Starsearch by Steph T


Starring Milo Pulsar and Shaula Bluestar

This is the story about many things.

It would be easy to call it just an adventure, or a mystery, or a coming-of-age- but it is all of these things, and more. At its heart though it is a story of identity; in the greater sense, and mine in particular.

How an orphan learns to define her life anew. How she learns to call a strange place home, and a strange people friend. How she struggles to define her own worth in an alien landscape.

You know, just everyday life.

It had been around a standard month since Milo had rescued me from the death that took my family; a month since he pulled me from the wreckage of my life and made room for me, awkwardly, in his. Rooms had been given to me at the Tower of Deepsight, heart of the Paragon Order, and the rest of the benevolent bunch was doing what they could, in their own bumbling sort of way, to make me feel welcome, for a time, at least.

Space Wizards as a bunch tend to be a solitary sort, their days consumed with study and research and long hours of labor. The power they wield… well, it separates them from others. The Order of Novum might be the only exception to this rule: that is, the builder’s order that produces so many of the magical items we use every day- Gate rings, hovercraft, various personal field devices. But even the Novae, the wizards-next-door of the galaxy, are something more than your average human.

And, ah, the Paragon Order! Noble champions of the galaxy and explorers of the wilds, they are even more than that. And try as they might, it was not in them, for the most part, to relate well even to other humans, much less a starbeing. And it was not in me, grieving and empty, to accept their friendship. And so I turned away from their offers of friendship, and hid myself in my rooms.

Where I found myself quite promptly bored out of my starry mind.

“They are thinking of sending me away,” I said to Milo over a meal one night. I wasn’t sure of it when I said it; but I watched the muscles in his face tighten, and I knew it was true.

“That’s not going to happen,” he replied firmly. “Not unless you want to go, of course.  You’re not a prisoner.”

I was sitting in the open window, bowl of dinner half-forgotten, watching the stars turn in the skies above. Milo was sprawled in his favorite comfy chair by the bookshelves, a pile of tomes floating open around him; he was reading them, idly, while he munched at his food. I looked at him for a long moment, until he lifted his gaze from the books to meet mine. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” I said at last, and then I was embarrassed at how needy the statement sounded.

“To do?” he echoed, and his brow furrowed in bewilderment. “I don’t… has someone said something to you, done something that…”

“No one has asked anything of me,” I replied evenly. “And that is the problem.” I pushed the bowl away, turned to look back out the window, up at the stars. “I don’t want to be a burden,” I added quietly.

“You’re not a burden, Shaula.” He sounded annoyed; I flinched.

“But I’m not doing anything useful, either.” I watched the pinpoints of gently winking light in the sky with wistful appreciation. “And… having something to do, it would help. I think. Help me.”

“Ah,” he said, sounding suddenly relieved. “You’re bored.” His face was alight with comprehension.

It wasn’t quite correct- it wasn’t just idleness on my part. I wanted to feel useful, part of a community; wanted to prove my worth. But boredom- it would suffice as an explanation. I couldn’t really blame him for not understanding- how many humans have regular contact with starbeings, anyways? Humanity is the most populous race in the galaxy, with just under a hundred billion, and we number perhaps a hundred thousand. That’s something like a million humans for every starbeing; and that’s not even counting the populations of morlocks, goblin kingdom, titans, minotaurs…

We are a long-lived race, and we dwell apart from them for most of it. It is no wonder that they call us mysterious.

“I’ll find you something to do,” Milo promised.

And so it was I found myself in the Deepsight Archives, doing… well, all sorts of things. A lot of reading, and helping sort out various tomes and scrolls. Working with magical curios, old and new- things so old that no one remembered what they did, or new discoveries. I found myself learning a lot, and fast. And there were times I was enjoying myself with it.

It still wasn’t enough, though. I wondered idly if it ever would be.

I borrowed a dinorocket from the Order’s stables. I picked her because the Stablemaster told me she was one the least popular among the shared mounts. (The wizards who travelled often, like Milo, had their own- Androsus was Milo’s- but there was a common stable, too.) Tau was a tetrapteryx- they’re a bit smaller than other dinorocket breeds, and a little more high maintenance. Their blood is a few steps closer to bird than lizard, and as such they get sick more often.

I thought she was gorgeous.

We went up to orbit, and she immediately started heading for the Astral Gate Ring- she was surprised when I urged her out into empty space, and even more surprised when I stepped off her back, unfurled my wings, and began to dance.

Starbeings don’t use their wings, planetside. They don’t hold up under any sort of gravity environment- they’re more like huge gossamer sails than what you would think of as a wing, really. We use them to catch solar winds, glide through space. Dance in glorious orbit around our homestar. It’s a sight most non-starbeings never get to witness.

We sing, too, in family groups- beautiful crystal songs that ring through our shared atmosphere, weaving together in braids of sound and color and light. I wouldn’t be singing, though.

Starbeings don’t sing alone.

But I could dance, and leave streaks of color and light streaming through the emptiness. And I could talk, a little bit, to the star that watched over Deepsight and the rest of the Paragon planet. He was young, for a star, and fond of the wizards who dwelled in his system. He wasn’t my star; our songs would never mesh, but we could speak, a little. It was something.

So between that, and my work, I got along. I kept busy. And a friendship began to grow, bit  by slow bit, between Milo and myself. There was a lot standing in the way of that friendship; guilt and resentment and above all, obligation. I owed him my life; and a part of me wasn’t sure there was any way I could repay it. And Milo, well, he had no idea what to do with me. I think if there had been someone he could have passed me off to, he would have considered it.

I  touched down on the landing pad one day after taking Tau up to space to find the Tower in utter chaos. Wizards ran to and fro, shouting loudly and gesticulating; everyone seemed angry and tense and frightened. I wended my way to the center of the throng and located Milo.

“What’s happened?” I asked carefully.

He shot me a distracted glance. “The Temporal Sorceror’s gone missing,” he said quickly, then turned back to the cadre of apprentices he was trying to wrangle into some semblance of organization.

“Missing?” I echoed, not understanding. “He went somewhere?”

“More like kidnapped,” snapped a wizard I knew by face, but not by name.

Milo looked frazzled. “Shaula, maybe you should go somewhere a little less chaotic while we sort this out,” he suggested. “I’ll explain more when I can, I just…” he turned away without finishing his sentence.

The implication that I was useless stung me, but I kept a calm face. I turned my face to the star overhead; we were still connected by a thread, and I could feel his faint worry. Missing Wizard, I explained in a starwhisper. Taken, perhaps. Did you see anything?

It normally takes a star a long time to form its thoughts. But this star was young, and a fairly quick thinker on top of that. Green Flash, the star agreed. Flared at the Time-Seer. Went Away, through Roaring Door.

What is Green Flash? I asked, curious.

The star sent me a feeling instead of words; something twisted- a tiny speck of something poisonous and cruel, but touched with a brightness I recognized as the way stars perceive human magic.

“Are there any Wizards who work with poison?” I asked Milo.

Milo looked like he was about to snap at me, annoyed; I saw him rein it in, take a deep breath. “Yes, Order of Venom. Why?”

“One of them took him,” I replied calmly. Two wizards standing next to Milo spun around to stare at me, jaws dropped.

“How do you know that?” one of them sputtered.

I tilted my face up to the skies. “He saw it,” I said simply.

That’s when things got really crazy.

Thinking quickly, Milo extracted me from the mob of excitedly shouting wizards crowding me with questions and tucked me in a corner, holding them off with a raised arm. He had an odd look on his face, a sort of appraising gaze. “Shaula, do you have a way to tell us more about who the wizard was? Please, it’s very important.”

“Of course it is,” I said gently. “A moment.” I closed my eyes, stretched my senses out again; but the connection was fraying quickly in the atmosphere. “I need to go back up to ask,” I apologized.

“That’s okay,” he assured me. “I’ll get Andry, don’t go anywhere.” He disappeared into the crowd. I found myself beset upon by the crowd of wizards, each loudly shouting variations on the same two or three questions; I did my best to answer them, but was glad when I heard the big pteradon’s shriek. Excusing myself, I clambered up behind Milo and we took to the skies.

I felt the weight of the star’s interest when we emerged from the planet’s atmosphere. I spread my wings out to soak in more light; a thread of connection spun out between us. Green Flash, I whispered to him. We need to find where he took Time-Seer. What can we do?

I felt a low rumble come from the star as he considered. Stars are wise and insightful, but they tend to think on a different scale, and with different priorities than humans or even starbeings. There are portions of their language, too, that simply cannot be translated into Galactic Common. The star’s suggestion was one of these; we spoke back and forth for a while longer.

I furled my wings and turned to face Milo, who was watching me work in respectful silence. “Green Flash- that is, the Order of Venom wizard- took the Temporal Sorceror to the same system that he arrived from. It was a star that looked like this.” I concentrated, and my inner light shimmered and twinkled and changed to a paler gold color.

An amused smile broke over his face. “And what am I supposed to do with that, Starry? Do I look like some sort of Wizard?” He laughed at my confused expression. “I’m only teasing- I’ve got the trace, and…” He glanced over at where the Astral Gate Ring hung in orbit around Paragon, his Etheral Mask glittering over his eyes as he traced the lines of energy. “I can see where the energies converge. Hmmm…” He put his hands on Androsus’s flight runes, and urged the dino towards the ring. “Yes, I can track this, but we’re going to have to follow it now, while it’s hot. I don’t have time to… are you okay with coming with me?”

“Of course,” I replied. “But shouldn’t we let the Order know we’re going?”

“Mm,” he nodded, flicking his magic tome open. A page within began to glow as he laid his hand on it and spoke a string of arcane words. A point of empty space over Androsus’s wingspan began to ripple, and a dark shape formed out of midair- a miniature version of Andry, with inky black wings and head. The little creature screeched, and then dove straight downwards towards the planet.

“What was that?” I asked, both fascinated and frightened at the casual use of power.

“Just a darkgolem,” Milo said offhandedly. “Magical construct. It’ll carry the message down for us. Here we go!” And with a flick of his wrist, he activated the Gate, and Androsus flung us through it.

We emerged in orbit around a planet completely unfamiliar to me: thick swirling clouds of lurid red-orange-brown obscuring the surface save for scattered patches of dark ocean. I didn’t see any signs of civilization, but any number of major cities could have easily been hiding under the swirling clouds. The star in this system, I noted with disappointment, was young; too young to have formed a heartcrystal yet, and thus too young to speak with.

“No Gate Ring,” Milo said quietly, almost to himself. “This had to have been planned for a long time, to lock onto our Ring without a Gate Key.” His gaze hardened.

I winced. “Where are we?” I asked, peering down at the planet.

“Not sure,” Milo shook his head, released some of the tension in his eyes. His mask glittered as he gazed over the planet. “I can still see his tracks, faintly; let’s follow him down.” He traced a pattern on Androsus’s flight runes, and the pteradon screeched an affirmative and took us down.

We skimmed through the atmosphere, following Milo’s Etheral Vision, and entered the planet’s gravity well proper. More runes set into Androsus’s hide slowed us and shielded us from the burn as we entered the thick, soupy atmosphere. In a surprisingly short amount of time we were gliding over the clouds, coasting on the warm winds that might have been, if not for the current situation, rather pleasant.

No sooner had I finished that thought then Andry let out a shriek and banked sharply to the left; even tucked into my riding strap I was thrown off my feet as a lance of something green and crackling flew past us. “Nice dodge, Andry!” Milo whooped, his feet still firmly planted as he leaned back into the strap

I dared to glance down; through a chance gap in the clouds, I spotted our target. He was a smudge of green and bronze robes in one of those little skimmers they try to call six-seaters, but honestly more than three and you’re practically sitting in each other’s laps. I didn’t see the Temporal Sorceror, but there was a bundle of something-or-other in the backseat. I was more focused on the cloud of crackling green energy he was gathering in one palm and preparing to launch our way.

“Right below us!” I called, pleased to hear that despite the butterflies dancing in my stomach my voice was even and steady.

“Whore’s tits,” Milo swore, pulling Androsus up sharply; another greenish beam of… something… flashed past us; this time, it was close enough to catch a whiff of something acrid and eye-watering. “Good eyes, starprincess!”

Androsus was large, as dinorockets go; but he was still maneuverable, and Milo piloted him with skill. We twisted around in a pattern that made my stomach lurch, but put us just behind and below the skimmer, underneath the distortion-ripple of the wake it trailed. I was certainly no expert at this sort of fight, but even I could see the advantages- partially cloaked from his view, but keeping a clear bead on him ourselves.

But the time we’d taken to maneuver, he’d taken to cast another spell; the skies around him split, and a pack of screeching bird-like creatures suddenly filled the air. “Are those also darkgolems?” I asked nervously.

“What fun would that be?” Milo shook his head. “No, darkgolems are forged out of dark matter- not easily to pull planetside. But this should be much more fun- I’ve never gone up against harpies before!”

“Harpies,” I said faintly. “Of course.” I’d read a text that mentioned them in the Archives- poison-tipped claws, it had said, among other unpleasant things.

The harpies dove at us. Milo slashed out with his laser whip, sending a searing beam of light at the pack; it scorched a hole in one of their wings and slammed it right into a second bird. Two harpies dropped, flailing wildly as they disappeared into murky orange clouds.

Which left only, oh, about twenty more.

We dove, sacrificing maneuverability for sheer speed. Another acid-green bolt streaked past the harpies and clipped Androsus’s flank; he screeched and flailed in pain, sending me sprawling and even making Milo stumble a few steps. “Dammit!” Milo swore. “Shaula, stay with Androsus and get out of the way- he knows what to do. I’m going to try to lure them off.” As he spoke, he rummaged around in a saddlebag and pulled out a number of items, buckling them on with the ease of long practice. “I’ll be back as soon as I’ve taken care of this,” he assured me.

Then he leaped off of Androsus’s back.

I blinked. Blinked again. And then with a roar of sound, Milo shot upwards past Androsus and I, rocket boots burning and winged gauntlets spread wide. Even over the noise of the boot’s thrusters-were those boots even meant for atmosphere? I could swear they were for zero-g use only-I could hear him laughing.

I had a lot of emotions ripple through me at that moment.

There was worry, of course- and it was justified, I realized, as I watched him skim through a thread of greenish gas that promptly erupted into flame. Milo, who was my self-appointed guardian of sorts, was skimming through a partially-flammable atmosphere with fire shooting from his feet.

There was spite, too- a small, private, fed-up part of me wondered if he’d secured his space snorkel properly, or if he was going to be poisoned by the lethal fumes of this atmosphere.

Quickly following this came the shadow of guilt; and then worry for the Temporal Sorceror (and what was his name? It escaped me.). But all of these- and a hundred more- were slowly and inevitably drowned in the rising wave of one simple, pure, uncomplicated feeling.


Starbeings in general- and I am no exception- are, in general, known for their serenity, their calm, their grace. We don’t get riled by the lesser annoyances in life; petty disturbances, minor frustrations. It takes a lot to faze us.

But when we go, we go hot and we go loud. And I was fucking fed up with being discounted.

I saw red. Then I saw white, and then blue. “Up, Androsus,” I snarled, hands planted on the flight runes; and, startled, the pteradon winged painfully upwards and back to the fight.

As we broke through the clouds, I saw Milo flipping acrobatically straight over the pack of harpies and the mage in his skimmer. One arm flexed, wing-gauntlet taut and straining,  Milo banked hard. The Venom wizard flung another acid lance; Milo dodged it easily, and it splattered instead against two of the harpies screeching towards him.

He returned fire with a crack of his laser whip; but the Venom Wizard banked sharply, evading the searing light. Milo only laughed louder, shutting the rocket boots off and diving pell-mell for the skimmer. He missed by, I do not lie, less than a meter, the skimmer tossing itself to one side so violently I nearly thought the limp figure in the back seat would tumble right out.

A pair of harpies had noticed us, smelling the blood smeared on Androsus’s flank. They screeched at us and rose on mottled, filthy wings to menace us. I just gazed at them, long and steady; felt the darks of my eyes swelling to fill the white. Felt the stars in my eyes begin to twirl. Felt the core of my body’s heat shift, to a spot right in the back of my skull.

I let loose with a beam of plasma that cracked like lightning, and scorched the first harpy to the bone.

She dropped, and the second one checked her flight, startled at her companion suddenly turning black and crispy. I let my anger rise in a second crest, and a bare moment later a second char-grilled fowl fell noiselessly into the swirling orange clouds below  us.

I turned my gaze, still spinning with the light of a thousand stars, to the battlefield below. No sooner did I do so than Milo shot out of the clouds, setting a patch of gas aflame all around him. My heart lurched as I watched the skimmer catch aflame; Milo managed to dodge the heat of the blast, but I his  saw his suit legs beginning to darken with char. He cracked his laser whip again; the Venom wizard barely dodged it, and I saw a patch of blood darken the sleeve of his robes.

There couldn’t have been more than three or four harpies left alive at this point. I’d nearly forgotten about them; I can only assume Milo had, as well. It’s the only explanation I can offer for why he wasn’t looking up when the bitch dive-bombed him from the cloud cover above and knocked him right out of the sky.

I didn’t even think. Androsus and I were diving after the two of them before I even clutched at the flight-runes. Milo and the harpy tumbled through the clouds, and I watched it happen as if in slow motion. A patch of greenish gas loomed; a cloud of flame blossomed, enveloping them both in heat and light and sound.

A wall of flame loomed before us; in answer, I flung up an atmosphere around us of a kind I’d never exuded before, a two-walled structure of sorts. Clinging faintly to my head and Androsus’s was a thin, breathable pocket; and surrounding us as far as out as I could shove my field was absolute vacuum.

To this day, I have no idea how I did it.

The wall billowed up towards us; and promptly veered around us as our spear of vacuum pierced the firestorm.

The harpy, injured and smoldering, had pulled a bare arms-length away from Milo, flapping wildly in an attempt to extinguish her feathers. I watched her wind up with her sharp and glistening talons, gaze fiercely focused on Milo’s momentarily vulnerable belly.

I don’t think so, I thought. My glare flashed blue, and with a faint gasp the harpy dissolved into feathers and ash.

Milo caught himself a moment later, twisted in midair and gained control of his flight. He touched down on Androsus’s wing, sucking in air in big breaths. “Fuck, that was close,” he gasped out as soon as he’d regained his voice. He laughed again, throwing his head back in sheer exhilaration and just letting go. “Ah, Shaula,” he wheezed, “you never told me you–”

I levelled my glance on him, still full-black and spinning with starlight. He checked himself, swallowing his laughter; his expression grew thoughtful. “You know, Shaula,” he said after a moment, quite calmly. “You just saved my life. You know, I think we’re even now.” And that little smirk.

My eyes had been quieting, spinning down into stillness and serenity; but at that jibe, they flared again, even hotter, and I lurched to my feet. Void beyond, I swear I was about to fire a plasma beam right into his smug head.

Luckily, that was the exact moment the last living, un-charred harpy cannoned out of the clouds and knocked my starry ass right off the dinorocket and into freefall.

I screamed; felt a claw gouge into my tender midsection. I screamed even louder, and my eyes burned as a torrent of plasma erupted from them. I more sensed that heard the harpy disintegrate.

I tumbled helplessly, body already wracked with fever from the poison on the hen’s spur. I couldn’t control myself; couldn’t stop from falling. The clouds were spinning with menace, colors vivid and reaching for me, wrapping around me, and then mercifully my vision went black.

I drifted for some time.

When I came to, we were floating in orbit, starlight gently bathing us in its soft radiation. I sighed, shifted; heard a low chuckle.

Oh. Milo.

He looked over his shoulder at me, and his eyes were sparkling under his mark as he smiled. “I think I’m up one life-saving again,” he said thoughtfully.

I just groaned, and rolled back over. My body was exhausted from starpurging the poison; that’s my excuse for why I didn’t fry him. Hmm, yes, we’ll go with that. “Did he get away?” I asked faintly.

“Mmm,” he said quietly, and seriously. “He did. But his emergency Gate Key could only take one.”

I opened my eyes wide, sat up fast. Regretted it. “The Temporal….”

“Still under the Venom wizard’s spell,” Milo shrugged, “but, well…”

I followed his glance, and couldn’t keep myself from smiling. Strapped into the flight harness beside me was none other than Marcus Xan- oh, right, that was his name! “You can’t wake him?” I asked softly, reaching out to stroke the unconscious Sorceror’s cheek.

“Not yet, no. The threads are tangled; they’ll be able to untangle it back at the Tower.” Milo looked troubled. “I hope. The type of magic used… we just don’t know very much about the Order of Venom.”

“I feel it,” I mused, resting my fingertips on his cheek. “It’s not… how you’re supposed to be. You humans.”

Milo gave me an odd sidelong glance. “You humans,” he replied thoughtfully.

I shrugged, let out a tiny sigh. “Yes,” I replied, as gently as I could. “I’m… we’re not the same as you. But, well… we aren’t all that different from you, either. We eat, we grow, we die, we mourn.”

“Eat starlight, and grow on solar winds,” Milo countered with a small smile. “But other than that, yeah, pretty much the same.”

I ignored him serenely, traced my fingers over Xan’s brow. “He just needs his crystal sung out a little bit,” I murmured. “Then all this scale will slough right off.” I could feel it, hovering just over his skin; feel it as clearly as the prickling buzz of a solar wind. Without stopping to think about it, I hummed a soft low note.

It reverberated weirdly in the confines of Androsus’s atmosphere, and Milo startled. “What’s that?” he asked, a little warily.

I eyed him patiently, then let the hum fade. “The First Drawing Note.” I didn’t offer to explain; he didn’t ask. I pitched my voice a notch higher, sounded out another low thrumming tone.

“Let me guess, the Second Drawing Note?”

I didn’t stop humming, but my eyes twinkled with a smile. I lifted the tone another half-step into the Third Note; felt my wings unfurling, the response ingrained. And then our atmosphere exploded with sound and color and light as I sang a part-and it was just a small part, for a starbeing does not sing alone- of the Song of Birth.

Ah, it was bittersweet!

I sang, and my heart grieved, remembering how just a month ago I had been singing part of this Song- but singing it properly, with my family around me. But as it grieved, I felt a piece of it starting to hurt just a bit less. You can’t sing a song of creation without being, in some small way, re-created. Healed.

It took a long time to sing, and when I was done we had left a slender streak of green-gold nebula dust behind us; the Sorceror was stirring; and Milo was smiling at me, a warm and genuine grin without a hint of sarcasm or mockery. “That was amazingly done,” he said quietly.

I brought my wings back in gently, my body feeling heavy and peaceful. I could see in his gaze that I did not need to tell him what a private thing I had just shared with him; could see, with that heightened perception that comes with the Song, that this was not something he would speak of to others.

The Temporal Sorceror was fully conscious by the time we were ready to activate Milo’s Gate Key, flinging ourselves across the galaxy and back to Paragon’s Astral Gate Ring. A veritable cloud of pixies stirred up when we materialized, jumping to attention before streaking planetwards. “Sentries?” I guessed.

“Mm,” Milo agreed. “They’ll have been worrying.”

He wasn’t wrong; by the we touched down, what must have been the entire Tower was assembled on the enormous landing pad. And the roar they sent up when they saw Marcus Xan alive and safe- I swear, it shook the ground beneath us! The younger wizards sent up colored flares, too, and before long the air was filled with more and more elaborate fireworks as natural wizardly one-up-manship reared its head.

No less than the Paragon herself-head of the Order-was waiting for us when we dismounted. Milo had to help the Sorceror down; his legs were still shaky from the twisted binding magics.

The Paragon dipped her head, and the motion was a deep, deep honor. “Sorceror Marcus Xan,” she said, her voice sonorous, “the Tower is overjoyed that you are returned to us.”

I touched Androsus’s flank, began to lead him back to the stables. These sorts of crowds were not my forte; I’d leave that to Milo. And, I admit it; I was very weary.

“Paragon,” Xan’s voice was quiet but steady. “I regret to say I know little of the why or how of this incidence. The mage who took me; he spoke strange words, of…” he paused, grimacing. “…of the forces of entropy-I can only assume he meant himself-acting for the good of the Galaxy. Of mankind.”

The Paragon nodded, but her eyes were troubled. “Madness is a many-layered thing,” she said sadly. “Sorceror, I would have you rest yourself, and speak more to me later.”

The Temporal Sorceror nodded in weary agreement, and permitted a Healer-Wizard to lead him off, no doubt to be carefully examined.

“Wizard Milo Pulsar,” the Paragaon continued. “You have done a proud thing this day. We would-”

“No, Paragon,” Milo interrupted, and only the deep respect in his voice made it less than a complete shock and offense.

“No, Pulsar?” Her usually regal face bore just a trace of disapproval. I winced, and nudged Androsus to move along; he was favoring his flank, though, and would have been moving slowly even if the gathered wizards hadn’t been so sluggish about getting out of the way.

“With the greatest of respect, Paragon, it would be dishonorable to take all of the credit for the feat.” Milo never spoke like this; I could only conclude that he had deep admiration for this wizard. “I could never have hoped to locate the system the Order of Venom mage had kidnapped the Temporal Sorceror too if the Lady Shaula Bluestar had not garnered the information for us.”

A rippling murmur spread through the crowd; and I suddenly felt the weight of hundreds of gazes upon me. I guess the word hadn’t spread, before. With great effort, I straightened myself and turned to regard the Paragon. For her part, she seemed bemused, but not disbelieving.

“And furthermore, Paragon,” Milo continued, “the Lady Starbeing saved my life when I was set on by harpies.” Another ripple of surprise, this one louder. “So I must allow that fully…” and he glanced at me then, and I saw that smirk on his face, that little trouble-warning… “…a quarter of the credit go to Shaula.” A moment of shocked silence. “Perhaps even a third,” he added thoughtfully into the lull.

The crowd laughed uproariously; how could they not? Even the Paragon smiled. And I laughed too, I did.

“Well, then,” the Paragon continued once the laughter had quieted. “I have this for you, Milo; a token of our regard.” She produced a bright silver wand from the sleeve of her robes; and even from my distance I could see the intricate runic carvings on it. “May it serve you as well as it did me, in my youth.”

Milo bowed low, and accepted the wand.

The Paragon turned to me, and I felt her gaze like the heat of a star. “And you, Lady Bluestar; I would offer you a gift, if I knew what it is you wanted. Tell me; what would you have of us?”

What did I want? My heart stung me, a deep hurt. “What I want most, Paragon, I do not think is in your power to give; there is no magic that can return the dead to life.” I saw my own sorrow reflected in sympathy in her eyes; beside me, Androsus shuffled restlessly in place. An idea came to me, then. “There is one thing, though, if it is not too great to ask,” I ventured cautiously.

The Paragon’s smile only broadened. “You have returned our Temporal Sorceror to us,” she said simply. “There is little you could ask of us that we would not grant.”

I nodded. “Tau,” I said calmly.

“The tetra?” she asked in surprise. A moment later, she smoothed her features over. “Of course, the tetrapteryx is yours, and whatever gear is hers. And stabling, of course.”

It was generous; more than generous. I bowed my head respectfully; and gracefully excused myself from the crowd.

“You could have asked for anything, you know, “Milo said later. “Those priceless relics in the Archives; money enough that you’d never have wanted for anything.” He sipped his beer, relaxing by the crackling fire he’d lit as soon as we got back to his rooms.

I dangled my foot off the windowsill, relaxing into the curved cupola. “And how would that have helped me?” I replied philosophically. “Tau can get me where I need to go.” I looked out the window, smiled a sad smile. “To do what I need to do. Find who I need to find.”

Milo was quiet for a long moment. Then, softly; “And when you find him?”

Memory wracked me painfully. I could see it all over again; the Order of Nogg wizard, alone in the shattered nebula remains of my home, hand on my star-crystal; his eyes so cold, so empty.

I felt my gaze go black and spinning; I turned my face to the fire to let Milo see. He looked thoughtful; not approving, quite, but not disapproving either. We understood each other.

I turned my gaze away, let my anger fade. “And I have to recover the heartcrystal, if any of it still exists by then,” I added after a long moment.

He grunted in acknowledgement, took a long sip at the beer. “I’ll be there,” he said, unexpectedly. “When you find him. I’ll be there.”

I blinked. Looked at him. He meant it. “Thank you, Milo,” I said quietly. “Partners, then?”

“Something like that.” A little smirk crept onto his face. “I mean, you still owe me one life-saving, by my reckoning-aauck!”

He wasn’t expecting the pillow I flung at his head- or the second one that followed after. He laughed, and I laughed back at him.

And a tiny seed of… something… began to unfurl. Friends, I heard my heart whisper, and then, Home.

It wasn’t perfect; wasn’t complete. But it was a good beginning.

(c) 2010 Stephanie Tyll

2 Responses to Starsearch by Steph T

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