Moon Magic Eclipse


 
The visible moon moved slowly in front of its invisible sister, blocking the dark moon's magic. Taq felt its power draining from him, as if the light were dimming. The brilliant white of the fortress below was mere illusion, compared to the shadow cast over all magic by the eclipse.

 Little Zidge, standing beside Taq, wrapped his cloak tighter and shivered. "Is this what it was always like, before the lamps?"

The lamps, his lamps. Taq himself had invented the magic lamps that allowed a mage to work, even when the second moon was hidden. And now the enemy used those lamps for conquest. "Yes, it was.  We knew when it would happen, but it was a secret we guarded. No one knew that we became powerless for half a night every time the moons crossed. But it felt like this each time."

Taq watched Little Zidge for any signs of sickness. He could remember feeling dizzy and nauseated when he was an apprentice learning to use the dark moon's power. Strange to imagine that Little Zidge was young enough to have never known life before Taq's lamps. To go through training without once feeling that loss of power. It was a helplessness that had kept them humble.

"Those are the sentries?" Little Zidge leaned over the ledge. Light flashed off the strange bodies of the sentry beasts. "The ones that savaged my neighborhood?"

"They are." Taq tried to pick an individual out from the mass of movement, but the bailey was a roiling mass of legs and fur and horns. "We used to summon them, even before the lamps. I once used one to pull a rock from a field in payment for food. Too dangerous to hold for long, though, in case something interrupted our magic. Now..." Even a thick cloud could weaken magic, in those days. Clouds, forest canopy, steep cliff walls, all had been an obstacle. Before the lamps.

"Now they're an army. And your old friends rule it." Little Zidge moved back from the edge and picked up one of the lamps. There was no light to it, only a lightless power the mages could sense.

"We wait, a moment longer. Then we'll turn them all on at once." Taq bent down for another lamp and set it up beside the first, angling it so both lamps would be pointing at the same spot. "What was it like, when they ripped through your home?" He'd known of Little Zidge's anger at the mages, but nothing more.

Little Zidge spoke as he helped Taq with the lamps, a semi-circle of a dozen, all aimed at one location. "The day before they came, I noticed the lamp. They'd built a huge one, or maybe a bunch linked together," Little Zidge swung his arms in a circle to show how big that lamp had been. "I watched them build it, thinking it something exciting."

"There was probably another one at the other end of the block."

Little Zidge shrugged. "Maybe. I might have felt that, that there were two lamps, if I'd begun my training already. But even untrained, I could feel something in the air."

As if in answer to this statement, a gust of magic power floated up from the fortress below. Taq rushed to see what caused it, but there was no indication anything was wrong. Probably no more than a beast brushing against a lamp, sending its lightless magic briefly up to the hillside above.

"Our neighborhood was old," Little Zidge went on. "That night the beasts' claws shattered the cobbles and easily pulled down walls."

It was a story he'd heard before, though not from the apprentice. It was a story that had repeated itself far too often in the five years since the mages' uprising. But he forced himself to listen to every detail. The pain was his penance, the price he paid for his invention.

"Our house collapsed," Little Zidge was saying. "I don't think my parents ever knew what was happening. They were never a threat to the mages."

They always were, though. Not directly, perhaps, and through no fault of their own, but in every story the victims had posed some threat to the mages. Just enough to grant a glimmer of a rationale, something to ease consciences. Taq didn't explain that to Little Zidge. He nodded and heard the rest and made sure the lamps were arranged properly. No light must leak over the ledge and into the valley.

"That's it." He traced the line of lamps with his eyes and nodded. "Turn them on."

Power blazed. Even if invisible, it seemed a sort of light he could sense. All that remained was to step into that circle and give a single push, a straight-line gush of magic to extinguish every lamp below and disable them, so they couldn't be re-lit.

Before he could step forward, a hand grabbed him from outside the semi-circle.

"If it isn't our brother, Taq." The mage holding him had a kindly face, radiating an age-wrinkled gentleness. It was a face that had fooled many. "Did you think we didn't see you? Your cunning has fled you in this past year, it seems. And what had you planned for these lamps?"

Taq hung his head and tried to look defeated. The circle of mages focused on him. Despite the sneering, they still feared his power. Little Zidge, however, they didn't fear. Still young and small even for his age, he must have seemed no more than an assistant. Certainly not someone already trained.

Little Zidge leapt into the circle of magic and gave a pulse of astounding power. The sentries below howled their freedom. With a snap of his hand, Taq extinguished the semicircle of lamps and waited for the beasts to attack their recent masters. The mages beside him screamed for their powerlessness.

###



Daniel Ausema

Magic Moon Eclipse, flash fiction, Issue 20, September 1, 2012

The Bramble Wolf and the Hunter, fiction, June 1, 2008

Daniel Ausema has a background in experiential education (play!) and journalism (and sometimes play as well...) and is now a stay-at-home dad (hmmm). His fiction and poetry have appeared in dozens of publications, including New MythsDaily Science FictionPenumbra, and Kaleidotrope. He lives in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies (and their wildfires).

His Website is, http://danielausema.blogspot.com


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