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Absent Moon MAG
The sun had begun to descend across the sky as I crossed the wooden bridge that led to my home. We were halfway up the hill to the cottage when Tsunami stopped, backed away several paces, and snorted nervously. He had always been a brave but excitable creature, so I soothed him to a stop and dismounted to see what had caused his distress. Millie’s words flew back to my ears and I heard again, Where is the locket? I know you have it! I saw you with it last night! I tried valiantly to rid myself of the accusation and the tale of the Moon God that Millie had burned into my head and heart.
In the middle of the road was a pile of fine-looking cloth glinting in the fading sunlight. I picked it up and it slid through my fingers like a living creature. Its quality was beyond that which I had ever seen. It was as if the very heavens had twisted together to make this fine silk. It glimmered and danced in my hands, and as I held it up to the light the pattern stitched upon it became clear.
The fabric was black, with small silver stars embroidered with impeccable skill upon nearly every inch. The creator must have had a great deal of patience, for there was not a single visible flaw. When I moved it between my fingers, the stars winked and glinted with such dazzling realism that I found myself wondering if the nighttime sky would appear tonight, because I was certain I was holding it in my hands.
Tsunami snorted and I jumped, startled. I unfolded the cloth carefully, smoothing out the wrinkles, and I heard the tinkle of something falling to the ground - a small silver pendant. I picked it up and it fell open in my palm; it was a locket with hidden hinges. There were no pictures inside, only engravings of the sun and the moon. Millie’s words flew back to my mind. Was this what she had seen? Was it a vision she had? I quivered at the thought and examined the small pendant in my hand with caution, as if it might have burned me had I prodded it the wrong way.
On the front of the locket, a moon had been carefully welded onto a plain silver plate. There were soothing blue crystals embedded carefully around the outline of the moon. It was so intricately designed that I knew it could not have been forged here in Rorrim, but in a land far, far away. I clasped the fine silver chain around my neck and placed the fabric carefully in my satchel, urging a now perfectly agreeable Tsunami homeward.
On reaching my modest home, I put Tsunami away in his stall. I took special care to brush him down, and lit a candle to keep us company as the last of the red light disappeared behind the faraway mountains. From the next stall, I heard Izam snort, glad to have her companion home at last. It warmed me to see her long, painted face poking impatiently from over the stall door.
I fed the animals and, with candle in hand, headed to the cottage. I was pushing the door open when I heard a panicked whinny from the barn. I looked over my shoulder in time to see something large and silver falling from the sky. My stomach did a flip; the candle in my hand went out just as the silver thing crashed through the roof of the barn. Darkness crept around me and stole my vision. There were loud thuds coming from the barn.
Blind, panicked, and almost scared to death, I raced toward the barn. I stumbled about in the dark, hands outstretched. I fumbled for where the door should be and realized with a rush of relief that, even though the darkness had stolen my sight, my other instincts had not failed me. I threw open the door and was stopped by one of the strangest - and in a way, one of the most beautiful - things I had ever seen.
A man, naked as the day he was born, gleamed silver near the hay pile. He was the only source of light, and everything around him was bathed in a beautiful silver glow. His face was twisted in pain as he clutched his side. Except for the sound of his ragged breathing, no sound escaped him.
I put a hand over my mouth, stopping a cry of alarm. In his stall, Tsunami shrieked in protest. What comfort I hurriedly offered the horse did nothing; Tsunami and Izam both wanted desperately to be released from their cages. I closed the barn door and opened Tsunami’s stall first. He flew with the grace of his name to the man’s side. Izam whinnied in impatience and stared at me, pacing in her stall and tossing her beautiful head.
“You too?” I said dumbly, still in shock from the sudden appearance of the stranger and the odd behavior of the horses. Izam tossed her head upward with another whinny, and I saw that the man had fallen through the roof and directly onto the hay pile. Izam knocked her dinner-plate-sized hooves against her stall and I reluctantly let her out. She, like Tsunami, seemed concerned for the man and rushed to his side. The man mouthed another groan, though no sound escaped his lips. I examined the hole in the roof again, concluded that he probably wasn’t here to kill me, and cautiously made my way toward him. Wherever he had come from, he was lucky to be alive - not many could crash through a strong roof and live.
As I approached, his face became clear, and I was sorely tempted to run in the opposite direction. Only his beauty made me refrain from following my instincts. Though the man’s eyes were squeezed shut and his perfect teeth gritted in obvious pain, he was the epitome of beauty and ethereal grace. His hair was silver, so bright it was almost white, and it fell in long, delicate waves down his back. His face was well-angled, and his skin was so pale that if not for the constant thrashing of his pain, I would have feared he were dead.
My heart began to race. Surely, he couldn’t be ...? But it was just as the books described! I thought of the cloth, and then of the sudden darkness. It could not have been true. Gods didn’t exist. The voices battled loudly in my head, and before me the proof of their existence was fading away. I pulled myself back to the present and away from the stories my father had told.
I picked up a saddle blanket and tossed it over the lower half of his body, though I could still see his well-muscled chest. His arms were slender and toned. One long-fingered hand clutched his side where something silvery-blue and sticky stained the perfect white skin. Startled, I looked to his face, meaning to catch his eye. Even though it was my intention, I was not ready for what I saw. His eyes were black even outside the iris, and around the pupil where the color should have been there was a thin ring of silver.
I knew those eyes would haunt me for the rest of my life, but whether he would be a welcome ghost was yet to be determined. It was this thought that shook me from my reverie and I dropped to my knees. My mother had told me once that the first step to healing is to stop the bleeding. I gently pulled away his hand, and felt the urge to vomit.
It was a sight that caught me off-guard and my breath hitched in my chest. His side was torn open; the silver-blue something that stained it must have been blood. It oozed from the gash in his side with every breath. The cut was from the pit of his arm to the base of his ribs, and riddled with splinters of wood. I gingerly began to pull out the splinters, catching his eye again to search for signs of pain. The man didn’t speak, but pointedly averted his eyes to the locket that swung from my neck.
He clutched the locket between his long fingers with his good hand, made a choking sound in the back of his throat and pleadingly beckoned with his hands for me to give it to him. Tsunami and Izam twittered and snorted, nosing my shoulder. Perplexed by his sudden need and the actions of the horses, I moved to pull away from his hand. The urgency in his eyes grew stronger the farther away I got, and I felt the pang of an unnamed emotion. It was a beautiful locket and I would be sorry to lose it, but it clearly meant something to this stranger. I unhooked the clasp and dropped it into his palm. At once, as if by magic, he began to speak.
“Milady Elizabeth, word of your beauty has reached even my ear, but I must admit that I am not fully prepared for your divine presence.” He gasped, again clutching his side. His voice was smooth and cool despite his present state. I found myself again captivated by his presence, but how had he known my name? I opened my mouth to inquire, and he held up a hand to halt my speech. I obediently closed my mouth, locking the question behind my teeth.
“Before you lend a hand to aid me in my strife, you must know that if you help me now, I am bound to help you later in three ways,” he said. His voice was pierced with pain, but smooth and cool nonetheless. I nodded, drinking in what he said without actually absorbing any of it.
I felt a familiar buzz at the back of my throat and I sat back on my knees, cutting the cloth of my skirt with the same knife from the market. I was eager to help him not because of the promise of three wishes, but because even as I worked my hands over the wound I knew that it was futile. Now that he had his locket back, his magic had returned, and he would be perfectly capable of healing himself. I wanted to help him because he was hurt, but also because it wasn’t every day that the God of the Moon dropped through the roof of my barn.