Lucius Voltaire walked through the ancient cave known as The Seeing Mountain. Although the mountain didn’t actually have eyes, its current and only residents had the power to oversee everything. Surprisingly, the cave was warm as he traced his gloved-fingers over the rocky walls, admiring how detailed the drawings scattered across it. The black paintings were of events that happened in his world; Ignolia, and what it has achieved through its history of magic.
They were mostly about how the mighty kings and queens fought the dangers that threatened their kingdoms, or what great accomplishment wizards have done over the courses of centuries, and the magnificent creatures that were discovered by them.
He bit back a snort when his eyes caught a drawing of himself, resisting the urge to smear whatever dirt surrounded him over the tiny black figure that stood before a dragon-shaped one. He remembered that day very well. The day he slayed a golden-winged dragon with a chain made of pure energy, but he couldn’t find any reason to be praised for that. Or maybe he didn’t really care for any of his past adventures?
He ignored it, as well as the other artworks that his summoners have done, and continued on his way. As he moved closer, the cave seemed to illuminate further even though there was no visible source of light, and the air was becoming warmer despite the fact that The Seeing Mountain was nestled between chains of icy hills.
Spires of rocks hung from the ceiling and stood erect upon the floor, their sharp peaks capable of piercing through any form of flesh. Oddly, he didn’t hear any sound that indicated any living thing took place in here. Though, he had heard that the cave is barren from any creatures except its three inhabitants.
Lucius realized that his steps were descending, his legs leading him towards a large opening but his mind was somewhere else entirely, so he allowed himself to walk blindly.
Not a half-hour ago, Lucius stood at the window of his small kitchen with a half-empty bottle of wine in one hand and a neatly-written letter in the other. He had thought it was a joke from the teenagers in his town, but clearly the elegant hand-writing (the words were written in pure silver) and the sweet-smelling parchment paper didn’t belong to a scrawny 15 year old.
None other than the Watchers of Fate had sent a request for Lucius Voltaire, asking him to meet them as soon as possible. But the question that puzzled him, was why in Ignolia would they ask such a thing? The Fate Watchers have never called for someone in all their existence. If they had summoned him to tell him about the future, then that’s impossible. For it’s forbidden by the Gods to do so.
Their mission was only to send out warnings and quests for a carefully selected group of individuals. No regular wizard has been to the mountain for centuries, and all the wizards who had come here hoping for the sisters to tell them about their future had failed miserably. Some died before they reached the mountain, and some came back to their homes disappointed.
The journey itself takes about six months, but with Lucius being able to teleport, his journey to the mountain wasn’t as hard as the others before him. Still, it was very unusual for them to summon him to their home; a wizard that has been inactive for years.
Lucius halted in his steps, sucking in a tired breath as a clearing was presented before him. He just hoped that whatever they summoned him for wasn’t too serious. Yeah, right! The Fate Watchers only summoned me to admire my new hat!
The first thing he saw was what looked like a large, hallow throne room made entirely out of hard stone. In the center, was a single stone altar with white, closed-eyed faces carved at the bottom. He suspected that this was where the sisters feast their eyes upon the fate of others. Just behind it was an archway engraved within the walls, and Lucius’s eyes drifted to what lay just after it.
Three identical thrones stood beside each-other, and sitting on them were three identical women. They all looked calmly at their guest, and Lucius felt that his very soul was being pierced by their silver gazes. He had to avert his eyes to the tall, marble pedestals placed at each side of the thrones.
The one on the right had a bright, white orb of what seemed like energy floating above it. The orb was the only source of light, and Lucius noticed that when he stepped closer it would jerk like it was about to explode any second.
He turned his attention back to the women. He had to give it to himself, they were one of the most beautiful, ethereal beings he had ever laid eyes on. The books he read about them didn’t give them justice, nor did the description of the men and women whom claimed have seen the sacred witches. Hearing about them was one thing, but seeing them in person was another.
They had silky, white hair that reached their knees. It seemed like it was glowing and he was pretty sure that if he moved any closer he would have to squint his eyes to look directly at them. Their skins were the colour of dark honey and their lips an even darker shade. They were dressed in silver robes that hugged their slender frames and reached their ankles. The sleeves dangled from their wrists and reached to their mid-thigh.
The one in the middle rose slowly from her throne. Lucius assumed she was probably Severina, though he wasn’t sure for they all looked alike. Out of unpolished gentlemanly, he took off his precious black, pointy hat and pressed it to his chest. The woman smiled faintly at the gesture. “Lucius, we are glad that you have agreed to meet us. My sisters and I have something urgent to share with you.”
“It’s been a long time since we saw anything about you,” the one he thought to be Liegia spoke, tilting her head with amusement. “Seems like you’re not as you were before.”
Lucius let out a grimace smile. “I have been busy.”
Though the truth was something else all-together, and he knew they were acknowledged of it. It brought a small sense of shame to know that witches like them were aware of his drunk and isolated state. Back in Vera, Lucius Voltaire was a former wizard who abandoned magic for a reason unknown to others. But the people in that small town didn’t care for his reasoning, just the thought of throwing away the use of magic was a valid excuse to treat him as an outcast.
“I remember how fun it was to watch your countless adventures, Lucius. It’s a shame that you had to give up using magic,” Varinia, the last one left, remarked from her seat.
“I had a reason, as you all know,” he replied, his face impassive.
“Do you ever think of taking it back? After all, it wasn’t your faul—”
“I’m a man of my decision, M’lady. I believe it was for the best to take such action.” He wasn’t sure why the conversation steered towards his personal life, but he didn’t like it and hoped this wasn’t the reason they requested his presence.
The three of them exchanged looks before Severina fixed him with a determined stare. “Well, I do hope that you might reconsider, for this particular task might require magic for it to be delivered safely.”
“We have a mission for you, Lucius. One of extreme importance for our world,” Liegia announced.
“A mission? But I’ve long left the life of an adventurer. I don’t do tasks or missions of any sort!” He was trying hard not to sound irritated, but this was the very thing he didn’t want to happen. Surely the witches would know not to burden him with such things when he has made it pretty clear he doesn’t wish to do it any longer.
“I’m sorry, Lucius, but I’m afraid this order doesn’t come from us. It comes from the Gods, and you know that the will of the Gods is not to be questioned,” stated Severina. At the mention of the Gods Lucius stilled. Nothing good ever comes from the Gods, many wars were the witnesses of that. Especially his last one.
“Besides,” added Varinia, “this task in particular only requires magic if it’s absolutely necessary. If you take care of it well, perhaps you won’t even have to use any drop of magic.”
“I’m confused. What is this task exactly?” He was being curious now. What was this task that the Gods found it was appropriate for him to manage it? And what did they mean by ‘taking care of it’?
The sisters looked at each other again, a hidden smile playing at the corner of their lips. Before Lucius could say anything else, the three raised their palms and faced them towards the white orb. There was a tinge of magic in the air, but the force of it was so intense the hairs on Lucius’s arms rose.
Suddenly the sphere jerked widely and jolted, as a small portion of it split and floated away from the bigger half. It hurled pass Lucius’s face, making the messy locks that reached his chin fly backwards and for his long, brown coat to hang momentarily in thin air.
His eyes followed the burst of energy until it settled in the middle of the stone altar. Soon, the bright orb melted away, shaping into something even smaller. His eyes widened as a sound he didn’t think he would hear in this place echoed through the entire cave; it was the sound of a baby’s cries.
There, lying on the hard surface was an infant, barely a day or two old. It was wrapped with a beige blanket that covered its naked body. Its cries and squeaks were the only things to be heard except for Lucius’s drumming heart-beat. He couldn’t remember the last time he heard a baby’s cries. He didn’t go to town much, and the only time he went was to get booze, and clearly there weren’t much babies there.
But whatever he was feeling; it was unsettling.
Severina went down the stone steps towards the alter, her long robe trailing after her as she gave an opened-mouth Lucius a reassuring smile. He watched her pick up the baby and hold it to her chest, rocking it gently back and forth. The image of a woman holding a baby in her arms brought unwanted memories for Lucius, so he looked anywhere else.
“Lucius, my sisters and I have received a Slifer from the Gods of creation.” At that he snapped his head towards Varinia, who took note of every small reaction he made. A Slifer? Those kinds of wizards were basically fairy-tales. Some say that a couple of them were sighted centuries ago. But nevertheless, they existed mostly in children’s stories.
Slifers were wizards whom could control one of the four elements of nature. They were considered legends because elemental-based magic was something only Gods can do.
“I still do not know why you summoned me?” he asked the witches. Sure it was extraordinary to witness an existence of a Slifer, but what good would a Slifer do him at this point? He had heard stories of a couple of them roaming around centuries before, but they had nothing to do with him nor held any relevance.
Severina frowned, moving closer and lifted the baby to him. “Hold her.”
At first he was hesitant, he really didn’t like the idea of holding another baby for it brought nothing but painful thoughts. But it seemed like the witch wasn’t asking, she was demanding him to do as told and he knew better not to be stubborn with beings like her.
He took the now-quite baby and rested its head close to his chest, taking a glance down and couldn’t help but be surprised at its appearance. He had lived in this world for 900 years, and he has seen so many peculiar creatures, but something about this baby took his breath away. He had never seen something quite like that.
He had heard that Slifers differed in appearances from other wizards, but he didn’t quite put an image to those differences. But now, he had a pretty solid idea.
The baby was gazing at him with big innocent eyes that sent some kind of a familiar warm sensation to his heart. He shrugged it off, not wanting to dwell on what it meant, and kept looking down at the child. Her skin was a light olive colour and her lips were small and pink. However, her eyes were the stronger asset to her features.
They were the colour of flames; a mixture of gold, red, and orange. They were large and framed with dark lashes, giving her eyes a boost of colours. The fiery shades swirled and danced, almost like real flames, and he could tell there was a glow to them.
Her hair was soft though there was little to look at. It was the color of the night; pitch black. But what was inquiring about it was the color of her hair at the end. Her hair was short so it wasn’t clearly shown for she was still an infant. But, at the end of her hair was the exact same color as her eyes.
Lucius knew he was currently holding a fire elemental Slifer in his arms. Just knowing what this small little thing could do in the future was beyond imagination. Slifers didn’t just control their elements, they were their elements...
Yet, he still did not understand any of this. “We want you to take care of her, raise her and train her,” said Liegia, making his eyes snap from the child to her.
“What?” Lucius gaped.
“Lucius, this girl is important. She’s a Slifer, and she’s not the only one. We had received them from the Gods. But as you know, we cannot tell you why.”
“But we can tell you this,” Varinia moved with Liegia by her side to stand next to their sister. The triplets lined together, moving closer towards Lucius to the point that he had to blink several times due to the sudden glow emanating from the ancient beings before him. His heart seemed to drum with anticipation when seeing the hard look etched on the women’s faces.
“When that child turns eighteen, the very King of Imarnia shall come to claim her. She is for him and him only. Make sure that she has to be untouched for her body only belongs to the King,” said the three of them in union.
“And what if I refused?” He knew it was a far shot, but he was going to question this with all he’s got.
“You can’t. It was decided by the Gods that you would be her guardian.” There was a finality in Severina’s voice that told him he was in no way going to argue his way out of this.
“Relax,” Liegia leaned her chin over her sister’s shoulder, grinning. “It’s not like you’re the only one. We still have three more people to hand them Slifer babies.”
Lucius didn’t know what to say. But he knew that if they decided to let him raise the child there’s no turning back. Their will was the will of the Gods, and no one can disagree with them. But he was shocked at this information. Destined to be with the King of Imarnia? King Gabriel James Imarnia?
He has seen him and his father before he moved to Vera after the war that happened upon Imarnia centuries ago, which he took part in fighting alongside Prince Gabriel and his father. Sadly, his father died shortly after the war and Prince Gabriel took over the throne.
He knows that he is a fair, wise, and a just king. But what does this have to do with him?
“Why me?” he found himself asking the question that has been roaming his mind ever since they informed him about this. He was once a great wizard, but now he spends his entire days wasted away in a drunken despair.
He was pretty sure that there were wizards whom would be honored at the opportunity to raise and care for a Slifer. But him? He just found it to be another burden to carry around.
“Because, you’re strong enough to protect her,” answered Severina.
“But I’m not the only one...”
“True,” she smiled. “But you are the only one in need of this.”
He wanted to ask her what she meant, but the child had stirred and he looked at her. Her lips curved into a smile and she let out a squeal, reaching her chubby little hand to grasp one of his brown hairs. This brought a pang to his heart, and with a heavy sigh, Lucius decided to do as told. There was no way in avoiding this and the only thing he could do was raise the child to his full potential.
However, he would promise himself that no matter what, he will never get too attached to the girl. He will protect her, provide her with everything she might need. He will fulfill his task of raising her. Then when it’s time, he’ll hand her over to the King.
To him, she was just a task he was stuck with for eighteen years. Nothing more, nothing less. It was simple, raise the kid and then deliver her at the steps of Imarina’s castle. Though he wasn’t sure how would he explain this to the King? But that’s all in good time. For now, he needed to think of a name for the girl.
One name appeared screaming in his mind, and he couldn’t think of another for the life of him. The name demanded to be used and he was left wondering whether this was a sick joke from the Gods. He had to admit that it did suit her, and he found himself nodding slowly as it registered in his head.
Little did he know that ‘Lydia’ would be so much more to him than a name.