The sound of water splashing nearby rouses Dion from his slumber. Coming into wakefulness, he opens his eyes only to be greeted by a second set of bright white eyes staring back at him. Shocked, he leaps back from his seated position, only to collide with the stalagmite behind him.
“Ouch!” Dion exclaims, his back connecting with the stone edifice.
The Oracle, sitting before him, having risen from her pool and perching on the edge, smiles back at the god, finding humor in his physical reaction.
“I apologize for startling you.” She combs her long, deep-blue and algae-green hair with her fingers. “I can assume that you are to thank for creating this little oasis of clean water for me?”
Dion, now at full attention, takes one deep breath to reestablish his demeanor in front of the youthfully beautiful Oracle. In his near baritone, he responds, “I am glad to see that my small efforts have aided in your recovery, my dear Oracle.”
The Oracle raises a wet hand in offering. “Please, Gwydion of the house of Math, God of Magic, Master of Enchantment, for the service you have provided to me, call me Nevieve.”
Dion, surprised at the depth of the Oracle’s knowledge of him rises and bows to the goddess, taking her hand in his and kissing it. “I am honored that you have such familiarity of me.”
Nevieve smiles at this. “Oh, I have been aware of you for some time, Gwydion,” she says, her eyes capturing Dion’s in her mesmerizing gaze. “I have also been aware of your beautiful companion Alma, of the Death Clan, and of your Guardia commander, Tuma-Sukai.”
She goes silent, the hypnotic glow of her white eyes fading for a moment. Then, suddenly, Nevieve breaks into laughter, filling the chamber with her fresh, delightful voice. “My sister shows her unique sense of humor in bringing you here, though.” She takes a deep breath and resumes her calm countenance. “I am grateful to her for it.”
Reentering the pool, the Oracle swims near the point of Dion’s first filter. “I fear your magic is being tasked here, Gwydion. Your enchantment appears to be failing.”
Dion, alarmed, retraces his steps around the pool to his first filter. Reviewing the workings, he refocuses his initial spell, repairing the degradation.
“Yes, sadly the volume of water plus the taint are having a detrimental effect on my work. They will require vigilance to keep them functioning.” As Dion moves to the second filter, he probes the Oracle for clarity. “You said your sister had a hand in bringing me here. I am unfamiliar with familial relationships in your line.”
Nevieve smiles back at Dion. “I meant it only in general, Gwydion. Fate moves in her own circles. Powerful elements are at work attempting to rewrite what has been written and my sister balances by checking it with other powerful elements.”
“I appreciate the confidence, dear Oracle, but I hardly consider myself to be powerful.”
Nevieve only returns a smile to the Guardia Dei, the true meaning of her words lost in that one smile.
Completing his work, Dion retakes a seat by the stalagmite and engages the Oracle in a well-practiced manner. “Nevieve is such a beautiful name, dear Oracle. It is a shame that you have no suitor to whisper it in your ear, or remark on your flawless beauty.”
Finding humor in the attempt, Nevieve swims closer to Dion, taking position on the edge of the pool near him. “Do you believe my life is missing something, God of Magic?”
“Not at all, my lady. I merely point out that many may find your companionship to be of great value.”
Nevieve pauses, and then starts with measured yet almost melodic words. “Oh, dear, charming Gwydion, to this point in your life, you’ve measured the value of your days as companionship, no matter how fleeting, as if time spent alone would lack quality. There is more to existence than even that. You will come to understand in time.”
Dion chuckles softly. “Yes, I am sure that there is.”
“Well, my sister is having a hand in that too.”
The line, softly spoken, sends a chill down Dion’s spine.
Seemingly oblivious to the effect her words have on him, Nevieve continues. “But for now, my Guardia Dei, there are more pressing issues to attend to.”
“The theft of the Pearl.”
“I’m afraid that is but the first, Gwydion. The theft is to keep me imprisoned. The taint is an attempt to force me to unwrite the written. Both must be undone.”
“The Pearl will be returned to you, Oracle,” Dion states flatly. “We will fulfill our duty.”
Nevieve turns and looks Dion directly in the eyes as she states, “How pleasant that you are capable of such a concept as ‘we’. Yet the Pearl is but one issue, Gwydion. Fate has brought you to me for more than just that. This attempt to thwart destiny will fail, and you, God of Magic, will soon find yourself undertaking a purpose far greater than to right the wrong that was done to me. I have seen it happen, and it will come to pass.”
Before Dion can inquire further, he hears steps approaching. As both turn to look at the source of the sound, Alma enters the chamber carrying a box of pastries from Kyri’s Copper Pot.