again as Jewel crawled to the opposite corner. Turning on its heel, it zeroed in on the other three. Rigel immediately came to attention, reaching out and grabbing the intruder by the throat.
“Take her and go!” he shouted, shoving Star against Lucas.
“But Jewel!!” he protested fearfully, watching his sister cower in the corner when three more beings appeared.
“I will see to her safety. You must not let Lady Star fall into their hands!” Rigel instructed. The being swiped at him, narrowly missing his throat. “Go, now!”
Star tugged on Lucas’ arm, silently insisting they hurry. Lucas cast a final glance at his sister, grit his teeth at his helplessness, before grasping Star’s hand and rushing out.
Cold air slammed into him, a firm reminder of his lack of proper outerwear. Ignoring his discomfort, he hurried for the large snow mound a short distance away. After managing to scale the surface, almost on all fours, he slipped past and turned. Star followed him and lay down when he instructed her to. Making sure she stayed out of sight, he crawled to the top on his elbows and peered over.
At least ten figures swarmed on the campsite, the snow turning to slush at their feet. Those that made it inside were immediately flung out. The upper half of Rigel’s halberd poked through, its blade pierced through an enemy. It disappeared in a flash of white light, and the halberd retracted. The front flaps of the tent fluttered wildly, giving Lucas glimpses of the interior. All he could identify were flashes of purple and copper. His heart pounded. Where was Jewel?
A foot came down directly in front of him, giving Lucas a start. His eyes flew up in time to see the leering smile of an armored enemy before it brought its light blade down. A pair of hands latched onto Lucas’ sweater, pulling him back just as the weapon made impact. Snow exploded into moist pieces, some landing on Lucas’ shoulders and head. Scrambling to his feet, for he had landed beside Star, he took her hand and ran off. The echo of frantic footsteps indicated pursuit. Lucas glanced around. All that lay beyond were snow banks, and the occasional tree. Hoping they couldn’t climb trees, he headed for it.
The footsteps increased. Lucas risked a glance over his shoulder, and immediately regretted it. The being leapt into the air, weapon poised to strike. Just as it prepared to come down, a halberd burst through its body like an arrow piercing a heart on a Valentine. It gave a strangled cry as it fell forward. Lucas grabbed Star and dropped to the ground, rolling aside as the body hit. It exploded in a flash of blinding white light.
Once it dimmed, Lucas could see a large silhouette coming toward him, a smaller one perched on the shoulder. Star gave a happy cry as she rose to her feet, one hand outstretched to welcome Rigel back. The Celestial Knight skidded to a halt, let Jewel down in time to clasp Star’s hand.
Lucas dropped to his knees in front of Jewel and gripped her shoulders. “Are you hurt?”
Jewel’s blue eyes sparkled with excitement. “You should’ve seen Rigel in action, Lucas! It was so cool!” she gushed. Her reaction was pure Jewel, and Lucas found himself smiling in spite of the situation.
“We must away,” Rigel reminded them gruffly. “The pathway to Polaris does not lie far from here.” Looking at the siblings, he nodded. “Your shelter is safe now. You can return to it.”
“No,” Lucas said. He could feel Jewel’s eyes on him as he rose to his feet. Turning to face Rigel, he said, “We’ll come with you as far as there. We won’t leave until you and Star are safe.”
Admiration flashed in Rigel’s eyes. “I extend my gratitude to you, young Lucas.” He frowned darkly as the now-familiar hiss of melting snow echoed. Star pressed close to Rigel. Jewel glanced about worriedly. “Sirius’ minions draw close. This way!” Rigel cried, gesturing north.
The four fled, Rigel in the lead, Star and Jewel between while Lucas brought up the rear. They cleared several snow banks before finding themselves running alongside a flat plain. Lucas spotted several people huddled before telescopes in the distance. How the rest of the world could carry on while he found himself in the midst of something extraordinary was strangely unsettling.
The banks eventually grew to drift-size, creating shining valleys of white. About halfway across one, Rigel thrust his hand forward. A circle of light appeared, swirling like mist before a column sprouted from the center. It seemed to stretch into infinity.
They stopped a few short paces away. Lucas glanced first to Rigel, then Star. He knew that this time, the goodbyes would be permanent. He reminded himself that this was to save Star’s life, and refused to feel sorrow. Laying his hand on Jewel’s shoulder to keep her still, Lucas waved to the celestial pair. Rigel pressed his hand over his chest. Star did the same.
It was then Lucas saw something appear in the light behind them. At first he couldn’t tell what it was until the unmistakable shape of a sword appeared. Lucas cried out and stepped forward, all it seemed in slow motion.
Star, expressing confusion by his reaction, glanced over her shoulder. Her hands flew up to her face, purple eyes wide with shock. Rigel whirled around, his movements fast while everything else slowed. His hand clamped down on Star’s shoulder, pushing her aside as he stepped forward. The sword pierced him on the right, passing through his armor and appearing beneath his shoulder. White energy flared from the wound.
Rigel, staggering a little, still had enough strength to summon his halberd and reciprocate. The purple-armored minion released a shrill cry before exploding into light. Rigel dropped his weapon, then went to a knee. Jewel broke away from Lucas, crying out his name. Lucas was right on her heels.
Star, already kneeling beside him, wrapped her hands around the hilt of the weapon. “No,” he rasped when Jewel went to help her. “If you remove it, my energy will deplete.” His once thunderous voice was now reduced to a pained whisper. He turned to Star. “Forgive me, Lady Star, for I cannot fulfill my duty as guardian…”
“Rigel, you can’t die,” Jewel said, tears in her eyes.
“It is inevitable,” he replied softly.
“What about Star?” Lucas demanded, angry that Rigel could give up so easily. “You would leave her to whatever Sirius planned?”
“Certainly not,” Rigel replied, sounding more like his old self. “But I can be of no aid to her in this state. Unless…” he paused, glancing at Lucas thoughtfully. “Yes, that is what must be done. It is why she chose you.”
“What?” Jewel asked. Lucas only stared.
Rigel leaned back on his haunches, then laid his hand over his right armlet. It came away like melted gum, pulling itself into a shapeless ball before coalescing back into an armlet. He handed it to Star. She met his gaze, her head tilted. After a moment, she gave a nod of understanding. Once she had the armlet in hand, she closed her eyes. Purple-hued light surrounded the armlet, which sapped it of color.
When she presented the gray armlet to Lucas, he gave a start. “What are you doing?”
“Place it upon your arm,” Rigel instructed. “Do not fear: you have the power to use it.”
“But I don’t understand,” Lucas protested.
Rigel’s next words came out in a hiss of pain. “In time you will.”
Lucas hesitated, gripped by the sense that once he accepted this armlet, his life as he knew it would change. What little he had experienced thus far would be nothing compared to what lay ahead. He glanced at Jewel, who nodded encouragement. When he looked to Star, her voice whispering, Please help me, his decision made itself.
Taking the armlet, he drew a deep breath before snapping it around his wrist. The instant he did, it came alive. Bands of white light sprang from its surface, reaching outward to coil around Lucas’ body. It spread across his chest and arms, down his legs, before it flashed in a single burst. Lucas stared down at himself in awe. White armor, more simplistic than Rigel’s, had replaced his clothing. He lifted his arms, finding the armor to be surprisingly lightweight.
“Wow,” Jewel breathed. Lucas shared her sentiment. Star did as well, given the smile on her face. It sent Lucas’ heart racing.
Rigel nodded. “Since you have accepted this sacred duty, I hereby request that you deliver Lady Star to Polaris. This light will take you there.”
“What about you?” Jewel asked.
Rigel slowly rose to his feet. His wound continued to emit white light, making his face more ashen by the second. “I must return to my body to heal. You will be safe on Polaris, for it is among the Celestial Knights. Lady Star knows the way,” Rigel added, indicating Star. She asserted this with a nod.
Lucas looked to Star, then offered his hand. “All right. Let’s go.”
“Wait a minute!” Jewel cried as Lucas began walking. Both he and Star stopped. When Lucas turned round, he beheld Jewel’s scowl. “You’re not going to leave me behind, are you?”
“I don’t think you should go. Who knows what’s out there,” Lucas pointed out.
“And you do?” Jewel countered. She turned to Rigel. “Isn’t there some way I can go too? I want to help Star.”
“Jewel,” Lucas began, falling silent when Rigel lifted his hand.
“Come to me, little one,” he instructed. Jewel did so without haste, standing with head raised and shoulders squared. Rigel knelt before her, tilting his head as he regarded her. After a moment, he sought and found her necklace. “Yes, you may accompany Lucas,” he confirmed.
She beamed in delight, then watched as he removed his other armlet. Star took it in hand, sapping it of color before presenting it to Jewel. She wasted no time in putting it on. Lucas watched, torn between wanting to keep her safe and wanting her beside him, as white light surrounded her. When it faded, she stood clad in an outfit similar to Star’s, except Jewel’s collar sloped at a downward angle across her chest. Ankle boots adorned her feet, armlets upon her wrists, and there, centered in between her choker and collar, lay the necklace. It shone brightly against the white armor.
“Now you are ready,” Rigel said to her.
“We won’t let you down,” she promised.
Rigel smiled and rose to his feet. He approached Star, who reached out to take his hand. She pressed her cheek against it, looking as sorrowful as when she had done it to Lucas. Rigel let the contact linger for a moment, a soft yet sad smile on his face, before eventually fading from sight. Star’s hand remained in midair, as if reluctant to acknowledge his disappearance. She bowed her head. Lucas swallowed, wanting to comfort her but too shy to do so.
Jewel strode for Lucas. He touched her shoulder, to which she replied with a carefree smile. He envied her ready acceptance of it all. “Come on, let’s go!”
“Yes,” a new voice added, shocking Jewel but not Lucas. He spun round. Star met his questioning gaze; after a moment a small smile touched her lips. His stomach did a flip-flop, reminding him of a roller coaster ride. “Jewel is right. We must go.”
She greeted Star’s words with an excited gasp. “Wow, you can talk now!”
“I learned how when I connected with Lucas,” she said, smiling over at him and making him blush. Jewel did not miss this and eyed her brother knowingly. He frowned at her, then suggested (in a somewhat high-pitched voice Jewel chuckled at) they get going. Jewel took Star’s hand, who in turn touched Lucas’. Their eyes met for a moment, but before he could do more than smile, she led them toward the column.
Its surface gleamed like sunlight, yet moved with the consistency of a backwards waterfall. His intention had been for all three to go in as one, but Jewel pulled free and leapt in. Her body blurred, then shifted upward. Not wanting to let her get too far ahead, Lucas took a deep breath and plunged in alongside Star. At the first sign of his body lifting, he experienced a rush of panic, resulting in him squeezing Star’s hand. When she returned it, he felt his fears subside, and simply let himself go.