Luella resisted the urge to crawl back under the duvet. She wasn’t ready for another year of… this. Although this year wouldn’t be exactly the same as the last, would it? Memories of last night started flooding back in. She should have stayed in bed.
Morgyn’s admission of killing their own family was too painful to even think about. But what did she have to distract herself with? Dandelion’s betrayal, when he stormed in and demanded the key? For her… At least that was safely locked away.
Her eyes lingered on the metal box. Should she even wear the necklace? Clearly Dandelion’s unexpected visit meant that she was after it. Maybe keeping the key in the box was the safer-
Luella froze mid-thought. The padlock was loose.
As if in a dream, she reached for the lid, lifting it. She could feel her hand shaking. And then all time lost meaning.
Luella wasn’t sure how long she spent staring at the empty box. Thoughts started swirling in her mind. How could this happen? Clearly she somehow took the key during the ball. Sending Dandelion backfired, so she flat out stole it… Gods, was the whole blowout between Morgyn and the vampire a distraction? Luella felt so stupid.
No, it couldn’t be. Morgyn’s pain was genuine, Luella knew that. The untamed magic sage was set on cutting her extra deep last night, which had to mean they were really hurting… or did it? What did she even really know about Morgyn anymore? 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.
Luella shuddered. Don’t think about it, she willed herself. Whether Morgyn was involved or not, it would not be a stretch for the vampire to be in on her plans. Luella didn’t know much about him, other than that he was the one person that still awoke some kind of emotion in Morgyn – probably because he didn’t reciprocate.
All of this was making Luella’s head hurt, even though she barely drank last night. Focus, she scolded herself. She shut the box lid with far more force than was needed. The whys and hows could wait. The only thing that mattered was getting the key back.
She stormed out of the room, still in her dressing gown. Before she formulated much of a plan, Darrel-bloody-Charm stopped her in her tracks. The damn man always seemed to be in HQ these days. Apparently New Year’s Day was no exception.
“Simeon can stuff it.” She snapped at him. “I have an emergency of my own.”
Darrel looked underwhelmed. “Would you like me to relay that to Simeon in those exact words?”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what words you use.” Luella replied, hoping he’d finally get the message and get lost. “Now relay away.”
“I would appreciate it if you treated Darrel with respect, Luella.” She heard the practical magic sage behind her. “I am sure he stressed the importance of this meeting.”
She hated when Simeon called her by her given name. Her original reasons for choosing a new name may have been flawed, but L Faba was her professional name, for better or for worse.
For the most part, Simeon complied with that, apart from when he wanted to make her feel like a child. To remind her she once depended on him, back when she was weak. For all their flaws, Morgyn did at least show her the respect of only ever calling her by the name she chose.
Was she seriously going back to defending Morgyn again already? Oh how she hated herself for it. The damn spell…
“For someone who was in a hurry, you seem to be taking your time responding.” Simeon noted, bringing her back to the present. “I expect to see you downstairs shortly. Preferably dressed.”
For once, Morgyn did not look smug. Still sulking about their vampire, clearly. They looked like they didn’t want to be in this meeting any more than Luella did.
Of course, Darrel Charm was more than eager to take part, pen in hand, ready to take notes. Luella supressed the urge to roll her eyes.
Simeon seemed to take notice, but he did not address her attitude. “Good, everyone’s here. I have called this meeting to address a couple of matters.” The practical magic sage paused for a moment before continuing. “First order of business, I am retiring.”
“That is your big emergency?” Morgyn raised an eyebrow. “Unless you are planning to drop dead later today, I don’t see the rush.”
“Unlike you, most people don’t make dying a regular occurrence.” Luella hissed at them.
“This.” Simeon interrupted her. “This is the main matter of urgency. You two can barely be in a room together, let alone agree on anything.”
Neither of them replied. There wasn’t much of a point in objecting the obvious.
“I’m sure you can both think of instances where you hoped to achieve something, but were unable to do so because of the unanimous vote rule.” Simeon continued. “And once I am not here to mediate, getting approval may prove even… trickier, for both of you.”
Where was Simeon going with this, Luella wondered? The practical magic sage had technically taken a mediator role on occasion in the past, but what he was failing to mention was that often times, it was Simeon himself who blocked their ideas. Besides, Morgyn was just going to do whatever they wanted.
“Which is why I believe that today should mark the last unanimous vote.” Simeon concluded. “I propose that from here on out, matters are decided on the basis of a majority vote. That way he two of you will not be bound by needing approval from one another. As long as two sages are in agreement, a proposal could pass. I suspect the alternative would mean no notion ever going ahead, so I see no other way forward.”
Luella and Morgyn’s eyes met. As much as Luella hated to admit it, Simeon had a point. Morgyn would be so petty to shut her down for no good reason at all…
The two sages measured each other up in silence for a moment.
“I agree.” Luella said finally.
“As do I.” Morgyn’s eyes narrowed.
“If we can proceed with the formalities, all those in favour…” Simeon said quickly, placing his wand on the table in front of him. Luella and Morgyn followed suit.
The practical magic sage let out a sigh of apparent relief. “Seems the two of you can agree on something after all. Now, to conclude, the final order of business today, I will be naming Darrel here my successor.”
Luella stopped in her tracks. She had been so focused on Morgyn and what they would do once Simeon retired, she’d hadn’t given second thought to who would actually succeed Simeon. In all honesty, she had completely forgotten about Darrel’s presence in the room altogether.
She glanced at the spellcaster to her right. He seemed ecstatic- or as ecstatic as Darrel ever got. Darrel’s well-contained emotions were clearly one thing Simeon approved of.
Darrel Charm. He was so uninspiring, and unlike his sister, lacked any form of exceptional abilities – unless kissing the sages’ behinds for decades classed as an ability in Simeon’s books.
“Absolutely not.” She turned back to Simeon. “Darrel Charm is no sage, I told you this 20 years ago!”
Darrel did not say anything to defend himself, but Simeon was quick to respond. “And you still hold the same opinion, after Darrel’s dedicated years of service to the realm?”
“Years of service do not substitute for talent! You cannot be serious…”
Simeon frowned. “Who I choose as my successor is my decision, and mine only.”
There was no way Luella was spending her days living under the same roof as not only Morgyn, but now Darrel Charm as well. She could not let this happen. Time to improvise.
“Untrue. We just took a vote that determined all official business of the realm must have the support of at least two sages.
The old sage stared at her. “Obviously that does not include the matter of succession. Sages have always chosen their successors as they saw fit. The need for the realm to have three sages at all times supersedes anything else, naturally.”
“Naturally? You said you propose all matters are decided on the basis of a majority vote from here on out, no caveats.” She gave Simeon a victorious smile.
“This is ridiculous!” Simeon huffed. “Are you suggesting that the realm operate without a practical magic sage? Because you know that’s not possible. Or do you propose that I work until the day I drop dead, as Morgyn had put it?”
Luella’s head turned to the untamed magic sage at the mention of them. It occurred to her Morgyn had been unusually quiet. She’d chalked it up to them moping about the vampire, but looking at them now, there was a smug grin on Morgyn’s face.
“If we are putting this issue to a vote, I think you are both jumping to conclusions about where my vote would lie.” Morgyn leaned back in their chair.
Luella was gobsmacked. Morgyn loathed Darrel Charm, she knew that much.
Were they really going to support his ascension to a sage only to spite her?
“There’s merits to both cases here, of course.” Morgyn beamed, making themselves comfortable. “I really need to think it through, weigh up all the pros and cons…”
“Stop this nonsense at once!” Simeon raised his voice. “This is not a time for another one of your squabbles. My successor is not negotiable.”
“Oh, but I think L Faba already pointed out the contrary.” Morgyn cooed. “The way I see it, the decision now rests in my hands. What will I ever do…”
Simeon rubbed his temples. “This meeting is adjourned. Until you’ve both come to your senses, Darrel is the acting sage of practical magic. I am retiring no matter what. Enough is enough.”
“I suppose that gives me more time to ponder.” Morgyn replied sweetly.
“Oh shut up. We get it, you have nothing better to do, because all of your loves have abandoned you.” Luella spouted at them. “So go cry about it… oh wait, you’d have to actually be capable of feelings to do that. Tough luck, I guess you’ll just have to go burn some more people alive…”
It felt good in the moment, especially that split moment of getting a reaction out of Morgyn. But their expression hardened almost instantly.
“Maybe I will.” Their voice was ice-cold.
Luella didn’t quite know what to say. All her words did was remind her that she was the one stuck loving a monster. She turned around, heading out of the door.
She did not expect to see Dandelion in HQ, second day in a row. Dandelion.
The key. Suddenly, what mattered came back to her.
“Dandy! The key, it’s missing!” She told him, suddenly feeling frantic again.
He didn’t seem fazed. “I know. I have it.”
She could not believe it. Dandelion. Not the vampire, but her sweet Dandelion was the one who stole the key? Why did she always get betrayed by those she loved the most?
“She can’t have it.” She whispered. “Dandy, please…”
“I brought it back, didn’t I? It’s yours. You can have them both. Do you even know what they open, Lulu?”
She stared at him, incapable of answering. Did this mean he’d used them already? What did she have him do? Did it even matter that he was returning the key now? What was before them? The world was spinning and she wanted to cry.
“Lulu.” Dandelion repeated her name, making her snap back to reality. She studied his face. He looked so calm. So grown up. “We need to talk.”