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The Stars are Bright

Author: 
Tim Lehnen
Old Vault Category: 
fanfiction
Old Vault ID: 
231

The stars are bright tonight thought Cry as he stared into the clear, bright sky, beautiful points of fire in the heavens... His eyes traced the purple tides of galaxies across the skies until he found his favorite star, Cormus, named after the god of storms, the wanderer. As he watched a mass of clouds began to move across the horizon; he narrowed his eyes as it began passing over the herds of glimmering stars, approaching his. As the first wisp passed across it Cry began concentrating intently; the wisp of cloud thinned and the star became visible once again. There... He returned his attention to the rampart he was patrolling. The stones were slick underneath his sandaled feet, but he was used to it having lived by the sea all his life. He strode confidently across the narrow battlement, to lean against the low, stone wall. He scanned the shore of the small island; the beach was within easy walking distance of the fort and Cry could hear the comforting sound of the waves upon the shore. He closed his eyes remembering previous nights like this.

 


He was nine, curled up in a dusty old chair, reading through his favorite story by the light of the fire. His father was sitting behind him, untangling a fish net. It was still damp and the salty smell of the sea pervaded the cabin. Cry peaked over the edge of his book, watching his father's features in the firelight. The flickering of the flames softened his grizzled features, and Cry thought he could see some of his self in his father's face. Of course, he didn't have his father's scars, and his father certainly didn't share Cry's unusual coloring, or rather the lack thereof, but there was a definite resemblance in the high cheekbones and strong features.

 


The breeze began to pick up; Cry's long white hair was whipped in the wind, a few errant strands falling across his face. He pulled them back behind his ears and shivered. It's never this cold, must be a storm coming. A strand of unruly hair freed itself and Cry sighed and raised his hand to pull it back into place. The skin of his palm was especially pale in the dim light, its lack of color glaringly obvious. Cry was a winterborn, an albino and not the least embarrassed or ashamed about it. But I was when I was younger...

 


Cry remembered asking his father about his skin, he was twelve years old and had been noticing for along time that others treated him differently for his unusual coloring. His father's caustic and life-worn reply shaped his personality, his lifestyle from that day forward.

"You're powerful son, different, do you know why?"

"My skin, and� and my hair"

"Yes, but beyond that. You are stronger than any of the self-centered peons on this petty island. They may call you freak, winterborn, demon child, any and all of these names, but you will always be stronger then them, because they are ignorant. They refuse to question; refuse to make their own lives and have their own opinions. They are sheep." His father's tone was bitter, almost resentful, as if he had once felt the same weakness.

 


Cry smiled sadly remembering his father; he was a kind man at heart but caustic and bitter, disillusioned with the goodness of man. He had been a soldier Cry learned later, a soldier in army whose cause he did not seek to understand, whose authority he did not care to question. He paid dearly for it, and it was his goal to raise his son to be different, to question, to think for himself. He couldn't bear the thought of his son making the same mistakes. And I am strong; he was a good father even if he doubted it himself� Cry's father was always an outcast among the villagers of the community, he was well respected by the soldiers of the garrison but they remained distant, except for the few that would come to talk to him from time to time. When his father became sick after being caught in a storm the soldier's wives prepared hot meals and brought them to the cabin so that Cry could eat, but they were fearful of his father, and cast nervous glances at him as he lay coughing in bed. When his father passed away a few weeks later Cry was surprised and touched when many of the villagers came to the small service. The knights even offered a salute.

Cry himself had been far more accepted among the community, all the children of his age had grown up with him and thus become acclimated to his deformity. Their families thought him kind and he had often been invited to their homes for supper, he generally refused, though, preferring his father's company. After his father died and he grew to a teenager he was well liked for his quiet manner and modest confidence. He was not a shy person, his father having ingrained a level of self-pride in him that could not be erased by questions of his color or peculiarity, but he was also not brash or crude.

Most of the boys of the village aspired to become soldiers of the garrison and began training in their teens. Cry often trained with them but never affiliated himself with the garrison. Several of the soldiers said he had potential, but knowing his father's views did not press him to join.

Then, several weeks ago Cry began having strange dreams of some great conflagration engulfing the village, of warriors in lacquered armor charging up the cobblestone streets, of strange men in odd clothing chanting aloud and sparks jumping from their fingertips, and of a great figure in the flame; a form watching him, reaching for him and then brushing his forehead before he wakes.

And so Cry joined the garrison, and has since requested that all watches be increased. The captain, having benefited from Cry's ability to predict storms and the like in the past, agreed, and twenty-four hour watch shifts were instituted immediately.

Cry shook his head, a sudden pressure in the air startling him out of his reverie. Suddenly the wind picked up ferociously, making the waves pound against the shore and the tropical trees sway violently. The sudden gale was nearly strong enough to push Cry from the rampart, he narrowed his eyes and glanced upwards; a dark mass of clouds was quickly blotting out the bright night sky, soon the whole island was covered in purest darkness. Cry's pale red eyes, usually so sharp were straining against the suffocating blackness. He thought he could make out the white foam of the waves crashing upon the shore in the distance, but then not. A black mass was on the sea coming further and further towards the island. Cry refocused his eyes upward, searching for the faintest glimmer of light, and as he thought he found one, a pale glow filtering through the clouds. Cry concentrated his will upon those clouds and extended his mind upwards, he reached it and tried to pull the clouds apart, he encountered a writhing sea of chaos, an enigmatic power he had never before encountered.

He braced himself and fought through it, sweat beading on his brow, plunging his mind through the churning force and tearing a rift in the clouds. The light of the star of Cormus shone through and broke upon the beach where Cry saw a strange ship. It was painted black and the sails were of a different design than anything Cry had ever before seen in all his years on this port island. He watched for a moment as dark shapes began to swarm from the deck and then turned to the tower, striding quickly inside and taking only the time to pick up a sword, throw a cloak across his broad shoulders, and shout a warning to his comrades.

"Invaders, likely from the West, they've landed at the shore, get everyone inside, I'll scout ahead." He jogged hastily down the stairs to the stables and took one of the stallions from its stall, leaping astride it bareback and galloping out of the compound. He urged the horse to greater speed as he careened down the cobblestone road towards the shore and the invaders' ship. He saw a red glow alight in the sky ahead of him and heard the first rumblings of thunder as the dark clouds began to release their torrential rain. His mind was racing at a pace easily outstripping that of the horse. Why are they here? What do they want from us?! The horse's sides were heaving mightily and it was foaming at the mouth as Cry barreled around the corner and charged towards the gatehouse, as he rounded the last curve he heard sounds ahead of him.

 


Warriors clad in intricate garb raising their hands, pointing in his direction as he charged around the corner. The sound of their voices rising; their strange accents making the words further incomprehensible.

 


Cry saw with startling clarity what was about to happen, he desperately pulled back on the rains of the horse but the frantic beast took the turn too fast and a slipped crashing into the slippery cobblestones a mass of broken horseflesh.

It was difficult to breathe, Cry could feel the horse's weight pressing down upon him, he grimaced and strained to shift its weight from his chest. His side was agony. He craned his neck to see over the horses quivering back, its head lolling madly against the stone.

 


Buildings burning, a mass of flames roaring towards the sky. Strange warriors in lacquered armor, grimacing masks covering their helmets. They charge upward, seeking the fortress.

 


Nooo! Cry desperately shoved the horse from his chest and leapt to his feet, extending his arm to the fortress as the fires slowly approach it. The massive groan of stone and mortar behind him distracting his attention. He turned on his heel in time to witness massive balls of fire arcing from the fingertips of the strange warriors to smash into the gatehouse above. He desperately dives forward as the burning wreckage crashes to the ground around him.

 


Nothing but fire in all directions, Cry himself is engulfed and yet he does not burn. He stands; cloak billowing about his shoulders, long hair teased by the mounting ashes and then senses a presence behind him.

A great figure in the fire, nay of the fire stands behind him. It is being of flame, the embodiment of it in its purest form, beautiful in creation destructive in power. As the towering visage approaches Cry finds himself not afraid, but expectant. He bows his head briefly to the mighty figure and it seems to return the gesture. It then leans forward bringing its massive head within inches of Cry. He can feel the blasting inferno whipping his hair behind him and billowing his cloak, the more force of it enough to force him a short step back. Yet, he does not burn, he can feel the heat of the flames across his body but they do not consume him.

The being watches him, its eyes pools of fire searching his soul. Cry closes his eyes and submits, he feels the creature extend his arm and brush his face. He feels his eyes burn and reform; deepening and hardening. Instantly the fire within him is kindled roaring higher and blazing hotter than any mortal flame, Cry's head is snapped back by the force of it and the he can feel the wind of the vacuum as his fire consumes the air.

 


Cry's consciousness returns and he surveys the land around him. The inferno has died down about him as if absorbed into the one within himself. He turns towards the casters, his tattered cloak billowing around his frame. His now wine red eyes reflecting the dying flames. The strange warriors seem uncertain, then a confident one steps forward whipping out a scroll.

"No." Cry extends his hand toward the caster as he begins to chant. The scroll bursts into flame and is consumed. The strange warriors huddle together, uncertain, watching him nervously.

"You will always be stronger then them. They refuse to question; refuse to seek their own answers. You are powerful."

Cry narrows his eyes and focuses his concentration on the casters. The flame surges through his body, building in his palms, focused by his mind. He splays his fingers and an eddying vortex of flame swirls above their heads. They panic scrambling over each other to get away, the fire begins to fall scorching the earth, consuming them, burning them until nothing but ashes remain.

Cry hears the clatter of boots on the stones and turns sharply, bringing up his sword now traced with runes of fire to parry the blade of an enemy attacker. The flaming sword shatters the enemy's blade and takes out his throat. The spray of blood sizzles as it spatters on Cry's skin.

He turns his attention uphill to the sounds of battle from the fortress; the outer wall is burning. He concentrates briefly, the fire coursing through his veins, and then sprints up the hill. He stops for nothing pausing only briefly to strike down enemies in his path with a lash of flame. He wastes no time navigating around the burning structures but rather climbs straight over them. He finally reaches the crest of the ridge on which the fortress is situated. Both the bodies of his friends and enemies are scattered across the stones. Cry strides through the gates to see his core of friends fending off the last of the enemies, their backs to the only entrance to the town's last shelter. They are sorely pressed but Cry's eyes glint and he glances at the inferno that is the barracks. He briefly focuses his mind upon the flames and then they leap towards the invaders, hemming them in like a living entity, separating them from the defenders. The fires quickly close about them and the last that is seen of them they are turning their swords upon themselves rather than burn.

 


Several months later, the small island is deserted. For the past months reports are heard of the invasion of Hesia and several times black sails have been seen on the horizon, though none have turned towards Crystelmar since that night. Cry thought it best to evacuate the garrison to Aldorac and most of the ships had left several weeks before, today only the last of the garrison and Cry were left, awaiting the tide that would carry them safely passed the tropical reef. Cry was wearing the same cloak still tattered but cleaned since the battle. The captain came forward.

"Are you sure about this? You could still come with us." Cry paused for several moments without reply, his wine red eyes studying the setting sun. He turned to the captain, smiling briefly.

"Do you know what I see when I look west? You must, you were there." He looked back towards the dusk, the sun barely a sliver of flame above the water.

"I understand." The captain turned to go but paused at Cry's reply.

"It's not that I don't want to return to the way things were. I can't. I have to know why. I have to question." The two friends embraced warmly.

"Then I will go." The captain started down the hill, making for the bay and the ship that awaited him.

I will see you again, my friend. Cry smiled. He watched until the ship had set sail, and began retreating across the horizon. Just as it passed out of sight he raised his hand in farewell and the soldiers aboard the ship saw the brief flash of fire from the top of the cliff. Cry sighed as the sky darkened. He made his way to the beach, the soft sea air playing gently with his long strands of hair. Cry reached his own vessel. I one main schooner and deftly began to prepare to set sail. As he pushed off from the shore he looked up at the starry sky. The purple expanse of galaxies the turbulent dance of nebula, and the single point of fire that was Cormus.

The stars are bright tonight.

Note: The preceding is the Biography of Cry called Phoenix, Psion and Pyrokineticist It recounts the events of his early life and the subsequent awakening of his latent powers. His personality is often described as quiet but confident; both bohemian and iconoclastic yet not harsh, always ready with a gentle smile.

 

The Stars are Bright © Tim Lehnen

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