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It takes them the better part of the day to get out of the forest, and the rest of it to hit the main roads again. Nothing exciting happens. Given what had happened yesterday, Isla is perfectly fine with that. It’s nice to have a leisurely walk and not be running for her life from a murderous ghost.
The second day, they continue down the road. The land goes from wet to dry, and the inclines only get steeper and rockier. They take frequent breaks and Isla looks around and takes it all in.
Land stretches out in all directions, with no settlements anywhere in sight. There’s trees to the west and mountains to the north, climbing up to the clouds. The road beneath them is wide and paved with smooth blue stones, with wild grasses poking out between the gaps, and for a moment the world feels so, so big.
She wonders how they’ll ever be able to find all of her memories in only a year.
Lucian steps back. “Oh, fuck–”
An ethereal green glow starts to rise from the plants and trees all around them.
“Who dares trespass?” a low voice rumbles through the mist.
Solanus is silent.
A hazy green figure rises from the creek in front of them, and Isla is only just able to make out the outline of a wide-brimmed hat. The figure shifts and shimmers until it resolves into something clearly person-shaped.
“More of you?” it, or he, asks. “How many times will it take for you to leave me alone!?”
The next morning, Isla wakes up for the second time to the sound of the door opening.
“Hey,” Lucian says. “I’m back. Did you sleep okay?”
Isla thinks about nightmares of witches and glowing red eyes in the dark. “It was fine,” she says. “Did you learn anything?”
They make landfall in a small harbor town right around sunset. Lucian pulls the sails down while Isla takes some deep breaths and tries–without much success–to not feel ill from the long boat ride. Lucian pats her on the back.
“You aren’t seasick?” Isla asks.
“I don’t get much of anything, anymore,” Lucian says. She runs her hands across the boat’s side, glowing artifice marks trailing behind them, then pulls up a leather cord. “You might want to look away for a second,” she says.
Lucian yanks the cord, and there’s a blinding flash. Isla blinks, and when her vision clears, the boat is gone. There’s nothing left but a small wooden box about the size of a fist dangling from a leather thong around Lucian’s wrist.
Isla opens her mouth, then closes it. “That was magic,” she hisses. “What if someone saw you?”
It doesn’t take long to get everything together. Between the two of them–three of them, if Solanus really counts–there’s only enough to fill two bags with room to spare. Lucian takes the larger one, despite Isla’s protests.
“I don’t get tired,” she says, with a face that makes Isla think she’s had this argument before. “I might as well carry more.”
Lucian leads the way out of the cave. It’s not long before Isla starts to smell salt and sea air.
“Come on,” Lucian says. “If we leave now, we can probably get back to the mainland and find a place to stay before sunset.”
Isla opens her mouth to answer, then steps out into the open and the words fall flat in her mouth.