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.
It’s beautiful. There’s sand and water stretching out to the horizon under a cloudless sky. Rainbow shells dot the shoreline, and a gentle tide swishes up and down the golden sand banks. It looks pristine, almost unreal in how vivid the colors shine, how the water reflects fish beneath the surface, how the sounds wash down into a calming rhythm of surf and stone.
“Wow,” Isla breathes. “Where are we?”
“An island off the coast. It doesn’t really have a name,” Lucian says. “The people we talked to called it Dragon’s Cape.”
“It’s amazing,” Isla says.
“Yeah, if you don’t mind getting ripped apart by demons,” Lucian says, not all too happily. “Nobody lives here for a reason. The sooner we’re off this island, the happier I’ll be.”
“Demons? Why are we on an island with demons?”
“To kill the witch, obviously,” Lucian says as she stops by a boat moored on the beach. “Not that it worked.”
“What happened?” Isla asks.
“Take a fucking guess,” Lucian says. “I don’t want to talk about it. Climb up over here.”
With some help, Isla climbs into the boat. It’s a sturdy, if somewhat small sailboat, maybe with enough space for three people to lay down side by side. It’s got wide blue sails and the boat itself is made of deep red wood and is etched with faint white artifice.
A magic boat. She wonders how Lucian managed to get a thing like this–it probably would have cost a fortune. She really hopes it isn’t stolen.
Lucian takes care of some of the rigging around the boat, then points out to the distance and says, “The mainland is that way. You’re going to have to magic up some wind or we’re not going to get there.”
Isla blinks. “I don’t know how to call magic wind.”
“Try asking nicely,” a muffled voice says from the lantern hanging from Lucian’s belt.
Isla looks over at Lucian for some kind of guidance, but Lucian ignores her to push the boat out into the water and hop up. She squints towards the sun. “We have about ten hours before sundown. We should be able to find a town by then.”
“Do you know where we’re going exactly?” Isla asks.
“No,” Lucian says. “Ask the wind to take us somewhere friendly. We’ll figure it out from there.”
Isla looks up at the sails, then at Lucian, sitting cross-legged on the deck. “Uh.”
“Sometime today, please,” Lucian says.
Isla takes a deep breath and stares up to the sky. There’s no way this is going to work, but she can’t say that until she tries, right? Feeling more than a little foolish, she says, “Hey, wind? Can we get some help here?”
There’s a faint gust of wind from behind them, but maybe that’s her imagination.
“Remember. Somewhere friendly,” Lucian prompts.
“Wind?” Isla says. “Sorry to, um, bother you, but please, can you take us somewhere with, uh, nice people?”
For a while, there’s no response except for waves lapping against the side of the boat. Then slowly, a wind picks up behind them, catches in their sails, then sends them off into the water at a steady pace.
“Finally,” Lucian sighs. “I can’t wait to see civilization again.” She settles down by the boat’s mast and says, “Tell me when you see land. I’m going to lay down.”
“I don’t know how to sail,” Isla says.
“That’s why you’re going to tell me when you see land,” Lucian says. “But that won’t be for at least five hours, so you might as well rest.” She leans back and closes her eyes, and that seems to be the end of that.
Isla looks out towards the water. The weather’s clear enough that she can see all the way out to the horizon and already, the island is a sandy splotch in the distance and there’s nothing else but seemingly endless water gliding beneath them.
She leans against the side of the boat. Lucian doesn’t seem to care, and Solanus is quiet, though based on their interactions in the cave, it’s probably not by choice.
She closes her eyes and feels the breeze against her skin, and thinks.
One year. She’s got one year to find all of her memories. If she finds her memories, she can kill the witch. If she kills the witch, then…what?
What happens then? Does she get her memory back forever? Do Lucian and Solanus go back to normal? She’s never heard of lifting a curse by killing the witch who cast it, but then, she’s never heard of killing a witch, either.
Even now, she’s skeptical. Obviously, with her memory the way it is, she’s not the best judge of what is and isn’t possible, but there’s something about killing a witch that feels…wrong. Witches aren’t human. They’re bogeymen, monsters that lie in wait to prey on innocent and foolish people. They’re cunning and evil and command demons and lay curses for their own gain.
They’re not such easy things to get rid of.
She sighs. She’s not sure how she feels about all of this, Lucian and Solanus least of all. They’ve helped her, she supposes, and they say they’re her friends, but what if they’re not? Solanus certainly doesn’t seem very friendly.
She can’t remember anything about them, and when she thinks of them, she can’t muster up much of a feeling at all, much less any sort of camaraderie or affection. That’s sad, to think that maybe they really were good friends, and now everything is gone, just like that.
Maybe it’s a good thing she can’t remember. She doesn’t know what she’s lost, that way.
She takes a deep breath and tries not to think too much about it. Things will make more sense soon, hopefully.
It’s some time later when Isla feels the boat pass some invisible threshold, because all at once, the air turns brisk and the water shifts from glass-smooth to sea-turbulent. The wind stays at their back, pushing them along.
She looks out. There’s still nothing but water as far as she can see.
Lucian cracks an eye open. “What?”
“When we get to land, what are we going to do?”
Lucian shrugs. “Find your memories. Kill the witch.”
“Oh,” Isla says. She was hoping for something a little more specific. Something she didn’t already know. “Lucian?”
“How close did we get to finding all my memories last time?”
Lucian grunts and turns away. “I don’t want to talk about it. We have to start over. Stop worrying about it.”
“Oh. Okay, I guess.”
“Let me lay down,” Lucian says. “If you want to talk, talk to Sol. She’s got plenty of things to say, I’m sure.”
“Or read your journal and figure some stuff out, I don’t care,” Lucian says.
“I have a journal?” Isla asks.
Lucian turns back to give her a look. “You lose your entire memory once a year. Of course you have a journal. It’s in your bag somewhere.” She groans and flips back over. “Just leave me alone until you see land. I don’t like traveling by water.”
“Right,” Isla says. “Okay, I’ll do that.”
It takes some searching through her bag, but before long she finds a reddish cloth-bound journal. It’s a thin book that’s clearly taken a lot of wear. There’s white artifice on the cover that glows slightly when she runs her fingers over it. Between this and the boat, either Lucian steals a lot of things, or they’re friends with an artificer.
There’s a fair amount of writing in it. There’s some entries about people she doesn’t recognize and places she can’t remember being to, none of which seems very useful right now. She can’t find any explanation as to why she made a deal with a witch, or what exactly she sold to it, which is unfortunate. That seems like it would be the most important information to write down.
Towards the back of the journal are some notes about magic. A few different types of spells, a few pages about usage. There’s nothing about why she has magic or where she learned it, but the familiar language seems to imply she’s had it and used it for some time.
Experimentally, she holds out her hand as shown in one of the diagrams and tries thinking really hard. It takes a few tries, but eventually a small pink light forms in the palm of her hand. It’s not very bright, and it’s not very exciting, but it’s definitely magic.
At the very back of the journal there is exactly one entry that mentions the witch.
“You have to kill the witch. You’re the only one who can,” it says. “You’ll know how when you regain your memories. Keep Lucian and Solanus close. You need their help.”
And that’s it. Isla has to wonder why, if killing the witch is so damn important, she didn’t just write down how. Maybe it’s not so simple as just killing the witch.
She’s not sure what to think of that.