Sun streamed down on the old mountain top manor somehow managing to filter into the dining room through one small window on the eastern wall. A young man stood looking out the window onto the lush green land below wondering what life was like beyond the confines of the mountain top. Sighing he returned to his bucket and rinsed out his rag in the soapy water then continued to scrub away at the layer of grime that covered the large oaken table.

For him it was just another day in the serviced of his master. There was always something to be done, some room to clean or some dish to wash. So was the cycle of his life, day after day one menial task after another, always wondering but really curious what tomorrow would bring. Though if he had counted the days right tomorrow would be his eighteenth birthday, the day he became a man. That had to make it at least a bit memorable. But today hadn't been the most normal either. It was well past noon and there was still no sight of the wizard. The boy had busied himself without one order or command. Normally he would have zapped in and demanded to be fed by now.

Suddenly the air buzzed with electricity and as if the boy's thoughts had called him forth the wizard appeared in a burst of smoke. He did not say anything at first just glared at the boy for no apparent reason. The boy continued scrubbing at the table and tried to avoid meeting the wizard's glare.

"Do you know what day it is, boy?" he finally asked.

"Thursday?" the boy answered.

"No, you dolt," he snapped. "It is the eve of your eighteenth birthday."

The boy arched an eyebrow in surprise and paused a moment to rake his sandy blonde hair out of his eyes. Counting the anniversaries of his birth seemed too sentimental a task for the wizard to bother himself with let alone remember.

"And?" he asked curiously.

"And," the wizard continued arching his skeletal fingers against the table, "the time has come for you to leave my service."

The boy stood straight up eyes going wide. The rage fell from his hand and dropped to the floor forgotten.

"What?" he asked voice coated in disbelief. "You're letting me go?"

"Not quite," the wizard answered a smirk pulling at a corner of his mouth.

The boy stepped back warily, "I don't understand."

"Several years ago I had a servant boy who betrayed my trust, stuck his nose in places where it didn't belong. This proved problematic. Since then I have never let another one of my servant boys reach manhood," he explained a twisted sort of amusement flickering in his eyes. "Tomorrow you will become a man and I'm afraid I can't let that happen."

The boy's face devolved into a mask of terror as he came to a full grasp of the situation.

"But I've always been good," he said voice shooting up out of its normal rang. "For seventeen years I've done exactly as you asked. I never disobeyed your orders once…"

"All the same,"the wizard said advancing, "I can't let you live."

The boy staggered back until he had nowhere left to go. His hands grappled for anything that he could use to escape the dire situation. Finally his hand fell upon the course rope handle of the old wooden bucket.

"No!" he screamed and swung the bucket with all his might.

Soapy water drenched the wizard as the bucket slammed into him. He was knocked off balance long enough for the boy to dash past him out into the foyer. He sprinted to the door. As he made to pull it open the lock clicked shut. Panic clouding his reason he shook the door several times before thinking to turn the deadbolt. He flung the door open and it slammed against the wall glass window shattering on impact. Without a second thought he raced toward the one path leading down the mountain into the kingdom below.

The path was narrow and wound around several blind corners leading to sheer cliffs. His hurried pace and erratic movements were dangerous enough without the trail being nothing but loose gravel and crumbling foundations. He rounded a corner and suddenly the wizard was right in front of him. With a yelp he lost his balance and fell flat onto his back staring up at his soon to be former master. Any amusement had long vanished from the old man's face and his eyes now burned with rage.

"You cannot run," he growled.

"Please," the boy pled. "I'll do anything. I'll go far away, continents if I have too. I'll never think or speak of you to anyone. Please, just don't kill me."

The wizard did not respond. Nostrils flaring he advanced on the boy. Terrified he skittered back until he could go no farther.

"No… please… NO!"

A white hot flash of light momentarily engulfed the world. When it dissipated there was only a smoking pile of ash left where the boy once was. The wizard glared down at the ashes not a single shred of remorse in his eyes. Turning slowly he walked away then disappeared into a puff of smoke. A gentle breeze drifted across the mountain scattering the ashes onto the surrounding land making it as though the boy had never even existed at all.