“Woah, this is where Darrel lives?” Cordelia grew wide eyed. The term Charm manor was no exaggeration.
“I know, they’re loaded.” Grace confirmed like it was no big deal. “The Charms have lived in Glimmerbrook for ages. Magical bloodlines for generations. Guess that means they haven’t had much competition when it comes to making it big over here.”
“I can’t go in there… I’m so underdressed!” Cordelia was suddenly acutely aware of her boots. Not that the rest of her outfit was better. She didn’t own any clothes that would be classed as formal, so even her best (and only) skirt felt… inadequate.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You look great!” Grace have her an encouraging smile. “It’ll be fine! Come on, let’s go inside.”
The spellcaster ushered her up the stairs. She followed her into the grand entry hallway. A grand staircase wound through the hall. The furniture looked old, but polished to perfection.
“I think they’re through that archway,” Grace gestured towards what appeared to be the kitchen. Cordelia froze.
She didn’t recognise Simeon in his smart attire straight away, but L Faba’s high pitched laugh was unmistakeable. Each of the sages was sat on either side of an older woman, presumably Darrel’s mother.
“Grace! They didn’t say the sages would be here!” Cordelia shot her friend a bewildered look.
“Duh.” Grace didn’t seem to pick up on her concern. “Who did you think they meant by the finest of guests? You didn’t actually believe that meant us, right?” She laughed.
Who did she think Darrel was referring to? Truth was Cordelia hadn’t given it much thought. She just assumed the Charms would have some of their spellcaster friends over. Now that she thought about it, the fact those friends were the sages did not seem all that surprising… She kicked herself. Perhaps Darrel had a point when he said Cordelia joining the festivities might not be a great idea.
But Grace was already through the door, and all of the heads turned towards them, so twirling around and running back to Dandelion’s meadow was not an option.
“Cordelia, Grace! Glad you could make it.” Emilia offered them a friendly welcome.
Not all of Emilia’s companions seemed to share her sentiment, however. If looks could kill, L Faba’s glare would have dissolved Cordelia to bits within seconds. Not the strongest start to the evening.
“You must be Darrel’s employees.” The Charm matriarch acknowledged them. “I’m Minerva Charm. Emilia’s told me a lot about you. Come sit, have a drink.” She waved towards the empty chairs.
Grace took a seat next to Emilia, meaning the only available seat that remained was the one beside L Faba. Just perfect, Cordelia grunted inwardly. She pulled up the chair and sat down, attempting to stay as far from the mischief sage as the seat allowed.
“Well if it isn’t the one with the sprites.” L Faba’s face looked as if she’d stepped on dog poo. “I didn’t expect humans here tonight… especially not of the cursed variety.”
“Cursed? What kind of curse do you have, child?” Minerva asked. Her tone hadn’t really changed, so Cordelia couldn’t quite gauge what the Charm matriarch was thinking. Was she angry that Emilia invited a cursed person into her home? Intrigued? There was no knowing.
“She has some kind of magical moths following her from time to time,” Grace stepped in. “Sprites, they’re called. I see them at the shop every so often when Cordelia’s there, they’re mostly harmless as far as I can tell. Some of the customers even like them.”
“How interesting.” Minerva noted. Her tone was still ambiguous – in spite of what she was saying, Cordelia had no idea if she actually was interested or not. Why did all spellcasters have to be so hard to read, save perhaps Grace and Emilia?
On second thought, Cordelia could decipher L Faba’s sentiments fairly well too – the mischief sage didn’t want to be anywhere near her. The feeling was mutual.
“If you’ll excuse me, I need to, uh, find the bathroom.” Cordelia muttered, leaping up from her chair.
Just to make matters worse, Darrel came in from the other room, with the untamed magic sage on his side.
“Sorry to keep you waiting Minerva,” Morgyn announced themselves. “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t wake up this gorgeous, so I hope you don’t mind me being fashionably late.”
Minerva’s lips curled into a smile. Go figure. So she was capable of more animated facial expressions, they were just reserved for far more worthy company than Cordelia, it would appear. “You sure know how to go all out, Morgyn.”
“Too bad Morgyn doesn’t know how to go all in.” L Faba noted in that condescending sweet tone of hers. Cordelia decided to make her exit.
“Cordelia? I did not expect to see you here.” Morgyn stopped her in her tracks. That makes two of us, she thought.
“Oh Morgyn, you’re here, good!” A girl in a flowery skirt interrupted them. Just as well, Cordelia had no idea what she was going to say. “I need some help with my Chillio spell, if you have time to show me after dinner…”
“I didn’t know you’ve already learnt Chillio, Gemma.” Morgyn seemed suitably impressed, to the girl’s apparent satisfaction.
She seemed familiar. The girl from the Spooky Day fair, Cordelia realised. She felt a twinge of jealousy. Stop being so ridiculous, she scolded herself.
“You alright?” She turned around to see Grace. “What was that whole deal with L Faba?” The spellcaster asked her.
“Honestly, I have no idea. She just isn’t my biggest fan.” Cordelia pouted.
“Clearly.” Grace shook her head. “On the bright side, maybe you can work out your unfinished business with Morgyn tonight, hm?” She grinned conspicuously.
“I don’t know about that. Things are all sorts of awkward with Morgyn already, I don’t want to make it worse… besides that Gemma girl seems to be all over them. Who-“
Cordelia stopped herself mid-question, as Morgyn waltzed right by them, looking amused. How much did they hear?
“Chin up, things can’t get much more awkward now, right?” Grace giggled. “I’m gonna go get a drink. I feel like you could use one too…”
Before Cordelia could follow, she was approached by no other than Gemma herself. “So what’s your deal?”
“My deal?” Cordelia repeated. “I’m not sure what you mean. Who even are you?”
“Who am I?” the girl repeated, clearly annoyed. “I guarantee you my family’s bloodline goes way beyond yours. I’m Gemma Charm. And you’re nobody. So don’t even think about going after Morgyn.”
Cordelia couldn’t yearn for Sylvan Glade any more in that moment. This was going to be a long evening.
Because fate had a twisted sense of humour, and apparently wasn’t done with Cordelia that night, she ended up sat right next to L Faba at the dinner table, and across from Gemma, to top it all off.
She decided to not involve herself in the conversation, keep quiet, avoid L Faba’s death stares and get her meal down as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, it appeared the potential discussion topics have dwindled down a fair amount, as the Charm matriarch finally decided to take an interest in Cordelia – just when her only ally at the table, Grace, had gone to the restroom, leaving Cordelia to their scrutiny on her own.
“So this sprite curse of yours, child, how did you come to it?” Minerva turned to her.
Cordelia almost choked on her turkey. The last thing she wanted to do was share the worst moment of her life with everybody at the table. “I… I’m really not too sure about the ins and outs of it. I was just a little girl.” She said stiffly, hoping that would satisfy Darrel’s mother’s curiosity.
“There is no evidence of it truly being a curse, in the traditional magical sense, at least.” Simeon spoke up. “The curses we’re familiar with are of an internal nature, but these sprite creatures seem to have their own minds and motivation. We believe them to be some type of fae.” He explained.
“Simeon is very helpful to summarise my findings,” Morgyn interrupted the practical magic sage. “It was, however me that has conducted all the empirical research on the matter…”
“Oh, that’s nice of you, Morgyn.” Emilia smiled in her seat. “I’m sure Cordelia’s thankful for all of your help.”
Thankful for making me a guinea pig, Cordelia thought, biting her lip. She did not say anything.
“They do say that with every curse, there must be something inherent about its bearer that makes them deserve it.” L Faba shared her opinion. “Perhaps that’s still the case even with a non-traditional curse like this one.”
Gemma turned to the mischief sage. “You’re an elf L Faba, does that mean you know anything about the fae’s motivations?”
The girl seemed genuinely curious. Cordelia, on the other hand had no desire to hear any more of it, but she didn’t have a choice.
“I don’t believe any fae would choose to pursue a human without a good reason,” L Faba shrugged.
“Are you suggesting you find Cordelia worthy of pursuit, L Faba?” Morgyn raised an eyebrow, giving L Faba a taunting smile.
“I said nothing of that sort.” The mischief sage said icily.
As much as Cordelia appreciated temporarily not being the recipient of L Faba’s glares, she’d had enough. “Excuse me. I need some air.” She stood up, making a beeline for the door before anybody could say anything.
The cool autumn wind embraced her as she exited onto the porch. She plopped herself at a small table on the deck.
What a nightmare of an evening. Cordelia wondered if it would be completely unacceptable to bail right then and there, sneaking away right from the porch. It would be rude to Grace, of course, and might come up at work, but she couldn’t help but consider it a more and more viable option by the minute.
“Are you ok over there?” Emilia emerged from within the manor.
Her concern seemed genuine, and she was giving Cordelia a reassuring smile.
“I’ve been better.” Cordelia confessed.
Emilia sat down beside her. “I’m sorry about your curse, or non-curse, whatever it is.” The young woman told her.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
The spellcaster nodded. “I thought not. I just… look, I know the sages can be a little… intimidating.”
Cordelia almost smiled. “That’s an understatement and a half.”
Emilia laughed. “You know, I only became a spellcaster recently. I was born a human, like you. So I know it’s tough.”
“You were?” Cordelia was shocked. Didn’t Grace say being turned into a spellcaster was rare? What did she call it, the right of ascension? “Wait, you had to gain favour with all three of the sages?”
“That sounds a lot harder than what it really was.” Emilia told her. “I was lucky. The Charm family were already friendly with the sages, so there wasn’t really much I needed to do. But I did get to know each of the three a little, yes. And they’re all nice, in their own way, underneath it all.”
“Well, they all clearly hate me.” Cordelia said bitterly.
“I didn’t get that impression with Simeon or Morgyn,” Emilia protested. “Morgyn seems pretty invested in your sprite issue, if anything.”
“Well L Faba hates me for sure. You know what happened at the fair…”
Emilia looked pensive for a moment. “I must admit I’ve never seen her be so… she is the sage of mischief, but she’s not normally so…”
She seemed to struggle to find the right word. Cordelia could think of a few. Vicious? Brutal? Evil?
“Unkind.” Emilia settled on a much gentler alternative. She was far too nice to be a part of this strange cruel spellcaster world.
“Why did you become a spellcaster, Emilia?” Cordelia asked.
“Well, when things with Darrel got serious, I didn’t really have a choice.” Emilia explained. “The Charm family has a strong spellcaster bloodline, there was no way I could marry into the family as a mere human. I’m still not even sure how Darrel convinced Minerva in the first place, but he did.”
“Oh, so it wasn’t your decision?” Cordelia wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
“You make it sound so awful! I think it’s pretty amazing, I can do magic!” Emilia said with a soft smile. “Well, not that much yet. But Darrel’s teaching me. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
She had a point. “I’m glad you’re happy.”
“I am. And I’m sure you’ll find a way to fit into this world too. It just takes time.” Emilia encouraged her. “I better head back in. But if you ever need a friend, you know where to find me.”
By the time Cordelia found the courage to head back in, the dinner party had died down. She said a hasty goodbye to the Charms and decided to try to find Grace while the sages were not in sight. But of course it wasn’t going to be that simple.
She let out a deep sigh when she saw the untamed magic sage walk down the stairs. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“Don’t let L Faba get to you.” Morgyn told her.
“It’s you that gets to me.” She blurted out. Did she really just say that out loud?
Morgyn appeared pleased by the confession. “Is that so?”
“Among other things,” she tried to backtrack. “I don’t like how you all talked about me and the sprites as if I wasn’t even there at the dinner table. I’m not some kind of a lab rat, you know.”
“I realise that. You’re far too pretty for a rat.” Morgyn teased her.
She could feel her cheeks getting hot. “I don’t understand you! Why do you say things like that? You didn’t even say hi at the Spooky Day fair… guess you were too busy with Gemma.”
Her words didn’t seem to have too much of an effect on Morgyn, in fact, they seemed to be enjoying themselves. “Are you jealous of little Gemma Charm? That’s adorable. She’s a child.”
She wasn’t sure how much younger Gemma was than her. A year, maybe two. Was Cordelia a child in Morgyn’s eyes as well? Probably, with the number of tantrums she’s thrown in front of them.
“And for the record, I was merely doing what you had requested of me at the fair.” The sage continued. “Staying the hell away from you, was that how you put it? I managed to comply with your wishes and give you a little private skating performance, all at the same time… you’re welcome, by the way.”
Cordelia didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t look at them. She decided to stare at her feet, and those inadequate shoes she was wearing instead. “I… guess I didn’t want you to stay away, after all.”
“Well, that can be arranged. I can be gracious…” She still couldn’t decide if Morgyn was mocking her or not. “Listen, I’m still willing to look into your little sprite problem. I realise it’s been uncomfortable so far, but it’s impossible to find a solution without a bit of experimentation… who knows, perhaps I can come up with an experiment that would be pleasant, for a change.”
Before she could reply, the sage winked at her and then left her on her own – and utterly confused.
“I’ve been looking for you all over!” Grace’s voice brought her back to reality.
“Where did you disappear to? There’s still food if you want seconds.” Her co-worker told her, gesturing towards her own plate.
“I’m good.” Cordelia managed. “I… I think I’ll head home.”
“You sure? I know things have died down a bit with everyone digesting, but it might get a bit livelier later on. Darrel is attempting to make cocktails, believe it or not…” Grace laughed.
“Positive.” Cordelia had more than filled her share of lively for the night.