Disclaimer: Same triggers as chapter 46. No swearing in this one though!
The cave wasn’t particularly large, but it had a second entrance on the other side, one that opened into a clearing surrounded by waterfalls. And in the middle of it all, a small rickety house. One that definitely looked like somewhere an old magic sage could be hiding away from the world, Micah thought.
“You think this is it?” Cordelia asked him uncertainly.
“Only one way to find out.” He shrugged.
He accelerated to the small porch using his vampire speed to make sure he got to the entrance before Cordelia did, to shield her just in case there was anything nefarious on the other side of the door.
Nobody answered his knock, and the door was locked. But they couldn’t have come all this way for nothing. Micah concentrated his focus on the lock.
The door swung open in front of them as soon as the burst of crimson vampiric energy left his body.
“You’ve done this before.” Cordelia noted. “In the catacombs.”
“Yes,” he nodded. Opening locked doors was an essential skill for most vampires needing to feed on unsuspecting prey, but Micah knew better than to share that with Cordelia. “Make sure you stay behind me.” He told the girl instead.
The small room they entered did seem like something fit for a spellcaster, or at least, someone rather eccentric. Micah heard footsteps above them. Cordelia hadn’t realised yet.
He stepped before her – of course she didn’t listen when he asked her to stay back. Just as he did, an old woman descended from the stairs before them. She didn’t look like he expected, not like the woman from Morgyn’s memories. Had she altered her appearance, Micah wondered?
“Well then, it’s not often an old sage gets visitors, all the way up here, especially not at this time of the night. What do I owe the pleasure?”
She was smiling and did not comment on them clearly having broken in, but that alone made Micah’s guard shoot right up. There was something off about her. Then again, perhaps that was the case with all sages.
“Sorry to disturb you,” Micah told her. Why was it that he kept finding himself apologising to strangers for trespassing these days? “We bring urgent news from the magic realm.”
“Is that so?” Her smile did not waiver. Micah wasn’t sure if she was even interested.
“The sage of untamed magic is dead.” He explained, unsure if she was aware of who held the position.
“Morgyn died? What a pity.” The woman’s hand motioned to her chest as if to express grief, but the smile hadn’t left her face. Her tone didn’t seem to match her words either.
“You knew Morgyn, right?” Cordelia asked her, although it seemed she already knew the answer.
“Why of course,” The former sage nodded nonchalantly, motioning towards the armchairs. “Have a seat, make yourselves comfortable. Would you like some tea?”
Like hell was Micah going to agree to him or Cordelia ingesting anything from this peculiar woman. “That won’t be necessary.” He glared at her as he sat down.
“Yes, I suppose tea is not a substance of your choosing, is it?” She studied his face with that fake grin of hers.
“I don’t see why my dietary preferences are relevant.” Micah shut the topic down. “We came to discuss the dead sage. I understand you may be able to help bring them back to life.”
“And why would I ever do that?” The woman sat down on the couch facing them.
“Why wouldn’t you?” Cordelia interrupted. “I… I understand you and Morgyn have a past, but is it really so bad that you want them dead? L Faba said you would help us….”
The former sage looked Cordelia up and down, as if to evaluate her. “A plea of a foolish girl in love, I see.”
Cordelia looked like a deer in headlights for a moment, but then she composed herself. “Maybe I am that, but what does that matter?”
“Perhaps the girl does not understand what she’s asking for.” The woman replied with a light shrug.
“Why do you keep speaking about me as if I wasn’t here?” Cordelia snapped at her.
Micah evaluated the situation. Clearly emotions and sympathy were not the card to play here. “I’m sure you are aware that the magic realm needs three sages present to stay stable.” He tried to appeal to the former sage’s past with the information he’d learned from Cordelia earlier that night.
“I would imagine Simeon and Luella will deal with the matter of recruiting a new sage promptly, yes.” She sounded unenthused.
“Wouldn’t reviving the existing sage be the promptest solution?” Micah tried and failed to keep his temper under control.
“Perhaps.” The woman replied non-committedly.
“So it is possible?” Cordelia interrupted. “Morgyn can be brought back to life?”
“Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should.” The old sage said sweetly.
“Clearly you weren’t fond of Morgyn,” Micah tried to calm down. “But don’t you want to help for the sake of the magic realm? As a former sage, surely its fate must matter to you.”
“I haven’t had any involvement with the magic realm for quite some time.” She informed them. “This issue is for the current sages to deal with. It’s not my place.”
“But I already told you it was L Faba that sent us here!” Cordelia cried out.
“I heard you the first time, dear.” The woman nodded with a condescending smile. “And what does Simeon have to say about the matter?”
Neither Micah nor Cordelia were able to respond.
The woman smirked. “I thought so. Now, if you excuse me, I would like to get back to sleep for however little is left of the night.”
Another dead end. Micah looked away from Cordelia; the girl looked like she was about to burst into tears. Perhaps they have just been clinging on to false hope.
The former sage did have a point though, the night wasn’t going to last much longer.
“Come on Cordelia, let’s get out of here.” He stood up, heading for the door.
“Micah… do you seriously just want to leave?”
“What else is left to do?”
Micah could already feel the sun on the horizon when they got back outside. He felt a tingling sensation in his skin.
“What now?” Cordelia looked at him helplessly.
“The sun will rise soon.” He told her. “I’ll stay back in the cave, to take cover from the sun. You should head home.”
The truth was he wasn’t particularly planning on hiding out in the cave. It was time he stopped being a coward. The sky was clear, promising a sunny day. The waterfalls surrounding the clearing were beautiful. Seemed like as good a place as any.
“I’ll stay with you.” She told him. Of course she wasn’t going to make this easy. Typical.
“Why? There’s no reason for you to do that. There’s no reason for me to stay in Glimmerbrook now, either.” He tried to talk some sense into her. “The house is yours. Maybe you can start over.”
Cordelia stared at him, apparently adamant to make this as difficult as possible. “Where will you go?”
“I don’t know. Not really your concern.” He hoped he sounded indifferent.
“I guess not.” She said quietly. It worked.
Out of nowhere, she swayed in the spot. Micah barely managed to catch her. Looked like the events of the night finally caught up to her.
“Are you ok?”
She just shook her head in response.
“You did push yourself too hard.” He frowned. Running on no sleep and less blood than normal. Recipe for disaster. He shouldn’t have let her get to this state. They’d both gotten carried away.
“Maybe you should stay in the cave.” He sighed. His plans would have to wait. “You’d pass out if you went back in this state.”
The two of them stumbled back into the cave passage. Micah let Cordelia find herself a spot to crash in, and made sure to go to the other side of the cave. He couldn’t exactly hibernate without his coffin, but he could watch over her. From a distance. It was going to be a long day.
He heard her quiet sobs from across the cave. In spite of himself, Micah walked back to her.
“I’m sorry.” He told her softly. “There’s nothing else we could have done.”
His words seemed to just make things worse.
“I had no right to judge you.” Cordelia managed to say through the tears.
“What?” Micah sat on the ground next to her. She was making no sense. Had to be the exhaustion.
She turned to him, teary-eyed. “Do you know why I was so set to keep going through the night?”
That much was obvious. “You were determined.” He said softly.
But Cordelia just shook her head. “No. I couldn’t face what I’ve done. I killed Morgyn.”
She hadn’t really told him what went down in the temple, but Micah highly doubted that was the case. Still, he let her carry on.
“It’s my fault they are dead. I was distracted. I wasn’t listening. Stepped right into a trap. They pushed me out of the way. It should have been me.”
She burst into tears again, and then, to Micah’s surprise she curled up in his lap, like a child.
“It’s all because of me.” She sobbed. “Morgyn, my mother… all I bring is death.”
Micah had no idea what to do. He patted her head awkwardly. “Shh.” He tried to sooth her.
“I’m so sorry.” She went on.
She was so human… he was jealous of the intensity of her emotions. Of course, she was utterly wrong.
“You didn’t kill anybody. It’s not your fault.” He told her firmly.
But she wasn’t listening, sobbing softly. So he stroked her hair until she cried herself to sleep. He wished there was something he could do to take the pain away. But he had nothing.