“Right. So those things are motes.” Cordelia studied the purple pulsing orb in front of her, trying her hardest not to get distracted by a woman petting a giant plant with a cow’s head they’d passed while exiting the mansion.
“Yup. There’s loads of them all over the realm. They’re pretty yummy,” Dandelion said happily. “Go on, pick it up.”
Cordelia did as he said. The orb was colder than she expected. The glow subsided once the orb was in the palm of her hand, as if it shrank. She was able to stuff it into her pocket.
“One down… how many more to go? I wasn’t paying attention.” The elf told her unapologetically.
“Six more. Seven altogether.”
“Oh, that should be easy then. There’s another one right behind you. And another close by, in front of that portal.” Dandelion told her, already rushing off.
“Dandelion, wait up!” Cordelia hurried after him. “I just… I’m still trying to wrap my head around this place.”
“Hm, I don’t know if heads can be wrapped around anything this size. Or anything, actually. You know, unless your head is exceptionally bendy,” the elf mused.
“I’m trying to understand it. Has the realm always existed along with the one I’m from?” She tried a different approach.
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s old, I know that much.” He stopped in front of the portal. “Let’s see… it’s been a while since I last visited. I think this portal leads to the gardens.”
The staircase ended right behind the portal. “I don’t know, Dandelion. It looks like all it leads to is a giant abyss…”
“Yeah, well… it doesn’t.” The elf shrugged and disappeared through the portal. Cordelia let out a sigh, picked up the stray mote and followed his suit.
Dandelion was right, yet again. The stairs never even stopped, they just continued on the other side, opening up a beautiful otherworldly garden before them.
“So… the sages… is it just the three we’ve met?” Cordelia continued her questioning.
The elf nodded. “Lulu says there always have to be three sages of the three schools of magic living in the realm, or it will be torn apart or something. Which would be a shame, I guess.” His eyes scouted the area. “A mote!”
She it up, and Dandelion pointed towards an old greenhouse at the back of the gardens, where another orb was glowing in the distance. He made his way to it.
“How did you end up knowing the sage of mischief, then?” Cordelia followed him.
“Oh, Lulu and I grew up together, she basically lived right on the next tree branch when we were just sprouts,” Dandelion explained nonchalantly, handing her the next mote. “She wasn’t a sage back then though.”
“She looks quite young to be a master mage,” Cordelia noted, tucking the mote away with the others.
“Well, she’s always been pretty good with magic, I guess. Plus, she’s gonna be young for a long time. We elves age differently from humans.” Dandelion shrugged. “Ooh, I saw something move inside the well. Another mote?” He reached into the hollow of the pump, no sign of hesitation.
“Nope, just a frog.” He handed it to Cordelia regardless.
She jumped back, grossed out. “Aah! Get that away from me!”
“You don’t want him? Frogs make excellent pets! But alright, I’ll keep him for now.” He waved the palm of his hand over the frog, and it disappeared into thin air. “Don’t worry, I’m just storing him for safekeeping till we get back to Sylvan Glade.” He added when he saw her puzzled expression.
“So, what about the other sages?” Cordelia changed the subject. There was so much she wanted to know about this realm…
“Well, Simeon has been a sage for a really long time. He’s the sage of practical magic,” Dandelion explained as they continued searching the gardens. “And Morgyn… is more new.”
“What does that mean?” Cordelia asked. She spotted another one of those motes and headed towards it.
“I think Morgyn became a sage not long after Lulu did. When I met them, they were a student of the untamed magic school, though apparently the previous sage of the untamed said Morgyn was the best pupil she’d ever taught…”
“What happened to the previous sage?” Cordelia wondered out loud, picking up the orb distractedly.
“No one knows,” Dandelion shrugged. “Oh look, there’s another!” He dashed ahead.
“Wait? What do you mean, no one knows?” She ran after him.
He handed her the mote beaming. “That’s the last one! You needed seven, right?”
“You’re right,” Cordelia realised. She wrapped the elf in a hug in the spur of the moment. “Thank you, Dandelion. You’ve been of huge help today. Indispensable!”
The elf wiggled his feet giddily. “That’s me, Dandelion the Indispensable! Maybe I should go by that… But anyway, now that we have all of them, shall we head back?”
Cordelia nodded. She had more questions about the realm and its sages now than when they’d arrived, but that would have to wait.
They made their way back through the portal, and up to the headquarters.
“Well, you go find Morgyn now. I’ll go catch up with Lulu,” Dandelion said.
Cordelia’s eyes grew wide. “Wait, what? You want me to go back to Morgyn on my own? After what you said about the previous sage of the untamed?”
“I never said Morgyn had anything to do with her disappearance.” The elf shrugged. “No one knows, remember. But even if they did, they would have gotten rid of her because they wanted her power…and you’re like the opposite of powerful. I mean, you have magical torch bugs stalking you…”
“I’m sure you can handle Morgyn. Well, no one can handle Morgyn. But you know what I mean. Good luck!” The elf grinned before leaving her on her own.
She wandered through the maze of the manor for who knows how long, until finally locating Morgyn on an upstairs terrace.
She felt her legs shaking as she approached the sage. “I, uh, found the motes you wanted.” She stuttered over her words.
Morgyn’s face was hard to read. “Did you now? Not bad, for a human. Of course, you did have help, but I suppose I’ll overlook that…”
“So what happens now?” She asked.
“You hand over the motes, of course.” Morgyn told her in a somewhat condescending tone.
“I get that part… but what happens after that? What are you going to do with them? With me?” Cordelia found herself wishing Dandelion was here. Would she become another tale? Oh, Cordelia Blackwell, the human who came into the magic realm and last anyone heard of her, she was on her way to hand in the motes she’d gathered for the sage of the untamed, never to be seen again…
“Why don’t you let the professionals worry about that? The motes, please.”
She scooped the motes out of her pocket and extended her trembling hand towards the sage.
Their hands touched, and Cordelia felt as if a surge of electricity had gone through her. Was that the magical power? She found herself drowning in Morgyn’s green eyes.
“Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Morgyn had materialised a spellcaster wand, and extracted the motes into it. Noticing Cordelia’s stare, they smirked. “Now I know the elf mentioned your predicament earlier, but please try and refrain from throwing yourself at me. I realise it’s difficult, I am quite irresistible…”
Cordelia felt her cheeks burning. “That’s not… Dandelion really didn’t put it accurately. I don’t just walk around and throw myself at people, or mages, for that matter.”
“What a relief,” Morgyn cackled, though their eyes seemed to pierce into her very soul. “Now, let’s get to work, shall we?”
Without much of a warning, Morgyn cast a spell on her. She felt her body lift into the air, and the motes surged threw her. She stared at her hands as if she’d never seen them before, still levitating, then suddenly crashed into the ground.
“Ow,” she huffed, landing on all fours.
Morgyn did not help her up, apparently not feeling sympathetic. “Rough landing? Something to get used to around here.”
She managed to stand up. “What did you do, exactly? Are the motes…”
“Living in you now? That is precisely it.” The mage nodded.
Cordelia shuddered at the thought. Not exactly what she’d hoped for, getting rid of one form of enchanted creatures by welcoming another.
“Will that help with the sprites?” She asked.
“Well, that’s one hypothesis,” Morgyn told her. “The sprites may not wish to compete with the motes and keep their distance… of course, the other option is that it will pique their interest all the more. And then there’s the other scenario…”
Cordelia grew impatient: “Which is?”
“That this doesn’t affect anything at all.” Morgyn chuckled brightly, as if the whole ordeal was completely insignificant.
“You mean you don’t know?! Is this a game to you? This is my life!” Cordelia heard her own voice rise.
“Very little success in life comes to those who are unwilling to take any risks. But perhaps you know that, seeing as you are yelling at the sage of the untamed, who is wasting their precious time in an effort to assist you…” Morgyn’s eyes narrowed.
“I’m sorry.” Cordelia apologised quickly. “I didn’t mean to… Thank you for all of your help. I… best go find Dandelion.”
She headed for the door as Morgyn chuckled behind her. She couldn’t help but turn around. “Uh, Morgyn… sage Morgyn? What happens if it doesn’t work?”
“I suppose you’ll just have to return to this realm.” Morgyn said with a half-smile, half-smirk.
“Right…. Well, thanks again.” She muttered quickly and raced for the door. She needed to find Dandelion and get out of there. How long had they even been there? As soon as she allowed herself to think it, Cordelia felt exhausted.
She found Dandelion eating sharing a meal with L Faba in a large dining room off the entrance hall. Her stomach rumbled at the sight of their fruit salad. They’d definitely been in the realm for a good while now.
“A human… that’s peculiar, even for you…” L Faba was telling her friend.
“Well, she seems nice.” Dandelion mused with his mouth full. “And she’s said nice things to me. Called me a gem. And indispensable!”
“Oh Dandy, you do realise people say nice things just to get what they want…” L Faba pointed out.
The elf tilted his head. “Have you ever done that?”
“Of course not, silly,” L Faba said sweetly. “Look, I understand you find her quaint. Maybe you could keep her as a pet?”
“Oh, that would be neat!” Dandelion beamed happily.
Cordelia couldn’t believe her ears. “I hope I’m not intruding.” She interrupted their conversation.
“You mean eavesdropping, sweetheart?” L Faba turned to her. “Please, take a seat.”
“Dandelion, do you really want to keep me as a pet?” Cordelia decided to be direct with the elf.
“Well, it would be fun, don’t you think?” Dandelion shrugged.
“No! You can’t keep humans as pets! Would you really be any better than the sprites, keeping me for your amusement?” Cordelia burst out.
Dandelion looked horrified. But before he could say anything, L Faba inserted herself into the conversation.
“Sure, act all high and mighty. But you might want to look in the mirror, or at the cute little elf next to you, bending over backwards just to please you, doing your chores, fetching your motes… Have you really treated him any different than you would a dog?”
The words stung. Cordelia opened her mouth, but she couldn’t come up with anything to say.
“I thought so,” L Faba said victoriously. “Nice necklace, by the way, sweetie. I’m quite partial to the style, as you may tell.” She gestured towards her own pendant, oddly similar to Cordelia’s.
“It was my mother’s.” Cordelia said flatly.
“Well, perhaps it’s not as special as you thought.” L Faba’s eyes twinkled.
Cordelia jumped up to her feet, pushing the chair away. “That’s it, I don’t have to listen to this! Dandelion, let’s go!”
“Hm.” L Faba looked directly into Cordelia’s eyes. She didn’t speak, but she didn’t have to, the smug look on her face said it all.
“I mean, you don’t have to come,” Cordelia corrected herself. “You can stay here, with your friend. Whatever. I’m leaving.”
She burst out of the door and went straight for the portal they entered the realm through. She found herself back in Glimmerbrook. The sun was shining bright in the sky, unlike from when they first left the village. Had the weather changed so much in the course of a single day? Or had they been gone a whole day and night?
“Cordelia, wait up!” Dandelion called out from behind her. He caught up to her. “Did I do something wrong?”
“I… let’s not talk about it now. I’m tired. I’m sure you are too.” Cordelia shook her head.
They made their way along the forest path in silence. When they approached the old tree, Cordelia turned to Dandelion. “Listen, I think I’ll just camp out here in the woods for now.”
“You’re not coming back to Sylvan Glade with me? But it can rain out here, and you hated the rain, remember?” The elf was puzzled.
“Yeah, well, I can handle a bit of rain. I’ve got a tent now, remember?” El Faba’s tent, she realised. Great. “I… thank you for bringing me to the magic realm, and for your help with everything… but it’s obvious you’ve got your world, and I’ve got mine. So… I’ll stay where I belong.”
Dandelion’s eyes furrowed for a moment, but then he shrugged it off. “Ok. Well, I guess I’ll head home then.”
He disappeared within the tree without a goodbye. As if the whole adventure of the last few days never happened. It was hard to believe Cordelia still had magical motes inside her.
Ironically, the only real proof she had of the whole crazy trip was L Faba’s stupid leopard print tent.