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art by Shothot Designs

Maker of the Twenty-first Moon

Sean Patrick Hannifin works in a library, surrounded by books that remind him he hasn't written much. He recently graduated from George Mason University with a degree in Computer Science and is currently studying computer animation. He spends his free time composing music and writing stories. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
"We might kill the wizard tonight," Jonlen whispered.
"Or be killed," Slip whispered back.
"If he makes a moon, he'll be completely out of energy. It will be easy. He'll be just like any ordinary man."
Jonlen slowly led Slip around the trees to the edge of the forest.
"Is that the house?" Slip asked, peering through the branches.
"That's the house. He's got a wife and a kid, seven years old. Puts the kid to bed an hour after sunset, then he and his wife stay up for two-and-a-half hours or so, talking and reading. Planning things, I'm sure."
"Dear gods, how long have you been watching him?"
"Long time," Jonlen said. And he was proud of it. And tonight it would all be made worthwhile.
"Huh," Slip said, "looks like the kid gets to stay up late tonight."
Jonlen squinted. Slip was right, the man was leading his son outside.
"Ha!" Jonlen smiled. "He's definitely making a moon tonight, letting his son stay up for the show. Watch them carefully. And watch the sky. There'll be more than stars up there before this hour's done."
Jonlen watched with excitement. Long had he daydreamed of this moment. A Wizard King was born only once every thousand years. They'd create a new moon in the sky to let the world know of their coming. They'd gather countless followers, and their power was so grand, so unstoppable, that they'd rule all who saw the moon, overthrowing every king, overturning every economy, reorganizing and shifting the powers of the planet. The twenty moons already in the sky were the tombstones of the Wizard Kings of the past, each marking a life that had thrown the world into a new era.
But not this time, Jonlen thought, not this millennia.
There was one way to defeat a Wizard King, and that was to kill him right after the making of a new moon. Making a moon would temporarily drain their power, creating a short window of opportunity to stop them before it was too late.
I am here and I am watching and I will not let you change the world.
Jonlen watched the man talking enthusiastically to his son and pointing to the sky.
Go on. Make a moon.
Eventually the man put his hands up towards the sky as if trying to push it away.
Then the air trembled. A low hum came from nowhere, like a groan of stone against stone. Watching the sky, Jonlen saw the stars dip into each other, as if the sky were a dome of liquid and someone had just thrown a stone through its surface. A new moon burst into existence, as if it had been suddenly pulled in from another world.
And then the air was still.
"Oh yes," Slip whispered, "this is definitely the Wizard King. You were right."
Jonlen looked at Slip, whose eyes were wide with awe. Of course I'm right, Jonlen wanted to say, I've been telling you you'd see this night for years.
But instead he said: "Now what?"
And Slip answered as Jonlen expected: "Kill him."
Torkwil smiled. "Look at that beautiful new moon." He looked down at his son, Krillian. "What do you think?"
Krillian nodded. "It's good. And now...?"
"Everything's going to change." Torkwil patted his son's shoulder. "Not just our lives, the entire world. And the world knows it, everyone who has eyes to see that new moon. But... we'll have to wait just one more night before revealing the truth to anyone."
"Why?"
"Because this is now the most dangerous moment to be a Wizard King, right after the new moon is created. For now, it's time to rest."
"But I'm not tired at all," Krillian said.
"You're not? Well, I am, I'm exhausted! Come on."
The two made their way inside.
After putting Krillian to bed, Torkwil joined his wife, Fora, by the window side.
"What are you thinking?" Torkwil asked.
"What it's going to be like," Fora said. "The future. Our world. Our lives."
"All of them better," Torkwil smiled.
"But don't you fear such grand power? I mean, it can really change a person."
"No one's going to change," Torkwil said, taking his wife's hands in his own. "Trust me. Trust us. Together. We all stay together, nothing can touch us."
Fora was silent for a moment, then smiled. "I do trust us. And I'm proud of you, all that you've done to get us here."
"We did it together. That moon is just as much yours as it is mine."
Torkwil jumped and Fora screamed when the front door burst open and two strange men walked in.
"What is this? Who are you?" Torkwil shouted in anger. But he knew. That fear in the back of his mind, that fear he thought too unlikely to matter. Here it was. It had come true.
"We're here for the maker of the twenty-first moon," Jonlen said. "We're here for the Wizard King."
Krillian emerged from his bedroom, rubbing his eyes.
"Go back to bed, son, this doesn't concern you," Torkwil said.
Jonlen looked at the kid, and immediately pitied him. "Listen to your father, little one." But the kid didn't move. Instead he just stood there, staring at Jonlen with hateful eyes. It gave Jonlen a shiver.
"GO!" Torkwil shouted, making Jonlen jump. And the boy obeyed.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to come with us," Jonlen said, stepping closer to the man. In the back of his mind, Jonlen feared that the man might still have power in him, feared that the idea of a Wizard King being vulnerable after making a new moon was just a myth. But the risk is worth it, Jonlen told himself, for the sake of the world.
"Do you really think this wise?" Torkwil said. "If you do anything to me, you will die tonight."
"Making a new moon has drained your powers," Jonlen said, "or you would have done something already." Jonlen grabbed Torkwil's arms and began binding his hands behind his back.
Fora ran to her husband's side. "Don't let them do this to you!"
Torkwil just looked at her.
"He has no choice," Jonlen said, pushing Torkwil towards the door.
"Don't worry," Torkwil said, not resisting Jonlen's pushes. "The Wizard King will not die tonight."
Torkwil, Jonlen, and Slip left, leaving the door wide open behind them, leaving Fora falling to the floor in tears.
"What were your plans?" Jonlen asked, as he and Slip led the now blindfolded man through the forest.
"Not getting caught was pretty high on the list," Torkwil said. "But I'm afraid you're too late, you can't stop me. By this time tomorrow night, a Wizard King will rule the world."
"And so why don't you stop us now?" Jonlen asked.
"I'm not evil. I'm merciful, in fact. I'm just seeing how far you'll take this, if you'll really try to kill me. If you do, you will die."
"That doesn't seem very merciful."
"It's mercy that stops me from killing you now."
Jonlen just laughed. Now he was sure the man was bluffing. Wizard Kings didn't hold back if they didn't have to.
"I don't know," Slip said, "maybe we shouldn't tempt him?"
"What are you so worried about?" Jonlen asked.
"We just saw this man make a moon!" Slip said. "Forgive me for wanting to be cautious."
"Your friend is wise," Torkwil said. "Release me now and you will live."
The three men came to a stop in a small clearing. The only light that shone on them came from the many moons above them, peeking through the branches.
"When has there ever been a Wizard King that was merciful?" Jonlen asked.
"Do not judge me based on those that came before," Torkwil said.
"What makes you so different?"
"You're alive, aren't you?"
Jonlen laughed. "You have no power at the moment. If you did, I'm quite sure I'd be dead by now. Because that's what Wizard Kings do, they seize control the moment they can, and they don't give second chances."
"You're the one that sounds like an ancient Wizard King," Torkwil said.
"If being as ruthless as a Wizard King is what it takes to stop a Wizard King, I will not hesitate. Even if you tell the truth about your mercy, trusting you is not a risk worth taking. Not with all the atrocities committed by those wizards of the past." Jonlen kicked the back of Torkwil's knees, forcing him to kneel.
"I understand your position," Torkwil said, "but the atrocities of the past should not prevent the grand opportunities of the future. Think of all the atrocities being committed around the world now. The power of a Wizard King can and will stop them."
"No," Jonlen said, walking around the man, trying to decide from which angle to strike him. "It is not a chance I can take."
"You cannot simply stop me by killing me. You so much as pierce my skin, my power will shoot through your sword and you will explode. Your sword will shatter. And I will walk away with nothing but a nasty scratch. Trusting me is really your only choice."
As Jonlen took his sword from his sheath, Slip grabbed his arm, but Jonlen shoved him away.
"You bluff," Jonlen said. "Now hold your head high so this will be easier for both of us."
But Torkwil only sunk his head to his chest and was silent for a long moment.
Then he said:
"Please. I have a family. I have a son."
"Hold your head high. I do this for their sake."
Torkwil swallowed and held his head high. "So do I."
One swift arc of the sword and Torkwil's head fell.
Jonlen sighed and looked up at the twenty-first moon. He thought slaying the Wizard King should feel good, saving the world from such evil, but it didn't. It hurt.
But it was necessary, Jonlen told himself. I have saved countless lives tonight. I have saved the world.
Krillian climbed out of his window and moved toward the forest. He knew those men had killed his father. He knew it had been necessary. And he also knew it would change everything. All those plans his father had made, all those wonderful hopes he had had, all the things they were going to accomplish. Together.
But not anymore, Krillian told himself. He looked at the forest's edge, where he had seen the men blindfold and push his father away.
And you will pay, he thought. The world will pay. You don't just take this away from me.
Krillian looked up at the twenty-first moon, which would now always mark the day his father died. It was a good moon, brilliant and beautiful. It made him proud.
He held out a hand and made the nearby grass bend, made some dead leaves float up into the air. The power was finally coming back.
And now I am unstoppable.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

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