Disclaimer: This chapter alludes to domestic abuse (and by this I am not referring to the vampire coven portion), although this is not directly shown or described. If this is a triggering theme for you, you may wish to click off once the characters reach the magic realm duelling grounds. Also, parts of this chapter are generally kind of disturbing.
“Well, all these visits sure took a turn.” Delphine managed to say as the vampire duo stared at the gnomified mistress.
Micah hesitated. “Is there a way to undo it?” He asked her. She was far older than him, had centuries of experience. If any of the vampires in the house could figure out a way to bring Verena to her former state, it would be her.
Oh god, Alba was going to flip, he realised.
“Micah, focus.” Delphine snapped her fingers at him, prompting him to remove his hands from his face. “Let me assess the situation…”
Delphine’s body slowly lifted into the air. She concentrated all of her vampiric energy at Verena, or rather, the gnome that had been Verena just a moments ago.
Nothing happened. Oh, this was bad…
Somehow, Delphine didn’t look that concerned. “I can’t break the spell.” She told Micah. “But from what I gather, it’s temporary.”
“Temporary.” He repeated her words. His body felt stiff.
“Yes, it appears to be. She’ll stay like this for a couple of hours, but I reckon she’ll turn back to her normal self before sunrise.” Delphine said dismissively.
“Or if not by sunrise, definitely by tomorrow. I kind of hope it’s the latter. Just imagine us putting a gnome in Verena’s coffin…” She added, breaking into laughter.
Micah couldn’t believe she was giggling. This was no joke…
“She will not let this slide when she’s back to… herself.” He whispered.
“Always with the doomsday scenarios.” Delphine said brightly. “Why do you have to be so sombre all the time? Don’t you see how funny this is? So she’ll be a little cranky when she’s back to normal. Maybe she needed to scale down a notch, don’t you think?”
“Right. I’m gonna go check on Alba.” He made an excuse, even though Alba was the last person he wanted to see right now.
“Now that’s guaranteed to put you in a better mood,” Delphine’s voice was dripping with sarcasm, but he ignored it.
Of course Delphine wasn’t worried about Verena’s reaction. The two of them were practically equals, with Verena only being just a little bit older, just a little bit more powerful; though a whole lot more menacing.
Micah, on the other hand… Not only was Verena in a position of authority over him, but more importantly, this whole ordeal was entirely his fault. He was the one who lured the sages over. What was he expecting?
And even before he dragged the sages into their lives, he was the one to cause the conundrum in the first place. If he hadn’t been a weakling and just fed on the girl like Verena told him to, none of this would have happened. Cordelia would simply be gone. Cordelia. He wished he hadn’t learned her name. Or that she had weird fairies following her. And liked cannoli.
Micah knew two things for certain: One; when Verena back to normal, she’d be livid with him, and she’d make him pay. And two; he would never be in this mess if he had just listened to his mistress all along and simply viewed Cordelia as the prey she was.
It was clear to him what he had to do.
Alba, being the damn bat she was, heard him descend into the catacombs even before he opened the door or stepped on the rickety staircase. She let out a sharp hissing noise.
Micah propelled himself towards her. There was no point trying to be sneaky. All of the vampires in the house were so much older than him, always onto his every move.
“What do you want, brother?” She enunciated the last word in exaggerated way. How he couldn’t stand the woman…
“I think you know.” He said simply.
“She’s no longer yours to claim.” Alba informed him. “Verena instructed me to guard her down here. Said the girl is very important…”
“And before that, she instructed me that the girl is my meal.” Micah retorted. “So I’m here to claim my prey, as instructed.”
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,” Alba stared directly into his eyes, baring her fangs.
“Fine. Verena did want me to finally grow up.” His eyes narrowed. “I guess that includes dealing with you.”
Alba’s body ejected into the air, lunging away from him swiftly. Her laugh made her sound like a demon. Micah knew all too well that she too was only waiting for an excuse to finally come to blows with him.
“You think you can take me on?” She screamed, her voice echoing through the room.
“I’ll damn well try!” Micah hissed, revealing his teeth as he sprung into the air as well.
The truth was, he wasn’t all too sure if he could, but he was in too deep now. There was no going back.
Alba’s body dropped to the floor with a loud thud. It didn’t feel real. Had he really managed to overpower Alba? He was in a dream. Of course, Micah hadn’t had any dreams in over a decade. He could barely recall what dreams felt like.
But now was not a time to get distracted. Alba may have been temporarily knocked out, but she’d regain her consciousness any minute.
Micah hurried to the door. It wasn’t difficult to figure out which of the doors Cordelia was behind. He could sense her life force through the walls. Her life force, and her fear.
He used his vampiric energy to unlock the door. It was easier than he expected. Either Alba had been overly confident in her ability to keep unwanted intruders at bay, or the rush of the duel amplified his powers.
Seeing the red glow erupt all around him as the lock cracked open, the latter seemed to be far more likely.
The heavy wooden door released without him even having to lay his hand on it. And just like that, he had reached the prisoner.
The girl looked terrified. She must have heard the duel, and his exchange with Alba – human hearing was only a fragment of that of vampires, but they’d been far from discreet. Micah couldn’t help but feel sorry for her.
“Please,” she whispered. “Don’t hurt me… Micah…”
And then she passed out. All of the heightened adrenaline of the last two days, along with the limited food and rest must have taken its toll.
He looked at her unconscious body lie on the ground. Humans were so weak. It took so little to break them. Being one of them was harder and harder to remember each day, even though he was a young vampire by any standards.
Micah couldn’t help but wonder; what would he become in the centuries ahead of him, once he reached Verena’s age?
“We have to go back!” Dandelion yelled at L Faba.
“Are you crazy?” She snapped at him. “We barely got out of there in time!”
“Maybe I’ve lost my mind, but you’ve lost your heart!” His words stabbed right through her. “Cordie’s still there, and she needs our help!”
“What do you expect me to do? Turn all of them into gnomes?” L Faba exclaimed. In the corner of her eye, she saw Morgyn approaching with Simeon in tow.
“Yes!” Dandelion cried out. “I know you have enough power to do that… or whatever it takes!”
“Whatever it takes to save her!” She parroted his words. “Like she is worth that! Do you have any idea of what she’s capable of? Of her true darkness!?”
“L Faba, what is this nonsense?” Morgyn interrupted her.
Dandelion wasn’t having any of it, lashing out at the untamed magic sage. “You! This is all your fault! Why do you always have to ruin everything!?”
Morgyn did not hold back either. “Oh I ruin everything?” Their arms gestured around wildly. “I tried to get her back as soon as I learned the vampires had her!”
“Tried and failed!” Dandelion reminded them. “And she wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for you! The only reason she was in Forgotten Hollow in the first place was because she went after you!”
Surprise flashed across Morgyn’s face, but it was soon replaced with something else. “Did she now? Interesting, because I never told her that’s where I was going… Perhaps you should ask your darling friend L Faba how Cordelia learned that information!”
“That is enough!” Simeon’s voice erupted through the hall. “Look at the lot of you, arguing about some woman! Morgyn, L Faba, have you lost your minds? Don’t you realise what you’ve done!? All your petty bickering has had the Magic Realm near declare a war on vampires! This has to stop now, or there will be consequences for the entire realm!”
Nobody said a word. HQ fell silent. The sages stared at each other, possible consequences of the night’s events flooding their minds. Dandelion opened his mouth, about to say something, but it wasn’t him that got to break the silence.
Morgyn placed Cordelia in their bed gently and walked over to their wardrobe, looking for an empty coat hanger.
The elf had followed, and was clearly not happy. “What are you doing? This is no time to go through your clothes! Is she ok!?”
Morgyn couldn’t help but chuckle softly at Dandelion’s agitation.
“There’s no such thing as a bad time to deliberate on fashion choices.” The sage teased, unable to help themselves. They took off their coat, placing it into the wardrobe.
“You…” Dandelion seemed to be struggling to form a sentence.
“She’ll be fine.” Morgyn helped him out. “Stay with her, little elf.”
“DON’T call me that!”
But the sage had little time for the elf’s protests, leaving the room without another word.
Naturally, the outcries for attention weren’t going to stop.
“Morgyn, what is the meaning of all this?” Simeon’s called out after them as they traversed the hall. And Morgyn could practically feel L Faba’s glare on their back.
“The vampire, Morgyn! He’s still in the realm.” Morgyn suppressed the urge to roll their eyes at Simeon stating the obvious. “If they all know where to find us…”
“Relax, Simeon. It’s only this one that knows how to reach the realm.” The sage of untamed magic said calmly. “And I’m handling it.”
Morgyn ignored the further calls. It was typical of Simeon; the practical magic sage resolved nothing, and demanded answers after everything had been dealt with, simply because he didn’t consider the solution ‘clean.’ But who had brought results? Morgyn.
The sage opened the door, finally breathing in some air. They needed that.
The vampire didn’t even glance in their direction, but he was obviously aware of the spellcaster’s presence. “There’s no way I can go back to my coven now.” Micah said. “This better be worth it.”
Morgyn smiled to themselves. At least someone around here was focused on results. “I’m sure I can make it worth your while. Follow me.”
“Where the hell are we going?” Micah asked as they approached the portal.
“The duelling grounds.” Morgyn said coolly.
The vampire hesitated. “Are you planning to duel me?”
“Of course not.” Although the proposition made Morgyn wonder. How would that kind of duel go down? “Just step into the portal.”
Morgyn had to give it to Micah, the vampire was suitably on guard when they emerged on the other side. Probably readying themselves to lunge at the sage if things suddenly got out of hand.
“So… why did you bring me to the duelling grounds?” Micah asked.
“It’s quiet around here. Not many magical duels going on in the realm these days.” Morgyn said. “And I’ve always felt this place had more charge than anywhere else in the realm. All the fallen spellcasters, I suppose.”
There was slightly more to it than that, but Morgyn wasn’t planning on elaborating.
“Charge?” Micah raised an eyebrow.
“Think of it as magical energy. It’s what gives us our powers, although too much charge… let’s just say it’s all about balance.” Morgyn said. “Anyway. I’m glad you changed your mind.”
“I guess I could say the same.” Micah looked at them. His expression was slightly disconcerting, but it was too late for doubts now.
“Let’s get this over with, then.” Morgyn extended their arm to the vampire. “I even took my coat off to give you easy access…” They added jokingly to ease the tension.
Micah snickered lightly, but then grew serious as he grabbed onto the spellcaster’s wrist. He looked hungry. But there also appeared to be a hint of worry in his eyes. Morgyn wondered why. Was he scared of what he’d find in the sage’s blood? Or that he wouldn’t be able to stop himself, in spite of what he had claimed about taking every precaution?
Either way, Morgyn was about to find out.
“Morgyn, go to your room!” There was fear in the woman’s voice, even though she was clearly trying to hide it.
“No, wait! You don’t understand, I can help you!” The child protested with urgency. “I’ll protect you! I can… do things! I won’t let him hurt you!”
“I said, go to your room! Now!” The woman said frantically, looking over her shoulder.