“Wow! It’s beautiful here!” Cordelia exclaimed as they reached the main Puerto Llamante square. Morgyn had initially transported them straight to the hotel, but they didn’t linger for long after checking in – the sage wanted to head straight into the town centre.
It had only been a short walk, but everything looked so different from back home, down the trees wrapping around the town. Not as different as the magic realm, of course, but that was to be expected. This was just another place on Earth. Ordinary people lived here. Cordelia had once again been reminded of how small her world was. She intended to take in every single bit of Selvadorada on this trip.
“The sun seems stronger here than back at home,” she went on giddily. “And look how pretty the fairy lights are!”
“Cordelia, they’re lights.” Morgyn didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm levels. “You may want to set your benchmark a little higher.”
She was not deterred by the sage’s lukewarm reaction to their surroundings. Morgyn had probably already visited Selvadorada a dozen times, but she had not. “Yeah, yeah, I get it, you’ve seen it all already, it’s nothing compared to the magic realm, yada yada… I don’t care. Say what you want, it’s beautiful here!”
Morgyn looked up at the statue before them. “No, you’re right.” The sage told her, in spite of their underwhelmed expression. “You should enjoy yourself. I’m getting too focused on our goal here, but I did promise you a little fun.” They added with a soft grin.
“Good.” Cordelia beamed. “Can we take a closer look at the statue?”
“Of course we can.” Morgyn said with a light nod.
“Madre Cosecha.” Cordelia read the plaque under the statue once they got closer. “I’m probably pronouncing that wrong.”
“Means Mother Harvest,” Morgyn told her, although they weren’t really looking at the statue, their eyes on Cordelia instead.
“That makes sense – says here she was the founder of the place, helping people settle here at the time of a great famine… but you probably knew that already.” She stopped herself.
Morgyn didn’t acknowledge her assumption. “It is said she was a spellcaster.” They said instead.
“Was she?” Cordelia asked, her eyes lingering on the statue.
“Who knows… It was a very long time ago.” The sage replied. “I suppose in the people’s eyes then, anyone able to get them through the hardship would have appeared as if they had magical powers.”
“I like the idea that she was sort of like everyone’s mother.” Cordelia pondered out loud. “That way nobody was motherless, even the orphans. I guess that’s a stupid thing to say.”
Morgyn hesitated for a moment. “Not at all. It’s quite lovely, the way you think.” It seemed like the sage was going to add something else, but they must have changed their mind. “Let’s go have a look at the market, shall we?”
They turned around abruptly and headed towards the stalls.
Cordelia took a moment to relish in those words. The way she thought was quite lovely, according to Morgyn. They’d only arrived in Selvadorada that morning, and she was already starting to forget about the tangled web between them back at home.
And as much as she’d fought with herself before coming here, she didn’t really want to think about any of that now. Maybe she could make Morgyn forget too… It was just going to be the two of them for the next few days, after all.
She followed the spellcaster into the marketplace.
“Bargains! Supplies! And authentic souvenirs! You’ll not find better prices anywhere.” The vendor spouted all of his verious selling points all at once. “Perhaps one of the genuine Omniscan statuettes to remember your trip by?”
Morgyn glanced towards the idols – Cordelia could tell the sage was barely trying to suppress a smirk. “We’re headed into the jungle.” Morgyn avoided the subject of the dolls. “Any pointers you can give us?”
“Oh yes, it would be a great shame if anything happened to a beautiful young couple like you.” The vendor nodded eagerly.
“Exactly.” Morgyn confirmed, looking at the man expectantly.
Cordelia’s stomach filled with butterflies. The man called them a couple, and Morgyn did not object. Which of course didn’t mean anything. She knew that.
“I have ample supplies available – grilled cheese, ready to eat, to give you home comforts in the middlle of the jungle,” The vendor pointed to an unappealing blob. “Or shower in a can to freshen up when you’re far from amenities.”
“Hm. Thank you, most helpful.” The sage responded in a condescending tone. “Cordelia, perhaps we should sample some of the local cuisine at the other stall? It is nearly lunchtime…”
Cordelia’s eyes jumped from one time to the next as the passed the other displays. More statuettes. Hand-weaved baskets. Morgyn didn’t seem to be paying attention to any of them.
“You didn’t buy anything.” She pointed out once they were out of earshot of the merchants.
“It was all useless junk.” The sage shrugged. “To be expected on the main town square, I suppose.”
“The shower in a can could have been helpful.” Cordelia objected weakly.
“Do you think there are no bodies of water in the jungle? I’m sure skinny dipping would be a far more enjoyable way of freshening up.” The sage noted with a crooked smile.
Skinny dipping… her cheeks felt hot. Morgyn paused for a moment. They knew exactly what effect their words had on her, Cordelia knew. Seemed to enjoy it. Was that a good thing or a bad thing, Cordelia wondered?
“But if that’s not an option for whatever reason, a simple scruberoo spell would do the trick.” The spellcaster added finally.
Cordelia wasn’t sure what a scruberoo spell was, although the name sounded somewhat self-explanatory. Not that she didn’t hope for the skinny dipping option…
“I, uh… food?” She pointed towards the food merchant in the corner of the square.
“Sure.” Morgyn laughed.
None of the dishes at the stand were meals she recognised, although it all looked tasty, and smelled divine. She could barely keep her nose from diving right into the stall.
Thankfully, Morgyn seemed to know what they were doing and placed an order for both of them, even making small talk with the lady manning the stand. But Cordelia could barely hear a word of it. Everything was so distracting, from the beauty of Selvadorada, to all the delicious scents, and by far not least, Morgyn themself. If anything, she was thankful her surroundings made her focus on the mage less.
They found a table not too far from the stand – although by the looks of it, they had to share with a sleeping cat.
“Aww.” Cordelia couldn’t help but admire it as they sat down. “I know what you’re going to say. It’s just a cat. I know, I know. But it’s adorable. And everything’s so new here…”
“I wasn’t going to say that at all.” The sage told her.
Cordelia tore her eyes from the cat, taking a bite of the empanada, her mouth instantly on fire. “Oh, that’s spicy!”
The spellcaster continued to study her face, looking amused. “I suppose some things aren’t that easy to digest on your first try.”
“Have you been to Selvadorada many times?” She asked.
Morgyn didn’t answer straight away. “Not exactly.”
Before she could ponder what that meant, Cordelia got distracted by the cat waking up. It stretched its paws, showing off.
“Oh my goodness, look how cute it is!” She squealed. “Isn’t that the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen?”
To her surprise, Morgyn’s reaction was simply to lean back and laugh. Come to think of it, she’d never seen the sage laugh like that.
Great. Now she was just laughing stock to them.
“I… I’ll just shut up.” She sighed, embarrassed. She looked at the cat instead to avoid the Morgyn’s eyes, but the cat decided this was the time to run off. Perfect.
“Don’t. I’m having too much fun,” the sage interjected. They sounded sincere, but she couldn’t help but pout, so they carried on. “Cordelia, you do realise you’re making it very hard to resist you, don’t you?”
Cordelia had not expected to hear those words. Hard to resist? Her head was spinning. Surely that meant… No, it meant nothing. But what if it did? She had to know.
“What makes you think you have to resist me?” She asked, cringing at herself. But she couldn’t not ask, whatever the answer would be…
Before Morgyn had a chance to respond, a woman’s voice interrupted them. “I just had to come over. You’re a spellcaster. A powerful one.”
It was the vendor from the food stall. Her words were clearly directed at Morgyn – she didn’t seem to acknowledge Cordelia at all.
“Takes one to know one.” Morgyn replied. To Cordelia’s disappointment, the sage’s attention seemed to be fully on this woman now.
“That’s right.” The woman nodded. “My family is one of the most established magical lineages in Selvadorada. Some say we date back all the way to Madre Cosecha, but I don’t know about that.”
“I bet you have intimate knowledge of the local area and its magical powers.” Morgyn flashed her a smile.
Cordelia couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy. Which was silly, of course. She had plenty of reasons to be jealous back at home, this unknown woman was hardly one in comparison.
“What would you like to know?” The woman asked.
“Do you know anything about the Omniscan ruins?” The sage got straight to the point.
“Oh, no one’s travelled that deep into the jungle for years.” The woman said quickly. “Those ancient powers are far too dangerous. Especially for those who aren’t local to the jungle.”
That sounded ominous, Cordelia thought. But Morgyn did not seem to pay any attention to the warning.
“I assure you it’s nothing I wouldn’t be able to handle.” The sage’s tone was silky, but there was something fiery looking in their eyes.
The woman seemed a little unsettled herself. “The forces at play in the jungle are strong. I haven’t been to the temples myself. But if you insist… La Calle Oscura would be the place to find out more about getting there. It’s just off the main square, take a left behind the taverna, and right at the water fountain. I… I hope you have a safe trip.”
She gave them one last concerned look before returning back to her stall.
But Morgyn had no regard for the mood. “Well then, I guess that’s our plan for the afternoon sorted.” The sage said brightly.