Once upon a time there were seven sisters. Their names were Ivy, Clementine, Lisa, Selena, Gretchen, Prisilla, and Rachel.

It was another sweltering day in the fields, with no clouds to swallow the piercing rays of the sun. The azure sky had never been brighter all summer. Furiously scrubbing at dishes, Sindra instinctively shot sharp glances out the kitchen window every few minutes. After sixteen years of chasing them around, she still couldn't allow them to be completely on their own. One only had to wonder why.

"I'd have to say, mine is definitely the best," said Prisilla, admiring the large carrot she just heaved from the ground as if it were made of gold. Ivy shot it a hungry look, obviously jealous.

Gretchen's eyes lit up greedily. "I have the most!" she defended, referring to her horde of vegetables tucked next to her sleek thighs. None of the girls resembled another in the least; one wouldn't guess that they were siblings if it weren't for the fact they never left one another's sides. They bore a variety of visages, all the way from Clementine's many chins to Lisa's high cheek bones and flawless figure. She could pass as royalty with ease.

Glancing over to Gretchen at her sister's pronouncement, Rachel's face formed a snarl that seemed to send tendrils of rage spiraling in all directions. "Those are mine! Give them back, you filthy thief!" she screeched ruthlessly.

"How could I take yours from way over here?!" Gretchen snapped, snuggling closer to her stash. The carrots were Rachel's, but she hadn't taken them. She had snatched them from Clementine, who had grabbed them for something to munch on. She could barely pull one without taking one little nibble to see how it tasted.

Rachel now brandished a stray spade, ready to pounce. Clementine sniffed experimentally at a handful of dirt in reminiscence of the carrots. Selena lay propped up against a shovel, observing the scenario with a smirk; a single plant was not to be seen pulled around her.

The clatter of hooves on the cobblestone path sent every head in the field swiveling. A steed as white as a cloud trotted gallantly nearer and nearer. Its nose was raised pompously in the air, despite its unruly mane and equally unkempt tail. But the equine boldness paled in comparison to its owner, the true topic of interest among the girls.

He had coarse black locks that obscured one eye, but sported a deep blue cloak to match the one that was visible. In one fist was poised the reins (which really was just for show—the horse was perfectly capable of steering itself) and in the other a sweeping black staff crowned with diamonds. An assortment of pouches and trinkets were swinging gaily from his belt. He couldn't have been over twenty-five.

"Good day, humble citizens. I am Medaerus the Wise," the man said unsmilingly. Immediately Lisa was on her feet, flicking her hair back attractively and giving the newcomer a luring look. When applied correctly, those green eyes could make men do things out of their wildest imagination.

"Good day." A shift of the shoulders set her dress neckline slightly lower.

A laughed bubbled from Selena. "Get over yourself, Lis." Lisa speared her through with a killer glare, a smile compared to what Rachel was capable of.

Prisilla ignored the others, beaming in self confidence as she hoisted her carrot into the air. "You'll agree that mine is far better than the rest, won't you?"

"Ah—er--of course it is. Now, I am very weary of travel. Are none of you going to offer me refuge?" he asked as if it were an obvious courtesy.

Before anyone could say a word, Gretchen elbowed past Ivy, who was gazing enviously at the man's staff. She stepped up before him and stuck a hand on her hip skeptically. "What's in it for m--" she glanced around. "Us. What's in it for us?"

"Where are you from that makes you so weary?" Rachel drilled.

The man, looking even more full of himself than he had when he arrived, replied, "I just completed full training with the warlock Icharius. I'm sure you've heard of him?"

Of course they had heard of the mysterious Icharius, the most fearfully respected man for miles around. It was said that there were many of his kind up north, in the center of the kingdom, and that Icharius had come down into the country for retirement.

"Icharius with an apprentice?" said Ivy, as if she suddenly wished she wanted dearly the position and hated the visitor for taking it.

His nose rose a little higher. "Yes, he typically wouldn't approve of such a preposterous idea, but when he saw my talent..."

Lisa seemed more and more...interested with every word that left his mouth. She moved ever closer until she was within touching distance of his horse. "As for the price..." she began.

"Give us something magic!" both Ivy and Gretchen said with alacrity. Lisa gave them an irritated look as if she had been snubbed.

Medaerus stroked his chin. "I suppose I could...hmm...well, yes..." Gretchen's eyes glittered in want. "For one week's stay, food and lodging, I will grant you a power. I will grant one of you a power. The one who shows the greatest kindness to me—and my steed—shall receive the gift. Now, if you'll please escort my horse to your stables and show me to my private quarters..."

There was silence for a moment, all sisters frozen attentively. Then, all at once, cries broke out as they scurried to assist the mage, fighting for recognition. Medaerus aloofly inspected a nail as if it were customary that maidens be scrambling for his favor in such a manner. The girls did not own stables, nor did they have grandeur lodgings for him. But none of this registered in their minds in their fervor to please their visitor.

Still leaning casually on her shovel, Selena smiled pleasantly to herself. No squabbling would be necessary for her to get that power. She flipped her thick curls of unwashed white hair out of her eyes with a certain laziness that caught the attention of Medaerus. His blue eyes gazed curiously in her direction. Yes, she would win him over in the end.