Turning the handle on the old iron doors brought back a rush of memories. He could already hear everyone inside, and…was Vladislaus playing the fiddle? That was something he hadn’t heard for an age.
He squeezed Morgyn’s hand before dropping it and cleared his throat. “I’ve not seen the inside of this location since Vladislaus was wearing braids in his hair. And vain about it to a fault.”
Instantly, the room was aflutter with activity. Alice ran across the room, wrapping her arms around him. “You’re here!” she cried.
“With a guest,” Caleb frowned. “And you have the Book of Longings?”
“I…we…yes and no…Mostly no? It’s complicated.” Turning his attention to Alice’s family, he gave a friendly wave. “I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced. I’m William—”
“Yes,” the older woman waved her hand, “We know. You’re the one we’re going to like.”
“Mom!” Alice hissed.
“What? He is clearly polite. Vlad tried to kill us.”
“No, surely he wouldn’t…” William trailed off. He gave his old friend a disbelieving look.
“To my esteemed credit. They are still alive.” Vlad paused only briefly before pulling William into a hug, cracking at least three ribs with the strength of it.
“Och,” William struggled, “You’re breaking my bones, you mad creature!”
“Yes, careful, Vladislaus. He is an old man,” Caleb warned.
“I am not old; I am distinguished. And full of wisdom.”
“Full of something,” Vlad quipped.
William held the vampire’s gaze for a minute and then guffawed. It was a good-natured, genuine laugh that had him wiping tears out of his eyes. “Now, now,” he gasped, “All this fussing over me, but you’ve not paid nary a greeting to The Sage of Untamed Magic. And before you go off, Vladislaus, we will need their help.”
All the attention in the room swung to Morgyn. The looks were primarily friendly, except for Vladislaus, who stared at the Sage with open hostility.
He crossed his arms, “Are we to be at odds, Sage of Untamed Magic?”
William stole a look at Morgyn, who appeared equally furious, but no longer weak. Thank sages for small miracles.
“No one is going to be at odds,” Alice promised. “William brought a friend, and we’re going to be nice because I’m a god five times over, and I don’t want to smite anyone.” She said the last part through gritted teeth.
Vlad flashed her an unrepentant smile and wrapped an arm around her waist, “Of course, my love.”
Something was different about Alice, to be sure. And William wasn’t exactly clear on how she went from conduit to God when the contest wasn’t over. But he suspected they’d be doing things the traditional way tonight: Dinner first. Then, war plans and plotting after.
He crossed the room and put a hand on Morgyn’s shoulder. They flinched; the look in their eyes haunted.
“Let’s have a seat and eat,” he said gently, “I’ve seen your appetite, Sage. I know you must be starving.”
Morgyn didn’t join in with the laughter of dinner. Alice was technically the new Goddess of Fertility, though the “how” was murky. They had mourned Marshala, swore vengeance, but now? After all these centuries making their own way, did they really want to belong to a god again? And where were they keeping Marjorie?
Not that Morgyn had a plan for controlling the old woman. And controlling her was the only option. B’Ollithiranon mentioned some kind of fail-safe. Without a god, they didn’t have the power to destroy The Owl, and if they were going to weaponize it against Omar, they’d need its cooperation first.
But they could have a god…
They gazed at Alice again, trying to decide if belonging to her was something they wanted.
Suddenly, a tiny vampiric child shot across the room. “I’m starving!” she screamed, launching herself at the cooler sitting by Vladislaus’s feet. She sank her fangs into his forearm as he blocked her.
With a gentleness Morgyn would have never thought him capable of, he peeled her off. “At the dinner table, hellion, we’re not heathens.”
She began to pout, but the Sage of Untamed Magic was distracted, their eyes drawn to the large purple Owl floating over the child’s shoulder. Not even the God of Death appeared to see it.
“Those cunning, awful creatures,” they gasped, shooting to their feet.
“What?” Alice asked, but Morgyn ignored her, watching instead as William jumped from the table to greet the young vampire.
When they saw the Three Sisters in Selvadorada, Morgyn was sure they were trying to keep them away from The Owl. But in their haste to force Untamed Magic into doing their bidding yet again, they actually brought Morgyn right to it!
And just for that, you owe us a second favor.
Not a second favor. The real favor. An alliance with Elmyra because B’Ollithiranon was a fool, and he thought this might finally force someone into protecting The Owl and not using it as a weapon. And judging from the smitten look on Alice and Vlad’s faces, the former god was right. Even Aurelius was fawning all over the little weapon, crouching down to introduce himself.
Well, The Fates were wrong 900 years ago, and they were wrong now. Morgyn was not going to squander this opportunity.
Rolling their shoulders back, they gave Alice a bold look. “I didn’t want to have to do this, but it’s obvious you’re in grave danger. I am not the Sage of Untamed Magic; I am Untamed Magic personified, I used to belong to the Goddess of Fertility, and now I belong to you.” They waited for the gasps before they continued. “As your magic, my first order of business is to tell you that whatever you are planning to keep The Owl out of Omar’s hands has a major flaw.”
“My second order of business is to deal with your constellation of followers. And third on my list is the formal announcement of your ascension.”
Alice looked a bit shell-shocked. “Followers? No. I don’t have that. And as for my ascension, we’re trying to keep that part quiet. I’ll just deal with the other gods when I meet them.”
Morgyn rolled their eyes heavenward. She was in an even more raw state than B’Ollithiranon. “You are not going to meet the gods. They are already here. You’ve been baking right beside them.”
“Wait,” Alice did a double-take, “Beside me? As in like…Dylan?”
“His name is not Dylan, it’s Omar, and he is quite determined to destroy you. Tell me, God of Death, what do you know of your brethren?”
They were hoping for an anxious look, or maybe a bit of awe; even fear would have been acceptable.
Instead, Alice’s expression grew thoughtful. “Nothing much, that was kind of William’s job with the Book of Longings. Is Jimena Omar’s off-spring? That would make sense. If that’s the case, I feel less bad about her possibly getting killed with Miss Hell.”
“Pardon?” Now it was Morgyn’s turn for a double-take.
“We’re going to let Miss Hell publicly steal The Owl from us, and then we’ll pop into the Underworld with the real Owl while everyone is chasing after her.”
“Don’t forget the explosion,” Mayra reminded her.
Alice snapped her fingers, “Right. My brother planted a tracker on her, and the alien ship she thinks she’s stealing belongs to a friend. We’re gonna blow it up mid-air.”
Morgyn’s eyes widened.
“Don’t worry, it’s a controlled explosion,” she continued, as if that were the problem, “Mayra’s a demolition expert, and technically, it’ll just be the homunculus we used to get through the contest because Marjorie is already dead.” Alice paused and looked at Vlad, “Wait, we paid for the homunculus, right?”
The child opened her mouth, but Vladislaus quickly covered it with a hand. “Yes,” he confirmed.
“And here I thought you’d be doing nothing in my absence,” William laughed, “I think there are a few things you should still know about the Gods, but I, for one, am feeling less worried. “
Morgyn pinched the bridge of their nose. They were not feeling less worried. Not by a long shot.
Ok I’m relieved Maverick was just that convincing and the Contessa was along with the whole thing too, phew! Sounds like her and Alice left things off way more amicably than what I remember! Looks like some of Maverick wasn’t wuite faking though – which is probably why he was so convincing. Should be interesting to see what happens with Miss Hell from now on.
Oh, the fates are retiring? Does that mean… the world will end? Otherwise surely there will always be a need for fates… oh boy. Oh Miko, still clinging on to Akira coming for her no matter what. To save her from her predicament of… being bored. Lol.
Aww, William’s reunion with his family was sweet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Caleb be all smiles like that. Morgyn’s meeting them… actually went ok, all things considered. Though I doubt the peace will last long. Aaand in walks Gwendolynn. Ooh, I love that she has an actual owl only Morgyn can see, that’s a neat touch! I wonder who else can see it. If Alice can’t presumably the other gods can’t either, but the other magics could? And dang, Alice is very forthcoming about their plans. You’d think she’d be a bit more cautious sharing a secret plan with someoone she just met, even though they’re claiming to be her magic. Thankfully Vlad is far more cautious, this is his time to shine. Ooh, he can access Morgyn’s fears? Very interesting!
I’m really liking how we’re getting to experience the scene play out from several of the character’s perspectives! Caleb’s POV is probably as closed to unbiased as we can get here – not that he is entirely unbiased himself, but probably less so than anyone else in the room. Now this exchange between Morgyn and Alice where they are both trying to one up each other with casually dropping word bombs about complex constructs they’ve both been planning for a ages (ok, ages are something different to Morgyn than to Alice, but still) – Caleb is right, what they are saying would be overwhelming to someone who’s heard of this the first time around… which means the probablity of either Morgyn or Alice actually absorbing what the other one is claiming is pretty slim. They are both set on their own plans and agendas, zero true openness to the other perspective… so that will go well.
Sidenote – if Alice really has the ability to create something new just like that, would it not technically be in her power to create a new owl, or even several? Though I suppose she’d need all the magics for that, and a the moment she doesn’t even have real support from the one that claims to be hers, haha. I do wonder what Morgyn hopes to achieve. They are desperate to retain this “human-like” existence, but if they do destroy the owl and betray Alice and the rest, they will lose William who is supposedly what’s making this all worthwhile. So what will they have left? A body that faints every time they cast a powerful spell? They don’t exactly seem to have friends left either, beyond William. Their reunion with L Faba would certainly be, err, interesting 😀 So what exactly are they fighting for?
Ok, so the fates just wanted someone to be willing to protect the owl with their life, which, there are plenty of powerful beings being willing to do that now. Not sure what involvement Morgyn’s had to play in that though? In fact, the other sages and the good order monks probably had more of a part to play than Morgyn, certainly fast tracked Alice and Vlad’s bond with Gwendolynn.
Ah, is Janus in the basement? If he’s still alive, that is. Gods can’t die (though can be ended by the owl, aparently), not sure about magics. Actually, I wonder if Gwendolynn’s current vampireness would somehow play a role in how the owl could end a god. Of course, ending a god might not necessarily mean killing them. Aaand Morgyn wakes up. Have they forgotten about that life before and it’s only coming back to them in the dream? I suppose if you live thousands of years, many things fade, and they did have a thousand lifetimes that have jsut come to them recently too, so it would make sense if there was only so much information they’d be able to remember. Though if that’s the case, they really can’t rely on their instinct about anything. Which they shouldn’t, because their current instinct just seems like a surefire way to wreck everything they’ve only jsut gained.
If only Morgyn had you on their shoulder, warning them not to go down this path!
Really though, I think you are tapping into the center of Morgyn’s conflict and the things they are going to have to grapple with in the next “book.” I mean, you used the word “supposedly” in terms of William and I think you’re right—the jury is still out on their committment. Morgyn is alone, they’ve burnt every relationship to the ground and the story they tell themselves each time is the same: “they are doing it for the greater good, they are making the hard decisions, they are doing it because they love someone else or something else and it must be protected.” But are those things true? They feel true in the moment, but the big test for how Morgyn really feels about William will come down to the choices they make. Can they do something truly unselfish?
You’re actually picking up on a parallel I’m trying to paint between Miko and Morgyn. She’s got a lot of similar reasons, cycling between doing all of this as a great sacrifice because despite how much she “loves” Akira, she’s got to save the world. Miko has so many lines where she talks about herself as making the hard choices because no one else will. And its kind of absurd right? Like its clear to us that she wants Akira to come save her from…languishing in a palatial estate. And this is not to say Somnus isn’t a bad guy, as far as we know, but like…mostly she’s wearing fancy dresses and sitting at dinner and being starved for attention.
But that’s not clear to Miko. She’d never characterize it like that. And Morgyn would never describe their actions as selfish. They are both the main characters of their story and so their perspective feels legitimate to them. We’re reading the larger story so we get to see their actions in context, to jump into other characters’ heads and consider different points of view.
I guess this is a a really long, nerdy way of saying that I’m fascinated by the idea of a bunch of people who all think they are main characters sharing the same story. It’s been so fun to take the same scene and write it from different angles! Like you’re so right, Caleb doesn’t have a “dog in this fight” so when he is watching Alice and Morgyn go at it, he can see the ways in which they are posturing and talking over each other. When the scene is from Vlad’s perspective, he’s completely focused on protecting Gwendolyn and Alice from any perceived threat. And no matter if he disagrees with Alice or not, he’s not going to do it while a possible enemy is their midst.
Yes! Vlad can totes see other creatures fears. It’s how he knew Grim was lying all those chapters ago when he told them that he had no idea where Ben was. It’s why Vlad is so good at finding things and weirdly, why he’s an excellent judge of character and a pretty emotionally intelligent partner. He is perplexed by his own emotions and fundamentally does not care about other people, but he can see people’s vulnerabilities very clearly.
Oh man, Morgyn’s nightmares are beginning to pile up! Could it be guilt now that they are spending more time with Aurelius? hehe. Really though, I was trying to figure out how to write creatures who were thousands of years old and deal with their memories. I mean, you’re right, there is no way for them to keep everything top of mind all the time. So when Morgyn is awake, you’re getting the version of their memories and events that they curate. Whent hey are sleeping, their guard is down and the unfiltered versions of events rise to the surface.
Will the world end if the fates retire? Are the fates really retiring? GAH I wish I could answer that question…
MAVERICK LIVES! VIVA LA MAVERICK!
Oh I know these characters don’t hear me, but that apparently still doesn’t stop all the word vomit I keep sending their way 😆
Absolutely, we all see ourselves as the main character in our story, most people believe their actions are justified, and nobody has access to the bigger picture the way the reader does. That’s why I’m not really into the whole hero and villain dichotomy because really, the only difference between hero and villain is perspective. Which is why I loved this chapter where we got to see so many takes on the same encounter! So fun!
Ooh, I like the memory concept, that makes a lot of sense, yes! Reminds me of this android character in Fallout who ran out of his memory capacity so he stored his memories elsewhere, only having access to a portion of them at a time… endless to say it definitely affected his judgement, lol.
Yes! Same! And thank you! lol I think this is why I enjoy simlits that explroe the messy gray area (also why one second I’m screaming at Morgyn or Faba in your story and the next I’m like: they are my babies and they must be protected at all costs).
AHHHHH THE HOURS I HAVE LOST ON FALLOUT. But yes, yes, yes 100%
Ooh, a fellow Fallout fan! Haha I can relate, one of those games I keep coming back to 🙂
Okay! Let’s give this commenting thing another shot.
The first time I read this chapter, I was trying to figure out what about this Alice made her suitable to be the God of Death. My preconceived theory was that her lack of desire to be the God of Death, Fertility, etc. makes her more suitable than someone who wants to be a god, because she’s less likely to go for a power grab (like B’Allertheramin did) and more likely to want to live a normal life & just go home and watch true crime shows while she looks up shirtless pics of Regé-Jean Page on her phone (like B’owlingmarathon is probably doing now).
I’M SORRY, HE’S IN THE D&D MOVIE?!?!?!?!
ONE SEC LET ME GET A PILLOW TO SCREAM INTO
Back to the point. But that’s not the only thing going on, given that Alice is reluctant at the beginning. Could be that she needed the time loop to figure out how to control her powers before the war happens. Then, at the end, the story did exactly what I wanted it to and explained what the fates were thinking: it’s based on her love for Gwendolyn! Awwwwww. Of course, I had to stop and think whether Gwendolyn hadn’t been Owled in any other timeline (I may remember that not being the case) or whether there were a bunch of times the Fates decided Alice didn’t love the kid enough. Which I obviously find hilarious.
Oh, I forgot about Vlad’s braids! I need to get faster at sketching because there is so much Gwendolyn and Vlad fanart I want to draw: “Mmm, Pancakes” and now another one where Gwendolyn is giving Vlad microbraids.
So Morgyn also thinks Marjorie’s not dead. Hm. On the other hand, I don’t trust Morgyn in BC, I don’t trust them in BBD, I do not trust them here or there, I do not trust them anywhere. Not in high heels, not in a dress, I do not trust that heated mess.
Valeria, on the other hand, has me completely charmed with her tenure energy and I’m more inclined to agree with her: if Alice has millennia, the first impression she makes will be an even smaller blip in time. Also, setting up a flashy event and yelling “Hello, other gods! Look at me! Look at me! I have the Owl! I am a threat! Everyone pay attention to what I am doing!” is more Morgyn than Alice.
Caleb’s ‘outside looking in’ comment finally drove it in for me that the Owl itself is not the problem, the hierarchy is. Is that another hidden running theme? That the only way to win in this arrangement is not to play? Untamed Magic should be jumping for joy that Alice CBA to overthrow anyone.
(Next fanart idea: Vlad and Alice both on a float with megaphones; Alice yelling “Attention everyone: you are going to die. Don’t be alarmed. There will be cupcakes,” while Vlad screams “BOUNDARIES! BOUNDARIES!”)
I want to begin by saying that Rene Jean Page in the D&D movie is my special interests colliding and is everything good and true in this world and I will not be taking questions at this time, thank you.
whisper screams *ITS FILMING NOW*
But I digress, you have hit the nail on the head! Hierarchy is both a theme of BBD and a structure for the story! ☺️
Let me see if I can articulate how it looks in my brain (and I’m going to reference stuff that happens after this but you’ve read the epilogue so it’s fine lol): the perspectives in BBD shift horizontally between characters but also vertically between levels of power. Everyone on one level thinks they understand the story they are in, but when you jump up to the next level (and you’re dealing with much more power), you realize the story is very different—the stakes are bigger, the things that looked serendipitous were not, decisions aren’t anywhere near as independent as a character believed.
This happens a million times in BBD, most recently when Jimena turns the tables on Miss Hell and is like “I’m a demigod, I been manipulating you this whole time. You don’t even know what’s really going on.” Morgyn seems like they are all-powerful and full of knowledge and running things until they run into the Fates who are like: have seat dear, the adults are talking. The Fates seem like they are in control until you realize that they’ve been given an assignment by Time and the Universe who way outrank them. Alice is ascending because she is becoming a God, but she is also ascending the hierarchy.
And that’s the real danger of The Owl. It controls ascension, not only can it undo a hierarchical power structure that is highly favored by the creatures who see themselves sitting atop it, but it can also create new hierarchical structures. Is the only way to win the arrangement not to play? Well, now you’re getting into endgame territory and my lips are sealed.
…but it is interesting that Alice and Vlad were chosen by the Fates because of their love for Gwendolyn and they are adamant that she is more than a weapon and that she not be used to fight any kind of battle, even a “good one”…
In other news, I LOVE the idea of BBD Fan Art featuring Vlad wearing micro-braids and I need it immediately. I also need a children’s book called “Don’t Trust Morgyn” lololololol.
God, I love writing Valeria. I’m so thrilled you picked up on her Big Tenure energy. I mean, she’s right, but Morgyn is very charming and Alice and she still have a bit of a fraught relationship.
HAHAHAHAH I would love it if I was clever enough to write The Fates spinning new timelines because Alice did not love Gwendolyn enough. Alas, I was just thinking that they kept testing different “containers” for The Owl until they landed on something that worked. Gwendolyn is a singular child, after all 🙂