Chloe’s stuff on her side of the room was mocking her. But like Chloe, it would soon be gone. Chloe’s parents were flying over from Del Sol Valley today to collect her belongings.
Hawthorne couldn’t be there when that happened. What would she say to them? How could she look at them?
She wasn’t sure how she could ever do much of anything now. But life was expected to go on.
All the university was doing in response to the three students that drowned in the river on New Year’s Eve was hosting a talk about responsible drinking. Like that was going to bring Chloe back. A fucking talk about responsible drinking.
It was her fault, what happened to Chloe. She knew how drunk her roommate was, and she still left her at the party on her own. Hawthorne didn’t know the other two students who died, but they must have been at the party too. They must have decided a New Year’s swim would be a great idea… If only Hawthorne didn’t leave the party…
It was only then the realisation hit her.
Dandelion and her were sat by the river for a good portion of the night, on the little beach. They should have seen them all, going for their swim. They could have stopped them. But her mind was so all over the place that night, she didn’t notice anyone else there at all.
The walls of the room were closing in on her. It felt like she was suffocating. But it was not Hawthorne who had suffocated. She still got to breathe, and Chloe’s stupid pink stuff was here to witness it.
Hawthorne couldn’t think straight. She couldn’t stand to be in the room for a second longer, but didn’t know where to go. Everywhere on campus just reminded her of Chloe.
Everyone on campus did too. Chloe was well-liked. Some of the students were holding a vigil in the quad for Chloe and the others, but Hawthorne couldn’t bear to go.
Just get out. Get the hell out of here.
Hawthorne started digging through her stuff frantically. It took her a while to find it, but the metal fragment was there.
She wrapped it in her hand tightly, closing her eyes even tighter. Make everything disappear…
She’d never used the glimmerstone before – never needed to, with how close her parents lived to the magic realm portal – but it worked just the way Morgyn had described.
Hawthorne felt a bit relieved at the sight of HQ. The magic realm had always been her happy place, somewhere where everything was possible.
The realm and the Sylvan Glade were also places where she always felt removed from the real world – although up until now, she had not considered that could be a good thing.
She headed up to the untamed magic sage’s quarters.
“Hawthorne, what a surprise!” The untamed magic sage looked up from their book, motioning it away. “I thought you’d be back in Britechester by now.”
Hawthorne ignored the statement, sitting down beside them… Britechester was the last thing she wanted to talk about. “I’m ready. I want to become a spellcaster.”
“What happened to finishing your degree first?” Morgyn asked slowly.
The sage clearly hadn’t expected that request, but they looked calm as usual. One of the best things about Morgyn was how calm they always were, no matter what. Hawthorne wished she could borrow a bit of that ability from them.
But regardless of the sage’s demeanour, she couldn’t say what really happened. Not even to them. Luckily, she knew exactly what Morgyn wanted to hear.
“You were right,” she told them. “Studying physics is a waste of time. None of it compares to what I’ve seen here.”
It wasn’t entirely untrue. Hawthorne didn’t find the lecture material particularly stimulating. In her 18 years of existence, she’d transportalated with Morgyn countless times, seen them stop aging and produce elements out of thin air. Heck, she owned a pet bird made of flames. Her professors’ view of what was possible was limited, to say the least.
But both Hawthorne and Morgyn knew there was much more to her time in Britechester than physics.
“As your father once pointed out, attending university was about you having options. And I gathered you’ve been enjoying yourself.” Morgyn replied. “So as pleased as I am with your decision, I can’t help but wonder what’s changed.”
Hawthorne could feel salt stinging in her eyes.
“Everything’s changed. I can’t… I can’t go back. Something terrible happened. And it’s all my fault. And I can’t take it back.” She tried to compose herself, holding back tears. “I just… I need this fresh start. Like a phoenix.”
The sage didn’t reply straight away, so she carried on. “I was always going to start my training eventually, so why not now? I’ve learned everything there’s to know in Britechester. I want to train here, with you, now. I want to ascend.”
Thankfully, Morgyn didn’t ask about it further. They just gave her a small nod. “I’ll make it happen.”
Relief washed over Hawthorne, for the first time in days. She wasn’t sure how to feel, exactly, but at least the world wasn’t collapsing on her for a moment.
“Unfortunately, I have to take care of a bit of bureaucracy with my fellow sages in order to arrange your ascension.” Morgyn told her. “I won’t bore you with the details. Why don’t I call on you when everything is ready?”
“You want me to go back?” The tightness in her chest returned. “No, I can’t… could I stay with you? I know I can’t really start my training till the ascension, but don’t make me go back.”
Morgyn studied her face for a moment. “Why don’t you go stay with your parents while I take care of things?”
Her parents… That was out of the question.
She shook her head. “I can’t tell them what happened. I’ve done something terrible. I can’t… they wouldn’t… they can’t know.”
“I think you’ll find your parents are rather open-minded people.” Morgyn said, as if they didn’t know her parents at all.
“Yeah, right.” Hawthorne smirked. “They can’t even handle you.”
“Don’t hold that against them. No one can handle me.” Morgyn let out a laugh, before growing more serious. “But trust me, whatever it is, they will understand.”
Doubtful, Hawthorne thought. “What if I killed someone?” She asked, hoping her tone sounded casual. Did Morgyn notice the change in her voice?
“Did you?” Morgyn asked without raising an eyebrow.
“Oh course not.” She forced a laugh. “But this is mum and dad we’re talking about. They’re generally weird about stuff.”
“They might surprise you.” They said finally.
Hawthorne’s glanced towards her family home. The light was on, so her parents had to be in.
Just talk to them… Oh, hi mum and dad, I see you’re super weird around each other as per usual. Good times. Anyway, someone is dead because of me, so I’ll be moving back home. By the way, grandma was a mass murderer.
Definitely not. She walked by the house swiftly and headed for the tree passage.
Dandelion was by the waterfall. He was playing his wonky violin, until he spotted her, that was.
“Hawthorne?” It was clear from the look in his eyes he didn’t want to see her.
His expression softened as she got closer. “What’s wrong?” He reached out towards her.
“Dandy… Chloe is dead.”
She didn’t hold her tears back this time.
Morgyn was pacing around the room. Hawthorne was never supposed to feel the need to reinvent herself. She was never supposed to want for anything, that was the whole point. There wasn’t supposed to be anything she’d have to run away from.
The sage didn’t want to think about what could have possibly pushed her to this state. Best thing they could do for her was make good on their promise. But the timing couldn’t be worse.
Morgyn always expected pushback when it came to time for Hawthorne to ascend. Ascending to the ranks of spellcasters for those who were born without magic were rare to begin with, last having taken place well over 20 years ago.
But Minerva Charm’s apprehension over a mere human marrying into the old Charm family was a whole other scenario.
Over the years, Morgyn had always pictured Simeon ranting about responsibility and a half-vampire ascending. They expected L Faba would fall in line, like she always did eventually, at the times that mattered. But they should have known better.
“She’ll never ascend. You need all three sages’ blessings to become a spellcaster. And she’s not getting the mischief one.”
Granted, a number of factors have changed since that night. Morgyn only needed to secure a single sage vote now. In theory, everything was playing into Morgyn’s favour.
Except that Simeon was still grumpy, still insisting that Darrel Charm was their successor and refusing to handle any official sage business.
Darrel Charm. There was no way the so-called acting sage would be in favour of Hawthorne’s ascension, Morgyn knew that.
So what options did that leave them with? Grovel to L Faba?
No, they would not beg L Faba for anything.
Not now, not ever.