“Why is Morgyn doing this?” Luella looked up to Haruka, desperate for any kind of consolation.
She knew something was wrong when Morgyn didn’t meet her after their lessons last night. She could barely manage to get any sleep. And then when she returned to the magic realm this morning, she was greeted with the news that her fellow apprentice had marched into Aine’s study and demanded to duel her, the old-fashioned way.
Luella felt sick to her stomach. Definitely not how she had envisioned today. The day of the ball. The day of her ascension.
She was going to tell Morgyn. She was. Except that she had no idea how they’d take the news, and even less of an idea of how she would explain that she was to become the new mischief sage. But if Morgyn was acting out this much, it had to mean they already knew.
Still, was Morgyn really jealous enough of her becoming a sage to risk their life? It made no sense.
She realised she wasn’t even sure if Haruka replied to her question. The sage wasn’t even sat at the table anymore. Then again, she had a whole other question, one far more important than why.
“Haruka… they won’t actually fight to the death, will they?” She asked her mentor, aware of how shaky her own voice sounded.
The mischief sage let out a long sigh. Instead of responding to Luella, she turned around to her cousin, leaning down to face him. “Maybe you should head home for now, little one.”
Dandelion stared at the sage. “But… I want to stay with Lulu.”
Luella closed her eyes. She couldn’t deal with this right now. It was too much. How many more times could she bring herself to be his rock even when her world got shaken to the core? How many times could one pour from an empty cup? Luella hoped there was at least one time left.
“Dandy, listen to Haruka.” She forced herself to smile. “Go back to Sylvan Glade. Why don’t you play the cloud game?”
“That’s no fun on my own. And you’ll stay in the magic realm after today. I don’t want to go home.” The boy pouted, standing up from his chair.
“I’m sorry, little sprout. I know I told you there would be a big send-off party in the realm today, but…” Every word was hurting her.
“But Morgyn is doing something you’re upset about. I know.” Dandelion frowned.
How on earth was she to reply to that?
Simeon entered the room before she managed to come up with an response.
Luella’s heart sank at the sight of his expression.
He looked at Haruka. “I tried to reason with her.” He shook his head. “She’s accepted the challenge. Said she won’t be humiliated by an apprentice…”
Luella’s hands were shaking. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.
Simeon noticed her cousin. “You need to go home, Dandelion. Now.”
“I’ll visit you all the time, Dandy.” Luella told him. “I promise.”
Her words finally seemed to satisfy him enough to agree.
“Ok. I’ll miss you, Lulu.”
For a moment, he wrapped his small arms around her, and she somehow felt exactly like when they escaped Syeldell, nothing but his tiny hug there to comfort her as she was about to lose everything.
No, this was not the same. Morgyn had more raw magic than any of Aine’s previous students, she reminded herself. Maybe they had a chance of winning the duel. They had to.
Everything from there on was a blur. Dandelion must have finally left, and then she was walking out of HQ with Simeon and Haruka on either side of her.
Morgyn was already at the duelling grounds, but they didn’t as much as glance in her direction. What she wouldn’t give to know what was going on in their head.
“Well then. Three witnesses, splendid.” Aine’s icy voice screeched from behind them. “That ought to satisfy the formalities. Time to exterminate some vermin.”
Luella wanted to freeze time. Stop the madness. But both opponents extended their wands, and all she could do was watch.
Morgyn had undoubtedly progressed since she met them back in Glimmerbrook a year and ago. She felt a strange sense of pride of them for the briefest moment. But the moment died as quickly as it came. Aine was every bit as powerful as Luella had imagined. The duel quickly turned into Morgyn just trying to hold off Aine’s attacks.
“Ungrateful brat! Did you really think you could challenge me?” Aine cried out.
A blast of frost and lighting struck through the air. Luella watched Morgyn’s body being knocked back, the light enveloping their body. And then they were on the floor, motionless.
“Morgyn!” Luella leapt down to the ground. “Please… wake up… please.”
But the young spellcaster wasn’t breathing. Morgyn was gone.
Luella barely recognised the sound of her own voice. A horrid screech of despair. And then came the tears. This had to be a dream. She had to wake up.
“Aine.” Simeon approached the untamed magic sage, his tone infuriatingly calm. “You’ve taught Morgyn his lesson. He’s still so young. You can undo this. I’m sure he’s learned to see his error.”
Luella recalled what Aine herself had once told her. Untamed magic can defy near anything in this world – and beyond. It can even bring the dead back to life.
“I intend to keep this a lasting lesson.” Aine hissed at him, crushing Luella’s last hope.
“Aine, Morgyn’s just a child.” Haruka chimed in.
“I can deal with my apprentice as I see fit. Same for anyone else who stands in my way.” Aine’s voice was rising. The sound was making the inside of Luella’s head shrivel. “Do you think I don’t see through the two of you? You’ve been planning to remove me for years. But I’m not going anywhere.”
“Be reasonable-“ Simeon somehow still kept his cool.
“I’m sure you would enjoy that, me being perfectly reasonable while you two think of another way to dispose of me. If you think you’ll take the realm away from me, you are sorely mistaken!”
Aine did not say anything else. She needed no further words to make her point.
All Luella could hear afterwards was the sound of stone crumbling. Entire walls of buildings in Caster’s Alley were cracking apart and flying away, like balloons. The realm was erupting.
Luella clung onto Morgyn’s body. Perhaps they’d all be dead soon. She’d be with Morgyn again… At least Dandy was safe in the glades.
It all happened so fast. Simeon and Haruka exchanged the briefest of looks, followed by both of them extending their wands in unison. Another blast, flashing light.
And then the realm fell quiet again.
Aine was dead. But so was Morgyn.
Luella looked up at the two sages. “Simeon, you said it could be undone, what happened to Morgyn?”
The practical magic sage sighed. “The sage of untamed magic can bring those who passed away recently back to the living, yes. But obviously that is not an option.”
Luella could feel hot tears rolling down her cheeks. “There has to be something you can do… Please.”
“There is one alternative.” Haruka spoke quietly. “The Rite of the Three. If a sage has been lost, a former sage can join forces with those remaining in order to cast a master spell with their cumulative charge.”
That barely made sense to Luella. “I don’t understand…”
“You were already ascending at the ball anyway. If I complete the transition slightly earlier, there will be three sages, two current, one past.” Haruka told her. “That’s all the ritual needs.”
“Haruka, the risks-“ Simeon cut her off, but he himself was cut off by interrupted by a flash of lightning coming from the sky. Luella had never seen lightning in the magic realm before.
“The realm’s already starting to become unstable.” Haruka motioned towards the sky. “We need an untamed magic sage, Simeon. The only apprentice at our disposal is right here.”
“Two spellcasters have died here tonight, and Luella doesn’t have any knowledge of the ritual. Think of the consequences. Do you really believe we’ll be able to fully exclude Aine from the equation?” Simeon asked his fellow sage.
Luella couldn’t believe it. There was a way to bring Morgyn back, and Simeon was hesitating?
“We will guide Luella as best as we can.” Haruka replied. “What’s the alternative? A realm with no untamed magic sage won’t last long.”
“Simeon…” Luella looked up at the man through the tears. “Simeon, please… I’ll do anything… please.”
It worked. Morgyn returned. Luella watched them stare at the ripped buildings, looking disorientated. They were shaken, but alive. Everything would be ok after all.
“We will not speak of this again.” Simeon announced, allowing no room for question.
“We should get back to HQ,” Haruka added. “We do have a double ascension ceremony to complete, after all. And the guests will be arriving any moment.”
The two sages walked with Morgyn, ahead of Luella. She wasn’t sure what they were talking about as they entered the portal, but of course, coming back from the dead had to be a lot to take in. If they had any advice to make this easier for Morgyn, it made sense they wanted to discuss this with the young spellcaster alone.
The important thing was that Morgyn was alive. Luella’s heart danced. Morgyn was alive.
The room was filled with spellcasters Luella didn’t know. Simeon was making the obligatory speech, which, knowing Simeon, he probably hated with every fibre of his being. But none of it really mattered. All that mattered was that she was finally with Morgyn again.
She joined the future untamed magic sage. Finally, a chance to speak to them. Luella suddenly felt oddly nervous.
“I’m glad you’re ok.” She smiled softly.
But she did not get a smile in return. Morgyn didn’t even look at her. It felt as if there was an invisible wall between them.
“And now we’ll get to be sages, together.” Luella tried to carry on.
“I know what you did.” Morgyn said. Their tone had never been this cold with her.
Luella’s smile faded.
“What?” No, it couldn’t mean… how did Morgyn know? Did Haruka tell them? She promised she wouldn’t…
“I know exactly what you did to become a sage.” Morgyn elaborated. “You had to cast a love spell. You’ve put one on me. Tried to make me your puppet.”
“Not true?” Morgyn finished her sentence. They finally looked at her.
For a moment, the harshness disappeared, the wall almost dissolving. “So tell me you didn’t do it. Tell me you didn’t cast any love spells, L Faba.”
She could feel her eyes welling up. “I… I did. But-“
“I’m not interested in your excuses.” Morgyn interrupted her. Just like that, the invisible wall shot right back up, now even more impenetrable.
“Joke’s on you, mischief sage.” Morgyn’s tone was calm, but cold. “You really thought I couldn’t break your weak spell? I’ve been to hell and back, came back from the dead. You can’t control me. I am the master of the untamed. Your spell over me is gone. You are nothing to me.”
“But thank you, L Faba, for showing me what love is. I don’t think I’ll be doing any of that again.”
“Introducing the new sage of untamed magic, Morgyn Ember.” Simeon called out. Morgyn headed off without another word.
Everything was wrong. Luella and Morgyn were supposed to be making fun of Simeon’s terrible delivery. They were supposed to step into their lives as sages together. But somehow, Morgyn couldn’t feel further away.
It was Haruka’s turn to speak now, but Luella couldn’t hear a single word of what the old mischief sage was saying.
Morgyn was back with the living, but it felt as if her Morgyn had died forever.
“It’s a great pleasure to introduce the new sage of mischief magic, L Faba.” Haruka announced.
Luella dragged herself over to the mischief symbol on the floor. This was nothing like what she’d imagined. She was glad Dandelion wasn’t here for the ceremony.
She’d lost count of how many times she’d wanted to cry today. But she couldn’t burst into tears now, with everyone’s eyes on her.
She could do this. All her time with the little sprout taught her how to hide the pain of loss. Even when her heart felt like it was breaking into a thousand pieces.