Hawthorne didn’t understand. Her mother was sat next to Dandelion, consoling him. The sprites appeared from who knows where and flocked towards them. The fae caught the attention of Hawthorne’s phoenix, but Smokey didn’t linger with the sprites once her father carried her away from everyone else.
Micah only put her down by the waterfall, when he’d put enough distance between them and the elf’s house. Hawthorne examined his face. He looked so sad.
“I’m sorry, daddy,” she said instinctively, although she was unsure what exactly she was apologising for.
“Dandelion is hurt,” he told her.
“Badly?” The girl asked. She couldn’t help but think back on the lure of the elf’s blood she felt when she spotted the veins in his neck when she got close…
“He’ll be ok. But it could have been bad, if you didn’t stop.” He added, frowning.
She didn’t stop though, did she? He pulled her away by force.
“I couldn’t stop.” She tried to explain. “I saw… things.”
“What kinds of things?” Her father asked, crouching by her to level their eye high hights. Hawthorne tried to make sense of what she’d seen.
“Mostly mummy. With long hair. Picking up some shiny fruit, where the plasma fruit should be. Giving Dandy a weird violin. Looking pretty. A bit of you, too. And L Faba, but much more young, and not mean. So was Dandy, actually. Young, not mean. Duh.”
“They’re Dandy’s memories.” He explained.
“I want to see more of them.”
He shook his head. “You can’t. Each person’s memories are their own. When you take them away like that… it hurts them.” He paused. “Do you want to hurt Dandy?”
“No!” The girl cried out. “I love Dandy! That’s why I wanted to see more.”
Of course she didn’t want to harm Dandelion. The elf had been in her life as long as she could remember.
Her father sighed. “I can understand that. But you see, the more you saw, the more you were hurting him. And if you hurt him too much, he’ll be gone forever. No more memories. Not the ones you saw, and not the new ones, the ones he’ll make with you. Do you understand?”
“I didn’t mean to hurt Dandy,” Hawthorne pouted. “But… what if I only took a little bit?”
“Taking only a little bit is hard. Too hard. You’ve just told me yourself that you couldn’t stop.” He reminded her. “That’s why you shouldn’t take any. It’s the only way for nobody to get hurt. That goes for everyone, not just Dandy.”
It wasn’t fair. Why did it feel so good if it was so bad?
“You know the plasma fruit?” Her father continued. “That feels good, doesn’t it?”
The girl nodded. “It’s not the same, though.”
“It’s not.” He agreed. “But let me tell you a secret. Dandelion made that fruit. Put a tiny bit of his memories in every single one of them. So that you don’t have to hurt anybody.”
She never saw any memories when eating the fruit. But if the fruit was a part of Dandy, that made her feel a bit better about not being allowed to drink more.
“Can I have some more of the fruit?” Hawthorne asked.
“Of course. Stay put.” He left briefly, returning with a particularly plump looking fruit, handing it to her. “Hawthorne, you need to promise me you won’t do this again, ok?”
“Ok.” She nodded, sinking her teeth in. She devoured the entire fruit within less than a minute.
Her father looked at her strangely as she tossed away the pulp. Why did he look so worried, Hawthorne wondered?
Morgyn applied the serum to their skin. Not that anti-aging was a particular concern, thanks to the rejuvenate spell, but they could always use looking a bit younger, a bit plumper.
The sage smiled to themself. What a good day. Hawthorne was such a bright girl. Morgyn had no doubts she could achieve whatever she put her mind to one day. Especially with their help. Morgyn thought back on her inquisitive nature in Caster’s Alley, on her intrigue when she saw the phoenix, on her desire for power… already so ambitious, their little Hawthorne.
They’d indulge in reminiscing on the day for the rest of the evening, Morgyn decided. Tomorrow, they’d return to their sagely duties that just seemed never-ending these days. They’d probably have to read Darrel’s uninspired report too, Morgyn groaned inwardly. Couldn’t even avoid the bloody Charms today.
The sage loathed having to make pleasantries with the Charms. But ever since that night when Minerva lead the coup that could have ended up very unpleasantly for Micah and Cordelia, Morgyn knew it was essential to keep them in check. The Charms were an influential family, if anybody could rile up enough support to overthrow a sage, it would be them.
Minerva was getting on a bit now; while she was still well respected, Morgyn didn’t expend too much of their energy on her. As long as her children were content, she would be too. So it was a matter of pleasing Darrell and Gemma.
For Darrel, that meant the prospect of a career. Butter him up enough for him to think he may have a chance of ascending to a sage one day. With Gemma, it was something much more basic, though oddly more unpleasant.
Naturally, Morgyn had no intentions of delivering on either of those fronts. It was a delicate balance, making them believe it was within reach to keep them docile. To keep Micah safe.
It was simple enough to throw Darrel a bone. Make up some kind of a bogus title for him to pretend he had an influence on their affairs. Advisor to the Sages.
One perk of that nonsense, at least, was that it kept Simeon relatively happy as well. According to the practical magic sage, having a third “impartial” party present helped them all ensure “neutrality.”
Debatable, Morgyn thought – the Charms had their own interests at stake just like anyone else – but a necessary evil. After all, Simeon was another person to keep an eye on, after whatever it was that he pulled during the revival ritual following the Selvadorada excursion.
Either way, Darrel Morgyn could handle, and Simeon always complained a lot, but rarely acted on his threats. It was Gemma Charm who was the most tedious of them all.
She was not subtle in her efforts, and Morgyn had to be just the right amount of flirtatious to keep her hopes up. The sage had a feeling that out of all of them, she would be the one to be the most vindicative should she not get her way.
Which was precisely why bedding her would be a terrible idea. If that ever happened, it would have to be a long-term commitment, something Morgyn was not keen on whatsoever. Not with her, anyway.
Perhaps a few years ago Morgyn would have succumbed to Gemma’s advances, and then had to come up with some inventive way to get out of that mess, but now, it was hard enough to pretend they had any kind of interest in her, let alone actually consider her offer to warm their bed.
Morgyn shuddered at the thought. There was only one person they were eager to welcome in their bedroom these days, and that person kept the bed far from warm.
Serendipitously, that person happened to walk right through the door just as Morgyn thought of them. The sage smiled to themselves. Did they somehow manage to manifest Micah here? His visits, at least private visits on his own, had become more and more rare.
Of course, not getting to spend as much time with Micah as they would like to was a price the sage had to pay for everything they’d gained. Everything had a price, as the vampire had once said himself. Still, Morgyn didn’t like it.
“I didn’t expect you.” The sage greeted their visitor. “Not that I’m complaining. Perfect end to a perfect day.”
The vampire barely seemed to hear them. “She attacked Dandelion.” He said. “Went right for the neck.”
“Oh?” Morgyn chuckled, but Micah didn’t seem amused.
“I hoped that with her only being half-vampire, the thirst would not be too strong in her.” He frowned.
Morgyn tried to make light of the situation. “She can be prickly – what did you expect? You did name her after a thorny shrub, after all.”
“Is this funny to you?” Micah glared at them. “The last thing I want is for her to be torn by the need to feed.”
“She’ll be fine. She has a good role model.” The sage attempted to extend an olive branch his way.
“Modest as ever, aren’t you?”
Trust Micah to not see a compliment when it came his way. But Morgyn wasn’t going to spell it out for him. “What can I say? No ordinary child would benefit from the direct guidance of the sage of the untamed…”
“All I want for her is to be ordinary.” Micah replied.
The thought annoyed Morgyn. “She’s anything but ordinary, you can’t waste that potential. Just imagine, anything I can teach her combined with vampire powers… She’ll be unstoppable.”
“What if that’s not what she wants? What if she…”
Morgyn understood what Micah was getting at. But his fears were unfounded. There was no way a child brought up by Micah and with access to plasma fruit would go on killing rampages. No way she’d end up with Micah’s intense self-loathing that wouldn’t go away, even now, when he hadn’t fed on a single human for several years.
“Micah, she isn’t you. She’ll be fine.”
“Thanks for the pep talk. So glad I came over.” Micah replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
He turned around and headed for the door without another word. The thought of him leaving was more painful than Morgyn cared to admit.
“You know I think she’s extraordinary, but she can be anything she wishes. If it’s an ordinary life she winds up wanting, then so be it. I’ll see to that.” Morgyn pleaded with Micah. “But let the choice be hers, when she’s old enough.”
Micah stopped in his tracks, but didn’t respond straight away.
“I know your idea of giving people a choice.” He said finally.
“I’ll give her whatever she asks for. You have my word.” The sage promised. The sheer thought that Micah didn’t believe that was absurd. Why would Morgyn not want everything and more for their heir?
“Perhaps you’re right. An ordinary child wouldn’t have the sage of the untamed wrapped around her little finger.” Micah finally gave him somewhat of a smile.
Damn demon was out of control, it seemed. But if the demon could stop Micah from walking away, then so be it. They clutched on to Micah’s hand.
To Morgyn’s relief, the vampire didn’t draw away.
“Stay the night.” Morgyn whispered. “Please.”
Surprise briefly flickered in Micah’s eyes as they found Morgyn’s. “The sage of the untamed, begging?”
His tone was teasing. He wouldn’t be going anywhere.
Morgyn smiled. “The things you make me do…”
“I can maybe stay an hour or two.” Micah gave in. “Hawthorne won’t sleep for much longer than that, and Cordelia needs rest.”
Cordelia this, Cordelia that… Morgyn fought the urge to express their annoyance. It was not worth it.
“I’ll take what I can get.” The sage purred instead, breathing in Micah’s skin, pulling him in for a kiss. Finally. Home.
“So a phoenix, huh?” Micah teased once their lips parted. “Very you.”
Morgyn beamed. The symbolism may have flown right over Cordelia’s head, but naturally that wouldn’t be the case with Micah.
“Well of course. A phoenix never dies, always reborn, over and over again.”
“Depends on perspective.” Micah pointed out. “You could also say that a phoenix dies over and over again.”
Morgyn shook their head with a soft smile. Some things never changed.
“I’d happily dissect the error of your nihilistic ways with you, but you said we only have a couple of hours… Why don’t we use them for something a touch less… dreary?”