“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.”
Well after its conclusion, war lingered on as a scab on the edges of society. If somebody pulled back the old wounds far enough, they could see an infection that ran deep.
Skyships that once dominated the skies of Blackwood had all but vanished by the end of the Dragon War. The precious mineral known as skyrock that gave them their flight proved too rare to continue mining, as combating a living god required more and more resources. Retrieving such minerals gradually proved even more futile as the few geniuses capable of constructing the mechanical wonders had human lifespans. They died out before the war’s first century had drawn to a close, and many of their secrets died with them. Thus the creations that had once served as the crowning glory of Blackwood’s military machine turned into antiques or debris by the end of the Dragon War. Or perhaps they simply became broken husks, such as the large wooden structure that served as a shell for Falden’s Fishery.
Garyl Shadowslayer watched from far away as somebody else saved the world.
Burning brightly from the hellish fires inside, Derrezen the Dragon-God soared through the distant skies. A roar sent reverberations through the rocky ground that Garyl felt in his boots. A blast of fire burned away the pale gray mist that clung to the barren land he had created, searing the skin of foes too small for the traveler to see from his distant vantage point. The bellow of frustration from the crimson-scaled beast that followed revealed one impossible fact: his foes still lived. Some stupid, stubborn mortals had the gall to challenge a dragon whose wings had touched the primordial sky and who had sent the corpse of this world’s creator crashing to the ground. Not only that, but they were winning.