To Know You
It was honestly embarrassing, having to go to Garrette after breakfast this morning to ask him about fire magic. Still, Shane knew that to get stronger, he had very few other options.
It seemed he wasn’t going to make it easy for Shane to find him either, the catacombs, which made up the bulk of Cavity Combs, an intimidating labyrinth of knowledge. He decided to start in the hall, thinking it would work best if he just went floor by floor and worked his way up. The hall didn’t lead to much, except the platform, and off to the side, the throne room.
Somehow, whether it be due to the natural decay of the tooth or drilling, there was a large hole right above the throne covered by a clear magic barrier, allowing a spotlight of sun to illuminate the white throne.
And sitting on it, fast asleep, was Maya. Shane approached her side, pausing as his armor clinked and clanged in the tranquil silence. Still, it seemed she was in a deep sleep, so even with all the noise he didn’t wake her.
Shane hadn’t been able to just…look at her since he got here, so he took the opportunity to map out the changes in her features while she wasn’t out killing wild boars.
She kept her hair in longer braids than before now, and after the ceremony yesterday, he knew she should have been wearing a crown on her head. After everyone left, they had crowned her properly, but it wasn’t quite the same. Maya soon complained that she didn’t want to ruin it while out hunting and left it here, on a pedestal next to her throne.
As for her other features, he was relieved she hadn’t changed that much. A mere three years apart during her youth not really affecting her looks in any discernable way. Although, the way she carried herself was certainly more mature, something he attributed more to the fact that she was now a leader.
She was beautiful, permanently dusted with a shimmer of gold, and he missed her so much even while standing right next to her. He pulled off his cape and draped it over her, a wistful smile on his face as he went in search of Garrette once more.
It took some time, but he did eventually find him on the third floor, hidden away in an alcove seemingly intended to serve as a reading room. There was a chaise lounge in the middle that Garrette was draped over, reading a book while lying down and holding it above his head. Shane wondered how his arms didn’t get tired that way.
Besides his terrible reading posture, Shane also wondered how the little light offered by lanterns and candlelight was in any way enough for him to read without straining his eyes. After standing there for a long moment, seemingly unnoticed, he started, “Garrette. Um…”
Garrette eyes slid over to look at him, though he didn’t move to put away the book. “…Yes?” he said, presumably back in quiet mode.
Shane picked a comfortable looking plush chair to sit in and plopped down in it. “Would you please…teach me about fire magic? I’m sorry for the way I reacted earlier. I’ve always been sensitive about my fire magic.”
Garrette sat up and put the book on a stand next to him, joining an impressively large collection of books. “I realize that. You were not exactly subtle in your desire to avoid the subject earlier.”
Shane winced, rubbing his arm sheepishly. “Everyone has a sore spot or two they won’t to be prodded at, and you managed to poke at it pretty quickly.”
Garrette smiled. “You’re humbler than I thought you would be for a Fishing Master.”
“Everyone seems so impressed by my status as a Fishing Master. Quite frankly, even if the fish I’m hunting are some of the strongest creatures on the continent, it’s not as if I’m doing anything spectacular, really. I’m just a glorified fisherman.”
Garrette looked at him thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s because you see yourself that way that you aren’t able to control your magic.”
Shane straightened. “What do you mean?”
Garrette cracked his neck and sighed. “I’m sorry, do you mind if I cut loose? I was doing my best to leave a good impression earlier, but I think we’re past the point where that’s necessary.”
Shane wasn’t expecting such an abrupt change in Garrette’s persona. He quickly shoved the princely, quiet, and mild-mannered façade in a drawer and pulled out the real him as if it was a relatively simple matter. At least he was showing this part of himself now, though. Shane didn’t like people who hid who they were only to reveal how different they were from the person who they pretended to be later on. It felt a like a betrayal, especially when Shane was being authentic himself.
Shane nodded. “I’d prefer it.”
Garrette’s shoulders slouched, his posture more relaxed. “Thanks. So, as I was trying to say, I think the problem is that you don’t want to confront the part of yourself that you’ve been ignoring. You’re not human, are you?”
“I’m not a monster.”
“I know that, but I don’t think you do. Has anyone told you what species you are, what your race is?”
Shane felt a flare of irritation at his questioning. “How should I know any of those things? I was picked up and raised by a human family in the same village as Maya.”
“You were abandoned then?”
“Around the time my parents found me there was a war so…maybe. Maybe not.” He didn’t know if they had died, or if feeding a newborn was just too difficult thanks to the conditions caused by the war. Shane didn’t know if it really mattered either way. He had been left behind, and that was a bitter, bitter fact.
“Would you like me to help you find out your race, then? If I examine you, I might be able to find out and help you stabilize your magic.” Garrette cupped his face in his hand, seeming almost bored. “I’m just not going to waste my time doing it if you don’t actually want to face that part of yourself.”
Shane folded his hands together and squeezed tightly. He’d always been afraid of what it might mean to delve further into his fire, especially after having lessons with Maya’s father. Shane knew there was something different about him, and when that became more and more apparent with each lesson, Shane became less enthusiastic, and he receded into himself. He didn’t want to be different, afraid of what being different meant.
You’re not a little boy anymore, Shane.
When Shane was forced into the military and became a commander, he had tried to use his fire and that had gotten him labeled a monster among his own soldiers. It was his childhood fear personified, that different would mean he would end up being ostracized. He’d stopped trying to use his fire and focused on his fists, which ended up being just as effective creating his monsterhood among the army, but it was still considered less monstrous than the devastation he caused with his fire.
You’re not in the military anymore, either.
He could make all the excuses he wanted, but he was no longer in either of those circumstances. Shane was with Maya, the person who always loved the blue glow of his fire and was excited by the prospect that the properties of his magic were different from hers. The same Maya who teased him about being ridiculously strong but never treated him as if she were afraid of that strength.
There’s nothing to be afraid of anymore.
“I’m ready,” he said after thinking it over for a long moment. He didn’t need to be afraid, and as of right now, he wasn’t. If it weren’t for Maya, he’d probably spend the rest of his life in fear, purposely isolating himself like when he became a Fishing Master to frame his abilities in a more positive light.
Garrette looked at him and smiled. “Then let’s get started. Take off your armor, will you?”
Shane nodded, his armor giving him some resistance before finally relenting. Garrette looked at him strangely. “It’s living armor,” Shane quickly explained, so as not to seem like he couldn’t take off his own clothes.
“Living armor? Were you selling your organs on the black market for magic rituals?”
“No? I just happened to buy it. It was pretty cheap, to be honest.”
“After Maya becomes a god, allow me the honor of creating your biography. I’m sure it would be fascinating.”
After he took off his armor and put it to the side, Garrette put him through a series of tests. First, he asked him to create fire and took notes as Shane sweated as he tried not to destroy all the catacombs by fire. Garrette was taking unnecessary risks, and Shane wondered if he was enjoying seeing Shane squirm.
After voicing his concerns, Garrette waved him off. “I have greater magic skills than you; I’ll keep the place from burning down so don’t worry about it. Besides, this library is my life. I won’t let anything happen to it.”
After that, he had Shane go through a series of physical tests that honestly didn’t seem to be for anything but his own amusement. After that, he examined his eyes and took a drop of his blood, putting it in a small vial that happened prepared. He analyzed the blood with magic, taking no more than a few moments before putting it in his pocket and looking down at Shane as he sat back in his chair with a puzzled expression on his face.
“Conclusion?” Shane asked.
“The conclusion is that it’s…inconclusive.”
“How can it be inconclusive? You even analyzed my blood.”
“Sorry, inconclusive isn’t the right word. It’d be more accurate to say impossible.”
“Ah, I see,” Shane said, not understanding at all.
“You don’t get it,” Garrette said, brushing a hand through his soft strand of hair. “The species that is showing up in your results is extinct.
There were only a few notable species that he knew went extinct. “A dragon…?” Shane suggested. “I thought they all died along with the giants in the ancient war from long ago, though.”
“They did. At least, I thought they did. You’re living proof that’s not the case though.”
“So…wait. I’m a dragon? I don’t look anything like a dragon though.”
“Dragons can take human form too. Still, like I said, for you to be a dragon is basically impossible. The results could be wrong. Your blood just may be more complex to analyze than I thought, so I’ll continue to analyze your blood, but for the sake of training your magic…we should treat you as if you are a dragon.”
“So, you can still teach me to control my fire?”
Garrette spread out his arms. “I have knowledge of the entire world stored here. I could teach you to fly if I wanted.”
Shane laughed. “I wouldn’t mind learning how to fly. Teach me while we train my fire. I have a feeling Maya wants us to get started on our quest as soon as possible, so the more tools I have to aid her the better.”