The Prince and the Star

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

There was once a prince who spoke to stars, and there was once a young star who came to love a human from the edge of the world. Up in the sky, everything looked smooth, gracious and seamless: the
star longed for the imperfections that had created everything, they amazed it. Here on the ground, the prince had always lived in an imperfect world and he longed for the beauty of the grand whole.
One day, they meet.

Let me tell you a story, the story of a lonely prince who fell in love with a star.

There once was a kingdom at the edge of the world. There, the world and sky mixed into an endless abyss, the water fell upward and magic seeped into the ground. The days were bright and joyful, clear blue skies illuminated by a shining sun. But the nights were different, the darkness rolled over the land, twisting, corrupting what it touched. Friendly forests would become treacherous wildwoods, flower-filled fields into ghastly wind-swept swamps and the trees cast eerie shadows, not unlike grabbing hands that tried to drag any unfortunate traveler into what lurks below. Animals hid as nighttime predators came out of their hiding. Nothing lit the sky but distant stars, a faint reminder of the day that may come back. Nobody liked the night.

There was once a prince who spoke to stars. You would think that he was happy, being a soon-to-be monarch of a powerful kingdom, but he wasn't.
His father, the king, was more concerned with his duty to the land than that to his heir, his own flesh and blood. He barely spared his son a glance, like the prince was a shadow, a detail to be forgotten while facing the troubles of the country. Somedays he forgot his son even existed.
His mother, the queen, was sick. Bedridden and frail, she threaded the line between consciousness and sleep. Her memory faltered and most often she would greet her son like a queen would greet a stranger or servant, and not like a mother her child. Every day, this broke his heart.
The people of the kingdom also avoided the young man, fearing him just because of the title his blood had brought him: he was the prince, he was above them.
And so the prince spent his days silently wandering the halls of the castle like a ghost. All alone, unwanted and unloved.
Only at night he was happy and free. He loved the night. He would climb the highest towers of the castle and pull himself up onto the sloped roofs. There, he would finally speak. He would address the sky, smiling at the stars like old friends, even if they were just distant specks of light. One was his favorite: a bright star that never left the sky, unmoved despite the seasons. He spoke to it the most often, revealing it his troubles and worries, recounting his adventures and discoveries, telling it stories and humming songs he created. He would lay on the cold roof for hours, smiling at the speck of light.

There was once a young star who came to love a human from the edge of the world. It would wait restlessly for a distant land to be bathed in the darkness of the night, because that's when he came. 
The star would watch as the young man pulled himself up onto a tower roof, and then it would settle down to listen to him speak. It would marvel at the way his eyes, dark enough to hide the moon, would sparkle when he retold stories, the way his smile seemingly outshone the star itself.
Nothing can bring stars joy, for that emotion is too simple for them to feel. But the sense of wonder, interest, enthrallment, fondness, and pleasure created something similar to it, and the star felt it all when it watched over the prince.
It would listen and treasure each of his tales, committing each word to memory as there were so few that ever spoke to it. It especially loved when he sang. It closed its eyes at those times, knowing that it was almost like a goodbye for until he came back the next night. And it would wish, something it had never done before. It would wish to be able to answer to the young prince, to join him in the land far, far away.

One day, a distant old star turned its gaze towards the young one, which was scowling at a distant planet, counting hours and minutes until nightfall.

"What are you doing?" Asked the elder.
"Waiting for nightfall." The other answered.
"You watch that world day and night. Why?"
"Because how else would I know when to listen? It brings me joy."
"Really?" The elder was surprised; it is hard for a star to feel. But this one smiled so warmly at that world, tried so hard to illuminate that land from so far away, that the elder knew it was no lie.
"I wish I could join them." The younger star said, still not turning away. Its tone was so regretful that it made the elder's heart tremble.
"You could."
The other star looked at it with unmatched surprise. "Really?" It whispered, incredulous. "I do not know how."
"My time is up, little one, and there are certain graces granted upon a dying star. If you truly wish for it, I could send you there, to walk among those you watch over." 
The young star looked upon the elder, finally noticing it's dimming and flaring light, the unstoppable shrinking of its core, like a clock counting down to final moments that were barely held back.
"Yes, there's nothing I'd want more." It finally said with conviction.
"Then so it shall be. But you won't be able to stay for long. Your home is here, in the fabric of the universe, and as long as you're a star, you must return to the sky. A season is the best I can do."
"So be it. I'd be happy with just a day." 

Far away, in the kingdom at the edge of the world, wild tales and rumors spread across the land. In the early hours of the morning, something had fallen from the sky. Or, as most of these rumors told, someone. It happened mere hours ago, and yet tales were already so numerous that it was hard to know the truth. Some said it was an angel, some a demon. Some said a malevolent wizard, others- a gift from the gods. But all agreed upon one fact: something bright fell from the sky and, in the crater it had left, was found a person, a person who seemed to have stars dancing along their fingertips and hair woven out of sunlight, not unlike the curious golden, fiery clothes that they wore. It was magic, and everyone feared it. Still unconscious from whatever brought them there, the person was taken to the castle dungeons. What was to be done with them, no one knew.

The prince did not care much about those rumors. He was curious, yes, but the also did not want to be an inconvenience or meddle in someone else's affairs. Like every evening, he instead climbed the numerous tower steps and pulled himself up onto the familiar roof. But the second that he looked up, he knew that something was off. A chill ran down his spine. His eyes scanned the stars, tracing constellations, before settling at the spot of his favorite star, the brightest one. But there was only darkness there. The star was gone. Dread burrowed into his bones.
"What happened?" He whispered, his voice almost too loud in the immeasurable nighttime silence.
The stars did not answer, they never did.

For the first night in years, the prince did not stay to speak to the stars. He could not ignore the empty spot. Stars did not just vanish like that. With practiced ease, he climbed back down inside. He might have wandered the castle halls for hours, or it might have been minutes, but soon his feet had carried him down, deep into the innards of the castle, towards the prisons and the cellars. Maybe he was more interested in the rumors than he had told himself.
Getting past the prison guard was easy: the lazy soldier was sleeping in his chair, and the prince had long since learned to walk with steps as silent as the whispering breeze.
The prison halls were cold and cloaked in shadows; the darkness was only broken by a distant golden glow. The prince was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
What he saw in the cell was expected, but it surprised him too. The prisoner was like the rumors had described, but the tales had not mentioned the glow that they carried. They looked like waves of sunlight were shining under their shadowed skin, faint, almost invisible, sparkling in eyes like molten gold. The sun made flesh and blood.
"Hello. What- Who are you?" The prince asked, drawing attention to himself. The person inside the cell turned their head towards him and smiled a strange smile; like they had finally found something dear that they were searching for ages before.
"Hello. I am a star."

To see a human from so close was fascinating, to see all their tiny expressions, minuscule details. The star had awoken a short time ago and had not yet had the chance to see any. But it couldn't help but smile as it recognized the young man before it: the prince that had spoken to it so often, the one for which it had waited every day and night.
"What's your name?" He asked
"Name?" The star repeated: it had not heard that word often. "I don't have one, you humans name only so few of us." The answer was truthful for stars cannot lie.
"Then which star are you?"
"I always tried to shine the brightest." It answered and watched with curiosity as the prince let out a sigh and, finally, smiled.
"I thought you were gone. You weren't in the night sky. Why are you here?"
"I wanted to experience the stories you told me, to know how it was, to live here, to see it all from up close."
"You heard what I told you? You listened?"
The star did not understand the prince's surprise; had no one ever listened to his tales before?
"I always listened. I watched over you." It replied even if it wasn't much of an answer. "Others might have done that too." 
"Why do you watch over us humans? Why do you listen?" The prince asked.
"Because you are just so cute. You say hello by holding hands, you say goodbye by putting your arms around each other as if unable to let go. You show affection by giving each other flowers or by pressing your lips together. When you are sad, little raindrops form in your eyes. You travel by creating stories or listening to arrangements of sounds. You're such little creatures, little animals, living and dreaming, imagining undiscovered worlds far away, and you create. You are happy, you dream, and that's what makes us stars listen." The star answered truthfully. "You dream, you share your dreams, and it lets us dream too.." After a moment of silence, it asked: "Could you tell me another story?"

And so it began. Every night the prince would climb down instead of up, towards the underground instead of the sky. He would ask questions, and the star would answer.
It would speak of the different shades of the eternal night, the vast depths of the universe and the gleaming courses of asteroids. It would describe unseen forces shaping the stars paths and how they danced with those forces, shaping the patterns of heaven. It would speak of how it all looked from high above, the mesmerizing reflection of light upon the crashing ocean waves, how, on clear days, it could see down to the very bottom, or how gracefully the clouds flowed, turning earth into an everchanging marble. It would describe planets made of diamond, the neverending storms that circled others, and retell how they all formed.
In return, the prince told it about all the little things the star could not notice from high above. He would talk about how firewood cracked and hissed as it burned, about how forests smelled after the rain had passed, or how spring birdsongs would drift through the air. He would bring the star little trinkets and watch as it marveled over the tiniest of scratches.
Up in the sky, everything looked smooth, gracious and seamless: the star longed for the imperfections that had created everything, they amazed it.
Here on the ground, the prince had always lived in an imperfect world and he longed for the beauty of the grand whole.
They were happy, as they both gave each other what they wanted through their stories and themselves.

But the prince wasn't the only one curious about the star's powers. The grand enchantress who served the crown had lied to the king about what the star was: she had told him that it was nothing but a warlock from another land. She did so because she was a corrupt woman: she craved power. At first, this crave had driven her to her position in the castle, but now, with such a powerful creature in her clutches, she was sure to be able to rise much, much higher. But the star would not speak to her, for it sensed the malice that rolled off of her in waves. When she wanted it to glow, it would dim; when she wanted it to move, it would be as still as a mountain. This enraged the enchantress, and she was a vengeful woman; if she couldn't have the star, no one else would. And so she whispered a couple of choice words in the king's ear and he, who had never met the star, believed the tale that she spun: the star was to be killed, executed, for the crime of black magic that it had never committed. 
But the enchantress did not know that not only the king heard her words. The prince, forgotten by her as by all others, heard them too, and he would not let this come to pass.

And so, as the night fell, the prince once again hurried down below to the dungeons. But this time, he had a goal in mind other than just talking. Like every night, he walked past the sleeping guard, but his lithe fingers also took with him the ring of keys that hung at the soldier's belt. He saw the star smile once it saw him, but the expression turned to a frown as he fiddled to match a key to the cell lock.
"What are you doing?" The star whispered, its glow dimming as confusion replaced happiness.
"They want to kill you, and they'll brand me a traitor once they find out that I helped you escape. We must go." The prince replied.
"Where will we go?"
"Outside. Away."
"But it's nighttime."
That made the prince pause. He had completely forgotten what nighttime meant.
"You humans never stray far from home when it's night." The star stated again.
What it said was true: it was known, that whoever dared go into the darkness, never returned after its shadowy cloak hid them from view. No one ventured out, afraid of what lays in the unseen.
"Then you go." He stated, opening the door, thanking anyone above that it did not creak.
"No. I'll burn the darkness away if it means to keep you alive." The star replied as if it was saying the most obvious thing in the world. It grabbed the prince's hand and smiled. "Let's go. I always wanted to see what lays behind these walls."

And so both rushed outside, heading away from the castle, into the unknown wilds. There was no alarm raised as no soldier had noticed them. But someone else did. The enchantress, from her window, saw the glow of the star as it and the prince ran into the woods. She wasted no time to follow.

The night was dark, with shadows that seemed almost impenetrable. But for once, the prince wasn't afraid to walk out in the open fields at this hour. How could he be, when the shadows were chased away by the little oasis of golden glow that was the star beside him? Most of the time, they walked quietly, at least until the star would notice something it deemed interesting and then start breathlessly asking questions, rattling them out so fast the prince barely had time to answer. He did not mind, watching with fascination as it glowed brighter the more excited it got and how flowers bloomed under the star's feet, leaning towards the source of the glow. He was amazed at how nature seemed to come alive inside the bubble of light, becoming unthreatening, peaceful. He had never, during the night, called the outside world that before.

"Why doesn't the darkness swallow us like the other travelers? Even those who leave with torches never return." The prince noted after the star had lulled back into one of its moments of silence.
"Only starlight truly can chase it away. Fire can only keep it at bay for a short time, sooner or later it no longer fears it and consumes the traveler." The star answered.
"What even is the darkness?"
"The unknown that hides secrets within its void."
"And the only-" The prince started to speak again, but was hushed by the star. It looked around as if trying to look into and through the thick shadows.
"Someone or something is out there."
"Are you sure?"
"Not truly. Human senses are too dull to be sure." It shook its head.
"Are you afraid?" He asked, seeing just how on edge the star was.
"Stars cannot be afraid. Some emotions are too...simple, too primal for us to feel. Sadness, grief, hate... Fear is among them." It explained. "For better or for worse. But if whoever is out there attacks, I can always turn them to cinders." It waved its hand, letting sparks fall off its fingertips.
"What other emotions can you feel?" The prince asked, deciding to change the topic.
"There are too many to list. Wonder, pain, interest, anger...Hold on!" The star started to list but cut itself off. "There is one feeling I was told stars could experience, but no one explained to me what it truly was. I got a sense from your stories that humans value it a lot. What is love? What is it like, to love?"
For the first time, the prince had no clue how to answer.
"I'm not sure." He mumbled. "You could call it affection or fondness. I guess one could say that you feel a certain warm attraction to those you love, you wish to keep them safe and happy. Nothing matters more than they do, you live for them, not for yourself. It's an endless whirlwind that sweeps you up and you are never quite free from it. And to love is to take a risk, it is the will to dig yourself a hole into the abyss and to jump in with no assurance that you will return, meanwhile doing it all willingly because you do it for what you love." He explained and tried not to think about how that description had not only been his rational mind talking. The star looked thoughtful for a brief second and then the happiest smile bloomed upon its face.
"I guess I love you then." It declared as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, spoken in the same tone one would say 'it's warm today'. It left the prince dumbstruck until he had to run forward to catch up with the star which had not stopped walking.

All the while the enchantress was slowly catching up with them, ready to enact her revenge. She had been just close enough to listen to their last words, and now her target had changed. Oh, how she loved when her enemies gave up their own weaknesses. As the star and the prince chattered on about how the star always did its best to shine as bright as possible during nights to try and keep the prince safe, she ran forward to stand at a better spot for an ambush. Soon, it was time to strike.
The enchantress raised her weapon and aimed. She took a step forward and a crack resounded as a twig broke under her shoe. It was all that it took to draw the star's attention. It spun around, eyes widening in surprise, hand raised. Sparks shone down from its palm, magic gathering.
The enchantress burst into flame under the spell, but it was just a second too late. The arrow flew forward. The star jumped in front of it, hoping to stop the weapon. But it was not fast enough. The arrow barely pierced through the star's cloak and, without deviating from its path, buried itself deep into its target which the star had jumped to protect.
The prince fell as his legs gave out and only now the star was quick enough, even if just to catch him.

Stars can't feel sadness, they cannot grieve. But they can feel pain, and they can feel rage. And they bear more of it than any other creature ever could.
The pain of a star is an all-enveloping thing. It's a deep ocean whose waves could pull anyone or anything under into the immeasurable darkness below.
The rage of a star is destruction incarnate, it's flames that turn anything and everything into dust and ash. Nothing can withstand it.
And the heart of a star, it's core, is nothing but chaos. The primal force of all that exists, has existed, or only will. And that heart was now full of rage and pain.

The star cried out. I wish for you to never hear such a wretched, sorrowful sound. It did not know what was that pain in its chest. It was its heart breaking, spilling. The ground itself seemed to be afraid, shaking and rumbling as the star lashed out, without knowing. It only knew the treasure that it held in its hands, bleeding and dying. The air hissed as flames reached into the sky, a golden cloak spreading further and further.
"Please..." A whisper came from the star's embrace and it opened its eyes to meet those of the prince. They were the same as before: a deep void where galaxies hid, where stars exploded and imploded, seeding life and destruction. They still shone., and it broke the star's heart ever further to know them to be doomed to extinguish so soon.
"Please. Shine on, protect them from the night, will you? Protect them. For me." He continued, voice hushing, the last breath.

The star kissed the prince.

The kiss of a star is a wonderful thing. It's light and it's love and it's creation. It's the last gift a star can ever give.

Suddenly, the fire was gone.
The air went silent.
The earth grew still.
There was no star kneeling on the ground, there was no prince that it held.

But in the night, there was light.

A moon hung in the sky. It glowed, soft and distant, and it chased the darkness away. Treacherous wildwoods turned to friendly forests, wind-swept swamps into flower-filled fields. Yes, it was night. Yes, it was dark. But the Darkness was no longer there, chased into hiding by the shine of the moon above. It wasn't smothered black, it shone with grays and silvers. It was peaceful. It was beautiful. It was a land of myth and dreams, finally uncovered.

The prince looked over his land, from high above. He was stardust, he was light, he was the moon that lit the night. It looked up at the stars, where they shone on, cold and distant. One was missing. Then it looked down at the kingdom at the edge of the world.

I told you before that the star was gone. It was not entirely true. 
Where once knelt a star now was a man. His hair a crown of gold, and his eyes -the light of supernovas that the void hid far away.
That man would go and tell the king the story of the prince who loved a star. That man would become the new prince, for the king would see in his eyes that he wanted nothing but to protect the land, for he had promised it to the one he had loved more than himself.

I said I would tell you a story of a lonely prince who fell in love with a star.
That was not quite true. For in the end, there was only a lonely prince who loved the moon.

Yes, this story does not end happily, but don't worry.
They met, in another place, in another time. They danced upon starlight and they walked through constellations. They shone brighter than anything did before, a beacon of light and love and hope. They smiled, no longer alone.

Submitted: January 14, 2018

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