The man crashed through the bushes, the sharp blade slashing aside branches and leaves that seemed to reach out for him. The magical blade burned away all life in its path, reducing the plant matter into a powder. The blade flickered and pulsed as it absorbed their life to power itself, the field of elemental water destroying all traces of structure behind it.

It was close, the man knew. The light had descended over the mountains and everyone had rushed out to take a look but never found it. He was on the other side of the mountains at the time and had seen it swerve to one side at the last moment before burying itself into the green hills.

Another swing of the drain blade reduced a startled racer to dust. The man snorted and stepped over the corpse, crushing the mewling kits underfoot. Damn all of this, all these... these animals! All these happy families should just explode!

If it was for her, he could do it. But that handsome knight was always hanging around, ready to take her away. If he couldn't find this fallen star and give it to her, he was sure that Aril would slip away, drift away like a leaf on the wind. And they had grown up together in such bliss! He had always thought they would get married eventually but she just got more and more beautiful each day and soon Aril was beyond him, courted by true knights and lords.

His thoughts took a darker turn as he headed through the light forest, a trail of dying plants in his wake.

The dance party at the Academy was the final straw, the time when he noticed that Aril was finally beyond his reach. Those flies buzzing around her throughout the dance were the cream of the duchy. Even the lord himself asked for a dance with her, right in front of his wife! All he could do was stand to one side as people powerful enough to execute him with a word took their turn with the Flower of Sant Arcia.

And when Aril came to him after the party, she had even mocked them. Laughed in their faces at how stupid the dance was. Of course she knew her own worth, it was above all of them in both magic and beauty. And he knew it. That was when he realized that he was never going to be worthy of Aril.

The rest of her conversation had passed in a blur. She noticed that he wasn't talking and eventually they had parted ways uncomfortably. Of course she knew what he was thinking, they had grown up together after all.

He would have to do something about that. Something big enough to make him famous and powerful enough to win over all those lords and ladies.

Something like giving her a fallen star.

Presently, the forest gave way to a clearing. No, not a clearing. The land was scorched by some otherworldly heat, burned into mere stumps and black ash.

He hurried forwards, heart beating loudly. Only the star could have done this, a flame so large that it could burn away this circle. Not caring about tearing his gloves and shoes, he scrambled forwards towards the center.

And there it was!

A gleaming white egg lay in a crater the size of a castle. A huge crack in its side opened a gaping maw down which no light shone, as if some monstrously huge bird was going to hatch from it. Other than the damage, there were no obvious features on the outside. Not even dirt.

... come...

He shook his head at the voice. What was that? It had come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. He raised his drain blade warily.

... to us...

The voice seemed to be weak, a mere whisper amongst the lonely devastation around him. Was it coming from the star?

He scrambled down the side of the crater and looked up at the egg again. The distance had played a trick on his eyes, the egg was far bigger than a house and it towered over him.

As if drawn, he walked unsteadily towards the gap, still looking for some clue about the nature of the thing. It was far too big to put on a chain for Aril.


The voice jerked him out of his trance and he looked back down. A young woman had walked around the side of the egg and noticed him.

"Hey there!" the woman shouted again and came over when she got his attention.

"I found this thing here, and it's just crazy!" the woman said when they were closer, "I mean, look at it! I can't even tell what that shell is made of!"

He pointed at the dark gap questioningly.

"Oh, well, I'm not going to go in there, who knows what's inside that thing?" the woman chattered, "I should call a bunch of knights out here, then perhaps we can take it back to the capitol! I can't wait, I might even get a reward!"

He sniffed and walked forwards, heading towards the gap.

"Hey! Isn't that going to be dangerous?" The woman scrambled along behind him.

"You're seriously going in?!"

He stepped into the darkness, the blade raised in front of him with a tremble of nervousness.

The inside was a mess. Strange metal cylinders ran from place to place, a tangle of bent steel and damage. Clearly the inside was in far worse condition than the outside.

... come...

The voice was definitely coming from inside the tangle. He moved forward a step then the woman brushed past him with an angry look.

"Hey, I found this first," she said defiantly.

He narrowed his eyes. This egg contained the fallen star, of that he was sure. A star that spoke to him. The woman didn't even seem to notice the voice.

"Aren't you going to talk?" the woman asked, "come on, this is my find!"

With a glance beyond her shoulder, he made up his mind. A blue glow just around the corner was surely the star he needed.

"I think I'm going to have to ask you to- guh!"

The woman stared down wide-eyed, at the drain blade that struck her squarely through the chest. The blade pulsed once, breaking open the natural dams into the magic of her life itself.

Then before it could absorb her, he jumped backwards in alarm. A wisp of magic floated out from behind her, obviously from the star, and began to... feed. That was the best way he could describe the process. Her lifeforce was sucked out through the hole his blade had made and into the interior.

The corpse collapsed to the floor in a growing puddle of blood. Somehow, his first kill didn't feel like anything at all, despite what the stories always said. It was necessary, for his star and for Aril.

... ah, much better... untasteful, perhaps... but much needed...

He concentrated and the blade in his hand turned into a flat shield. Whatever that thing was, he would have to be on his guard.

... come, we need more power...

The tendril came again and he made ready to strike it but it floated just out of reach.

... her life was already compromised by your hand, do not fear us for we do not kill unnecessarily...

If that was just its ploy to get him to lower his guard, no, he wasn't going to fall for it.

"Are you the fallen star?" he asked.

... words are hard... but we think we understand... we are the star you seek... and far more besides...

He waited but there was no reply for a while. Then just as he was about to step forwards again, the voice spoke.

... you seek the star for one girl, but we can give you more than that... take us, give us power, feed us...

Wait, how did it know about that!? He looked around then realized his folly. There was another tentacle touching his ankle from behind him, and it burrowed straight into his own lifeforce! He tried to summon his magic but the voice resounded in his mind, driving him to his knees on the hard metal floor.

You desire power too. And we know how to get it.

Come, let us grant your wish, Batho.