The old woman’s gaze did not move from the cup she was pouring the hot liquid into, but she was clearly aware of their presence.
“I knew the two of you would be back. Can I interest you in that tea this time around?”
Cordelia suddenly didn’t feel as brave as before, in spite of the potion, in spite of the voodoo doll almost burning in her hand. Luckily, Micah took it upon himself to answer.
“You know we’re not here for tea.”
“No.” The former sage confirmed, still apparently not deeming them worthy a single glance in their direction. “You’re here for a far sillier reason. Have you considered that perhaps sometimes things come to an end because they have run their course?”
The statement gave Cordelia her determination back.
“Shouldn’t be for you to decide when someone’s life ends!” She yelled out at her, not trying to contain herself.
The woman finally looked up from her steaming cup. “What is there to decide if the life has already ended?”
Now that Cordelia had her eyes on her, she waved the voodoo doll at the old sage to signal her intention. “I don’t care what you think. You will help us!” She blurted out.
Cordelia wasn’t sure what she was doing, exactly, but taking the pin out of the doll’s head seemed like it would be a good place to start. All she’d have to do is pin it back to cause… oh gods, she was not sure about this anymore. She couldn’t really hurt this old lady, could she?
The doll gave her no time to decide, it moved in her hand, pointing another sharp pin directly at her.
She heard the woman mumble something, and then Cordelia’s head filled with a sharp, painful noise, making her drop the pin she was holding.
Micah jumped in front of her as she cried out in agony.
“Stop this or I’ll make you regret it.” He hissed at the former sage, his voice stone cold.
But the woman just laughed. “Will you? I’ve lived a rich life, longer than most. What are you threatening to do exactly? You didn’t try to attack me yesterday, I have a feeling that killing an old, powerless woman will do more harm to you than me.”
“You are not powerless,” Micah objected, baring his teeth. “Stop what you’re doing to her!”
“What am I doing? I’m not the one holding the voodoo doll,” the woman pointed out, turning to Cordelia. “I suggest you hand it over to me before you hurt yourself.”
Cordelia extended her arm out, allowing the old sage to take the doll from her. The pain stopped within an instant.
Micah calmed down a little bit, although he still hadn’t moved, shielding Cordelia away from the woman. Cordelia wasn’t sure how that made her feel. She didn’t want anybody else come to harm for her sake again.
The former sage seemed to be studying Cordelia’s face. “You’ve got guts, I’ll give you that. I can see why Morgyn would have found that appealing.” Her lips curled into a smile. “Tell me, have you managed to charm Morgyn as much as you have your vampire protector?”
Cordelia was taken aback. That was obviously not true. Yes, the vampire had been kind to her, kinder than he had to be, for some bizarre reason. Pity, perhaps? Some strange sense of obligation towards Morgyn? But whatever the case, the main point was that the two of them had to work together to achieve their common goal, nothing more to it than that.
“You are misreading the situation.” Micah confirmed her thoughts.
“But of course.” The woman smiled with a slight smirk. “I beg your pardon, clearly it’s me who’s deluded, not those attempting to use voodoo on the old mischief sage, of all people.”
She patted the doll’s head softly, and a burst of purple sparkles sprung up to dance around her.
“Wait, mischief?” Cordelia stared at the woman as she completely subdued the doll. “We thought you used to be the sage of untamed magic.”
“Oh, we’ll be seeing her, I’m sure.” The old sage said with a distracted nod.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Micah vocalised what was going to be Cordelia’s next question.
“It means I will do what you’re asking for. Seems like the only way to finally get some peace and quiet again,” the woman sighed. “I’m sure you can imagine one does not move this deep into the woods if they wish to have a never-ending influx of visitors reappearing on their doorstep. I suppose it will be good to see Simeon and Luella again.”
The old sage had used her magic to teleport them to Glimmerbrook, but the trio made a stop at Cordelia and Micah’s home to pick up llama statue. They then made their way through the portal. The magic realm looked about the same last time, storm-ridden, falling apart. At least it was no worse, but it definitely didn’t seem safe, Cordelia thoughts as she clutched on to the relic.
They hurried into the safety of the thick walls of magic HQ. The old woman looked around approvingly. “Hasn’t changed at all, it seems.” She said, more to herself than to her travelling companions.
The practical and mischief magic sages were exactly where Cordelia and Micah left them, in the middle of the entrance hall. Cordelia wondered if they’d gotten much rest themselves. L Faba looked particularly tired.
It took a brief moment for the sages to speak when they spotted the old woman approaching them.
“Haruka,” Simeon greeted her, his tone unusually soft. “I wasn’t expecting you to actually come.”
“I’m sure you had it all under control.” The woman, apparently called Haruka it seemed, replied, as if she hadn’t just seen the torrential madness outside of HQ.
“But I hear it’s you, my dear, that sent for me.” Haruka turned her attention to L Faba.
“I…” L Faba didn’t quite finish her sentence. It was the first time Cordelia had seen the mischief sage speechless.
“Come here, let me have a look at you,” The former sage pulled L Faba’s chin up, as if she were dealing with a child.
“All grown up now, aren’t you, Luella?” Haruka said. “A mischief sage in her own right. You’ve done well for yourself, sweetheart.”
Cordelia couldn’t quite decide if the old woman’s tone was genuinely caring or condescending. Perhaps that was where L Faba got it from. After all, if Haruka was the mischief sage before her, she would have likely been Faba’s teacher.
“Speaking of which, those two seem to have come into possession of a couple of items that would be best out of their hands.” Haruka gestured towards Micah and Cordelia. “This voodoo doll certainly should be in the hands of the mischief sage.”
She handed the doll to L Faba, who smiled for the first time since their arrival.
“Look how precious it is!” The elf coddled the doll in her hands.
“And then there’s that relic.” Haruka continued, addressing the practical magic sage now.
“Ah yes, I did request they bring that along on their next visit,” Simeon nodded, turning to Cordelia. “Could you please place that on one of the tables by the door?”
Cordelia did as instructed. She still had no idea what the relic was for, or if any of the sages had a clue either. But with any luck, they knew what had to be done to bring Morgyn back. Bring Morgyn back. Everything would be ok again… it had to be, right?
“Well then.” Haruka looked from one sage to the other. “I suppose we have work to do.”
Simeon let out a deep sigh. “It would appear so. Tempting fate, if you ask me… but the realm is at stake.” He sighed once more. “We don’t have a body this time. We’ll need to use necrocall to summon the dead. I trust you know what that’s bound to mean.”
Cordelia, for one, had no idea, but the old mischief sage nodded. “Time to reunite with all old friends tonight, it seems,” Haruka said quietly.
The three spellcasters made their way to the symbols on the ornate floor, assuming a triangle formation.
Each took out their wand, pointing it towards the centre of the circle. Sparks of magic flew through the air at their hushed whispers.
A spectral body rose from the centre of the circle. Morgyn, Cordelia realised, her heart pounding so fast as if it was trying to escape her chest.
But Morgyn wasn’t the only ghost that rose from the ground.
The sages didn’t stop the ritual when the crimson-coloured spectral woman emerged – at first, Cordelia wasn’t sure why, but it then dawned on her that they’d been expecting more than one ghost to appear. But who was she?
It seemed Morgyn was not surprised to see her – if a ghost could be surprised at all. Were they together wherever they came from, Cordelia wondered?
“Aine, how delightful of you to join us.” Morgyn’s voice had a strange echoing quality to it, but they had their typical calm confidence. “You’ve always hated seeing me shine, after all.”
None of the living spellcasters said anything.
“You continue to be an ungrateful brat,” the spectral woman’s voice pierced through the silence. “And yet again, everybody is bending over backwards over your newest stunt. Having those more powerful than you do your bidding is pathetic and unworthy of the sage of the untamed. The again, you were never supposed to be a sage in the first place. You stole what was mine!”
“Difference in perspective,” Morgyn cooed sweetly. “And certainly, you’ve been gone for far too long to gauge how much power I really hold now… But I see you’re unwilling to have a civil discussion, once again. There can only be one sage of the untamed.”
“With that much, I don’t disagree.” The crimson red evaporated from the woman’s body, and she became as transparent as Morgyn’s form was. Cordelia watched in horror as the two ghosts unleashed their magic on one another.
Morgyn was powerful, but the duel was unevenly matched still – Cordelia now felt foolish to have assumed Haruka was the untamed magic spell. Clearly this woman’s powers were on another level.
The burst of raw untamed magic she released with her bare hand struck Morgyn to the floor. Even Micah by Cordelia’s side seemed to have lost his cool, but nobody in the room did anything at all – aside from L Faba, the spellcasters didn’t even flinch.
Cordelia wanted to scream at them to help – surely if the sages joined forces they could overpower this woman. Why weren’t they helping?
But then she noticed that Morgyn was cackling.
“I feel death has made you stale, Aine, your attacks are predictable.” Morgyn taunted their opponent.
“All talk, and yet you’re the one on their knees.” Aine retorted. “The only predictable one is you.”
“But that’s where you’re wrong…”
Morgyn’s hand reached out towards the entrance as they stood up. For a split second, Cordelia thought they were reaching out to her. It would, after all be only fair for her to shield them this time… but before she could throw herself in front of Morgyn, the golden llama statue flew through the air, towards Morgyn.
The explosion erupted through the hallway. And then the woman was gone, and the relic had returned back to its place on the table by the entrance.
Morgyn’s ghost turned a vibrant green colour. “Well then, where were we?” They turned towards Simeon and Haruka brightly. “Shall we continue? And of course, Haruka, always a pleasure, it’s been too long – please forgive the social indiscretion of me only greeting you just now, I’m sure you appreciate I had my hands full…”
“No.” Simeon interrupted Morgyn’s giddy chatter with a single word.
“I beg your pardon?” Morgyn looked at the practical magic sage.
“The rest of the ritual will not go ahead.” Simeon said sternly. “Perhaps I’ve lost sight over the years, and it took seeing you with Aine to see the similarities between you, but you’ve become as arrogant, dangerous and power-hungry as she was, Morgyn.”
“Thank you for the compliment,” Morgyn didn’t sound phased. “Don’t get me wrong, Aine was a brilliant sage of untamed magic. But her time is over.”
“So is yours.” Simeon replied, quiet but resolute.
“Are you sure about this, Simeon?” Haruka turned to the practical magic sage. “I know it’s not my place to decide on matters of the current sages, but that storm outside will not be held for much longer. Are you really willing to risk the realm for this?”
“An unstable sage of untamed magic is equally detrimental to the realm,” Simeon replied, not a hint of affection in his voice.
“I have been turning a blind eye to this long enough.” Simeon continued. “A sage who leaves the realm for long periods of time, travelling to the other side of the world in the search of a deadly relic with uncertain effects, not even taking precautions to protect the realm in their absence…”
“Are you saying I should have made arrangements for my possible death, Simeon? That’s just morbid…” Morgyn attempted a joke.
Simeon did not acknowledge the comment. “A sage that puts their personal affairs before the realm, compromising it by chasing after strays, exposing us to vampires in the process.”
“I cannot in good conscience stand for any of this anymore.” The practical magic sage concluded. “A so-called sage that keeps on ignoring their duties like that is a hazard to any continuity the realm may have and-“
Simeon stopped mid-sentence, his expression turning somewhat vacant.
“We will continue with the ritual.” He said abruptly.
Cordelia and Micah exchanged confused looks. No visit to the magic realm was ordinary, but this particular one was turning stranger and stranger by the minute. Not that Cordelia was complaining about the sudden change of heart.
“Nice of you to make your mind up already,” L Faba scoffed from across the hallway. “Are we going to get this over with or what?”
Morgyn stood in the middle of the circle as the three other spellcasters assumed their original positions on the symbols. They were muttering indistinctly, and one by one, each of them raised their hand with a bundle of magical energy above their heads.
And then Morgyn landed back on the ground, gracefully, but flesh and blood again, as if they were never gone.
L Faba’s eyes narrowed at the sight of them. “Go on then, this is the part where you gloat about being the master of the untamed, isn’t it?”
The corners of Morgyn’s mouth twisted upwards. “Miss me, L Faba, dearest?”
Morgyn did not wait for a response – not that L Faba was offering one. Instead, Morgyn headed up the stairs to the entrance, up towards Cordelia and Micah.
Cordelia’s stomach filled with butterflies as they approached them.
“You have done well, my loves.” Morgyn said.
Cordelia wasn’t sure how to respond – she wanted to fling herself into Morgyn’s arms, but that didn’t seem right in front of Micah. And so she waited for the sage’s next move.
“I’m sure you can both appreciate that I have quite a bit of work here in the magic realm right now.” Morgyn told them. “Wouldn’t want Simeon getting all cranky again, claiming I slack off on my responsibilities and calling my loves all sorts of unsavoury terms. Besides, I’m sure you must both be exhausted. Go home, get some rest. I’ll find you when my duties allow.”
And with that, Morgyn twirled around and left Cordelia and Micah to their own devices.