The light breeze gently rocked the hammock from side to side. Smokey’s fiery wings glistened in the fake sun above them while he flew around, finding his way through the plasma fruit tree branches. Hawthorne could hear Dandelion’s rhythmic breathing. She could stay like this forever.
Could she? They’ve been hiding from the world together. For the last couple of days, her life was reduced to Dandelion, Smokey and Sylvan Glade. The sprites never returned with them after New Year’s Eve. Must have stayed behind with Silveril.
Perhaps Dandelion and her phoenix together in Sylvan Glade was all she needed. Even if it meant never drinking blood again. Never drinking blood again… Being in the glade did mean an unlimited supply of fresh plasma fruit, but it wasn’t the same. Maybe she’d eventually convince Dandelion to let her drink from her again. Maybe-
“Someone’s here.” He interrupted her train of thought. She hadn’t even realised when he woke up.
“Is it dad again?” She whispered.
“Probably.” He nodded, propping himself up. “I’ll go talk to him.”
She nodded, careful not to let out a sound. The trees shielded her from the view, but she could hear the conversation.
“Hey, Dandy.” Her father’s voice greeted the elf.
“Come to pick up some juice?” Dandelion asked him unnecessarily.
“That, and I wondered if you’d like some company.”
Hawthorne rolled her eyes. Dandelion had all the company he needed in her. They were healing each other. She wasn’t sure why on earth her father decided now was the time to move the juice fizzing station to Sylvan Glade, but his timing sucked.
“Oh, thanks. I’ve been busy with something though.” The elf replied. She groaned inwardly. Why did Dandelion have to be such a terrible liar? That was never going to convince her dad…
“Dandelion… Did you and Hawthorne have a falling out when you visited her in Britechester? She didn’t… she didn’t try to feed on you, did she?”
Great going, dad. Remind him that he saw her feeding on someone on New Year’s Eve. The last thing Dandelion needed. The last thing she needed.
“No… of course not… It was ok. I just… it was all a bit overwhelming. I’ve never left Glimmerbrook before. Well, not that I remember.” Dandelion trailed off. “I’m not used to not being in Sylvan Glade.”
“We could take a trip somewhere, you know.” Her father suggested. “Windenburg’s not far, I could take you some night.”
“Yeah, that would be nice.” The elf agreed absent-mindedly. “Thanks, Micah.”
That was clearly not going to happen, Hawthorne thought. Dandelion was just being polite, and her father had to know that. She couldn’t quite make out his response, though. Their voices faded into the distance as they presumably headed towards Dandelion’s house to fetch the plasma juice.
It took a good while before Dandelion returned to the hammock. She wondered if her father quizzed him any further. The elf was frowning when he finally came back.
“I don’t like lying to him.” He muttered as he climbed back into the hammock.
“I know.” She nodded. “You could have told him… just as long as he doesn’t find out I’m here.”
“So you don’t have to talk about your thing, but I’m supposed to talk about mine?” He gave her an annoyed look. “Sorry. I didn’t mean that. I know it’s not really the same.”
“Yeah. Chloe’s been gone for less than two weeks. All those people in Syeldell died a long time ago. But that doesn’t change that they died of course.” She added quickly.
“I didn’t know them.” He said mechanically. “I only met Chloe in passing, and I she was still more real than they were.”
“You would have liked her. And she would have really liked you. She…” Hawthorne couldn’t continue. She could feel tears stinging in her eyes.
“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want.” He told her.
“She… she would have… would have loved Sylvan Glade.” Hawthorne managed between sobs. “It’s so fucking pink. Fuck.”
“I’m sorry.” Dandelion wrapped his arm around her. “I wish I could help.”
“You are helping.” She said. He was so close. So perfect. So warm. The beat of his pulse sent her into a daze. But she couldn’t feed on him. She couldn’t. So she opted for his lips instead, leaning in for a kiss.
“Hawthorne.” He backed away immediately, sitting up abruptly. “This is a bad idea.”
She could feel her anger rising. Even now, after everything they’d been through together, he still had to insist that she was a damn child. Why? They needed each other. He had to know that.
Hawthorne forced herself to calm down. He would realise eventually. She knew he would.
Morgyn knocked on the door, apprehensive. Micah would of course be in is coffin in the middle of the day, but Cordelia was likely around. Of course it had to be her who answered the door.
“Happy new year,” they told her brightly.
“What do you want?”
“I won’t intrude for long. I was just hoping to speak to Hawthorne.” The sage got right to the point.
She looked at them as if they’d lost their mind. “Is this some kind of a joke? Hawthorne’s in Britechester, you know that.”
So Hawthorne never did confide in her parents. Not a good sign. Not to mention it complicated matters.
“My mistake.” Morgyn didn’t bother coming up with an excuse. Cordelia would find an issue with whatever they said regardless. “Send my regards to Micah.”
“Get out of here.” She hissed.
“Thank you for your hospitality.” Morgyn bowed their head slightly, but Cordelia already shut the door.
No time to deal with her. Morgyn’s mind turned back to Hawthorne.
The sage found it unlikely she would have returned to Britechester, not when she almost broke down at the mention of the place last time they spoke. Their eyes lingered on the tree behind the house.
Morgyn’s hand traced the bark of the tree. They couldn’t quite remember where precisely the opening would be, but they could take a guess.
“Hawthorne.” They said softly, leaning towards the tree trunk.
The untamed magic sage’s voice echoed through Sylvan Glade loudly, causing the trees to shake.
“What the fuck?” Hawthorne turned to Dandelion. “Is Morgyn here?”
“Definitely not.” Dandelion told her. “They’re no further than the tree passage, I can tell you that much. The sound… amplifies when someone’s talking near it. As a warning.”
“Does it? I used to scream into the tree opening all the time when I was little…”
“You did,” he confirmed with a smirk. Great.
“Can you… let them in?” She changed the subject.
“Nope. Sylvan Glade is no place for a-holes. It’s literally impossible for them to come in.”
“Ha-ha, very funny. Look, I know you don’t like Morgyn, but I can’t go up there, what if mum spots me in the garden?”
“Not my magic.” The elf shrugged.
“Fine.” Hawhtorne sighed, heading for the tree passage.
Hawhtorne made her way through to find the sage waiting for her on the other side. She glanced towards her parents’ house quickly. Too early for her father to be up, and thankfully, no sign of her mother either. Not that she was going to take her chances.
“Can we go for a walk?” She asked swiftly.
“You wouldn’t happen to be suggesting that because you haven’t told your parents you’re not at university?” Morgyn asked, but they did oblige.
“I told you they couldn’t know.” She reminded them.
“They’ll have to find out you’re back at some point. I have good news. All is clear for your ascension.” The sage announced.
“Oh really?” Hawthorne had almost forgotten all about that, after her time in Sylvan Glade. Everything felt so remote down there. “So the… bureaucracy is sorted?”
“Certainly is. A few minor leadership changes went ahead, but all is in place.”
“Leadership changes?” She studied their face. Something about them was different, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on what. It was as if Morgyn had lost a bit of their usual gloss. “What do you mean by that?”
“We have a couple of new sages in the realm. Darrel and Gemma Charm.” They explained wearily.
“The Charms? For real?” Hawthorne mused. She always found Ollie’s father uptight and uninteresting, and as for his aunt… she didn’t even want to think about it. it was painful enough Dandelion kept rejecting her without the reminder of his ex. “I never thought of them as… sagely.”
“They aren’t. That’s why I’m the only sage that matters.” Morgyn agreed with a wink.
“So what happens now?” Hawthorne asked.
“You’ll have to undergo a ritual that involves permanently binding motes to your body. I think you’re familiar with motes?”
Hawthorne nodded. “Yeah, the weird orb stuff my mum uses to make potions.”
“That’s right. She once had motes bound to her too, your mother, but not quite to the same effect. The fuse isn’t full without all three sages participating in the ritual.” Morgyn explained.
“I thought you were the only sage that matters,” Hawthorne teased.
“Formalities. But unfortunately, without formalities, the motes can only offer you borrowed magic. The more old-school spellcasters believe that to be the case even with the proper ritual. They are wrong.”
“Old school spellcasters like the Charms?”
“Yes. Precisely like the Charms.” Morgyn agreed.
“But they’ll be the ones performing the ritual.” Hawthorne pointed out.
“And I’m sure they’ll loathe every minute of it.” Morgyn said with a conspicuous smile. “But that’s secondary. Either way, you’ll emerge from the ritual as a spellcaster, with the motes’ magic permanently bound to you.”
Hawthorne had never given mote magic too much thought before, but today was different. Between Chloe, Syeldell, her grandma, she was grateful to finally have a safe subject to focus on. Making mote mechanics way more interesting than they would be under any other circumstances.
“So, what would happen if the motes fused with someone that already is a spellcaster?” She asked. “Do people use them to boost their powers?”
“On the temporary basis that I mentioned, yes, it’s fairly common.” Morgyn confirmed. “A bit of borrowed magic to help with a spell one might ordinarily find challenging, for instance. It’s nothing earth-shattering though. Just a temporary minor enhancement. Like a morning coffee.”
“Wouldn’t every spellcaster want to make that enhancement permanent?” She wondered.
“Which is precisely why all three sages have to part-take in the ritual,” Morgyn reminded her. “I must admit that while the formalities complicate things, they do exist for a reason. Too much raw magic is dangerous when not managed correctly.”
They seemed oddly serious, which only made Hawthorne want to know more. “But it can be done, then, in theory? Have the three sages ever boosted someone’s raw magic like that, even if they’re already a spellcaster? Wait, is that how you got to have more raw magic than most spellcasters?”
“No, I have always been that way.” The sage told her. “The ritual is never performed on spellcasters.”
Morgyn hesitated. “I only know of one instance.”
Why was Morgyn so stingy with their words all of the sudden? There had to be a story here, Hawthorne was sure of it.
“So… who got all this extra power? And what happened? And-“
“It was my old teacher.” Morgyn cut in. “And it was not a good idea. But enough on that. Don’t preoccupy yourself with all these hypotheticals, Hawthorne. What we really want to focus on is your ascension. I think we should make an event out of it. Invite everyone who’s anyone in the spellcasting world…”
A/N: Sorry for the wait on this one, it’s been a hectic week! Since my schedule is way off now, I think I’ll just ditch it altogether. Having to work towards a deadline makes this feel too much like a chore, so it weirdly makes me want to work on the story less. Apologies to those who enjoyed looking forward to Wednesday updates, but I hope going back to no set schedule will improve things overall. Fear not, you can still expect updates around once a week going forward, I’ll just not have any set update days. 🙂