“How’s the young lady doing?” A voice asked from behind the fruit stall.
“Pardon?” Cobal replied. He’d gone out to buy some food and other necessities in the town for their stay.
“When you arrived, wasn’t there a pale young woman with you?” The shopkeeper asked him, handing him back his linen bag that was now filled with all sorts of tropical fruits.
Cobal smiled. “She’s doing alright. She’s a bit of a bookworm so she’s spending most of her time reading the pile of books we brought along.” That was at least partially true, he thought to himself.
The shopkeeper shook his head and then smiled. “What a shame, she should be out here enjoying the sun.” He looked at the gray clouds that were roaming further south, over the ocean. “Assuming that lasts much longer.”
“Are you expecting rain?” Cobal asked.
The man let out a deep sigh and scratched his knee. “When you get as old as I am you can feel these things in your bones. A storm is coming somewhere in the next few days.”
Cobal hoisted his now heavy bag over one shoulder. “I’d best get going and convince her to come outside for a while then.” He waved the shopkeeper goodbye and made his way down the sandy road towards their house for the time being. He followed the strategically placed rocks that marked the path from the village to the small house they were staying in. The house was a small space with a beautiful exterior design. Mostly made of painted wooden planks, the reds and blacks stood out against the horizon of blues and yellows. The tide would come and go as the house stayed dry on the wooden pillars that held it up. A small set of stairs led to the door.
About a month had passed since the kingdom of Blueyerd attempted and, in a sense, succeeded in the summoning ritual. Cobal had read a little bit about the history of this ritual. Apparently when the kingdom was in peril in the past there was a sage who predicted that a hero from another world would be summoned to save them all. The court wizard then brought together the most talented mages in the kingdom and together they summoned the hero who became known as Lord Might. Lord Might traveled the continent and dealt with all sorts of threats to the kingdom of Blueyerd, as well as neighboring kingdoms. Eventually he vanished without a trace. As the years went on, other nations slowly realized that Blueyerd wasn’t the powerful nation they once were, and skirmishes started appearing all around the country’s border. In retaliation the kingdom summoned a hero. So all the most powerful mages got together and with the court wizard, who was there to guide the previous attempt as well, they summoned a new hero. This hero ended up being a young woman who was trembling in fear upon arrival. In a fit of optimism the court wizard proclaimed that she must have magical talents and dubbed her Lady Mana.
Most people seemed disappointed with the result, and it wasn’t long before the king ordered his third son, Cobal Blueyerd, to watch over the new hero as she would go around the country to get stronger and deal with the border skirmishes.
Cobal suspected that if the Lady Mana didn’t have it in her to become a hero, they would just have to slowly disappear, pretending the ritual never happened.
Upon Lady Mana’s request, the two of them traveled to the southern peninsula of the country, where the ocean met the sand and the coastal town of Ravadier bustled with life. Contrary to what Cobal expected to happen, Mana retreated into their small house surrounded by the books they’d brought from the royal library as opposed to enjoying the ocean air and freedom. It had left him wondering why she requested to go here in the first place.
“Lady Mana, I’ve returned.” Cobal ascended the stairs that led to the raised abode. Made from palm wood, the building was a lot stronger than it seemed. With temperatures as mild as they were, the majority of the building was open to the ocean air, but with several screens that could be bolted into place they could create an indoor space of a size they wanted. For the time being, only their bedrooms were cordoned off by these screens. Lady Mana was sitting on the far edge of the building, her books surrounding her. She looked up at him and nodded to acknowledge his return, but didn’t say anything. Cobal let out a silent sigh and put his linen bag down in the kitchen area. She’d talked to him when it was necessary, but anything beyond that had yet to happen. He’d tried to engage her in small talk and she would give a polite short answer, but the conversation would die out as quickly as it began.
“That looks complicated, are you progressing through it alright?” He asked her as he sat down a little bit away from her. He took one of the mangoes he bought and started eating it. He offered her one as well but she declined.
“It’s difficult to grasp in a lot of places because magic didn’t exist in my old world. I understand some of the theory, but then there are pages with information that just seem completely alien to me and I have to wonder if I even have the capability to use any of it.”Cobal thought for a second. “I had some magic studies in the royal palace as a child, but Diriak said I had absolutely no talent for it, so I was quickly sent to swordsmanship training on most days.” He chuckled.
Lady Mana nodded and gave a polite but ultimately fake smile. She went back to her book, scribbling something down onto paper once every so often. She seemed very organized at the very least.
After finishing his mango, Cobal cleaned his hands and retrieved the fishing rod he’d bought the day they arrived here. They were just far enough away from the shore that he could catch fresh seawater fish right from their house. As long as he had a bit of patience, that was. After putting the bait on the hook and getting everything ready he sent out the line and waited. The sound of the quiet waves was only interrupted now and then by the scribbling of pen on paper and the turning of pages next to him. It wasn’t the luxury of the royal palace by any means, but this life wasn’t too bad so far. He’d expected it to be a lot more difficult when his father picked him to do this.
There wasn’t any hostility between him and his father, but Cobal had realized at a very young age that his oldest brother was the only one who was important to his father. He was to live as a diplomat to some foreign country when the opportunity arose, so he’d been trained for that. The amount of freedom he was experiencing right now was something he’d not seen in his twenty five years as a prince. It was actually kind of refreshing.
While waiting for the fish to bite he thought back on the stories his grandfather used to tell him about the previous hero. Lord Might was one of the strongest people he’d ever seen. Apparently he was a fighter in his old world as well, and although the techniques he used were very different from what the royal army taught, he was a quick learner and evolved his way of fighting regularly. Cobal’s grandfather would tell him grand tales about how Lord Might would save entire villages with his raw strength. He could move boulders and punch wild beasts into submission. When the new hero seemed so different than the one in his stories Cobal was definitely a bit disappointed. But it was his job now to help her become the hero the kingdom needs and he was committed to making it work. It wasn’t like Lady Mana had been rude or mean to him in any way, she just wasn’t very talkative and didn’t seem interested in anything other than her books. She seemed like the nervous type, the type that normally didn’t last long in these parts. But they’d only just begun traveling, and he was far from giving up hope.
“You said that you had to study magic for a little bit as a child right?” Lady Mana asked.
“I have, Lady mana. Albeit unsuccessfully.”
She let out a deep sigh. “If you insist on addressing me like that, just call me Mana.” She turned around the book she had been studying and shoved it towards him. He put his fishing rod aside and had a look at it. It showed a magic circle with some words in the runic language.
“This means air, and this means flow. The one at the bottom means energy.” He started pointing out several symbols and explained what they all meant while Mana wrote them down. After a while she seemed happy with the explanation, and she seemed to quickly understand the things he told her. “I’ll go and make us something to eat,” Cobal said after putting the two small fish he caught into a bucket. Not a big success, but enough to make do with. He was about halfway done with dinner when suddenly a pile of the papers next to Mana were blown across the room, some even outside with her trying desperately to avoid them from falling in the water.
He peeked from behind the kitchen counter. “Is everything alright?”
Mana sat back up. “Yes, I’m fine, but I think I’m getting the hang of this finally.”
Cobal raised an eyebrow. “You did that?”
She nodded. “I think so, yes.” She stood up and grabbed one of the mangoes that was on the kitchen counter. “Watch this.” she said, as she held it out in front of her. When she let go of it, it hovered in the air for a second or two before she promptly lost control of it and it fell down, the small amount of wind holding it in place blowing away from her.
“How did you manage that?” Cobal had seen mages before so it didn’t look too strange to him, but he hadn’t seen anyone go from not understanding magic at all to knowing how to wield actual practical magic in such a short time. Most mages studied for a decade before being able to practice magic at the most basic level.
She quickly went over to the last bit of paper she had been writing on and showed it to him.
“If you focus your attention here, and then mutter the magic word for air, it will form in a small orb-like state around your point of focus. The trick is to keep it there though.” She recoiled, realizing how much she was talking, and quickly put the papers back on a neat pile. “It takes a lot of energy though, so I think I’m going to eat in my room if you don’t mind.”
Cobal nodded, and handed her a plate. He’d only just noticed the sweat pouring down her forehead, this was clearly taking quite a lot out of her. One thing that always came up in his lessons was that magic, although being able to do crazy things, didn’t come without a cost. A lot of the feats took a large amount of mental and physical energy out of the casters that a lot of people didn’t expect. For this exact reason, a lot of mages do hours of physical training to stay in good shape. He didn’t think Mana had done much physical training in her days, so perhaps he should help her with that. But for now he’d leave her alone.
After finishing his own food, he went for a walk along the beach. The distant clouds seemed to be coming ever closer and at this rate it wouldn’t be too long before they would reach the shores. He kicked about the sand a bit after walking for a while, frustrated at the situation. He didn’t know what to do, and he didn’t like that. Normally there was always someone around to tell him what to do, how to behave and what to say. Life at the palace had been strict, but very consistent. Now he was on the edge of their kingdom, helping some stranger figure out magic that he himself didn’t even understand, and he had no idea why she even requested to go here in the first place. After not finding an answer to his numerous questions he eventually gave up and walked back to the house.