The apparition that had appeared out of a gust of wind in the peel tower, demanded to know, “Are you baron Charles Lewis?”

“Yes,…yes, I am,” stuttered Lord Lewis. “Who are… you?” The unexpected appearance of a flesh-and-blood human in the sitting room of his fortified tower, was one more surprise than Charles was prepared for this evening. 

“Are you a figment of my imagination? A delusion of my fevered brain?” he said. Although he spoke cogently and clearly, there was no intensity to his voice, no strength or passion. His words were the sound that weariness makes. “You have the look of ordinary Landfolk, but who other than a fantasy or a denizen of Sky could have entered my tower riding on the wind?”

Galwynn barely heard Lord Lewis’s question because when he turned to gaze directly at the glamour and brilliant glow in the distance, his attention was immediately captured by the glass cube dominating the far end of Lewis’s workroom. It was like the lantern box he had reconstructed in Sky, but built larger and sturdier, and designed to be stationary instead of moved on an oxcart. And within the glass box was an incandescent sylph who was confined by magic and reflection as surely as a moth is confined by the light surrounding a candle flame. 

The sylph was the kidnapped star, Alta Vystra.

Master Kevin Galwynn was not a man easily given to wrath. But when he saw how such benign devices as an orrery and a half-silvered glass box could be twisted by alchemy and magic into a such a cruel trap, Galwynn suddenly blazed with righteous anger. When he shot his gaze back at Lord Lewis, his countenance was so full of outrage that Charles, although standing safely on the other side of the weirding wall, shrank back in fear. 

“Who am I?” scoffed the angry apparition. “I am Kevin Galwynn, your King’s Master of Enlightenment, currently in service to the King of Sky, and in search of salvation. And you, knave, are the man who would be the death of us all!”

Kevin didn’t exactly know how Lord Lewis would react to his charges, but he didn’t expect him to slump wearily onto a work table bench near the weirding wall, lower his head, and say nothing.

“Don’t you understand what you’ve done? You committed both a crime and a sacrilege by kidnapping and imprisoning the offspring of gods, a deity in herself; the star-child, Alta Vystra. Do you hear me, Lord Lewis? Her parents are the gods Emperor Sun and Empress Moon, and they are beside themselves over the disappearance of their daughter. If they find her here, and worse yet, imprisoned; such blasphemy will enrage them into laying waste to both Land and Sky. The soothsayers have already predicted it.”

Charles said nothing.

Galwynn said, “I am but a man, and yet I found you by reconstructing the machine you built to trap the star. Do you think the gods will have any more trouble than I, in following the star-signs to your door? To you? To their missing daughter? Lord Lewis, say something. Do something, before it’s too late. Free the star-child!

Galwynn noticed a glint of light suddenly appear in the corner of Lord Lewis’s eye. “Free the star-child? Never! She belongs with me!” screeched his lordship, as he half rose from his bench, and the muscles in his neck became as taut as ropes. Then just as quickly as an ember rising from a bonfire burns out and turns to ash, the glint faded. 

“You say you want me to free the star-child? Duke Northstorm told me the same. You say the gods will lay waste to two worlds if I don’t? You say imprisoning the star-child is cruel and heartless?—Don’t you think I know that already? Don’t you think I understand?” Charles’s words tore out of his throat like a cry for help. 

“What you don’t understand is that I am powerless to relent! I do not hold the star-maiden out of malice. I do so out of an emotion more fearsome than avarice, more intractable than wickedness. I do so, out of… love.”

The haggard man shook his head wearily, and collapsed bonelessly onto his workbench. “Your cause is as hopeless as is mine. You can no more compel me to release the star-maid than I can compel myself.” 

Charles looked pitifully forlorn. “It is my madness, you see. I have gone insane. It is only in these precious, passing moments of sanity that I realize it.” Charles shuddered uncontrollably. “It terrifies me.”

Kevin was incredulous. Charles’s behavior was not that of a knave or a monster. He seemed more like a victim than a villain. Sensing that he was about to make a terrible mistake in presuming, Kevin gave himself pause. More cooly, he said, “Your Lordship, you are saying you want to free the star?”

“Of course I do. I am not heartless; I love her. But try as I might, I cannot let her go. Northstorm even tried to compel me by force of arms, but he could not breach my barrier wall. No mortal can.” Kevin stroked the wall’s rose-colored surface with a fingertip, as if inspecting a piece of furniture for dust. In response, a cascade of red and blue sparks drifted down from the spot where his fingertip touched.

“A weirding wall, of your own design?” posited Kevin. “An admixture of alchemy and magic; proof against all harm?” 

“You know of such things?” Charles said, somewhat amazed. Charles had few friends, and far fewer peers with whom he could discuss his ideas and inventions. And so he was gratified when the king’s man recognized fine workmanship when he saw it.

“I am a Master of Enlightenment,” Kevin muttered in reply to Charles’s question, while he continued inspecting the rose-colored barrier. “I know many things.” Unfortunately, Kevin realized none less than a god could tear down this barrier wall. And no telling how much destruction or loss of life might ensue if that happened.

“Of course, of course, Master Galwynn. Your reputation precedes you,” Charles said. “It is my fits of madness that makes me say such foolish things. Welcome to Lewis manor.”

Kevin thought it best to remain inquisitive and nonjudgmental, for fear of inciting another of his lordship’s fits of madness.

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