Night of the Black Moon

    Once a year there is a night when magic is at its peak potency. A night when those touched by the gods are blessed tenfold, and their abilities are heightened. But for the average folk, it is a night of intense drinking, if anything at all. Such an evening was the twelfth new moon of the year; when the moon is black, and the sky is without its guiding light.

    Edmond was not blessed. He had no abilities beyond the average man’s strength. In fact, one could say he was rather at a disadvantage. For he wasn’t a man, but an elf who grew up in a impoverished village; abandoned by his parents and adopted by farmers. Although his kind is thought to have some of the gods’ blood in their veins, he must explain to every stranger he meets how glaringly normal he really is. “It doesn’t run in the family,” is his typical line.

Though, Edmond didn’t mind. He enjoyed the normal townsfolk of Yullshire and embraced their lifestyles, especially on the Night of the Black Moon.

    In a tavern, Edmond sipped at a tankard of mead, occasionally putting it down to clap at the premature revelry ensuing. The power that came from the Black Moon occurred at the start of dusk. Currently, the sun was only setting. Though this did not stop the many denizens of Yullshire from beginning the celebration.

    “So what’s with you, elf? Are you going to spin some witchery or summon some friends to accompany you? What magic will you be weaving?” A man, in his late thirties, had taken it upon himself to question the elf’s abilities. When Edmond leaned over to respond, he caught a whiff of the man’s breath and immediately regretted the decision. He drew back. Drunkard.

    “I’m not gifted. I’m just like everyone else here ... except you, really.”

    “Hmph. Well I thought you might be. All those damned witches are out doing their rituals to prepare for this wretched evening,” he spat, mead spluttering out of his wet lips.

    “I wouldn’t know.”

    “Say, do you wanna play a drinking game?”

    Edmond contemplated running for the door, making an excuse, or joining in the on the dancing that had evolved into rings of partyers. After mumbling an unintelligible response, he stumbled into the circle of dancers and joined arms with the motley crowd. Many of which were holding mugs and tankards full of mead. Wasted or not, all the people participating in the dance had to undergo the rains of alcohol summoned by the iron clouds in their grasps.

    Nearly an hour passed until the young elf decided that ale-drenched socks was where the line should be drawn. Edmond pushed through the soaked crowd until he was outside. It seemed he’d forgotten how sweet fresh air was. The summer breeze chilled the soaked clothing that clung to him. While he rushed home to change into a clean outfit for the evening, the sun matched his pace as it nearly finished the last minutes of its decent.

A warm fire in his home greeted Edmond. The house smelled like smoldering oak. In his bedroom, several candles were burning down the last of their wicks in iron lanterns. From his dresser he withdrew an outfit: a worn cloth shirt and patched britches. Happy to be dry, the elf rushed out in the streets with a mental note to not enter into any more taverns.

    Edmond arrived in time, but just barely. As he stepped outside a black cloak swept by him, a witch laughing under an invisibility spell. Edmond was nearly knocked down, had it not been for his handle on the large key inside his lock. Above him, warlocks were transformed and flew chaotically as ravens, cawing noisily and sweeping down to steal hats or other small articles of clothing. Edmond swatted one away with laughter and put his hands in his pockets, expecting nothing less, or more, than an enjoyable evening.

    With the sun gone and the new moon above them, the town began to light up with spells and incantations. Typically, spells are not visually expressed. A spell that materializes in light or is able to be seen by normal folk is a mark of a powerful wizard. But on the Night of the Black Moon, even the lesser incantations and spells burst with tremendous energy. Consequently, Yullshire was beginning to look more like an arcane battlefield than a town.

   Not everyone was so enthralled by it. Some locked themselves in their houses, slammed the shutters, drew curtains and bolted doors shut. To Edmond, such cautions were unnecessary. Superstition and paranoia for the unknown was one thing, but to be afraid of warlocks flying around as bats--nonsense! He danced amongst the moon’s energy and embraced it as if he, too, was touched by the gods.

    Down an alleyway a cluster of arachnids came charging. The illusions were harmless, but they were terrifyingly monstrous and realistic. They clung to the walls and bounced from the houses. Countless clusters of black eyes stared Edmond down. The spiders laughed with shaking pincers and began retreating to spook any other denizens foolish enough to join them on the streets.

But 'foolish' does not describe Edmond correctly; “lost his wits” is a wiser choice of words. The elf sprinted towards the largest tarantula and jumped onto its back. The witch only reveled in his excitement and allowed him to ride along with her. Although there was no harness, Edmond was able to grasp the prickly hairs with his legs between the two pairs of legs. Like a knight on a horse, he charged through the streets.

The elf particularly enjoyed riding or running alongside the gifted ones. They knew how to have a good time without mead or anything beyond their own powers. After scaring several children back into their homes, the witch along with her company transformed back to their normal selves.

    “Sorry elf, we’re about to go flying. But I couldn’t dare be responsible for hurting     you,” she said, winded.

    “Of course, I understand.”

    The young woman bowed and the others followed suit. A cloud of smoke snapped out of the nowhere and clouded Edmond’s vision, what emerged was a small cluster of bats. Edmond shoved his hands back into his pockets, wondering what to do next. Most of the spellcasters were either entertaining the taverns or flying with the others. His heart sunk until he came across a small rock. It was in the middle of the town’s square. Not a soul was in sight, but the air was alive with wicked laughter. Edmond retrieved the stone and looked at it questioningly. A green aura pulsated around it. There was no clear purpose to it. He slapped it, spoke to it, and even threw it, but nothing happened. Nothing came out of the rock, and no one was secretly inside, merely transformed. Disappointed, Edmond sighed and put it in his chest pocket. Before he took another step, green light spilled out of the rock and onto his feet. He stepped aside and tried to dodge the fluid, but it was transparent and without physical texture. The light surrounded him then flowed from his feet like a new pathway, winding around Yullshire’s alleys and out of Edmond’s sight.

    Happily distracted from his loneliness, Edmond followed the path. It wasn’t long before the light reached the edge of Yullshire. Before he could push open the city gate, it opened it for him.

    The path led quite far. Edmond beagn fearing it was a prank. Witches who fiddled with the properties of trinkets and gems had that tendency, but he ignored this knowledge and went with the hopeful whispers in the back of his mind instead. After all, it was the     Night of the Black Moon. Anything could happen.

    Eventually as the light diverged from the paths leading out of Yullshire, Edmond had to consider whether to abandon the absurd quest or continue into the thick forest. Normally he wouldn’t have gone into the darkness without a light such as the moon, but the path was bright enough. With that consideration, he traveled onward.

Hours into the journey, Edmond noticed the light was growing brighter. It was more eager, too. Instead of going through clearings it crossed through the dense groves and shrubbery. For the dozenth time excitement boiled in him as he thought he was nearing his destination.

    “Ugh!” Edmond tripped. The green light dipped over a boulder but he hadn’t noticed. He was too enchanted by what he saw before he fell. It was a small pond. The moss and algae filling it were alight, changing through all the spectrum of visible color.

The elf pushed himself to his feet and looked at it in awe. The light stopped at the pond. His destination was secluded, hidden by trees. It enthralled him, mesmerized him, made him forgot about the loneliness of his life.

    “Hello,” came a soft, female voice.

    Edmond turned to see a shadow sitting on a rock. Her legs were dangling while the wind combed through her hair. “Hello,” the elf repeated, his heart already pounding.

“I’ve been waiting for a long time. I thought someone would have come sooner, but this is alright I suppose.” The girl jumped from her perch and walked slowly towards Edmond, who shifted uneasily.

    “It was a long walk,” laughed the elf. He pretended to act calm, but inside the blood was racing through him.

    The girl only got closer, then examined him with her hands; running her fingers through his hair and feeling about his arms until she met his hands and held them. Edmond was several inches taller, but in that moment he felt much shorter. She was so powerful, leaking energy like the stone leaked the light. He could feel it when she touched him.

“Here’s your stone,” said Edmond as he retrieved it from his pocket. The girl took it and tossed it into the pond. Edmond hardly noticed. Her eyes were a stark grey contrast to his emeralds. Both of the hues were illuminated; the girl’s from the moon, and Edmond’s from the girl.

    “What is your name?” whispered Edmond, who felt like the world had collapsed and it was just them in the darkness.

    “Deidre,” whispered the girl, who had somehow inched closer to him. “What is yours?”

    “I’m Edmond.”

    “I like that name.” She caressed his hand with her thumb.

    He did too. At least when she said it.

    “What are you? A warlock, enchanter . . . apothecary?” she asked.

    Edmond wanted to run. All his life he was never ashamed to admit he was normal. But now he was. If there was ever a time that he wanted to be special, it was this one. The moment’s beauty was fractured. Edmond’s grip on her hand loosened. “I’m . . . I’m  –”

“It’s alright. You can tell me,” she reassured and tightened her grasp on his hands.

    “I’m just Edmond.”

    There was an awful silence. One in which the elf wasn’t sure whether he should dive into the pond to break it, or if he should retreat the way he came before he spoiled the girl’s evening further. Of course, the enchanted stone was hers so she must have been gifted. Edmond was ashamed to have picked it up in the first place. He couldn’t look into her eyes anymore.

    “So no illusions? No tricks? Are you truly this handsome or is that just a spell too?” Deidre laughed.

    Edmond looked back into her eyes in disbelief. The happiness shocked him. His heart was revived. He nearly jumped into the pond just out of the sheer energy he received when he heard her voice shatter the silence with such flattery. “No, nothing. This is me,” chuckled Edmond, straightening his back proudly.

    “Good,” said the girl. Deidre reached up further, her legs stretching and her toes pressed bare against the soft dirt. Inching still, until Edmond could taste her breath on his lips. Then they met, and her arms around his neck. The grove melted away until it was just them.

    Everything stopped. The worries and loneliness subsided. And the Night of the Black Moon continued, forever alive and prolonged in the lovers’ hearts.