The untamed magic sage entered the study. Darrel looked up from his notes.
“Morgyn. How can I help you?”
Morgyn had no doubt Darrel had zero desire to help them, much like Morgyn themself had no desire to speak to Darrel in the first place. But here they were.
“I won’t take up too much of your time. I’m simply after a small favour.” Morgyn forced themself to smile at the man.
“I’m not sure I’m in a position where my favours carry a lot of weight.” Darrel replied cautiously. The palpable disdain behind his words would normally amuse Morgyn, but that was not the case today, not when they actually had everything riding on bloody Darrel Charm.
“I agree.” Morgyn nodded. “But as you know, I can change that.”
“You will support my ascension?” Darrel sounded sceptical.
“All I need in return is for you to support an ascension in return. A much more small-scale kind,” the sage added quickly.
“I’m merely looking to give spellcasting abilities to someone who doesn’t have them just yet. I’m sure you’ll recall this was just a formality when we did this for your lovely wife…”
“Who?” Darrel cut in.
Morgyn put on their best dazzling grin. “I’m sure you remember my goddaughter Hawthorne…”
Darrel’s expression changed within an instant. “She bit my son.”
“Wasn’t that quite some time ago?” The sage let out a casual laugh. But Darrel just glared at them in response.
“Oh come on, Darrel, are you telling me a lover never playfully nibbled on your neck in the heat of the moment? Perhaps you and Emilia ought to spice up your sex life…”
Darrel did not look amused, not that Morgyn expected otherwise. “Look, Darrel, I’m offering you an opportunity here. You can take it, or stay as you are, stuck and without progress.”
“I suppose there are limitations to what the individual can achieve when the spellcasting ability is not innate.” Darrel mused.
Limitations? Not if Morgyn could help it. The sage knew Hawthorne was unlikely to ever accumulate the kind of raw magic levels they had, but that was likely for the best.
They would still strive to help her reach her full potential, though. Something Darrel was clearly not keen on doing for Emilia. Apparently he did not think very highly of his wife’s capabilities. But Morgyn wasn’t going to share that observation.
“Quite right,” they nodded. “I’m not asking for much.”
“And I suppose if she were to ascend, you will keep her under control.” Darrel continued.
“Naturally.” Morgyn agreed once again. Just smile and nod and the exchange would be over soon. They forced themself not to think about how they’d deal with Darrel on the daily once he became a fellow sage…
Darrel, a fellow sage. The thought alone made Morgyn feel mildly sick, but it was worth it. For Hawthorne.
“Splendid.” Morgyn nodded mechanically.
Everyone sat down at the table, for the first time in a week. Darrel glanced at each of the three sages for a brief moment. The tension was palpable. Time to watch the charade play out.
“You said you have finally come to a decision.” Simeon got right to the point, addressing the untamed magic sage. “This better not be a waste of time, Morgyn. If you could just be reasonable this once…”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m nothing if not reasonable.” Morgyn flashed that stupid smug smile of theirs.
L Faba let out an indistinct huff. Darrel turned their attention to the mischief sage. She looked like she’d eaten a whole lemon. She’d really lost her touch lately.
“I have considered what would be in everyone’s best interest, and you have a point, Simeon,” Morgyn carried on in a fake jolly tone. “I won’t keep you from retiring. I’m in favour of Darrel Charm being your replacement, if that is what you wish.”
Simeon’s audible relief quickly drowned in L Faba’s outrage. “I don’t believe you! Are you really this petty and short-sighted? Do you really want to spend the next several decades alongside Darrel Charm?”
“Can’t be worse than decades with you, my dearest.” Morgyn retorted in an overly sweet tone.
As per usual, Darrel ignored the sages’ rudeness, airing their apparent disgust with him as if he wasn’t in the room. It would all be worth it in the end.
Simeon cleared his throat. “Shall we proceed with the formalities?” He asked, clearly eager to progress the meeting before the other two sages chewed each other’s heads off.
“Actually, there’s one other matter I wanted to put to a vote today,” Morgyn added swiftly. “Why not get that out of the way, and then proceed with the wand business afterwards?”
Morgyn did not trust him to deliver on his promise, Darrel realised.
The mistrust was understandable, though unnecessary. Darrel would follow through, as much as he didn’t like the idea. Unlike the untamed magic sage, he knew that sometimes, one had to make trade-offs to reach the end goal. Sacrifice the queen to win a chess match.
“What is it?” Simeon asked impatiently.
“It has been over 20 years since we’ve had a non-spellcaster ascend into our ranks. I’m sure we can all remember the ascension of Darrel’s wonderful wife Emilia.” Morgyn rambled on. “I thought it’s about time we revisited giving someone the opportunity…”
“No.” L Faba cut in.
“You didn’t even let me say who I have in mind, L Faba.” Morgyn attempted to stay breezy.
“I already told you she will never ascend.” The mischief sage did not waiver.
Simeon sighed. “Is this about-“
“Hawthorne Blackwell.” Morgyn finished the sentence.
Simeon frowned. “I’m not sure if it would be prudent to allow a half-vampire to become a spellcaster. Combining any potential vampire powers she has with magic could have any kind of outcome, and reach unprecedented-“
“Everything was unprecedented once, Simeon.” Morgyn interrupted. “But regardless, this isn’t your vote anymore, is it? You insisted that the acting practical magic sage makes all decisions going forward, so it should be up to Darrel, if I’m not mistaken?”
“Of course.” Simeon obliged. “Darrel?”
Darrel’s first vote. It would be exhilarating, had it not been dampened by having to vote for the opposite of what Darrel actually wanted. No matter. Many more votes yet to come. Sacrifice the queen.
“I am in favour of Hawthorne Blackwell’s ascension.” He said, wishing his voice sounded more powerful.
Simeon raised his eyebrows. “You are? Darrel-“
“This is insane!” L Faba interrupted yet again. “Simeon, stop this! Darrel’s not a sage, he should not get to decide any of this!”
“All the rules have been followed as set out,” Morgyn reminded her.
“No. Not her. I refuse. She will never be a spellcaster.” Any resemblance of eloquence had left L Faba by this point, it seemed.
“Oh, but she will.” Morgyn beamed victoriously. “And should she chose to, she will be my successor one day.”
“Surely that’s a bit premature.” Simeon interjected. “You have no idea what her spellcasting capabilities will be like. Making statements like this is unwise.”
“You just can’t help pissing on my parade no matter what I do, can you, Simeon?” Morgyn’s gloating quickly turned into annoyance. “If I want to live forever, apparently I’m just like Aine; if I concede that I will have a successor one day, I am being unwise because of the one I picked. You of all people should be happy with this! Unlike Aine, I am not unwilling to let go. You can sleep easy at night when you’re retired.”
Darrel continued silently watching the scene unravel before him. He didn’t even need to interject. How all these unhinged individuals managed to avoid causing the realm to collapse for this long was beyond him.
“And I commend you for that, but your choice of successor should perhaps wait until-“
“Funny, just when we last held this meeting, you were adamant that the matter of succession is up to the sage in question alone and no one else.” Morgyn quipped at Simeon.
“I suppose that’s true but…” The old man seemed at a loss for words.
The room felt quiet as they waited for Simeon to make his point. But it wasn’t him who broke the silence. It was L Faba, her voice barely audible.
“Morgyn. Please. Not her daughter.” She whispered. The look in her eyes was plenty telling. The mischief sage had been defeated.
The untamed magic sage looked startled for a moment before regaining their composure.
“Will you never let go of this? So you hate Cordelia because of some jewellery related issue. This is ridiculous. Get a new necklace or something.”
“This is not about a necklace!” L Faba erupted, in stark contrast to her demeanour just a moment ago. “You have no idea…”
“You’re right.” Morgyn nodded, their expression growing cold. “I have no idea, and I don’t care. Darrel’s vote was clear. You have lost. Then again, it was you who wanted to expand on this majority vote matter, so perhaps in that sense you’ve won. Either way, Hawthorne will ascend.”
“Then I resign.” L Faba blurted out.
The untamed magic sage blinked. “What?”
“I resign. I’m done. All these years of you trying to get back at me at every possible opportunity, always trying to strike where it will hurt the hardest, so eager to jump at any chance to make me suffer. Well congratulations, you’ve done it. There’s nothing more you can take from me.”
“This is not about you! I… You can’t just resign.” Morgyn made a feeble attempt to sway her, so feeble they apparently had to resolve to changing their argument halfway through. “You don’t even have a successor. The realm-“
“Screw the realm. And screw you!”
L Faba marched out of the room, the mischief magic symbol above her head dissolving. If there had been any doubt about whether she’d been serious or not, that alone sent a clear message. Enough of a message to propel Simeon into action in spite of his apparent shock.
“I will handle this.” He stood up from his chair with surprising resolve. “Nobody is resigning. And this Hawthorne Blackwell business needs to be put to rest.”
Now was finally the time for Darrel to interject.
“I thought you were a man of your word, Simeon.” He said calmly. “We just took a vote on Hawthorne Blackwell’s ascension, and the result was conclusive. Or is it your intention to discredit the first vote I’ve had?”
Simeon stopped in his tracks. The old man could not muster up a response. He was caught in a web of his own principles. Darrel’s lips curled into a smile.
“We appear to find ourselves in quite the predicament, with the mischief sage abandoning post without no successor lined up. L Faba’s not even taken on apprentices in the past few years, so it’s unlikely we will be able to replace her with someone of a purely mischief school background…”
“What do you suggest?” Simeon asked quietly.
“We need a well-rounded spellcaster. Luckily, we have someone who’s been able to shine in all three of the disciplines right in the Charm family…”
“You mean Gemma,” Morgyn said. Darrel took a moment to revel in their incredulous tone before confirming.
“You yourself have noted how talented she is on numerous occasions, Morgyn.” He nodded. “And conveniently, she just happens to be in the realm today. Why don’t I fetch her…”
“Conveniently.” Morgyn repeated, their voice dull.
Darrel grinned as Gemma appeared in the doorway before he even had to get up.
“Conveniently.” He agreed. “Now, I’m not sure what the protocol demands in terms of the majority vote when we are one sage down. My understanding is that in the sudden absence of one sage, it is imperative that the missing sage is replaced as soon as possible to prevent the realm’s collapse… Naturally, if you can think of an alternative candidate who would be qualified-”
A thunder interrupted Darrel mid-sentence. The realm’s inevitable response to the mischief sage’s resignation made his point for him. Could not have planned that better.
Darrel made himself comfortable, relishing in the scene before him. Morgyn was staring at Simeon, as if to silently plead for help, like a child. How pathetic. But the sight alone was incredibly satisfying. And that was just the cherry on top.
For years it had been the same old story. The Charm family, so old, so well-respected; that was what the sages always claimed. But did Darrel’s family ever get any true meaningful recognition? No.
He spent years in a semi-nonexistent role of “advisor to the sages.” Having to deal with the sages’ ridiculous whims, Morgyn’s obnoxiousness, L Faba’s mood swings and Simeon’s obsession with always playing by the book.
But those years have also allowed him to observe the sages, get to know their quirks, and predict their behaviour with a solid level of reliability.
And today, it all finally paid off. Today was the day the Charm family finally took their rightful place in the realm.