Cordelia stared at the woodworking bench in front of her. It had been so long. She lifted the timber up from the floor and then placed it back again, shaking her head. There was nothing she could think of making.
Almost everything she’d ever made was functional, had a purpose. To put a roof over her head. To give her something to sit on. Even the wooden toys she used to make when she first got into woodworking were made in an effort to make other children like her, for a purpose. She wasn’t artistic. She wasn’t like Micah.
Speaking of Micah, she realised it had gotten dark outside. Which meant he’d be getting up soon. She left the shed in a haste, before he spotted her there. She couldn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing she had been considering using the shed. Satisfaction? That wasn’t quite right. What was she even doing? She shook her head, heading back to the house.
Sure enough, Micah came downstairs shortly after. He looked at her cautiously, almost as if he expected her to throw something at him. But there was no time for awkward exchanges tonight. They had a visitor.
“Hawthorne!” Cordelia exclaimed, rushing to hug her daughter. “What… what are you doing here? Is everything ok? Did you run out of plasma juice?” She glanced towards Micah, suddenly irritated.
“Everything’s fine,” Hawthorne reassured her hastily. “More than fine, actually. I have good news.”
“Oh?” Good news that warranted coming home? Britechester wasn’t that far, but still…
“I’m going to become a spellcaster.” Hawthorne announced. “So I’ll be moving back to Glimmerbrook to study with Morgyn.”
Cordelia froze. She heard the words, but it was as if their meaning couldn’t quite reach her consciousness.
“What?” Micah jumped in. “When… how did that come about?”
“Uni’s been a great experience and all, but it’s helped me realise that what I really want to do is study magic. I mean, how could I not, right?”
It felt surreal. Why did this keep happening, Cordelia wondered. She had thought there couldn’t be a more painful place for Hawthorne to go when her daughter announced she was moving to Britechester. She had been wrong. It felt like her insides were breaking into a million tiny pieces.
“Did Morgyn put you up to this?” She asked quietly.
“No, it was my idea,” Hawthorne replied. Far too adamantly. She was covering for them, wasn’t she?
“It does sound like it came out of nowhere,” Micah pointed out gently. “Britechester-“
“I am sick of Britechester, ok?” Hawthorne’s voice flew up. “What’s the big deal? Studying with Morgyn was always sort of on the table. I’m just… I don’t want to waste time.”
“Hawthorne, you’ll have all the time in the world to study with Morgyn.” Micah started. “Why not at least-“
“Absolutely not.” Cordelia interjected, finally catching up. “Studying with Morgyn was not, is not and won’t be on the table. You’re not allowed to do that.”
“What?” Hawthorne looked at her as if she said a joke with a particularly flat punchline. “What are you talking about? You guys have always said I can do anything I want with my life…”
“Well, not that.” Cordelia stood her ground. “I forbid it.”
“Forbid it?” Hawthorne repeated incredulously. She turned to Micah instead. “What the hell… Dad?”
Micah failed to reply right away, prompting an immediate reaction from Hawthorne.
“Ugh,” Hawthorne rolled her eyes. “This is ridiculous! You can’t just forbid it. I’m eighteen! I didn’t come to ask for permission. I just came to invite you to my ascension ceremony. If you don’t want to come, fine. But I’m doing this either way.”
“Then get out.” The words poured out of Cordelia before she even realised what she was saying. She could feel Micah’s shocked gaze on her.
“What?” Hawthorne’s face turned from annoyed to incredulous to hurt within seconds.
It was a look Cordelia had never seen in her daughter’s eyes, but it wasn’t an unfamiliar look. She reminded her so much of her father in that moment, and Cordelia couldn’t take it.
“You’ve heard me.” She said. “Go. Do what you want. Go to your Morgyn. But if you go, you’re not welcome in my house. So get the hell out.”
Hawthorne stared at her for a moment, speechless, before turning around abruptly and heading for the door.
Hawthorne could not believe what was happening. She took a deep breath of the fresh air, trying to process what just went on.
Her father appeared behind her.
“I’m sorry, Hawthorne. We… might not be able to make it to your ceremony.” He said lamely.
She almost burst out laughing from the sheer absurdity of it all. “No shit!” She shook her head, still in disbelief. “She fucking lost it.”
“It wasn’t you she was yelling at, Hawthorne.” Her father said quietly.
“Sure. It was just decided to kick me out of the house.”
“She didn’t mean that. Trust me. I-“
“I don’t fucking get it. She didn’t want me going to uni in Britechester, and now she doesn’t want me studying magic. Why am I not allowed to do anything with my life? I’m not gonna be a damn kid forever!” Hawthorne burst out.
He gave her one of those frustrating ‘you just wouldn’t understand looks,’ probably readying himself to serve up yet another excuse. Not that Hawthorne was planning to hang around for that.
“Whatever. I’m out of here.”
She turned around, bolting for the portal to the magic realm as quickly as she could without actually running. She could hear him calling her, but she refused to turn around.
It was Hawthorne’s first time back in the realm since the day she fled Britechester. She could not quite make up her mind if she felt better or worse tonight. Everything definitely still felt fucked up. The eve of her ascension.
Morgyn didn’t look surprised when she told them her parents would not be coming to the ceremony, or when she asked to sleep over in the realm that night. To be honest, the sage seemed so distracted she wasn’t sure they even heard her until they led her to a small dusty room below one of the balconies.
“This is where I used to live, as an apprentice. It’s… modest. I didn’t quite anticipate you needing quarters in HQ.” They trailed off. “I will arrange something more adequate, but for tonight, I can just spruce it up a little…”
“No, wait!” Hawthorne stopped them as they were about to cast a spell on their surroundings. Seemed like a good way to distract herself from everything. She was intrigued by this pre-sage Morgyn who once occupied the room. And the room had to be filled with all sorts of traces of them. “I like it this way.”
Morgyn seemed puzzled, but didn’t object. Hawthorne sat down, looking around her.
“Morgyn… what did you feel like the night before your ascension?” Hawthorne asked. She was supposed to be on top of the world, but everything was… grey. A bit like the room.
“I mean, I know you didn’t have this kind of ascension, but becoming a sage would have probably been a bit like this, right? Were you…” She wasn’t quite sure how to finish the sentence. Happy? Less empty than she was? Not at odds with everyone? “..nervous?” She settled.
The sage didn’t answer straight away. “I didn’t know it was the eve of my ascension back then.”
“That doesn’t really answer the question.” Hawthorne pointed out. “Besides, how could you not know?”
“I was granted the sage title after a duel with my teacher.” They replied evasively.
“Sounds like the fucking musketeers,” Hawthorne smirked. “Will we be duelling once I’m a spellcaster?”
“Not like that, no.” Morgyn did not elaborate. They opted to change the subject altogether instead. “Hawthorne… are you sure you want to be a spellcaster?”
What sort of a question was that? Had everybody lost their minds tonight? “I was just kidding about the duels. I mean, how could I not want to be a spellcaster? It makes anything possible.”
“Everything is possible… but never without a cost.” Morgyn told her. “You won’t have the same kind of freedom as you do now.”
“It’s not like I can do whatever I want now either,” she shrugged. Clearly. Seemed like nothing was going her way these days.
“And perhaps it won’t feel all too different, at first.” Morgyn mused. “But you should know that the more power you’ll have the more you’ll need to restrain yourself.”
“You are talking about restraint?” Hawthorne raised an eyebrow. “You sound like dad…”
For the briefest moment, Morgyn’s mouth twitched into a crooked smile. “Not quite.”
“I’ve sat through enough of his talks about restraint that I’m pretty sure I’m an expert now. Honestly, the way he goes on you’d think he expects me to be feeding on half of Glimmerbrook.”
“Perhaps just settle for a quarter,” Morgyn joked. “As long as it’s not the Charm boy again. That might get me in trouble.”
Hawthorne laughed. The idea of Morgyn in trouble was absurd. Morgyn was a sage. They could always do whatever they wanted.
“Consider Ollie’s throat safe,” she smirked. “Seriously though… what’s with all this restraint talk tonight? You’ve always been about the exact opposite! I still remember when you told me I’ll have enough power to set the world on fire when I was little.” Talk about extremes, she thought.
“That’s precisely the point.” Morgyn grew more serious. “The more power you have, the more difficult it is to contain it. I’m not saying that you’ll go burning down worlds tomorrow, of course. I just need you to understand that it might not be easy.”
The whole exchange seemed absurd. Tonight was absurd. There was no way Hawthorne was going to back out now, especially after her mother’s reaction earlier.
“So what, you’re saying that if you were born without magic, you would not have wanted to become a spellcaster?” She asked.
The question seemed to throw Morgyn off a little. They hesitated. “That’s not relevant. I didn’t have a choice. But you do. I’ve always wanted you to be able to have everything. Anything at my disposal, but the things I lacked too.”
“Like what?” Hawthorne wondered out loud. Nothing came to her mind, that was for sure. They literally could do anything in the world. Wasn’t that the point of untamed magic?
“Simple things. A warm home to grow up in. A nice childhood. Parents who were good people and… loved each other.” Morgyn let out a strange laugh Hawthorne didn’t quite understand.
But in a way, it was all too funny. Warm home? Apparently she was not welcome there anymore. Parents who loved each other? Good one…
“Well, that one didn’t work out too well,” she smirked.
“No, it did not.” Morgyn muttered under their breath, as if it wasn’t even for her benefit. They cleared their throat. “You should get some rest. Big day tomorrow.”