Scene 41 – December 23rd
Interior Mansion, Early Evening
“Hey mom?” I heard Tristan’s drift through the halls. “Mom?”
“Yes, dear?” Jenny called back to him from somewhere else in the mansion.
I nodded to myself – Jenny would handle whatever it was – and leaned back over Excalibur. The blade had an immense power and energy, and as a mage, it fascinated me. I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps…
“No, other mom! Mom?” Tristan shouted.
I sighed and, instead of taking hold of the sword for the first time, I lowered a protective plastic case – inscribed and enchanted to block all magical emanations – over it. “One moment!” I called back to him, putting a little bit of magic into my voice so he would hear me.
“There’s someone at the door!”
I paused in my redoubling of the protective charms. Who on earth could come to our door? It might, I supposed, be one or both of the Kovals – having dragged them from the depths of their research not too long ago, they might be aware enough over the world to come over for a visit – but I didn’t think it was likely. And no one else should even be able to notice that our mansion existed.
Perhaps it was the Kovals’ daughter, who might still be keyed into the wards as well. She had been a friend of Dom and Viv’s when they were younger, although I didn’t think they had spent much if any time with each other in years. But the urge to reconnect with an old friend could come at any time.
With that in mind, I left Excalibur in my lab and went to go see who it was. And, for that matter, why Tristan had called for me specifically –
“Oh,” I said, flatly. “It’s you.”
Arthur Peregrine inclined his head in greeting. “It’s me. Hello again, Morgan.”
I crossed my arms, leaning against the doorframe, and pointedly didn’t invite him in. “Tristan, you can go.”
“But mom, that’s Arthur Peregrine.”
“I know, dear. I’ll deal with him.”
Tristan glanced between us, confused – while he, like the rest of my family, knew that I had once been Peregrine’s apprentice, I didn’t talk about that time much. My youngest son especially had no reason to know the details. After a moment, he left.
Peregrine’s eyes tracked Tristan as he left for a moment, and I was certain that he was putting his remarkable senses for people’s health and wellbeing to use. “I see you haven’t forgotten the medical spells we developed together,” he said to me. “He’s shaping up into a fine young man, it seems.”
“I can’t fall you for those spells, I suppose – no one else was creating them.” I sighed, and turned away, walking towards the nearest sitting room. “I suppose you had better come in.”
He followed in silence as I led him to the sitting room, where I found my husband sitting and struggling with a crossword puzzle.
“Morgan!” he said happily, glancing up at me with a sunny smile, and I couldn’t help but return it. “I see you have a guest?”
“Yes. Arthur, this is Arthur Peregrine,” I said to him. “Peregrine, this is…” I paused briefly, wondering whether or not I should reveal that we were polyamorous. Peregrine wasn’t a judgmental man, I could give him that, but the memory of my parents and siblings disowning me when they found out was hard to get past. It only took me an instant to remember, though, that Tristan had called to ‘other mom’, and that was likely all the clue that Peregrine had needed to figure out our situation, so I continued, “one of my partners, also named Arthur.”
“I recall,” Peregrine said, shaking Arthur’s offered hand. “A pleasure.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” Arthur told him. “I’ve heard a great deal about you from Morgan. And other places, of course,” he joked. “Not sure we’ve ever met though.”
“Once or twice, I think,” Peregrine responded. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the commitment ceremony.”
“We’re sorry to have interrupted you,” I said, nodding to the now discarded puzzle. “I’ll take him to a different room.”
“No, no!” Arthur insisted, taking the puzzle and his pencil and rising. “I’ll leave. It’s quite alright.”
“I’ll just go find Jenny!” he assured me – probably for the best. Today had been a good day for him, but any disruption to his normal routine could be an issue, and Jenny would help him stay on track if necessary. A moment later, he was gone.
Peregrine turned his gaze on me, “You know that-”
“Yes, we know that he has Alzheimer’s,” I snapped, falling into the vacated seat.
“Why didn’t you-”
“Call you for help?” I sneered. “Why didn’t you come visit at any point in the last, oh, 22 years? ‘Couldn’t make it to the commitment ceremony,’” I scoffed, “you can teleport anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. You just couldn’t be bothered to show up. Besides,” I added, “it resists magical healing. I’ve tried, and so have the doctors at NVG.”
“I was quite busy that afternoon, I’ll have you know,” he protested, “interviewing someone to replace you after you left your apprenticeship.”
“Ah yes, your oh-so-rigid schedule,” I mocked. “I remember that schedule. Every moment of every day regimented and pre-planned, not a moment for ourselves. And you wonder why I left?”
“You didn’t mind so much back then,” he reminded me, “and I was far stricter with my own time than I ever was with yours.”
I huffed, crossing my arms in irritation. “You were never a hypocrite, no. But what’s right for you isn’t right for me.”
He sighed. “That’s true, I suppose.”
We sat in silence for a moment before I asked, “Why are you here?”
“I’m sure you noticed the events involving the so-called ‘Magnificent Maxwell’ and Anima-”
“No, why are you here,” I repeated. “In my home.”
“…because you invited me in.” I narrowed my eyes at the man, and he chuckled. “I’m here because I hoped that we could set our argument aside. Forgive each other for the things we said. There aren’t many mages at our level, and… I suppose I’d like to have my friend and colleague back.”
“…it’s true, there aren’t many at our level,” I admitted. Even the Kovals weren’t really a match for Arthur and I – while they were certainly more expert in the arts of the mind and trickery, they were extraordinarily specialized. In all other aspects of magic, Arthur and I were far more skilled.
“So here is what I propose,” Peregrine said. “It’s been a little while-”
My brows rose. “22 years, to be precise.”
“A little while, as I said. Don’t look at me like that, you’d be as ageless as I am if you cared to be,” he said, defensively. “We’ve had time to cool off. We can each explain our side of matters without the big…” he waved his hands, somehow conveying the essence of the tense, highly-charged argument we had had towards the ends of my apprenticeship. “Then, after that, we can lay it to rest.”
“Ah, I see,” I said in understanding. “You have to have the last word, even 22 years later.”
“You can go second, if you prefer,” he offered.
“Fine. You start, then.”
Peregrine steepled his fingers, and began, “It all goes back to Martin Abelard, I suppose. Metahumans – and more than metahumans, all unusually gifted people – should use their talents to serve society and humanity. I am lucky enough to have remarkable faculty with magic, particularly that which relates to healing – how could I not use my magic to help the world?”
“…that’s it?” I asked after he had been silent for a moment.
“Huh. Seems a lot simpler without all the…” I waved my hands.
“Yes,” he agreed. “My magic lets me do things others cannot – I should use it to help. And your view?”
“My counterpoint,” I said, “is that that only reaches to a point, and that point is as far as a normal man can think to reach. A mage like… like… the Magnificent Maxwell, say, or Anima, their skills are within the reach of society. Beyond that – in the far reaches of theoretical magic, where we reside – I think our involvement does more harm than good.”
“How many advances in medical magic have there been in the last century that you weren’t involved in?” I asked.
“…very few,” he admitted. “I think I see where you’re going with this…”
“You’re without a doubt the greatest healer in the world, Peregrine,” I said, “and you have an excellent claim to the title of greatest mage in general. But even you have only so much time – presuming that the magic of time still escapes you.” He nodded. “Few, now, are willing to make their own researches into medical magic without your guidance or assistance. Of those few, very few have succeeded. But were you not available, I would hazard a guess that many who now wait for their chance to work for you would instead forge ahead, and in doing so, make their own discoveries.”
“And for yourself?”
“My field has been untouched by my influence,” I pointed out, “and look how quickly artificing techniques are advancing. Why, in a few years, researches will likely catch up to where I was at ten years ago.”
“But if you shared your research -” he tried.
“If I shared my research, it would leap the community forward,” I agreed. “But only to the point that I had reached. And as my dominance over the field became established, I would only stall its advances for as long as I worked – and since, as you pointed out, I could be immortal if I wished to, that might be forever. Instead, I allow them to make their own advances, and eventually – perhaps in twenty years, perhaps fifty, but eventually – the world at large will match and surpass me. And they will have done so,” I added, “on their own.”
He sighed. “I see your point,” Peregrine admitted, “but I fear that I cannot agree with it. I feel that a man who can turn aside another’s death and chooses not to has killed as surely as if he had committed the murder himself. I cannot possibly choose not to heal, and if I make an advance that could help in the hands of others, how could I choose not to share it?”
“…I see your point as well,” I admitted. “My specialty of magic has, perhaps, less of an ethical imperative to action than yours does.”
We sat in silence for a moment, but it was no longer tense and angry. We understood each other, finally.
Scene 42 – December 23rd
Interior Mansion, Continuous
“So…” I finally said.
“Will I what?”
I sighed. “You always have to do this.”
“I have no children of my own, allow me some few pleasures of fatherhood with one of the only people I can be so informal with,” Peregrine said with a faint smile.
“You could find a partner easily, if you tried.”
He shook his head. “I have no time. And yes,” he held up a hand to forestall protests, “I know, I could rework my schedule, but I’m not going to. Besides, not only am I a very public figure – with no secret identity – who therefore must always ask about the motivations of anyone who seeks to become closer to me, I am also as close to immortal as anyone outside of Aegis gets.”
“Aren’t you older than Aegis? And La Borda here in New Venice is probably just as immortal.”
“And is in a committed relationship, on top of being much younger than me.” He shrugged. “The point is, where would I find a woman who could relate to a man two centuries old?”
“Fair point. So?”
He smiled. “Yes, I will help your husband with his Alzheimer’s. I’m certain that its magical resistance will not be able to stop me – particularly if, as I suspect, Mr. Könberg is the patient of a young doctor called Durandel who messaged me some time ago about a man with magic-resistant Alzheimer’s.”
“Thank you,” I said gratefully. “And yes, that would be us.”
He held up a hand. “I’m sure that you remember my limits with such genetic diseases, but I feel the need to warn you in any case. I can clear the buildup of proteins that causes Alzheimer’s, but I cannot cure the underlying cause of the condition – he will, if he lives long enough, face its specter once more. Neither can I ensure that your children do not inherit its risk. In addition, if any of his memories have been permanently lost at this point, I will not be able to restore them.”
“I know,” I assured him, “but the help you can give will still be greatly appreciated. And if Arthur receives another 50-to-60 years of good health before the proteins have built up enough to be a risk, well… that will have been a great blessing.”
Peregrine nodded. “The other warning I must give is that, should Mr. Könberg wear his helm, it will speed the onset of the disease.”
My blood ran cold. “What do you-”
“The helm of his armor, the Mountain King’s armor, the helm that you gave to a young woman that I presume was your daughter when they broke into the local MLED Compound last week,” he calmly said, as though he wasn’t revealing knowledge that could tear my family’s peaceful life apart. “The one that enhances the senses and intellect of its wearer. Oh, do sit down,” he ordered.
I realized that I had leapt to my feet, magical energy filling my lips and tongue unbidden, ready for me to speak curses into existence and smite the man who might threaten my family. I sat, slowly, but didn’t banish the magic that had come to my unconscious call. “You…”
“Don’t act surprised that I knew your husband’s identity, Morgan,” Peregrine said. “I did mention that we had met, and when else would I have bumped into the man? It’s not as though I made it to your commitment ceremony.”
“Don’t joke,” I hissed at him. “If you knew – have known – why did you never say anything?”
“He’s retired, is he not?”
“Yes,” I confirmed. “Since he met me and Jenny. His resolve to stay out of that life only redoubled when we began having children.”
“Why, then, would I care who he once was?” Peregrine asked. “I cannot change the past – and if I could, it wouldn’t be worth changing the Mountain King. Of all the villains I’ve faced, he was by far the best of a bad lot.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Arthur used to say that about himself as well. I think he took pride in being the least bad option – he once said that if the heroes really wanted to remove him from New Venice, they could have, but they were afraid of who would replace him.”
“The city hasn’t done too badly,” he observed.
I shrugged. “With him having just vanished rather than being captured or killed, we think people assumed he was still around, ready to step in if anyone broke his rules. That culture of keeping things safe for civilians, and not all that bad for heroes, either, seems to have stuck around to this day – for the most part, at least.” I scowled. “The Buff Boys don’t hold to it, and neither do out-of-towners like…” I trailed off, realizing that I didn’t know what Peregrine thought of the Ambrosia Company. I was certain that he knew of them, but… his Abelish views lead him to think that they did more good than bad.
“Then what were you thinking,” he asked, “sending your family – your children – out into that?”
“What was I thinking? I was thinking that I was making the best of a bad situation,” I snapped. “I was thinking that Legion isn’t in the city anymore, and that no one would know who we were. I was thinking that we would be safe under our wards, and that you wouldn’t waltz right in and pull the rug out from under me! I was thinking that there are people after us, Peregrine, and I don’t know how deep their tendrils go, and I can’t ask for help because I can’t trust anyone!”
By this point I was on my feet again, magic swirling around me in the heat of my anger, and Peregrine was standing as well – his magic arrayed defensively around him, but still ready for combat. He seemed surprised, and began, “Morgan-”
“You don’t know what kind of shit we’re fighting against,” I hissed at the other magician. “You don’t know what we’re risking. So don’t you dare judge me.”
“Morgan, please -”
I turned away from him, stalking out of the room. “You should go.”
“I… please, let me -”
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