Pressed into a crevice as far as he could fit, he was barely able to move. Grimacing, he reached down slowly to his side and found fresh blood. The wound was not closing. He bared his teeth in pain and turned to look out of the crevice and into the cave beyond. In the darkness he sensed, but could not see the creature that had wounded him. This adventure had not gone well from the start. First, his starship had lost power during descent into the atmosphere and the resulting crash had been mild, but jarring. Then he had wandered through all manner of swampy muck looking for the home of the murderous star Spider Amrid. Star Spiders were a problem when they reached maturity and the offspring of the Star Spider killed by Galaxy Force 5 a few decades back had started reaching the equivalent of their teen years. The ritual by which the rotating 5th member of the Galaxy Force was chosen often took into account heroic acts and so he had decided to head of the threat before it could present itself and earn himself a nice new bullet point; a decision that at this very moment seemed like a very bad idea. In a bag at his hip something warmed and glowed in rhythmic fashion, almost as if light could laugh.
“Yeah, I know. I know. Try to keep it down; it can’t smell or hear so good but it sees okay in the dark.” The warmth spread to his side and the flesh around the wound began to itch. The wound would heal soon, a benefit of the crystal that had acted as his guardian since brith. He had to think if he was going to get out of this situation. The last of the Star Spider clan was in the cave beyond, stalking around, and probably waiting for him to emerge. He hoped the glow of the crystal wouldn’t give him away. The crevice provided some protection and a place to hide, but Amrid could squeeze in and suck the blood from him with only minor trouble. In the close quarters of the cave his blaster would be nearly useless. He was going to have to rely on his sword if he wanted to slay the beast. The crystal in the bag laughed again.
“I’m not that bad with a sword, I’ve managed to beat the sword master a few times.” The light slowly faded and pulsed.
“Don’t you roll your eyes at me! It’s fine. Everything is gonna’ be fine. It’s gonna’ be fine. Yeah…” In the darkness outside the crevice something large clicked its mandibles and breathed heavy as it searched for him. He had barely gotten away when it had attacked and he had been lucky enough to find the crevice to hide in. The other Star Spiders had been easier, but this was the oldest and is was clever and far more lethal. The itching as his flesh mended reached a fever pitch and he turned his mind to why he had come on this expedition.
His youth had been unconventional by most world’s standards. He was a prince and groomed from an early age to be a good husband to one of the many space princesses that dotted the galaxy. But times had changed. Galaxy Force 5, a group that defended the universe from evil, had been composed of specially chosen space princesses; but that had changed when a prince had been made a “Princess” and formal member of the group. The political landscape had changed rapidly when that member had retired. Now many princes saw that they could be more than good husbands to the eternal matriarchs of the universe; they could help defend their realms. So the Galactic Council of Defenders had been established. Princes and Princesses from across the known and unknown galaxies had begun volunteering to serve as the 5th member of Galaxy Force 5. This had upended some of the social order, but there was a surplus of princes in the universe; and it turned out that one’s resume as a potential suitor to one of the super powerful princesses of the galaxy was bolstered by having selflessly served the forces of good. Of course being a top rated chef helped too, and was safer; but what fun was that? While he hoped to be a good husband to a princess someday he also hoped for an internship with Galaxy Force 5; and deep down where he wouldn’t admit, he hoped to make his father proud. When he had turned 16 he announced his intention to his parents. Their reactions had been mixed, but they supported his decision. He had started training as a warrior under hired tutors, and started going on adventures to help people beset by evils. Now as he approached his 24th birthday he had chosen one last mission before the annual Convocation chose applicants to assist the Galaxy Force Five.
Outside the crevice the star spider moved again, this time farther away. He would need to act soon. At his side the crystal pulsed insistently.
“No, I get it, I really do. Best friends forev….er.” He looked out into the darkness and then down at his hip. An idea had come to mind. “Buddy, I think I’ve got something.” He whispered instructions into the crystal at his hip and started to slowly work his way out of the crevice.
The pungent air seemed thick inside the cave and he moved cautiously into the open space of the cavern. The stink of the spider was all around him. Quietly he slid his feet apart into a stance that kept his weight on one leg. He then slowly drew the blade that had been a gift from his mother. A longsword made of unknown metals and imbued with magic. It glowed a soft purple. He wasn’t sure where she had gotten it, but it hummed to some unknown song. With his sword held at an angle to his body he reached into the satchel at his waist and grasped the crystal there hard.
“HEY, SPIDER! COME GET ME!” From a few dozen yards away something turned, bellowed and began to charge him. Every sense tingled as he reached out into the darkness with every fiber of his being. every slap of the Star Spider’s legs against the sandy floor was as loud as a gunshot. He pulled the crystal out the bag and tossed it into the air. A blinding light shone into the cave and illuminated the star spider, a few feet away. He pirouetted as Amrid reached his position and struck out with his blade. The crystal went dark as it hit the ground and only the screams of a dying being filled the cave.
“You did good, son.” His father beamed down from the throne next to his mother. She smiled beatifically.
“Indeed, you have. I take it you are ready to make your application now that this adventure is done?”
“I am, mother.”
“Wonderful! Well, this calls for a celebration of sorts. Your father has taken the liberty of asking your godmothers to visit before the Convocation. We shall hold a party when they arrive.”
“Dad… why would you do that, it’s going to cause talk. If the Galaxy Force 5 show up for dinner people will think I’m trying to cheat the process!”
“Let them talk. We are family, and they are your godmothers.”
“I know, it’s just… people already think I’m a lock because of you.”
“You were the only prince to ever be an official Space Princess…”
“Maybe so, Brad, but even if you are my son you will be given no special preference. You have to know this.” His mother cleared her throat.
“Brad, let us worry about the politics. Go get some rest and make sure you see the court physician in the morning.”
Brad hurried off to his room in the palace. He placed his magic sword on a rack and then gently deposited the crystal on a pedestal. In the dim light of the room the softly glowing stone was easily observed and deep inside the crystal was a turkey leg that looked as if it were fresh to the feast. Once upon a time this preserved meat had been a wand of great power and sentient companion to his father. His father had so loved this being that he had named Brad after him.
Brad got ready for bed. As he drifted off to sleep he wondered if he should finally tell his father that the crystal spoke to him. It often counseled him to be a friend to all, but also to himself. It was as much a friend to him as any of the other beings he called by that name; maybe more so. He resolved to tell his father once the convocation was over. He dreamed of heroic acts alongside his godmothers; fighting ancient magics and monsters. In the corner the crystal pulsed in a soothing rhythm created by the turkey leg within.
Across the metaverses in a diner at the center of everything a turkey leg named Brad woke up and called out to a cook making breakfast.
“Hey, dude! I just had the most wonderful dream!”