A/N: I feel like there should probably be a disclaimer, but no idea what it should say. Awful? Let’s go with all-encompassing awful. Welcome to the season finale.
L Faba watched the vampire storm off. Neither him nor the sage have raised their voices too much during the exchange, but it was clear it was not a pleasant one, which seemed to catch the attention of several guests.
She wondered why Morgyn didn’t take this fallout somewhere private. Morgyn was always so keen on keeping appearances, surely they would have kept this on the low had they had a choice. Did they not see it coming?
It was an unwise choice on the vampire’s part too, she thought. There were still some in Glimmerbrook who only tolerated his presence in the village thanks to his connection to Morgyn.
Severing ties with the untamed magic sage so publicly lacked any kind of foresight, something an immortal being should have if they wished to stay immortal. Not that L Faba particularly cared about the vampire’s future.
Whatever the case, he left HQ, and Morgyn finally decided to take a leave of absence as well. They turned around abruptly, heading for the balcony at a pace that could almost pass for casual. Almost.
The ever-annoying Gemma Charm must have seen this as an opportunity, dashing towards the untamed magic sage. “Morgyn, are you ok? I’ve always known the vampire would-”
“Not now, Gemma.” Morgyn stopped her. They didn’t even stop in their tracks to acknowledge her any further.
Once again, failing to keep appearances. None of this was like Morgyn at all. Every bone in L Faba’s body fought the urge to go after them. It was much like the battle from earlier. And yet she’d lost that one too, didn’t she? Wearing that goddamn dress, after all these years.
She wanted to blame Dandelion, for coming over, for stirring up old wounds, for reminding her of her ascension ceremony. But Dandelion wasn’t at fault. Only she was, and would always be. Those wounds would never stop festering.
It wasn’t like she was in a mood for mingling anyway, L Faba told herself. Some fresh air would be preferable.
She cursed under her breath and headed to the balcony.
Morgyn stood by the railing, but wasn’t overlooking the view. Their eyes were closed.
They were in pain, L Faba observed, bewildered. She didn’t think Morgyn could care enough about anyone to still feel heartbreak. Not since they died, the first time. The sheer amount of their ex-lovers spoke for itself. But the vampire changed that, didn’t he?
She wasn’t sure what to say, but Morgyn beat her to the punch. “Go away.” They said slowly. Their eyes opened, but they didn’t look at her.
“Whatever it is, now is not a good time. I want to be alone.”
Every word that came out of Morgyn’s mouth sounded like a lot of effort. Which was odd in itself, normally Morgyn would drive both L Faba and Simeon insane with their incessant yapping.
“Do you?” She asked softly.
Morgyn finally looked her way, their eyes lingering on the dress as if it was the most repulsive thing they’d ever seen. L Faba silently cursed herself again. Why did she wear it? Why did she keep doing this to herself? She knew the answer, of course. But it didn’t make this any less ridiculous.
“Your dress is very dated.” Morgyn said finally. “About time you considered something a touch more fashion-forward.”
“Some dresses are timeless.” L Faba replied, her voice stiff.
“I beg to differ.” Morgyn shrugged, turning away again. “I would burn it if I were you.”
The fabric somehow felt tighter against her skin all of the sudden. Uncomfortable. This would be the time to leave, the mischief sage told herself. Just go. So Morgyn was hurting. Let them stew. They could use a bit of pain.
But tonight was not her night. She should have known that the last shred of her self-control went haywire the moment Dandelion asked for that key. At least that was safely locked away.
“He lasted much longer than all the others.” She pointed out. “Must have meant something to you. You actually loved him, didn’t you?”
The muscles in Morgyn’s face tensed up. “Spare me your assumptions, L Faba. You know damn well that I don’t need anyone.”
In a way, L Faba preferred this stone cold Morgyn. Felt more real somehow. More real than the flamboyant façade the sage of untamed magic had meticulously cultivated over the years. Then again, whatever persona Morgyn chose to wear, they were clearly keen on making her suffer either way. But that could go both ways.
“Of course you don’t. That much is evident – all these lovers throughout the years, and here you are. Alone.” She retaliated.
“Who cares? I’ll have three new lovers tomorrow should I choose to.” Morgyn replied swiftly. “He was outstaying his welcome anyway. He was supposed to leave a long time ago.”
“Was he now? Looked an awful lot like you were begging him to stay back there.”
Morgyn looked at her, strange kind of fire in their eyes.
“I do not beg.” They hissed at her.
But Morgyn’s tone changed abruptly, sliding back into monotony. A contemptuous smile spread across their lips.
“As if you’re in a position to bring up being alone.” They told her. “You can’t even visit your little elf in Sylvan Glade anymore. Not that he still cares for you to do so.”
That was low. The nerve… “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” L Faba forced herself not to acknowledge the remark.
“Don’t insult my intelligence.” Morgyn scoffed at her. “But fine, I’ll play along. The bottom line is I’m no more alone than you are. Except that I have something you don’t. An heir.”
An heir. They were talking about her daughter, of course.
Half-vampire, half gods knew what. As if L Faba would allow her daughter to gain any kind of magical ability. Especially after what she’d learned from Dandelion tonight, that she was after they key after all, after all this time.
“Please. You have a vampire brat you barely know, yet you insist on pretending she’s somehow related to you.”
She paused, making sure her next words would strike back in full force. “No matter, it’s irrelevant. She’ll never ascend. You need all three sages’ blessings to become a spellcaster. And she’s not getting the mischief one.”
That seemed to surprise Morgyn. They paused for a moment.
“Sages can be replaced.” They said eventually.
The pain of the statement was gut wrenching. But if that was how Morgyn wanted to play, then so be it.
“That includes you.” She snapped back. “In fact, I seem to recall the last time an untamed magic sage was replaced, it was the mischief and practical magic sage who struck them. Perhaps we could make it a tradition. Or do you really think Simeon will agree to a vampire ascending?”
“Are you threatening me, dearest?” Morgyn slipped back into their standard jovial tone, but there was no affection in their voice.
“As adorable as that is, you pose no threat to me.” They continued. “I’ve risen from the dead twice, gone to hell and back countless times, absorbed power from Omniscan temples and learned from the undead. I have powers beyond your wildest dreams now. Do not challenge me.”
“You would have done very little rising from the dead without my intervention.” She hissed at Morgyn. “You’d very much still be dead if it wasn’t for me. Twice.”
Anger took over L Faba completely. “Rest assured there will not be a third time. The only thing worth a damn in everything you’ve just listed is that you belong in hell.” She concluded.
“Perhaps.” Morgyn cooed back. “But L Faba, my sweet, do not think for a moment that I would hesitate to take you there with me. I had no problem with setting the house with my own parents inside it ablaze when I was just a child. I can end you.”
The world turned inside out. L Faba felt a wave of nausea rising up her throat. She couldn’t manage another word. All she could think of was Syeldell in flames.
Morgyn did not wait for her reply. They smirked, twirled around and headed back indoors. She watched them go through the door, but it barely felt like she was there at all.
“Please pardon my earlier impertinence, Gemma.” She heard Morgyn from the hall before the door shut. “May I just say you look absolutely dazzling tonight…”
The door closed. L Faba felt sick to her stomach.
All these years, everything she’d felt for Morgyn, everything she’d done for them… heck, she’d even mind controlled the closest person she still had left to a father.
“I cannot in good conscience stand for any of this anymore. A so-called sage that keeps on ignoring their duties like that is a hazard to any continuity the realm may have and-“
“We will continue with the ritual.”
Of course, the second Rite of the Three, much like the first one, would have never gone ahead in the first place if it wasn’t for her…
“What else are the two of you going to do all on your own, without your precious puppeteer?”
They finally took the hint and headed off, thankfully. L Faba wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep the charade going for. Some dedicated lovers, they were. They seemed about ready to give up.
She sighed and headed back inside HQ.
Simeon’s eyes locked onto her quizzically. “You went after them.” He stated the obvious.
“I sent them to get Haruka.” She admitted. There was no point in hiding it. If they were successful, Simeon would know sooner rather than later anyway.
“Luella, I know what you’re thinking, and it is a terrible idea.” Simeon said quietly. Then again, Simeon thought almost everything was a terrible idea.
“We’ve done it before.” She reminded him. “And this time around, I have far more experience.”
“That’s not the only variable that’s changed.” The practical magic sage replied. “Last time, the ritual was performed moments after death, not to mention we had the body of the deceased at our disposal.”
L Faba hadn’t considered that. “Can it not be done without a body?”
“It can.” He admitted. “We can summon the dead using the necrocall spell. But I highly doubt it will only be Morgyn we’d be summoning.”
“Didn’t you say something like that last time? That we might not be able to keep Aine away?” She vaguely recalled his brief argument with Haruka.
“And I’m not convinced we did. Not fully.” Simeon’s tone was even more serious than normal. “Judging by the state of the realm, Morgyn has been dead for a few days now. If I’m right, they’ve been spending a lot of time with our friend Aine during that time.”
“Aine’s been dead for years!” L Faba shook her head in frustration. “This is all a lot of speculation. We don’t have time for speculation! You said it yourself, the realm is deteriorating.”
He looked into her eyes. “And you are expecting me to believe that that the state of the realm is your main motivating factor here, Luella?”
L Faba was taken aback. “It is a factor.” She replied weakly. “What does it matter?”
He said nothing, but continued to stare at her. Damn old man.
“Simeon… Do you really believe Morgyn deserves to be dead?” She demanded.
He sighed. “No. But that can be said of plenty of people who died. I’m sure you can think of a few from your own past. Sometimes it’s for the best not to defy fate. We have tempered enough in Morgyn’s name already, and I doubt it’s been without consequence.”
“Luella, after all these years, don’t you think it’s time that you’ve moved on from Morgyn?” He asked, his tone soft.
It would be funny if she didn’t feel like crying.
“I can’t.” She whispered.
The girl dashed into the mischief sage’s study. “I’ve done it, Haruka! I performed the love spell!” She exclaimed breathlessly.
The sage gave her a conspicuous smile. “Is that so? And who was the victim?”
Luella hesitated. “I wouldn’t call it victim, per say…”
“Let’s see your wand.” Haruka requested.
Luella handed her wand over as requested. The sage examined it, twirling it between her fingers.
“I can tell that the spell has been cast.” The sage nodded. But her expression changed from satisfied to… Luella wasn’t quite sure.
Haruka ran a stream of raw magic through the wand.
“Oh sweet child, why would you do that to yourself?”
Luella struggled to read Haruka’s face. She wasn’t angry, but she certainly seemed… disappointed? Upset, almost?
“Don’t you see, that’s the beauty of it! I was already in love, so it doesn’t make a difference!” Luella tried to reason with the sage. “I feel the exact same.”
“You were not supposed to do that.” Haruka rubbed her temples. “Mischief magic is meant to be about tricking others, not falling into your own trap.”
“I haven’t fallen into any traps.” The girl protested. “Your conditions were clear, perform the love spell on somebody. I did exactly that. You never said that person couldn’t be me. If it wasn’t what you intended, well, maybe I’ve outtricked you. Surely fooling the current mischief sage alone should mean I’m entitled to ascend into the sage position.”
Inexplicably, the look Haruka gave her definitely seemed like one of pity. “You’ve fulfilled the condition, yes.” The sage said, her tone unusually sombre. “And you will become a sage as promised. But I wouldn’t be so sure about who’s been fooled in the long run…”
She felt more and more nauseous by the minute. The last four decades or so have been painful, but never did Haruka’s words ring as true as they did tonight. So many excuses, so many sacrifices, and Luella didn’t even know Morgyn at all.
No wonder Morgyn gravitated towards her. They’d done the exact thing that made Luella lose everyone and everything she’d held dear as a child, and they felt no remorse over it either. All these years she had been in love with a lie.
Worst of all, there was nothing she could do to escape this living nightmare, to break the infatuate spell, even now. She was doomed to love them until the day she died.
Her stomach finally gave in. She leaned over the balcony railing to throw up.
Definitely not Alba’s preferred kind of prey. Far too obnoxious; insignificant problems of a “poor” rich girl. Hidden angst about the girls’ parents’ divorce, a pathological need to please everyone, repressed feelings for her roommate and the accompanying overcompensation…
It was all too loud for Alba’s tastes, and mostly inconsequential. But given who said roommate was, Alba persevered through the feed, much to her displeasure.
It all paid off in the end. Just as Alba was almost about to run out of blood, she finally stumbled on something useful.
“I’m just helping Hawthorne move in. I’m not a student.”
“You guys from far from here?”
“A few hours on the train, small place called Glimmerbrook. You wouldn’t know it.”
Alba let go of the girl’s pathetic lifeless body. Good timing. There was nothing left to be seen here, consequential or not.
Glimmerbrook. Alba wasn’t one for wild displays of emotion, but for once, she felt content. The whereabouts of the not-quite-a-vampire no longer mattered. At last, Alba knew where to find the traitor. Who would have thought Britechester of all places would be the one bearing answers in the end?
There was no time to waste. She had a long journey ahead to get back to her mistress. But finally, after 20 years of searching, she had something worthwhile to bring back. And Alba had no doubts Verena would be pleased.