The magic realm looked nothing like Cordelia had seen it before. The air was filled with static, and several lightnings would strike all around them, seconds apart, or even all at the same time.
She looked at Micah, almost feeling his tension.
“This isn’t normal, even for here.” He said with a frown, scanning the area.
She shook her head. For once, she actually knew more about something than he did. “The magic realm needs three sages living in it at all times, to stop it from getting ripped apart.” She explained.
“Oh.” The vampire paused. “I suppose that should make them cooperative, then.”
The headed up the stairs and into the HQ building as quickly as possible to avoid the storm.
It was a strange sight that greeted them. The two sages stood in the middle of the circle in the entrance hall, back to back, profusely casting a series of spells, one after the other. They were probably trying to hold off insane storm outside, Cordelia figured.
It took the sages a moment to realise they had visitors. L Faba took notice of them first.
“Ah, lovely, Morgyn’s toys.” The mischief sage’s eyes narrowed at the sight of them.
“I’m sure you can appreciate we don’t have time for visitors right now.” Simeon interjected. “Unless you have any useful information on where Morgyn is, I must insist that you leave now.”
Cordelia couldn’t bring herself to say the words out loud again, but thankfully she didn’t have to. Micah took the lead on the conversation.
“Dead.” He said flatly. “Morgyn’s dead.”
To Cordelia’s shock, Simeon didn’t even hesitate. “Well. That certainly explains the situation.” The practical magic sage scoffed. “Brilliant. Suppose it was a matter of time till Morgyn got themself killed.”
Surely that couldn’t be all Simeon had to say about the death of a fellow sage…
“Morgyn believed they would come back from… wherever they are.” Cordelia told them. She noticed how shaky her voice sounded.
“Of course they believed that.” Simeon sneered. This could not be happening.
“So there is no way?” Micah jumped in, the aggravation in his voice clear. “I thought untamed magic can bring the dead back, as long as the death is recent.”
“The untamed magic sage can in revive people in some instances, yes.” Simeon sounded a bit calmer now. “But seeing as our current predicament is that we are a missing an untamed magic sage, that’s obviously not an option.”
“We recovered a relic in Selvadorada, from an old temple. Morgyn thought it was important. Would that be of any help?” Cordelia pleaded with Simeon.
The two sages exchanged looks, but they looked more perplexed than anything else, as far as Cordelia could tell.
“I’m afraid I have no idea how a relic from Selvadorada would be relevant.” Simeon finally replied.
There had to be more, something the sages were not telling them, but clearly they didn’t want to elaborate…
It seemed Micah shared Cordelia’s sentiment. “So you’ve got nothing? Nothing at all? And you’ll do nothing?” His voice echoed through the hall.
“On the contrary, we have our hands full.” Simeon’s tone was cold. “Clearly, we need to ensure a new sage of untamed magic ascends as quickly as possible, before the realm becomes entirely unstable.”
Cordelia couldn’t believe it. Sure, the practical magic sage never took a particular interest in her, but he never seemed unkind to her. How could he be so indifferent to Morgyn’s fate?
“Do you really think we can just conjure a new untamed magic sage out of thin air?” L Faba’s high-pitched voice pierced through the hall as she addressed Simeon.
Come to think of it, this was the first time the mischief sage had spoken since acknowledging their arrival.
“There’s nothing else that can be done.” Simeon told her sharply. The two sages glared at each other for a brief moment, but Cordelia couldn’t decipher what was going on between them.
L Faba’s face turned stiff. “Do you have anyone in mind?” She asked. “Morgyn didn’t exactly name a successor.”
“Darrel Charm has shown a great deal of promise in multiple schools.” Simeon’s voice lacked the enthusiasm his words seemed to imply.
“Darrel Charm?” L Faba repeated, her tone condescending. “What exactly screams untamed about that man? He’s been tamed to such a level it surprises me he can find his way to the HQ from under Emilia’s thumb.”
“Do you have any better suggestions?” The practical magic sage snapped back at her.
Micah cleared his throat loudly in an obvious attempt to remind the sages of their presence. Simeon turned back to him, distracted.
“We appreciate your visit.” The practical magic sage said curtly. “If you could please bring the relic you mentioned back to the realm. I will examine it once we’ve made arrangements for the more immediately pressing issues.”
Was that really it? “Do you not care about Morgyn at all?” Cordelia couldn’t help the words escaping her lips.
Simeon remained unphased. “If someone continues to play with fire, eventually they get burnt.”
“Thanks for nothing.” Micah hissed.
Everything was a haze to Cordelia as they made their exit. She could barely see all the lightnings surrounding them when they walked out of the door. Micah was looking at her, but she barely saw him either.
Tears rushed into her eyes. She hadn’t cried in the ruin, or when she returned to Glimmerbrook. But now… Morgyn was gone. Really gone.
“Wait.” A shrill voice called out from behind them.
Cordelia tried to compose herself at the sight of L Faba. She knew seeing her cry would just give the mischief sage satisfaction. But she was unable to speak without breaking into tears again.
“What now?” Micah grunted in the sage’s direction impatiently.
“There might be a way.” L Faba said, not really looking at them. “Simeon is right, master spells like dedeathify can only be performed by the sage of the school in most cases, but exceptions… are possible.”
Exceptions? There was hope after all? Cordelia stared at the sage, bewildered.
“At a time like this, when a sage has been lost, a former sage can join forces with the remaining ones in order to cast the spell using their cumulative charge.” L Faba continued.
Former sage. Cumulative charge. What on earth did that mean? Cordelia’s head was spinning.
“What are you saying?” Micah asked, apparently equally confused.
“A retired sage lives deep within the Granite Falls woods. The woods right outside of Glimmerbrook?” She added impatiently when she saw their blank faces. “Shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to get there.”
“Convince the old sage to come here, and perhaps with her help, Simeon and I may be able to revive Morgyn.”
“Simeon didn’t sound like he was exactly on board with that.” Micah pointed out.
“Let me worry about Simeon.” L Faba shrugged his words off.
It was bizarre. The mischief sage was the last person Cordelia had expected favours from.
“Why are you helping us?” She asked the sage.
“Helping you? I’m just trying to do what’s best for the realm. Look around you.” L Faba motioned to the lightning-filled sky. “Clearly, we need a sage of untamed magic. But having the likes of Darrel Charm ascend would be an insult to our status. Over my dead body… and of course, we really can’t afford any more dead sages, so… off to Granite Falls with you.”
Cordelia hesitated. The last time she took a trip somewhere on the mischief sage’s recommendation, things did not exactly go as planned. Was it really a good idea to listen to her? But then, what other choice did they have?
Micah didn’t appear particularly convinced either. “How do we know it’s not a trap?”
L Faba smirked. “You don’t, I suppose. But what else are the two of you going to do all on your own, without your precious puppeteer?”
“Are you sure you’re up for this hike?” Micah turned to Cordelia. “I get that this needs to be done quickly, especially with the state of the magic realm, but you should stay at home. You lost a lot of blood, and it’s late. You really need to sleep. I can just go alone.”
Perhaps he had a point. They only returned home briefly, but Cordelia had insisted they left as soon as she got changed. She did feel lightheaded, and it was the middle of the night, but she refused to stop. How could she just go to sleep now anyway?
“And convince the sage to help us? What if she doesn’t want to come with a vampire?” She retorted.
“I think you’ll find vampires can be quite convincing.”
A heaviness washed over Cordelia. She may have pushed their earlier talk aside, but she had not forgotten.
“You mean you would convince her by threatening to kill her.” She said quietly.
“If I have to. If I have to threaten her, not kill her.” He added when he saw Cordelia’s look.
She stopped, unable to keep her emotions contained any longer. “But you have killed! You killed someone who loved you, no less.”
“Thanks for the reminder.”
She felt dizzy. The whole conversation was making her sick. “How can you live with yourself?”
“I don’t know.” Micah paused. There was a hollowness to his voice.
“Look, I’m sure your time in Forgotten Hollow has given you a pretty solid indication of what vampires are.” He carried on eventually. “We are monsters. Everybody in that house wanted every last drop of your blood. It is what it is.”
He was right, of course. So why was there still a part of her that desperately wanted to believe he was a good person, in spite of all reason pointing to the contrary?
“But you didn’t…. that’s what I don’t understand. You didn’t hurt me. You saved me. You say you don’t kill now. So why did you do it before?”
“You think it’s just a simple matter of deciding not to?” Micah’s face turned into an ugly grimace. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to fight what you are every single night!? To tear yourself away from the very blood flow that keeps you alive? Do you think I knew how to do that from the start? That the faces from those early days don’t haunt me? That it’s easy to control even now?”
His voice broke off all of the sudden, and his anger seemed gone.
“I’m sorry.” He shook his head. “I shouldn’t have yelled. You’re right. About everything. About me. I agree with you. I shouldn’t be able to live with myself. I shouldn’t live at all. Let’s just… find this damn sage.”
Cordelia’s emotions were all over the place. It was clear he regretted what happened. That he was in pain. But that didn’t make things right. And yet, she wanted to understand. She caught up to him.
“What is it like? Drinking blood.”
“What?” He stared at her in disbelief. “You were there. You see what I see.”
Cordelia’s mind wandered back to earlier in the night. Him feeding on her had been a strange trip down the memory lane, her life flashing before her eyes, somehow amplified. “So all of my memories… you saw that?”
“Yes.” He gave her a small nod. “That’s how it works. Vampires drain life itself. Life… is pretty addicting.”
The words sent an unpleasant shiver down her spine, but she had to know more. “Addicting?”
Micah sighed, clearly not wanting to get any deeper.
“You don’t really get much of a life as a vampire.” He told her reluctantly. “But when you drink blood, see the memories of those who do live… you feel alive, through them. That’s why it’s hard to stop. Especially with people like you.” He added, his voice bitter.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“When I feed, the memories that pour out are the ones with the strongest emotions attached to them.” Micah explained. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t get the impression you’ve had an easy life. But apart from your mother’s death, your memories, the strong ones… they were all good ones. You look for the good in life. In people. Even when you shouldn’t. She was like that. Carys.”
His words stunned her. She didn’t know what to think anymore. All of her thoughts had turned into a conflicting jumbled mess. But why was she conflicted? Clearly, the sane response to him comparing her to that girl should be to run. Didn’t that admission alone mean that she wasn’t safe with him?
You mean how Morgyn wasn’t safe with you in that temple? A little voice at the back of her head said.
She couldn’t bear to think about that.
“I… I think we’re at a dead end.” Cordelia noted weakly, changing the subject. The path before them did seem to end, nothing but a rocky mountain covered in shrubs ahead.
Micah shook his head. “We’re not. There’s some sort of a cave. Through those branches.”
He walked closer to the cave opening. “Deep in the woods…. That’s got to be it.”
“You think the old sage lives in a cave?” Cordelia hesitated. But Micah wasn’t paying attention, already clearing the branches in the way.
“Why not?” He said, not bothering to turn back. “Doesn’t your elf friend live in a tree?”