Casey had trouble sleeping that night. Thoughts of the Shayde mixed with his excitement for finally learning magic kept him up until the early hours of the morning. When he finally fell asleep it was anything but peaceful.
He jolted up in his bed and tried to rub the sleep from his eyes. Images of his dream flashed through his mind. Blurry scenes of him running from something he couldn’t quite see were all he could conjure up.
A woman’s teary eyed face appeared in his head for a moment, but vanished as quickly as it appeared. Someone from my dream? She seemed almost familiar…
Shaking his head in to clear his mind, he climbed out of bed. The sun had already risen to the point of peeking in through his window. Its bright light cast his room in a golden hue.
“Guess I’ll be skipping breakfast then.” He said as he reached for a clean uniform hanging in the wardrobe. He wasn’t sure how but it was always clean and neatly placed in his wardrobe by the time he got up. Boots shined and everything.
A knock at his door quickened his pace as he pulled on his uniform. “Just a moment!”
He had just finished buckling his sword to his waist when he pulled the door open. Thomas was standing there with an odd grin plastered on his face.
“Welcome to the land of the living.” He stated, grin still present. He threw a cloth wrapped parcel at Casey. “You skipped breakfast so I thought I’d check in.”
Opening the parcel, Casey discovered a roll and some fried sausages. “Thanks. I overslept.”
“Oh I’m sure you did.” He said with an exaggerated wink.
Noticing the weird looks he was getting from Thomas, Casey raised a brow. “Alright, wipe that stupid grin off your face. What is it?”
“Oh nothing…” Turning to head down the hall without looking back, he continued. “I just happened to notice you sneaking off with Lia last night. Figured you’d oversleep so I brought you breakfast.”
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Casey groaned. “And just what are you getting at?”
Thomas threw a knowing glance back at him. “Not a thing. Absolutely nothing.”
Figuring any attempt at denial would just spur him on, Casey just took a bite out of the roll and hurried after him. “Whatever, we’re going to be late”
They hurried towards the training grounds and managed to make it just in time for the warm-up laps. Fortunately only earning a glare from Sir Baro for nearly being late.
The entire group got a harsh lecture for the fight that nearly broke out the day before. Sir Baro was not happy about being called out by Sir Rodgerick on the discipline of the Rider recruits. He had them run double the normal amount of laps while carrying packs weighted with stones.
By the time they finished, nearly all of the recruits had collapsed to the ground. To his mild pleasure, Casey managed to keep his feet under where most others had collapsed.
This was immediately squashed by Sir Baro. He forced them all to run another few laps citing that since some of them were still able to stand, they should be able to make it a few more laps.
When they finished the extra laps, not a single one of them was capable of standing up.
The rest of physical training consisted of similar scenes. Sir Baro had done his best to make sure they never forgot discipline again.
Casey was too exhausted after the morning training to really pay attention to anything else that happened that day. Horsemanship training merely consisted of caring for the horses and he spent his time sleeping through most of the academic lessons.
When the bell signalling it was time for dinner rang, Casey had fully recovered from his previous exhaustion. As he was lining up with a plate to get his meal he thought about the magic lessons he would be attending after dinner.
He had attempted to use magic several times over the past few days with very little results. The most he had been able to do was lower the temperature of his room by a few degrees. Which, for someone who previously didn’t believe magic could exist, felt like a great achievement. Even if it wasn’t really an achievement at all.
The book The Queen’s Riders only spoke of the magic in this world by explaining what the artifacts were and what they did. Explaining that they worked as keys unlocking the latent abilities in each human. It briefly spoke about the different types of abilities. Some being able to impact the external world, such as his own, and some being strictly internal, such as the Riders amplified swordsmanship and riding abilities. Unfortunately that was pretty much the extent of the explanations.
The book didn’t touch on how the abilities were used except to say that most internal abilities would be automatically applied when the user had their artifact in their possession. It had reminded Casey of the passive effects in video games.
External abilities were incredibly rare. The only character that actively appeared in the book that had one was the Crown Prince, with a telekinesis ability. However, because he had more of an antagonistic role in the story, it didn’t go into any detail on his experiences with learning how to use telekinesis.
As he was quietly musing, Lia had decided to take advantage of his distraction to cut in front of him in the line for food.
“Oi! What do you think you’re doing?” He exclaimed as he tried to jostle his way around her.
Without so much as glance at him she threw her elbow, hitting him in the stomach with a loud thump.
“What was that for?!” Stopping his attempts to get back in the right place he stepped back rubbing his stomach.
“You weren’t paying attention.” She stated matter-of-factly.
“Fine, fine” Casey said rolling his eyes.
“What’s got you so distracted then?”
“Just thinking about the magic lessons after dinner.”
“Ah right, I’m sure you’re quite excited for them.” She reached the front of the line as she said that and was given her meal. Which was some sort of meat stew with sliced potatoes and carrots.
“Definitely. Though not entirely sure what to expect.” He sighed and also retrieved his meat stew.
“Well I can’t help you there. It’s not like people with your type of ability appear every day.”
Before he could continue talking about the lessons, they had already arrived at the table with the other recruits. Figuring it probably wasn’t a good idea to continue discussing his magic, they put the conversation on hold.
The rest of dinner passed with idle chatter and complaints about the training. They also discussed what they would be doing on their day off tomorrow. A few of the recruits were going to head down to the merchants district. When they asked him if he’d like to join them, he told them he’d think about it.
Before long everyone finished and one by one all of the dining hall emptied of people.
Casey passed the time reading a book he had picked up earlier on the various races that resided on the continent of Elleria. There were many of the races that were common to fantasy stories on Earth. Humans, Elves, dwarves, the fae, orcs, and goblins were the most common on this continent. Each residing in their own respective communities with very little interaction.
When most of the Riders left the hall, Ronin entered and approached Casey. “Are you ready to go?”
“Absolutely!” Casey shut the book and bolted from his seat. “Where are we going?”
“Since we want as few people to know of your identity as possible. The best place to hold your training is in the Knight’s Hall for now.” Ronin answered as he led Casey out of the dining hall.
“That place again?” Casey groaned.
“Do you have some sort of a problem with that?” Ronin asked.
“It’s not that exactly. I’m just a little on edge since last night, and I don’t particularly savor the feeling of seeing that mural again.”
Ronin nodded, “I don’t blame you for that. I don’t like the idea myself. But it is the best place.”
“Yeah probably… Anyways, has there been any news from the trackers?”
Ronin glanced at him as if debating what to say. “They have not returned. It has only been a day since they were sent out.”
Casey narrowed his eyes. “When do you think they will be back?”
“We’re not sure. They shouldn’t be that far from the city so they should at least have sent someone to report back.”
Hearing that, he had a bad premonition. “Why would they not send anyone back to report?”
Ronin sighed. “...I do not know”
Forcing a smile, Casey said. “I’m sure they’re just delayed.”
Ronin remained silent and continued on towards the Knights Hall.
The rest of the trip passed in complete silence. When they reached the hall, Casey found that it was already occupied.
Leaning on a cane in the center of the room was a man staring blankly ahead. His skin was smooth and very pale. His white hair extended down the length of his back. His eyes were white as well, they seemed out of focus. Could he be blind? He wondered.
Casey’s eyes widened as he noticed a certain characteristic of the man before him. His ears were long and pointed. An elf! He exclaimed in his mind.
“I can feel your gaze on me Casey Bennet. Yes, I am blind, and I an elf.” The elf stated without so much as a change in expression.
Casey showed a troubled smile as he apologized. “Oh I’m sorry if I was being rude. I’ve never seen an elf before.”
The elf finally smiled slightly, “I do not mind, I have been made aware of your circumstances.”
“I see. Everything?”
“Yes. I must admit, the idea that you are from another world greatly intrigues me.” Lightly tapping the floor with his cane he exclaimed, “Ah I apologize, I have not introduced myself. I am Aelrindel, I will be your instructor.”
“I’m Casey Bennet.” He reached out his hand for a handshake.
“Yes, I know. Shall we begin then? Sir Galand, that will be all for tonight, you may leave.” Without acknowledging Casey’s outstretched hand, Aelrindel swung his cane as if to shoo Ronin out of the hall.
Casey hastily pulled his arm back in slight embarrassment.
Ronin hesitated for only a moment before placing his fist on his chest in salute and turned to leave. Casey thought he looked almost disappointed.
Noticing that Ronin had left, Aelrindel spoke. “What do you know about your abilities?”
“Virtually nothing, I managed to lower the temperature of my room but that’s it.” Casey answered truthfully.
“Very well then, we will have to start with the basics.” Aelrindel tapped his cane with his fingers thoughtfully. “To begin with, Your ability is very different from that of the rest of your race. In fact, it is far more similar to elven elemental magic.
“The difference is that elves do not focus on a single element. They are able to use every element freely. Though this seems like a great advantage, your water manipulation ability has the potential to be far more powerful then an elf’s.”
He paused for a moment before continuing, “When all of the Elemental Knights were assembled, they were able to accomplish things that scores of Elven elementalists could not.”
Hearing mention of the other Elemental Knights, Casey interrupted him, “You talk as if you were there.”
Again smiling slightly, Aelrindel stroked his chin as if he were reminiscing about something. “I have lived a very long time, I did know your predecessors once.”
Before Casey could ask him about the knights, Aelrindel continued. “But that is a story for another time. For now I must teach you how to use your ability.”
Shoulders dropping slightly in disappointment, Casey nodded.
Aelrindel pulled a jug of water out of a bag Casey hadn’t noticed. “Now I will explain how elemental magic works. There are no spells or incantations, you have complete control over water. In simplest terms, you must only imagine what you want the water to do and will it to do so.”
He then waved his hand over the opening of the water jug. As if on a mind of its own, the water flowed out of the jug disregarding both gravity and logic. The stream of water snaked around Aelrindel’s arm and then gathered over his hand. He opened his hand and the water suddenly froze and fell onto it.
“Here, catch this.” He threw ice to Casey.
Dumbfounded, Casey was barely able to catch the ball of ice. The chill of the ice seeped through his gloves.
He slowly examined the ice, half-expecting it to turn back to water.
“Alright why don’t you give it a try?”
“How am I supposed to do that? You’ve barely even explained it!” Casey exclaimed with wide eyes.
Aelrindel let out a sigh, “You can feel the mana within you don’t you? Reach out to that mana with your mind and imagine you changing that ball of ice back to water.”
Grumbling at how bad a job Aelrindel was doing at teaching, Casey tried to examine the mana within him. Closing his eyes he thought of the feeling he felt when he first touched his fox clasp. The feeling of something moving within him, circulating throughout his body.
Several minutes passed with him holding the ball of ice and his eyes shut. During that time he had sensed absolutely nothing. Just what am I supposed to do?! His frustration was building as more and more time passed.
Unsure on how to continue he gripped the fox clasp with his free hand. As if a door had opened, suddenly a refreshing power surged through his body. It cooled his thoughts and emotions.
Focusing, he reached towards that power with his mind. He didn’t fully understand what was happening but it was as if he could physically touch that power.
Figuring this is what Aelrindel meant by reaching towards the mana, Casey decided to try and imagine the ball of ice changing back into liquid. He created the image of the ball turning into water in his mind and focused on the ball of ice in his hand.
As if on cue, he felt the mana within him shift towards his right hand that held the ice. The weight of the ice in his hand suddenly dropped until it all but disappeared, and a wet sensation filled his gloved hand.
Opening his eyes he stared at his hand. Where once there was a ball of ice now there was only a wet spot on his glove. I did it?
“I did it! I actually did it!” He shouted with glee. He couldn’t stop himself from jumping up and punching the air in excitement.
“I take it you succeeded?” Aelrindel asked.
“What? Oh yes! I did” Casey answered, finally calming down a bit.
“Impressive, It takes most elves days or even weeks to accomplish what you did just now.” He passed the jug of water to Casey. “Now try and turn the water in this jug into ice.”
Eagerly nodding, Casey tried to reverse what he had done to the ball of ice. He found it surprisingly easy, it only took him two or three minutes to turn the water to ice.
Grinning he looked up at Aelrindel. There wasn’t much change in his facial expressions, but Casey thought he saw the corners of his mouth go up slightly.
“Now turn it back to water, and repeat the process as many times as you can.” Aelrindel instructed.
“Okay.” Casey focused on the water jug again with a very determined look.
After several repetitions, Casey found that he could alter the state of the water as if turning on and off a tap.
He had done it a little over fifteen times when Aelrindel hit his cane against the stone sending loud echoes throughout the hall.
“That is enough!”
“What? But why? I was almost at the point where I could change it almost instantly!”
“You haven’t noticed?” Aelrindel placed one of his hands on Casey’s shoulder as if to steady him.
Suddenly an immense wave of exhaustion swept through his body, nearly causing his knees to buckle.
Aelrindel let out a small chuckle. “Your body is reacting to the amount of mana you used today.”
“But it didn’t feel like I did much.” Casey complained and sat down on the cold floor.
“You did not, but mana consumption is much like the energy consumption used when you exercise. Use up enough of it and your body becomes very weary. And in the same way, the more you use your ability the more mana you will be able to release.”
Casey pondered his explanation for a few moments before finally sighing, “I think I get it. The more I use my ability, the more mana I will be able to use?”
Aelrindel nodded, “That is essentially correct.”
Casey gradually regained the energy to shakily stand up. When he did Aelrindel steadied him and said, “Alright, that is enough for tonight.
“I will not be able to do these lessons every night, so I will send for you when I am able. For the time being, it would be beneficial if you kept some water with you at all times, and practiced as much as possible. Are you able to walk on your own now?”
Casey took a few tentative steps that grew more confident with each one. “I believe so.”
“Very well, you better head back to your room and get some sleep.”
Nodding, Casey began to walk towards the corridor, leaving Aelrindel in the hall. “Thank you for your instruction” He called over his shoulder.
Just before he left earshot, Casey thought he heard Aelrindel whisper something.
“May history not repeat.” Were the words he could make out. When he turned back, Aelrindel had his back to the corridor. He seemed to be deep in thought.
Those words rang through his head the entire way back to his room. What did he mean? Was his last thought before he succumbed to his exhaustion.