Cobal returned from his room holding the large bag he’d brought with him from the capital. From it he pulled a large tube which held a rolled up map, alongside some other supplies. Using some cups on the corners he spread out the map of their continent on the floor. Cassandra and Mana looked over his shoulder.
“Is this your first time seeing a map of the continent?” Cobal asked Mana.
“No, back in the palace I had a look as well. I have a rough idea of things, but it wouldn’t hurt to hear some more details. A lot of it looked very vague and unexplained, as if there wasn’t enough information about it.”
“Hold up a minute,” Cassandra said. She was standing next to one of the hanging lanterns that was lighting up the interior, arms crossed with an expectant look on her face. “Who exactly are you people? I mean no disrespect, and I gathered from the captain that you’re rich folk from up north, but I have no idea who you actually are and now you’re talking about a palace? What is going on here?” She had the innocent charm of someone completely unbothered by status and a need to be polite. Cobal found it refreshing.
Mana and Cobal exchanged a look before Cobal nodded. “I suppose that’s a fair enough question. You’ve helped us out well so far, so we owe you that much. Not that it’s a secret or anything. I’m Cobal Blueyerd, prince of the Blueyerd Kingdom. She is Lady Mana, the hero summoned from another world.”
Cassandra looked at them both and laughed. “You’re messing with me?” She took a step back. “I know you said this when you first visited but I figured you were just joking. Are you really the hero?”
Mana nodded. “I’m from a different world from yours, I’ve only been in Palaria for a little over a month. That’s why I’m just now learning magic and that’s why I don’t know the different countries and areas on this continent very well. I didn’t grow up in this world.”
“If you’re from a different world, then tell me a few things about your world.” Cassandra still didn’t seem to believe them.
Cobal had to laugh a bit at the fact that she completely brushed over the fact that he’d introduced himself as a prince, as if that was of no concern nor interest to the girl. And he couldn’t really blame her. A hero summoned from a strange world was more interesting than a third prince from a failing kingdom.
“Well, for starters, we have things called oxygen tanks, or air tanks. They’re big containers, I think they’re made of metal or plastic, I never went diving back in my world, which are sealed and have air in them. Then there’s a hose leading from the container that you put over your mouth, which allows you to breathe underwater.” Mana smiled. “It’s obviously a lot more complicated than that, but I don’t know the specifics myself. What I had you make is my makeshift, primitive version of that thing.” Mana seemed to think to herself for a moment before continuing. “We have something called a phone, that allows you to talk with another person, no matter where they are in the world.” She looked at Cobal. “For example, although I never met Might back in my world, probably because it was a long time ago, I can still talk to people who lived on his continent, even though I lived on a different continent.”
Cassandra looked from Mana to Cobal and back. “This is a lot to process.” Then she seemingly got an idea. “What if you teach me how to make one of those things that lets you talk to people across the world?”
Mana laughed, probably the first honest laughter that Cobal heard from her since he met her. “Someone much smarter than I’ll ever be invented the phone. I barely know how exactly it works, let alone how to make one.” She thought for a second. “There are probably some things from my world that you and I could make if we set our mind to it, but a phone is madness.”
Mana shifted focus to the map that Cobal had laid out before them. “Something that’s interesting,” Mana said, “is that your people and mine use the same script. The language is different, although I was somehow able to understand it inherently, but the script used is very similar. You have twenty six letters just like we do.”
“Can you understand other languages as well, or just the human language you’ve heard in Blueyerd?” Cobal asked.
“I tried reading a book in the palace that had strange runes on it and I couldn’t understand any part of it, so I’m guessing I can only understand the human language. But as a language teacher I’m sure I can figure out another language in due time.”
Cassandra stared at the map behind them. “So where are you guys going then?”
They all turned their attention back to the map and Mana pointed towards the far north-east corner of the Blueyerd Kingdom. “Well, over there is the Liriath forest, which is where Dionil, the person we’re looking for, supposedly lives. From what I can see there’s a large road leading there, I suppose we’re best off following that road?” She looked at Cobal.
“Yes, the main roads you can see on this map are often relatively safe. The roads leading from the main roads to surrounding villages vary a bit, but are often safe as well. Anything outside of that gets a bit more dangerous, and once you get close to the Feral Wildlands, your life is in the hands of the gods, and the gods are a fickle bunch.”
“So long story short, main road safe,” Cassandra added.
Mana looked at her and asked, “Have you traveled much?”
“Me? I once went to a village half a day from here.”
“So not much.” Cobal said.
“Well I’m still young, but I can be of use to you guys on the road.” Cassandra pointed at the makeshift air tank. “I bet we can make a bunch of brilliant stuff if we work together.”
Mana looked at Cobal. She seemed eager to have someone else with them on the road.
Cobal nodded. “If your father has no issues with you leaving, then you’re free to come with us. But I will warn you, we don’t know what’s on our road, and it could be dangerous. Mana is here to help the kingdom against danger.”
Cassandra nodded. “I’ll go ask in the morning.
They studied the map for a little while longer before going to bed. Cassandra left the next morning and when she got her father’s permission, they decided that they would start traveling in two days from then. It would give Mana and Cobal a little while to recover from the strange underwater encounter.
The next day, when Cassandra was at home getting ready for their trip north, Mana and Cobal sat down to discuss their plan for the near future.
Mana prepared some of the tea for the two of them to drink while they talked. It was the tea that Miyara had given her, which she said reminded her of home. They sat in silence for a little while.
“So we’re going to find this Dionil then?” Cobal asked Mana.
Mana nodded. “I know I’ve been a bit anxious and not really willing to do much. It has been a lot to process, but I’ve decided I want to help the people of this world. I at least want to see what I can do.”
Cobal smiled. “I’m happy to hear that. Then I think going to see Dionil is a great first step. I am worried about bringing Cassandra with us though.”
Mana agreed. “I think it’s a risk, but she’s very skilled with her hands and I believe she could be a great asset.”
“Then that’s settled.” Cobal stood up. “We best prepare then. I’ll go out to town and buy supplies that I need, can you go and pack your stuff?”
Their last day in Ravadier went by uneventfully. Cobal had bought some fresh food and a lot of dried food that would keep them well fed on their journey north. They still had most of their traveling gear from when they traveled here from the capital. They mostly stayed in villages in the fancier inns when they traveled here, but one day a storm kept them from going as fast as they would have liked and they had to camp at the roadside. It was a good thing they were prepared for that.
Cassandra had some of her own gear that she would bring from home. Her father saw no problem with Cassandra journeying with them, but he’d given Cobal a stern talk about keeping her safe. Cobal had seen mana smiling when she was watching. From her perspective it must have been quite amusing watching a prince get talked to like that. After they collected everything they had and enjoyed one last night of comfortable sleep in the beachside house they got up early in the morning and went to town to meet up with Cassandra.
Both Cassandra and her father were already waiting outside. As a baker, Sebastian was used to getting up early so he already had a bright, energetic smile on his face. “Well, I guess you’re leaving the nest then,” he said.
“I’ll be back from time to time dad, don’t you worry.” Cassandra had a large, heavy bag full of tools next to her. She hugged her dad and gave him a kiss on the cheek before picking up the bag with more ease than Cobal expected. She was impressively strong. Probably all the hard work with tools, but it was impressive nonetheless.
“Do you have everything?” Mana asked Cassandra.
Cassandra nodded. There was confidence about the young woman that Mana lacked and it seemed like she herself realized it too. Regardless, Cobal welcomed the addition of someone else to travel with. The days on the road before Ravadier had been very boring. He’d often tried to strike up a conversation with Mana and not really gotten anything more than a very polite response. Now that there would be three of them perhaps that would change. And Mana seemed to be a little bit more determined now than before, and that gave Cobal a bit of hope.
Still, he couldn’t help but wonder if something else was going on that he wasn’t aware of. He felt excluded at times and there was a nagging feeling in the back of his head. Whenever he talked to Mana about the previous hero she would lock up as if she knew something that he didn’t. But for now, they just had to focus on the road ahead of them. It was a beautiful sunny day and there was almost no wind. Any signs of the storm that passed through just the other day were completely gone and it looked like smooth sailing from here on out.
They said a final goodbye to Cassandra’s dad and greeted a few of the early risers in town as they made their way to the outskirts. The farmland on the edge of town already saw a lot of movement and several of the farmers stopped to watch them walk by before continuing with whatever crop they were tending to. Before the sun was high in the sky they were already well on their way towards the next village.