Cordelia only intended to rest her eyes a little bit. Next thing she knew, the whole house was dark.
Must have been out for way longer than she intended.
She sat up groggily. If it was dark outside, Micah had to be up and about already, but he clearly wasn’t home. Cordelia spotted a note on the table.
Off to see Dandelion, Micah’s scribbled writing said. Did that mean Hawthorne was already back, Cordelia wondered?
She got her answer almost instantly, as the unmistakeable flash of the transportalate spell shone through the windows. Cordelia headed out.
Sure enough, Hawthorne and Morgyn had just landed in front of the porch. But what was that thing following them? Some kind of a huge flaming bird… Cordelia didn’t like it one bit.
“What the hell is that?” She turned to the sage.
“Our day was fabulous, thanks for asking.” Morgyn disregarded her question. “How was yours?”
“Morgyn. The bird.” Cordelia couldn’t take her eyes off the thing.
“It’s a phoenix.” The sage replied, looking slightly irritated. “They’re masters of rebirth, rising from the ashes…”
“Why is it here?” Cordelia cut in. She had no patience left for Morgyn’s nonsense.
“Mummy, it’s mine!” Hawthorne interjected. “His name is Smokey.”
“Smokey.” Cordelia repeated, shooting an angry glare at Morgyn.
“It’s just a familiar, Cordelia.” The sage told her. “It’s meant to protect her from death. No better choice than a phoenix, if you ask me.”
Cordelia remembered the Hex Shop stocking familiars, though nothing quite like this.
“Can I keep him mummy, please?”
Typical Morgyn, making sure she was the bad guy while they were the brilliant flaming bird-gifting godparent. How could she say no now?
“It can’t actually set anything on fire, can it?” She turned to the sage.
“It can, but only if it deems it necessary to protect Hawthorne.” Morgyn said with irritating nonchalance.
Great. She rubbed her temples, willing the bird to disappear when she opened her eyes again. “You’ve got to be kidding me…”
“Cordelia, familiars are commonplace among spellcaster children.” The sage changed their tune slightly. “You don’t want Hawthorne to feel left out when she starts school, do you?”
Cordelia’s throat felt dry. Damn them. Still knowing exactly how to strike a chord.
“You’re telling me all of the other kids will have their own flaming birds?” She snapped at them.
“Well no, a phoenix is quite rare. They’ll likely have bunnerflies, or ravens, or leafbats… but I’m sure you get the idea.”
She was sick of the entire exchange. “You better say goodbye to Morgyn, Hawthorne. Daddy is in Sylvan Glade, visiting Dandy. We should join them.”
“Can’t Morgyn come with us?” Her daughter gave her puppy eyes.
Now this was better. “I don’t know. Can you, Morgyn?” She pierced the sage with her eyes, challenging them.
“I’m afraid I’m not welcome in Sylvan Glade, princess.” The sage told the girl softly.
“Why not? Dandy is the most welcoming person in the world!” Hawthorne objected.
Morgyn waited briefly to see if Cordelia would interject, but she’d be damned if she helped them out.
“I’m sure he is.” Morgyn said finally. “But it’s not that simple.”
Annoyingly, Hawthorne decided not to question the matter any further. “Can Smokey come?”
“That’s your mother’s call.” Morgyn tossed the hot potato right back at her.
Cordelia sighed. “Yes, Smokey can come. Now let’s go, we don’t want to keep them waiting.”
She hurried Hawthorne through her goodbyes.
Mercifully her daughter’s attention soon turned to the tree. She called into the tree opening, greeting Dandelion – Not that Cordelia was sure if the elf could hear them all the way from here. But it didn’t matter.
Soon enough, they’d be in the Glades, and Morgyn would be out of her hair, for a while at least.
They found Micah and Dandelion by the bug hotel that Hawthorne had recently painted with all kinds of colourful flowers.
The girl dashed towards the elf, her new familiar flying in tow.
“Dandeee!” She squealed, leaping up at the elf.
“Hey, little sprout!” Dandelion caught her, spinning her in the air.
Micah spotted the phoenix flapping their wings around them, but didn’t interrupt Hawthorne’s moment with the elf.
“Well that’s new.” He said to Cordelia instead, eyes on the bird.
“Ugh, don’t get me started.” Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Bloody Morgyn…”
“You wanna sit down?” Micah gestured towards a bench made out of an old tree trunk.
“So typical of them, giving her something dangerous, not even bothering to check with us…” Cordelia vented.
“Is the bird dangerous?” Micah pondered. “It got to Sylvan Glade, didn’t it?”
You’re dangerous, doesn’t stop you getting in here, Cordelia wanted to say, but she managed to keep quiet. Wasn’t fair to let her anger out on Micah, and she knew those words would upset him. She knew better. She knew it was the intent that counted. But did she trust this bird thing? Not particularly. Like she could trust anything to do with Morgyn…
“I can ask Morgyn to tone down the gifts going forward,” Micah offered, his tone reconciliatory. “Anyway, how was your day?”
“Weird.” Cordelia admitted. “Was stuck thinking of things to do, with her not around. And then the oddest thing happened – Emilia Charm came over.”
A hint of worry flashed through Micah’s face. “Emilia Charm?”
“She said she wants to leave the past behind, because Hawthorne and her son will likely be classmates. Offered me a job too. Can you believe it?”
The phoenix flew over their head, briefly distracting her.
“Maybe she has a point.” Micah surprised her. “I don’t really know her, but if she came with a peace offering, I think we should take it.”
“How can you say that? With what happened with Darrel and Minerva…”
“Because of what happened with Darrel and Minerva.” Micah corrected her. “What use would carrying a grudge be? Won’t help us. Definitely won’t help Hawthorne. Best move past this before it affects her too, if the Charms are willing.”
Cordelia couldn’t believe what he was saying. Move past this… how could they?
“Are you thinking of taking the job?” He asked.
“What? You can’t be serious… even if we try to make amends with the Charms… I really don’t think I have the time. You know what a handful Hawthorne is.”
“Funny, weren’t you just complaining about being stuck on what to do with yourself with her gone?” He pointed out. Cordelia hated when he did this.
“No wonder you’re so eager to get all friendly with Emilia Charm. You sound just like her…”
Cordelia felt strangely jealous, which was ridiculous. Emilia Charm was married, and Micah never even met her. Not to mention Cordelia had no claim on Micah anyway. This was all dumb.
“I just meant that soon enough, you’ll have a lot more time on your hands, with Hawthorne in school.” Micah shrugged, proving Cordelia’s point.
“Why is everyone so worried about what I do with myself?” She protested.
“Well of course I’m worried, I care about you.” Micah said in that tone of his that made all of the stupid love spell fuzzies flare up. Cordelia willed herself to shut it down.
“I know you’ve had to focus on Hawthorne a lot, but I just… sometimes I wonder if that’s an excuse. An excuse for you to keep yourself from living your life, from being happy.”
He was really set on laying it on thick tonight, wasn’t he, Cordelia frowned.
“That’s rich, coming from you.” She muttered.
“Fair enough. But there’s a difference.” Micah didn’t seem discouraged. “I’m undead, I don’t really have that much living to do. But you… in the nicest way possible, you need to live now. While you can.”
Felt like a punch in the gut. The man she loved reminding her that she’d die one day, and he would not. Good thing that the only reason she loved him was a spell, Cordelia told herself.
She wasn’t sure how to respond. Micah fell silent too. He looked torn. Perhaps he regretted his words. Did it even matter?
A scream pierced into the silence between them. Dandelion’s scream.
Cordelia’s first thought was the damn bird. But that wasn’t the cause of the commotion.
She froze in horror. It was Hawthorne. Feeding on the elf.
Thankfully, Micah’s reaction was far more responsive then hers. In a flick of an eye, he sped up towards the girl and pulled her off from the elf.
It was only then when Cordelia managed to compose herself enough to move.
“Dandy!” She called out, dashing to the elf on the ground. He was conscious, rubbing his neck. “Are you ok?”
As she knelt down beside him, it occurred to Cordelia that perhaps the Charms and the flaming bird were the least of their worries.