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.”
Tiane squinted as she tried to make out the tiny indigo writing on the dining house wall.
Now you have to start all over again.
A cloud of purple ink exploded around her before she could utter the profanities that came to mind. It dispersed quickly, but left a twenty-foot-wide stain along the wall, floor, and tables in the area…not to mention her own face and clothes.
Garyl had spent a long time contemplating what death felt like. He always imagined a sensation of bitter coldness, which is why he smiled when he woke to find himself immersed in water from the waist down.
Unfortunately, when he opened his eyes he saw not Kajeel’s smiling face, but the toothy grin of a sea monster.
The creature before him had dark green hair which moved on its own accord and was more than a dozen feet long. Several of the long, oily tresses looped around Garyl’s arms and legs, binding him and suspending his body upright in the freezing temperatures of the Greyflow River. Its androgynous torso sat above the churning water, sitting atop a huge serpentine body that coiled several times around on the base of the riverbed. The human visage vanished at the creature’s face, which looked like a hungry eel and regarded its prisoner carefully through lidless eyes.
Kajeel touched her face and felt bone where she should have felt skin. She held a hand in front of her eyes and saw green-tinged skin.
“Ugh,” she said. Her voice sounded deeper than it used to, but still had a feminine tone. “I’m decaying.”
“I don’t want her around here,” Lytha said. “She has the reek of an adventurer about her. Trust me, no school of wizardry benefits from a headstrong child who fancies herself an adventurer.”
Garyl slumped and rapped his knuckles impatiently on the arm of his wooden chair. “I didn’t know you were such a fan of leaving a job undone.”
Lytha walked around her oak desk and toward the far wall of her office. She straightened a picture of one of the academy’s old headmistresses before continuing the conversation.
“While I have extended you an offer to serve as a professor in the past, you never took it,” she said. “As such, you are not a member of the Lorinthian Academy of Magic in any way, shape, or form. And if I were to hire you, it certainly wouldn’t be to serve as a recruiter. All you ever do is bring trouble to my doorstep.”
Garyl chuckled. “You run a school. How can you be so wrong? You did hire me, remember? Moreover, you hired me specifically to cause trouble in the area.”
The thirteen-year-old Tiane could kill six trained guards and burn down a building, but she couldn’t light a campfire. She threw down another broken set of sticks and punched the ground in frustration. A throb of pain in her wrist immediately made her regret the decision—the fall weather hadn’t frozen the ground yet, but it didn’t leave the earth soft and yielding, either.
Garyl deemed it a good sign that he saw people running away from the fire. It meant that he would be the only fool running into a burning building.
The messenger, if Lytha had sent it, had arrived too late. Fortunately, none of her agents had paid with their lives.
“I knew it,” said Lytha as soon as she saw a head of dark gray hair poking above a stack of tomes in the library. “Never send a scholar to do an assassin’s job.”
Garyl craned his head around the books, placing his index finger against the spine of the nearest tome as a placeholder. “Correction,” he said. “Never send a scholar if you want to do a sloppy job.”