Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1238136-Return-of-the-Starchild--Chapter-One
Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Fantasy · #1238136
The first novel of the trilogy, in which one long lost returns home
    The room lay enshrouded in shadows, with the only light coming from the dust mote filled ribbons of light that were able to squeeze through the slats of the blinds.  A lone figure sat in the recliner in a dark corner of the room, unmoving and silent.  Matt Christopher was concious and still, for exhaustion weighted every inch of his body, leaving dark circles around sunken eyes.  Clutched tightly, one in each hand, were two items:  a picture containing the likeness of his young wife and daughter, and a large gem in the shape of a five pointed star, which looked when viewed in full light like it might be a star-sapphire.  These items were all he had left of the three people he had loved most in life; his wife and daughter, and his father.  His father had succumbed to the ravages of cancer some six months before, though at that time he'd had a wife and daughter to lean on.  In the five days since he had lost both his wife and child to an automobile accident, he had been entirely alone, which explained his exhaustion, for he had neither eaten or slept in that time.

    Matt thought back on his life, as he slumped there in the recliner, and realized what a strange life it had been.  The strangeness derived primarily from the secret that he had shared with his father.  He remembered again that day on his tenth birthday when his father had first told him of his true heritage.  Though they had lived in Moline, Illinois for as long as he could remember, Matt was told that day that he had been born on another world entirely.  According to Matthew senior, they had come here to Earth when Matt was only a year old, fleeing a powerful enemy who was intent on killing them both.  Unfortunately, his father had been unaware that this world known simply as Earth was nearly devoid of magic, for it's people no longer believed, and they had become trapped here.  There was not enough magical power left on Earth to power the spell which could return them to the world of their origin.  Yes, magic was the ruling force on their homeworld of Amar, not technology, which was prevalent here.  Even at the age of ten, when he had found the idea of a world ruled by magic, he'd had trouble believing that such a thing was possible.  It was at that time that his father had decided to prove it.

    Matt would never forget the wonder of the small magics that his father was able to perform, and they were adequate to the task of convincing him that his father spoke truth concerning their origins.  It made his tenth birthday one that he would never forget.  The only down note to that day had come when his father had informed him that he could never reveal their secret to anyone, not even his best friend.  From that point on his life changed drastically, for his father must prepare him for the life they would lead should they ever be able to return to Amar.  He was taught the history of Amar, and the place of his family within it.  He learned to fence, and took to it as if he were born to hold a sword in his hand, which in turn led to perhaps his greatest moment of the time he spent on Earth.  At the age of seventeen he became the youngest person ever to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in Sabre.  He was able not only to make the team, but ended up earning a silver medal in the event.  This was an accomplishment of which he was extremely proud, as had been his father.  His only regret was that he had been unable to learn magic, for there was so little of it left on Earth that he would be unable to practice.  The one time they had tried, they had discovered that Matt was unable to manipulate the magic of Earth.

    His memories of the Olympics, though he hadn't know it, were to be some of the few good ones for him from that point on.  One month after his graduation from high school his father was diagnosed with cancer.  Two days later Matt received his draft notice, and five months after that he found himself in a country called Vietnam.  His experiences there scarred him deeply, and the reception which awaited him upon his return left him feeling angry and bitter. 

    One of the few post-Olympic moments of happiness for him came when he married his high school sweetheart, though even that was tarnished by his fathers objections to the match.  His father had nothing against the girl, but objected because he still felt that they would be able to return to Amar one day.  He reasoned that the girl might not like the idea of accompanying them to another world, or the idea of being separated from them forever.  She might not even want to go, and Matt senior merely wanted to spare them all the pain that might result when that time came.  Matt refused to listen, for he needed the girl, and since his return from Vietnam he had secretly begun to doubt that they would ever return to Amar.

    Matt regretted deeply the need to go against his father, but he did not regret the marriage.  Eighteen months later, shortly after the birth of his daughter, his father finally lost his battle against cancer.  Matt loved his wife and daughter deeply, and without them he had no idea how he would have survived the death of his father.  Now he was left to wonder how he would survive without any of them.  A convulsive shudder ran through his athletic frame, and eyes that had already been overburdened with tears began to mist again.  He closed his eyes and let the grief of his losses run it's course, yet again, his fist tightly clenched about the star-gem which had been the symbol of his fathers power. 

    It was some time before he again opened his eyes, and when he did, it was to find that the star-gem held in his left hand was glowing brightly, providing an eerie blue radiance throughout the darkened room.  He gasped, wondering what the hell was happening!  Suddenly, he felt every hair on his head rise up to stand on end, as the room became infused with static electricity.  His swollen eyes widened as a doorway of light began to form in the center of the room.  Before he could react, a figure stepped through the doorway, followed by the loud pop of displaced air, and the disappearance of the spectral doorway.  The glow which had suffused the gem stopped abruptly, leaving Matt facing the tall, shadowy figure which had stepped through the door and into his living room.

    The impossibly tall figure before him stood immobile in the darkness, making no move which could be interpreted as offensive.  Both men stood silent for long moments, each waiting to see what the other would do, and unwilling to do anything to alarm the other before him.  Finally, the figure opposite Matt spoke a question, in a deep, well modulated voice.  "Matthew?"

    Matt stood slowly, saying, "Whoever you are, don't move!"  He fumbled for the light switch on his lamp with trembling fingers, finally snapping it into the on position.  The lamp contained only a fourty watt bulb, which put out only enough light to see the man before him from the neck down.  What he saw was impressive.  The man's frame was massive, and he had to have been at least seven foot tall.  He wore homespun woolen pants and tunic of some archaic design.  Clutched in his hand was a tall staff made of some kind of dark wood, and topped by a carven representation of an eagle, with several feathers attached and dangling from it's tip.

    By now Matt had gathered his wits together enough to realize that this strange visitor could only have come from Amar!  It was a moment he had looked forward to all his life, but now that it had come, he felt an uncharacteristic anger possess him.  "I assume you've come from Amar", he spat.  "Well," he said, the anger clearly relected in his tone and voice, "you've come too late.  I'm afraid you've come for nothing."

    There was a long pause, as if the stranger considered his words before replying in his deep voice.  "What do you mean?"

    "I mean," Matt answered, "that the man you've come for is dead!"

    This was followed by a shocked silence, as the figure slowly bowed his head, shoulders slumping as if in pain.  After several long moments passed, the stranger straightened his back, then asked, in a voice filled with anguish, "What happened?"

    Matt remained silent for several moments, moved by the grief displayed by this stranger, but unable to repress the anger which filled him at the thought of how long he and his father had been abandoned here.  Finally he said only, "He died!" 

    "I see," came the reply.  Suddenly the tip of the staff began to glow, until it blazed with a blue light that illuminated the entire room.  "I prefer to see who I am conversing with," the voice exclaimed.

    Matt gasped, shocked as much by the man's appearance, as by the sudden lighting of the room.  The man's face might have been carved out of stone, seeming all planes and sharp angles.  The eyes which confronted him were black and piercing, and filled with a power that made Matt not want to meet them.  The nose reminded him of Dick Tracy's, prominent and sharp edged in the middle of the seamed face.  The face was framed by masses of thick white hair, and those commanding eyes faced him beneath thick, shaggy brows.  The thing which amazed him the most however, was the Star-gem, exactly like the one clutched in his hand, which was embedded in the flesh of the man's forehead.  His father had worn the gem around his neck, suspended from a thick gold chain. 

    "Why do you face me with such anger?" the man asked. 

    "Why shouldn't I?" Matt nearly shouted.  "After you abandoned us here for over twenty years!  After you left me here to watch my father die a long painful death, from a disease that could have been cured magically on Amar!"  Tears began to fall down his face again, but he paid them no heed, being possessed by a righteous anger he'd never even been aware of until that moment.

    The man looked profoundly shocked by what Matt had said.  "Twenty years!"  He seemed to consider this for long moments before he breathed, "But only  a little over five years have passed on Amar!"  His gaze went distant, and Matt could almost see the wheels turning in his head.  Abruptly, as if a sudden realization came to him, those piercing black eyes focused on Matt.  "Then you must be Matthew the younger!  The man stared at him searchingly, leaning heavily on his staff, as if trying to assimilate what he had just realized.  Matt nodded.  Finally, he spoke, his pain visible on his features.  "I begin to comprehend your anger.  In your place I would undoubtedly feel the same, but son, I must tell you that none on Amar where even aware that you were here.  Nor were we aware of the fact that time seems to flow at a faster rate on this world.  We only recently learned that you yet existed on another world, for it was thought that Taarock Pain had either captured or destroyed yourself and your father.  You see, it was Amar himself that sent you here.  As soon as the council of Star-mages was told of your whereabouts, I was dispatched to bring you home."

    Matt felt some of the anger he had felt begin to drain away.  If what the stranger said was true, the his anger was being directed toward one who held no blame for what had happened.  "It doesn't matter now anyway.  My father is dead!  You've come for nothing."

    "Nothing!" the man exlaimed.  "What of yourself?  Have you no desire to return to the world of your birth?"

    "Home!" Matt answered.  "THIS is my home.  I've lived here all my life.  I have no memories of Amar.  I don't know one person there!"

    "Son, I understand how you feel.....," the man began, but Matt cut him off.

    "How can you?" he asked.  "Four days ago I buried my wife and child!  Six months ago I buried my father!  How can you even begin to understand how I feel?"

    The stranger was silent, compassion naked on his face.  After a time he spoke quietly.  "I understand more than you might think.  Long ago, I too buried a wife and child, but not so long ago that I have forgotten the pain of it! And," he hesitated, only to continue in a soft voice.  "Your father was my son!"

    All the anger which had filled Matt suddenly dissipated.  He looked at the man, whom he now knew to be his grandfather, and he realized all of a sudden that he was not alone in his grief.  He looked at his grandfather with tears in his eyes.  "Oh god!  I miss him so much!"

    In three long, quick strides his grandfather was beside him, and he collapsed sobbing into his arms.  His grandfather, whose name was Kaelin, held him long, sharing their grief, and when the pain had somewhat abated, asked gently, "Will you come home with me son?"

    Matt nodded affirmative.  "Yes.  It's what dad would have wanted!"

    "I daresay, your mother will be somewhat pleased as well."

    Matt froze.  He hadn't thought of his mother at all.  "You mean she's still alive?"

    Kaelin chuckled.  "Oh, yes.  Do not forget that only five years have elapsed on Amar since your departure.  She is waiting anxiously for your return."

    Matt's face clouded briefly.  "Oh god, how will I ever be able to tell her about what happened to dad?"

    Kaelin shook his head.  "Do not worry about it, I will tell her.  She is a very strong woman.  It will be difficult for her, for she has already mourned his loss once, and now, when hope had returned, she will have to mourn him again."  He was silent for a moment, thinking about how she would take the news, then said, "Hopefully, your presence were serve to make it somewhat easier, though she will be quite shocked to see her son again, fully grown!"

    "I hope so," was all Matt could think of to say.

    Kaelin's face brightened a bit as another thought occurred to him.  "I do have one bit of news that you will find some happiness with.  You have a sister!  Your mother was pregnant, but unaware of it, at the time of your disappearance."

    "Whoa!" Matt said, eyes widening.  "A sister!" he said as if the thought had never occurred to him, which it hadn't.  "That will take a little getting used to."  He paused, thoughtfully, "At least I'll have some family to return to.  You have no idea how happy I am to know that."

    Kaelin nodded.  "I had hoped you would feel that way."  He grasped Matt by the shoulders, smiling as he looked into his grandson's face.  "I too am grateful.  It will be good to have a grandson to remind me of the son I have lost."  Matt returned his gentle smile hesitantly, forgetting for the moment at least, his grief of just a short time before.

    They spent the next hour packing all the things Matt wanted to bring, though there really wasn't that much.  Mostly, he brought pictures of his father, wife and child, as well as his Olympic medal.  He also gathered some few items he thought he might not be able to obtain on Amar.  The had just finished when his father's gem, which Kaelin now wore around his neck, began to glow.  The elderly Star-mage beckoned him near.  "The doorway appears.  Stay close, and step through quickly, for it will not remain open long."

    Matt took one last long look around the house that had been his home for most of his life, then shouldering his duffel bag nervously, he took a deep breath and joined his grandfather.  When the door opened, he stepped through without hesitation.  There was nothing here for him now, but there awaited a whole new beginning on the other side of the door.  He passed through the doorway, and onward toward his destiny!
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