In a world filled with monsters, tracking one alone seemed virtually impossible. Garyl turned into a cryptid hunter over the next few years, following rumors and urban legends wherever he found them. With no leads to begin with and no idea what form Tiane’s awakening power would take, he had little recourse but to guess in which direction the girl might have fled, investigate as many reports of strange occurrences as he could, and move on once his leads ran cold.
Lytha had cared for many mangled bodies during her years as a healer, but had never acted as a patient herself before now. She drifted in and out of consciousness, unwilling to look into a mirror to see how bad her burns were. Her labored breathing relaxed on the first day, and the constant pain diminished as her condition stabilized. When she finally ventured to touch the skin around her face and neck, she felt the unfortunately familiar sensation of burned flesh.
The sea had always hated Garyl, and he hated it right back. Yet he still came back to it time and again, because it always seemed to have something that he needed. Unfortunately, this time seemed to act as an exception to that rule.
“Once upon a time, there was the greatest evil the world had ever known. Then it died, and everybody lived happily ever after.”
Garyl didn’t realize that the words had come from him until after he spoke him. He opened his eyes and saw a blue-gray ceiling above him. A cool, damp cloth on his forehead and the quality of the mattress on which he lay told him that he had awoken in the infirmary.
“I like the story,” Lytha said from a stool near his bed. “It’s short, simple, and has a happy ending. Too bad the real tale doesn’t end the same way.”
Garyl and Lytha smelled the smoke before they saw the fire. Their conversation trailed off, they looked each other in the eyes, and then they both ran toward the blaze.
A handful of students and one instructor had already stepped out of the academy’s main building by the time they backtracked to the hedge maze. The fire had spread quickly, creating a thick gray smoke as it consumed the leaves and foliage within the maze. Without thinking, Garyl began to weave an enchantment to put out the fire, just as he had months ago in Falden’s shack. Confident that Garyl could keep the blaze under control, Lytha moved on, ushering the students back inside.
The idea that she would face no punishment for her journey beneath the sea had never crossed Tiane’s mind. However, when Lytha simply scowled and told her to find something to do, she seized upon the opportunity. Fleeing into the depths of the Lorinthian Magic Academy, she left her two would-be instructors to debate what she needed. Lytha, she was sure, would argue that she needed more structure. As for Garyl, she wasn’t sure if he had any intention of teaching her or if he was just showing off.
Lytha had never turned one of her students into a toad before, but she seriously considered making an exception.
“Then again,” she told herself, “I might need something more immobile to keep Tiane on task. A chair or a stone might do.”