Disclaimer: In spite of the title, the topics discussed in this chapter are not light and breezy. Nothing that hasn’t been directly referenced or heavily implied in previous chapters, but not one of those fairies and pancakes chapters.
“Very grand.” Morgyn noted at the sight of the old building before them. “Good choice.”
Micah did not respond. It would appear it was up to the spellcaster to carry the conversation.
“So, the botanical gardens… sounds like it could be romantic.” The sage said wistfully. “Did you bring any dates here before?”
“It hasn’t changed at all.” Micah finally spoke, completely ignoring the question.
Morgyn was not deterred. “Can’t imagine buildings like this do. Shall we?”
The inside was overgrown, but clearly well maintained. Naturally, there was nobody around at this time of the night. What a perfect little spot, Morgyn thought.
“Well then, you’re the one who knows the venue,” the sage encouraged their vampire companion. “Perhaps a tour may be in order…”
“There’s an old cherry tree in the main section,” Micah said. He didn’t sound as enthusiastic as Morgyn would have liked, but at least he was playing along. The sage followed him through the foyer, into a large glass atrium.
“Would you look at that…” Morgyn couldn’t help but be impressed at the sight of the space, and the large tree in the middle of it all. The sage could only imagine it was even more impressive during the daytime, when the sun shone through the glass ceiling. But of course, a daytime visit would not been an option with Micah.
Morgyn wondered if that was why the vampire was so visibly upset. For a place he’d supposedly wanted to revisit, Micah did not seem excited to be there at all.
“Let’s go down to the tree,” the spellcaster gestured towards a bench within the atrium.
“I bet you did bring dates here.” Morgyn grinned as they walked down the stairs.
“Isn’t it considered impolite to talk about one’s past love life on first dates?” Micah asked. The sage took it as confirmation.
Did the botanical gardens remind Micah of a long-lost love, Morgyn wondered? But if that was the case, surely the vampire wouldn’t have picked the place.
“Traditional, are we? Very well. I can do standard first date chit chat.” Morgyn said with a slight smirk, heading for the bench.
“So, since you insist on being mundane, what do you like to do in your spare time, besides brooding in old gardens?” The sage made themselves comfortable on the marble seat. “I suppose all of your time is spare time, after all…”
Micah’s response was brief. “I paint.”
A tortured artist, Morgyn thought. Of course he was. “I wish I’d known. I best add an easel to your new home then.” They offered.
“That won’t be necessary.” The vampire replied curtly.
This was hard work. But the sage didn’t make their irritation known.
“Because you’re not staying? For the sake of tonight, let’s say you are.” Morgyn’s mouth curved into a grin. “Conjuring an easel is really not too much trouble, I insist. But don’t you want to hear about my hobbies?”
Micah let out a sigh. “Sure.”
“I enjoy a good book. Or better yet, an old tome with hidden knowledge… Or is that too close to work for your liking?” The sage carried on, undeterred. “I’m learning to play the organ. I’m close to mastering it, if I say so myself…”
“Tell me about your childhood.” Micah interrupted.
The sage did not foresee that. Of course, the vampire had asked about it right after he drank their blood, but the spellcaster assumed they’d left it at that. Morgyn, for one, had no intentions of going down that road…
“I wasn’t done talking about the organ playing…” They made an attempt at returning to the original conversation.
“Verena played the organ.” Micah shrugged, looking unimpressed. “Not something I’ll miss.”
“No sentimental feelings about flying the nest?” Morgyn took the opportunity to change the topic.
It appeared Micah took the bait.
“I hoped you would help me get rid of her, back when we first met. Verena.” The vampire said quietly.
Interesting. It wasn’t exactly what Morgyn took away from their first exchange. But the sage had known it was about power. Wasn’t everything about power? In this instance, it was about having enough power to overthrow the mistress of the coven. Or was it more sinister?
“You thought I would kill her? Was that what the interest in elemental magic was for?”
“Kill her?” Micah repeated Morgyn’s words. He seemed lost in thought for a brief moment. “No, I don’t want her dead. I just thought you could… I don’t know. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I just figured maybe you could help me get out of her grasp, somehow.”
Morgyn beamed. Perfect hook. “Which I have delivered. I aim to please…”
“You still haven’t answered my question about your childhood.”
There it was again.
“You didn’t ask a question.” Morgyn bargained for time. “And even if you did, there’s nothing to discuss.”
“I’ve seen that memory.” Micah stated the obvious.
“And surely that should have satiated your curiosity.” Morgyn retorted swiftly.
But Micah was clearly determined not to let it go.
“Doesn’t seem fair that you’re allowed to poke and prod into my past with all of your questions, but I’m not allowed to do the same.” He protested. “Isn’t that a part of that first date chit chat, sharing childhood anecdotes?”
Damn stubborn vampire. Morgyn cursed themselves. They should have known. After all, Micah had been stubborn all along. Only freeing Cordelia when the sage agreed to share their blood. Clearly, Micah was not one to drop what he wanted to know.
“I think you’ve done quite a bit of your own prodding, I’m just trying to catch up.” The sage said slowly. “You have already experienced my childhood anecdote in its full glory. What else is left to say?”
The vampire was silent, leaving Morgyn no choice but to carry on.
“My parents clearly didn’t have a particularly loving relationship.” They said. Gross understatement, but not something Morgyn cared to dwell on. Not that any of this was pleasant. “I wanted to protect my mother. I knew I had powers. I just didn’t understand them. Didn’t know how to control them. You saw the rest.”
For a moment, there was silence. Naturally. Morgyn just shouldn’t have budged. Not that they shared anything the vampire didn’t know already. But speaking about that day out loud in general… It had been a long time since the sage had even given their parents much thought. Memories delicately tucked away as deep and far out of reach as they could shove them.
Until Micah went ahead and ripped them out of some dark corner of Morgyn’s subconscious. Hopefully, after tonight, it would be at least an equally long time till revisiting them, if not longer.
“I understand.” Micah broke the silence.
Morgyn let out a bitter laugh. “I would highly doubt that. I don’t ordinarily tell that story. You extracting it directly from my mind makes you the first person besides me to know.” And likely the last, the sage thought. “There is a reason I don’t share it.”
“You’ve asked me if I brought dates here.” Micah said. Morgyn was confused. Why on earth did he finally choose to answer that trivial question now, of all times?
“The truth is a date brought me. Girl named Carys.” Micah continued. “She was a florist, loved the place. So she showed it to me. She was a sweetheart. We dated for a few months.”
So there was a long-lost love after all, Morgyn thought. Or something along those lines. “Didn’t get to live happily ever after, the two of you?”
“Didn’t get to live.” Micah corrected them. “Neither of us. Verena turned me into what I am today. The dark gift, she calls it. Not a gift I’d wish on anyone. It’s no gift. It’s just dark. But back then, I thought maybe I could just carry on with my life, in spite of being undead.”
It finally started to make sense to Morgyn. “And you still saw Carys.”
“I wasn’t… entirely delusional. I was a newly fledged vampire. The thirst was stronger than anything else I’d known till then.” Micah explained. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea to meet with her. So I didn’t, exactly.”
Morgyn didn’t say anything, waiting for the vampire to continue.
“I told myself I’d just… check on her. Make sure she’s ok. Her boyfriend had just disappeared… I could just see her, from afar. I figured there’s nothing wrong with looking. Except I couldn’t just look.”
“You didn’t understand your powers.” The spellcaster said.
“I wouldn’t call it power.” Micah shook his head. “It’s the opposite. It owns me, not the other way around.”
“Then perhaps it’s time you change that.” Morgyn told him.
“I don’t think vampire powers are the same as that untamed magic of yours. But you… Didn’t you say that untamed magic can bring the dead back?” Micah trailed off. “Were you able to revive your mother?”
“It doesn’t work like that.” The sage sighed. “It has to be done fairly quickly after the person’s passing, before their soul fully moves on.”
The vampire wasn’t satisfied with that answer. “Moves on to where?
Morgyn considered their answer.
“That’s not for us to know. In any case, most souls do not linger for too long. And once they do move on, they are out of reach, even for untamed magic. That would include your Carys, in case you’re wondering.” The sage added, painfully aware of where Micah was going with all this.
“I still have a painting of her. Well, had.” Micah’s voice was almost a whisper. “Back at Verena’s house. It’s been 13 years, and I still couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. I took it off the wall, but I still kept it… Anyway. I guess there’s no going back and fetching it now. There’s no going back full stop. “
“Do you think about her often?” The sage asked. They didn’t really want to know, but clearly, this woman was on Micah’s mind, and if they were to make any meaningful strides tonight, she had to be cleared out of the way.
“How could I not?” The vampire looked at Morgyn.
Morgyn decided to opt for the blunt response. “I doubt she was the only one whose time you’ve cut short.”
“No. She was not.” Micah admitted, his tone hollow. “But she’s the only one I knew before… I cared about her, back when I was mortal. I don’t know if I’d call it love, exactly, but it wasn’t nothing.”
“I’m familiar with the feeling.” Morgyn said softly.
Apparently, Micah couldn’t even look at the sage as he went on.
“I was her undoing. And like you said, that of others. I tried not to. But it took time to learn when to stop feeding… too much time.” Micah shook his head. “I did learn eventually. But those whose only mistake was running into me before that… the guilt never went away.”
“Is that why you kept the painting?” Morgyn pondered, their own gaze wandering to the tree. “As a reminder of your guilt?”
The vampire didn’t respond straight away. “Maybe. What do you do with that kind of guilt, anyway?”
“You’re a vampire, you should know.” Morgyn looked back at Micah, staring directly into his eyes. “You bury it.”
“How can you say that? Look around us… do you really think we deserve to be here? That we deserve this beauty?”
In an odd way, the conversation reminded Morgyn of the one they’d had with Cordelia about her mother on the Von Haunt Estate balcony. Except back then, they couldn’t be quite as frank.
“It’s irrelevant. What people do and don’t deserve does not matter. That’s not how life plays out.” The spellcaster said. “After all, we are here, right now, regardless of what you said, aren’t we? The only thing that matters is control.”
Micah didn’t say anything, so Morgyn went on with their speech.
“Everything that haunts you, even your very state of existence, is down to the fact you had no control. But now you do. Like you said, you have learned. You are in control. Your powers are an asset, your biggest strength, bearing endless possibilities…”
“I don’t think you’re talking about me anymore.” The vampire spoke up.
“Perhaps not.” The sage shrugged. “But it’s the same principle.”
For a split second, Morgyn thought they lost him there. But then the vampire gave them the strangest look.
“Maybe monsters like us do deserve each other.” Micah’s voice was quiet, but his eyes spoke for him. There was a strange hollow darkness in them, but that wasn’t all of it.
The cue was not lost on Morgyn. “As flawed as your logic is, I won’t argue with that.”