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Chapter 33: Custodian of the Stars

The voice resonated through the tiny room, which felt like a water balloon ready to burst from being filled past the breaking point. It spoke again and Sir Nickeltwist withdrew his hand as though he had been stung.

“Tyson, you have done well,” said the voice. “You are a worthy servant of the stars.”

Sir Nickeltwist lashed out with his hand again, but smashed up against a barrier of green light that had formed around Tyson. The magician fell to the ground, and instantly, Matt found he could stand.

A flurry of green sparks hovered over Tyson, swirling and darting about in intricate patterns. As the minutes drove on, the sparks drew closer and closer together, forming the outline of a massive figure.

The figure took shape in a figure that reached almost to the ceiling. The being had bright, golden skin and flaming green eyes. Gossamer streamers trailed off from its many limbs and from the top of his head like a crown, a mane of starlight. Its great, long face resembled both a dragon and a man’s, and shone with the same soft light of the star portals.

The being reached down and touched Tyson’s forehead with one of its slender hands. “Tyson, your ten years of probation are up. You have proved yourself to have the sort of fertile imagination necessary to take my place in the stars.”

Neil and Matt couldn’t take their eyes away from the glorious being. “You’re a Starformer, aren’t you?” Neil asked.

“That is correct. You are the boy’s family?”

“Yes,” Matt said, his voice trembling. “What do you want with him?”

“Ten years ago, I gave Tyson a gift. A gift that allowed him to create great things from his dreams. For ten years, I have watched him and seen what he has done with his wondrous mind. At last, I have observed this great edifice, this tower that is the epitome of creation and I have taken it as evidence that your son is ready.”

“Ready?” asked Neil. “Ready for what?”

“To replace me as a Starformer. Many years I have sought my replacement, visiting many worlds and bestowing many gifts. Never have I found one with a mind like your son.”

“No!” cried Matt, stepping forward. “We won’t let him go. We traveled all the way up this blasted tower to save him. You can’t have him.”

The Starformer gave what looked like a smile. “I am afraid, I must insist. My existence has already dragged on far longer than I would have wished. I must have a replacement.”

“Take me then,” said Neil, stepping in front. “He has a great mind, and that must have come from somewhere right? I swear, he’s a regular chip off the old block.”

“No,” the Starformer said, emitting a shower of sparks as it shook its head. “You are a great man, but you would not suit my purpose. Only your son will do.”

Bahati stepped in front of them both. “Would you be willing to consider a third alternative?”

The Starformer turned and fixed both gleaming eyes on Bahati. “You? What do you have to offer me that the boy cannot?”

Bahati closed her eyes and spoke. “I am a mixture of both light and dark. In order to create a masterpiece, both elements must be present. A canvas covered in shades of white is no art at all.”

Silently, the Starformer reached out with several of its gossamer strands and touched Bahati. The strands glowed and flashed, and ultimately retracted.

“You are wise, even for one so young. It is true that all things must strike a balance. It is the first thing that every Starformer must learn. The light of the stars is nothing without the dark backdrop of space.”

“Then you’ll take her?” asked Matt, a tint of hope coloring his voice.

The library went silent for a long minute. Tyson’s family looked on, as if waiting for the verdict at a high-stakes trial.

“Yes,” answered the Starformer. “I will accept your offer, on the condition that the boy accepts it as well.”

The Starformer reached out and touched Tyson’s forehead.

After a long moment, the Starformer nodded.

“I have spoken to the boy in his mind. He has agreed to let this woman take his place. There remains only one thing to be done.”

Tyson’s eyelids cracked, and then fluttered. He drew in a deep breath and let it out in a rush. With a cry, Tyson’s eyes shot open like window shades rolling up too quickly. His eyes darted from side to side, and landed on his family.

“Don’t I know you guys?”

Before Neil could attempt an explanation, Matt rushed forward and tackled Tyson in a headlock. Tyson squirmed out, his forehead wrinkled.

“Seriously, are you like my cousin, or something? Because I’m really sorry that I don’t remember your name.”

Neil stood by his son and clamped a hand on his back. “So, you didn’t like the magic show, eh, son? I will admit, this was a lot more exciting.”

“Son?” asked Tyson. “What do you mean, son?”

Neil opened his mouth to answer, when a tremor shook the room in which they stood. Books tumbled from the shelves, and all nearly lost their balances.

“Now that the dreamer has awakened,” said the Starformer, “This tower will not stand for long. Even now, those on the outside have conspired to destroy it. It was this danger that sent me here so urgently. If you had not awoken when you did, the tower would have been destroyed with you still inside and my cause would be lost.”

The room shook harder, sending everyone to their knees. A crack formed in the floor and spread until it reached the walls and climbed its way to the ceiling. The Starformer’s voice rose above the din.

“Do not be afraid! The Tower is coming apart, but you are not in danger. All will be returned to its proper order. You may take one thing that you have obtained with you. Think of that thing and concentrate on it until you have been returned.”

Neil closed his eyes. “I think I’ll keep that set of armor. It could probably come in handy. New and improved nachos would go away too quickly.” “Well, I’m not taking that potion. That thing is crazy. Should have thought twice before drinking something from a mad potion mistress. Wouldn’t be bad to have the candy jungle…” Matt scratched his chin for a moment and then nodded. “I want to be able to tell Tyson the whole story. I think I want the story of all we’ve been through in a book when I get home.”

“I’ll take my suit and my wand,” mumbled Sir Nickletwist. “At least I’ll look the part.”

A bright emerald light rose from Tyson’s chest, and a round gem appeared in the air. The gem hung suspended for a second.

“Bahati,” the Starformer said, “Open your mouth.”

Bahati opened her mouth as wide as she could and the gem shot forward, disappearing down her throat in an instant. Her entire body glowed for a moment and then returned to its original state.

With a rising clamor, the floor and ceiling ripped apart, sending them all tumbling into chaotic space. Neil and Matt gripped Tyson’s hands on the way down, their jaws dropped in terror.

Finally, the swirling chaos overcame Bahati, and she lost herself to unconsciousness.

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