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The darkness stood still around her in the cover of the trees, the moon shining brightly overhead. She took slow, careful breaths as she stared into the trees before her, trying to block out the scene behind her. The harsh sounds of battle were cutting through the eerie quiet of the forest; people were screaming as innumerable beasts let loose the thunder from the skies. Half of her face was lit by the fire and greenish blue glows emanating from the magic swirling through the air. She let her head fall back against the tree, her breath coming out in sharp gasps before she forced it back into a steady rhythm. Her fingers tightened around the warm metal of her blade, thumb running along the grooves in the hilt. She stared aimlessly into the sky, watching the stars dance above her, blinking in and out of existence. They seemed to whisper a quiet something, a secret shared across the nebulas as they watched the destruction beneath them, each blaze of light a mockery of the wisdom they held.

Her resolve faltered as she stared into the heavens, fear and pain morphing her features into a look of worry. For a moment she wished on the stars overhead. She wished to become a part of them, to see the world they hid and to get far away from the planet that she was on. A silent prayer calling out, saying, please! please take me away from here, let me live by the dark of night and the light of the stars.

It was a fleeting moment of want, of denial. She knew what she had to do, even if no one else did. In a single, fluid motion, she turned from the trees, eyes landing on the clearing before her. Soldiers in black armor swarmed around the feet of a great beast, its skin made of plated green diamonds that shimmered in the moonlight. Its claws were hooked and sharp, graced with a sort of elegance as they effortlessly cast people to the ground, digging deep into the souls of others until the galaxies within were lit no more. She gazed on into its golden eyes, ancient and all-knowing as they glanced lazily at the warriors below.

Taking another deep breath, she started downhill, anxiously smoothing down her silver-blue hair. A ball of fire crashed into the tree beside her, engulfing it in flames and devouring the wood until it was nothing more than ash, hungrily chasing down the other trees around it. She swallowed hard and tore herself away from the sight, hoping that the villages on the other side had already been evacuated. As she shuffled through the stale dirt, her mind drifted once more to the sky. She picked out Orion the Hunter, and Sirius – picked out Sagittarius the Archer and willed her to look over the world beneath her, protecting her people from harm. She searched and searched among the stars, frantically ignoring the fact that she was nearing the base of the hill, until finally there was nowhere else to go.

She took several shaky steps forward, staring up at the height of the great dragon before her, spitting fire as destructive as the ones below the earth. The soldiers in blue were thinning, their numbers greater on the ground than fighting the Damned – the tankers from Synriox known for their total destruction of the civilizations they hit. Those who didn’t die in the war would captured and tortured, or forced into slavery.

I know what I have to do, she thought, I know what I have to do to save this place – to save my home. She forced herself to think of the children she had watched playing in the street the other morning, how happy they had looked as their firecrackers whizzed around their heads, morphing into phoenixes and sea creatures. She thought of those children and all the others like them, huddled in their mothers’ arms as the world went down in flames around them. And that was all she needed.

She produced a small, metallic orb from her pocket, hands steady as she clipped it onto her belt. She steeled herself, hesitating for a moment before clenching her jaw and charging into the battlefield. An expert flick of the wrist rolled her sword before it surged upwards, coming into contact with the blackened blade of a Damned. The repulsive stench of death curled from his mouth, ghosting over her face in cool bursts. He bared his sharp teeth at her and charged forward. She had to move quickly to keep up with him, blocking and ducking his attacks as they came, darting forward in sharp motions. She could barely make out the dark grey eyes beneath the black mask, glinting with rancor and fury. Removing one hand from the hilt of her sword, she reached into a pouch hanging off the back of her belt, scooping up a small handful of glistening blue powder.

She held the substance close to her side, chanting beneath her breath as she fought off her attacker. “Et in luce stellarum recede!”

She blew the powder off of her hand, watching it fall like stardust, disrupting the incessant shadow lingering around the perimeter of his body. His attacks ceased and his mouth opened and closed, almost as if he were speechless. His wide, dark eyes shimmered, the black rippling with silver and gold, growing faster and faster. He screwed them shut and began to scream, clawing and scratching as his vision was consumed with the light of Venus. Soon he was on his knees, voice hoarse as his agony subsided into nothingness, shrieking silenced. He remained still with his hands still clenched around his head, and, right before her very eyes, he vanished. The matter he was made of, the very core of his being, dispersed among the sand and stone, forever a part of the wind.

No one, it seemed, paid very much attention to this. She was able to take down four more men before anyone had the sense to run – not that she would let them. She reached out with her mind and surrounded the clearing, holding back the soldiers that fled towards the trees. They struggled against the invisible matter, kicking and stabbing and clawing, but never making it a single step farther. Slowly, they turned, staring at the girl in the middle of the clearing, looking out at the pitiful warriors. She looked up at the dragon above her, gazing into its endless eyes made from molten gold. Flecks of red broke up the metallic hue, a pupil the size of a boulder eyeing her questioningly. It seemed somewhat bored, flicking its massive tail lazily, steam curling from its nose. She took a deep breath and raised a hand deliberately to her side, resting it carefully against the steel orb.

Her eyes fell shut as she heard a man whisper her name. “Vega,” His voice was pleading, frightened. “Vega, please, don’t do this.”

She took a shaky breath, wiping away the tears that fell as she turned to face him. “Father, forgive me. It’s the only way.”

He shook his head sadly, sword hanging limply by his side as she wept silently. She had to turn her head away, shutting her eyes once more as she reached out, pushing him beyond the periphery of the field. Her thoughts turned bitter for a moment, thinking how she was going to die sniveling and wailing, going down in history as the child who saved the planet because she couldn’t think of any other way. But as she looked up, laughing humorlessly as stared into the face of death itself. She smiled up at the stars and wished, one last time, she could live among them. And then her thumb fell to the dull red groove on the ball, pressing down until the entire world was consumed in the light of a quasar.

Thousands of years later, people gather under the night sky, friends and family watching the stars. They tell their children the story of the girl who saved their planet, who sacrificed her life so that others could live on long after her. They tell them the story of Vega, the brightest star in the sky.

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