The Children of the Sky
The Elders always told me that catching a falling star would burn me, but I tried it all the same. She fell into my hands, so small and beautiful and bright, still shining. Small enough to fit in my pocket almost. Small enough that she needed to be cradled and cuddled. She was crying. She was only a baby.
I wrapped her up in my cloak and took her home. What else could I do with her? Leave her out for the void beasts to find? Never. And she hadn’t burned me, after all. I gave her some goats milk, and she drank it, chortling happily at me when she was done. I sat with her in my little house, just looking at her, and tried to decide what to do.
“I suppose I should name you,” I told her as she tried to chew on her foot. I reached out and touched one of her sheer white curls. “How about Astara?” She giggled and smiled toothlessly up at me. I took this as a good sign. “Astara, then.”
She grew rapidly, in that way that babies do. I swear I blinked, and she was walking, but months had gone by without my noticing. One day follows another so quickly once you have a child to raise. She was a sweet, happy baby. I wanted to hide her, but I knew it was impossible. After she had started to walk, I took her to the Elders.
Miga, the Eldest, watched my adopted daughter wobble around. “What is this?” he asked me.
“My daughter Astara,” I answered evenly.
“You have no lover, no wife,” Alise, the Matron, observed.
“No, but I have a daughter.”
Astara toddled over to Miga and grinned up at him, drooling.
Miga sighed. “She is a fallen star. Anyone can see that.” He looked down at Astara’s shining face, and his stern demeanor cracked. He smiled back at her. “But anyone can see you are unharmed, and she is a sweet child. I vote she may stay, for now.”
“For now,” agreed Alise. And so, it went around the room. My daughter could stay, if only temporarily.
When Astara was three, and fast asleep in her bed, I again went walking at night in the deep forest meadows not far from my home. I saw a piece of sky fall, and I caught it in my hands. This time it was a baby boy. Dark, as Astara was light. I wrapped him in my cloak and took him home. I gave him goats milk, named him Claec.
Astara was thrilled to meet her new baby brother. Claec was fascinated by her. He crawled after her as soon as he was able. He loved looking up at his fair sister with his wide eyes, dark like the night sky. I took him to the Elders sooner than I had with Astara. He was only a few days old. They looked troubled but agreed that Claec could stay as well.
My third child, Xefiev, fell from the sky in a gust of wind. The winds blew wild around the village, and the Elders issued an ultimatum. The children would have to go. I had an ultimatum of my own. I would go with them. The Elders agreed. They gave us some food and supplies. Off we went, into the blasted lands where the void beasts roamed.
“It will be alright, children,” I told the six-year-old Astara and three-year-old Claec, with little Xefiev sleeping soundly on my back. “We will find our own place, and all will be well.”
“Yes, father,” Astara agreed brightly.
“All be well,” Claec said with a grin.
The wind tousled my hair as I walked on through the blasted lands.
That night I built a fire on the barren land. I first fed the goat and the mule I had been allowed to bring with me, and then the children. I found I was not hungry, only exhausted and heartsick.
“Father, eat!” Astara pushed some of her food at me.
“Eat!” Claec agreed.
“Perhaps in the morning,” I told them. Shortly after, we all laid down to sleep.
I woke in the middle of the night to the soft voices of the children. We were surrounded by void beasts, and I knew we were doomed. The void beasts would destroy us, as they destroyed all things. I grabbed Xefiev and Astara and pulled them under me, hoping to protect them. Claec had already wandered towards the void beasts, out of my reach.
“Claec, come here!” I wailed.
He ignored me and went closer to the void beasts. The one nearest to him let out a shrieking hiss. Its voice was like knives in my ears, and I heard Astara and Xefiev cry under me.
Claec, seemingly unafraid, waved a hand in front of his face. “Stinky!” he complained.
Then he screamed back at the void beast, and he did so with a voice like thunder that growled up from the depths of the earth all the way to the sky. The void beasts fled into the night. I climbed off Astara and Xefiev, cradling them both until they stopped crying. Claec walked back over.
“All be well,” he told me with a smile.
I nodded and pulled him into the hug with Astara and Xefiev.
We moved on. Eventually, we came to a forest, past the blasted lands, and there we made our new home.
Xefiev grew up to be trouble, full of mischief. He delighted in teasing Astara and Claec. He would listen to me, when it suited him to do so. I was never sure what to do, or what to tell him, to make him behave. Surely a day would come that his mischief would cause him trouble.
More children fell from the sky to land in my arms. Dionmachus, Akylen, Suitar, and Bobris, to name a few. Some fell at night; some fell during the day. I came to expect it almost any given year, when the oldest were old enough to help me care for the youngest.
I did not age. This troubled me. But as years went on and the children grew, I noticed most of them did not age past twenty or so. I thought perhaps it was the place we had found. Something in the forest, in the earth and air.
All of the children developed little quirks. Astara still glittered and shone, just like the star she had been. Claec was dark, and the few times we were threatened by void beasts, he chased them away with ease. Xefiev controlled the wind when he was older.
The children, most of them, wandered off into the world as they grew, as children do, but always they would wander back. Except for Dionmachus, who stayed with me in the house I had built for the children.
“I do not wish to leave the forest,” he told me when I asked. “The forest is my home. But you, father, you should go and see the world. Aren’t you curious?”
“I am content to raise my children,” I said with a smile.
“None of us have fallen from the sky for a hundred years,” Dionmachus pointed out. “I think the sky has given up all of her children for you to raise.”
He was not wrong. This had weighed on me and depressed me for many years. At the same time, in many ways, it was a relief. After the years of chaos, raising my adopted brood, there was peace in the silence. But it was a lonely peace. Dionmachus was right. I missed my children.
And so back out into the wide world I went. When I left the forest, I found a vast plain where, once, there had only been the blasted lands. Rolling waves of golden grass rippled in a gentle breeze. I stared at it for a long time, remembering the days when only void beasts had roamed those lands, and wondered what else had changed during my time in the forest.
Akylen found me that evening and walked with me through the plains for several days after. We talked of many things, the grasses, where to find water and food, how to hunt. Akylen was a great hunter and caught most of the game as we traveled.
At length, an encampment of tents appeared on the horizon. “There are my people, the Kylen,” Akylen told me with a proud smile. “They have adopted me as a god. I do what I can to protect and guide them.”
“A god?” I asked, frowning, but he did not answer. We went to the encampment together.
The Kylen were happy to see Akylen. I could see they were curious about me as well, although they were too polite to ask what they wanted to know. All but one, a small child of perhaps four or five.
The child clutched at my leg, grinning. “What are you the god of?” they asked with a cheerful, guileless grin. A woman, the child’s mother, pulled them away a moment later, but the question remained with me.
I left the Kylen, and Akylen told me to head south for the coast. I met my son Suitar there, who took me in a boat across the sea. He taught me to sail, and I asked him if he also had people who called him a god, as with his brother Akylen.
He nodded. “All sailors hail me as their god, and I favor them with good wind and fair weather when I can.”
“But you are not a god,” I tried to object. My children? Gods?
He only laughed, a hearty chuckle. “Father, you caught us out of the sky. What did you think we were?”
For this, I had no answer.
Suitar took me to the great trade city of Jun, where they grew and sold a great many spices. Here I found my daughter Astara, sitting in a temple with no roof so that there was an open view of the sky and sun and stars. She embraced me and called me ‘father’ and the people gathered nearby began to whisper.
And so, I went from city to town to clan, visiting my children, who called me ‘father’. Often, I was accompanied by Suitar while I was at sea. Bobris came with me while I was on foot, following the road. My children’s people called me ‘Father of the Gods’ and asked my name. I realized I no longer remembered it. I had only been ‘father’ to my children for many hundreds of years.
Eventually, I stopped seeking my children and went high into the mountains to think. Here there was snow, and thick, dense trees. And no one to call me father. I wanted to think, to understand. How had this happened?
I climbed higher, past the trees and snow, and although I could feel the cold, I did not mind it. I still had not aged, and this troubled me. What had I become? I had been born a mortal man. What was I now? Who was I now? The Father of the Gods?
“Why me?” I asked the clear blue sky when I reached the top of the mountain. “Why did you give Astara, and Claec, and Xefiev, and all of the others to me? I am—I was—just a man!”
There was no answer from the sky. There had never been any answers from the sky, only children for me to love and raise. I waited there for a very long time. I watched the stars come out and asked again. I asked again at dawn, and once more at sunset. The next day, I asked over and over again, the whole day long. How many times I asked, how many days went by, I do not know. I cannot say.
There was never any answer from the sky.
At last, I walked down the mountain into the snow. A few flakes drifted gently around me, and I reached out my hand and caught one. In my hands, I held a tiny baby with white hair and piercing blue eyes. I wrapped him carefully in my cloak as he began to fuss and decided this was my answer.
Maybe I was just a man, just a father. Maybe the sky would give me no answer in words, but she would give me children to love. I was the man who had caught a falling star, and a piece of sky, and a breath of wind, and so many others. Perhaps I was more than a normal man after all. I was the Father of the Gods of Beyle.
I climbed down the mountain and brought my new son home.
Originally published in "Where the Sun Always Shines" edited by Crystal Kirkham and Jodi Jensen in June of 2020, this story is the starting point of the world of Beyle. Not the first story written, but the springing point of all other tales. It mentions some of the Children of the Sky, the gods and goddesses of Beyle, and gives you a feel of the world.