XI.

Each foot fall, each step
further from home and castle
the sky grows darker.

He feels a shiver
and not knowing the reason
he shrugs his shoulders.

The bird flutters close
always nearby with a chirp
not fearful it seems.

“Little bird,” said Ailfrid
“you’re a comfort to me here.
This path darkening.”

It seemed to Ailfrid
that as the light was lessened
the world quieted

Until his own foot
made not a sound on the road
only the bird’s call

was in his two ears
straining to hear what might be
in the twilight.

“If the world’s light dims
sure the stars shine brighter still
my mum would tell me.”

He thought of his home
and quickened his pace anew
and find his quest’s end.

He fingered the chain
placed there by the most High Queen
pondering her words.

XII.

Stopping for water
he sat at the road’s dry edge
how far had he walked?

He looked behind him
no remembrance of the light
he’d left at the dawn

the bird perched nearby
and then hopped to his shoulder
singing all the while.

“You’ve not lost your nerve.”
Ailfrid said to the small bird
offering a crust.

The woods seemed to creak
but without a touch of wind
what moved the dark place?

The road before him
gathered like night in the east
a night with no stars.

Behind the road also dark
still bore the promise of home
and his sweetheart fair

“This the journey’s test
to leave home, and those most loved
their strength and comfort.

“and the journey’s hope
to return and know again
hearth, home and their love.

“Needs to go on then
to find the Night Star and bring
justice to a thief.”

XIII.

The wee bird listened
head cocked, both wings akimbo
as Ailfrid spoke soft,

“the darkness here serves
to make home’s golden light a
beacon to return.”

They both fell silent
Perhaps they dozed together
or one at a time.

When at last he stood
with one last glance towards his home
then walking again.

years later we speak
of the battles bravely fought
but not the hero.

The hero who stays
the path vast and unknown
when it is not marked.

Who ventures from home.
the evil not clearly known.
who must act alone.

Acts without witness,
Without desire of reward
but for good alone.

And so he walks on
pondering where Night Star dwells
and who holds it close.

“The tale is oft told,”
he remarked to the wee bird
Night Star fell to earth

XIV.

“One night, without moon
fell to a place without hope
and lay on banked moss.”

“Sparkling silently
its silvery beams cutting
the darkness so still.”

“The deer and the birds
the smallest insects came forth
bear and wolf drew near.”

They kept watch all night
When the sun passed over head
they still waited nigh.

Inside the forest
there where the cool and dark green
sparkled with gold light

the darkness within
wrapped around the mossy throne
and was cut by it.

the creatures stood by
or laid on the soft leaf mould
keeping their vigil.

Late the sun drilled its
final ray towards those waiting
a single white beam.

Multiplying thus,
that light caught the fallen star
and leapt to the sky.”

The bird sang to him
her wordless song, he wondered
if she had seen it

XV.

That light, shooting up
to the black waiting above
A single sliver.

So this moonless night,
still and gloomy, did bear light
across starless sky.

Cold and small boy gnome
peeking from the worn covers
looked out the window

To him, the world loomed
Great in the day and sun-warmed
as bright and shiny

As when it grew most dark
and the evening wrapped the world
in quiet sleeping.

This night, this small gnome
who should have been long asleep
looked and looked for stars.

Below his mother sang
a quiet gnome-mother song
a quiet song for dreams.

She thought of her son
tucked into his tiny bed
beneath the old quilt.

She wished for him dreams
gnomish, of home and garden
with small adventures.

She knit a striped sock
into each stitch winding hope
for her sleeping child.

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