Winner of April Challenge Week Prompt 1: Shooting Star
Written by wdhenning
The night of the new moon held still and cool, perfect for stargazing. Countless points of light spread over an endless sea of darkness, each like a glimmer of hope, or so I wanted them to be. We laid on a blanket spread over a tiled roof and cast our eyes to the sky.
"Do you remember how we used to watch the stars together, my little shooting star?"
My daughter grasped my arm and leaned against my shoulder. She was not so little anymore. I saw glimpses of her mother in her thick brown hair, gentle face, and large caring eyes. Sixteen years to the day had passed since her birth. This was a bittersweet moment for me.
"Aye, father--." A sob stole the rest of her words.
I pulled her closer. "The night sky be a good thing. Each star is a reminder of how much she loved us. I remember clearly the star that fell from the sky on the night of your birth, streaking down from the heavens to us. It was a sign of our blessing. That is why we named you Asteria and called you our little shooting star."
"I know the story, father." Her fingers stroked the lustrous grey metallic pendant at her neck, shaped into a star but worn smooth from years of her touch. It was a piece of that falling star. Even in the darkness, I could see the tears that filled her eyes. "Will we ever see Mother again?"
"I pray to the gods that it be so, but I have no gift of prophecy. Know this, daughter, we will carry her love in our hearts forever."
"Why did she have to leave? You promised to tell me on this day." Her voice held an edge of anger.
I took a deep breath. "Aye, but I hesitate. Knowledge is sometimes a dangerous thing."
"I need to know, Father!"
I nodded with some reluctance. "You know that your mother is an Elemental Shaman of great power? The winds themselves heeded her command."
She dipped her head. "Some called her witch."
"People fear what they do not understand. Your mother left a prosperous service of the king to be with us, for which I am eternally grateful. But she was recalled."
"A powerful dark evil comes from far away, one that would consume us all. Shamen from all lands were called to face it. Your mother was not given a choice, but even so, I think she would have gone anyway to protect us and all good people. Such is her heart." I took a deep breath to still the swelling emotions that would overcome me. "For two years I have heard nothing of her. Even the king has no words. I still hold on to hope and you should too."
She looked again toward the dark sky. "I do, father. But sometimes hope seems as far away as the stars."
"I understand that."
She laid in silence for a moment. "Sometimes I wish I had powers, that I could help her."
This was the moment I had dreaded. But she has the right to know. "You do, my little shooting star."
She jerked her head around, her mouth hung open. I continued. "Your powers began to manifest themselves when you were a little girl. That was unusual for someone so young and a sign of great power. Your mother bound them up within you. A time of decision comes, do you embrace them or let them fade away?"
Her eyes grew wider and her lower lip quivered. "I... I don't know. What should I do, father?"
I pulled her into a hug. She laid her head on my shoulder. "Part of me wishes you to be my little girl forever, but that is not fair to you. This is not a choice to be taken lightly. With power comes responsibility and danger. As a Shaman, some would fear or even despise you. You have seen that much with your mother. But know this, daughter, I will love and support you no matter what you decide."
She gazed up again at the stars and took a long deep breath. I could feel the weight of destiny upon her.
She turned to me. "Father, I--"
A streak of bright light ended her expression. We lifted hands to shield our night accustomed eyes. We jumped at the thunderous roar ending in a booming explosion. The sound circled about and surrounded us, echoing among the hills.
She sat up and gasped. "Father! A fallen star comes to us again, a sign! It is near, I feel it."
She jumped up and grabbed my hand, pulling me through the open window from which we had emerged. I had to hold her back to light a candle lantern before racing out into the darkness.
"This way, Father!" She pulled me along with an exuberance I had not seen in her since... since her mother left.
I shook my head as I nearly stumbled over a small boulder among the tufts of grass. "How do you know which way to go?"
"I can feel it. Oh, Father, it calls to me!"
I stopped, nearly jerking her off her feet and stretching her arm. "Then you did decide. Your powers emerge?"
She nodded vigorously enough that her hair swayed. She squeezed my hand and we continued our search, nearly running up and down the grassy hills. After a half-hour, she came to an abrupt halt before a shallow depression.
She pointed. "There!"
I lifted the lantern. Burnt grass surrounded the dished hole. In the middle of it laid a rough metallic rock about twice the size of my head. It held a grey satin sheen in the candlelight, much like her pendant.
I smiled. "It seems my little shooting star has found a shooting star."
We knelt before it. I put my hand on the surface, tentatively at first in case it was still hot. She did the same. I looked up at her. "This metal is valuable. It would make strong tools and keen-edged knife blades."
She rubbed both her hands across the metal. I heard a lilt in her voice. "It is more than that, Father, so much more. Mother's hand is in it. She sent it to us! I sense her."
My breath halted. "You do? Is she well?"
Asteria closed her eyes. "Her heart yearns, but it beats strong and true."
A wave of euphoria swept through me like a summer breeze. So long have I waited for news of my wife. Could it be so?
Asteria lifted her hands but held them hovering above the fallen star. "It's amazing. I see it all in my mind: the rock, the metallic elements, the crystalline structure, how it all weaves together."
She moved her hands out and circled the mass. A portion of the metal at one end liquefied, flowing together into three small shiny spheres that floated before her. They danced, rippling like drops of water and reflecting the candlelight off of their shiny surfaces. By her thoughts, they changed form, swirling in on themselves to torus shapes and then into rings. She smiled as she opened her eyes and, one by one, snatched them out of the air.
My jaw dropped. "That was amazing, daughter."
She slid one onto my left ring-finger, next to the gold wedding band. I lifted my hand. It felt like the woman I loved touched it.
Asteria slipped a ring on to her finger. The third she strung on her necklace next to her star pendant. She held it up before her eyes. "This is for mother when I see her." She turned to me. "Father, I know what I must do. I will go to mother and help her in the cause."
I shook my head. "No, daughter, I will not allow it." She gasped and her eyes shot full open. I raised my hand to squelch her reply and grinned. "You shall not go alone on such a long and perilous journey. I shall go with you."
A smile rose on her face and she rushed in to hug me. "Thank you, father."
"Such a journey is not done on a whim. We must make preparations. And there is training to be done to use your powers. Remember, daughter, what I said about power and responsibility?"
I'm fairly sure she rolled her eyes. "Yes, Father..."
I pointed at the fallen star. "Can you lift it with your powers?"
She closed her eyes and held out her hands. The fallen star waivered and rose in jerky motions, fell, and then rose again.
I nodded. "Very good. The first exercise of your training is to carry it home."