The mattress below Cordelia was comfortable, the duvet above her soft. She hadn’t slept in a bed so comfortable – well, a bed, in fact – in ages. She stared at the colourful wallpaper and hanging branches for a moment. It took her a while to recollect where she was. Dandelion’s cottage. She’d slept over because she’d made a fool of herself in front of Morgyn last night.
She groaned inwardly, propping herself up to get out of bed.
At least with the whole thing having happened in a far away city, she could just pretend it was all a dream. Now that the sprites were gone, she didn’t really have a reason to go back to the magic realm, did she? She felt oddly disappointed at the realisation.
Where was Dandelion anyway? The side of the bed he slept on was made, immaculate. Cordelia smiled softly. She wouldn’t have pegged the elf to be so tidy – a part of her expected his house to look like a chaotic playground on the inside.
She stepped out, feeling a little dizzy when she looked through the steep staircase below her. Sylvan Glade seemed quiet. She couldn’t hear Dandelion singing in his garden or splashing in the waterfall.
“Dandy?” She called out. Maybe he was still in the house. She descended to the lower floor and opened the door, immediately hearing his voice.
“You need to go! She’ll be up any minute.” The elf said. His voice was still friendly, though she detected a mild annoyance in it.
Who was he talking to? Did he have more visitors that day?
The golden glow of the fluttering creatures was unmistakable.
“What the… Dandelion, why are you… why are they…” Cordelia was stuck for words.
“Yeah, I’m sorry, I’ve been keeping a secret.” Dandelion said sheepishly.
Cordelia’s head spun with all sorts of conspiracy theories. Had everything been a lie? Was the elf in on whatever the sprites were up to from the start?
“That day when we jumped into the fountain behind the Hex Shop and the sprites came back, after you ran away… I sort of asked them to come over.” Dandelion explained.
Cordelia frowned. “Why? I don’t get it…”
“Isn’t it obvious?” The elf shrugged. “You hate being around them, and I really don’t mind. I told them that if you ran from them again, they should just come spend time with me. I am good company, you know.”
Cordelia didn’t know what to say. “So… these last few weeks…”
“They’d not been bothering you, because they’ve been spending time with me.” He finished her sentence helpfully. “Why did you think they disappeared?”
She couldn’t bring herself to answer.
“But… I saw the sprites the very next day and… I ran off to the portal.” It dawned on her. She ran to the portal, and the sprites went off to Dandelion. Morgyn’s ritual. All this time, she thought her newfound freedom was the sage’s to take credit for. But it seemed like the trial of elements had nothing to do with it at all. “And they came to Sylvan Glade,” Dandelion confirmed. “Have been visiting ever since. They have been getting a little bit antsy though. See how yellow they are? I think they’ve missed you.”
“You didn’t have to do this, Dandelion. The sprites are my problem, my curse. If they can’t be taken care of, I don’t just want to pass that burden onto someone else. Especially not you.” She looked into the elf’s eyes.
“I don’t understand you.” Dandelion shook his head. “I was just trying to help. Do you want me to apologise for that?”
“Of course not,” she said quickly. “I just don’t think it’s fair on you, that’s all.”
The elf sighed, placing a plate on the table. Cordelia hadn’t even noticed the large stack of pancakes he’d been piling up. “Humans are weird. Anyway, I made breakfast. You want some?”
“Oh pants!” Cordelia blurted out. “I completely forgot about work… I’ve gotta go!”
She ran out of the cottage, mouthing goodbye to Dandelion. She was halfway up the tree passage when she realised she was still wearing Dandelion’s shirt he lent her so that she didn’t have to sleep in her soaked clothes from yesterday. She’d have to return it later.
Glimmerbrook was cold and miserable that morning. She hastily grabbed a change of clothes and an umbrella from the tent and dashed to the shop, through the puddles. She did notice the sprites following her, but she paid it no mind for once.
You’ve gotta be kidding me, she grunted to herself as Morgyn stopped her in her tracks. What was Morgyn doing out here again?
“Morgyn! I… I’m late for work!”
“I know, I was just there.” the sage nodded. “I went over there to check if you were alright after last night… are these the sprites?” Morgyn’s eyes gravitated towards the fae flying around Cordelia.
“You came back… to check on me?” Cordelia repeated incredulously. “But… I don’t… You know what, no! I don’t know what you’re playing at, but I don’t want to be a part of your game anymore!”
Morgyn’s first reaction was amusement. “My game? What are you talking about?”
“What am I talking about? You tell me!” Everything Cordelia had been holding back poured out of her all at once. “I’m not the one who electrocuted someone, set them on fire, froze them – all within minutes – then invited them on a date to a romantic festival out of nowhere, only to act like they were being the weird one for trying to kiss you after an evening of flirting! Doesn’t sound like a game to you?”
Morgyn opened their mouth to say something, but Cordelia wasn’t having it.
“And since you brought it up, yes, these are the sprites. Morgyn, you saved me – I was so dumb!” She imitated her own words from last night in a high-pitched voice. “Well I don’t know what your so-called trial thing was for, since the only reason the sprites were staying away was because my friend has been distracting them! Your stupid trial thing did nothing at all!”
She was in too deep now. May as well go all out…
“And before you give me that whole ‘I’m the sage of the untamed and you are unwise to yell at me’ speech, save your breath! I don’t care if you are the king of the underworld or the Wizard of Oz or whatever, you’ve already messed with me in every way imaginable, so if you want to turn me into a pile of ash or something, why don’t you go ahead and just do it already!?”
Morgyn was speechless – something she gathered didn’t happen very open. It gave her a little jolt. “No? Then just stay the hell away from me.” She told the mage before running off.