STAR CX: Chapter 3 – What Now?



Stew Stunes

STAR CX is being published in an 8 part serialized format, Verse 1 – A Saga of Starcrossed Souls is the first novella in the series. Each week I will be posting chapters from the series for viewing on my blog. For those that enjoy this series, I invite you to purchase the ebook or paperback editions of this story as a way of supporting this independent author; also reviews, likes, replies, retweets, and feedback are extremely helpful and encouraged.

“In space, there is no light but which you make for yourself.”

STAR CX follows two heavenly bodies that through an unbelievable mistake end up going on a journey across space and lifetimes. A mashup of sci-fi and fantasy adventure, mixed with spicy romance and sweet slice-of-life moments. This saga begins with a cosmic collision and ends in the world of Aura. Picking up 600 years after The King’s Challenge with a multitude of diverse characters, STAR CX is a story unlike any other in this world or the Universe of Chaos.

Verse 1 – A Saga of Starcrossed Souls

Chapter 3 – What Now?

“What are we doing here?” An exhausted, silver-haired woman complained. They found themselves sitting within a very drafty tavern. Noise and clatter from the bustle around them seemed remote and far away, as shock and stricken grief had yet to wear off. She raised a pint of dark ale and proceeded to finish the cup in a single gulp.

Looking back, Aster couldn’t honestly explain how they had managed to arrive at the tavern. It all seemed a dream. It had been a relatively non-descript convoy to see the canyon of Norsur at the end of the world, and then a horror out of nightmare itself attacked, the hruks. The fact that hruks had crossed over from the mountains to the west meant they were breaking a two-thousand-year treaty. But that had not been the most unbelievable thing, this girl appeared out of the foggy mist, and then she exploded into fire and light beyond anything Aster had ever seen before. The only thing he could compare it to was like staring into the heart the boiling sun which rose every morning above all of Aura. He had barely said a word to her since leaving the charred remains of the camp. Departing from the disaster zone had occurred in a wide-eyed blur that Aster felt like he had not blinked since leaving the camp. He still shook with a tremor of fear when thinking back to the incident. All those people ripped to shreds and turned to dust in a flash of heat and fire. They now found themselves in the tiny village of Tusur, the last village before the end of the civilized world. To the north was little else besides badlands and the canyon of Norsur.

The silver-haired girl glared at him, and he realized he had left her waiting for a real response to her question. Her red eyes dared him to find out what would happen should he ask her to repeat the question. She was adorned in an emerald dress nearly three times her size, which she struggled to keep clung to her body. As her flames had destroyed most everything, they had celebrated as a single trunk of Marie Wright’s gowns survived the worst of the battle.

“We’re here to procure a cart and a horse, and if we can’t find that a horse will do, and if we can’t find anything, then we’ll set out on foot in the morning,” he explained.

“So we’re running?”

“I’m sorry, but before I answer, I must know one thing.” He stubbornly smacked the table with his palm.

She did not reply with words, so Aster took that as good faith to continue. “What is your name? And what are you exactly, I know what I saw wasn’t just a trick of the light.”

At hearing this she smiled, but it was quickly swept away by a painful grimace. “I do not know.”

“Oh…” Aster was at a loss for words but be felt an apology was in order. “I’m sorry.”

“Er, I guess it’s more I have forgotten my name. You see those hruk’s they captured me a long time ago, I have no idea how long ago. And they used me…they made me into a weapon.” Tears sprung up in her eyes as she recounted the experience. “The hotter I burned, the stronger they could forge their metal, and the more enemies they could slaughter. No one on this side of Aura understands, there is but one single trelven holdout left. All other nations, kingdoms, and iseultans have fallen to the might of the hruk’s metal.”

Aster gasped, surprise apparent on his face. “I remember getting into a tussle with some hruks on a journey long ago. Their steel was no sharper than angled rocks.”

It was the girl’s turn to look surprised. “Such a fact hasn’t been true for many hundreds of lifetimes now.”

They both turned to their drinks in search of answers to the many questions that remained unsaid. Aster was the first to recover. “You have no name, is there a name you would like to be called?”

She shook her head no.

“Then I name you Flaira,” Aster offered with much bravery.

“Oh, will you?” She teased and laughed at the ridiculous name, before turning gravely serious. “I will accept that name under one condition.”

Aster hesitated for a moment considering what the condition might be. What did he really know about this girl he had named Flaira. Not much, save for her appearance and that she could at any moment spontaneously combust, he knew nothing. He conceded that he wished to learn more about her than do anything else at the moment. ”I’ll hear your condition.”

“You must order me the largest and most delicious meal from this place.” She bravely bargained. “I have not tasted food like this in…I can’t even imagine how long, and the smell is driving me wild.”

“Deal,” Aster laughed and waved over the barkeep and ordered the top dish of the Priam’s famous stake from its cold weather bison. The local sauce would be hearty and brown with a bold flavor. The steak and meat would be served over soft noodles, the dish was known as locally known as strokkanoff.

After a moment, Aster cleared his throat and declared, “I want to discuss our arrangement a bit.”

A look of terror crossed Flaira’s face. “But we only just started, You’re not thinking of splitting already?”

“Oh sorry…no that isn’t what I was thinking at all.”

“Then what is it?” She asked, visibly relieved. “Our arrangement is simple, you will help guide to the king of Redren. It is my duty now that I am free to warn of the horrible fate that awaits us all if we do not amass arms and aid the last trelves of Hadriana.” Flaira warned, her fire red eyes burning with an intensity of their own.

“It is never that simple. I see two problems with this plan,” Aster sighed and lifted his mug to his lips. He raised a finger, “one, the reason we are here waiting for word if there are any sellers in the area willing to part with a cart and a horse. We just witnessed the brutal murder and dismemberment of very high nobles, businessmen, and women. There is simply no way anyone on this side of the planet would believe our story. We are more than likely to be hunted down once word hits the streets of their disappearance and I was the last known person to be seen with them.”

Flaira agreed wordlessly as if she had already considered all of this.

“And furthermore, should we manage to get before the king of Redren, there could never be anything in this world we could say to convince them to send aid to fulken trelves.”

She eyed him as if evaluating his worth, before responding to his words. “Just get me in front of the king, and then I promise you I have the very thing that will convince them to tear apart the treaty of Gre-Llue and reunite the two halves of this land.”

Seeing about a million things that could go wrong with their fragile plane, Aster decided that if for nothing else this would make for a great tale to tell around future campfires. “I’ll do my best to get you before the king.”

Her eyes were momentarily weepy, “Thank you, you have no idea how long it had been since someone has granted me their aid, without the wish to use me to their own advantage.”

“Well,” Aster sighed dryly, “I have to admit my intentions are not a hundred percent pure.”

“Oh?” Her soft eyes disappeared and turned to suspicion within a single blink.

“I have two requests for you to make this journey worth both our while.”

Flaira nodded her head, “I understand, nothing is free.”

“My first request is that I have been searching for a place for as long as I can remember, it was my home at one point, but you see I’ve forgotten its name and no matter where I go, I look for it, but so far have never found it again. As we travel toward the Jewel of Redren, can you help me search for this forgotten location.”

“How poetic, the man who leads folks all over cannot find his own home,” Flaira’s eyes soaked up the entirety of Aster’s vision. He felt his pulse racing as she considered his proposition. “Tonight we are lost, but perhaps together we may just find the things we both seek.

Aster smiled at the beautiful woman in front of him, “wonderful.”

She sat back in her chair and adjusted her oversized gown while smugly crossed her arms, “And what is the second request?”

“Do you perchance happen to know how to sing?”

“What?” She sputtered with her drink. “How is that at all relevant to the situation?”

“It is the answer to your first question, why we are here. You see buying a cart, and a horse is not cheap, Your dinner is not cheap, and we have nothing more than our singed clothes to pay for it. So that means I have to generate some quick funds and the only way I know to do that is sing as bard. You see in the winter when travel is slow, or if I find myself stuck in a location for too long, I can rely on my second best talent to provide for myself. And with your beauty, I think we could make more than double should you join me.”

He could see that she was struggling to connect all that had happened to a man who made money by singing in taverns for wealthy patrons. Just as she was a mystery to him, he was turning out to be equally puzzling. A bashful smile rose at the edge of her lips. “I…I have never sung before.”

“I’ll tell you the secret of my second talent.”

Her eyebrow raised in captivated audience. She was now totally enthralled in what this strange man might have to offer. “Drink about five of these ales, and then make sure the patrons have just as much.”

Aster’s heart raced at the sound of Flaira’s boisterous laughter.

“I guarantee that is the way to singing a fine song.” Before she could protest, he stood and grabbed her hand, pulling her up with him. “Tonight, we’ll sing and forget all of our worries, tomorrow we’ll head south towards Redren. It is a long ways, but no good journey worth telling about is a short one.”

“Just shut up and stop talking, you fool.” Her eyes filled with laughter as Aster jumped on the table and announced himself in a voice that was much deeper than his own.


Chapter 4 – The Fall – 11/08/2017


If you like this story and would like to support the author please consider purchasing a physical copy of the novel you are reading or sharing this blog with a friend.

2017 © Stew Stunes