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My Friend and the Stars
Garth was what she used to call me, she shortened my given name “Hogarth” because she was my friend, and only she had permission to call me Garth. I could remember back to when Lilith and I first met, it was not exactly the most friendly meeting of a toddler boy and girl, even to this day I still regret being as unfriendly to her as the first time I met her.
It was a bright, starry night, I was walking home with my mother from my first lesson about being an Artificer, a type of magic-user that wielded a perfect marriage of science and magic. The academy I went to was atop a high green hill, I walked down the dirt and gravel trail beside my mother, a while ago I passed her in height, back then my head was as high as her hips, and she was a shorter woman, I held her hand as we treaded slowly. I craned my head up towards the stars, they made the sky so beautiful and indescribable that I relied on my mother’s hand to guide me down the hill. The next events that followed were a punishment and a reward, my punishment for ignoring the trail ahead of me was to step on a girl my age’s Book of Stars and tear the page it was opened to. “Hey!” she cried, I broke my concentration on the sky and looked back to the earth ahead of me only to be shoved to the slanted ground by the girl, my hand slid away from my mother’s. “Watch where you’re going, idiot” the girl said, that was the first time I felt anger towards someone, I stood up and brushed dirt off my white shirt and brown pants. “Find a better place for stargazing” I said, about to physically retaliate when my mother stopped me. “Hogarth, that is no way to treat a girl” my mother said, I calmed down, in my angry rush I did not notice the place the girl was stationed, she had been sitting off to the side of the trail, leaning against the hillside as she watched the shining sky before I foolishly ruined her deep focus. I also did not notice the appearance of this girl, shoulder length red hair, pale skin dusted with orange-brown freckles, and a thin figure covered by a blue dress. My mother knelt down and asked the girl “what’s your name?” she asked “Lilith” the girl replied, my mother turned her face towards me “Hogarth, apologize to Lilith.”
I stepped past my mother, my hands in my pockets, I furrowed my brow “I’m sorry” I said, Lilith extended her right hand, I removed mine from my pocket and shook hers, “thank you” Lilith said. My mother stood up and took my hand in hers, we continued walking down the hill, I looked back at Lilith who watched as I went, I thought that would be the last time I saw her, I was wrong; that was my reward.
Two nights afterwards, before my family had dinner, there was a knock at the main door. My mother answered it, I followed her out of curiosity, as the door opened I caught my second glimpse of Lilith, this time she held her book close to her chest and had a wide smile on her face. “Lilith,” my mother said, “what are you doing here?” Lilith replied, eagerly “I want to know if Hogarth wants to go stargazing.” My mother looked back at me, “we’re just about to have dinner, are you hungry?” Lilith nodded and entered as my mother stepped aside to invite her in.
Lilith sat next to me as we ate dinner, my father sat at the front of the table with my mother on his left at the corner, my older sister who at the time was training to become an Avenger in the local monastery sat next to my mother, and my brother who was the eldest of my mother and father’s children sat across from my father, he was on a leave from the military. Dinner was mostly silent, my father did ask about Lilith, who she was, who her parents were, and why she was here, Lilith answered those questions easily: “Lilith”, “former Sir Gregory and Lady Belladine”, “to go stargazing with your son, Hogarth.” My father seemed content with the answers, he continued his meal in silence, my brother asked Lilith “how did you meet my brother?” Lilith responded with her side of the story of our meeting, saying I was too interested in the stars to notice her, I felt reddened and embarrassed.
After dinner, Lilith led me up a high, green hill, a place she and I would go to in many years to come. When we reached the top, Lilith sat down and opened her Book of Stars, she beckoned me to sit with her. That night, we gazed up at the lights above us, entranced in different parts of the sky. Minutes before my mother called me inside, Lilith cried out at a shooting star that I unfortunately missed. Little did I know that the star she saw would change her forever.
In the coming days, I saw more and more of Lilith until one night during the sixth year of our lives did I rue the fact that she did not attend the Artificer academy I went to. I told her about my worry and she admitted mutual feelings, I suggested a very serious thought that would allow her poor family to send her to the academy; we became betrothed to each other. Lilith cringed at my suggestion as any girl her age would at a comment like that, she said she would talk to her parents about it. Lilith also showed me drawings inspired by her dreams of a man made of stars that recurred days after she saw the shooting star. Lilith claimed he was a man who could teach her powers that were aspects of the stars, I did not think much of it at the time.
When I retired back to my home that night, I told my parents of Lilith’s desire to attend the academy, they were a bit humored at my suggestion to marry Lilith in the future. My parents did agree to find a way to allow Lilith to attend the academy, without arranged marriage, they would fund for her tuitions and would discuss it with her parents.
Lilith’s parents cooperated well with her decision to attend the academy and surely enough, Lilith attended the first day of the next week. I being her friend, introduced her to some of our instructors and students who took the same class as I. The only problem that was on my mind was the notorious bully Stephaun and his two cronies who harassed me a year before, and would continue to harass me and Lilith for years afterwards. Lilith and I were able to avoid Stephaun the first day, but she was still unaware of his existence. It was the next day when Lilith and I encountered Stephaun. I was too occupied talking to Lilith about our studies and I bumped into Stephaun, he was taller and broader than me and I fell on my backside. Stephaun looked down at me and beckoned his ever loyal idiots to his sides, “I expect an apology, Hogarth” Stephaun demanded, “I’m sor-”
“In bruises, nice, big, black ones” Stephaun interrupted, “leave him alone!” Lilith cried, Stephaun laughed “now what’s this?” he said, “got yourself a personal bodyguard now? Only my family is rich enough to hire bodyguards this pretty”
I stood up from the dirt “she’s my friend” I said, encouraged by Lilith defending me. “Friends will do anything for each other, right?” Stephaun asked, I nodded, Stephaun snatched Lilith’s Book of Stars and threw it off the tall hillside. “Go get it!” Stephaun said as he cackled away with his followers. “I’ll fetch it” I said to Lilith, that day was the first time I was late for class. I ran down the hill and searched for Lilith’s book, my efforts resulted in me missing a third of the morning lesson. I explained later that day to Lilith why Stephaun bullied me, my family was one of the rich houses in our homeland but Stephaun’s family was two houses richer than mine and he tried to show off by hurting me, but I had let another target in his sights.
After our lessons at the academy were done for the day, Lilith and I would race each other down the hill which sometimes ended with us having to heal each other with our Artificer spells. Our races usually ended in ties but as we grew taller and faster, one of us would beat the other. As the years went one, Lilith and I became closer friends, becoming compatible students, logical thinkers, and a good team. Lilith and I enjoyed to study together to learn about alchemy, artificing, and magic, but it was the stars that we loved the most, their existence, the shapes they would form, and how they reflected in Lilith’s eyes.
One day, we learned about spells used for self defense, a spell Static Shock that could stun a foe with a jolt of lightning, it was the day Lilith and I got suspended. During the break for midday meals, after our lesson on spells, Lilith was bruised on the shoulder by Stephaun when she refused his demand to court her. After the day at the academy, I confronted Stephaun and attacked him, using my fists first, Stephaun tried to stab me with a knife he carried around, I retaliated with Static Shock knocking Stephaun to the ground and Lilith savagely struck him, creating nasty gashes in his face. We were caught by one of our instructors and suspended for a week.
Our suspension was when we were close to our eleventh birthdays, we still possessed the knack to get in trouble. My father was furious, not that I had stood up to my bully but the facts that I had used magic and I failed to mention Stephaun years before. As punishment, I was to recite lessons he forced me to study. I did as my father demanded, studying from his books, I found myself looking through some books that had information of an alchemical device called the Philosopher’s Stone and a creation called Engine Five, a mysterious invention created by mad artificers. I told Lilith about my discoveries of the Stone and Engine. She told me of her recurring dreams of the “Star Man” and how she found the time to practice her singing which she seemed to posses a natural talent for, having a voice not like a bird but a Siren. During our suspension, Lilith and I found time to stargaze together, discovering new constellations and possibly other worlds.
Weeks after our suspension, my brother came to me with important news: he was going to fake his death. I asked him why he would do that, “it’s complicated Hogarth” he said “father has high expectations of me that I can’t achieve, you must never tell anyone about this.”
My brother packed his belongings and left after saying “I’m too much a coward to meet father’s wishes”, the last thing I said to him was “you’re a coward for doing this.” I never saw him after that.
My brother’s “death” impacted my family hard, my sister never returned home from the monastery, my mother avoided suicide by leaving my father to become a priestess, and my father went into depression, even then I held my tongue of what I knew. Lilith tried to comfort me with sympathy I did not need, even her, my closest friend, I never told of the truth.
Months passed and I forgot about the grief my brother caused, but I never forgave him. This was the year when Lilith knew me so well that she decided I did not need to be addressed by my given name, the year she called me “Garth”. “Keep up Garth”, “come along Garth”, “pay attention Garth”, “good morning Garth”; those were some phrases my new name was put into. I decided Lilith needed a new name as well, I told her that if she were ever given a title it would have been “Star Siren”, she loved that name. Lilith wanted to give me a title like I had given her, and she decided on “Frostshock Artificer”, because I had an affinity for frost and shock magic as well as volatile alchemical items that had those elements.
As we grew older we saw less of the academy as we were required to study independently or with other students. When Lilith and I studied, I always got distracted by Lilith’s ever-maturing figure which was distracting along with dangerous, especially in alchemy. Along with Lilith’s body, I loved to look at her face, round, strong cheeks with wildly spread freckles, a small adorable nose, red lips, and mirror-like green eyes. I wanted to preserve those features forever, safe from age and death.
When Lilith and I were thirteen, I planned to confess what had been gnawing at my heart for years. I invited Lilith to a hike up the tallest mountain in our homeland. Weeks before, I worked in secret on a project that would light up Lilith’s face brighter than the moon on a clear night; I worked on a telescope that could look far into the sky. As we climbed the mountain, my heart pounded from adrenaline that surged from every crevice of my body, the sun slid behind the horizon before we reached the top of the mountain. Lilith was the first to reach the top of the mountain, “hurry up Garth!” she said, I was yards away from her, I reached the top with a burst of speed.
“It’s beautiful tonight, Garth” Lilith said as we sat on a large stone and looked up at the stars. I had my gifts for Lilith in my satchel, the telescope wrapped in cloth and a diamond I made by pressurizing a piece of coal.
“Lilith?” I said.
“Yes Garth?” she replied.
I slid off the rock and pulled out the telescope, I handed it to her. Lilith took my gift and removed the cloth from it, her face made me proud of my work as her lips curled into the widest smile she ever made. “Oh my gods Garth!” Lilith exclaimed, she threw her right hand over her heart to settle it. Lilith unfolded the device and looked up towards the stars. I smiled as she looked farther than either of us had, I let her look for a few more minutes, then removed the diamond from my satchel. I held it out in front of the telescope and Lilith looked at me in surprise, “Garth, I…” she was about to say something but the words escaped her.
“Lilith…” I said, I had a big confession planned, but all I could say was “…Lilith, I love you.” Lilith smiled and embraced me, I folded my arms around her and lifted my head back to see her face, I moved closer and felt my lips touch the ones I longed to kiss for a long while. We stayed like that for a while, breathing each others breath, it was only to lay on the grass when we stopped kissing, but we finished what we started and kissed more, long and passionately.
The next morning I woke up feeling like I had conquered the greatest evil god, Lilith and I kissed one last time before descending the mountain. When I returned home, my father was not too pleased that I had missed supper and failed to return home the night before. I did not care, I had become more of a man.
Lilith and I courted and kissed each other that year after, eventually, almost the whole academy heard of our romance and would whisper and gossip about it. One of the instructors, an elderly one and arguably everyone’s favorite said “about damned time!” when he caught Lilith and I sharing a kiss before our lesson. In those days, I felt like nothing could hurt our life long bond, I was wrong.
Lilith and I studied more about the Philosopher’s Stone and Engine Five, the dreams of the Star Man began to plague Lilith, and I feared for my father.
We discovered the Philosopher’s Stone was a device able to create alchemical formulas so powerful they became similar to something crafted by a god, flawless, powerful, and dangerous. We found that the process of creating the Stone could result in heavy losses which included sanity and human lives.
Engine Five was an engine designed to be a creation of weird powers that could create, or destroy beings of life or entire worlds. Similar to the Stone, the Engine required human lives to activate, specifically, human souls. The exact function of the Engine required a catalyst, a powerful living spell caster which powered the device, the person or persons who controlled the Engine would have to be spell casters as powerful as the catalyst, if not, more powerful. The precise whereabouts of the Engine were unknown, though the other failed Engine’s locations did not have a pattern in terrain or distance. The previous Engines had similar functions as Engine Five, attempting to match a god’s power but they would result in unspeakable deaths, disfigurement, and incarceration of the creators, as far as the notes from my father’s study, Engine Five was able to remain out of the military’s scent, which had me wondering.
My father’s depression worsened, surprisingly, he was able to keep our wealth in good order, but what troubled me was his lack of communication or caring. Several times he saw Lilith and I kiss and he seemed like he could have cared less.
One day, months after Lilith and I turned fourteen, Lilith came to me, distraught. “Oh gods Garth, what have I done?!” she wailed, we were in a meadow that we met in occasionally. “Slow down Lilith” I said, Lilith sobbed and embraced me, “I made a mistake” she said. Lilith breathed heavily and slowed herself to explain to me, through gasps, what happened. “The Star Man came to me last in the last few nights” Lilith said, she was absent from the academy days before on account of illness, that was a lie. “He wasn’t an imaginary friend Garth, he was something else” Lilith said, “what was he?” I asked. Lilith sobbed and said “he was an aberration!”
Aberration, I never thought creatures like that were real, they were allegedly perversions of nature, alien and hideous, and one of them had terrorized my lover. “What did he do?” I asked, “he said ’no more playing around Lilith, I want to offer you power’” Lilith explained. “He said he would give me power in exchange for my…” a loud sob escaped Lilith, “in exchange for what?” I asked, though I already guessed the answer; “…my soul” Lilith said. Lilith had given her soul to an aberration in exchange to become a Warlock, foolish, I had to admit, but instead of leaving Lilith forever for her to fix her own mistake I said “we’re going to find a way out of this.”
Lilith showed me the powers she obtained from the Star Man, fearsome powers that were a blinding as the stars or darker than the night. Some powers she had allowed her to project images of the stars, of constellations and galaxies, all right before her. There was a constellation that was my favorite, the constellation of Io the dragon god. I asked Lilith to project an image of the constellation of Io, she did so, I touched the image of the stars which caused me to be stung by eldritch force that made its way to my mind giving me a lesser version of one of Lilith’s powers and the ability to speak Draconic; the language of dragons, fluently.
Weeks had passed since the pact with the Star Man, I and Lilith lay on our backs in the meadow. I looked over at Lilith who was wearing a robe-like dress that hung comfortably around her, I noticed how her change in fashion changed from simple dresses, to young boy clothes, and finally, feminine styles. “You look beautiful today” I said, Lilith did indeed, her hair had grown much longer almost all the way down her back, it was spread out making it seem like still waves of blood lay in the grass. “I’m scared Garth” Lilith said, before I could ease her, I heard the sound of hooves beating the ground, Lilith and I sat up straight to see the riders. Hundreds of yards away, were four black horses, each with black clad riders, Lilith and I stood up to avoid being trampled. The riders slowed as they neared us, as they reached us, they circled us as if to be intimidating.
Rumors had spread around our homeland of Lilith’s pact with the Star Man, people had avoided her and I recently and some people spoke of Lilith’s parents disowning her, that was a lie. These rumors of Lilith’s deal with the aberration had earned her a surname, “Voidstar”, I could only assume these riders were here for Lilith.
One of the riders slid off his horse, he drew down his hood which revealed a handsome lion-like face with gold hair, he was much taller and stronger-looking than I. “Girl, are you Lilith Voidstar?” he asked, Lilith nodded, the other riders dismounted their horses. “There were rumors of you being a Warlock” the blond rider said, I glanced at the other riders, they pulled down their hoods, their exposed faces revealed two young women and a young man. The young man had dark hair and blue eyes along with one of the women who had darker eyes, the other woman had similar feature to Lilith, red hair, freckles, and green eyes. I noticed on all of them black marks that twined their necks and arms, Nephilim, half angel warriors whose duty is to eradicate all demon kind while keeping people like Warlocks in line. “We are here to give you a warning Miss Voidstar,” the dark-haired man said, “if you harm any Mundanes with any of you Warlock magicks, we will hunt you down.” The Nephilim revealed their weapons to show they were not joking. I put my hands on Lilith’s shoulders, “we understand,” I said, “and if you do have to kill Lilith, you’re going to have to get through me first.” The Nephilim, except the red-haired girl, laughed. Without another word, they climbed back on their horses and galloped away.
Lilith and I stayed in the meadow for the entire day, not saying a word and gazing at the blue sky until it changed to a starry night. “Garth, look up there” Lilith said, she pointed to a spot in the sky, it was almost invisible against the night, but I could make out what it was, a blue wooden box large enough to fit a man inside. The box flew across the sky and disappeared as it reached the moon. We never spoke of the blue box to anyone.
A year later, when we were both fifteen, the happiness in the life outside our romance seemed to fade. The friends and family we had seemed to drift away from Lilith and I, wary of the rumors about her and looking down on the fact that I, an heir to a wealthy house, continued to court a Warlock.
“We need to find Engine Five,” Lilith told me one day, “it could be the only way I can call off my pact with the Star Man but I could keep my powers.” The thought of Engine Five scared me, a device that possessed god powers but possibly having a cost greater than Lilith’s pact. “How exactly are we going to do that?” I asked, “it’s simple,” Lilith said, “we get control of the Engine and we can threaten or destroy the Star Man.”
I reluctantly agreed to help Lilith with her journey to find the Engine, she and I prepared for it.
I went to my father to ask him for funds to buy appropriate equipment. “Father, I need one hundred gold pieces taken out of my inheritance” I said, my father was in the middle of doing paperwork, he looked up at me and sighed. “Out of your inheritance?” he said, “that’s a bit demanding Hogarth, what do you need the money for?”
I sighed, “Lilith and I are going to search for Engine Five” my father paused, “you can’t be serious” he said, I nodded sadly. My father placed down his pen “you and Lilith have been studying this abomination of a device, haven’t you?” I nodded again, “we’re hoping to break Lilith free from her pact.” My father stood up from his desk “I have heard of Lilith’s pact,” he said, “I also heard that some time ago, several Nephilim passed through town,” I clenched my fists. “Do you know why I had those notes on Engine Five?” my father said, I shook my head, “your grandfather worked on construction of the Engine, it drove him mad when he could not tell anyone, he took his own life and left me with his notes. I was lucky the creators didn‘t try to kill me.”
I sighed, “father, Lilith is my friend, I would do anything for her, I know our objective seems inconceivable but we have to try.” My father slammed his fist on his desk, “Hogarth,” he said, keeping his angry down, “you are my only son and I won’t let you do this.” I grit my teeth “I’m practically a man, I can choose my own path by now and finding the Engine will be it!” My father opened a drawer in his desk and removed a brown pouch that jingled when he lifted it, he threw it angrily at me and I caught it. “Go ahead,” my father said, “go looking for Engine Five and get yourselves killed! You‘re a man aren‘t you?” he waved me away. I nodded and left, “I’m just a broken one with a crumbled family” I heard my father say to himself as I shut the door to his study. That was the last time I saw father.
I went to the market place to buy weapons, armor, and supplies. As I purchased my equipment, I got grim stares from shopkeepers and customers. The weapons I bought were a spear and a repeating crossbow, I went to the blacksmith to get fitted for leather armor, and purchased basic survival supplies for the road ahead.
After I left the market place, I encountered a line of soldiers marching through the streets, among the ranks I saw familiar faces from the academy, including Stephaun, he looked more somber than I had ever seen him. I waited for the soldiers to pass, then I continued to the meadow, Lilith and I agreed to meet there after we got our supplies.
I sat in the grass and watched the clouds roll by, nervous at what waited for us. “Hello Garth” I heard Lilith say from behind me, I turned around and almost did not recognize her. Lilith wore a leather corset that was layered enough to protect her but it had a low neckline. Long, star-patterned pieces of cloth sewn into the base of the corset covered Lilith’s legs, a matching hood was attached to the back of her corset. I saw that Lilith had cut off a great length of her hair, it was back to the shoulder-length I first saw her with. Lilith carried a sharp-looking Kopesh sword and had attached to a leather belt two rods, Warlock implements that could channel Artificer powers as well. I stood up, I had worn my leather tunic under a long bridge coat which Lilith was probably going to need more than I. “You look deadly and beautiful, Lilith” I said, Lilith smiled. I walked closer Lilith, I had grown taller than her a while before, I bowed my head and kissed her scalp, her hair smelled like sweet water. “Are you ready Garth?” Lilith asked, “more ready than I’ve ever been” I said and embraced Lilith tightly.
Our timing to leave our homeland was not all that good, night had begun to spread across the orange sky and there was talk of rain for the next few days. Lilith and I went through the town to look on it one last time, suddenly, a war horn sounded. People began to run and scream, I saw that people clad in black had descended upon the town with swords and axes. I heard of these people, they were men and women who were obsessed with the Nephilim and thought that if they slew enough demons and enforced the Warlocks that they would become Nephilim. “For the Angel!” they cried as they pushed through innocent citizens, I guessed that they were here for one thing; Lilith.
I saw uniformed soldiers in a line march near the warriors, armed with crossbows, the one leading them gave orders to load, aim, and fire. I heard the whizzing of bolts through the air and saw the warriors fall before the soldiers, injured or dead. While some of the warriors broke their crowd to fight the soldiers, the majority continued to charge through town.
“Garth take this rod” Lilith said, she handed me one of her rods, a small baton made of bronze while she brandished the other one, it was made of crystal. The swarm of Nephilim followers surged their way towards Lilith and I, “kill the Warlock!” they cried. With my spear in one hand and implement in the other, I prepared myself to fight those that would dare harm Lilith. We both cast our spells at the warriors, those who were hit were scorched by the arcane energy we wielded. Eventually they endured through our spells and we had to slash and stab at them. “Garth we can’t hold them!” Lilith cried, “just hold strong!” I said, though I knew we could not last much longer. The warriors swarmed around us, ready to murder us both. Over the roar of the crowd I heard Lilith tell me to close my eyes, I did so and felt a burning feeling over my skin like sunlight. I saw red from the insides of my eyelids as a light washed over me, I heard the warriors scream in pain and the words “I’m sorry” from Lilith.
I had blacked out and when I woke, I was lying in black ashes of the warriors that were burned by Lilith. “Lilith!” I cried hoarsely, no one replied, I stood up to keep searching. I saw among the ash was Lilith’s Book of Stars, I staggered over to it and knelt beside the tome. I felt the urge to cry make its way up my throat, I slowly lifted the book off the ground and opened it, I turned to the page I ruined when I was a boy and found a note.
If you are reading this, I am gone. The Star Man took me away, he let me write this note before we left, I don’t know where he is taking me. I want you to know that for ever how long we are away from each other I will still love you, and I know that you will love me. I hope that you will find me wherever I am because even my love for you cannot keep my fears at bay.
I love you,
There was a picture Lilith along with the note, so I would not forget what she looked like, even though images of her were forever seared into my memory. Tears escaped my eyes and fell to the ground, dampening the ash, “I love you too Lilith” I said, “I will find you!” I roared from the deepest parts of my lungs. I stood up with what Lilith left me tight in my hands, “I swear on my life that I will find you Star Siren!”
I left home after I told my mother of the mission I was going to embark on, she smiled when I said I was doing it for Lilith, but I knew that smile faded when I left. I took a new surname, Drakenreul, as I left my old life behind, a new name like Lilith’s.
I am Hogarth William Drakenreul the Frostshock Artificer, and I vowed to find the love of my life Lilith Voidstar the Star Siren, nothing is going to stop me.