Jonathan woke up, let Biscuit graze, and do her business outside, and came back to the cave to have breakfast. The biscuits were gone, but he still had some things like salted sausages and fish in his saddlebags.
Aderes woke up, long blond hair tangled in knots. Her neck was sore, as she used her pack as a pillow during the night.
“Do you have food?”
Aderes scrunched her eyes together and yawned. “What?”
“Do you have food?’ Jonathan repeated. “We’re leaving in about three minutes.” He started to saddle up Biscuit. He strapped the spear in with the other bags, alongside the mare’s flank.
Upon hearing the time she had left, Aderes sat up and started going through her pack. She tied her hair together and jammed her boots on. The girl grabbed a small package of unleavened crackers and slipped her pack on before heading outside.
Outside of the cave, Jonathan put his foot in the stirrup and swung his leg over. He had definitely gotten better at mounting a horse.
Aderes mounted behind him. She didn’t need any help, despite being shorter. Her movements held the grace of practice.
Jonathan kicked Biscuit’s side gently to signal they needed to move and the mare started a nice trot. He steered them back to the forest path. It honestly wasn’t much of a path, just a trail worn in the dirt from horses and wagons.
It was quiet. There were no other people passing them nor houses. It was simply two strangers on a horse, sharing an uncomfortable silence.
Jonathan caved first. He both hated the silence and wanted more information about how this world worked. Finding out he could do some magic was a game changer for defending himself. If he could also get a good sword soon, that would help as well. “Let’s trade questions. I’ll start: I’ve heard of them before, but how exactly do magic crystals work?”
“It’s pure mana, crystallized.” Aderes was once again looking at Jonathan like he was crazy. “Most form naturally and get mined in Maskiff or Shibe. Only a high level mage would decide to make any themselves.” She relaxed and watched the scenery pass by, unbothered by the idea of falling off despite only holding onto Johnathan’s shoulder. “How did you get the cut on your throat?”
Jonathan felt the urge to cover up the wound, but he had the reins in his hands. He had forgotten that he had taken off the bandages. The injury had healed to a puckered, red line. “I was injured in an incident at my dad’s shop,” he lied. He still had a question from last night he wanted to ask. “I don’t know about magic, but why didn’t you use it yourself?”
“There’s knacks, elemental, and ritualistic magic like necromancy. I. . .” Aderes’ sounded defeated as she admitted, “I can’t use elemental magic. I can’t picture anything in my head at all. It doesn’t work. I’ve tried a lot. Every other nob—” She cut herself off and paused to think before continuing, “Every other kid I grew up with knew how to use magic, except for me. I tried and . . . I just can’t.”
Jonathan furrowed his brows. That sounded less like a problem of trying and more of a literal incapability. Either the teaching method was wrong or something else prevented Aderes from being able to cast magic. “Are you unable to picture anything in your head at all? Or just when you’re trying to do magic?”
Aderes hesitated. “Nothing,” she admitted.
“You could have aphantasia. People who have it have difficulty imagining, or picturing, anything mentally. That’s really all I know, but I hope that can help some.” Jonathan had heard of an artist or two with it that were looked at as amazing success stories; that’s how he knew of the condition.
Aderes stared up at the sky, thinking for a few minutes. After she was done thinking, she carefully asked, “How much practice do you have with horse riding?”
“Be glad I’m not making you walk.” Jonathan frowned. “For using elemental magic, do you know whether I always have to picture something of the element first, or is it possible just to imagine what you want done?”
“Image training is necessary for every use of magic, but chants are optional,” Aderes revealed. “It’s dangerous to use larger amounts without using both though.” Despite not being able to use magic, she was rather knowledgeable on the subject.
“And you had me, a random non-mage, cast magic without chants?” Jonathan questioned. “It worked out surprisingly well, but I still could have accidentally killed both of us.” He patted Biscuit’s side comfortingly as the horse seemed to dislike heading further into the dark, evergreen forest.
Aderes bit her tongue and accepted the criticism. “That’s true and I apologize for endangering you with my matters. However, considering what happened, I believe it was the best option for us at that time.”
Jonathan was slightly surprised at the response. He had to admit that she had her own points and it did work out. “Apology accepted.”
Aderes smiled slightly. “So . . . what are you doing out here near the Lembroke and Pinscher border?”
“Same to you,” Jonathan shot back.
“I asked first,” Aderes insisted.
“My parents died and I’m going to live with my uncle. He has a farm in the foothills on the Western side of Lembroke.”
“How about you?” Jonathan returned.
“My parents died a few weeks ago,” Aderes quietly said. “I need to go to the capital of Lembroke, Cori. My relatives are waiting for me there.”
Jonathan was pretty sure most of—if not all of—that story was a lie; he couldn’t exactly fault the girl as his story was too. “It seems we’re sort of in the same situation, huh. I guess we can stay together till we get close to the capital, then I’ll split off and head straight West for my uncle’s farm.”
“I guess,” Aderes agreed.
“There’s a town we can reach in two days if we hurry. You can get some actual supplies there and I can restock on mine.”
Aderes nodded. “That sounds good.”
What are some magic systems that you like, or dislike? The force from Star Wars? Harry Potter?
There’s pros and cons to each type, and certain rules that guide how they work.
For this universe, I decided to combine three systems (knacks, elemental, ritualistic) into one. However, they all work quite well together to explain how magic works here. Each has different purposes and requirements.