“I just landed,” Maverick said, the phone making his voice sound tinny, “I don’t want to risk being followed, so I’ll just camp out at the rendezvous point.”
Alice let out a breath, “Oh, thank llamas. Are you okay? Were they too rough with you? Contessa promised not to—”
“They were fine,” Maverick assured her, “Still have no idea how you got her to agree to it.”
“I’m a god,” Alice shrugged, even though he couldn’t see her.
“Okay. Fine. I got her that job in the police department and threw in becoming Queen of San Myshuno and Windenburg.”
“That sounds way more plausible,” Maverick observed. “Speaking of plausible, I know what you said about Miss Hell, but I think there’s something you should know.”
Leave it to Maverick to suss out Miss Hell’s secrets. He never met a sim he couldn’t charm. He and Alice had wholly different high school experiences. “What do you mean?”
“Well, she’s not quite what I expected. I think…” his voice grew soft, “I think she’s in over her head. She’s in love with Jimena, and she was forced to serve this other god and—”
Alice groaned inwardly. He was charming and soft-hearted—a sucker for anyone who needed saving, hence his misguided love affair with Dina Caliente. “Why is your voice doing that thing?” she demanded.
“No,” he countered, “I don’t. I’m just trying to tell you that she’s under some other god’s control and—”
“Which god? Who?”
“I don’t know; she didn’t specify, but maybe don’t eliminate them…well, her. I don’t even know if you can eliminate Jimena. I mean, can you kill a demigod? Is she for sure a demigod?”
“DNA that doesn’t match anything in the Unexplained Phenomenon Database? Acts like a self-involved little asshole? Yeah. She’s definitely a demigod.” Alice caught Vlad’s eye as he brought in the cooler with Gwendolyn’s dinner. It would not be long before she smelled it, and all hell broke loose. “Listen, just activate the tracker on the necklace so dad can get a lock on her and… “
The hopeful note in his voice brought on a wave of sisterly affection that Alice was desperate to blame on hormones. What else but an addled brain could explain her even considering this request?
Alice sighed. “Listen, I’m not saying Vlad will agree, and I don’t trust her either, but I guess you should tell me everything she told you.”
Elder Realms, Somnus’s Estate
Miko was languishing in Somnus’s palatial estate. She wasn’t eager to show him that her time travel power was useless, but the uncertainty was killing her. Instead of making plans, he spent long hours staring at his crystal ball and angrily feeding her elaborate meals, which he insisted she dress up for. It was miserable. It was terrifying.
It was boring.
“I’m going out,” he announced, glaring at her from the doorway, “If you try to escape, I’ll kill you.”
“Kill me? Don’t you need me?” Miko snapped, her frustration at being bored making her tone more petulant than she intended.
“I don’t know,” he cocked an eyebrow, “Do I?”
“Is this a joke? You took me! You’re the one with the grand ambitions and…and…” she trailed off, flustered. Where was her self-control?
“And what?” he mocked. “Do enlighten me.”
Miko groaned angrily, “Enlighten you about what? You’re so cryptic and difficult, I hardly know where to begin. I wish—” she snapped her mouth shut and clenched her fists.
“You wish what? Tell me, Miko Ojo, what is it you dream of?”
She was not going to take the bait. The hole was already deep enough without any additional shoveling.
“Besides Akira between your thighs,” he added.
“If you really wanted to grant my wish, you’d stop being an asshole and put me out of my misery.” The words were out of her mouth so quickly her brain hardly had a moment to process them.
“It seems your dream’s ambitions match your abilities,” he sneered before turning on his heel and leaving.
It wasn’t until she heard the door slam that she let herself react. Did the God of Sleep already know her powers were useless? What was he planning? How would he—
“Universe above, I thought he’d never leave!” a voice called out behind her.
Miko whirled around, “Rory!”
“Not just Rory,” Summer added, materializing by the glass doors.
Miko blinked, and Liberty appeared by the dresser.
“How did…where did you…how did you know he was really leaving?” Miko stuttered, relief flooding her system.
“Contrary to popular belief, Somnus does not prefer to travel by portal. He believes it makes him too easy to trace,” Rory explained. “Of course, that’s because we helped Omar seize control of the portal masters two thousand years ago.”
“And a good thing too,” Summer nodded, “If the gods weren’t so paranoid about portal travel, we’d have a heck of a time keeping track of them. We’d have to kill just to get their attention.”
Miko shivered; she’d forgotten how ruthless her family was. Delivering Fate meant observing and perpetuating all sorts of horrors.
Summer’s eyes clouded over, and she slowly raised an arm, pointing at a point along the horizon, “It’s time,” she said.
Rory gave her a thumbs up, “Alright, Rabbit, grab your stuff. Unless it’s just those dirty pajamas, in which case, grab nothing.”
“Go where?” Miko ignored his barb and reached for her pile of clothes. “Not that it matters; anywhere that isn’t getting murdered by Somnus is good.”
“To the end,” Summer replied happily.
“T-the end?” That brought Miko up short.
“The whole family is there already,” Rory encouraged, “Now, come on. When Summer says it’s time, she’s not usually wrong. I mean, she’s the only one Time will talk to anymore since Liberty pissed her off—”
“I did not!”
“But that’s neither here nor there,” Rory continued breezily, “Our place in these worlds is over, Fate has been set in motion, and we don’t need to mold it anymore. We are retiring.”
Miko hesitated. She didn’t want to be killed by Somnus but going to the end was just another kind of death, wasn’t it? “I…I don’t think that’s for me,” she said quietly, “You all should go. Akira will come for me.”
They shared a look. Liberty motioned angrily at Rory.
“Akira ain’t coming,” he blurted out.
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.
Vlad watched as Morgyn settled themselves on a chair, swirling the nectar in their glass. The group was now slightly smaller. Grim was off collecting the dead, and Vlad sent Deacon and the tiny terror to the catacombs to run off energy.
He very rarely used the full extent of his powers as Phobos. Mortals feared pain and death, and he could accomplish that on his vampiric powers alone. Supernaturals were hardier, but the appearance of his otherworldly visage combined with a bit of violence generally did the trick. Morgyn, though, was something different, so Vladislaus dove deep—reaching out the tendrils of his mind to read the Sage’s fears and, thus, their secrets.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t call Mikel back?” Alice asked, “Working on the ship seems less important than this. I mean, the wraiths are—”
“Not a concern,” Morgyn replied swiftly, “We cleansed the area.”
“Burned down the house,” William clarified.
“Oh, I am aware of the Sage’s predilection for directing fires,” Vlad said darkly. The flash of anxiety that flew across Morgyn’s face filled him with delight. He continued, “You said you were Untamed Magic—Alice’s Magic. Explain.”
They shrugged a shoulder. “I belong to the God of Death just as you do, Phobos.”
“No,” Vlad replied pleasantly, “I am quite sure you do not. This is new for Alice; why don’t you enlighten her?”
Alice cut a sharp look at him, “Yeah, I’m right here and perfectly capable of asking questions myself.” She squinted at Morgyn, “But seriously, what does that mean? And if I am a god five times over, don’t I have other Magics? Where are they? Do you know them?”
Untamed Magic visibly bristled, a surge of unease running through them—another secret. “Of course, I know the other Magics. There is no word for it in your tongue, but I suppose you could think of them as my siblings. Technically, you could call them into being…but there is no need,” they rushed out. “I am the strongest and have the most experience.”
“But you can show Alice how to call them, right?” William’s face was open, hopeful. That was going to be a very irritating problem—Aurelius hadn’t had much more than a fling since losing his husband. This interest in Untamed Magic was…inconvenient.
“Sure,” Morgyn sniffed, “Now, as I was saying. Your little plan has a problem.”
“Our little plan,” Valeria seethed. “Who in the hell do you think—”
Cyrus put a steadying hand on her shoulder.
“You are not thinking about the long term,” Morgyn said with a dismissive wave of their hand, “And I understand that. Your lives will be over in a blink of an eye. Alice is a god. She must think in terms of centuries. Millennia. She must introduce herself to the other gods as a force to be reckoned with.”
“My child doesn’t take pointless risks because of her ego.”
Cyrus cleared his throat, “I think what my wife is trying to say is—”
“I know what I’m trying to say,” she shot him a look of death, “And this…this…Morgyn or Untamed or whatever their name is, doesn’t know all the variables. Alice is—”
“Not decided about anything,” Vladislaus said firmly. If Alice wanted Untamed Magic to know she was pregnant, she would tell them. And if she decided to stay pregnant, it would be obvious in a few months anyway.
“Mom,” Alice’s voice shook, but she quickly reeled in her emotions. “It’s okay. Morgyn knows more about this than any of us, and they are right. The circumstances have changed. We can’t just frame Miss Hell and run off into the night.”
Morgyn took a swig of nectar, looking pleased with themselves. Too pleased.
Vlad clenched his jaw but forced his voice to be calm. “I’ll retrieve the chalkboard.”
“No,” Alice whispered, “I’ll do it.”
Alice had recovered herself, and Caleb was glad to see she was now sparring with Untamed Magic instead of nodding woodenly at his every instruction.
“This is absurd. You propose to just stroll into the Underworld?” Morgyn demanded.
“Uh, yeah,” Alice scoffed, “I do propose to just stroll into the world that I control.”
“Oh, very good,” Morgyn sneered, “And your precious mortal family? The vampires? Are you planning some red juice drinking party that I’m not aware of?”
“Red juice and cupcakes. We can make it a party if you want to.”
Morgyn made an outraged sound, but Caleb could sense that it was all for show. Untamed Magic wasn’t so different from Magnolia Promenade’s aristocracy—poking holes in things just to puff up their importance.
“I’m not stupid,” Alice growled, “So you can stop looking at me like that. I’m a god; I did what gods do—took my powers and combined them together to create something new. They eat the cupcakes; it stops their hearts. They drink the juice; it binds their spirits. I animate them through the portal, and by the time the effects wear off, they are already in the Underworld. Like I said, it’s handled!”
She checked a look of victory that almost had Caleb applauding. He expected Untamed Magic to look annoyed, but instead, they looked a bit terrified.
It didn’t make any sense. In fact, everything Morgyn and William told them was challenging to absorb. The relationships, backstabbing and betrayals, the fact that the B’Ollithiranon took magics from other gods to create an item that threatened the very foundation of the Elder Realm’s political system—it was all overwhelming.
Morgyn said they didn’t know why the former God of Death did it, but to Caleb, it was obvious. Once upon a time, he and Lilith moved along the highest echelons of society. Then through a twist of fate, or rather, a twist of their father’s, they ended up on the outside looking in. Outside was a brutal place to be and if Caleb had the means to create something to even the playing field, he would have done so. With gusto.
Shaking his head, he turned his attention back to the argument.
“Zombies are a great fucking idea!” Alice exclaimed, “If Omar was pissed about them then, he’ll be pissed about them now. I wonder if we could get the same ones….”
Surprisingly, Untamed Magic seemed to agree. “It would be a wonderful way of thumbing your nose at him.” They grasped their chin, “There’s no reason to assume they aren’t still around. Ask Grim. Or that other one you made. What’s his name? Deacon.”
The awards ceremony was to be their last stand. Based on William’s intelligence, it was almost sure The Pious God would try and kill Alice. Their only advantage was that Omar didn’t realize she already had The Owl, and Morgyn wanted them to use that advantage to deal the Pious God a blow.
It was hard to get a read on William’s new lover. One minute, they seemed abrasive and dismissive. The next, there was concern flashing in their eyes. Were they friend or foe? Evil or good?
“I am not saying that homunculi are bad; I’m simply saying that having my power to animate them gives us more options,” Morgyn insisted, “I can easily split my power—er your power. We want them to be indiscernible from the real thing.”
“Okay, okay. I see what you’re saying. Let them think they know what’s going on, but they don’t, and that’s when you hit them. Like in season three of The Man Who Is Not and Never Has Been Married when everyone found out Kevin was there for the wrong reasons.”
Morgyn smiled, but to Caleb, it looked a bit forced. “Exactly.”
From there, the plotting seemed to take a different turn. Morgyn and Alice grabbed seats at the table and continued whispering and making plans. William stretched and said something about checking the armory while Vlad picked up a sleepy Gwendolyn, pulling off her socks and shoes while murmuring endearments.
“I’m not tired,” she mumbled, “Wanna stay and watch Alice.”
“Don’t we all? But, don’t worry, hellion. One day, you will grow strong enough to lure your own enemies into a false sense of security.” He smoothed her hair, “It’s always easier to cut a throat when it’s been bared to you voluntarily. Now, off to bed we go.”
Caleb chuckled and waved at Gwendolyn. Perhaps “evil or good” was too simple a descriptor. Creatures contained multitudes.
He would leave Alice and Morgyn to wrap up the final details too, Caleb had plenty of packing to do. Amisyia and Deacon had already agreed to help him find Lilith. And besides, he had been working nonstop for nearly two hundred years.
A little sun and sand would do him good.
William had not returned from the armory. When Morgyn peeked their head around the corner, they were disappointed to find him sparring with Vladislaus. Rather than wait around awkwardly or risk an altercation with Phobos, they decided to make themselves scarce. A few hours of shut-eye couldn’t hurt.
900 Years Ago…
L. Faba clapped her hands excitedly, “It was foolish of you to burn out a form just because you hate Crypto Magic. But now we three are back together again, as it should be.”
“Indeed,” Morgyn replied but didn’t turn around. Ever since they lost Marshala, a yawning pit of emptiness had opened up inside them. Playing Sage in the mortal realm did not fill them with joy like it did for Faba. And yet, returning to Magic with no god to call them forth seemed like a misery. Already they were using less magic in hopes of drawing out the process.
“Rory of the Fates, what brings you to this corner of the world?”
Morgyn jolted, realizing they had stopped paying attention.
“The witches are looking stronger every day, Faba.” The eldest of the Three Sisters was sporting a new form. Her red hair practically glowed in the afternoon light.
“You are such a flatterer,” Faba laughed, but Morgyn could hear the pride in her voice. The witches were her special project. “I’ll go check on my acolytes and let you two catch up.”
“Why do you bring me news?” Morgyn spat after Faba took her leave. “My god is gone, and The Owl has disappeared. There is nothing about the Elder Realms that I care to know.”
“Yes, I can see that,” Rory observed with a smile. “The Owl isn’t gone. We were forced to hide it away. As it turns out, someone told Elmyra that The Owl could be a weapon, and now Omar and everyone else knows. It’s created absolute chaos.”
Morgyn kept their expression blank even as their own words flashed in their mind: The Owl has a fail-safe. It can make gods, but it can also unmake them. Use it, Elmyra. Kill your brother. End our suffering. “Then maybe you should talk to Elmyra. I, obviously, wouldn’t know anything about it.”
“I’ll make a note of that,” Rory hummed, “Anyways, when The Owl returns, it will have to be protected.”
“And you think I’m the one for it?”
“No,” Rory laughed, “We Fates are not fools. Your feelings on using The Owl to have your revenge are well known. But, as it turns out, our methods of obfuscation and nudging will not be enough. Some powerful being will need to take charge of The Owl, be willing to protect it with their life. Help us convince Transmutation, and we will offer you something in return.”
“What you’ve always desired.”
Morgyn scoffed. Their god was gone. They would never have another one again. “You may give me whatever payment you deem fit. I’m above these concerns.”
“Of course you are. You’re the only one we trust with this secret. The Owl will return in 2019. There will be a contest—”
“A contest?” Morgyn gave a cruel laugh, “I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous. Let me see, will it be an arena fight? Or maybe a baking contest,” they sneered.
She put a finger to her chin, “Baking, that’s good. We’ll make sure sims are into that. Anyhoo, it’s not the activity that matters. It’s the contestants. Are you in or what?”
Morgyn rolled their eyes and pretended disinterest. 2019 was centuries away, plenty of time to make sure The Owl ended up in their hands. “Fine.”
Rory handed them a notebook, “You might want to take notes. This is going to get complicated.”
“What news from Rory?” Faba asked when Morgyn returned.
“News? From the Elder Realms?” Janus jumped up, “Is something wrong?”
“No,” Morgyn lied, “The status quo remains. The Fates just bring the same idle gossip.”
Transmutation nodded and went to warm himself by the fire.
Morgyn had done the calculations the whole walk back to Magic HQ. They would need a lot of power to achieve their goals. Magic couldn’t die, which made it the perfect battery.
Mischief Magic crossed to the desk. Morgyn kept their voice low as they came up behind her. “Faba, darling, the Elder Realms is over. Don’t you want it to be just us two forever? We can cultivate the witches together, perhaps even make one a Sage…only, Janus stands in our way. But you are clever, sister. Help me bind him…”
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