The Chosen One

The Chosen One

This was another one of those scenes that popped into my head and demanded to be written in short order. This time it was inspired by a song, specifically Lightning Crashes by Live. If you’re familiar with the song, you’ll probably be able to pick out the elements it inspired. (And yes, I did listen to the song on repeat while I wrote this.)
. . .

“It’s time.”

The archmage pursed her lips as she lifted her gaze from the aged tome splayed across her desk. She didn’t recall hearing a knock, and she certainly hadn’t given the messenger permission to enter. Light streamed through the tall windows lining either side of the room, illuminating the fear etched into the young woman’s face. And it was this which stilled the archmage’s tongue as she set a thin strip of cloth between the book’s pages to mark her place.

“Are you certain?” she demanded curtly as she rose.

The messenger nodded. “Her water broke less than an hour ago, m’lady.”

The archmage grunted as she crossed the room, robes brushing the floor in the wake of her hurried steps. “She’s early.”

“Only a few days,” the messenger replied, bowing her head as she fell into step half a pace behind the archmage. “The Healer says it may have been a miscalculation.”

Another grunt. “Inconvenient.” She would have to check who had made the initial calculations. If they missed their mark, they would have to wait another nine months to try again. At the very least. And their time was running out.

She dismissed the servant with a flick of her wrist and the woman scampered gratefully down a dark hallway, relieved to be forgotten.

The archmage held her temper as she strode through the brightly lit hallways. Fear would make fingers fumble, and they had no time for that now. Not if the mother was already in labor. The master mages were waiting for her in a loose circle outside the delivery room. Even without mage senses she could taste their anxiety in the air.

As one, they noted her approach and straightened their backs, lifting chins and shoulders so that none would be caught in the middle of a slouch.

“Are we prepared?” the archmage demanded of the mage closest to the door, her keen eyes cutting through the woman’s uncertainty, a warning that she dare not lie.

“I believe we are, Mistress. The last few arrangements were hastily thrown together, I will admit. But thanks to your insistence, the required materials had already been gathered. And this child is the best candidate. Surely it’s worth the risk?”

The archmage held up one hand, her fingers curled into a fist. She gave each of the mages waiting outside the door a shrewd look. “You will not speak that way in front of the mother. She would not agree with our sentiment.”

One by one, the masters nodded, some folding their lips into grim lines.

Three heartbeats the archmage allowed her stern rebuke to linger, then she turned the doorknob. “Let us make haste.”

The Healers glanced up as they entered, three of them in all. One stood perched between the mother’s legs, measuring her dilation. The others stood on either side of the panting woman. The mother clutched one of their hands and the Healer leaned over her, murmuring soothing encouragement, trying to ignore the encroaching mages as they filed inside.

There were seven master mages in all, and the archmage made eight. The birthing room was crowded with so many people inside, but each had been deemed necessary. While the masters made their final preparations, smudging the room with herbs and drawing the magic circles that would aid their ritual, the archmage locked eyes with the mother.

Aeriannan Lorcasf had eyes of the palest blue. Most days they reminded the archmage of clear summer days like the one outside. Today they summoned the image of ice lurking just below the surface of the ocean. She tried to ignore the brief pang of trepidation that icy gaze summoned to her gut, but she was forced to wait for it to pass instead.

“Has the father agreed?” she asked when the moment had passed.

Aeriannan shook her head. “He wants no part in it.”

The archmage arched an eyebrow. Though she had tasked her protégé with convincing him before the birth, she was hardly going to turn aside now that the effort and materials had already been spent. And she noticed the mother hadn’t turned them aside when they entered.

“Yet you wish to proceed?”

Aeriannan momentarily lidded her pale blue eyes and the archmage couldn’t help feeling a surge of both fondness and pleasure. She had known that Aeriannan wouldn’t fail her.

“I understand the necessity,” the mother said when she opened her eyes again. “I, too, have felt the coming change. It is close.”

“It will be huge,” the archmage agreed. “And we will be powerless if we do not take action now.”

Aeriannan set a pale hand against her round belly, gently stroking its great curve. “I don’t believe just any child will do. It has to be mine. I have foreseen it.”

“As have I,” the archmage agreed. “There simply isn’t time to await the appropriate coming.” If they couldn’t find a proper chosen one, they would simply have to make one instead.

“It’s time,” the lead Healer said, positioning herself to catch the baby. “We need you to push, Aeri.”

A small gasp escaped Aeriannan’s lips, but she nodded.

The archmage stepped aside, joining the other mages as they filed into place. Already power flowed through the walls and floor, gathering along the lines they had drawn to channel it, producing a soft glow even in the bright light flooding through the windows.

They began their chants, speaking the ancient words of power with singular dedication, focusing on the forces they summoned so that not a single syllable would be misspoken. Some of the mages folded their hands in front of them while others made gestures. Some closed their eyes and others dared not, but always their gazes flickered back to the bed around which the Healers huddled.

From their circle, the mages watched as their sister struggled to give birth. The archmage had seen many children born over the years, though she had never borne one herself. She knew enough about the process to know something had gone wrong. The baby wasn’t coming as it should. The labor was harder than it should have been, forcing the mother to work much harder than usual and exhausting her in the process.

It was only when the baby began to crown that she realized why. Even as a strangled cry escaped the mother’s lips, power flowed from her womb, sharper and greater than what the mages had summoned for themselves.

And deep in the earth something pulsed and rippled, as if in response to this building force. Though whether it gathered to welcome the new power or repulse it, the archmage couldn’t say for sure. Luckily, their shields were strong. No harm would come to the child, though she couldn’t say the same for the mother.

Aeriannan released another strained cry. It almost seemed to carry a message as it reverberated in the archmage’s ears. Perhaps blood from the womb had dripped onto one of their circles. Or perhaps the voice had come from the space deep within the earth where power still massed in response to their ritual.

Wherever it came from, certainty blazed in the archmage’s mind, along with the briefest flash of a face and glowing blue eyes.

He has it!” she hissed, her tone triumphant. “The power is already within him!”

Stop! Aeriannan screamed, her voice ragged and high-pitched. The plea became a cry as another contraction seized her and she pushed with all her might.

“The ritual cannot be abandoned once begun,” the archmage chided. “You know this better than any.”

Tears streamed from Aeriannan’s eyes, carving streaks down her sweat-stained cheeks. From her position, she couldn’t yet see the child, though she must be able to feel the final moment of his birth approaching. She seemed desperate to make certain he was safe. And with all the power in the room now flowing directly toward the results of her efforts, perhaps it was understandable.

From her vantage, the archmage saw perfection. Not only was the child healthy, he pulsed with power beyond any the archmage had ever imagined. The world might tremble when the building magical tide turned, but the babe about to be born would protect her enclave. They alone would flourish while the rest of the world rotted.

“What will happen to him?” Aeriannan’s small voice interrupted her reflective moment of triumph. “What will the spell do if the power already belongs to his blood?”

“Allow him to awaken,” the archmage replied, and not without a hint of awe in her voice. “When the time is right, the spell we’ve laid over him will guide him. He need not be trained. The power will simply spring into his hands.”

Ariannan gurgled as she pushed one last time, then slumped against the pillows which supported her. The mages’ chanting rose to a fever pitch and the archmage lifted both her chin and her arms as she added the finishing touch to the spell, binding it all upon the tiny form just as it slid free of his mother.

A moment of silence. Then the baby shrieked, the first cry of his life filling the crowded space.

The healer lifted the child and placed him against his mother’s pale skin. He had many of his father’s features; his dark skin, his midnight hair. But the archmage was pleased to note that he had the same ice-blue eyes as his mother.

He was going to be a strong child. A powerful child. Her last mark upon a dying world.

“Forgive me,” Aeriannan breathed as she reached up to caress her newborn child. “By all the gods, forgive me for what I have done.”

. . .
I know I literally just got back from a vacation, but I’ll be popping over the East Coast to visit family for the next two weeks. Since I’m trying to get better about taking time away from work, that means the blog will next update on July 23rd – so I’ll see you then!

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