|The Magical Education of Liza Stutler
Author: skarletfyre PM
20 years later, Dave's life is falling apart. His wife is dead, his daughter is a loose cannon and knows nothing of magic. Horvath chooses this time to make his grand reentrance into his life, setting his sights on that which Dave treasures most.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Humor - Horvath & Dave S. - Chapters: 16 - Words: 42,565 - Reviews: 35 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 12-02-10 - Published: 09-04-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6299006
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: The Magical Education of Liza Stutler
Rating: M, for language, mature situations, drug content, underage drinking, possibly ideologically sensitive material, and all that crazy stuff I'm so fond of.
Summary: Twenty years later, Dave's falling apart. His teenage daughter is a loose cannon and knows nothing of magic, his wife is dead, his career is failing. Horvath chooses this of all times to make his grand reentrance, setting his sights on that which Dave treasures most.
Disclaimer: I do not own, nor am I affiliated with Sorcerer's Apprentice or Disney or any of it's associates. I'm also broke, so suing would be pointless.
A/N: Yay, last chapter! Thank you all for your support and I apologize for taking so long to be done with the damn thing. Note: There will be no sequel or follow-up. Please do not request one, I'm telling you right now that I'm not going to do it no matter how hard you plead. I'm moving on with my life. Adios.
Something was wrong. Liza would never answer the phone for him with a simple 'hello,' then hang up abruptly when she heard his voice. He'd double and triple checked to make sure he'd dialed the right number, and it was definitely hers.
Thinking back on it, Horvath realized that it hadn't actually sounded like Liza's voice at all. Unless she was with Jillian, which he highly doubted, there was no other plausible explanation for someone who was not Liza to be answering Liza's mobile phone. Unless…
"Shit," Horvath said aloud, snapping his phone shut with unneeded force. If that had been Dave or Balthazar who answered the phone, pretending to be Liza, then they surely would have recognized his voice. Balthazar especially.
Dave, Balthazar, and Veronica sat silently on the couch, not paying the slightest attention to the movie, waiting for Liza to come out of the bathroom.
There was no mistaking that voice, not even over the phone. Maxim Horvath had returned to New York after nearly twenty years of absence. He had found Liza. He was the mysterious 'Max,' the man Liza had been so brutally open about her relationship with. He was the owner of that dark chuckle Dave had heard in the background when he called his daughter, a week ago now. He was the one who'd left all those marks on her body, the one who'd given her the necklace, who she'd been spending nearly every night that week with.
Dave felt like he was going to throw up.
He glanced over next to him on the floor where Liza's bag sat, slightly open. He caught a glimmer of something, barely visible, tucked between a book and a piece of paper. His eyes narrowed, his hand hesitantly reaching out for it. Even as his fingers closed around it, he knew exactly what it was. Hands shaking, he slowly pulled the thing out of the bag and held it out for Balthazar and Veronica to see.
It had been twenty years since David Stutler had seen Merlin's dragon ring, his original channel of power on his road to becoming the Prime Merlinian. Stolen by Horvath on that night so long ago in exchange for the life of his girlfriend, lost forever, or so he'd thought. The fact that it had ended up his daughter's book bag, combined with the voice on the phone, was indisputable evidence that Maxim Horvath was indeed alive and well. The man Dave had feared for so many years was in New York City. Sleeping with his daughter.
The three of them looked up sharply as the bathroom door was flung open, Liza stepping out amidst a cloud of steam clad only in a white towel. Balthazar averted his eyes. As she turned to walk down to her room, Dave caught sight of the scratches and bruises on the backs of her thighs, clearly made by someone's hands and fingernails. He felt bile rising in his throat.
"Hey, Liza?" he managed to get out, trying to sound nonchalant. He quickly pocketed the dragon ring before she turned. She adjusted the towel closer around her.
"'Sup, padre?" she asked brightly, flipping a dripping strand of hair over her shoulder. Dave forced a smile.
"How do you feel about going out for dinner tonight? There's something that I want to show you."
"Yeah, sure! That sounds great. Gimme a few minutes to get dressed, 'kay?"
"Take as long as you need, hon."
She smiled fleetingly at him, then turned and walked down the hall, vanishing into her room. Dave's face returned to that of it's previous despair. He turned to Balthazar with desperation in his eyes, swallowing hard.
"We have to take her to the lab," he said quietly. Understanding flashed through Balthazar's light blue eyes. "Horvath's probably told her everything, but if he hasn't then we need to get there first."
"There's always the chance that she has no idea who he really is. Horvath is a very clever man, Dave. He wouldn't risk exposing his true identity to her unless he was absolutely, without a doubt positive that she wouldn't turn on him."
Dave looked at his old master with hollow eyes.
"Balthazar, if she pledges her allegiance to him, then-"
"I know, Dave," the old man said gently, placing a hand on his once-upon-a-time apprentice's arm. "I know."
"Ugh, I'm so stuffed."
Dave had taken Liza out to one of the many hot dog and burger stands floating around New York, saying that it was the best one in Manhattan. Balthazar had to admit, it was pretty damn good.
It was nearly seven at night and a bit chilly outside, but Dave insisted that they go for a walk. Balthazar knew that it was all part of the plan, but Liza was a little underdressed for the weather. She'd opted for a pair of loose-fitting faded jeans with paint stains on them and a grey tank top with some sort of dinosaur on it, using only a light green and white hoodie for warmth. After five minutes of strolling, her teeth were chattering.
"Dad, can you show me the thing tomorrow? It's really cold out here."
"Don't worry, hon, we're almost there. You want my jacket?"
"Then you'll be cold."
"Nah, I'll be fine. Here, take it."
Dave slipped off his heavy fleece jacket and handed it to Liza. She looked a little hesitant, but reluctantly slid it on anyways. Balthazar caught sight of Dave's hands moving slightly, and recognized it to be a self-sustaining warming spell. What he didn't know what that it was the first bit of magic Dave had performed in nearly thirteen years. He smirked to himself and reached out for Veronica's hand. She smiled and twined her fingers through his. They walked the rest of the way in silence.
The old subway turn-around station had become considerably dustier in the past twenty years, but otherwise it looked jut the same as it when Dave left it last.
The Tesla coils had long since been moved out when Dave graduated college, but most of the furniture still remained, albeit in much poorer shape. The Merlin's Circle, however, looked exactly the same. The dust that coated the surrounding area seemed to have avoided it entirely, resting a good clean inch away from the lines carved in the floor as though it had been painstakingly arranged that way.
Dave led the way down the stairs, followed by Liza. Balthazar and Veronica walked slowly, lagging a few steps behind. As Dave reached the final step, he slid his hand into his pocket, grasping the cold chunk of metal tightly. He took a deep breath and turned to face his daughter.
Liza was wearily regarding the Merlin's Circle, standing hesitantly on the last step and gripping the handrail. Her eyes flicked to him when she caught him staring. He forced an encouraging smile, an impending sense of dread growing in his chest.
"Come on down, it's alright. I want you to see something."
Looking extremely cautious, Liza slowly moved her feet onto the ground and came to stand next to him. Balthazar and Veronica followed, but remained a few feet away. Dave looked over at his old master, who nodded encouragingly at him. They were already there, they'd come this far, there couldn't be any giving up now. Not when they were so close.
Dave took a deep breath to relax himself, rolling his shoulders for the same purpose. The joints in his back and neck popped pleasantly, though the last one twinged a bit. Dave ignored it and strode forward, coming to stand in the very center of the Circle. He apprehensively turned back to face his daughter.
"Liza, I haven't been completely honest without you," he started carefully. "About everything. About who I am, about who you are, about what's really going on in our lives. I want to apologize to you for that, and we're here tonight so I can make it up to you."
"Dad…." The panic was clear in her eyes. Dave knew then, without a doubt, that all of his worst suspicions were true. But he couldn't stop now. Gut feelings weren't enough, he needed absolute proof. He bit his lip and took a deep breath, then extended his arms on either side of his, palms up. He closed his eyes.
Feeling that rush of power flowing through his veins, waiting at his fingertips to be commanded, it made Dave wonder why he'd ever given it up. He concentrated hard, calling upon every shred of energy he possessed to make it happen, to complete the vision in his mind's eye. He inhaled deeply, tasting the dust and decay in the air, the rotting perversion of all he stood for around him. He held his breath.
Dave slammed his hands down around him, exhaling forcefully. Green fire erupted from the carved crevices in the floor, shooting high into the air around him. Through the towering flames he saw Liza take step back, drawing a hand up to cover her mouth. A small smile of satisfaction creased Dave's face. The flames gradually died down to ankle height.
Liza could feel the heat of the fire licking at her skin, and was aware of the panic written all over her face. With any luck, they wouldn't recognize it for what it was, thinking it to be fear or confusion. They couldn't possibly know anything. She'd been so careful…
She had to get out of there. While Maxim wasn't exactly sure what would happen if she, as a Morganian, set foot inside a lit Merlin's Circle, they were both fairly certain that it wouldn't be good. Liza was not willing to risk everything to play along with her father's game.
Dave fumbled around in his pants pocket for a moment, his hand coming out in a closed fist. An uneasy feeling slowly pooled in Liza's stomach. He turned his hand over and opened it, revealing it's contents. Liza felt her gut writhe into knots.
Her dragon ring glimmered at her in the fire-light, cupped gently in her father's palm.
That was impossible. There was no way for him to have that. No way in hell. She'd left that ring tucked in her bag, back at home. If he had it, that meant that he-
That bastard. He'd gone through her stuff while she was in the shower. Which meant he'd probably checked her phone. Fuck.
"Liza," he said, redirecting her attention back to reality. She tried to look confused, noticing his false reassuring smile. His eyes revealed it all. It was too late. He knew everything. So why was he doing this to her?
"Hon, I know this probably very confusing for you right now, but I need you to understand something."
Her father had always been a terrible liar, and that wasn't changing anytime soon. But Liza kept quiet, gently biting the inside of her lower lip. She watched Dave take a deep breath, obviously stealing himself.
"Before I say anything else, you need to know this. Magic is real. Your books on Arthurian Legends? They're not legends, Liza, they really happened. Merlin was a real man, a real sorcerer, one of the most powerful that ever lived. Can you accept this fact?"
Liza hesitated for a moment before nodding. She didn't like this one bit.
Dave sighed and nodded in confirmation.
"Alright then. The next thing I need you to come to terms with that is that you and I are actually the last living descendants of Merlin. What I just did was magic. Can you comprehend that or shall I fetch you a chair?"
"Now, I know this may be a lot to take in, Liza, but it's important, very important. Come here, hon, it's okay. The flames won't hurt you, just step inside them and walk to me."
He nodded reassuringly, extending a hand and beckoning to her. Liza stared at him, desperation in her eyes, taking a step back. She could feel Balthazar and Veronica watching her every move, but dared not turn to look at them. A hard lump formed in her throat, making it difficult to swallow. Her father's eyes bore into hers, hollow and empty, hopeful and terrified. She could see his heart breaking with every passing second.
"Step into the Circle, Liza," he said quietly, a command more than a question. A dark cloud seemed to pass over her vision, her heart slowing momentarily before returning to it's full-force beating. Her lungs deflated as she slowly exhaled. Her voice shook as she spoke.
Dave's eyes, usually a warm dark brown, blackened when her voice cracked. He slowly lowered the hand he'd formerly had extended towards her, his shoulders tensing.
"Step into the Circle, Liza. I won't say it again."
"Now, now, David, you know she can't do that."
Liza whirled around at the familiar voice behind her. Maxim Horvath was striding out of the shadows, hat in place and cane in hand. The remaining breath forced itself from her lungs when he locked eyes with her. As long as she had known him, she had never truly been frightened of him until that moment. Though the cold hatred and rage burning in those dark eyes was not meant for her, it still sent shivers down her spine. He jerked his head infinitesimally at her, and before she could stop herself her feet were carrying her to him. She stopped slightly behind him, reaching out and taking hold of his extending arm, wrapping both of her arms around it and pressing close to him. He glanced at her momentarily, then returned his attention to the three furious Merlinians staring them down.
The betrayal in her father's eyes made her want to be sick, but her heart had made it's choice. Nothing they said could change her mind, and she could never be one of them. Her grip on maxim's arm tightened fractionally.
Maxim looked sharply up at Balthazar, still standing on the stairs with Veronica. He quirked an eyebrow.
"I'm sorry, Balthazar, I didn't quite catch that. Would you care to repeat yourse-"
"She's a child, you sick son-of-a-bitch. Of fall the evil I know you to be capable of, I never expected-"
"Never expected what?" Maxim snapped, pulling his arm from her grip and wrapping it tightly around her waist, holding her against him. Liza resting her head on his shoulder and her hands on his chest, her eyes never leaving her fathers.
"She is hardly a child, Balthazar, and had no innocence left to corrupt so don't even suggest such a foolish thing. She is grown woman and can choose for herself. You'd lost her before she even knew my name."
This last comment was direct at Dave, and it clearly hit its intended mark. His face contorted slightly, still looking at his daughter, pain and anger flashing in the depths of his irises. Liza turned her head away from him and buried her face in Maxim's shoulder, closing her eyes. His grip on her waist tightened slightly, then eased.
"We should be going, Liza," he said to her, loud enough for the others to hear. "There's nothing left for you here."
It seemed Dave had recovered his voice at last. Liza looked at him gain, and was surprised to see a plasma bolt glowing in his palm. The blue gem on the head of Horvath's walking stick glowed softly, but as a warning not a threat. She balled the material of his shirt into her fist, silently pleading with him not to start anything. He must have understood.
"I came here to gather my apprentice, David, not fight with you."
"I won't let you take her from me!" Dave shouted, moving into an offensive pose. Liza staring up at Maxim imploringly, glancing between him and her father. They couldn't fight over her, it wasn't supposed to happen this way… She cared about them both too much to choose sides.
"I'm not taking her, Dave, as you can clearly see she is coming with me of her own free will."
"She doesn't know what she's doing! Have you told her what you've done, what really happened? Does she even know what it means to be Morganian?"
"Why don't you ask her yourself?" Maxim sneered. "She's right here, Dave, it's very rude to speak of someone like they aren't here at all. You might hurt her feelings."
"Stop it," Liza said, finding her voice at last. Both of them looked at her in surprise. She inhaled deeply through her nose and exhaled through her mouth, like she'd always been taught to do in tense situations. Without looking at Maxim she pulled away from him, stepping towards her father and the Circle. His hand reached out and caught her wrist. She glanced back at him, nodding in assurance.
"I'll be alright," she said softly, reaching up and resting a hand on his cheek momentarily. His brow was furrowed as she drew away and walked over, stopping just outside the fiery edge of the Merlin's Circle. She stared at her father over the licking flames.
"I love you, Dad," she said. "I always have and I always will. But this is my choice and my life. I've chosen my path. I'm going with Maxim, you can't stop me."
"Over my dead body!" Dave hissed, quickly crossing the circle and grabbing his daughter by the shoulders. He stared intently at her for a long moment, staring deeply into her eyes, no doubt searching for the shadow of the little bright-eyed girl who'd died inside her so many years ago. Liza hesitantly placed a hand on his shoulder, and then hugged him tightly. He hugged her back, desperately, fingers clutching at the folds of her jacket. She could have sworn he was crying, but when the three minutes it took for them to separate were up, there wasn't a tear on his face. She smiled softly at him.
"I have to go, Dad," she said quietly, closing her hand around the lump of metal she'd just removed from his pocket. "I have to. I've never so good, so- so right before! Please, Daddy, just let me go…"
"I can't," Dave said, his voice cracking. "If you leave tonight, Liza, I promise that I will never stop fighting to get you back, not until the day I die will I give up on you. Think about what you're leaving, what you'll be missing. You have your whole life to decide this, it shouldn't have to be now-"
"But it does," she said, cutting him off. "All my life I knew I was special, knew I was different from everyone else. And no matter how much you tried to ignore it, you knew too. I feel, free, Dad! I feel like I'd never seen the sky before I knew who I was and what I am! I need to go away from here, and I need to do it now. I will never forget you and I will always miss you, but… I have to do this. For me."
Liza stared back into her father's eyes for what she knew would probably be the last time, feeling a surge of emotions welling up inside her. She pulled away from him as the tears began to leak down her face, quickly walking back over to Maxim and hiding behind him, grabbing his arm tightly.
"We need to go. Now," she hissed quietly at him, tugging him gently backwards. He looked down at her, then took one last sweeping look around the room, taking in the cold and stony faces of his two former comrades and the furious, agony-filled face of young David, not so young at all anymore. She wanted to leave, to curl up into a ball and crumble to dust and blow away in the wind. Anywhere in the world was better than there, and somewhere in the world is where she found herself the next time she blinked. A cool, moonlit meadow in the middle of nowhere, mountains in the distance and not a soul as far as the eyes could see. She stared up at the tall man beside her, still holding tightly to his arm, eyes brimming with tears. He adjusted his arm so it looked like he was escorting her to a ball, smiling sadly back down at her.
"Shall we?" he asked, gesturing to the wide open plains stretching out before them. She gave a watery smile back at him, wiping her eyes with the back of her free hand. He took a step forward and she followed, freely being led off into the unknown.
And thus began the magical education of Liza Stutler.
Yes, the ending was lame. I'm sorry. But it's done now, and everything else can be left to the imagination.