Traveling by foot was slow, but a horse was well out of the range Douglas could afford. At least, if he wanted to sleep anywhere but on the dirt… and if he wanted to eat anything or feed the horse. He could probably buy a cheap horse but that would be the end of everything. He didn’t have much to carry, though at least now he had a bedroll just in case he had to camp outside. Beyond that, his backpack contained some trail rations, a change of clothes, and his spellbook, such as it was.
There were only a handful of spells he knew or had managed to put back together. The repair spells was something he wouldn’t likely forget but he had it in written form just in case. A simple light spell was easy enough to put back together from the magic he knew. Then he had two fire spells- a very small one useful for lighting campfires and one that would spray fire over an area in front of him. He didn’t think it would kill anyone, but any rational person would be at least a bit cautious around fire. Then again, the soldiers from Scoubar seemed to have some magical protection… so if he ran into them his only choice was still just to run and hide. He considered what he might do against them if he was a war wizard. He wasn’t sure how their armor worked, so he just assumed that to hurt them it would have to be with something that wasn’t magic.
For example, he could throw a rock at them… or stab them with a sword. Not that he had a sword… or a decently sized rock. Besides, they had size and training and muscle and the advantage of numbers and armor… running was the best option. Douglas had heard that some wizards could turn invisible, but he hadn’t been able to figure it out. He didn’t know all the possible magical runes he could use, and without words magic was impossible. He was sure of that- they just didn’t have to be verbalized like people assumed.
Still, if he had to fight them… Douglas would throw a rock. Since he’d already noted he wasn’t much good at that, he would do it with magic. He knew their shields could block magic… but they shouldn’t be able to block… not-magic. That is, the rock wouldn’t be magical or magically controlled after he threw it. That might work, if he was capable of making a rock move faster than he could throw it. So far, that wasn’t the case. He needed more practice and possibly a more efficient spell. The first he could do on his own… but the second was covered by his goal of going to the magical academy in Vospia.
Douglas found himself all the way at the border between Vospia and Bryria. He wouldn’t say the trip was easy but it was much better than before when he had to work along the way just to survive. Now, the biggest problem he had to face was tired legs and walking in the rain. Except for one storm where it had been pouring and he’d had to use his bedroll as a tent as he sat by the side of the road, the rain just made the road muddy and everything wet and miserable.
There weren’t many people crossing the border- at least, the past day Douglas had seen fewer travelers going past him the other way- but there were some. At least he had the border pass. As he approached he wrote out a polite message for the border guards and pulled out his pass. It was a good thing his backpack was waterproof… or both his spellbook and the pass would have been ruined, not to mention his spare clothes.
There was only a single guard standing at the gate- though Douglas saw more up on the walls that filled the rest of the narrow pass. Nobody would have been able to get past this border check without expert mountain navigation skills.
“Halt!” the guard called out, more out of habit than because Douglas wasn’t already stopping. Douglas handed over his pass and held up his slate. The guard frowned, then looked at the pass. “Alright seems good. Don’t know what your sign there says- is that High Vospian? Well, go ahead.”
The gate was kept open- and from the rust Douglas could see, he wasn’t even sure if the gates could close right now. The two countries were on good terms with each other, so they had no need to close up the gates. The guards could stop things short of an armed squad without issue.
Douglas hadn’t noticed anything really weird until he entered the first town and tried to get an inn for the night. He once again wrote on his sign. The innkeeper was an older man who squinted as Douglas held up the sign. Maybe his eyes were bad or he couldn’t read… but there was a sign behind him with prices. After the innkeeper responded, everything clicked into place. “High Vospian, kid? You know how to write normally?”
The sign was in Bryrian- the gate guard could have just been from Byria but the innkeeper was definitely from Vospia. Douglas could even hear his accent… but that was it. Just an accent. Everyone else he’d passed had also been speaking the same way. High Vospian was… well, the language of nobles and such- though they would speak the common language too. Douglas hadn’t really thought about it as he read about Vospia in the countess’ library. What was the point of him learning all that?
Sure, the countess had use for that sort of thing, but she should have known he wouldn’t. Was learning the language just an excuse to keep him for longer? Except she hadn’t made it difficult for him to leave. Now he was half a day’s travel into Vospia and weeks away from Irieby. Douglas wasn’t good at picking out how other people thought. Maybe there wasn’t actually a reason, or it was just a mistake. He would figure it out eventually- probably one step later than he should have. If only people were as simple and straightforward as magic.