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Shooting star leaping through the sky

Chapter Text

Through all of time, humans have observed the stars. When the night is clear, not a cloud covering the sky, it is easy to see them. Look up and you can see all the shapes they make. Bigger stars, smaller stars. But not one less mesmerising than another. Men have always looked up to the stars, however they never considered the idea that the stars gaze back down at them.

On this particular night, the sky was the clearest it had been in a while, allowing the stars an unclouded view of the earth below them.

A young man emerged from the door of a small cottage, pushing his long hair behind his shoulders as he walked towards the nearby town. It was just beginning to turn dark, so it was obvious he was in a hurry.

Walking through the streets, he quickly made his way towards the single post office, it was important he got there before it closed. Finally reaching his destination, he pushed open the door, returning minutes later with a small parcel in his hands.

The young man tugged his coat closer to his body, turning to walk back the way he came, when another figure appeared from a dark alley way. it was another man, though he appeared to be middle aged, with scruffy hair and a beard.

“Can I help you?” The younger man queried when the other approached.

The bearded man nodded, slinging an arm around the younger’s shoulders, “my cart, the wheel seems to have come unattached, I could do with the help of a strapping lad like you.”

Shrugging the arm from his shoulders, the young man narrowed his eyes, “may I ask where your cart is now?”

The older man began to usher the other in the direction of the edge of the town, “I left it a few yards back, help a man out, would you?”

The young man sighed, “alright, fine. But it can’t take too long, I need to get home.”

“It’ll take no time at all” the bearded man grinned, leading him through the now dark streets, away from the direction he had been heading.

One year later

Brian had always been fascinated by space. Ever since his father took him out in the fields with a telescope for the first time, he was hooked. Asteroids, planets, the stars, he loved them all.

From then on, every night Brian would go to fields near his home, and look up at the sky with his father’s telescope. He liked the idea that there was an entire universe out there, so vast that even the limited view from earth looked like a piece of art. Brian could only dream of finding something in his life that was that beautiful. One day, he hoped to see everything that was out there. Maybe even see the stars up close and personal.

Of course, that would never happen considering he lived in one of the dullest places in the whole of England. The small, market village of Wall remained the same day in, day out, with nothing interesting ever happening there. And even if something did, they were few and far between.

With a sigh, Brian collapsed the stand that held up his telescope before packing both items away into his bag. He began to walk through the quiet field back towards the village. It seemed stargazing was the only excitement in his life at the moment. His only comfort. He needed it, especially since that night. The night John had disappeared.

He still remembered that day. John had left in the late afternoon, simply claiming he needed to go and collect something, only to walk out the door and never come back.

That had been just over a year ago.

The whole town said he was probably dead, but Brian refused to believe it. He couldn’t. If only Brian had questioned him as to why he was being so secretive, he might still be here, where he belonged.

John was his best friend, his little brother. Ever since their parents died when he was 18, John 14, all they had was each other.

No, Brian knew he was alive. He could feel it.

Hiking the strap of his bag back further up on his shoulder, Brian looked down at his feet and focused his energy on trekking through the grassy countryside to get back home.

And that was when he saw it. The one thing in this dull little village that he never quite resonated well with him, that he avoided at all costs.

The wall.

If there was one rule, it was that no one should ever cross the wall. No one. Why, Brian didn’t know. What he did know however, was that it gave him the creeps. The only thing on the other side was another field, backing onto thick woodland. Although, Brian felt like it was something much more than that. There was always something odd about the mysterious field that lay behind the crumbling old bricks. Brian suppressed a shudder. He hated even the thought of the damned thing.

He tried to shake the thought from his head. He was being ridiculous. The wall couldn’t hurt him and he’d never cross it anyway. Not with the wall guard stopping anyone from going through the only gap that people could cross. An elderly man by the name of Jim Beach. No one got past him.

As he continued on his way, Brian looked up to the sky once again. Even without the telescope he could still see the blue-white light of the North star shinning down on him. It was by far his favourite sight. The brightest, most ethereal of all the stars in the sky. In the daytime, if you looked hard enough, you could sometimes catch a sight of the North star helping guide you home. He hoped that one day, maybe John could use that star to find his way back where he belonged.

Eventually, Brian made it back to the small cottage at the edge of the village that used to be his home. It didn’t feel like home these days. To Brian, it was only a house, not a home. Homes were supposed to be warm and welcoming, not lonely and cold.

Shutting the front door behind him, Brian walked over to the small wooden table in the middle of the kitchen and carefully placed his bag on top. Pulling out one of the chairs, he collapsed down and closed his eyes. Usually he relished in a little peace and quiet, but the silence throughout the house was deafening. He had never felt so alone as he did sitting in the little stone kitchen.

But hopefully he wouldn’t be alone for much longer.

Not that many months ago, Brian had met the loveliest girl whilst he was working in the small general store. Anita. She was probably the friendliest person he had ever come across, always smiling, and the two of them would always laugh together whenever she came to visit him in the shop, much to the annoyance of his boss. Well, that was before he got fired last week.

Anita was the only person he could really tolerate in the whole town and she seemed to really like him back.

That was why most of the people in Wall seemed to think the two would marry some time soon. Brian wasn’t sure. He didn’t know if he was ready for marriage, but if he had to, he would definitely choose Anita.

Everyone expected him to propose any day now. Most young men were married at his age, though Brian thought that 24 was still a bit too early to make such a commitment. Sadly, everyone else in the town didn’t share that sentiment.

So that was how Brian found himself packing up a small amount of food and a bottle of champagne into a basket. Tonight was as good a night as any, so Brian left his house and began to walk towards the village centre. He really hoped Anita liked champagne, considering the single bottle had cost over half of his remaining wages.

Once he made it to the Dobson household, he put the basket down by his feet and picked up a small stone, which he threw gently at the window of Anita’s bedroom. After a few minutes of no answer, Brian wondered whether she was asleep, but then the girl in question opened her window, looking down at the street below.

“Oh, Brian!” Anita grinned as she realised who it was. “Not that I’m unhappy to see you, but what are you doing here so late?”

Brian smiled back, instantly feeling better. “Come out with me? Please?” He held up the picnic basket “I thought maybe we could do something, before your Birthday?”

Anita laughed, “at this time of night?” She looked back into her room, seeming to think about it. Then she looked back out at Brian, “wait there, I’ll be down in a minute.” With that she closed the window, disappearing back into her bedroom.

Brian waited patiently in the quiet street, leaning against the short stone wall surrounding the front garden. A little while later, the front door to the house opened and Anita emerged into the night.

“It’s not my birthday for another week, you know. We have plenty of time to see each other before then.” Anita took Brian’s arm in hers and smiled up at him. “Still I’m not complaining.”

“This just felt like the right time.” Brian replied as the two walked out to the fields surrounding the village.

--------------------

Paul’s eyes snapped open, he wasn’t sure what had woken him, but alas he was roused. Sitting up, his back creaked, the bones straining with the movement. How long had it been? Each time he awoke he was never sure how much time had passed.

Sliding out of the bed, Paul’s body protested as he walked towards the large mirror on the opposite side of the room. Slowly though, it had been a while since he had last moved. Looking down at his hands, Paul noted the many wrinkles and age spots marring his skin.

On reaching the mirror, Paul took in his appearance. White hair so thin it barely covered his scalp, sagging skin and sunken eyes. How he hated looking his age. And boy, was he old.

But not for much longer, he mused to himself. He knew what would do the trick. And once he had it, well, let’s just say his age would be the least of his worries.

Walking hastily toward a small cupboard, he opened the door and pulled out a small ornate box. Lifting off the lid, he saw that there was only a small piece left.

Well, it had been over five hundred years since the last one.

Opening another cupboard, Paul pulled out another box, this time less heavily decorated. It was what was inside that was the real treasure. Carefully, he lifted out a beautiful silver necklace, the chain twisting delicately around a large diamond at the centre.

Climbing one of the vast staircases at the back of the room, Paul looked up at the large window in the ceiling, pulling a lever that opened up the glass pane. Reaching up an arm, he used his magic to raise the necklace out of his hand and into the air. As it began to glow, the necklace surged upwards, shooting up into the sky above.

He smirked. That ought to do it.

Not long to wait now. It had been Five hundred years since the last star had fallen and Paul was tired of waiting.

It was time to steal back his youth.

--------------------

Meanwhile, in one of the quiet fields on the edge of the village, Brian poured some champagne into a glass before handing it to Anita. She thanked him and took a sip, “would you believe that I’ve never had champagne before?”

Brian nodded, pouring himself a glass, “I haven’t either.”

“It’s delicious, though!” Anita remarked, looking over at Brian. “I don’t know how you managed to afford this. The shop barely-” she ceased talking, a guilty look crossing her features- “I’m so sorry Brian, I forgot they fired you. It’s my fault, isn’t it?”

“Don’t be daft” Brian waved a hand, “it was bound to happen even before you started to visit me.”

Sighing, Anita looked away, “yeah, doesn’t stop me from feeling bad though.” She put down her glass, “what are you going to do now?”

Brian shrugged, “probably get another job, one that actually pays me well this time.” He laughed humourlessly, “I never planned on staying in Wall, you know. I was going to see the world, really make a name for myself. That’s never going to happen now.”

“Oh, Bri…” Anita rubbed his arm soothingly, her voice reassuring. “I know the past year hasn’t been easy for you,” she tapped him below the chin, “chin up! There’s still time, you can go wherever you want to go.”

Brian shook his head, “I can’t leave now, how could I?! Not when he’s still out there. I need to stay, for John… he might come Back!” Brian felt his eyes begin to moisten, aggressively wiping them with the back of his hand. He cleared his throat, it was now or never, “and I, I have another reason to stay here in Wall-“ he put down his own glass, taking Anita’s hand in both of his own- “Anita, I’ve been meaning to ask you this for a while now. I…” He trailed off when she gently pulled her hand from his.

“I know what you’re going to say, Brian,” she said quietly. “But come on! Do you really want to be tied down? Here of all places?” She gestured around her, “I understand why you feel that you have to stay, I really do! But marrying me… it’s going to trap you, Brian. Is that really what you want? What John would want for you?”

Brian swallowed the lump rising in his throat “I- I thought-”

Anita cut him off, placing her hand on his cheek, “you’re meant to do great things, Brian.” She whispered, “don’t throw it all away.”

“Okay” Brian smiled wetly at the girl in front of him. He was lucky to have her.

Anita smiled back at him “I mean it, Bri.” She picked up both of their glasses, handing Brian’s back to him, “Now I don’t know about you, but I want to finish off the rest of this champagne!”

Brian laughed, Raising the glass to his mouth, “I guess we shouldn’t waste the remainder of my hard-earned wages.”

“That’s the spirit!”

--------------------

High up in the sky, the stars often looked down on the earth, watching as the events unfolded. Fortunately for Brian, his near breakdown did not have an audience, as all of the stars in the sky weren’t focused on the human side of the wall.

A white light, almost as bright as the stars themselves was getting bigger and bigger as it shot higher into the heavens. As it got closer, the stars could tell it wasn’t just light, but rather a brightly glowing object. The power radiating from it had them trembling, shaking and disturbing their positions in the sky that hadn’t changed for eons.

The glowing object raced upwards, heading right for a cluster of bright light. Just as it seemed like it’s path would be clear and the stars would be spared, it collided with one directly, dislodging its grip on the firmament.

The blinding light got stronger, a searing heat intensifying in the black, the star plummeted downwards. Falling faster and faster, leaving a path of stardust in its wake as it shot through the sky.

As the unlucky star rushed through the atmosphere, it’s light continued to get brighter, finally hitting the earth with a large explosion.

Nearby trees burned, soil pushed up, a huge crater carved out of the rock. At the centre of the crater, the bright white light began to dim, the heat cooling and getting less intense.

After a while the light faded completely, revealing a young man lying in the centre of the deep cavity. His body glowed softly, reflecting off the white of his clothing and his fair skin. Long blonde hair lay around his head like a halo.

Not far from his body lay an ornate sliver necklace.

-------------------

Whilst Brian and Anita were finishing off the last of the champagne, a bright light shot through the sky above their heads.

“Oh, Look Brian!” Anita hit him in the upper arm repeatedly to get his attention. “A shooting star!” She grinned over at him, excitement evident on her features, “isn’t it beautiful!”

Nodding his head, Brian watched as the star disappeared from sight behind the trees on the other side of the wall, “yeah, beautiful” he agreed. “It’s a shame it had to land past the wall though, I’ve always wanted to see a real star.” A mad thought cropped into his head and before he could stop himself, he blurted out, “if only people we’re allowed to cross the wall, someone could go there and see.”

Anita looked at him thoughtfully, “Yeah, if only…” she then gasped, grabbing Brian’s arm, “You could go, Brian!”

Brian’s brow creased in confusion before he shook his head, “you’re joking! Nobody crosses the wall, you know that.” He stared at her incredulously, taking in her expression, “you’re not joking.”

“No, I’m not. And don’t look at me like that,” Anita huffed. “Think about it Bri! You could cross the wall, have an adventure. No one has ever crossed before, think about what you might find!”

All the blood drained from Brian’s face, “you’re expecting me to cross the wall? The Wall!” The thought of it made his skin crawl.

“Yes!” Anita insisted. “I’ll tell you what,” she looked at him seriously, “you cross that wall, go and find the star. And if by the end of it all you still want to stay here and marry me, then at least we’ll both know that it’s what you really want.”

Brian thought about it. He wasn’t overly keen on going anywhere near the wall, never mind crossing it. But leaving Wall…

He had always wanted to do it, but on the off chance that John returned and Brain wasn’t there to see him, it wasn’t worth the risk. Brian shook his head, “Anita, I can’t do it.”

“Yes, you can,” Anita reassured him. “This is your chance! Go and bring back that star and make a name for yourself.” She squeezed his arm, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

Brian could think of a number of things. He opened his mouth to protest once again, however Anita wasn’t done quite yet.

“You’ve said it yourself, all that’s behind the Wall is a field. Nothing scary about that.”

Well yes, he had said that. But that didn’t mean that Brian was alright with breaking the town’s only rule. Looking at her expression, he could tell he was fighting a losing battle.

“you’re really serious about this, aren’t you?” He sighed in resignation when she nodded. “Alright, fine! I’ll go! I’ll cross the wall.”

Anita released his arm, leaning back in satisfaction. “You won’t regret this, I promise.”

“You’d better be right.”

“I am, you’ll see.” Anita raised her glass, prompting Brian to clink his own glass against hers in a toast, then the pair looked back up at the moonlit sky.

Chapter Text

Paul smiled in satisfaction as he watched the star fall from the sky, looking as if it would land somewhere north of his location. There was no time to lose. If he didn’t get to the star soon, it was highly likely that some other witch or warlock would get their hands on it before him.

However, he would need a slight change of appearance if he were to greet the star. Paul was very much aware that he wasn’t looking his best right now, and he wouldn’t want to scare the poor thing away before he got what he needed.

There was only enough of the last star left for one use, so he would need to limit his magic use after this.

Opening the first box, he reached inside and pulled out the last piece. His fist glowed a blue-white as he raised his hand to his mouth and swallowed the contents.

Immediately his appearance started to change. His hair thickened and grew back, filling in the bald spaces on his skull. The wrinkles in his skin smoothened out and the age spots faded to nothing. Walking back over to the mirror, Paul took in his new appearance. He nodded, pleased with the result. That was much better.

Now, where were the Babylon candles? That would get him there in no time. Returning to the cupboard he had previously opened, he crouched down, feeling around at the back of the lowest shelf. Nothing.

Swearing, Paul stood back up. When had he used the last one? That was hardly important. He’d just have to go and retrieve the star on foot instead. There wasn’t enough time for him to obtain another candle anyway. And every second wasted was an opportunity for someone else to get there first! No, Paul couldn’t allow that to happen.

He’d waited 500 years for this, he could wait just two days longer.

--------------------

After walking Anita back to her house, Brian quickly returned to his own house, dropping off the picnic basket and packing a small bag of essentials. If he really had to do this, then there was no time like the present.

Making the trip across the fields was a familiar feeling, he had done it many times to get to his favourite stargazing spot after all, but this time he wouldn’t be partaking in his favourite hobby.

Brian couldn’t quite believe he was actually going to give this a go. Crossing the wall was something he never imagined he would do, but damn, Anita was persuasive. A small part of him felt a thrill at the thought of leaving the village at last, but he always assumed his leaving would involve exploring other parts of England, not doing the one thing the people of Wall considered taboo.

He was a little nervous though. The wall had always unnerved him, and don’t even get him started on the field on the other side. But all he needed to do was get past Beach, retrieve the star and return. Then he could reassure Anita that he had indeed had an adventure and then they could go ahead and get married.

He’d be back in no time. Well, that was what he kept telling himself.

As the wall came into his sights, he could see the small shape of the wall guard, sat on a three-legged stool just at the side of gap. At his feet lay a long wooden staff, although Brian wasn’t quite sure what it’s use was.

Brian casually made his way towards the wall, raising his hand in a friendly wave. “Evening!” He called cheerfully.

“Good evening…“ Beach eyed him suspiciously, picking up the staff. Brian sincerely hoped its purpose wasn’t to hit curious people like himself. “Don’t lads like you have better things to do than go walking near the wall on a night like this?” The man got to his feet, moving to stand in front of the single gap with his staff gripped tightly in both hands.

“Yeah about that,” Brian didn’t for one moment think this was going to work, but it was worth a try. “I need to get across,” he mumbled.

The wall guard started to laugh, shaking his head. However, his laughter ceased when he took in Brian’s serious expression. His eyes hardened, “now you listen here, I’ve been charged with guarding the portal to another world, and you’re asking me to just let you through?” he shifted his staff to one hand, pointing it at Brian accusingly.

“Well, yes-“ Brian’s words faltered as he registered what the man had just said- “wait, did you just say a portal to another world?” He felt the urge to laugh, “you can’t be serious?”

There weren’t many things Brian was certain of in his life, but one thing he knew was that the other side of the wall was no different from where he was standing. There was only one world as far as Brian was concerned: this one. All the years of guarding the wall must have driven Jim Beach slightly mad.

Beach regarded him carefully, “deadly.”

Brian sighed. “Look, surely you can just let me slip by. Because let’s be honest, all that’s out there is a field.” He stepped closer to the older man, pointing towards the field beyond the wall. “Do you see another world out there? No. you see a field. Can you see anything even slightly nonhuman, because I can’t. And you know why? Because it’s a field!” He threw his arms up in the air, frustrated.

Beach narrowed his eyes, grabbing the lapels of Brian’s jacket. He leaned forward, “hundreds of years this wall had been here, and this gap under 24-hour guard.”

Brian tried to protest, “but- “

“Another word from you and I’ll have you put before the village council!” With that, the guard released his grip, shoving Brian away from the wall roughly.

The council was something Brian really wanted to avoid; however, he wasn’t ready to give up quite yet. He had promised Anita he would do this, and he wasn’t prepared to go home without even trying. Time to try a different approach.

“Well, that sounds pretty final.” He put his hands in his pocket, feigning defeat. “I guess I’ll just get on home then.”

Beach nodded, satisfied, walking with him away from the wall. “Probably for the best. Have a good night.” He patted Brian on the shoulder.

Brian flashed a smile, “you too.”

He walked a couple more paces, looking back to check that Beach was out of the way of the gap. Taking his chance, Brian whipped around, breaking into a sprint towards the gap in the wall. As the gap got closer and closer, he jumped, ready to leap over the small amount of stone that lay at the bottom of the gap. However, before he could cross, a hand grabbing the back of his jacket stopped him in his tracks. Pulled backwards away from the wall, Brian was flung down onto the grass landing with a sharp thud.

Lying winded for a few seconds, Brian looked up to see Beach stood over him, his staff pointed at his chest and a slight smirk on his lips. Shuffling backwards, Brian propped himself up on his forearms, scowling up at the elderly wall guard.

“You sure are determined, I’ll give you that. Everyone else usually accepts my words and heads back home.” Shaking his head in amusement, Beach held out a hand for Brian to take, pulling him to his feet. “What’s your name, Boy?”

Brian brushed the dirt off his sleeves awkwardly, “uh, Brian. Brian May.” He held out a hand politely. Even though he had just got his arse kicked by a man nearly twice his age, Brian still remembered his manners.

Beach shook his hand firmly, an unreadable look in his eyes. “Brian May, Brian May…” He muttered thoughtfully. Then his eyes lit up with recognition. “Ah, so you’re that Brian.” He started to walk back towards the gap in the wall, glancing back over his shoulder to make sure Brian was following. “I have something for you.”

Puzzled, Brian had no choice but to follow the older man. Why on earth would a man, whom Brian had never even exchanged more than two words with until this night, have something for him, he had no idea. Still, he was curious as to what this ‘something’ was.

Crouching down beside little stool the man sat on each night, Beach reached a hand beneath it and pulled out a narrow package wrapped in creased brown paper. He held it out to Brian. “A couple of months ago, this appeared on the other side of the wall.” He snorted, “why they couldn’t just use the post office is beyond me. Do people really expect me to know everyone in this town?!” He shook the parcel, “well take it, then!”

Brian obliged, taking the parcel from his hand. He could just about make out the neat writing at the top of the paper. Sure enough, on closer inspection, the mysterious package was indeed addressed to Brian.

Needless to say, he was confused. He couldn’t think of anyone who would be sending him anything other than Anita, and she would just give it to him outright. Come to think of it, anyone else in the village would just use the post office to send him anything. But that would mean…

“Are you telling me that this-“ he held up the package- “was sent by someone on the other side of this wall?”

Beach held up his hands, “I’m just saying that one morning this appeared on the other side of the wall, addressed to you.”

“But you do think that this probably came from across there,” Brian pressed on, gesturing at the wall, package still in his hands.

Beach sighed, “most likely. I just can’t see why anyone in Wall would leave something for you with me, rather than sending it directly to you.” He sat back down on the stool, lying his staff back on the ground. He folded his arms, looking up at Brian. “Now, I suggest you go on home and find out whoever sent you that.”

A small smile crept onto Brian’s face, “you just want to get rid of me, don’t you?”

Beach nodded, though his face was much more open and friendly, “you got me.”

Deciding to try his luck one more time, Brian took a step closer to the wall, “are you sure I couldn’t just-“

“Goodnight, Brian.”

Brian stepped back, holding his hands up in surrender. He’d just have to return tomorrow. Besides, he was too intrigued by his mysterious parcel to carry on pushing. The star could wait. “see you, Beach.”

As he began to walk away from the wall and its guard, Brian was halted by Beach calling out to him.

“Oh, and Brian!”

Turning back to the man, Brain tilted his head.

Beach was looking right at him, “call me Miami.”

Odd. Brian couldn’t help but question, “Miami? Where does that come from?”

There was a reminiscent look in the wall guard’s eyes. A ghost of a smile crossed his features, “an old friend.”

-------------------

It was pretty late by the time Brian made it back to his house. Any other man would have headed straight to bed; however, Brian wasn’t any other man. The mysterious package Miami had presented to him had piqued his interest and he couldn’t possibly go to sleep without finding out what it was and who had sent it.

Abandoning his bag of supplies at the bottom of the stairs, he wouldn’t be heading out again until at least the next morning, he headed up to his room. He settled down on his bed, lighting the candle that sat on a nearby cabinet so the room was alight with a soft glow.

He slowly turned the parcel over in his hands and examined his name written in the top corner. It was written in dark ink, slightly smudged as if the person writing was in a hurry, but still legible enough to read. The penmanship was neat and Brian was sure he had seen it before somewhere, although he couldn’t quite work out why.

Feeling around for the seal in the paper, Brian quickly began to tear it open. Carefully though, he didn’t want to damage the content inside. Tipping the package upside down, a thin oblong shape fell out, wrapped in light fabric. Along with it came a piece of paper folded neatly in half.

A letter.

When he opened up the letter, there was something pinned to the top of the paper. Carefully detaching it, he realised that it was a glass flower. A snowdrop to be precise. It was perfectly made and Brian couldn’t help but marvel at the craftsmanship.

Gently placing the snowdrop down beside him, his eyes were drawn to the name written at the bottom the page.

No, it couldn’t be… Brian sat up straighter. Holding the letter closer to his face, he reread it a couple times to make sure he was seeing this correctly. Now he knew why the handwriting was so familiar to him.

This letter was from John.

Finally, proof that his brother was alive. He knew it all along. But why get in contact now, after over a year of nothing? Then he remembered. Miami had had this parcel under his stool for at least a few months, and who knows how long it had taken to even reach the wall.

Reaching over to the cabinet, he picked up the candle and held it closer to the letter as he began to read.

Dear Brian,

Please know that I never wanted to leave you, and if it were possible, I would return in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I’m in a situation where that isn’t achievable quite yet.

I do hope that one day I will be able to return to you, but until then, take this snowdrop. I’ve heard that it brings good luck to whoever wears it.

The fastest way to travel is by candle light. To use it, think of me as I have thought of you every day and for always.

With love,

Your Brother, John.

Brian blinked back tears as he slowly folded up the letter, holding it close to his chest.

This letter solved, but also left Brian with plenty of questions. He now knew that it wasn’t John’s choice to leave, but it left him with the uncomfortable feeling that something terrible must have happened in order for him to have to go.

But again, this letter had sat with Miami for however many months before it fell into Brian’s possession. Yes, at the time of writing it, John seemed alright, but who’s to say that he still is after all this time?

Thinking back, Brian realised how odd some of the things John had written sounded. Opening back up the letter, he reread the last couple of sentences.

The glass snowdrop. Reaching over, he picked up the flower holding it gently in his palm. John had said that it was some sort of good luck charm? Brian wasn’t quite convinced. Sure, it was pretty, But Brian believed that you made your own luck in life. So had John before he left.

Still, this flower was now all he had of John and Brian happened to quite like it. Looking at the stem, he could see a small clasp at the back, obviously to fasten it to your clothing. Shrugging, he attached the snowdrop to the lapel of his jacket. There.

Brian didn’t believe in lucky charms, but there was no harm in keeping it with him. Just in case.

There was something else bothering him though. It was the odd phrase towards the end of the letter.

The fastest way to travel is by candle light.

What on earth could that mean? Brian was quite sure that lighting a candle was no mode of transport. One would usually walk or use a cart. Why would John tell him this?

Then he remembered the fabric wrapped object that came with the letter. Picking it up, he untied the string and pulled off the cloth.

A candle. Of course.

Although, this candle was unlike any he had seen before. It was about six inches long and the wax was lumpy and uneven. The candles Brian had sold back in the village shop were always smooth and white in colour, however this one was deep black and shiny, almost like tar.

Where were his matches? He may as well light it.

Jumping off the bed, Brian hurried down the stairs to get the kitchen. He routed around the kitchen cupboard until he found the small box. Taking both the matches and the odd little candle to the table, he sat down.

Looking at the candle, Brian was having difficulty believing that this candle could help him travel. That just wasn’t logical. Still, he was curious to see how the odd little candle would look all lit up and he may as well abide by John’s wishes and think of him.

Brian closed his eyes and focused his mind on his brother. Striking a match, he brought it to the wick of the candle. Once it was lit, the kitchen was filled with a soft glow. As Brian held the candle, it seemed to get hotter in his hand, almost too hot to hold. Concerned, he opened his eyes only to see the light from the candle getting brighter and brighter forcing him to screw them shut again.

The light continued to fill the room until, with a final flash the light cut out.

The once occupied kitchen was now empty.

Chapter Text

It was a dull ache that finally brought the star into consciousness. Cracking open his eyes, all he could see was a vast area of dark blue dotted with specks of light far above him. The sky.

His brow creased with confusion. That couldn’t be possible. He was up in the sky barely a few minutes ago, surrounded by his brothers and sisters. High up in the sky looking down at the earth. But if he was now below and looking up at it, then that meant that…

No! Quickly he sat up, looking around him. He remembered now. The glowing object that seemed to appear out of nowhere, soaring through the sky. He thought that it would just pass him by, but no. Of course it had to hit him point blank and cause him to fall.

The star slumped in defeat. How the hell was he going to get home? No star he knew had ever made it back once they fell.

He was stuck here on earth.

A throbbing pain in his leg halted his train of thought. Looking down at his ankle he saw that it looked slightly swollen. Reaching down, he winced as he gently pressed his fingertips to the skin.

Great. Looks like he wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while. He was stuck here in this- wait, where was he? All he could see around him was rough looking rock that sloped upwards. Ah, a crater. Probably made from the impact of his descent.

Resting his hands on the ground, he prepared to push himself to his feet. Even if he had trouble walking on that ankle, he’d be damned if he just left himself to rot in this desolate place. However, before he could stand, he was distracted by something shiny in the corner of his eye.

Turing his head, he reached out and pulled the glittering object closer towards him. Grabbing it with both hands, he held it closer to his face. It appeared to be some kind of necklace; he had seen all kinds of jewellery as he watched the people of earth. However, this was unlike any he had seen before. It was exquisite, really. A thick silver chain made up of multiple strands twisting around one another and at the centre a beautifully cut diamond.

The star was puzzled. Why would such a lovely piece of jewellery be lying in the middle of a crater? It all seemed awfully suspicious to him. After a bit of thought it dawned on him. This was probably the very thing that knocked him out of the sky. How else would it be here, lying beside him?

In a fit of anger, he screwed the stupid necklace up in his fist and threw it over to the other side of the crater. He didn’t want it anywhere near him.

Something was bothering him though. He couldn’t get his head around why such an object was up in the sky in the first place. He highly doubted that necklaces were just flying around looking for unassuming stars to crash into. It just didn’t add up.

Sighing, he crawled over to where he had thrown the necklace and after a bit of searching, he scooped it up into his hand. Turning it over a few times, he couldn’t see anything particularly odd about it. Just an ordinary necklace.

He shrugged, undoing the clasp and putting around his neck. Best keep it with him for now. It looked pretty expensive and once he got away from here, he could maybe exchange it for a way back to the sky. Besides, it was beautiful and who was he to pass up probably the only opportunity he would get to wear something so impressive.

Now, about getting out of this crater…

He pushed some hair out of his eyes, and surveyed his surroundings looking for the easiest route up and out. After a while, he decided on the best path and attempted to get to his feet for the second time. His ankle protested under his weight, but with slow movements he reckoned he could make it just fine.

But before he could go anywhere, something bright was descending from over the horizon, getting bigger as headed closer to him. He squinted against the light. Was it another star? Oh God, please don’t let it be another suspicious necklace!

But as the shape approached, he realised that it was a lot bigger than that. Probably around the same size as him. Could it be another star after all? Whatever it was, it was heading straight for him!

It was too late to get out of the way. before the thing collided with him, he got a glimpse of something dark and bushy looking. Wait, was that hair-

The shape crashed right into him, causing him to fall onto his back with a yelp.

-------------------

To say Brian was confused was to say the least. One minute he’s sat in the kitchen lighting that funny little candle and the next minute he’s materialised out of thin air and on top of some unfortunate individual.

He had lit the candle thinking of his brother as instructed, and he had mentioned something about travelling, so surely that must mean that-

“John?” Brian pushed himself up off the person he was sprawled haphazardly over, looking down at their face. Hmm, John looked a lot different from when he last saw him, but it had been over a year since then. Though, he didn’t remember him having blonde hair. “I’m so sorry, John! Are you alright?”

“No, I’m not!” The man below Brian glared up at him. “And that’s not even my name! Who the hell is John?!”

Ah, probably not John then. The voice was far too different. Too high. Brian should have known really. He smiled sheepishly, “ah, sorry about that. I was expecting someone else.”

“Clearly.” The man stared at Brian, unimpressed.

“Well, are you alright? Need any help?” Brian didn’t hesitate to offer his assistance. After all, it was the least he could do.

The man scowled at him, pushing against Brian’s weight, “You can help by leaving me alone, so get off me!”

Brian sniffed, “all right! No need to be so rude about it!” What was with this guy? He rolled to side, pushing himself to his feet.

The blond-haired man rolled his eyes, drawing his knees close to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. “Oh yeah, I’m sure you’d be so polite after being knocked flat on your back by some gangly giant flying through the air!”

Well that was uncalled for. This stranger was really starting to get on his nerves. “Fine! Be like that.” Brian crossed his arms and turned away.

He wasn’t quite sure where he was. It looked like some sort of quarry. But then the rock was all jagged and uneven, clearly not being used for mining. But how did he get here? He had thought of John and ‘travelled by candle light’, but his brother was nowhere to be seen. All he had was that ungrateful grump of a man.

Brian paced around for a while, tracing his mind back to the kitchen. Yes, he had been thinking of John, but then other things had popped into his head. His mind had wandered to thoughts of Anita and the star and how on earth he would get across the wall and-

“Oh my God!”

His past irritation forgotten, Brian turned back towards the strange man and hurried over. “Excuse me, sorry-” he held up his hands apologetically- “this may sound really weird, but you don’t suppose you’ve seen a star anywhere here? A fallen star?” He clarified.

The man stared at him like he’d gone mad, then he laughed mirthlessly. “You’re hilarious. Really, a real joker.”

Brian could feel himself getting frustrated once again, “no, I’m being serious.” He gestured around him, “see, we’re in a crater, so this must be where it fell.” He took a step closer, “surely you saw it? Looks like you’ve been here for a while.”

The blond continued to stare at Brian before a smirk slowly crept onto his face. He nodded slowly, “oh, I saw it alright.” He held up a hand, “and yeah, you’re right. This is where it fell.”

Brian felt a sense of relief. At least he hadn’t had a wasted trip. He smiled, “yeah?” He asked hopefully.

“Yeah.” The man nodded once again, “it is. But if you want to be really specific-” he pointed up to the sky- “up there is where this weird bloody necklace came out of nowhere and knocked it out of the heavens.” He moved his hair out of the way and took hold of the necklace around his neck for emphasis.

Brian’s eyes were drawn to the necklace, he hadn’t even noticed it before. He opened his mouth to say something, but was cut off as the man continued his rant.

“Yeah, it did. And the star just happened to be minding its own business, can you believe that?” He let go of the necklace and pointed over to a spot on his left, “and over there, that’s where it landed.” The man shakily got to his feet and took an unsteady step towards Brian. Then he pointed down at the ground beneath him, “and right here, this is where it was hit by a magical flying moron!”

Brian blanched, “It’s you! You’re the star? Really?” he couldn’t quite believe it. Last time he checked; stars were not people. He shook his head in disbelief, “no you can’t be. Stars that fall, they’re usually just rock. Really hot rock!”

The star gestured to his face, “do I look like a piece of rock to you?”

“No! Not at all, I-“ Brian frowned, “you’re, you’re just not what I was expecting.”

The star snorted, raising an eyebrow. “Well I wasn’t expecting to have a poodle looking man landing on me, but here we are!” He threw out his arms.

Brian laughed nervously, “excuse me for a second.” He turned away running a hand through his hair. This was all a bit too much for him. everything he thought he knew was out of the window. If this is what stars were, then who’s to say everything he had read about was actually true?

It was supposed to be easy. He’d find the star, nothing more than a lump of space rock and take it back to Anita. Maybe chip a bit off if it was too big to carry. There, job done. The star wasn’t supposed to be a living and breathing person.

How was he going to get him to come back to Wall with him? He doubted asking nicely would do it. Of course, he could just go back and tell Anita he found the star but couldn’t bring it back with him, but she’d probably think he made it up just to get out of crossing the wall. Hell, he had even considered doing just that before he ended up here.

He turned back and regarded the star in front of him. He supposed there was something unusual about the man. Before, if he had been told that stars looked like people, he probably would have imagined something similar. His body appeared to have a slight glow and he was dressed in a loose shirt and trousers, both white.

A quiet cough snapped him back to reality. “You done?” The star was standing with his arms crossed, an impassive expression on his face.

“Oh. Yeah, sorry.” Brian hadn’t realised he had been staring. “Just you have to understand, how unreal this all seems. Stars-“ he waved his hand around- “people. It’s a lot to get your head around.”

“Oh, I can imagine.” The star replied, sarcastically.

“Then you also understand why you have to come with me, right away.” He stepped closer and grabbed the star’s wrist.

The star shook Brian’s hand from his wrist, glaring at him. “What? No, I’m not going with you!”

“You, you have to!” Brian protested. “See, I need to bring you back to Wall with me and show you to Anita. Then I’ll have proven that I found the star and we can get married!” Maybe with a bit of convincing the star would come with him willingly.

“Wow, romantic.” The star scoffed. “Nothing a girl wants to see more than some person you’ve just kidnapped! I’m sure she’d be really impressed by that!” He turned his back on Brian and sat back down in the spot he had been sitting before. “You’re crazy if you thing I’m going anywhere with you.”

Brian closed his eyes and took a few breaths. He needed to stay calm. But what the star had said… Would Anita be pleased with him bringing back this unwilling star? He didn’t think so. But he couldn’t go back empty handed. Not after all this. Granted, this star was turning out to be a lot more trouble than it was worth, but Brian decided to be patient.

He got down on the ground and lay next to the star. “Looks like we’re both not going anywhere, then.”

The star let out a long-suffering sigh.

--------------------

It turns out that the bottom of a crater is not the most comfortable place to try and sleep.

After a couple of hours of tossing and turning, closing his eyes only to open them and then close them again, Brian felt his patience wearing thin. What was even more annoying was that the Star barely seemed bothered, sitting in the same position he had started in, his head tipped back as he looked up at the sky.

Shifting his arms behind his head, Brian too looked to the sky. Nope, it hadn’t changed since the last million times he had looked at it. He screwed his eyes shut, willing himself to get some sleep. Unsuccessful.

Turning his head, he looked at the star. “Don’t you ever sleep?” As soon as the words left his mouth, he cringed at how stupid he sounded.

The star shot him a withering look, “Not at night, no.” He leaned back on his arms, returning his gaze to the night sky, “it may have escaped your notice, genius, but that’s when stars have better things to do.”

“Like…”

“Like coming out, shining. That sort of thing.” The star smiled softly as he spoke before looking back at Brian with contempt. “You know, the things stars generally do,” he belittled.

Brian rolled his eyes, “well I have news for you mate, you’re not in the sky anymore.” He sat up, “coming out is off the agenda, shining has been suspended until further notice and you can forget about sleeping during the day.” He snorted, “unless you stars have a magical ability to sleep whilst you walk.”

The star crossed his arms, “how many times do I have to tell you, I’m not walking anywhere.” He shot Brian a dirty look, “certainly not with you.”

Brian sprung to his feet. “Fine!” He shouted. “Sit there forever for all I care. I’ve had enough of you, anyway.” He shook his head, walking away. He was done. He’d rather go back unsuccessful than spend another minute with the damned star.

He turned back briefly, addressing the star. “You know, after taking you to Anita, I was going to find a way to put you back in the sky. But no. You’d rather just stay here in the middle of nowhere.” He threw up his hands, “that’s Fine by me!”

The star tilted his head, “go on, just how were you planning to get me back to the sky then?”

Brian put his hand in his pocket. “I heard that the fastest way to travel is by candlelight.” He pulled out the little black candle, now only half of its original size.

The star’s eyes widened, “you have a Babylon candle?”

“A what, now?” Brian blurted out before he could stop himself. Apparently, the funny candle had a name now.

“A Babylon candle.” The star spoke slowly, enunciating each word.

Brian stood up straighter. “Well, Yeah. I do,” he said proudly. “And you know, I was going to give you the rest of this bubbling candle- “

“Babylon,” the star corrected.

Brian summoned the last shred of his patience. “That’s what I said.”

“Er, no. You clearly said ‘bubbling.”

“Anyway-“ Brian spoke quickly- “I was going to give the rest of it to you.”

The star narrowed his eyes, “that barely has one use left in it.”

“Well, be grateful I’m not using it to get us back to Wall!” Brian returned the candle to his pocket. “Unless of course you have a better way to get yourself home.”

The star gave him a long, hard look. Then he groaned, “fine! You win. I’ll come with you.”

Brian thought he had misheard. “Really?”

“Yes, really!” The star said impatiently, “give me a hand up, would you?”

“Oh! Of course.” Brian scrambled to take the star’s arm and pull him to his feet. “I think we got off on the wrong foot.” He held out a hand, “I’m Brian.”

The star stared at his hand before slowly shaking it, “Roger.”

Brian blinked. He hadn’t been expecting such a normal name from a star.

“What? Expecting something else?” Roger questioned when he took in Brian’s expression.

Brian held up his hands, “I’m not saying anything. Though, you may want to move a bit quicker than that. Otherwise we’ll never get there.”

The star sniffed, “oh, I’m sorry! We don’t all have giraffe legs like you.”

“Hey!”

Chapter Text

The early morning sun glistened on the lake Paul stood beside. It was taking him considerably more time to find the star than it usually would, due to his lack of a Babylon candle. But still, Paul wasn’t that bothered. When he had last consulted the runes, no other witch or warlock had reached the star yet, so all was not lost. However, there was still time and he didn’t want to waste a single second.

It had been quite a while since he had last consulted the runes, so he pulled them from the pocket of his cloak. Focusing his thoughts on the star, he threw the runes high into the air. Catching them in his palm, he looked down.

Ah, this was interesting. The star was on the move, heading north in fact. No previous star had ever moved from their landing spot before he had gotten there. But then again, all the last times he had a Babylon candle to get him there in a flash.

Throwing the runes a second time, he found that there was no other sorcerer with the star. It seemed to be moving on its own accord.

Tucking the runes back into his pocket, he set off. If the star was travelling north, then so shall he.

After a while of walking, Paul came to an area of rocky moorland. Not far from where he stood, he could see smoke rising into the air. Walking in the direction of the smoke, he realised that it was a single campsite.

A yellow wooden caravan was parked along a rocky path, a dun shire horse grazing by its side, unattached from the reigns. At the back of the caravan, above the doors, was a bird perch. Sat on the perch was a small brown bird. it’s eye area, tail and the under-side of its wings were tinged a rich green colour.

Beside the caravan was the fire. A middle-aged man sat before it, turning what looked like a rabbit on a spit over the flames. Every now and then he would prod at the coals with a poker. He looked like any average merchant, dressed in simple clothing and sporting a slightly overgrown beard.

However, Paul knew better.

“Who goes there?” The traveller called out on hearing the footfalls of another. When he caught sight of Paul, he pulled his jacket closer around him. “What would you want with me? Just a simple man going about his business, never doing any wrong…”

Paul rolled his eyes, “do shut up. And you can stop the act. You and I both know what you are.” He stopped before the fire and looked into the traveller’s eyes. Or should he say, another sorcerer. “And by the power we both possess; I mean you no harm this day. I only want to share your meal.”

The man looked him up and down, “hmm. Well, you can never be too careful. How people are these days-“ he leaned forward conspiringly- “might stab you in the back.”

Paul smirked, “indeed.”

The other sorcerer waved him over, “come, sit. I’ll get you a chair.”

However, Instead of getting to his feet, the man simply clicked his fingers.

Magic travelled towards the little bird Paul had noticed before, engulfing it in a cloud of black smoke. As the smoke descended to the ground, it disappeared to reveal a young man. Dressed in a ratty white shirt and dark trousers, his appearance was unkempt. Long brown hair fell in waves around his shoulders and around his ankle wrapped a delicate silver chain that tethered him to the wagon.

The boy picked up a stool from inside the caravan, and set it down heavily in front of the fire with a roll of his eyes. “Anything else?” He asked begrudgingly, placing his hands on his hips.

The other man tutted, “now, that’s no way to act when we have a guest, is it? Anything else…” he prompted.

The young man glowered at his master, looking almost like he wouldn’t respond. However, he set his jaw, muttering a quiet “Sir” resentfully.

“Better.” The traveller nodded, apparently satisfied with his answer. “Now, be off with you.” He waved his hand dismissively.

The smoke from before reappeared, once again surrounding him. As it cleared, the little bird flew back to the caravan and settled back on its perch.

The man shook his head and turned back to Paul; the corners of his mouth turned up in a smirk. “You know, you give ‘em free food and lodging and that’s how they behave!” He turned the spit another time, “now, what’s it to be? Heads or tails?” He gestured with the fire poker.

Paul gave the rabbit a once over. “Heads.” He decided.

The other man chopped the meat in half, placing the pieces onto two plates. “So, Stranger,” he handed Paul one of the plates. “Where are you heading on such a beautiful day, eh?"

Paul grinned widely, displaying all his teeth. “I seek a fallen star.” He disclosed. “It fell not far from here.” He took a bite of the meat and continued his spiel. “And when I find it, I’ll take my knife and cut its heart from its chest while it still breathes. And then the power and glory of my youth shall be restored.” He frowned; he hadn’t meant to reveal so much information. It was as if once he started to speak, he couldn’t stop. Unless…

The other sorcerer leaned forward in interest. “Is that so. Well that’s the best news I’ve heard in ages. A fallen star.” He raised his hands to his head, massaging his temple, “I could very well do with losing a few years myself.” Rubbing his chin thoughtfully, the traveller addressed Paul once again. “So, whereabouts did it fall, you say?”

Whilst the other had been speaking, Paul had been pushing the food around his plate suspiciously. Finding what he had been searching for, he picked up a light green piece of leaf. He looked up sharply at the traveller, ”this better not be what I think it is.” He brought his fingers to his nose, smelling deeply. Then he laughed darkly. “Oh, it is…”

Paul sprung to his feet, knocking both of their plates to the floor, the food spilling into the dirt. “Limbus grass!” he exclaimed in disgust. He pointed a finger accusingly, “you dare to steal the truth from my lips by feeding me Limbus grass!” A wicked smile crept onto his face. “Do you have any idea how big a mistake you’ve just made, Foster?”

The other man looked up, his brow creased in confusion, “hang on… How’d you know my name? Who are you?” He demanded.

“Look into my eyes.” Paul let the true extent of his power out, displaying his inner form to the man before him.

Foster let out a shout and stumbled backwards, “I shan’t seek the star, I swear it.” Lowering himself to his knees, he bowed his head. “Your lordship, great one-“

“Quiet!” Paul cut him off. He held out his hand summoning his magic. “Seek all you wish. But you shall not see the star, touch it, smell or hear it.” Green and black smoke rushed towards the kneeling man. Wind howled and the ground shook. “Even if it stands before you, you will not perceive it. It’ll be like there’s nothing there.”

The little green and brown bird trembled, lifting his wing and ducking his head behind it. The tendrils of magic continued to swirl throughout the air.

As the magic dissipated away, Foster blinked, a bewildered look on his face. Paul smiled in satisfaction as the spell took effect. He looked down at his right hand. Before his eyes, the skin aged. Wrinkles became more apparent and the spots and marks returned. He sighed; he’d have to be more sparing with his magic. The ageing process had already begun.

He looked down at the cowering man before him, “pray our paths never cross again, Ray Foster.” He strode away from the campsite.

The sooner he got his hands on that star, the better.

------------------

“I’m sure this is the right way…” Brian muttered.

They’d been walking for such a long time that it was no longer dark. If he had to take a guess, Brian would guess that it was around late morning. Surprisingly, he didn’t feel tired even though he hadn’t slept since a couple of nights ago.

Roger on the other hand was fed up. He was tired and his ankle was really bothering him. “Oh, are you?” He nodded to his right, “because I’m sure that we’ve past that stream before. Three times in fact.”

“Will you shut up for a minute? Please!” God, Brian wasn’t sure he’d be able to survive the rest of the journey if the star didn’t stop being so annoying. Were all stars smart-arses, or was he just unlucky enough to end up with the most infuriating one in the entre sky. “I’ve told you, already. I know where we’re going because- “

“Yeah, yeah,” Roger interrupted. “Because you ‘just know’. Well I have to say, I don’t think you do. Because we’ve been stuck in these bloody woods for 2 hours!” He raised his voice in frustration.

Brian shrugged. “Maybe it’s just a big woodland,” he suggested.

“Please Brian.” The star dismissed with a laugh.

Sighing, Brian turned to him. “Look, I’m sure we’re heading in the right direction. I don’t know, it’s as if I can sense it or something.”

“Right,” Roger shook his head disbelievingly. “Never fear, we’ll never get lost! Mystic Brian knows the way with his magical powers!” He mocked.

Brian clenched his jaw, quickening his pace. He wasn’t going to bother making conversation if all he got in return were snarky replies.

“Hey! slow down, will you.” Roger called from behind, hurrying to catch up. Then his foot caught on a root, causing him to trip. “Fuck!”

Brian whipped around at the sound of his companion’s shout. Walking back, he reached down and helped the star back to his feet, “there you go.” Brian felt a little guilty, looking down at Roger’s bare feet, which were dirty and raw from all the walking. Perhaps he was being too hard on him. “Yeah, sorry. We’ll slow down.”

“Thanks.”

It was silent as the two continued their travels, the only noise the faint rustle of the leaves in the breeze. After a couple more minutes, Brian broke the silence.

“If I’m right, we’re heading North. The wall is North, I’m sure of it.” He stopped pointing upwards, “and if you look at the sky, even during the day you can sometimes see…” he trailed off, furrowing his brow when he couldn’t find what he was searching for. “The North Star. That’s so odd, it’s usually there.”

Roger pushed passed him, “ha. Very funny. My sides are splitting over here,” he threw over his shoulder.

Brian almost stopped in his tracks. Jogging, he caught back up with the blond. “Wait that… that was you? Seriously?” It was hard to believe that the star Brian had been gazing up at in awe only a few nights ago was here, right beside him.

A wistful look crept onto Roger’s features, “yeah, it was…” His face hardened, “not anymore though. Can we not discuss this, please?”

“Alright.” Brian made a mental note that talking about the sky was currently off limits. He couldn’t blame him though. Brian was pretty sure that if he had been knocked from the sky against his will, he wouldn’t want to linger on the subject either.

They fell into a comfortable silence as the two continued on through the thick woodland. Brian couldn’t help but marvel at the sheer size of the trees around them. Sure, back around Wall he had seen his fair share of larger oak and yew trees, but only dotted around here and there, and definitely not in this high of a density. He had never seen so many larger trees all in the same area.

It made him wonder what type of place the other side of the wall really was. Brian was starting to doubt his original assumption of it being just an unknown part of England. It was too strange.

Then he remembered what Miami had said to him back at the wall. Was it really a portal to another world? Was Brian in another world right now? It was all a bit too much to comprehend.

“So…“ Roger spoke casually, grinding his foot into the dirt. “Who’s John?”

“What?” Brian asked wearily, dragged from his pondering.

“You know, when you so rudely decided to land on me, you called me John,” Roger persisted. “Who is he?”

Ah. Brian had forgotten about that little incident. It was a topic he wanted to avoid. “My brother,” he replied shortly.

Roger nodded with understanding, “oh.” He pressed on, “so, did he move away or something? Because from my understanding, family usually live with each other.” He raised an eyebrow, waiting for a response.

“Let’s just say I haven’t heard from him for a long time.” Brian decided not to delve any deeper than that. “Can we not talk about this?”

However, Roger still wasn’t satisfied. “But why? Did he- “

“Roger! Just leave it, okay?” Brian snapped. Did the star not understand when to leave something alone?

“…sorry,” Roger muttered, his eyes downcast.

Brian instantly felt bad. He sighed, running a hand over his face. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted like that. Just, the thought that I might not see him again…” Even after all this time, Brian found it hard to talk about without a lump forming in his throat. “I don’t like to think about it.”

Roger nodded for the second time, “I get it. The possibility that I might not see my brothers and sisters again, if I don’t get back to the sky.” His eyes glistened. “It hurts.”

“Hey,” Brian nudged the star’s shoulder, offering a smile. “After we get to the wall we can try and use the candle, remember? You’ll see them again.” He reassured.

Roger returned his smile, “I hope so.”

Brian remained close to the star’s side as they continued their travels. Perhaps Roger wasn’t so bad after all. Sure, they had gotten off on the wrong foot, but he hoped they could come out of this as friends. It would make the walk back to the wall much less uncomfortable.

However, all of that was short-lived when Roger moved away from Brian’s side and headed for one of the nearest trees.

Brian stopped walking as he watched Roger sit down. “Wait, what are you doing?” He asked, hurrying over and kneeling next to him.

“What does it look like?” Roger leaned back against the tree trunk, “I’m sitting down. I’m tired.”

Brian pinched the bridge of his nose. He thought they were past this. Wasn’t their recent conversation proof of this? Evidently not. “Please don’t do this, not again!” He begged.

“We’ve been walking for ages!” Roger protested. “My leg is killing me, you’ve dragged us to the middle of nowhere and did I mention, I’m tired!”

Brian had to admit, the star didn’t look good. He put his hand on Roger’s shoulder and tried reasoning with him, “look, we agreed to stop at the next town, remember? Get something to eat and rest there, yeah?”

Roger it appeared, wasn’t willing to budge. “Come on, Brian! It’s midday! Do you know how late that is for me?” He tipped his head back, closing his eyes. “Just, please, let me sleep.”

He looked so pitiful in that moment, that Brian gave in. “Okay… okay, you stay here, get some sleep. I’ll go and get us some food.” He stood, preparing to leave. Then he stopped, a thought cropping into his head. “Wait a second…How do I know that the moment I leave you won’t just run off?” he put his hands on his hips.

Roger’s eyebrows rose, “I don’t think I’m going to get far with this ankle, do you? Besides-“ he threw up his hands helplessly- “I don’t even know where I’d go.”

Brian was torn. He really needed to eat, but could he risk leaving Roger despite his promises not to leave? He looked between Roger and the direction of the nearest town, deliberating. Well, what he thought was the direction of the town. “Fine.” He hoped he wouldn’t later regret this. “I’ll be back soon, alright?“

Roger nodded absently, crossing his arms and turning his head away. “Alright.” His voice was muffled.

Sighing Brian walked away; not without stealing a final glance at the dozing star. He had no choice but to trust Roger’s words that he would still be there when he got back.

After all, only time would tell.

Chapter Text

Gradually, the sun disappeared over the horizon. Opening his eyes, Roger felt himself beginning to light up. Another day gone and the night only just beginning, he could get around to doing what he did best. Looking down at earth and shinning-

Then his eyes opened for real. He wasn’t in the sky; he was down on earth, waking up to total darkness. The only source of light being the moon, high above his head.

He sighed, remembering everything that had happened. Falling, meeting Brian, agreeing to go with Brian, walking for hours and hours. Stuck on earth, relying on some fluffy-haired fool to help him home.

He was doomed.

Leaning forward, Roger grimaced as he rubbed his back. It turns out after a few hours of sleep; trees did not get any comfier as a back rest. Who knew?

It had gotten considerably cooler as the evening went by, and it was clear his shirt wasn’t enough to block out the cold. He shivered, wrapping his arms around his body. tucking his legs closer to his chest in an attempt to retain as much body heat as possible, he prayed for the time to pass quicker.

Roger would never admit it out loud, but he wished Brian would come back soon. Not that he had any desire to spent even more time with the man, but then at least they’d be on the move. And to be honest, he’d rather have Brian wittering away about Wall this and Anita that instead of being left with his own thoughts.

He shivered once more; the cold was really getting to him. Ugh, where was Brian? It had been hours since he had gone.

How long does it take to get to town anyway?

Roger sniffed. From witnessing Brian’s navigating skills, or should he say lack thereof, he wouldn’t be surprised if it took him all night.

He had to admit, he was very tempted to get up and leave. Find his own way out of the woods and work out how to get home from there. He had no desire to go with Brian to the village of Wall. The only reason he was sticking around was Brian’s promise to help get him back to the sky afterwards. And like he said, Roger wouldn’t get far on his hurt ankle. Not without help.

To his left, a twig snapped. Turning his head sharply, he scanned the area but he couldn’t see anything.

Looking around, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rising. The trees seemed so much bigger than they had during the day and the dark was so vast, so big, it was all consuming. Anything could be hiding just out of his line of sight. Behind him another twig snapped.

“Who’s there?” He called. To his knowledge, twigs didn’t just snap on their own. Someone had to be there.

“Brian?” Please let it be him, he’d prefer him over some wild beast. Maybe Brian had returned at last! It was about time.

However, there was no response. Instead, the bushes right in front of him started to rustle, as if there was someone pushing their way through.

Roger was starting to get a little nervous. If this was Brian’s idea of a joke, then he didn’t find it funny. “I swear to god, Brian. If that’s you…” his voice wavered towards the end, giving away his unease.

The bushes rustled for the second time. Slowly, Roger pushed himself to his feet. If he was going to die due to some creature in the woods, then he wouldn’t go down just sitting there and waiting to die. Raising his arms, he waited for whoever or whatever was approaching.

Then, from among the trees trotted a horse. It’s white coat glowed, reflecting the light of the moon. As it moved towards him, he noticed a long ivory horn between its ears. Not a horse, a unicorn.

“Oh.” Roger sighed in relief, lowering his arms from their defensive position. "You scared me,” he murmured, patting the side of its neck. The unicorn nuzzled its nose into his hand, causing him to smile.

“You’re here to lend me a hand, aren’t you?” The unicorn snorted in affirmation, bending down to allow him to climb onto it’s back with ease. “Come on.” He gave a gentle kick to the unicorn’s flank, urging it forwards.

Fuck Brian. He’d find his own way back to the sky.

--------------------

To say Paul was getting frustrated would be an understatement. After another day of travelling and consulting the runes over and over again, he had nothing. Not a star in sight.

Throwing the runes into the air for what felt like the millionth time, he caught them only for them to tell him the same gibberish they had before. He closed his palm around the runes, sighing and returned them to his pocket.

He didn’t understand. The star was supposed to be here, so where was it?

He had long since gone past the moorlands and was now surrounded by numerous grassy fields. Why would the runes tell him to come here when there was nothing there?

Desperate times called for desperate measures, so he’d have to resort to a new way of locating the star. It wasn’t his favourite type of magic, considering how he hated getting his hands dirty, but needs must.

Pulling a large knife from his coat, he stalked through the fields until he found his target. He threw the knife with expert precision, right into the side of the rabbit running across the path. It fell to the ground, blood oozing around the blade. 

Picking up the carcass, he brought it over to the side of the road. Kneeling down, he grimaced as he slowly made a cut down from below the chin to the stomach, opening up the animal’s insides. He took a deep breath in preparation, then delved his hand deep inside and felt around, searching for the intestine.

Finding it, he held up the organ and stretched it out in an attempt to get a good reading.

Hmm, interesting.

If these divinations were correct, then the star was coming to him. Frowning, he stretched out another section. A drop of blood dripped from his hand down to his elbow. It appeared the star was unhappy, barely shining. Well than wouldn’t do, not at all.

Paul got to his feet, throwing the rabbit to the side and kicking some dirt to cover the body. Wiping his bloody hands on his trousers, he walked further along the road. He knew what he needed to do.

A star whose heart was drained of misery wouldn’t be nearly as powerful as it could be. He needed to be patient, make the star feel comfortable, safer, happier. Ensure its heart is truly glowing before he cut it out.

He needed to set a trap.

Paul stopped. A crossroad lay before ahead of him. Perfect.

He reached out a hand, summoning his magic right from his core. The green tendrils unfurled from his palm and into the ground before him. stone walls sprung up, wooden planks became a grand doorway and straw formed a thatched roof. Right where the cross roads lay was now a large inn. Extremely authentic, if he did say so himself.

Isolated, so no one would disturb him when he finally had the star in his clutches, but obvious enough that there was no way the star would miss it, no matter which direction it comes from.

However, he’d need help if he wanted to execute this plan successfully.

Right on the fence surrounding the inn’s grounds, a magpie persistently pecked at the wood.

Paul's lips curled into a smirk. Crouching down, he stretched his fingers so that they brushed the bird’s feathers. Whispering a spell, another spark of magic surged from his fingers and in the magpie’s place stood a gangly looking boy. A vacant expression on his face as he tapped the ground with his foot.

Paul pursed his lips. That’ll have to do.

A tight sensation in his left hand caused him to look down. Along with his right, his other hand now bore the brunt of ageing. It hardly mattered. Soon he’d have the star and he’d be able to restore them in minutes.

Addressing the bird turned human, he put his hand on his shoulder. “I am the innkeeper and you will be my son.” The boy blinked in response.

Rolling his eyes, Paul turned to the front of the inn. Pushing open the door, he took in the front room. Large, but warm and comforting. The wooden beams across the ceiling gave it a homely appearance, exactly what Paul wanted. If he were a tired and weary star, he’d certainly feel at ease here.

But there was still much to do. He turned to the boy. “Come. We need to prepare.” Paul smiled maliciously, “our special guest will be here soon.”

--------------------

The visit to the village had been an experience to say the least.

Brian hadn’t realised that he didn’t actually have anything to buy the food with, as his bag of supplies was still back at his house in Wall. But then, that’s what happens when a magical candle takes you on a spontaneous journey that you weren’t quite prepared for.

He shuddered, remembering the old crone running the shop that took specific interest in his glass snowdrop. As if he’d just give it to her. On reflection, all the people in the town had been a bit odd. Perhaps it was just a close-knit community where no one ever left. He’d heard of those types of places back in England.

Brian looked down at the few slices of bread he had swiped from a bakery’s back bin. It wasn’t the best, but it would do. Well, it would do if Roger actually liked bread. He hoped he did. Everyone liked bread. But what did stars eat anyway? Then again, he supposed that in the sky there wasn’t much need for food.

It had long since gone dark, it had taken him far longer than expected to get to the town and Brian was having trouble recognising where about he had left the star. It was night now, so surely Roger would be awake after sleeping most of the day.

“Roger!” He called out. Perhaps the star would hear him calling. “Roger?”

Stepping into the clearing where he thought he had left him; Brian was greeted with nothing. Perhaps he just had the wrong place.

After circling the trees a few times, there was still no sign of the star.

Stopping, Brian rested a hand on a nearby tree. It was getting obvious that he wasn’t looking in the wrong place. Roger was gone.

Heatedly, he kicked the trunk of the tree he was leaning on. “Idiot!” He shouted, running his hands through his hair.

What had he been thinking?! He never should have left, Brian thought bitterly. Why didn’t he just agree to stay with Roger and get some rest there and then, instead of trekking all the way to the town and leaving the star alone.

Putting his hands on the tree, he rested his forehead against the bark.

What else had he been expecting, though? Of course Roger would leg it as soon as Brian had left. He had no reason to stay other than the Babylon candle, and he would probably be able to find his own in no time.

He had no star, no sign of John and less than half of the candle left. A completely wasted trip.

Looking down at the bread in his hand, Brian sighed, tossing it into the bushes. No need for it now. He’d sleep the rest of the night and then use the candle to get home. Go back to Wall defeated. A failure.

He settled down at the base of the tree and closed his eyes, trying to get comfortable. A little sleep always made him feel better.

However, unbeknownst to Brian, his rest was going to be anything but peaceful.

“Brian…” A multitude of voices whispered. “Brian.” He tossed his head to the side, fighting to remain asleep.

“You must protect our brother, Brian.” Where were these voices coming from? Perhaps he was dreaming. He tried to ignore them. Who was this brother they were speaking of anyway?

“Roger is in grave danger, Brian.” Ah Roger. What was Brian supposed to do about that? it was Roger’s choice to abandon him. “And now he walks into a trap.” Shit, that didn’t sound good.

“No star is safe in Stormhold.” Stormhold? He had never heard of this place before. Was that where he was, what lay beyond the wall? Behind his eyes, a white light built up, until it was replaced with an image. He watched as a glowing shape plummeted from the heavens, landing in a crater similar to the one he found Roger in. As the light faded, a young woman was revealed. The long blonde hair that splayed around her head was the same colour as Roger’s and she was dressed in a simple white dress.

“The last star to fall, over five hundred years ago, fell into the hands of the same warlock who seeks to capture Roger now.” A man with short brown hair appeared, holding out a hand for the star to take, which she did. The hair at the back of the man’s head was thinning and white, out of sight of the star.

“He tricked her, cared for her.” Brian watched as the man stroked the star’s cheek, tucking her hair behind her ear. The star smiled, glowing as he helped her lie down on what looked like some kind of table.

The voices continued to talk, “only, when her heart was once more aglow, he cut it from her chest-“ the man reached for a large, sharp knife and lifted it above his head. The star opened her eyes, the glowing of her skin diminishing and her eyes widening in terror as then man swiftly brought down the knife.

Brian flinched at the image, however there was still more to come.

The man in the vision raised his hand, holding something in it tightly that let out the brightest light. He opened his mouth, lifting his hand higher and higher and- “and ate it.”

Brian jerked awake. “No!” he gasped in horror, his heart pounding. He lurched up from where he had been resting against the tree, landing on his knees. What that man, that monster, did to the other star… it was horrific. And he was going to do the same to Roger.

“There’s no time to lose.” The whispering voices were back.

Brian snapped his head upwards; the voices were coming from up there. As he watched, the stars twinkled. The voices were theirs. They began to speak to him again, whilst he knelt under the sky. “A coach is approaching and no matter what, you must get on it.”

Jumping to his feet, Brian didn’t spare a thought to the fact that stars could actually talk to the people below them. He had more pressing matters to attend.

“Go, Brian. Run.” The stars continued to urge him. He set off in a sprint, the stars still calling out to him. “Run!”

Brian ran faster than he had ever ran in his life. He didn’t even know if he was heading in the right direction. But he didn’t care. He only knew one thing.

He needed to catch that coach.

Chapter Text

The trees passed in a blur, branches and bushes catching on his clothing as Brian raced through the woods. A couple had hit him in the face and he had almost tripped over his own feet a few times in his haste. But Brian kept going. He had to.

If he didn’t get to the coach in time, if he was even a moment too late, all would be lost.

Finally, after what felt like hours of running, the trees started to thin out revealing a dirt path. Slowing to a jog, he stopped at the edge of the path looking left and right. Nothing was coming.

Why would the stars tell him to catch a coach if there was nothing there?

Unless the coach had already been and gone. Brian’s heart skipped a beat. Oh God, what if there had been a coach but Brian had missed it, or he had been running in completely the wrong direction. Roger could be dead or worse, and it would be all his fault!

He almost turned back in despair when the sound of horses’ hooves and wheels trundling along the ground met his ears. And what a sweet sound it was! He hadn’t missed the coach after all.

However, he only had one chance to get on it. Walking backwards to give himself some momentum, he ran towards the road just as the coach started to pass.

Jumping to grab a hold of the side, he realised a little too late that he hadn’t timed it very well. Slamming into the side of the coach, Brian’s forehead collided with one of the windows. Dazed, he fell back to the ground and landed right on his back.

Great. Now he had missed the coach and gained nothing but a sore back and thumping headache.

Luckily for Brian, the driver of the coach jumped in his seat at the sound of something hitting the side. Turning his head to the side, he caught a glimpse of a body sprawled on the side of the track.

“What the-“ the driver yanked on the reins, pulling the horses to a sharp halt. Leaping from his seat at the front of the coach, he approached the spot where Brian had fallen.

Pulling a rapier from the sheath at his hip, the man pointed it under Brian’s chin. “You thieves have to do a lot better than that if you want even a chance of getting a hold of my cargo.” He looked down at him with disdain.

Brian scrambled backwards; his breath not quite caught up with him. “No! no, wait!” He pleaded desperately. He lifted his chin, trying to avoid the sharp edge of the blade. “I’m not a thief, honestly. I just need a lift, that’s all.”

The coach driver narrowed his eyes, stepping forwards menacingly and pressing the rapier closer to Brian’s neck.

Brian’s eyes widened. That blade was awfully close, and as much as he wanted to stay alive, it wouldn’t do Roger any good if he died right here on a dusty forest track either. He held up his hands, “look at me, I’m unarmed! See, nothing there.” He shuffled backwards, trying to appeal to the man one more time. “Please, let me ride with you.”

“Hmm.” Looking Brian up and down, the man pulled his rapier away and returned it to its sheath. Wiping his hands, he flipped his chin length brown hair away from his face haughtily. “Sorry mate, but that’s not possible. I’m on a quest of great importance.”

“A quest?” Brian followed the man as he circled the coach checking for any damage. He had never heard someone refer to their journey as a quest before. But maybe that was just how people spoke around here. “More the reason to take me with you! You may need a second pair of hands.”

The coach driver glanced back to Brian before shaking his head, “look, this is a one-man job, alright? Get a lift somewhere else.” With that, the man climbed back up onto the coach and gathered the horses’ reins in his hands.

“Wait!” Brian couldn’t let this man leave without him. “You don’t understand! I have to get somewhere, it’s really important.” he decided to leave out the fact that it was a matter of life and death, he didn’t want to scare the man away.

The coach driver gave him a long, hard look. Then he sighed, shifting to the side to make room. “Fine. Get on.”

Brian could have cried with relief, “oh, yes. Thank you!” He pulled himself up to sit beside the driver.

Snapping the reins, the man pressed the horses onward. “I didn’t catch your name back there,” the man commented still looking forwards.

Brian startled. He wasn’t expecting him to speak with him. “Brian.”

The coach driver nodded minutely. “Tim. Staffell.” He offered in return.

They fell into silence as they continued down the road. Brian cleared his throat, curiosity getting the better of him. “So, what does your ‘quest’ involve?” He asked carefully.

Tim pressed his lips together, seemingly thinking up an answer. “Supplying goods that may or may not be authorised, getting paid in return.”

Brian tilted his head, processing Tim’s words. “So a smuggler, then.” That would explain why Tim was so reluctant to take him with him then.

Tim shifted uncomfortably, “if you put it that way, yeah.” He clenched his hands around the reins. “A man has to make a living somehow!” He added defensively.

“Oh no, I’m not judging or anything.” Brian backtracked. “Moneys hard to come by these days.” He thought back to his old job back in Wall.

“Yeah, well, let’s not talk about it too much.” Tim lowered his voice, his eyes scanning the woods around them. “Don’t want the wrong people to hear, if you know what I mean.”

Brian didn’t know what he meant. He simply nodded, pretending to understand. “Of course.”

Sitting up straighter, Tim quickened the horses’ pace. “Anyway, this’ll be my last job. Once I get this payment, I’m out of here. Try to get a ship or something. Leave Stormhold well behind me.”

Brian frowned, “what’s wrong with Stormhold?” It wasn’t some dangerous area, was it? It would be just his luck to end up in a perilous land. Perhaps Tim could tell him more about this mysterious place. Maybe it was country he had never heard of. Although, Brian didn’t recall seeing the name Stormhold on any map.

Tim simply shrugged. “Nothing much. Just, I want to see other places, you know?”

Brian knew only too well.

Nudging Brian’s shoulder, Tim looked over at him. “I’ll get this lovely boat, sail to a far-off land-“ he gave a lopsided grin- “I’ll call her ‘Smile’.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Brian commented sincerely. He really hoped everything would work out for Tim.

“You bet.” Tim focused his attention back to the road. “So, Brian. Where’d you need to be that’s so urgent?”

Brian toyed with the idea of telling Tim about Roger, but then thought better of it. He seemed like a nice chap, but you never knew what people were like under the surface.

He decided to keep it vague. “I’m meeting someone. A friend.”

“Ah. So, is this a friend or a friend?” Tim shot him a knowing look, wiggling his eyebrows.

Brian shook his head, “just a friend.” A dead friend if he didn’t reach him in time.

“If you say so.” Tim didn’t sound convinced.

Eventually, they reached the end of the forest, the trees clearing out to reveal vast grasslands.

“Where are we heading?” Brian asked, taking in their surroundings. Surely they’d bump into Roger soon, he couldn’t have gone that far. And why would the stars tell him to hitch a ride with Tim if they weren’t heading towards him?

“Towards the port,” Tim replied. “It’s a few more hours from here.”

Brian remembered their conversation before. “To buy the boat: ‘Smile’.”

Tim chuckled, “yeah, that’s the idea!” He shook his head fondly, “I like you, Brian.”

Brian’s mouth curved into a smile. “Bet you’re glad you decided to let me on then.”

Tim pretended to look thoughtful, “eh, maybe.” He smirked, “but you know what?”

“What?”

“I reckon we’ll get on just fine.”

Brian couldn’t help but agree.

-------------------

“I refuse to believe that he’s the only person in Stormhold who could’ve helped me.” Roger petted the unicorn’s mane as it carried him through the fields. They had left the woods behind hours ago, and Roger found himself filling the time by venting his thoughts to the poor horse. It was probably sick of the sound of his voice by now.

The unicorn swished its tail, snorting in response. Roger took that as his cue to carry on speaking.

“I mean, who’s to say he’d even keep his promise about the candle?” The thought had crossed his mind before, though Brian seemed the type of person to keep his promises. However, Roger couldn’t know for sure; he’d hardly met enough people to call himself a good judge of character quite yet. “You know how humans are, you can’t trust them as far as you can throw them.”

He recalled the amount of times he had seen friends betraying friends, family tricking family as he looked down on the earth. Humans didn’t have the best track record of trustworthiness if you asked him. No, whilst he was down here, Roger decided that the only person he could truly rely on was himself.

He screwed up his face, “I’m Brian and I’m always right!” He mimicked. What had he ever done to end up with an irritable know-it-all as the first person he met? “Ugh!!”

Brian really knew how to get on his nerves. Good job he left the man behind before they spent any more time together. “Who even promises to go star hunting, anyway? Poor Anita, if you ask me.” The unicorn didn’t respond this time, Roger could almost feel its disapproval. Perhaps he took it a bit too far just then.

“Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh.” He conceded. Brian hadn’t been all that bad, he supposed. Under the bumbling mess he appeared to be at first, Roger could tell that Brian was rather intelligent. And all his talking had made the time pass by a little quicker.

He shook his head, Brian wasn’t here anymore, so why carry on thinking about him. All Roger needed to concern himself with was finding his own way home.

A rumble of thunder made him look up. Dark clouds swirled in the sky above him. He patted the unicorn’s mane, “we better get a move on. It looks like it’s going to-“ another crack of thunder sounded, then the heavens opened- “rain.”

He sighed, the water flattening his hair against his forehead. The unicorn tossed its head, flicking more droplets backwards into his face. He grimaced, blinking water from his eyes. “Thanks.”

Roger swivelled his head to the side, looking out for anywhere to take shelter whist he waited out the rain. He really didn’t want to be caught out in the open when the lightning reached him. Being electrocuted was not a thing he was desperate to experience.

The once green fields were now dark, the rain turning the earth to a thick mud that splattered a good few inches with each step the unicorn took. This must be the heaviest rain ever, Roger mused to himself. Not even a minute and he was already soaked right to the bone.

Surely there must be somewhere around here for him to take cover and get out of this dammed rain, however the fields seemed to be endless. The thunder rolled again, this time the sky lighting up with a flash of lightning.

Then, in the distance, he could just make out the glow of a warm light about a quarter of a mile away. As he got closer, Roger recognised the light as a lantern hung above a wooden doorway.

An Inn. Thank God!

Bringing the unicorn to spot just before the gate, he stroked its mane and dismounted. The Inn was much bigger than it had seemed from a distance and he hoped the cost for a room wouldn’t be too expensive as he didn’t exactly have anything to pay with, besides the necklace. Maybe the innkeeper would allow him to just sit by the fire and dry off for a little while.

He knocked twice, using the large brass knocker and waited for someone to let him in.

After a minute or so, the door opened to reveal a ratty looking man, his light brown hair cropped short and a heavy moustache above his lip. As soon as his eyes fell upon Roger, he smiled and began to usher Roger inside. “Come in, come in. Let’s get you out of this wretched rain!” The innkeeper spoke with a pleasant-sounding accent, however there was something unsettling about his wide grin.

There was something not quite right about this place, the fact that it seemed to appear from nowhere unsettled him. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and he would much rather be warm and dry in the company of a slightly creepy guy than out in the rain.

Roger let the man lead him inside, the door closing behind him.

-------------------

The moment Paul heard the knock on the door, he had a good feeling about who it was. Opening the door, he was met with the sight of a slim young man, his blonde hair darkened and plastered to his head from the rainfall.

However, what confirmed to him that this was indeed the star was the diamond necklace hanging around his neck. The very same necklace he had enchanted only a few days previously.

Paul smiled. The stars never failed to collect the necklace once it knocked them from the sky. It helped him identify them every time.

Putting on his best act as the honest Innkeeper, Paul invited the star inside. Once the door shut behind them, he placed his arm around the star’s shoulders in what he hoped was a friendly manner. Earning the trust of the star was essential.

“Now, we have food and drink here, a warm bed and plenty of water, enough for a hot bath.” Paul spoke kindly, leading the star further into the front room.

The star looked unsure. “That’s very kind of you, Sir. But I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of money.” He fiddled with his sleeves nervously, obviously expecting to be sent away.

Paul waved his hand, ”don’t worry about all that.” He stroked the star’s shoulders reassuringly. “What kind of man would I be to leave a poor soul out alone in this weather?”

Clapping his hands together, Paul headed over to the corner of the room where a small partition stood. Turning back, he checked the star was still following. He didn’t want it going anywhere, not before he had what he wanted.

Pulling back the partition, he addressed the star. “How do you like your bath? Warm, hot, boiling?”

The star frowned, “I honestly don’t know.”

Paul resisted rolling his eyes. Did he end up with the most indecisive star in the sky? Instead he plastered on a smile, keeping up the good host act. “Then allow me to choose for you.” He picked up a large jug, “and I’ll have my son take your horse to the stable.”

He looked around. Where was that stupid bird?

Then, the boy appeared from around the corner and walked over to Paul and the star. Instead of heading outside, the enchanted creature rocked on his feet, eyes fixed greedily on the necklace the star wore.

The star in question shifted awkwardly, stepping backwards.

Paul tutted. On reflection, perhaps a magpie was not the best choice of animal to transform. He clicked his fingers, “horse to the stables, now please.”

The bird turned boy blinked, before drifting off towards the front door. Shaking his head, Paul turned back to the star. “Let’s get you out of these wet clothes, shall we?”

Once the bath was filled with warm water, Paul knelt beside the tub and submerged his hand under the water. He had noticed the star favouring one ankle, so the best thing to do was get that healed. No star would truly shine whilst it was in pain.

Using a little magic, Paul put an enchantment over the water. That would get the star feeling better in no time.

Turning his back, Paul gave the star some privacy whist he got into the water. After fetching towel, Paul sat down on a stool as the Star soaked in the bath. Gradually, a soft glow began to emit from the star as he got more and more comfortable.

Paul smirked. That was more like it. Soon it’s heart would be at it’s most powerful. He called over to the star. “Feeling better?”

“Much. Thank you.” The star opened his eyes, the corners of his mouth turned up in a smile. “I never thought a bath could make me feel so good.”

Paul got to his feet, opening up the towel and fishing a bath robe from over the partition. “You see, the powers of a nice hot bath. You seem happier in yourself, too.”

“I do feel happier. Less troubled.” The glow surrounding him intensified.

Paul nodded. “Wonderful. A warm soak will always warm the cockles of your heart.” Holding up the towel, he looked away as the star rose out of the water. Helping him to dry off, Paul handed the star the robe before making himself look busy around the bath.

Once the star was sufficiently covered; Paul gently took a hold of his arm and guided the star away from the sectioned off area. “Now, how about we get you up to a room and I’ll give you a massage.”

“A massage?” The star’s brow creased in confusion.

“Yes.” Paul tried not to let his impatience show. The sooner he got that star laid out on the bed, the sooner he’d be able to get down to business. “Up there, go and lie down and I’ll be up in a moment. Right after I’ve got rid of this water.”

As soon as the star disappeared up the stairs, the kind smile dropped from Paul's face. Waving a hand, the partition and the bathtub faded away to nothing as if they had never been there in the first place.

Not long now, Paul thought to himself as he began to climb the stairs up to where the bedrooms were. That was almost too easy. The star’s heart was so at peace, anyone could see the shine that radiated from him.

Reaching the only room with the door open, the room the star most certainly had settled down in. And, the room where under the bed, Paul had placed his perfectly sharpened knife, easily in his reach.

Pulling the smile back onto his face, Paul pushed the door wider. Once again playing the act of the kind innkeeper, he stepped inside and pulled the door tightly shut.

Chapter Text

Roger didn’t have much experience with beds, but he would bet that this was probably one of the comfiest beds he had ever laid on. Staring up at the ceiling, he waited for the innkeeper to come up. He wasn’t quite sure what a massage was, but it seemed like something nice.

The bath had been lovely, and now his ankle hardly hurt at all. It was remarkable! Although the innkeeper had been nothing but warm and welcoming, Roger couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. It all felt… off.

The man had treated him with nothing but kindness, however Roger didn’t like the way his eyes drifted from his face, to the necklace, and down at his chest.

“Here we are.” Roger almost jumped at the voice. He didn’t even hear the innkeeper come in. The man smiled, coming to stand beside the bed. “Ever had a massage before?” He asked good-naturedly.

Roger shook his head, pushing away the thoughts of unease. This man meant him no harm. “No, I don’t think I have.”

The innkeeper caressed his shoulders comfortingly. “Well, you’re in for a treat. Nothing like a massage to send you off into the deepest night’s sleep.” He moved Roger's hair away from his shoulders, stroking a few of the blonde strands.

The man looked down at him, the smile never leaving his face. “Why not close your eyes, my dear? You’ll drift off better that way.”

Roger obliged. Trying to relax, he let the innkeeper do his thing. He felt hands parting his robe slightly at the front, which was confusing. Why did he need access to his bare chest?

Roger shrugged off his concerns. This innkeeper knew more about massages than he did. It was all probably part of the experience.

However, before it really got started, loud knocking sounded from the floor below.

Cracking open his eyes, he saw the innkeeper straighten up as if he had been bending down before. Maybe he had dropped something.

The man turned his head towards the bedroom door, a flash of annoyance crossed his face. As soon as it appeared, the look disappeared as he looked back down at Roger.

The man smiled, “relax here. I’ll be back just as soon as I’ve dealt with this customer.” With that, he swept out of the room.

Roger watched him leave, then turned his head to stare at the ceiling. That had been a bit odd.

He sat up. He had a bad feeling about this place and didn’t want to stay for a minute longer. Whilst the innkeeper was gone, he’d just slip out unnoticed. Never mind the rain, he’d feel much more comfortable somewhere other than this inn.

Lifting himself from the bed, Roger crossed the room and slipped out the door.

-------------------

“Hello?” Tim banged on the door of the inn. “Hello, is anyone there?” He squinted through the small glass window near the top of the front door, looking to see if anyone was coming.

Brian stroked the muzzle of one of the horses, holding tightly to the reins. He pushed his rain-soaked hair away from his eyes. “Look Tim, maybe we should just carry on and try another inn?” Glancing further up the road, Brian tried to distinguish any other sign of civilisation.

Tim looked over his shoulder, nodding. “Yeah, I’ll give it one more go though.” Turning back to face the door, he wiped at the glass trying to get a clearer view inside. “Hello?!”

After a few more minutes, a figure came to the door. Opening it, a young boy peered through the gap, a blank look on his face.

“Finally!” Tim exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air. “We’ve been out here for ages. Could we get a room?”

The boy stared at them, his mouth opening but no sound coming out. Slowly his eyes slid to the silver buttons on Tim’s jacket, tilting his head to the side.

Looking back to Brian, Tim shot him a confused look. Brian shrugged in reply, some people were just plain odd.

After a few more seconds of uncomfortable silence, Brian gestured over his shoulder, “I’ll go look after the horses, get them to the stable.”

Tim nodded. “Okay, see you in a bit.” He turned to the strange boy, “would you be so kind as to show my friend the way?”

The boy’s eyes snapped up to Tim’s face, tilting his head a second time, before wordlessly pushing past him and heading off into the dark. Tugging at the horses’ reins, Brian quickly followed.

Shaking his head, Tim watched as Brian left for the stables. Pushing the door open wider, he stepped inside and began to look for the innkeeper.

Soon he spotted a young man coming down the stairs. Dressed in just a bath robe, his blonde hair hanging loose, it looked like he had only just got out of bed. Tim waved, trying to catch his attention. “Hi there, sorry to wake you, it’s quite late. Could I get a room, for two people?” He asked politely.

The man looked unsure. “Oh, I-“

“I’d thank you not to bother my guest,” a voice cut in from nowhere. Whipping around, Tim saw that it was another man, older and dressed in more business-like clothing. He looked Tim up and down disapprovingly. “I am the master of this inn.”

The innkeeper stepped forward. “Can I get you anything? Some wine, perhaps?” He took a tray from the bar, a single wine glass balanced on top.

Tim shook his head. “No, I’m alright thanks.” He then thought of Brian, all alone outside. “Though my friend in the stable might like some.”

The innkeeper bowed his head, turning and handing the tray to the boy from before. Funny. Tim hadn’t seen him come in. the boy left the room, the innkeeper following shortly.

Tim shrugged off his coat, hanging it on a chair at one of the nearby tables. He smiled sheepishly at the blond man. “I’m sorry, I just assumed that…”

The man waved a hand. “Oh yeah, it’s fine. Probably would have thought the same.” He headed down the rest of the stairs, leaning against the table Tim stood beside and crossed his arms.

Tim pulled out the chair he rested his jacket on, sitting down and swinging his legs up to rest on the tabletop. “Travelling alone?” He asked casually. Might as well make conversation.

The blond nodded.

Tim waited for him to expand, but after a few silent seconds he cleared his throat, carrying on the conversation himself. Perhaps this man wasn’t much of a talker. “I’m delivering goods myself. Just me and a fella I picked up along the way.” Best not share the exact details of his chosen occupation.

The light reflecting off something around the man’s neck caught his eye. Tim then realised that it was a rather expensive looking piece of jewellery. He nodded his head at the necklace. “Can I just say, what a beautiful necklace you’ve got there. Bet it’s worth a pretty penny, that.”

The man looked down, a hand reaching to brush at the silver. “Probably.” He shrugged looking back at Tim. “I only found it recently, you see.”

“Ah.” He probably didn’t know of the potential value of the object. Tim rubbed his chin, “say, I couldn’t take that off your hands, could I?” Selling that along with his current load, he’d make a fortune. Enough to by the best boat out there, with money to spare.

The man frowned, a conflicted look on his features. “Oh, er…”

Tim held up his hands apologetically. “No, no, I get it. I’d want to keep a hold of that too.” He couldn’t blame him. sometimes people got attached to things no matter the value.

It was then Tim realised he didn’t even know the guy’s name. “Sorry, what was your name again?”

The man narrowed his eyes, suspiciously. “Roger.”

“Nice to meet you, Roger. I’m Tim.” Always good to get the names of people you meet; you never know when you’ll see them again. Speaking of people…

Tim slapped his knee, getting to his feet. “Well, Roger, I’d better get to the stables. Brian will probably be wondering where I am.” He’d only known the man a few hours, but Tim found himself missing Brian’s presence. Once he delivered his goods, Tim hoped he and Brian could remain mates.

Roger blinked. He gave Tim a quizzical look. “Wait, Brian?”

“Yeah, you know him?” Tim wracked his brains. Had Brian mentioned any Rogers earlier? He did however, mention meeting someone. Of course! “Ah, you’re that friend, aren’t you? The one he said he was meeting.” Tim folded his arms proud of his detective work. He pointed at the door, “want to come with?”

Roger nodded, stepping away from the table. “Yeah, yeah I will.”

--------------------

Brian tied off the horses’ reins, letting them settle into the stalls. As the horses grazed on the hay, Brian stroked the mane of one of the large stallions thoughtfully.

The young man had left rather quickly after taking him to the stables, not before peering long and hard at the glass snowdrop pinned to his jacket. It unsettled Brian a little, causing him to unpin the flower and replaced it in his pocket soon after.

This had seemed like any normal inn at first, but with the strange behaviour of the inn boy, Brian found himself glad to only be spending one night.

Although Brian had enjoyed his journey with Tim, he couldn’t help but worry about Roger’s whereabouts. He was supposedly in grave danger, and Brian didn’t know how much time he had to find him. The thought of Roger walking into a trap concerned him greatly and no matter how hard he tried, the vision of the man mutilating that poor star wouldn’t leave him.

Where was Tim? Surely it didn’t take long to find out if there were any rooms to spare? He didn’t want the horses to get too settled if they ended up having to move on.

The sound of hay crunching under someone’s feet pulled him from his thoughts. Brian glanced towards the stable’s entrance. The weird boy had returned, this time carrying a tray with a glass on it. It looked like some type of wine.

“Is that for me?” Brian asked in surprise when the boy stopped in front of him. He stared until Brian picked up the glass. “Thank you. That’s so kind, thank you.” Brian smiled, grateful.

The boy jerked his head, turning to leave.

“My names Brian, what’s yours?” Brian called after him.

The boy ignored him, not even looking back.

Brian sniffed. That wasn’t very polite. He was only trying to be nice.

Sitting down in the soft hay, Brian leant against the wall of one of the stalls. He looked down at the glass in his hand, swirling the liquid inside. It was a deep red; redder than any wine he had ever seen.

He sniffed it cautiously. It didn’t smell particularly unusual, perhaps a little sweeter than Brian considered normal. But what did he know? Stormhold was a completely different place to England and who was he to assume that all food and drink were the same.

Eh, what the hell. He may as well try these things.

Brian raised the glass, about to take a sip when-

“Brian!”

Brian startled at the shout, dropping the glass in surprise. As the liquid spilled, it hissed and steamed on the hay. “What…” looking up from the spilt wine, he was met with the sight of Tim and beside him-

“Roger?” Brian stared in bewilderment before rushing forward to hold the star by the shoulders. “You’re alright, aren’t you?” He looked him over, but didn’t see any visible injuries.

Roger narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine,” He said slowly. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Brian released his hold. “The stars… I had a vision.” He put his hands in his pockets, tapping his foot. “They told me you were in trouble!”

“In trouble?” Roger echoed. He frowned, “but I’ve been fine…”

Crossing his arms, Tim cocked his head. “What’s all this about stars?” He looked between Brian and Roger, raising an eyebrow expectantly.

Brian shot Roger a silent look, asking for permission. He nodded in return. They could trust Tim.

Brian sighed, meeting Tim’s gaze. “Look, Roger’s a star.” He explained. “There’s this guy after him.”

Roger put his hands on his hips. “Why am I only just hearing about this?” It would have been helpful if his brothers and sisters had told him himself that, rather than just Brian.

Brian waved a hand, “later, alright?” He looked back to Tim, checking he was alright with the new information.

Tim wiped his brow, “right, okay.” He shook his head, then looked over at the horses. “Then we should probably get out of here.”

Roger nodded. “I agree. Somethings not right about this place. The innkeeper, he’s strange.” He suppressed a shudder when he thought back to that slimy man.

“And that boy who works here.” Tim added. He’d never met anyone so odd.

Brian agreed. “Yeah. And what kind of Inn poisons their guests?” He poked at the dropped glass with his foot.

“Poison?” Tim peered at the streaming hay. “Glad I didn’t have any then.”

Brian clapped his hands together. “We should leave. Tim!” He caught his attention, “can you get the coach set up?”

“Yeah, I-“ Tim patted his sides- “Damn it!” He exclaimed. He looked up apologetically, “My coat. I left it inside.”

Roger cursed. “Is it really necessary?”

Tim shot him an irritated look. “The key to my cargo trunks is in the pocket. I can’t leave it!” He bit his lip, glancing to the door. “I can just go and-“

“No.” Brian shook his head. “We’ll all go. It’ll be safer.” He didn’t want to leave Roger alone, but it might not be safe for Tim to go back unaccompanied.

The three left the stable, quietly making their way to the door of the inn.

Brian silently eased the door open, being careful not to let it creak. Sticking his head through the gap, he scanned the room. There, towards the centre lay Tim’s coat, draped over a chair. The coast looked clear.

He turned to Roger and Tim, gesturing for them to follow.

Once inside, Tim held out his arm, Stopping the other two from going any further. Before they could protest, he crept forward. Reaching the chair, he lifted the coat from the back. “Got it!” he called.

However, before he could make it back across the room, a dark laughter filled the air.

“You didn’t think I was letting you go so easily?” The innkeeper stepped out from beneath the stairs, smirking at the three men.

Brian’s eyes widened. That was the man! The one from the vision. Everything now made sense. The inn in the middle of nowhere, the strange behaviour, the poison. This was the trap!

Tim quickly backed away to stand beside Brian and Roger. Grabbing both their arms, he whipped around back the way they came.

The innkeeper smirked. With a wave of his hand the door slammed shut.

Roger tried the handle; it was locked tight. “What do we do now?” He hissed.

The innkeeper began to walk towards them slowly, pulling a large knife from behind his back. The same knife, Brian noted, that he used to cut the heart from the last star.

The innkeeper spread his arms. “How about you hand the star over to me and I’ll let you boys live?”

Brian lifted his chin defiantly. He stepped in front of Roger. “Over my dead body!”

Tim joined him, crossing his arms. “Mine too!”

The innkeeper shrugged, looking almost bored. “Have it your way.” He let out a sharp whistle.

The small door behind the bar burst open and the young boy shot into the room. He charged forwards, his arms outstretched and fingernails looking awfully like talons.

Darting to the side, Roger grabbed one the wooden chairs. With all of his strength he swung it right into the boy, who’s body was knocked against the far wall. As he fell to the ground, in his place was the small, broken body of a magpie.

Brian stared at the corpse; he was a bird the whole time? That explained the weird behaviour.

“This way!” Tim shouted, gesturing to a singular window. Perhaps they could escape through there?

Brian grabbed Roger’s arm and tugged him in Tim’s direction.

To their dismay, the innkeeper waved his hand again, summoning light green flames that engulfed the entire outer edge of the inn. Stood against the back wall, they were trapped.

The innkeeper steadily began to move closer, as if he had all the time in the world. He raised the knife higher, a devilish smile on his face. A far cry from his act as the humble business owner.

“I’d much prefer the burning heart of a star at peace than your frightened little heart.” He shrugged, “still, better than no heart at all.” As he walked forwards, the flames licking higher around the walls.

It was then an idea popped into Brian's head. He put his hand in his pocket, feeling the outline of what was left of the Babylon candle. He leaned in to the star’s ear. “Roger,” he murmured. “Hold me tight and think of home.” He looked to his right. “You too, Tim.”

Brian pulled the candle from his pocket and plunged his hand into the flames beside him. Roger’s grip was like iron as the star clutched his arm, face tucked away from the fire.

Realising what was happening, the innkeeper surged forwards, his face twisting in anger as he slashed the knife towards Brian.

Screwing his eyes shut, Brian braced himself for what was to come.

“Brian!”

Opening his eyes, he caught sight of Tim pushing himself forward in front of Brian as the blade came down.

“Tim! No!” Brian shouted in horror as he watched his friend crumple to the ground, the knife buried deep in his chest. A trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth.

Their eyes met one last time. Tim nodded at Brian, a pained smile on his lips.

Then with a flash of light, Brian and Roger disappeared.

Chapter Text

They were no longer at the inn anymore.

Although relieved to be away from danger, Brian felt a desperate need to go back. If of only he had been quicker with the candle, Tim would be here with them.

Brian felt a small spark of hope. Maybe he was still alive; he had been alive as he and Roger had used the candle.

Deep down he knew it was pointless. With how deep that knife had been buried in his chest and left alone with that innkeeper, it was unlikely he had survived. Tim was gone.

Brian looked over at Roger, about to check he was alright, when the confusion on his companion’s face drew him to take in where they actually were.

Rain hurled down, swirling around the two as the wind blew from all directions. In the distance lightning cracked, illuminating the clouds around them. Because that was where they were. In the middle of a group of clouds.

Brian looked around. How was this possible? He had lit the candle and envisioned the wall in his head. They should be there! Unless…

He whirled around to face Roger. “What the hell did you do?!” He demanded.

Roger stared at him in disbelief before anger set into his features. “What did I do? What did you do?!” He grimaced, wringing the water out of the edge of his robe, only for it to get drenched again in seconds. “Great plan that, think of home!” Roger shook his head, his expression scornful. “You thought of your home and I thought of mine! And where are we?” He spread out his arms gesturing to the clouds around them, “Somewhere between the two!!”

Brian glared. “Well what were you doing thinking of your home?” He couldn’t believe they had ended up in the middle of the sky. You’re not even supposed to be able to stand on clouds anyway! “We’ve used up all the candle, Tim-“ his voice cracked as he quickly swallowed the lump rising in his throat- “Tim’s dead, and now we’re stuck here. This is all your fault!” Brian pointed an accusing finger at Roger’s chest.  

Roger flipped his sodden hair from his face, his eyes blazing. “My fault? I think you’ll find it’s yours!” Roger took a step closer, “you just said home! If you wanted me to think of your home, you should have said!”

Brian closed the gap between them. “Some crazy man is about to kill us and cut out your heart and you wanted more specific instructions?!” He drew himself up to his full height and loomed over Roger. “Next time I’ll draw you a diagram, how about that?” His voice dripped with sarcasm.

“Oh, fuck off Brian!” Roger shoved him away from him, folding his arms and turning away.

Brian opened his mouth, ready to yell back at the star. But before he could say anything, something heavy dropped on top of them from above. Reaching out a hand, Brian realised that it was a net as he felt the ropy texture under his fingertips.

Brian’s eyes met Roger’s wide ones as they were hauled over the side of a large vessel and dumped the deck of a- Brian took in the high masts and ropes- a Pirate ship?

How? Brian was sure that ships sailed the sea, not the air. Then again, ever since coming to this strange land, Brian was quickly learning that things ran quite a bit differently that they did back in England. Though this was quite the unusual ship. For starters, the large masts seemed to be attracting the bolts of lightning as they struck overhead.

No matter how unusual, Brian knew that any type of pirates meant bad news.

Despite their sharp words earlier, Brian shifted closer to Roger, circling an arm around his shoulders as the they sat huddled under the net.

A group of about five figures advanced towards them, dressed in long, dark coats, with their faces concealed by large hoods and some kind of thick goggles.

One of the largest figures stepped forwards, bending slightly to get a better view of their catch. “Look here, Captain Mercury!” He looked over his shoulder, calling out to the others. “Caught ourselves a little bonus!”

The group parted, letting a shorter figure push through. The figure paused next to another of a similar height. “Lightning Marshals?” The second figure questioned, leaning closer to the other. His voice was soothing, not dissimilar to an Irish accent, Brian noted.

The one the group had parted for, presumably the captain, pushed down his hood and crouched down, peering through the net. “Hmm, no.” He remarked thoughtfully. “They don’t look like Lightning Marshals to me.”

The tall one from before tilted his head. “Why else would anyone else be up here in the middle of a storm?”

The captain made an irritated noise. “Well, let’s think, shall we?” He turned his head to yell back at the crew, “for the same bloody reason we are!”

The captain twisted his head back to Brian and Roger, reaching up a gloved hand and pulling the thick goggles off his face, revealing warm brown eyes. “Who are you?” He demanded, impatiently awaiting an answer. “No?” He narrowed his eyes, sighing deeply at the lack of response. “Fine.”

The captain leapt to his feet, raising his voice to the rest of the group. “Perhaps a night in our lovely brig will get them talking!”

The crew let out a large cheer. As some pulled the net off Brian and Roger, two of the largest members grabbed then by the shoulders and hauled them to their feet.

The Irish sounding man clapped his hands. “You heard your captain, let’s go!” He pointed towards the centre of the ship.

The captain directed the two holding Brian and Roger before whipping round to the rest of the men. “As for the rest of you, back to work!” He looked out at the sky, as another bolt of lightning flashed. “We’ve got lightning to catch.”

------------------

Brian and Roger were brought below deck, down a wooden staircase leading to the bottom of the ship. They stopped in front of a small door made up of vertical wooden planks. The pirate who had a hold of Roger shoved him over to the one holding Brian, who adjusted his hands to grip both of their arms as the other pulled out a set of keys and began to unlock the door.

Brian considered himself fairly tall, but both of these men were some of the biggest he had ever seen, far larger and broader than himself. Thinking back to the captain of the ship- Mercury, he thought they had said- It was funny that these two mountains of men obeyed a man who was about half their size.

He must be a pretty fearsome captain for them to follow him without question.

Once the door was open, they were roughly pushed to the floor by the pirate holding them whilst the other pulled out a thick coil of rope.

Pressed back to back, the pirates made quick work of looping the rope around Brian’s wrists, binding him tightly against Roger. Their work done, the two pirates wordless left the room, locking the door behind them. Their footsteps fading as they head back to the upper deck.

Brian flexed his wrists, searching for any give in the rope. He slumped in defeat as the knots held firm. Looks like the two of them weren’t getting out anytime soon.  

He surveyed the room. It was quite compact, no larger than the store cupboard in the back of the village shop Brian had worked at. Wooden barrels sat in small groups around the edges of the room. What they held, Brian wasn’t sure. Gunpowder perhaps? Over the floor there was a light littering of hay, as if the room had been used to house animals once upon time.

It was Roger that broke the silence. “They’re going to kill us, aren’t they?” He had never sounded so small before.

Brian wasn’t sure what to say. “I-“ he sighed, hanging his head- “I don’t know.”

“Well,” Roger sniffed, his voice wavering a little. “It was fun whilst it lasted.”

Brian let out a brittle laugh, nodding. “Oh, definitely. Best near-death experience I’ve ever had.”

Roger snorted at that. He paused, before beginning thoughtfully. “It’s quite funny, actually. I used to watch people having adventures.” He smiled softly at the memory of all the things he had seen. “I always wanted to go and have my own, you know?”

Brian arched an eyebrow. “Ever heard the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’?”

“What?” Roger shifted, clearly agitated. “So it’ll serve me right, will it? Having my heart cut out?” Brian felt his hands clenching into fists behind his. “Thanks for that, Brian.” Roger added bitterly.

Brian winced; he hadn’t meant to upset him. “No. No of course not,” he reassured. “I didn’t mean it like that.” He shook his head, looking down to the floor. “The thing is, I get it. The dreaming,” he clarified. “I always wanted to leave Wall and actually do something. Though this wasn’t quite what I imagined.” Brian thought back to his original thoughts when he first found the star. “I just thought I was going to find some piece of celestial rock and that would be it.”

“And now you’re stuck with me instead.” Roger tried to sound amused, although a hint of insecurity shot through him. He hoped Brian didn’t actually feel that way.

Brian shrugged. “I wouldn’t say I was ‘stuck with you’. I’d rather have you than some lump of rock.” Saying the words, Brian knew them to be true. Even though Roger being an actual person had complicated things a little, he found that he liked having the star around. “You’re a living and breathing star! Do you know how much we could learn from you, Roger? You’re remarkable!”

Roger sniffed, “you make me sound like a science project or something.” He shook his head. “And anyway, you saved my life back there! I think that makes you pretty brilliant yourself.” He hung his head, heaving a sigh. “Besides, I chose to leave. You didn’t have to come after me, but you did.”

“Of course I did.” Brian replied immediately. “I wasn’t going to just leave you.”

“Well, anyway." Roger turned his head to the side, “thank you Brian.” He took a breath, seemingly thinking of what to say. “I’m sorry about Tim.” Regret was obvious in his voice.  

Brian felt the familiar pang of sadness at the loss of his friend. “Yeah, me too.” Then he remembered the cruel words he had said to the star before they got into this mess. He too turned his head, trying to meet Roger’s eye. “I never should have blamed you for it earlier. I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. You were just upset.” Roger smiled at him sadly, from what he had seen of Tim, he seemed like a kind man. “You two got quite close, I take it?”

Brian shut his eyes tightly, there was no point in getting upset all over again. “I’d only just met him, but he was probably one of the only friends I’ve ever really made apart from Anita. And John of course.” He swallowed, realising that despite their rocky beginning, he had grown closer to Roger over their time together. “And you.”

“Aw, you consider me a friend, hmm Bri?” Roger teased, attempting to lighten the mood. Although he sounded sincere as he added, “I’m touched.”

Brian’s lips quirked into a smile, “you should be. Only a few get the honour, you know.” He joked back.   

Roger chuckled gently before going quite again. “So, you and Anita. He asked, carefully. “What’s going on with that?”

Brian was a little puzzled at the question. Whenever he brought up the topic of Anita before, Roger had always appeared rather irritated. “Well, ever since I met her, she just got me, you know?” He remembered all the things that had drawn him to Anita in the first place. “She’s kind and beautiful and funny. One of the only people who really bothered to get to know me.” He wasn’t sure what else to say.

“I can see why you like her; she sounds great.”

Brian nodded. “She is.”

“You really love her, then.” Was it Brian’s imagination, or did Roger sound slightly sad as he said that?

Brian realised he had been silent for a moment. “…I think I do.”

“You hesitated.”

“What?” He had hoped that Roger hadn’t noticed his slight pause.  “No I didn’t!” Brian quickly retorted.

He could almost sense the disbelieving eyebrow Roger was probably raising behind his back.

“Alright.” Roger obviously wasn’t convinced.  “I may not know a lot about love, but from what I thought, it’s one of those things people tend to know when they feel it. You want to stay with them forever.” He paused before adding, “you don’t want to leave them.”

Brian knitted his brows. “I’m not sure I get your point here.”

Roger sighed. “I’m just saying, if you love her so much, then why leave her and go off on a star chase?” He sounded genuinely interested. 

“This isn’t- I wasn’t-“ Brian stumbled over his words, searching for a response. “You know she’s the one who encouraged me to leave, have a bit of fun before settling down.” He shook his head, smiling as he thought back to the night all of this began.  “She’s thoughtful in that way. You’ll understand when you meet her!” He frowned. Their current predicament was a bit of a problem, though.  “Provided we don’t get murdered by pirates first.”

Roger hummed. “Murdered by Pirates. Heart cut out and eaten. Meet Anita. I Don’t know which one I’d enjoy the most,” he mused, sarcasm laced between his words.

Before they could get any further into that conversation, down the stairs outside, the sound of heavy boots could be heard. The wood creaked beneath the weight of whoever was on their way down. Probably only one person, as it sounded like just one set of footsteps.

Both Brian and Roger whipped their heads to the side, watching the small wooden door in anticipation.

Brian swallowed nervously. “I guess this is it.” He wished he could say he had had a good life, but that wasn’t exactly true. Now faced with death, however, he really didn’t want to die quite yet.

“I guess so.” Roger let out a shaky breath. “It was nice knowing you, Brian.”

“You too.”

Feeling with one of his bound hands behind him, Brian found Roger’s. He took a hold of his hand, Roger squeezing his in return as they waited for whichever pirate to come in.

The footsteps had stopped, presumably at the bottom of the stairs. A key rattled in the lock.

Brian squeezed Roger’s hand in his a little tighter.

This was the end.

With a click, the door swung open, hitting the wall with a thud.

In the doorway stood the captain, the large leather coat he had been wearing before draped lazily over one arm. Without it acting as an extra layer, he appeared to be pretty slim, surprising for a man who probably did a lot of manual labour each day.

The captain stepped into the little room, tossing the coat over one of the barrels in the corner. He stopped right in front of the two captives, hands on his hips. Everything about him seemed to command respect. 

Now bathed in light, Brian noticed the meticulously well-groomed moustache over his upper lip, a detail he failed to see in the dark on the outside deck of the ship.

“Now…” The pirate captain smirked; his brown eyes gleaming. Turning, he pulled another barrel forward, placing one of foot on the top. He rested his chin on one of his hands, curled into a fist. “Let’s get down to business, shall we?”

Chapter Text

The pirate captain arched an eyebrow, waving his hand expectantly. “You’ll tell me everything, if you know what’s good for you.” He leaned forward menacingly, “you don’t want to try my patience.”

“Er, we-“ Brian spoke quickly, before Roger could utter a word. He wanted to keep the pirate’s attention away from the star if he could help it.

“Speak up, Boy!” The captain barked, standing up straighter and prowling closer to where Brian was sat. Out of his pocket he pulled out a small silver knife, wickedly sharp, and began twirling it between his fingers. “We’ll start with you telling me exactly who you are and why you are here.”

“My-“ Brian cleared his throat nervously- “my name is Brian May.” He nodded over his shoulder, “this is my brother, Roger.”

The captain watched Brian carefully, crouching down just in front of him. “Your brother, you say?” He tossed back his head, letting out a sharp laugh. “You don’t really expect me to believe that? Oh, that is just too good!” He ceased his laughter, eyes hardening as he held the knife closer to Brian’s face. “You two look nothing alike. Now, you had better start telling me the truth, or I’ll have to resort to more drastic measures.”

Brian stared at the knife, barely an inch away from his nose. A chill ran through his body at the thought of what this man could do to him with that blade.

“We’re two friends!” Roger shouted out desperately. “Just friends travelling back home together!”

The captain’s head snapped in Roger’s direction. He got back to his feet, twirling the knife one last time before swiftly returning it to his trouser pocket. “Two friends, hmm?” He moved to stand in front of the two other occupants of the room. “Well, I can’t say I’ve seen men who consider themselves to be friends holding each other’s hands as tightly as you two appear to be.” He nodded at their hands behind their backs.

Brian hadn’t realised he was still clutching Roger’s hand in his. He let go reluctantly.

The pirate began to circle the room, his hands folded behind his back. “Still, we seem to be getting somewhere, at least.” He came to a stop in front of Roger. “But don’t speak out of term to me, is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.” Roger muttered.

“Better!” The captain circled them once more, then he settled back to where he had begun, leaning against the barrel. “Now, what to do with you?” He tapped his chin thoughtfully, eyes flickering back and forth between Brian and Roger.

“Let’s see… a hanging is often good for morale.” He raised his voice, head tilted upwards towards the door leading to the stairs. “Isn’t that right, Boys?!”

The shouts and cheers of the rest of the crew could be heard from above. Had they been listening the whole time?

The captain crossed his arms, shrugging nonchalantly. “Of course, I could just tip the two of you over the side and have done with it.” He lowered his voice, as if he was divulging a secret. “It’s an awfully long way down, plenty of time to reflect on your pitifully short lives…” He dragged out the last few words tauntingly.

Brian felt Roger stiffen behind him. He didn’t blame him. The thought of a fall from this height, well, it didn’t bear thinking about.

“Wait. Please, just-“ Brian met the captain’s eyes, attempting to appeal to his better nature. “We’re just trying to make our way home. To where I’m from, a place called Wall-“

The captain cut him off abruptly. “What did you say?” The cool exterior gone, recognition in his eyes as he gaped at Brian.

Brian frowned, confused. “I said, we were trying to get back home to Wall.” Did this man know of where he came from?

An almost devious look gleamed in the captain’s eyes. However, as quickly as it appeared, it was gone, his face now twisted with anger. “That’s one lie to many, my dear boy.” He growled.

“I’m not lying!” Brian felt panic rising inside him. He really didn’t want to anger the man.

“Shut up, Brian.” Roger hissed as the pirate furiously kicked the barrel he had been leaning against not even a minute ago, sending it crashing to the ground.

Both Brian and Roger flinched at the noise, staring up at the captain in anticipation.

“What did I say about talking back?!” The man in question whipped out the knife again, approaching Brian threateningly.

Brian’s heart leapt to his throat. This was it for him. This was how he would meet his end. He only hoped the captain would spare Roger the same fate.

--------------------

Back up on the top deck, Jim rolled his eyes as the rest of the crew gathered around the door that led to the brig, their ears pressed against the wood as they eagerly listened to what the captain was saying. Of course no one would want to carry on working when there was something far more entertaining going on down there.

He could hardly blame them though. It was always interesting when intruders were being interrogated. Although, Jim had heard enough of Freddie’s theatrics over the years that he didn’t get quite as excited as the others.

“What’s he saying?” Someone asked. Probably Crystal, knowing him.

Jim smirked. Any minute now… “Thought you could just wander onto my patch now, did you?!” There it was.

It was no wonder Captain Mercury was one of the most fearsome pirates in Stormhold, when he could raise his voice like that. It was enough to put the fear of god into most people.

The other crew member looked between each other animatedly. “Is he…”

Freddie’s shouts continued to drift up from below. “And live to tell the tale?”

More excited murmurs. “He is. Yeah, he is!”

“Big mistake, May!” The captain’s voice varied in volume, indicating that he was moving around down there. If Jim was correct, this was going to end in exactly the same way as all the other times before.

The crew appeared to have cottoned on as well. “To the side, to the side! Let’s go, go, go!” Jim sighed, following the others as they scrambled to get to the side of the ship.

Jim leaned his head over the side as they watched a body drop from the lower window. It was too far down now to see the face, but from the mop of hair, Jim guessed it was the tall one.

“And it’ll be the last one you’ll ever make!” The captain stared down at the plummeting body, letting his words carry in the wind. Then he looked up at the crew leaning over the side of the vessel, an unamused expression on his face.

“Shit!” All of the crew members except Jim ducked their heads back from where they were looking over the side.

Jim shook his head fondly whilst a grin grew on Freddie’s face as he looked back up at him. As the captain pulled his head back through the window, Jim turned away from the edge and leaned back against the side, his arms folded.

The rest of the crew feigned being busy when the door to the brig burst open. Out came their captain, his mouth pressed into a thin line. Behind him, he dragged the other prisoner- the blond one- a firm grasp on his forearm.

The blond was putting up quite the fight, Jim had to admit. “No! No, Brian!” He cried, distraught at the demise of his… friend?

The boy turned on Freddie, Rage embedded on his face. “You killed him! You murderer!” With each shout he delivered a hit on Freddie’s shoulder with his fist.

Seemingly unbothered, Freddie addressed Jim, swinging the door to his quarters open. “This one is coming with me. He needs a little extra interrogation.”

Jim nodded in affirmative. He spared a glance at the young man whose arm Freddie was gripping. Bit odd he was wearing just a bath robe; Jim didn’t think of that as exactly practical clothing. But who was he to judge?

Turning back briefly, the captain yelled to the other crewmates. “Anyone comes in here and I’ll chuck you over the side as well!” With that, he pushed the blond through the door, following shortly after and slamming the door shut.

Despite his threats, Jim knew them to be empty. They were too short of crew members for Freddie to go lobbing anyone overboard. He pushed himself to the front the group, standing guard to the door that led to the captain’s quarters.

“Captain’s busy, so should you be.” He made a small gesture with his hand, signalling the rest of the crew to get back to working. They had had enough of a break as it is.

Being the First Mate was a hard job, but someone had to do it.

------------------

“Get in there!” The captain roughly shoved Roger through the door, slamming it behind him. Leaning against the wood, he released a breath. He looked up, a pleased smile on his face. A far cry from the tough persona he had put on before. “That went well, I think.”

The captain stepped away from the door, slinging an arm around Roger’s shoulders as he walked him further into the cabin. “Marvellous performance you did out there, I must say. Even I would have been fooled.”

A muffled coughing drew their attention to the corner of the room, where a well concealed door was kicked open. Emerging with a cloud of dust, Brian climbed out of the doorway, brushing some cobwebs from his arms. Catching sight of Roger and the Captain, he rushed over.

“You alright, Rog?” He questioned, placing a hand on the blond’s shoulder as the captain removed his arm.

Roger shot him a slight smile, “fine.”

The captain began pulling out chairs around the fair-sized table at the centre of the room, ushering them to take a seat. “He was in safe hands, don’t you worry.” Once they were seated, the captain took his own seat on the opposite side of the table. “First and foremost, call me Freddie. None of that ‘Captain’ or ‘Sir’ business.”

Well this had taken a turn.

Roger had been expecting death and now both he and Brian were on first name terms with the man they thought would be the end of them. Funny how things turned out.

Freddie clapped his hands. “Now, my darlings. Tell me news of my beloved England. I want to hear absolutely everything!” He leaned back, smiling warmly at the pair.

Brian remained rod-straight in his chair, worrying his lip. “Did your crew really fall for that?”

Freddie nodded smugly. “Ah, it works every time.” He blew some air from his nose before his brow creased. “I’m actually surprised they haven’t worked it out yet.”

Roger had to admit, it was a rather ingenious idea. He didn’t think he’d be able to come up with something that crafty. “But where did you get that mannequin from?” He wondered aloud.

Freddie tapped the side of his nose. “You’ll find I’m very resourceful. A pinch of trickery, a little showmanship, it’s the perfect recipe for a towering reputation.” He smirked over at Brian. “And that wool I had was a rather nice touch, if I do say so myself.”

Roger gestured around him. “So you do all this, but don’t actually hurt anyone?” It was quite hard to believe.

Freddie nodded. “I try not to spill a drop blood if I can help it. Have you ever tried getting blood out of a silk shirt?” He shuddered. “Oh, it’s a nightmare!”

“Alright.” Brian frowned, “but if you supposedly ‘killed’ me, won’t your crew find it weird that I’m still here?” He rubbed the back of his neck, still looking a little nervous.

Freddie spoke reassuringly. “Brian, my dear, no one’s going to recognise you when I’m done. For starters, you’re all soggy.” He waved a hand at Brian’s rain darkened clothing and his rather lacklustre hair. “I’m sure once we dry you off, you’ll look a million times better.”

Roger suppressed a smirk. Brian’s hair was looking a little flat right now. Nothing compared to the cloud he had sported when he landed on him back in the crater. Over the last few days, Roger had come to quite like his wild mane. He had the sudden urge to reach out and touch-

“Now, we have about two hours until we get to port.” Freddie’s declaration snapped him back to attention. The pirate jumped to his feet, “hardly any time to waste!” He beckoned them out of their seats. “Come, come!” once he knew they were following, Freddie pulled back a curtain revealing a set of double doors. Pulling them open, a spacious room was revealed. Rails of clothing lined the walls and at the back stood a full-sized mirror.

Brian stared at the rails in amazement. “That’s quite the collection.” He turned to Freddie, who had come to stand beside him. “How did you get all this on-board with no one noticing?”

The captain began to route through the clothing. “Half of this I’ve had for ages. I hate to throw anything away,” he replied without looking from the clothes rail. “You never know when something’ll come back into fashion.”

Humming thoughtfully, He pulled out some dark coloured garments. Holding them up, Freddie shifted his gaze back to Brian. Looking over the clothes again, he made a small nod and handed the items over. “Here, Brian. Try this. Those trousers and that jacket, a winning combination.”

Sending Brian to sit back down, Freddie shifted his attention to Roger. “As for you Roger-“ he led him over to a rack of brightly coloured shirts and patterned jackets- “have a look through these. Take your pick.”

Roger stroked the sleeves of one of the shirts, the material soft and velvety. “These look expensive…” he murmured. Letting go, he looked over to Freddie, questioningly. “Are you sure?”

“Darling.” Freddie smiled sympathetically, his hand brushing the fabric covering Roger’s shoulders. “You’re wearing a bath robe.”

Roger glanced down at the white- well, once white- robe, the fluffy fabric matted and damp. “Oh, yeah.”

Leaving Roger to the clothing, Freddie crossed the room. From a cabinet in the corner, he pulled out a small towel. Standing behind Brian’s chair, he began rubbing the towel over Brian’s head, getting the water out of his hair. “So, England.” He said promptly. “Tell me all.”

“You’re not from England.” Brian guessed.

“No, no I’m not.” Freddie replied, his tone giving away a little disappointment. “But when I was a child, I loved the stories people would tell. The place on the other side of the wall. I used to scurry away from my Father at the market and have a peep over,” he disclosed.

Putting down the towel, Freddie picked up a dark bottle. “I wanted to cross so badly, though. See it for myself.” He commented, pouring some lotion onto his hands and working it through Brian’s curls.

“Really? You were here, looking over there-” Brian pulled a face when Freddie accidentally tugged a little too forcefully.

“Indeed.” Freddie fell silent, concentrating on the task at hand. Pleased with his work, he picked up a small pair of scissors and began to trim the ends of Brian’s hair.

“Now, where was I?” Freddie continued his chatter.

After a while, Roger gravitated back towards the other two, leaning against a bench. Looking closer, he realised it was in fact a grand piano. Freddie kept on being full of surprises.

“Of course, My Father wanted me to keep the family business going, keep the old girl flying.” Freddie’s face seemed brighter whilst he talked about his family. He then appeared to slump, disappointment in his eyes. “Except nowadays you can’t succeed in this business without building yourself a reputation.” He snapped the scissors aggressively, causing Brian to jump.

Patting his shoulder in apology, Freddie walked from behind Brian to perch at the edge of the table, putting down the scissors. A reminiscent smile flickered onto his face. “‘Good deeds’ he’d say to me. ‘Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.’ He paused, a far off look in his eyes. Then he shook his head, sighing. “I only hope he’d be proud if he could see me now.”

Freddie looked so forlorn in that moment, Roger couldn’t help but move forward and placing his hand over his. “I’m sure he would. You’re a good man, Freddie.” He consoled.

Brian nodded in agreement. “You wouldn’t be so averse to taking people’s lives if you weren’t.”

Freddie cleared his throat, shaking off the melancholy tone. “Still, I renamed the ship and made a new name for myself.” He waved his hands, “Now I’m ‘Captain Freddie Mercury of The Black Queen.’ You see, I’m thinking Mercury: the beautiful planet, my crew and enemies on the other hand, well, they’re thinking poisonous metal.” Freddie let out a light laugh, “rather genius, I say.”

It was amazing to hear about everything Freddie was telling them. After all the years of watching people, Roger was certain he was one of the most fascinating men he’d ever seen.

Freddie let out a content sigh, gazing fondly at his guests. “You don’t know how wonderful it is to confide in you two. The legendary pirate with multiple kills under his belt, that isn’t me.” He looked down at his boots. “Of course, my crew have no idea. Only Jim, my First Mate has an inkling, but I can’t unload on him all the time.”

Brian tilted his head. “I don’t understand. If this isn’t who you are, then why pretend?” He looked genuinely concerned.

Roger snorted. That was rich, coming from the guy who wanted to go back to town where only a few people seemed to accept him.

“I know. Why would you live a life that you don’t really want?” Roger added, raising his eyebrows at Brian. Everything Freddie had said, about his wants and dreams, it was so similar to what Brian had been telling him before in that little room.

Brian looked down, suddenly sombre. “Yeah, who’d do that…”

He trailed off. Freddie appeared not to have noticed, carrying the conversation on to another topic.

Roger’s eyes lingered on Brian. They both could see how unhappy Freddie was with the act he kept putting on, so why was Brian willing to do the same? He couldn’t get his head around it.

He had no doubt that Brian was fond of Anita back in Wall, but Roger couldn’t see him living a quiet life in a Market village. It sounded like she didn’t either.

It seemed to him that there was nothing really left for Brian at the Wall, but he was so desperate to go back.

Roger shook off the thought.

Perhaps this was a thing about humans he just didn’t understand.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this plan is going work?” Roger walked beside Freddie as they left the ship and headed further into the port. He glanced around, watching the other pirates unloading the various barrels from the ship.

Freddie smiled reassuringly. “Relax, darling. None of my plans have ever failed.” He spoke with confidence, turning briefly to check that everything had been taken from the stores. “Though, I’ll admit I’ve never tried something quite like this before. Remember your part?”

Roger nodded his head. Freddie had told him to simply follow his lead, and he intended to do exactly that. Without Brian present, he really wanted to avoid drawing any unwarranted attention to himself.

“Good. And so does Brian.” Freddie gave his shoulder a reassuring pat, “just stick with me, alright?”

They continued walking through the Port Town, stopping every now and then when Freddie would discuss things with Jim or give orders to one of the crewmen.

Eventually they reached a wooden building, a little way out from the bustling town. Freddie had mentioned that this was their usual customer: a man who tended to sell obscure items. The side of the building opened out with a canopy, allowing access for carts and wagons, and a view of the various goods.

Signalling for his men to put down the barrels, Freddie approached a portly looking man and exchanged few words with him before leading him over to the goods.

Roger hovered nearby, listening in to their conversation with mild interest.

“Here we have it. Ten thousand bolts of the finest quality.” Freddie tapped the side of the barrel proudly. “I’d even go as far to say grade A.” He smirked at the shop owner, who watched with his arms folded.

“Yeah.” The salesman didn’t sound impressed as he regarded the barrels with disinterest. He clicked his tongue. “I’ll be honest, doesn’t seem all that fresh to me.”

“Would you rather I gave you a little taste?” As he spoke, Freddie began to twist open the lid to the lightning, the air beginning to lightly buzz. “Because I think it’s very much alive. still crackling, in fact.”

The salesman took a step back, holding up his hands apologetically. “Oh, no. No-“

Turning his attention away from Freddie’s bartering, Roger busied himself with taking a look around the store. The walls were full of hooks holding various coils of what looked like rope, but seemed to glitter like a kind of metal, and the shelves were stacked high with jars containing- well, Roger didn’t really want to think about what things were inside.

But some of the objects, Roger couldn’t help but think about how excited Brian would be if he were here. The number of different telescopes all promising multiple functions. With how much enthusiasm Brian often spoke about the universe, he would have had a field day! Still, it was safer for him to wait back at the ship and go along with Freddie’s plan, whatever that may be.

The sound of raised voices drew his notice away from the stock of the shop. Looking out to the open end of the canopy, two men stood beside a yellow patterned caravan. The elder was yelling angrily at the younger who was holding tightly to a shallow tray filled with things Roger couldn’t quite make out.

Father and son perhaps? Although, the sour looks the young man was giving to his older companion indicated there was no love lost between the two. They were clearly having some sort of disagreement, if the way the older man was leaning threateningly towards the boy was anything to go by, though Roger was a little too far away to hear what they were saying.

Curiosity getting the better of him, Roger tried to get a little closer. However, before he could get near enough to make out the conversation, the older man shouted one last word at the boy and furiously pointed towards the caravan. Turning around sharply, the younger man disappeared through the caravan’s back doors as the older man made to enter the shop.

Not wanting to be caught eavesdropping, Roger hurried back towards Freddie and the shop owner.

“Seeming as I’m feeling particularly generous today, I’ll settle for 200.” Standing with his hands on his hips, Freddie raised an eyebrow at the salesman.

The man spluttered. “200, you having a laugh?” He looked down at the barrel and then back up to Freddie. “160.”

However, the pirate wasn’t going to budge. “200.”

Roger leaned against one of the wooden pillars. He was actually a little interested in how the deal would end, although with the confidence Freddie seemed to hold, he’d bet the captain would get his way.

The salesman let out an exasperated breath, crossing his arms. “Come on, Mercury. 180,” he offered.

Freddie held up his hands, chuckling lightly. “Alright, alright.” He leaned in calculatingly. “But with sales tax, let’s say… He pretended to think for a second. “200.”

The shop keeper nodded, none the wiser. “Done.”

Freddie beamed, shaking the salesman’s hand with vigour. “Pleasure doing business with you.” Bringing his hand back, it was then that Freddie caught sight of Roger standing nearby. “Ah Roger, there you are.” He beckoned the blond closer. “Do you want to meet with the rest of the crew? I just need to finish up this sale.”

Roger nodded, heading over to Jim who immediately began to engage him in conversation.

Freddie watched him go, turning his head sharply when the shop owner began to speak. “Hey, have you heard those rumours going around?” as he spoke, the man held out a wad of cash.

“Rumours?” Freddie asked absentmindedly, taking the money from the man and flicking through the papers. “I do love a little gossip.”

“Yeah, apparently a star fell not that long ago.” The salesman spoke eagerly, excitement laced in his words. “Everyone’s talking about it. Imagine if you got your hands on one of them.” His eyes lit up, shining with greed. “God, you could shut up shop! Retire for good!”

“A fallen star?” Before he knew it, Freddie’s eyes slid over to where Roger was laughing at something Jim had said. There was always something unusual about that boy. Could he be… “Interesting,” he muttered thoughtfully.

The shop keeper huffed a laugh. “Your telling me. It’s all they’ve been talking about down at the market.”

Freddie’s ears pricked up. He shifted his eyes back to the salesman. “You mean the market near the wall?” He asked casually, sliding the money into his pocket.

“Yeah.”

Freddie tutted. “Well, I wouldn’t waste your time listening.” He snorted dismissively, in attempt to draw the conversation away from the otherworldly. “It’s probably all a load of nonsense.”

“What’s this about nonsense?” at the sound of the voice, Freddie looked to the side, seeing a scruffy man walk up, looking to the salesman. Freddie resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Just his luck to be here as the merchant arrived.

“Nothing to concern yourself with, Foster.” Freddie pulled a false smile on his face. Ugh. Horrible man.

“Yes, yes.” The shop keeper pulled a roll of paper out of his pocket, peering at the writing before leaning his head closer to Foster. “Brought the usual?”

Freddie cleared his throat. “I’ll leave you gentlemen to your business. Good day to you.” As he turned his back, Freddie let the amicable facade drop. He had already spent enough time in the slimy company of those two. But alas, that was business.

Heading over to his crew, Freddie clapped a hand on both Roger and Jim’s shoulders. “Let’s head back, shall we?” He let out a loud whistle, signalling to the crew to get on the move.

As they walked from the shop, Roger briefly took one last look at the place. It was unlikely he’d be seeing it again. He caught sight of the shop keeper following that man, Foster he was sure he had heard Freddie call him, to the open doors of his caravan. However, the boy from before was nowhere to be seen.

Roger shrugged it off. Perhaps he was just around to help for the day and had returned to his home. From the looks of it, he had no reason to stay anyway. Yeah, that was it. Roger was probably just overthinking things.

Realising he was lagging behind a little, he quickened his pace, catching up with Freddie and the crew.

As they approached the ship, a gentle music could be heard drifting down from the upper deck. Shooting questioning looks between one another, the pirates drew out their swords and various weapons, rushing up onto the boat.

Pushing through the men to catch sight of what was happening, Roger was met with something he really hadn’t been expecting.

Sat on a small pile of sacs, his legs propped up on a barrel, was Brian. Dressed in a creamy coloured jacket, he looked wildly different from that night they arrived, soaked by the rain. On the top pocket of his jacket, the delicate glass snowdrop was pinned, giving the outfit an air of luxury.

Across his lap lay a small wooden guitar, his fingers plucking gently at the strings that sounded out a calming melody. Despite having multiple weapons pointed at him, Brian’s body language gave away no nervousness, though Roger was sure inside he was majorly freaking out.

His hand pausing over the strings, the corners of Brian’s lips twitched upwards. “Captain Mercury.” He spoke with confidence, giving the captain a small nod.

“Stand down, everyone! Stand down!” Freddie weaved between the crew members, pushing their swords down and away from where they were pointed at Brian. Beaming at the other men, he held out an arm, proudly announcing, “my cousin Brian, the Fearsome Buccaneer. He’ll be joining us for the rest of the journey.”

Roger wanted to laugh. Was this the genius plan Freddie had come up with? Wait, of course it was. He was more surprised that Brian agreed to go along with it. Cousins? Please. There was no resemblance between the two whatsoever.

Beside him Jim watched on, one arm crossed over his chest, the other rubbing his forehead as he subtly shook his head. Obviously concerned, he was clearly thinking similar thoughts.

Brian got to his feet, propping the guitar against the side of the ship. “Always a pleasure, Fred.” Grinning at the captain, Brian slung an arm around Freddie’s shoulder, who patted his arm in a friendly manner. It was clear the two were pleased with their act.

“Oh, I almost forgot!” Freddie’s eyes fell on Roger, stepping away from Brian’s side and pulling the blond over by the arm. “Roger here will keep you company on the way.”

Brian flashed a smile at Roger as he came to stand beside him, laying his hand gently on his shoulder.

An awkward silence fell over the men, Jim releasing a quite cough. Meeting Freddie’s eyes, the captain made a subtle nod to Brian.

“Oh.” Brian hastily wrapped his arm around Roger’s side, pulling him closer. It was a poor attempt, but he wasn’t sure what else to do. He could practically sense Roger’s amusement at his pitiful display.

Freddie let out a huff of laughter, addressing the crew. “As you can see, he needs a little training before he can run a crew of his own.” Turning to Brian, he called out jokingly, “Isn’t that right, Brian?”

Brian nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, yeah. Definitely.”

Freddie whipped around to face his crew, hands on his hips. “Alright!” The crewmen snapped to attention at Freddie’s shout, looking to their captain for orders. “The rest of you, back to work!” He pointed out to the bow of the ship.

Talking between themselves, the other pirates split up and went to different areas of the ship to prepare for take-off. Jim immediately pulled Freddie to the side, the two of them probably discussing higher up issues. This left Brian and Roger to themselves.

Leaning against the side of ship, Roger raised an eyebrow at Brian. “I didn’t know you could play.” He nudged the guitar with his foot.

“Ah, well.” Brian shrugged, fishing the guitar from against the deck and held it by the neck, standing just in front of where Roger was leaning. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Rog.” He winked playfully, resting his hand on the side of the deck.

Roger shoved his arm away, shaking his head. He smiled, his eyes gleaming mischievously. “I know that you’re a terrible excuse for a pirate. I have no idea how the crew couldn’t tell right away.” He looked over to where Jim was urgently speaking to Freddie, his arms moving animatedly whilst the captain stood with his arms folded. “Well actually…”

“Hey, I-“ Brian began to protest, but paused when he too looked over to the captain and first mate. “No, yeah you’re probably right.” He rubbed the back of his neck.

Pushing himself away from the side, Roger began to move closer in deck. “When am I not?” He threw over his shoulder with a grin.

Stumbling slightly, Brian jogged to catch up, calling out to the star. “I can name a number of times…”

Freddie watched the two from where he was leaning against the door to his cabin. This was why he liked having new faces around every once in a while. And these two, they’d be entertaining, he could tell.

“Your ‘cousin’ and our guest seem to be getting on pretty well, don’t you think?” Jim remarked from where he stood beside Freddie.

Freddie turned his head to the side, meeting the eyes of his first mate. He hummed. “I suppose they are.”

Jim raised his eyebrows. “Almost as if they’ve met each other before.” He watched Freddie’s face carefully.

Freddie simply nodded, returning his gaze to Brian and Roger. “Yes. Remarkable isn’t it?”

Jim sighed, realising he wouldn’t be getting anything from the captain. He too looked over to the guests on their ship. Regardless of whether Jim’s suspicions were correct, he did think they were rather sweet together.

Shaking his head, Jim reached out his hand, taking Freddie’s in his own.

Glancing downwards, Freddie smiled and squeezed Jim’s hand in return.

------------------

The runes fell through the air, falling on to his palm in the same position they had the last twenty times. Paul was furious. No, livid. And it was all the fault of a couple of mortals.

He was this close to finally having the star’s heart, and it all had to be ruined by those two imbeciles stumbling into his inn. Well, at least one of them was dead and certainly not going to bother him anymore. However, the other had escaped with his star.

If only he had acted quicker, cutting the heart from his chest as soon as the star left the bath instead of wasting all that time!

When the star and that human had disappeared – How did some boy have a Babylon candle anyway? – Paul was left with a burning building, a significant amount of magic used and a dead body. Well at least he had the coach and horses so he wouldn’t have to travel on foot any longer.

Mark his words, Paul would get that star, cut out his heart and restore his youth. And no mortal man would be getting in his way.

However, now that he was consulting the runes to locate the star again, all they kept telling him was how the star was airborne. But how? There was no way that they could be in the sky unless they were using some sort of vessel.

Or were they…

Changing tactics, Paul focused his mind on a different thought than where the star was. Throwing the runes in the air and catching them once they fell, Paul looked at his palm.

Now, if these runes were right, such a sky vessel was heading North, coming from the port town on Mount Drummond.

Paul smiled in satisfaction, climbing up on the seat of the coach, cracking the reins and pushing the horses onwards.

The inn was long gone, the magic fading hours ago. All that remained was the body of one of the men lying at the crossroad. Paul felt no need to cover it up, anyone coming along would just view it as the result of a robbery gone wrong. Besides, wild animals would pick off the remains in no time.

As he rode onwards, Paul thought back to the vessel that the star was most likely aboard. There was only one sky vessel Paul knew that picked up strays and regularly visited the Port Town. Or should he say pirate ship? It didn’t matter anyhow.

It was time that he payed Captain Mercury a visit.

Chapter Text

Their time aboard The Black Queen was probably the most interesting experience Brian had ever had. He felt like he had learnt more in those three days than he had in all his years spent in Wall. Roger also appeared to be much more at ease, growing closer to Freddie and the master gunner, a man who went by the name Crystal.

Most of the crew seemed to accept Freddie’s word of Brian being his cousin. How, Brian wasn’t sure. However, he had caught Jim watching him every now and again, appearing unconvinced. But then again, Brian didn’t know how much Freddie had told him about their scheme, given how close he was to his First Mate.

On their travels, Freddie was more than happy teaching both Brian and Roger the ways of his crew, training them in how to catch lightning and how to fence. He was actually a remarkable teacher, bringing them both from complete novices to being able to defend themselves pretty well.

The captain also happened to be one of the best pianists Brian had ever heard, the three of them having small music sessions during the evenings in Freddie’s cabin. Freddie singing and running his fingers over the keys, Brian playing the guitar and Roger tapping out a beat on the side of a stool. Brian thought they sounded rather good, if he did say so himself.

One morning after a heavy session spent duelling with Freddie, Brian joined Roger to sit by the mast and bask in the sunlight.

Closing his eyes, Brian leant back against the wooden beams and enjoyed the warmth on his face. However, he cracked them open again when Roger began to speak.

“Do you think we could stay here forever?” Roger said quietly, his eyes scanning the deck of the ship. Blowing air through his nose, he shook his head and shifted his gaze to Brian. “Stupid suggestion. We need to get you back to Wall.”

Brian scooted across the floor, closing the gap between them. “And you back to the sky.” He frowned, “that is, once we find another candle.”

“Yeah.” Roger replied shortly, his shoulders sagging. He tilted his head back as if he was trying to absorb the sun’s rays. “I’ll miss it.” He spoke after a beat. “The sun, I mean.” Clarifying, Roger angled his body towards Brian. “You never get to see or feel it when you only come out at night.”

Brian raised his eyebrows. “The sun’s the only thing you’ll miss?” He teased, bumping his shoulder against the star’s.

Roger smirked. “Hmmm. Yeah, I think that’s it.” Reaching out, he entwined his fingers with Brian’s, squeezing gently. The playful smile shifted to one more sombre. “I will miss you, Brian.”

Brian felt a pang of sadness deep in his chest at the thought of the star returning to the sky. Pushing it down, he returned the smile. “I’ll miss you too.” He gave Roger’s hand one last squeeze before releasing him. “At least we’ve still got the time it takes to get to the wall.”

Roger nodded, still looking a little put out. After a few moments spent in comfortable silence, He tilted his head, eyes fixed on the top pocket on Brian’s jacket. He gestured with his forefinger, “that flower. I’ve not really noticed it before. Where did you get it?” He wondered aloud.

Brian’s hand automatically moved to his jacket, stroking the stem of the snowdrop. “Oh this?” He sighed, dropping his hand to his side. “It was from John.”

Roger pressed his lips together. Tilting his head, he began cautiously. “Before he…”

Brian shook his head, “no, after that.” After everything that had happened, the night with the letter seemed like years ago. He snorted with amusement, when he remembered what got him in this situation in the first place. “He’s actually how I got the Babylon candle.”

“Ah.” Roger gave a half smile. “Well we have him to thank then. For us meeting.”

Brian hadn’t thought of it in that way before. At least one good thing had come from John’s disappearance. Without the Babylon candle, Brian wasn’t sure how he would ever have crossed the wall and Miami certainly wouldn’t have let him through. And if he hadn’t found Roger, who knows what would have happened?

Patting Roger’s knee, Brian turned his face back up to the sky. “Yeah, I guess we do.”

--------------------

On the last night before reaching the port closest to the wall, Freddie decided that a little party was in order.

The sky was dark and the only light source being the stars in the sky and the lanterns hung around the ship’s deck, giving an intimate and comforting feel to the evening. The crew had dug out an old phonograph, rotating it and playing out soft music. Most of the pirates sat around drinking and chatting among themselves, whilst Freddie attempted to teach Roger to dance.

As they danced, a glow was coming from Roger’s skin, fluctuating between being bright and then hardly even there every time he stumbled over a move. Freddie patiently told him where to go, the two of them rotating around the cleared space on the deck that served as a dance floor.

“And just put your foot there…” the captain instructed. As Roger stepped forward, Freddie took the opportunity to lean in closer and whisper in his ear. “Roger, I know what you are.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, the light emitting from Roger’s body diminished. The star pulled away, the colour drained form his face. “What?” He breathed.

“No, don’t be afraid.” Freddie reassured. “There’s no one on this vessel that will harm you. But I think you know-“

Roger nodded. “There are others out there that will.” He thought back to the inn, the image of the innkeeper approaching with his knife raised high flashing through his mind.

Freddie resumed their slow dance, acting like nothing had happened. He kept his face close to Roger’s so no one would overhear their conversation. “You know what gives you away, darling.” He murmured. “Your emotions. And you’ve been glowing brighter and brighter every day.” Freddie nodded to the slight glow around Roger that had gradually began to appear again. “And I think we both know why…” He sing-songed.

Roger narrowed his eyes. “Of course I know why! I’m a star. And what do stars do best?” Surely Freddie knew that being a star generally involved creating your own light?!

Freddie wanted to shake his head and scream out the real answer. How could one be so oblivious? Brian was no better. But perhaps it would be best to let them work this one out on their own. He instead tilted his head, mockingly pretending to think. “Hmmm. Well,” he smirked. “Certainly not the waltz.”

Roger snorted at the joke, continuing to follow Freddie’s lead around the floor.

Brian tapped his feet in time to the music, watching as Freddie lead Roger in their dance, taking a sip from his drink every now and then. Although, it wasn’t Freddie who he was really focusing on. Admittedly, Roger wasn’t the best dancer he’d ever seen, but it was pretty endearing how attentive he was to what Freddie was trying to teach him.

“You gonna sit there all night, are you?”

On hearing someone speak, Brian pulled his eyes away from the centre of the deck and looked to his left. He was met with the sight of Crystal taking a seat beside him, his head tilted questioningly.

Brian huffed a laugh. “Er, I’m not a dancer.” Not that he’d ever tried, but nobody needed to know that. He was more than content to sit back and watch everyone else, thank you very much.

Tipping his head back, Crystal drained the rest of his drink. He raised his brows. “Well sitting there and just watching isn’t going to help you learn.” As he stood, Crystal grabbed Brian’s upper arm and pulled him to his feet as well. “Come on. Up!” He pointed towards the deck.

Shaking his head, Brian gestured helplessly to the drink he was holding. He made a move to sit back down. “Oh no, I can’t-“

With a roll of his eyes, Crystal took the cup from Brian’s hand. Giving him a hard shove between the shoulder blades, the pirate pushed him forwards onto the makeshift dance floor. Looking back, Brian watched as Crystal made a small waving gesture with his hand. “Up you go!”

It was too late to go back now. Taking a deep breath, Brian approached the spot where Freddie and Roger where spinning around in uncoordinated circles, the two of them in peals of laughter.

With a quiet cough, he lightly touched Roger’s shoulder, attracting the pairs attention. As they turned to face him, Brian swallowed and wiped his clammy hands on the front of his trousers. Why was he so nervous? It was only a dance.

After a slight pause he managed to blurt out: “Mind if I cut in?”

Grinning, Freddie released Roger’s hand and spread his other arm wide. “Be my guest.” The captain retreated to the side, gratefully taking a glass Jim offered to him as he stood beside his First Mate.

Brian took Roger’s hand in his, lightly resting the other on the small of the star’s back. Roger’s face broke into a smile as Brian began to clumsily lead them around the floor. There was a reason he didn’t dance, but in that moment with Roger in his arms, he couldn’t bring himself to care about how awkward he looked.

Rotating around the floor, the subtle glow that surrounded Roger’s body grew more intense, the white light illuminating his golden hair. Huh. This was probably the brightest he had ever seen Roger glow. He must really enjoy dancing.

As they danced, Brian found himself looking, really looking at Roger. He was aware of how beautiful he was; he was a star so of course he was, but the way his blue eyes seemed to sparkle as he looked at him, Brian wasn’t sure why he had never really noticed it before. But there was one thing he was sure of: he didn’t want to look away, not even for a second.

Distracted by his staring, Brian hadn’t been paying as much attention to what his feet were doing. Stumbling a little, Brian quickly shuffled his feet to steady himself, lest they both end up on the floor.

“Bri!” Roger giggled as Brian almost stepped on his toes, moving his feet out of the way at the last minute. Despite the mistake, Roger continued to beam at Brian as they moved together in time to the music.

Ducking his head, Brian briefly glanced to his feet before looking back up to Roger. “Sorry, sorry!” Brian grinned back, lifting his hand into the air and allowing Roger to spin beneath it. Still uncoordinatedly though, neither were brilliant dancers.

However, his lack of skill was at the Back of his mind. He couldn’t drag his eyes away from Roger even if he wanted to. Holding Roger a little closer to his body, Brian felt his mouth stretch wide into a smile as he gazed at the star. There, dancing in circles under the starry sky, the music swirling in the background, Brian wanted to stay in the moment forever.

-------------------

“Land ahead!”

Jim shouted out to everyone out on the deck as he spotted dry land.

After many days in the air, The Black Queen finally docked and it was time for Brian and Roger to move on.

After all their time together, Brian found it quite difficult to say goodbye to Freddie. He had really turned into a close friend over those three days. Remembering the conversation he and Roger had at the mast yesterday, Brian found himself wondering what it would be like for them to stay with Freddie and his crew.

No, he needed to go back to Wall. It had been so long, Anita was probably worried about him. He had a duty, and that duty was to return to the village. Besides, he was looking forward to Roger and Anita meeting. He was certain they’d get on really well. And after that, Roger needed to return to his own home.

As they prepared to leave, Freddie gifted them with a canister of lightning and a couple of rapiers, simply stating that: “there could be a time they’d come in use.”

One hand resting on Brian’s shoulder, Freddie pointed to the slim path heading over the hills. “So, over there is the road you’ll need to get back to Wall.”

Taking Brian’s hand, he shook it firmly. “Good luck to you Brian, with your lovely Anita. He turned to Roger, holding his face in his hands. “And good luck to you on your journey home, Roger. Wherever that may be.” Finally stepping back, Freddie regarded them both proudly.

Brian clutched the strap that held the canister of lightning. “I don’t know what we can do to thank you for your kindness, Freddie.” They were forever in his dept, helping them out when they really needed it.

Freddie waved a dismissive hand. “Oh, don’t mention it!” He lowered his voice, making eye contact with Brian. “I’m serious, really, don’t mention it. My reputation and all that.” He glanced over at his crew. “I don’t want all that hard work going down the drain.”

Roger snorted. “Of course.”

As they made to walk down the steps and onto the ground, Freddie called out from the ship. “Oh, Brian!” Waving him over, the captain leaned in close to his ear, whispering something. Listening intently, Brian nodded as Freddie pulled away. With a firm pat to his shoulder, Freddie smiled kindly. “Think about it.”

Roger narrowed his eyes. What could be so important that he needed to be all secretive? He wondered what it could be that concerned Brian but not him.

Freddie beamed at them whilst they stepped off the ship. “Give my regards to England. It’s really been a pleasure to meet you both.” His stiffened when Jim elbowed him sharply, realising his mistake. Coughing he hastily attempted to cover it up. “You’ll make a fine captain one day, Brian!” He shouted after them.

Brian and Roger exchanged eye contact, shaking their heads. It was a miracle Freddie hadn’t ruined his reputation as the fierce captain already.

“So….” Roger matched his pace with Brian’s. “What did Freddie say to you?” He questioned.

Brian hummed, glancing to his side at Roger. “What did he say, when?” He asked dubiously.

Roger groaned. “Come on, Bri!” grabbing onto Brian’s arm, he gave it a light tug. “Just then. When he whispered to you.”

Brian hiked the strap of the bag higher on his shoulder. Hesitating, he shrugged. “Oh… he, he was just saying we could use the lightning. Trade it for a Babylon candle, you know.” He patted Roger’s hand cheerfully. “We need to get you home somehow, Rog!”

Letting go of Brian’s arm, Roger crossed his own. He obviously just made that excuse up on the spot. “…Right.” If Brian wanted to keep secrets, then that was fine by him. It’s not like he was obligated to tell him everything, anyway.

Shaking off his irritation, Roger shut up and carried on walking. Mithering would probably just annoy Brian and he desperately didn’t want the last part of their journey to be uncomfortable.

They fell into an easy silence, the long path back to Wall stretching far ahead of them.

Chapter Text

When Brian first set off on this adventure, he hadn’t considered just how much walking it would involve. He supposed the time travelling with Freddie had momentarily made him forget just how tedious it actually was.

They had been on the road for most of the morning and there was still no indication of how far from the wall they were. When Freddie had pointed them in the direction of Wall, he unfortunately hadn’t disclosed just how long it would take them. The path leading them through the hills seemed to be never ending.

However, the extensive length of the journey was softened by Roger’s company. From the night he came crashing into the star to everything they’d been through since, they’d definitely grown closer. Brian was sure if their friendship hadn’t improved since then, they probably would have killed each other long before they reached the wall.

As they walked, Brian took a break from their conversation from time to time to check the road behind them. Every time he did this, Roger would frown but ultimately carry on as normal, not bothering to question.

However, a noise from the road behind them caused Brian to jump. Instead of doing his usual suspicious glances, Brian hastily launched himself at Roger, propelling them both into the nearby foliage.

“Brian! What-“ Roger squawked as he was pushed down into the bushes lining the road. Landing on his back with Brian sprawled across him, he lifted his head to glare incredulously at his friend. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack!” He hissed.

Brian pushed himself up on his elbows. “Sorry, just-“ he hastily glanced over his shoulder- “I thought I heard someone coming.” Returning his eyes to Roger, he smiled apologetically.

Roger furrowed his brow. “So?”

Sighing patiently, Brian explained. “So, we can’t risk people seeing you. After all that’s happened, we can’t trust people.”

Rolling his eyes, Roger wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of the notion. “Don’t be so stupid!” He shuffled backwards, making to sit up.

Looking unconvinced, Brian bit his lip. “Just humour me then!” He retorted.

“Fine.” Roger blew away some hair that had fallen over his face and made himself comfortable on the ground on which they lay on. “But you know if we keep stopping, we’ll never make it to Wall.”

“No, I think we’re making good time.” Brian let himself relax. “Let’s just sit for a minute.”

Silence fell upon them, the only sound being their shallow breathing. Brian found himself gazing down at the man beneath him. That glowing around Roger had returned again, Brian realised. Not as bright as it had been that night on board Freddie’s ship, but still as mesmerising as he remembered.

Roger was the one to speak first. “I’m getting a strong sense of déjà vu.” He nodded at their position, him lying on his back with Brian leaning over him.

Brian snorted, memories of that fateful night flashing across his mind. How they had changed since then. He cocked his head, “really? I’m struggling to think when we’ve been in this position before.” He joked.

Roger laughed, shaking his head fondly. Then he grew quiet, his eyes meeting Brian’s. “Are you tempted?” He whispered.

Brian tilted his head. “Tempted by what?” He couldn’t be meaning what he thought he was?

Roger’s eyes bored into him. “Immortality. Eternal life.” He shrugged, “say it wasn’t my heart, but another star you didn’t know.”

“Do you actually think I could kill anything? Me?” Brian sniffed, shaking his head. He didn’t think he had it in him to bring harm to another. “And anyway, living forever?” Brian wrinkled his nose, “it sounds kind of lonely to me.”

Roger opened his mouth, hesitating as if he was gathering the courage to speak. “What if you weren’t alone, though? Maybe it would be different to have someone to share it with.” He made sure to hold eye contact with Brian. “Someone you love.”

Brian felt his heart begin to race. “Roger I-“ a sound behind him caused him to pause, turning to peer through a gap in the foliage. After a few seconds he shifted to a crouched position allowing Roger to sit up. He held out a hand, “come on, I think we’re safe.”

Roger took the outstretched hand letting Brian pull him up and out of the bushes they had been sheltering in. Continuing their walk, they quickly resumed the light conversation they had been making before Brian’s episode of paranoia. Although, Roger was curious to what Brian was going to say before he got distracted.

In the corner of his eye, Roger kept catching a glimpse of Brian studying him careful. Wordlessly, he looked in Brian’s direction, eyebrows raised. Brian at least had the decency to look sheepish. “Hey,” he began, clearly thinking of what to say. “I’ve noticed that you kind of glitter from time to time. Is that a normal thing?”

So that was it. Roger had been wondering if he had noticed. A sly smile crept onto his face. “You’re an intelligent man, Brian. See if you can work it out for yourself.” He held out his arms. “What do stars do?”

Brian rubbed his chin as he thought. With a grin he answered: “attract trouble?”

“I’m being serious!” Roger huffed, giving Brian’s shoulder a hard push and consequentially making him stumble off the side of the road and down the light slope. With his arms crossed, he stood and waited for Brian to make his way back up.

Brian held up his hands in surrender, climbing back up the slope and onto the road. “Okay, okay! I’m sorry.” He said with a laugh. Pulling a straight face, he approached Roger carefully. “Let me, give me another go.”

Uncrossing his arms, Roger shrugged. “Go on then,” he replied begrudgingly, though amusement gleamed in his eyes.

“Do they…” He let the pause drag on before smirking, “know every single way to annoy boys called Brian May?”

Roger exhaled in irritation and swatted at Brian’s arm, until he stopped in his tracks, eyes fixed on something a couple of feet ahead of them.

A small milestone protruded from a tuft of grass, a forward-facing arrow and the words ‘The Wall’ carved into its smooth surface. A distance was also etched beneath the words: 63 miles.

“63 miles?” Roger read, then he looked at Brian quizzically. “How long will that take?”

Scratching his head, Brian regarded the numbers carved into the stone. He turned to Roger, “maybe two days.”

“But we don’t have two days,” Roger stated. “You said you wanted to get home in time for Anita’s birthday. That’s tomorrow.”

He cast Brian an accusing look. Brian blinked in surprise. Roger remembered him saying that? If he was being honest, he had forgotten he had even mentioned it after everything that happened. “You’re right, I did say that. Well remembered.”

How could he have forgotten? A surge of guilt rushed through him. Though If Brian was being truly honest with himself, he hadn’t thought of Anita for some time. There was something else occupying his mind.

Nudging Roger’s shoulder lightly, He started to walk, this time picking up his pace a little. Roger was right, they’d need to travel quicker if they wanted to get to the Wall on time.

--------------------

Closing the door to his cabin, Freddie headed towards his desk and opened up one of the drawers. He pulled out the bottle of wine he stashed in there for afternoons such as this one.

After so many days of having Brian and Roger to keep him company, it almost felt strange to have this time to himself once again.

Freddie settled down in the chair behind his desk, resting his feet on the mahogany surface, pouring himself a generous glass. He took a sip, leafing through the various papers that littered the desk. As his crew were busy up deck, he should probably busy himself with his own duties as the captain.

However, after a few minutes of half-hearted reading, he sighed and put the papers down. His mind was too preoccupied with other thoughts that he couldn’t bring himself to concentrate properly. Mostly, he couldn’t stop himself from fretting over Brian and Roger; whether they were safe on their way home, if anything had happened to them? They were in enough danger just by the fact that Roger was what he was.

What was worse was that they were long gone by now, and Freddie was helpless to do anything.

Pushing back his chair, Freddie got to his feet. Perhaps a little music would take his mind off things.

Downing the rest of his glass, he headed over to the record player and lowered the needle onto the turntable, letting the soft music fill the room. Humming along, Freddie reached for the wine and filled his glass a second time.

What else could he do? Then an idea cropped into his head. Smiling, he flung open the doors to the hidden wardrobes, flicking through the Jacket rail until he found the article he was looking for.

He stoked the black fabric lovingly before sliding the jacket onto his body, the golden tassels that adorned the military style shoulder pads swishing satisfyingly. There was a reason this was one of his favourites.

Now sufficiently dressed, Freddie Sat down on the piano bench, letting his fingers glide over the keys. Closing his eyes, he played along to the record and let the familiar feeling of music soar through his body. He was so entranced by the art of it all, that he didn’t hear the light footsteps over the floorboards, until a voice joined the sound of the piano.

“So, this is how the great Captain Mercury likes to spend his time.”

Freddie jumped in his seat, whipping around to see who the intruder was. “You,” he growled, leaping to his feet and pulling out the revolver he kept tucked in his boot. “What are you doing here, Prenter?”

Paul pushed himself up off the wall he had been leaning against, unbothered by the gun pointed at his chest. “What? An old friend can’t drop in from time to time?”

Freddie took a step away from the piano, still maintaining a wide distance from the other man. “I’d hardly call us friends.” Looking him up and down, Freddie raised an eyebrow. “Though, you’re looking a little more worse for wear than the last time we met.”

Reaching up, Paul touched his thinning hair, a little coming loose in his hand. He shrugged, “the toll for magic, I suppose.”

“Hmm.” Freddie smirked, “at least now you look just as terrible on the outside as you are on the inside.”

Putting a hand over his heart, Paul’s tone was mocking. “Oh? I’m hurt.”

Freddie lifted his chin, eyes narrowed. “Good. After everything you did, it’s the least you deserve.”

Paul scoffed. “Please. That little thing?” He rolled his eyes, pushing his hands deep into the pockets of his coat. “Why, that was years ago.”

“I trusted you, Paul. And how did you repay me?” Freddie spat out the words, glaring at the man stood before him. “By stealing my stock and killing over half my crew!” His eyes burned with unadulterated rage as his hand tightened around the pistol, finger hovering over the trigger.

Even after all of these years, the betrayal still cut deep. Once upon a time he may have considered Paul an ally, but those days were long gone. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you right now,” Freddie hissed.

Smirking, Paul began to walk further into the room. “Go ahead. We both know you’re not going to.” Finally taking his hands from his pockets, with them he withdrew a long, glass blade.

Freddie’s eyes were fixed on the knife, until Paul breezed on with his words, causing the captain to drag his gaze back to the sorcerer. “You play at being the Captain with the fearsome reputation, but deep down you’re still the scared little boy who’s so afraid of letting his late father down. Being a disappointment. A failure.” Paul twirled the blade as he continued to taunt, wicked eyes gleaming with mirth. “Because that’s all that you are, isn’t it?”

Recoiling, Freddie lost his composure. “Shut up!” He shouted, the gun he was holding trembling until he steadied his hand and raised it higher. He set his jaw. “I’ll ask you again. Why are you here?”

Tired with the playful act, Paul’s eyes darkened as he advanced threateningly. “Because you have information I need. And you’re going to give it to me.” With a flick of his hand, the revolver Freddie was clutching flew from his hand and clattered to the floor. “Where’s the star?” He demanded, stretching out his arm and pointing the blade at Freddie’s throat.

Visibly nervous, Freddie backed away and collided with the piano he had been playing not minutes before. “What star?” He asked. Schooling his features to that of confusion, Freddie bit out a reply. “I don’t know any stars.”

Paul lost his patience, face twisting as he strode forward and grabbed the lapels of Freddie’s jacket, shoving him up against the side of the piano. “Don’t play dumb with me. I know he was here.” As he spoke, Paul pressed the sharp edge of the knife into the skin on Freddie’s neck, though not hard enough to draw blood.

Despite the cool feeling of the blade against his neck, Freddie maintained his act of ignorance. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” As he replied, he felt around beneath the piano stool, his fingers finally closing around the spare dagger he kept there. Good job he took precautions.

Striking fast, Freddie lifted his arm, aiming to plunge the blade anywhere into Paul’s body. However, just as quickly Paul’s hand closed around his wrist, squeezing tightly and forcing him to drop the knife. Freddie slumped, defeated.

“Nice try.” The sorcerer smirked, returning his hand to pinning Freddie down by the jacket. “I’ll give you to the count of three, where is the star?” Paul raised the knife whilst Freddie screwed his eyes shut, preparing for the worst. “One, two…”

“Hey!”

Both Freddie and Paul’s heads whipped round towards the door of the cabin, surprised to see the entirety of the crew of the ship gathered there. All with varying degrees of anger evident on their faces and all armed. Led by Jim, the pirates rushed forwards with an enraged shout, ready to defend their captain.

Knowing he was outnumbered, Paul released his grip on Freddie’s jacket, pulling the knife away and hastily making his escape through the large windows behind the desk.

The crew watched as he fled, making sure he was really gone, then their attention shifted back to their captain.

With a groan, Freddie moved away from the piano on unsteady feet. Shrugging the jacket off his shoulders, he deposited it on the back of his chair behind the desk. He’d probably never look at it in the same way again. He collapsed into the chair, placing his head in his hands and sighing deeply.

After carefully watching him sit, Jim turned to the other pirates. “Earl Grey, get him some Earl Grey!” He ordered, waving a hand.

Freddie lifted his head, raised an eyebrow at his first mate. “I don’t need tea you know.”

Jim shook his head. “Everyone needs tea after a shock.” He patted Freddie’s shoulder comfortingly.

Pushing his way through the others, Crystal placed a cup and saucer on the desk. “Are you alright, captain?” He asked, whilst the rest of the crew looked on expectantly.

Glowering at the cup in front of him, Freddie replied through gritted teeth. “Yes, yes.” A minute went by before he raised his head and gestured towards the door. “Out! Everyone leave me alone.”

With a signal to the other crew members, Jim observed as they slowly began to filter from the room. Once they were all gone, he edged his way closer to the desk. “Did you tell him where your cousin and the boy went?”

Jim waited patiently whilst Freddie lifted the teacup and took a sip. Putting the cup back onto the saucer, he shook his head. “No, of course I didn’t. What do you take me for?”

Tilting his head, Jim put his hands on his hips. “Then what’s the problem?”

Freddie traced his finger around the rim of the teacup. “My reputation, that’s the problem.” He met Jim’s gaze sadly. “Who’s going to respect a captain who sings songs and plays dress-up as his pastime? I’m a sorry excuse for a pirate.” He said bitterly.

Jim tutted. “Now that is nonsense.” He nudged the cup and saucer closer towards his captain, encouraging him to finish the tea.

Freddie glared at the cup, his shoulders sagging. “What if he’s right though? What if I am just a failure?” He looked up, ill at ease. “A coward pretending to be a captain.”

“He doesn’t know you, Freddie.” Jim stated firmly. “But you know who does? Me and that lot up there.” Taking Freddie’s hand in his, he squeezed gently. “We love and respect you as our captain, no matter what you enjoy to do in your spare time.”

A smile flickered onto Freddie’s face. Rubbing circles into his palm with his thumb, he looked up at Jim. “You know I respect you too. Which is why I’m leaving you in charge of the ship whilst I’m gone.” Releasing Jim’s hand, Freddie pushed himself up out of his seat.

“In charge?” Jim frowned, “What- where are you going?” He followed the captain as he headed over to the coat stand in the corner of the room.

Swiping up his leather coat, Freddie pulled his arms through the sleeves. “I have to go after him, Jim.” He smoothed out any creases in the material, glancing over to Jim. “Paul’s looking for Brian and Roger. I have to do something!”

Jim visibly relaxed. For a minute there, he thought Freddie was going to throw the towel in completely. He let out a relieved breath, “of course you do.” He opened one of the wooden cabinets, fishing out a silver rapier. He held it out to Freddie. “Then you’ll need this.”

His mouth twitching into a smile, Freddie took the sword, sliding it into the scabbard attached to his belt. He put his hands on Jim’s shoulders, resting his forehead against his. “I love you,” he murmured.

Jim smiled. “I love you too.” After pulling Freddie into a quick hug, he released him with a light touch to the shoulder. “Go. You can trust me to keep things a float until you get back.”

“I know I can.” He leaned in, pressing his lips against Jim’s cheek. Then he swiftly made his was towards the door. Turning at the last minute, he called out, “I’ll see you soon, darling.”

Leaving his quarters, Freddie climbed down the steps on the side of the ship. He strode along the path that led to Wall, his coat tail lifting in the breeze. The crew would be perfectly fine left in Jim’s capable hands. But now Freddie had business to settle.

Paul may have won the last time, but he’d be damned if he let that monster do anything to his friends. It was time to stop Prenter once and for all.

Chapter Text

There was some sort of vehicle on the road behind them. From its slow pace and what looked like a single horse, Brian figured it was some sort of wagon.

Standing out of the way at the side of the road, he and Roger peered at the wagon trying to make out more. Squinting into the distance, Roger gasped as the man sat behind the horse came into focus.

He turned back to Brian. “I know that man, Foster or something. I saw Freddie talking to him at the shop! They said something about him trading at the market near the wall.” He grabbed Brian’s arm excitedly, an idea forming in his head. “We could hitch a ride!”

“Really?” Brian brightened at the mention. Maybe they would make it back to Wall in time after all! “He’s friends with Freddie? You’re sure?” He pressed.

“Well…” Roger worried his lip, releasing Brian’s arm. “They definitely talked.”

Brian shrugged. “Eh, good enough.” Stepping further into the centre of the road, he waved his arms frantically in an attempt to flag the wagon- which he now recognised as a caravan- down. Pulling a friendly expression on his face, he began to call out. “Hey! Could you wait…”

He trailed off as the man pulled on the reins of the horse, slowing the caravan down. The easy smile Brian wore began to fade as he noticed the suspicious expression on the man’s face as the caravan came to a halt.

Beckoning Roger to walk with him, Brian approached the side of the caravan. “Hi, sorry. My name’s Brian-“

“That’s my flower!” Foster cut him off angrily, eyes fixed on the pocket on Brian’s jacket as he sprung up from his seat behind the reins.

Taken aback, Brian retreated. He looked down at the snowdrop, running his fingers lightly over the glass flower. Surely, he couldn’t mean… Not John’s flower!

Foster climbed down from the caravan, pointing an accusing finger at Brian’s chest as he walked towards them. “A year, I’ve been looking for that! Give it to me, now!”

Considering the man was at least half a foot shorter than himself; Brian was finding it hard not to be intimidated. Fumbling a little, Brian pulled out the sword Freddie had gifted him with, holding it out with both hands. A warning to keep back.

Roger however, was not so easily daunted. His eyes flashed as he rounded on the man. “How dare you! That was a gift from his brother!”

Without sparing a glance in Roger’s direction, Foster took a step backwards, his eyes never leaving the sword Brian held out. “Oh.” He conceded. He shoved his hands in his pockets, shrugging. “Well, perhaps I was mistaken.”

Brian slowly lowered the blade. “It’s alright.” He slid the sword into its sheath, then raised his hand to pluck the snowdrop from its place pinned on his jacket. “it’s obviously very valuable to you, you can have it.”

Although it would be painful to lose the last reminder of John he had, Brian knew he needed to give it up for the greater good. And that was to get him and Roger to the wall. Brian looked at the flower in his hand before returning his gaze to Foster. “In exchange for what I need.”

The man crossed his arms, “and that would be?”

Brian exchanged a glance with Roger, who nodded in approval. He raised his chin, “a Babylon candle and safe passage to the wall.”

“A Babylon candle?” Foster gasped, raising a hand to his chest. “Oh no, no. I don’t deal in dark magic.”

Roger lifted a sceptical eyebrow. “Sure you don’t,” he snorted.

Ignoring him once again, Foster addressed Brian. “However, I don’t see why getting you close to the wall would be a problem.”

“Really?” Brian couldn’t believe their luck. “You’ll take us to the wall?”

Foster eyed the snowdrop hungrily. “For that flower, I can offer you passage.”

Roger put his hands on his hips, “and food and lodging?” They might as well get as much out of this deal as possible.

The man nodded, still looking at Brian. “Safe passage. I swear that you’ll arrive at the wall in exactly the same condition that you are in now.”

Brian wasn’t sure if he liked the expression in Foster’s eyes, but what choice did he have? This man was their best shot at getting to Wall in time. If anything was worth giving up the snowdrop for, than this was it. Hesitantly he held out his hand, the glass flower sitting on his palm.

Quick as a flash, Foster darted forwards and snatched the flower as if he was worried Brian would change his mind. He turned the snowdrop over in his fingertips then lifted his eyes back to Brian, a sly smirk on his face. “Do you have any idea what manner of thing it was that you just had?”

“A lucky charm?” Based on the look on Foster’s face, it was obviously much more than that. How on earth had John gotten a hold of that thing?

Foster chuckled darkly. “A very lucky charm indeed. More of a protection symbol.” He curled his fingers around the flower and deposited it in his pocket. “In fact, the very same thing that would have prevented me from doing this.”

Before Brian could react, the man reached up his hand, tapping him on the forehead. Brian frowned. “What do you-“ He was cut off as a cloud of greenish tinged smoke engulfed him. In the place where Brian once stood, a small animal crouched on the ground.

A hedgehog, to be precise.

Roger stared down at Brian in horror. “Oh my god! Brian!” He watched as the little creature snuffled along the ground. He whipped around to Foster, shouting in fury. “What did you do?!”

Foster didn’t even react, reaching down and scooping Brian up into his hands. He ran his fingers over the spines covering his back amusedly. “Much better.”

Roger huffed, hands on his hips. Why wasn’t Foster reacting to him? “Still up to ignoring me?” He tried. Nothing. Time for a new approach. “Try ignoring this!”

Swinging a fist at the man, Roger was shocked to feel some sort of resistance. He pulled back his arm, staring at his hand in puzzlement. It was as is he couldn’t even touch the man. Perhaps some sort of charm? Whatever it was, it prevented Foster from seeing, hearing or even coming into contact with him.

Roger had no choice but to follow Foster as he walked back to the caravan, pulling open the back doors. As if he was going to leave Brian alone with this man!

Foster climbed the small set of steps, talking to the animal that used to be Brian as he carried him with surprising tenderness. “I’ll keep my word, though. You won’t be harmed.”

Once inside, he headed towards the back of the caravan, where a set of boxes were stacked. Nestled between them was a small cage, which he opened and placed Brian inside. “There!” He exclaimed, latching the little door. “Safe passage to wall.”

Roger peered into the cage, looking Brian over. He appeared to be alright, sniffing along the bottom of his tiny prison.

A sudden chirping drew his attention towards the doors of the caravan. Or should he say above them? The culprit of the noise was a small brown bird, it’s chirps gradually increasing in volume. It flapped it’s wings, clearly agitated, revealing a rich green on the underside of its feathers.

Foster sighed, coming to a stop just before he exited the room. He looked up in irritation. “Stop that racket, will you?” He raised his hand, pointing threateningly. “Or I’ll make you sorry.”

The little bird let out on last cry before quietening up, tucking it’s wings back into its side.

Foster snorted, glancing back at Brian. “Good job I’m not keeping you.” He called. “One animal is more than enough.”

Roger frowned. Foster talked to the bird in the same manner he did Brian. As if it could understand… And from the looks of it, it probably did.

Shaking away the thought, he followed Foster around as he began to close up the caravan. “Am I right in thinking that you can neither see nor hear me?” The man confirmed his suspicions as he failed to react.

Roger smirked. “Alright, then.” Getting up in Foster’s face, the man looking straight through him, Roger began his rant. “Let me tell you, you’re a rather ratty looking old man, not particularly pleasing to the eye-“ he followed Foster to the doors, pointing a finger- “and I swear to god if I don’t get my Brian back exactly the way he was, I’ll be your own personal poltergeist!” The doors slammed shut in his face.

Breathing out, Roger raked a hand through his hair. Turning sharply, he crouched down in front of the cage and stared at the hedgehog. “Brian?” He asked hesitantly.

Brian stopped his sniffing and Roger felt a surge of hope. Perhaps Brian could understand him, like that bird did with Foster! “If you can understand me, look at me now.” He commanded.

The hedgehog lowered his head, snuffling along around the edge of the cage. Then he looked up, staring at something behind Roger’s back.

Following Brian’s gaze, Roger realised that he was eyeing up a loaf of bread hanging from the wall. With a sigh he climbed to his feet, walking towards the loaf. Tearing off a chunk, he returned to the cage and fed small pieces through the bars. Brian nudged the bread with his snout and began nibbling at it.

Roger watched him fondly, his mouth curved into a smile, until light twittering drew his attention upwards. The little brown bird watched him from the perch, still letting out chirps here and there. Roger approached the doors. “Your pretty chirpy today, aren’t you?” He held out the remainder of the bread. “Would you like some as well?”

Laughing at the affirmative tweet, he broke off another small piece, letting the bird peck at it from his hand. Stroking along its head and back, he noticed the slim silver chain that tethered the bird to it’s perch. Funny, he’d always thought that domesticated birds usually had free roam.

Quiet cooing made him realise that he had been petting the bird for some time, going by how it was no longer eating, but leaning into his palm. Roger smiled. Poor thing probably hadn’t seen much kindness, not with a bloke like Foster looking after it.

Giving the bird one last stroke, Roger figured he’d better check on his own animal friend. Sitting on the single bed near the cage, he looked down into it. Brian had finished his bread, and was busying himself cleaning god knows where.

“You know how I was saying how I used to watch people having adventures?” The words began to pour out of him before he could stop them. “How I wanted to join them and have my own? Well, there was something else I was thinking of.” He glanced down, heat rising in his cheeks. “Seeing the way humanity loves, it was the one thing that kept me looking back time after time. You could search the far reaches of the universe and never find anything as beautiful.

“And you know what? I see that in you, Brian. The way you are, how you care so much, it’s all there.” Roger shook his head, releasing a huff of laughter. He leaned forward towards the cage. “That night when you crashed into me, I thought I loathed you. Really, I did. You with your stupid hair and your stupid science.” Oh, how far they had come!

Interrupting his speech, the little bird began to titter, almost as if it was laughing.

Roger’s head snapped upwards as he shot it a dirty look. “Do you mind?” He lobbed the remainder of the bread at the bird’s perch. “Brian and I are having a moment, here!”

The little bird squawked as it dodged the missile, ruffling its feathers. However, it seemed to get the message and fell silent.

Shaking his head, Roger returned his eyes to Brian. “Now, where was I?”

The hedgehog was no longer sniffing around, but looking through the bars, his small dark eyes wide.

Roger smiled at him, reaching a finger through the bar and stroking along his spines. “I don’t understand you, Brian.” Sighing, Roger withdrew his hand and twisting his fingers as he looked away. “All you wanted to do was go back to that dingy little town, when there’s nothing there for you. You’ve said it yourself. You were made for more and I want you to have more because…”

Hesitating, Roger gathered his nerves. When else was he going to be able to say what was on his mind? What he had been feeling long before they got off Freddie’s ship. He took a deep breath, the words difficult to get out. “What I’m trying to say is, I think I love you! I’m in love with you, Brian and I don’t know what to do about it!”

Roger’s hand moved to his chest, just above his heart as he felt a fluttering in his stomach. Was this what love felt like? His mouth curved into a smile. “My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it, like it doesn’t belong to me anymore. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d ask for nothing in exchange. Nothing but knowing that you love me too! Just your heart in exchange for mine.”

Now the words were coming to him easily, flowing out with no way to stop them. “Going back to the sky, it isn’t what I want anymore.” Roger leaned forward in earnest. “You are what I want! And if you wanted, when we get off this caravan and you’re back to yourself, I’ll stay with you forever if you’ll have me. So, what do you say?”

He looked down at Brian expectantly, however the hedgehog merely blinked and curled up, appearing to take a nap.

Roger groaned, holding his head in his hands. Of course Brian wouldn’t respond, he couldn’t understand him. He probably wouldn’t even remember much before Foster transformed him, never mind the heart-felt speech Roger had just delivered.

Perhaps it was better this way. It was unlikely that Brian felt the same way, not when he had Anita waiting for him.

lying back on the bed, Roger settled down and closed his eyes. He had a feeling this would be a long journey.

--------------------

Roger felt the caravan jolt, obviously coming to a stop. Many hours had passed since they had gotten on the caravan and after his confession to Brian, Roger had mostly dozed for the rest of the journey. It had been relatively quiet except for the occasional chirps from the bird and Brian’s snuffling.

With a click, the back doors swung open and Foster climbed up the steps and towards the cage that held Brian. Sitting up, Roger watched as the man lifted the latch on the door and gathered the hedgehog in his hand.

Roger pushed himself up off the bed, and began to follow Foster out of the caravan. Glancing up to the perch above the door, he raised his hand in a wave to the little brown bird, who cooed sadly in response.

Leaping down from the caravan step, he looked for Foster, his eyes finding him just as the man bent down and placed Brian on the ground. Looking around, Roger realised that they were in a busy market, most likely the town he had heard Freddie talk about.

His attention snapped back to Foster as the man began to speak. “The wall is one mile that way.” He pointed down a cobbled street that looked as if it led towards the outskirts of the town. He tapped the hedgehog’s head, that same green smoke appearing once again.

As it dispersed, the hedgehog had vanished and a disorientated, but human Brian having taken its place.

Foster smirked. “There. Though the walk may take you longer than normal.” He gestured to his head, “the transformation tends to leave the brain a bit scrambled for a while."

“You…” Brian turned around; his feet unsteady as he took a step in Foster’s direction. However, he couldn’t get far, stumbling and almost toppling over.

Roger rushed forward, catching Brian’s weight before he lost balance completely. Even though Foster couldn’t see him, he shot the man a glare.

Foster laughed, folding his arms as he watched Brian’s pitiful attempt at standing. “I did warn you. Save your strength.” With that, he turned on his heel and headed towards the front of his caravan.

Roger’s eyes followed him until the man was out of sight, then he turned his attention to the man he was holding. “Brian!” He cradled the side of his face with his palm, looking into his eyes. “I’ve been so worried about you.”

“Rog…” Brian murmured, his unfocused eyes meeting Roger’s.

Roger nodded, smiling. “Yeah, that’s right.” He shifted his weight, draping Brian’s arm over his shoulders and curling his own arm around Brian waist. “Come on, there’s an inn over there.” He nodded to a rickety looking building, a small sign reading: The Rising Sun, hanging above the door. “You need to rest up before we go anywhere.”

Carrying his companion's weight, Roger headed towards the inn, the two of them soon disappearing amongst the crowds of people.

Chapter Text

Releasing a deep breath, Roger relaxed into the bath, letting the warmth of the water seep through his body.

It had taken a lot more effort than he had expected to get Brian to the inn with him. Not that the man was heavy, far from it, but his height and gangly limbs had certainly been a hindrance. A walk that would usually take 2 minutes had instead taken him at least 10. He deserved this bath!

Roger closed his eyes, tilting his head backwards against the back of the tub. He had deposited Brian on the bed before sliding into the bath. His time on earth had left him rather fond of baths, despite the fact that his first ever one had ended in a near death experience.

He hoped Brian would recover from the effects of Foster’s enchantment soon and he’d have a bit of company once again. As cute as Hedgehog-Brian was, Roger much preferred him human.

Speaking of the enchantment, Roger really found himself hoping that Brian wouldn’t have any recollection of what had happened. What on earth had he been thinking, pouring his heart out in that way when there was no way that Brian returned those feelings? He already loved someone else.

He’d just act as if nothing had happened and they could carry on as normal. As much as it would hurt, Roger would rather enjoy the time he had left in Brian’s company, than ruin the friendship they had built together.

But he didn’t need to ponder that now. Breathing deeply, Roger let himself sink further into the warm water, allowing himself to just float away…

“Excuse me?”

Roger jumped in surprise, causing a little water to splash out the sides of the bath. “Oh!” Looking up, he saw Brian’s face peeking through a gap in the partition. He hadn’t been expecting him up yet.

Brian grinned through the little window. “I think someone might be hogging the bath tub.” He moved around the screen, leaning against the wall.

Crossing his arms, Roger shrugged. “Well, you weren’t exactly in a state to be using it!” He drew his knees up against his chest, angling his body away.

Brian nodded fairly. “I wasn’t in much of a state to be doing anything.” He flashed a smile. “Thank you, by the way. For bringing me here.”

Roger rolled his eyes. As if he was going anywhere without Brian. “Of course I did, I wasn’t going to leave you to just make your own way.” He swallowed, looking down at the water. “You’re my Friend.”

Brian brightened at that, though he played it off by shifting further along the wall. He tilted his head. “Still. It can’t have been easy, carrying both of our weight.”

Smirking, Roger raised his eyebrows as he looked back over at Brian. “You’ll find I’m stronger than I look.”

Brian returned the expression. “Evidently.”

After a few quiet seconds, Roger cleared his throat. “Could you…” Roger made a turning gesture with his hand. He smiled apologetically. “I just, I need to get out.” He put his hands on the edge of the tub for emphasis.

“Ah.” Brian coughed awkwardly, giving a single nod. “Okay, I won’t look, I promise. See?” He held up his hands, making a show of turning his back. “I’m turning away.”

Letting out a short laugh, Roger shook his head at Brian’s antics and pushed himself up out of the now lukewarm water. He grabbed the towel hanging over the partition and wrapped it around his body. “It’s fine. You can turn back now.” Looking down, Roger gently squeezed the ends of his hair, wringing out any water left in the strands.

Brian studied him carefully from his place against the wall. He pushed himself away from the wall, casually walking a little closer. “Did you really mean what you said back in the caravan?” He asked, arms crossed in a relaxed manner.

“Did I…” Roger trailed off, turning sharply in Brian’s direction. The colour drained from his face as he realised what Brian was referring to. His mouth opened and closed a few times as he struggled to find something to say. “But you were, you were a hedgehog!” He eventually decided upon. "You couldn’t understand me!” Recovering from the initial shock, Roger swatted half-heartedly at Brian’s arm. “I asked you to give me a sign!”

Brian laughed lightly, approaching the star and resting his hands on Roger’s upper arms, thumbs rubbing in reassuring circles. “What, and risk you being too embarrassed to keep saying such lovely things?” He smiled widely, leaning forward and planting a light kiss on Roger’s forehead.

“Yes!” Roger ran his hands over his forehead and stepping away. He shifted his gaze to the floor, too embarrassed to continue looking at his friend. “If I had known, I never would have-“

“Rog!” Brian cut him off, though the smile never left his face. “That’s my point.” He gently tipped Roger’s chin upwards so he was no longer looking downwards. His fingers lingering there, he spoke softly, directly to the man before him. “You want to know what Freddie really whispered to me that day?”

Roger gave a tiny nod, his skin gradually beginning to glow as Brian took his hands in his.

Brian squeezed his hands, eyes searching Roger’s. “He told me that my true love was right in front of my eyes.” He reached out a hand, cupping Roger’s cheek gently. “And he was right.”

The light that surrounded Roger shone brighter than Brian had ever seen it as the star’s breath hitched. Smiling back at Brian, Roger’s arms rose to circle Brian’s neck as they closed the distance between them.

Leaning down Brian hesitantly Pressed his lips against Rogers, his hand moving to bury itself in Roger’s hair. Relaxing into the kiss, Roger smiled against Brian’s lips.

Lost in the moment, He didn’t care about anything. Not the Wall, not the possibility of returning to the sky. The only thing that mattered was him and Brian together and he never wanted it to change.

--------------------

Shaking off the last of the water droplets on his coat, Paul glared out at the sea. He had hoped he’d have gotten more out of Freddie, but instead all he got was a good soaking. Jumping from the ship and into the water probably wasn’t his best idea, but needs must.

Glancing down at his forearms, he ran a hand over a series of small cuts, gained from the broken glass he collided with on his descent. Rubbing at the wounds, he muttered a short incantation in the hopes of healing them.

Instead, a few clumps of hair flopped down to the ground in front of him. Reaching to his head, Paul ran his hand over his scalp, feeling numerous bald patches. The cuts still remained. He sighed in irritation. What a waste of good magic.

Though it had been fun taunting Mercury in that way, he was still uncertain in the star’s whereabouts. But he now knew that it definitely wasn’t aboard the sky vessel. Perhaps the runes would become useful once again.

Thinking about the star’s location, he threw the runes high into the air. Catching them as they fell, he studied the wooden pieces until he could make sense of the reading.

Paul squinted at the runes, frowning. This said that the star was in the market town, one mile from the wall. But why would it be anywhere near the wall?

Paul’s lip curled in displeasure as he realised. That human boy, the one at the inn! Why else would the star be interested in entering the human realm unless it was accompanied by someone whose origins lay there.

Paul threw the runes onto the ground in fury. This was probably the worst thing that could have happened so far! The wall was the last place he wanted the star going near.

If the star crossed the threshold and onto human soil, it would become nothing more than a piece of metallic rock, and a lump of rock meant no heart. And no heart meant no renewal of magic! And that wouldn’t benefit him at all.

Paul had lost count of the number of stars that had been lost the moment they landed on the other side of that wall. And he wasn’t about to lose this one too. But Paul would have to be quick. Urgency was at the upmost importance.

He swung his coat onto his shoulders, storming over to the coach. Climbing up onto the driver’s seat, Paul cracked the reins, forcing the horse’s forwards into a sprint. He’d go across the marshes and intercept the star and it's companion before they crossed into the human realm.

He’d wasted too much time already. Foolish traps, pointless excursions. No. This time, he was messing around no longer. The star would be his.

--------------------

The early morning sun filtered through the window, illuminating the room in a warm light. Brian lay in the bed, watching the dust motes float in the air. To his side, Roger still slept, looking probably the most peaceful he had been since they had met. There bathed in the sunlight, he had never looked more beautiful. Brian found himself just staring, his mouth curved in a small smile. He couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have Roger quite literally fall into his life.

It had been around 10 minutes since he had woken and Brian was finding it difficult to have the willpower to get up out of bed. He wished he could stay here forever, but there was one thing he had to do first.

From the bedside table he retrieved a small knife, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand nicely. It also happened to be a gift from Freddie- it seemed the pirate captain was fond of providing delicate weapons as presents.

He turned back to Roger who was still fast asleep, his golden hair splayed out over the pillow and across his face. With the lightest hand, Brian picked up a piece of hair, bringing the little knife nearer and severing a lock around an inch in length. He then tucked the remaining strands behind his ear and out of Roger’s face, who let out a peaceful sigh before rolling over onto his side.

Brian pulled a white, cotton handkerchief from the pocket of his jacket that hung beside the bed, which he carefully folded around the lock of hair.

Job done, Brian pushed down the quilt and slipped his legs out of the bed. As quietly as he could he dressed, sliding his jacket over his shoulders as he crept to the bedroom door. As an afterthought, he grabbed the canister of lightning, just in case. 

As he eased the door open, he took a final glance at the bed. Roger still appeared to be sleeping soundly. Tucking the folded handkerchief in his pocket, he pulled the door shut, it closing with a gentle click.

The wooden staircase creaked as he made his way down to the front room of the inn.

There was nobody there except for Brian himself and a man slumped in a tatty leather armchair, his face concealed by the flat cap he wore. Brian could only assume that this was the innkeeper, considering he wasn’t quite with it to notice when they arrived.

Walking up to the desk, Brian waved a hand in front of the man’s face in a test to see if he was asleep.

The man wrinkled his nose, sucking in a breath. His mouth twisted into a frown as he asked groggily, “what do you want?”

Brian smiled apologetically, “ah, sorry.” He made a writing gesture with his hands, “you don’t happen to have a pen and paper, do you?”

The innkeeper gave a disgruntled snort. “Ask me again”- he tilted back the rim of his cap, displeased eyes meeting Brian’s- “at a more reasonable hour."

Brian put his hands in his pockets, rocking back and forth on his feet. “No, I can’t.” He looked over his shoulder at the clock sat on the shelf above the desk. Time was ticking. “I have to go.”

The innkeeper raised a challenging eyebrow, making no attempt to get up from his seat.

Brian glanced between the staircase and the desk. “Look, if my friend wakes up before I get back”- he ran a hand through his hair impatiently- “can you leave him a message?”

With a long-suffering sigh, the innkeeper leaned forward over the desk. “Go on.”

Brian thought for a moment, tapping his foot against the floor. Decided on the message and before he could lose his nerve, he relayed the words to the man across the desk.

Chapter Text

Roger shifted on the mattress, his body waking up from a peaceful sleep. Stretching his arms above his head, he smiled softly. “You know, this is probably the first night where I’ve ever actually slept all the way through it.” He opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling. “I mean, can you believe it?”

After a few seconds of no reply, Roger frowned. Was Brian still asleep?

“Bri!” He reached out a hand to the other side of the bed, his hand falling onto empty sheets. Rolling over to face the other side, he found that Brian was nowhere to be seen.

Sitting up, he scanned the room for any sign of the other man. “Brian?” No response.

Roger was more than confused. Brian wouldn’t just leave, not without telling him. Perhaps he had just gone downstairs for a bit? Yeah, that had to be it.

Dressing hurriedly, Roger found himself continuously looking to the door, hoping that Brian would just walk in any minute. He never did.

Sufficiently clothed, Roger headed towards the door, but something glinting in the corner of his eye made him pause. On one of the bedside cabinets lay that odd necklace, he had completely forgotten about it after he had removed it the night before to take a bath.

Strangely enough, he had grown quite used to it over the past week, and it would feel strange to leave it behind. Darting over and picking it up, Roger fastened it around his neck before leaving the room for good. Who knows? He could still sell it after he and Brian went to Wall. They’d need the money, considering he would be staying on earth from now on.

Roger all but leapt down the stairs, swinging around the banister as he scanned the reception area for any sign of Brian. Finding it empty, he approached the front desk, relentlessly slamming his hand on the counter bell in hopes for someone to show up.

A muffled swearing could be heard from the doorway just behind the desk. After a minute, a scowling man emerged from the doorway, grumbling as he shoved his flat cap onto his head and stood behind the desk.

Roger braced his hands on the wooden surface, meeting the innkeepers irritated gaze. “Finally!” He exclaimed, pulling his hand away from the bell. “Have you seen my friend?” Roger asked hopefully.

The man behind the desk stared at him blankly. “And who might that be?” he settled into the chair behind the reception, eyebrows raised expectantly.

“Er…” Scratching his head, Roger decided to keep the description simple. “Tall, poodle-looking fella. Goes by Brian?”

The innkeeper stroked his chin, nodding slowly. “Ah yeah, I remember now.” He glanced behind him at the clock on the shelf, before turning back and stating plainly: “He left. Absurdly early.”

“He left?” Roger repeated in confusion. Why would Brian leave so abruptly after everything that had happened last night? It didn’t make sense.

Leaning back into his chair, the innkeeper crossed his arms nonchalantly. “He told me to tell you that he’s gone to see Anita, because he’s sorry, but he knows who his true love is and he wants to spend the rest of his life with them.” The innkeeper then looked down to some pages littering the desk, unbothered.

Roger’s heart felt like it was breaking in two. “What?” He choked out. Surely this man had it wrong. “He actually said that?”

The innkeeper started to write on some of the papers. “Along those lines, yeah.” He answered, not even bothering to look up.

Roger stepped away from the desk, shell-shocked. “…Thanks.” He said distractedly, pulling his jacket close around him as he walked out of the door of the inn.

The innkeeper, he had to be mistaken! Although the man had seemed pretty certain, there was no way Brian would just leave him with only a half-hearted message to explain himself. He knew Brian and he wasn’t like that at all.

But then again, the way he spoke about Anita, it was obvious he loved her. Did Brian wake up that morning and regret what he had said? That telling him he loved him was all a mistake?

Roger was numb as he walked through the market, heading towards the road Foster had said led to Wall. He may as well head there, see if he could get some answers.

Insecurities swirled inside his head. How stupid he had been. Of course Brian wasn’t in love with him! Why would he be? They’d only known each other for a short time anyway.

His heart was heavy, the glow of happiness that had once burnt there extinguished like a flame. Roger thought he could hear someone shouting behind him, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore.

--------------------

The marketplace was surprisingly busy for this time in the morning, and John was fed up. To be honest, he was fed up every day, but the point still stood.

Here he was, literally slaving away by setting up the stall, whilst Foster snored away in the back of the caravan. Typical. He always got like this after a night out drinking, and as much as John disliked being left to do all the hard work, he did prefer it when Foster wasn’t there to yell at him.

John would forever curse the day he made that terrible mistake of following Foster all those months ago.

Huffing out a breath of air, John set down the last of the wooden tables, leaning against them as he took a short rest. It could have been worse after all, Foster leaving him alone was the least of his worries.

He couldn’t stop thinking back to yesterday. John would never forget the feeling when he recognised the voice outside the caravan that afternoon. Had Brian come to find him at last? It was about time! It had been ages since he had sent that letter.

But then it had all gone wrong. Foster taking the snowdrop John had so carefully stolen from him in order to send it to Brian, and then turning him into a hedgehog. John being trapped in bird form so he couldn’t communicate to Brian’s companion, it was a rather tricky situation.

That blond man was another issue altogether. How on earth had Brian come across an actual star? John knew he was a star from the way Foster ignored the man completely, obviously the effect of the spell that dark magician had placed over him.

Did they even know there was some psycho chasing them down, intending to cut out the star’s heart? And John couldn’t even offer them any sort of warning before Brian and the star were on their way again.

John had almost cried. After over a year, he had been barely feet away from Brian and he couldn’t do anything about it. Now he was probably doomed to serve Foster for the rest of his sorry life. Unless of course, by some miracle, Brian and the star headed back this way.

Crossing his arms, John watched as the people in the market went about their business. His eyes were drawn to the inn that lay on the opposite side of the road, or more specifically, the person emerging from the door. John’s heart leapt as he recognised who it was. How could he forget! It was the blond form the caravan, the star.

And if he was here, that meant Brian wouldn’t be far behind. However, as his eyes searched for his brother, he couldn’t see him anywhere. Now this stuck John as particularly odd, as from what he had gathered, those two were a package deal. So where could Brian be?

Something else bothered him, though. The star being alone didn’t sit well with John. As far as he knew, that other sorcerer, the dark one, was still seeking the star. And John wasn’t one to just sit idly by and let him walk into possible danger unaccompanied.

He also wasn’t going to give up his one chance at escape, but this wasn't about him.

“Hey!” John called out, trying to get the star’s attention, however the star just kept on walking. “Hey, wait! Wait!” It was no use; the star had passed him by without so much of a glance. Before he knew it, the star was completely out of sight.

John rushed forwards, however he was yanked back by a weight to his ankle. He cursed, looking down at the chain, giving his foot another experimental tug. It didn’t even budge. As long as he was tethered to that damned caravan, he wasn’t going anywhere. Unless…

Turning back to the caravan, John stared at it thoughtfully. He couldn’t go anywhere, but there was no reason why the caravan couldn’t move.

Abandoning the stall tables, he sneaked up to the back of the wagon and looked through the gap between the ajar doors. Foster was sprawled over the small bed, his mouth wide open as he lay dead to the world.

John closed the doors as quietly as he could, fastening the latch. Once they were secure, he ran around to the front of the caravan and hopped up behind the reins.

He hadn’t actually controlled a horse-drawn wagon before, so this would be interesting. John looked down at the reins he was clutching, taking a steadying breath before giving them a sharp tug. At that, the shire horse set into motion. With a few more tugs from John, the horse's pace picked up and they were racing through the market streets.

A loud crash sounded from the back of the caravan, accompanied by a bewildered shout. John couldn’t hold back a satisfied smirk at the thought of Foster falling from the bed as the caravan jolted around. Serves him right!

Heading towards the edge of the market, John yanked on the reins, turning the cart as they rounded a corner. He must have been making some speed, if the way the right-side wheels lifted entirely from the ground was anything to go by, earning another crash and a shout from the back. He was so dead when Foster inevitably got out. But it would be worth it.

John looked ahead in determination, urging the horse forwards at a quicker pace. He had a bad feeling about this, and the sooner he caught up with the star, the better.

--------------------

The cobbled streets of Wall were just the same as Brian remembered them as he made his way to the centre of the village. Although only a week had passed, it seemed like a lifetime since he had been here last.

Brian had found his way to the wall surprisingly easily from the market, and before he knew it, he was crossing that mysterious field that he had looked at from his side of the wall. Not so mysterious anymore.

When he got to the gap in the wall, Miami was fast asleep on his stool, his back resting against the stone. He was partially glad; Brian wasn’t sure how he would explain to the wall guard exactly how he got across the wall after that night. To Miami, it had simply seemed like he had returned home after all.

Passing the many thatched houses, Brian finally reached the one he was searching for. A smile flickered onto his face as he looked up at Anita’s bedroom window, remembering all the times he had thrown a stone to get her attention. Not today, though.

Instead, he stepped up to the wooden door and gave it a firm knock before stepping backwards, twisting his hands behind his back as he waited.

After a minute or two, the door opened to reveal Anita, looking just as she always did. When her eyes fell on him, Brian offered a nervous smile.

Anita’s eyes widened in shock. “Brian!” She exclaimed, taking in his appearance. She let out a short laugh, pulling him into a joyful embrace.

“Happy birthday, Anita.” Brian murmured as he returned her hug just as tightly, his eyes falling shut as he held her in his arms.

Releasing her hold, Anita reached upwards and held is face in her hands. “Look at you, all scrubbed up!” She smiled warmly. “That must have been some journey.”

She could say that again. Brian sniffed in amusement, “like you wouldn’t believe.” He took her hands in his, speaking quietly. “I found it. I found the star.”

“You did?” Shaking her head, Anita pulled her hands away and lightly swatted at his arm. “You know when I suggested that, I didn’t actually mean for you to go that very second.” Although her words were serious, there was a playful glint in her eyes.

Brian shrugged, “well a lot happened between then.” From seeing the star fall, to receiving John’s letter and meeting Roger, to say his life was changed in just one night would be an understatement.

Anita nodded, moving to sit on the stone wall just before her house. “Sit.” She patted the space on the wall next to her, looking to Brian expectantly. “I want to hear everything!”

Taking a seat beside her, Brian told her about it all. He told her about talking to Miami, reading John's letter, Tim, Freddie, the trap at the inn. Saying it out loud, it was almost unbelievable how much had happened in such a short space of time.

Anita listened carefully until he finished the tale, nudging his shoulder with hers. “It seems like you’ve had quite the adventure,” She commented. “And the star, Roger you said? What’s he like?”

Releasing a breath, Brian rubbed the back of his neck. “Where do I begin? Roger, he’s remarkable really. Can really take care of himself, believe me! But he’s clever and beautiful and-“

“You’re in love with him.” 

Brian looked away guilty. “Anita, I-“

She held up a hand, stopping him before he could finish his sentence. “It’s okay.” She squeezed his hand, her mouth curved into a smile. “I am so happy for you Brian. Goodness knows you deserve it.”

“You really think that?” He couldn’t escape the feeling that he had somehow let her down.

“Of course!” She reached up, resting her hand on his cheek. “For as long as we’ve known each other have I ever wanted anything but the best for you? And seeing you now, you look happier than I’ve seen you in over a year!”

Brian nodded. “I am.”

Anita smiled, “good.” She looked around, eyes scanning the empty street. “So, where is he then?” She raised an eyebrow. “Do I get the pleasure of meeting the man who captured the heart of one of my closest friends?”

Looking away sheepishly, Brian put his hands in his pockets. “That’s the thing… I may have left him behind.”

Anita gaped at him in disbelief. “You didn’t!” She hit him in the arm a second time. “Bri, he’s probably wondering where you are!”

“I know, I know! I wanted to come here first, tell you everything first.” Brian defended himself, although now he was wondering whether leaving Roger behind was the best decision. “Oh!” He remembered he handkerchief in his pocket pulling it out and holding it out. “I brought this back, just as a token.”

Anita stared at it unimpressed. “You know, I’d much rather meet the real thing.” Still, she took the handkerchief, carefully unwrapping it and peering at the contents. “Brian… “She trailed off, looking at him in confusion. She held up the cloth, a fine, glittering powder falling to the ground. “What’s this? It’s just some sort of, I don’t know, stardust.”

“Stardust?” Brian’s brow creased as he took the handkerchief from Anita. He lightly touched the silvery powder, rubbing it between his fingers. He looked back up, meeting Anita’s concerned gaze.  “That’s, that’s impossible. It was whole when I…”

The hair had been intact before he crossed the wall, Brian had checked. So why now when he was back in the village, had it had been reduced to dust? Multiple thoughts flickered across his mind, the expectation of stars being some kind of rock, his surprise at Roger being a person.

He closed his hand around the handkerchief. If crossing the wall did this to just his hair, who knows what would happen to Roger if he actually set foot on English soil?

Anita rested her hand on top of Brian’s, noticing his obvious distress. “Brian, are you alright?” Her voice was laden with worry.

Roger…” He breathed, jumping to his feet. He shot Anita a horrified glance. “He can’t cross the wall.”

Anita got her feet, snapping him back to attention. “Well don’t just stand there, then.” She pointed to the path that led to the wall. “Go to him!”

How he had gotten so lucky finding a friend in Anita, Brian would never know. He approached her, planted a kiss on her forehead, almost like a goodbye. “I love you.” He murmured.

Anita closed her eyes, leaning into him before pushing him back gently. “I love you too.” She stepped back towards her door, hands on her hips. “Now go!”

Brian turned his back on the village, breaking into a sprint. knowing Roger, he’d probably go after Brian the moment he woke up. He could be on his way to the wall this very second! Brian could kick himself. He never should have left.

As he ran, his grip on the handkerchief loosened. The cloth fell from his hand, the particles of stardust scattering in the wind.

Chapter Text

The wall slowly appeared over the slight hill of the field. Roger wasn’t sure how long he had been walking for, but for all he cared, it could have been hours or minutes.

Now with the wall in sight, it wouldn’t be long until Roger got his answers. He still couldn’t get his head around why Brian would just leave like that. But what the man at the reception had said… Why else would he head back to wall if not to be with Anita?

Up close, the wall wasn’t much to look at. He didn’t know what he had been expecting, but the sandy coloured stone stood at about five feet wasn’t it.

Towards the centre of the wall, a gap was formed between the crumbling stone, so Roger decided to head towards that. Better than trying to vault undignified over the top.

Reaching the wall, he put his right foot forward ready to step across. However, before he could do so, a hand gripped at his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks.

“Wait!” a desperate voice called out.

Roger whipped around, coming face to face with a dishevelled looking young man. “You can’t go through there!” 

Where had this kid come from?

Roger looked the man up and down, or should he say boy? He couldn’t be any older than 20, 21 tops.

Wait a second, Roger had seen this boy before. But where?

That was it! He was the one he had seen at that shop, arguing with that fool, Foster. Sure enough, as he looked over the boy's shoulder, Foster’s caravan stood a few feet from the wall. But how had he got here? He certainly hadn’t been in the caravan when Roger and Brian were there.

And where was Foster at, anyway?

Roger shrugged his shoulder free, narrowing his eyes. Who was this child to tell him what he could and couldn’t do?

“And why not?” Roger put his hands on his hips, although he did draw his foot away from the gap in the wall.

The boy opened his mouth to speak, until a deafening crash from the caravan behind him caused him to glance over his shoulder nervously. He quickly returned his gaze to Roger, Looking him right in the eye. “If you set foot on human soil, you’ll die.”

Roger gaped at him in confusion. “What?”

Before he could ask anything else, an enraged voice filled the air.

“You insolent, good for nothing-“ Foster continued hurling insults as he stormed towards them, furious eyes fixed on the boy. Hand shooting out, he gripped the younger man by the wrist and pulled him closer. “Where have you taken me!” Foster demanded.

Roger looked on in horror as Foster raised his other hand to the younger man, however all three froze at the sound of another vehicle approaching. Along the side of the wall, a large black coach came to a halt.

Wait a minute, wasn’t that Tim’s coach? But he was dead, killed back at that god-awful inn…

Looking up to the front of the coach, Roger’s blood ran cold as he recognised the man behind the reins.

The innkeeper jumped down from the coach, smirking as he walked towards the star. “Planning on crossing the wall?” He let out an amused laugh, looking the star up and down. “If death is what you wish, I’ll be more than happy to assist.” He reached out a hand, as if to touch Roger, who jerked away in disgust.

“You talking to me?” Foster glared towards the innkeeper, apparently still ignorant to Roger’s existence.

Paul turned his head. “Oh, you.” His lip curled into a sneer as he looked Foster up and down. “Small world isn’t it? And no, I was not.” He returned his gaze to Roger, holding out a hand. “I was talking to the star.”

“Star?” Foster looked around in confusion, His eyes skimming over Roger like he wasn’t there and to Foster, that was how it appeared. His eyes fell on the boy beside him, who he pulled closer by the wrist he was holding. “My boy’s no star, any fool could see that! If he was, I’d have had the heart out of his chest a long time ago, trust me.”

“Trust you?” Paul scoffed, a look of disgust on his face. “Now that is a mistake I won’t be making again.” Reaching out a hand, Paul tilted his head, a cunning smirk on his lips. “What will it be Foster? Heads or tails?”

Foster’s brows creased in confusion, his grip on the boy beside him loosening as he took an uneasy step backwards.

Taking his chances, John hurried away from Foster as soon as his arm was released. Heading over to where the Star stood, he tugged his arm gently, moving them away from the two sorcerers. Knowing how powerful the dark one was, it was safer for them both to keep their distance.

The sky seemed to darken as that green smoke swirled from Paul's hand and shot towards Foster, who raised his hands in an attempt to shield himself from the blast.

For a minute, it almost looked like Foster would be able to hold his own, but alas, his magic was weaker and not nearly as developed. The shield failed and he was blasted backwards, body falling to the ground and incinerating into ash. All that remained of Foster was a charred outline of his body, burned into the grass.

The weight at John’s ankle lessened and as he looked down, the chain that kept him bound had vanished.

Exchanging a look with one another, Roger and John looked back to the other sorcerer fearfully.

Paul shook his head, glancing down at the silhouette. “Pathetic.” Briskly turning his back, he waked back towards the coach, pulling the door open and staring at the star expectantly. He nodded towards the coach. “Time to go.” As no one made an attempt to move, his expression hardened. “I’m waiting!”

John moved his hand downwards, taking the star’s in his. He felt the star’s hand squeezing his own. Lifting his chin, he shook his head as he looked at the sorcerer. “He’s not going anywhere with you.”

A dark chuckle escaped from Paul’s throat. “you think this is a choice, boy? He’s coming with me whether you like it or not.” Tilting his head, Paul regarded him with interest. "Don’t worry, you’re coming too.” He stretched out his hand, curling his fingers threateningly. “Unless you’d rather die like your master?"

"Fine." It was Roger who spoke, giving his new companion a reassuring smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. he was scared stiff, but he'd be damned if he'd let anything happen to this boy who was so strangely protective of him. 

Left without much choice, the two reluctantly climbed into the back of the coach.

Paul smiled in satisfaction, slamming the door shut. Finally, he had what he came for.

--------------------

Brian sprinted through the fields until the wall finally came into view. He slowed to a jog as he approached, even a good few yards away he could tell something wasn’t quite right. For starters, Miami wasn’t seated beside the gap like he always was. Instead the man was hunched over the little stool, staff tucked under his arm as he gathered his few belongings.

Brian frowned; it was almost like he was… leaving? He quickened his pace a little.

Approaching the wall guard, Brian grabbed his arm, causing him to glance up. “What’s going on??”

Miami released a panicked laugh as he stood up straight, wiping his brow. “Oh, where do I start?!” He nodded over the wall. “You know, all this time I’ve been stopping you people from going out, when I should have been worrying about those people from the other side!”

Brian’s head snapped in the direction of the wall, noticing a familiar yellow caravan in the field on the other side. Leaving Miami by the wall, he crossed over the stones.

The scene was deserted, the owner of the caravan nowhere in sight. Instead a dark silhouette of a body marred the grass at his feet.

Kneeling down, Brian touched the charred grass, his fingertips coming away covered in ash. “Foster…” He murmured, puzzled. What happened here? Had Roger been there? Had he crossed the wall?

Brian got to his feet, walking over to the caravan and checking the back. He frowned, the doors were lying on the ground outside, clearly kicked down and the inside a complete mess. Something pale and white caught his eye amongst the debris. The snowdrop!

Brian picked it up, sliding it back into his pocket before leaving the scene and passing back through the gap, returning to where Miami waited. It wasn’t as if Foster had any need for it anymore.

“Miami, what happened?” He asked urgently.

Before Miami could utter a word, a voice called from the direction of the wall.

“I think I’ll be able to help you with that.”

Both Brian and Miami looked towards the owner of the voice.

Standing just behind the gap in the wall, was none other than the captain of the Black Queen himself.

Brian’s jaw dropped. “Freddie?” He stared at the pirate in astonishment. “What are you doing here?” His brow creased as he did a double take. “Since when did you have a horse?”

Freddie patted the muzzle of the large stallion attached to the leash in his hand. “How do you think?” He smirked, spreading out his other arm. “I am a pirate after all, darling.”

There was a loud thud as the staff fell from Miami’s grasp. He rested his hands on his hips, a smile tugging at his lips. “Well I never! Freddie Bulsara, is that you?”

Giving the horse one last pat, Freddie released his hold on the rope attached to its bridle. “That’s Captain Mercury to you.” He stated seriously, before breaking out into a large grin. Striding through the gap, he pulled Miami into a warm embrace.

Brian watched as the pair laughed friendlily with one another, his mind taking a while to process. Then everything clicked. He gestured between the two men. “Wait, you two are Friends?”

“Well, of course!” Freddie drew back, his arm still slung around the wall guard’s shoulders. “Who else would christen my dear Miami with such a fabulous name!” He glanced at the man beside him. “It’s been- how long? Ten years?”

Miami snorted. “Longer. The last time I saw you, you were just a young lad.” He patted the captain’s arm. “How’s your Father?”

“Well actually-“ The two began talking between themselves, leaving Brian to just stand and watch awkwardly.

Brian raised a hand, trying to get the pair’s attention. “Not that I want to interrupt…”

Freddie looked over to Brian apologetically. “Right, of course.” He stepped away from Miami, clasping his hands together. “Not long after you left, a man came aboard my ship, looking for the two of you. Speaking of…” He glanced around, confused gaze returning to Brian. “This concerns Roger too, is he here?”

Brian winced. The last thing he needed was a reminder of how stupid he had been. He rubbed the back of his neck, “That’s the thing…” He lowered his head, unable to meet the captain’s eye. “I may have left him back at the market.” He mumbled guiltily.

“You did what?!” Freddie looked at him, incredulous. Running a hand over his hair, he shook his head. “Oh no, this is bad, very bad.” Stepping closer to Brian, he looked up at him scathingly. “What were you thinking?!”

Taken aback by the pirate’s anger, Brian snapped back, “I don’t know! I didn’t think, alright?” He sighed, looking down to the ground in shame. “I didn’t think…” 

If only he had thought things through before rushing off that morning. Now he had no idea where Roger even was.

Brian rubbed at his eyes before meeting Freddie’s gaze once more. “You said this man was looking for us?”

“Yes.” Freddie confirmed. “His name is Paul Prenter.“ He spat out the name, contempt evident on his face.

“But what would this man want with your friend?” Miami glanced between the younger men in confusion.

Brian raked a hand through his hair. “He was talking all about Roger’s heart.” He recollected, face draining of colour as he looked over to Freddie in horror. “How he wanted to cut it out and-

“And eat it.” Freddie finished; his face grim.

“Oh my god!” Miami exclaimed, clasping a hand over his mouth.

“Miami,” Brian approached the wall guard. “before, you were talking about people on the other side of the wall. What did you see?”

“Not much. I ducked down before anyone saw me.” Miami, retrieved his staff, twirling it distractedly. “There were four of them. Your Prenter fellow, I presume, killed one and took the other two with him.” the wall guard, rubbed his chin. “He called one a star. That was who he was really interested in though.”

“Then Roger was here.” Brian felt a small flicker of hope. He was alive at least, but for how long?

Freddie shot the charred silhouette a fleeting glance. “Foster too.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But who was the fourth?”

Brian wasn’t sure. But that didn’t matter. What mattered was that they got to Roger before Prenter could cause anymore damage.

He set his jaw. “We need to leave. Now.”

Grabbing his arm, Freddie looked at him imploringly. “Brian, Paul is dangerous, powerful. How are you ever going to defeat him?” He sighed. “It’s practically impossible!”

Brian nodded. “I know, but I have to try!” He pulled his arm free, hand moving to his chest. “This is my fault, I left Roger alone. I need to fix this!”

“Then I’ll go with you." Freddie spread out his hands. "That’s what I’m here for.”

Brian shot him a grateful look. “I had a feeling you’d say that.” Things would definitely be easier with the captain by his side.

Freddie glanced to the side, raising his eyebrows. “Miami?”

The Wall guard shook his head. “I’m an old man. You boys will fair just fine without my help, I think.” He smiled at them proudly. “And me? I think it’s about time I retired.”

Walking forward, Freddie patted him on the shoulder. “You’ve earned it, old friend.”

Miami huffed in agreement. “You’re telling me!” He patted Freddie on the shoulder in return, then held out a hand to Brian. “Good luck, lad.”

“Thank you.” Brian smiled at the older man, shaking his hand vigorously. Then both he and Freddie turned to cross over the gap in the wall.

Walking over to his horse, Freddie gathered the reins in his hands. He looked over his shoulder to Brian. “We’ll be quicker on horseback, I think.” He nodded his head towards Foster’s caravan.

Turning his head, Brian took in the sight of the sandy shire horse still tacked up to the trailer. Approaching the animal, Brian reached up to stroke its mane as the horse stamped its feet nervously.

As the shire calmed down, Brian unhooked the ropes that kept it leashed to the front of the caravan leading it back towards Freddie.

Mounting his own horse, Freddie pointed to a trail of coach tracks in the grass. “that’s the way to go wouldn’t you say?”

Brian nodded, climbing up onto the back of his own horse. “Let’s go.”

As they rode away from the wall, Brian clenched his hand around the reins of his horse. Prenter had gone too far this time. First killing Tim and now taking Roger, the man deserved what was coming for him.

And he was going to make him pay.