The Starless Square: Prologue

The rising sun eclipsed the last remaining stars and cast a promising glow over the emerging world. Gulls turned and swerved and plunged, their squawking strident against the soft hiss of the sea. The tide rode high, sparing only a narrow stretch between the breaking waves and the stone wall that lined the front. Brent inhaled, savouring the tang so typical of a seaside town, and sprang from the wall onto the wet sand. His footprints were the first of the day as he walked away from the mouth of the river where both the port and the university lay. In the distance he could make out the lighthouse and the keeper’s lodge perched on the Head. The Keeper. His mind turned to Lucie, the young woman he’d left in that other world. When he first met her, she’d been the Keeper’s Daughter and he’d taken the form of a young girl. Later, in troubled times, she’d become the Keeper herself, the head of her town. He had loved her like a sister, like a mother, like a sweetheart. An irresistible urge to skip and dance and jump in the puddles broke upon him. He longed to burrow into her arms. Only when he was with her could he quell the restlessness that drove him ever onwards. At the end of the weekend he promised himself, and lengthened his stride, forcing his stiff limbs to move faster until he broke into an easy run. A startled seabird rose from amongst the tufts of grass that bordered the beach and skimmed nearby. Brent halted to watch, admiring the curve of its wings as it swerved skywards. A part of him soared with the bird, winging its way upwards and as he did he looked down on his body standing forlorn at the water’s edge. “What do you want of me?” he cried out across the waves, venting his frustration. “Will I ever be at peace?”