The word magician is defined as a person who practices magic. That was precisely my problem: I was a magician who could not do magic.
How this came to happen is a long story, but at that moment, more urgent affairs required my attention. Affairs that with the right spell I could have resolved in a matter of minutes, but unfortunately I found myself trapped in a place where magic simply did not work: a strange place not ruled by the same laws we are all familiar with.
“Think of what you would do if this happened in your world. . .”
“In my world there are at least ten spells that would help me solve this!”
“What if you would have lost your spellbook in your world?”
“Then I would look for a ritual, a scroll, a magic artifact, something!”
At that moment I realized that my long years of magical training, study, and practice were not useless after all, even when I could not practice the arcane art. All these skills, experience, and knowledge I had accumulated throughout the years had somehow developed abilities in me that could not only be useful with magic, but also in the more mundane aspects of life. Of course, I could have never appreciated such a thing before—I had used my magic skills, naturally, only for magic. I could have never thought of using my arcane talents for something not related to casting spells or performing rituals. But I found myself in a different world now, a world devoid of magic, and my talents were all I had. If I could not use them to cast spells, I could find other uses for them. I confess that at that moment of hopelessness, any idea would sound sensible.
“Okay, let’s do things your way.”
I closed the useless book I held before me and put it down next to the other two dozen I had browsed with no luck that afternoon at the library.
“Where do we start?”
Jen was the first inhabitant of this world to contemplate both my presence and my misfortune. The first to give me a reason to lift myself up from the hard gravel of the road and reclaim some hope. With the appearance of a commoner wrapped in black wild ranger garments, the young lady turned her head from among the oblivious crowd surrounding her and smiled at me—of all possible events the universe could have thrown at that instance. Her hair had a crest like a kobold’s, who inherit this trait from their distant relatives: dragons. I noticed intriguing marks on her skin when I drew closer, they reminded me of the skin marks used by the barbarian tribes of the Deserts of Chaos, who summon ancient spirits and bind them to their skins, granting them mystical powers—another research I will not be able to pursue without my spellbook—, and a common metal ring disguised as gold hooked to one side of her nose, something unusual in humans. At first I thought it was a shapechanger; now I know such thing is impossible, of course.
“Did you know that your ring is not real gold?”
I could not help to warn her in case she had been the victim of a swindle or, worse yet, a curse.
“For your information, this ring is worth much more than gold,” she answered with pride.
At any rate, she was the only one who I could trust at the moment. And little by little, I came to realize it had been a good idea. Furthermore, her help would prove essential in recovering my book.
“Let’s go," she said.
“Where, isn’t that the artifact?
Before losing next to five hours browsing tomes fruitlessly, Jen had suggested using an enigmatic object sitting in the middle of the library.
“Is it magical?” I had inquired.
“No,” she had said.
“Then it is no good to me," I had replied before opening the first book, but now I had no choice.
“This will take time and the library closes in an hour.”
As I followed her outside the library back to the paved road where my misfortune began, I suffered inside. If something had become increasingly clear about this place was that everything took longer than usual. Something as simple as getting a local map at a library took hours here. Now we were headed to Jen’s dwelling, who lived a few leagues away and without magic, would take us at least a day’s journey to arrive at her abode without unicorns.
“Are you sure there is not a single unicorn in the whole city?” I asked in disbelief.
“Not one, but there is public transportation.”
I knew what she meant. Bizarre unicornless carriages filled the roads in such a way that it was difficult to roam about the city without risking being trampled by them.
“They must require magic. How else would they move down the road without a unicorn?”
I was in constant search for magic in this world. I refused to accept a place where that which gave sense to my life simply did not exist.
“I don’t know. They just do," Jen said with a smile.
“Do you have any money," she asked after stopping in the middle of the road.
I slid my hand into my pocket and produced two pieces of gold.
“You had gold and they stole a book? A book!” she yelled outraged.
“For your information, that book is worth much more than gold," I said with a smile, although still regretting the loss.
“Well I don’t think the beggar who took it knew that. Anyway. . .” she said changing the subject, “put that away, it won’t do us any good.”
She produced several copper coins from her satchel.
What an aberrant world this was where I had ended up, where copper was more valuable than gold!
The beggar inspected his spoils in the middle of the boulevard close to the plaza, opening the three leather seals protecting it from spying eyes. He was sitting on the rim of the stone fountain. A clock rested on the apex of the central column, its base decorated with a fiendish face in each of its four sides. Each solid visage constantly spewed a torrent of murky water that filled the center of the fountain and flowed back into its foul throats. Though the beggar was unaware, for he was absorbed in his book, but one these petrified faces had its eyes locked on him. The stone demon watched the old stinking man contemplate his book. The stone orbs would drift over the horrible burn scar in the face of the beggar, then wander over the messy, greasy hair covering his eyes.
As he finally got the tome open, its pages started to flutter with a gust of wind passing through the plaza, carrying leaves and trash toward the fountain. Covering his eyes, the beggar turned back to the fiendish face; upon removing his hands he jumped back instinctively, dropping the book on the rim of the fountain. The gust had left and the pages of the magic book had stopped their fluttering. The fiendish face with fiery hair stared intently at that book’s page as if it understood the gibberish within, as if silently reciting a dark ritual never read before, not even conceivable in a world without magic.
As the beggar stood up, he heard a voice whispering to him.
“I shall grant you anything you wish if you pronounce the magic words.”
The stony lips of the horned face in the column moved spitting dirty water everywhere.
The beggar picked up the book and fled from that place, terrified like never before in his life.
Jen lived in a grand edifice evoking the arcane towers of Elen in the kingdom of Ristvana., although with a much sloppier appearance. I followed her to a small messy room inside the tower, where I would learn the necessary to recover my beloved spellbook.
I could spot amid the mess that she owned an artifact similar to the one in the library. I positioned myself in front of it, closed my eyes, and concentrated on the man who had stolen my spellbook and the surrounding area where the event took place. trying to picture precisely in my mind every detailed exactly as—
“Eletorn, may I ask what the hell you’re doing?”
“One moment, Jen, I intend to concentrate.”
“First of all, it isn’t even on! And second of all, as I already told you, there is nothing magical here, things don’t just work with telekinesis!”
“There is no magic but you are familiar with the word telekinesis?”
“There is sci-fi.”
As she said these words, she pressed a button on the apparatus, which had the rough shape of an open tome, making it come alight like a torch. She then touched several of the runes that made up the artifact and said pointing a finger at it: “write here what you’d like to search.”
She turned her back at me as she picked up countless objects of different shapes and sizes and shoved them into her satchel.
“Abracadabra,” I said aloud reading from the artifact.
“Abracadabra?” she repeated.
“It is the first thing that came up when I spelled magic with the runes of the artifact.”
There was silence.
“Listen, I gotta go,” she said finally, “just . . . close the door on your way out, okay?”
“Would you mind showing me to my chambers?”
She left with a grimace, swift as the wind.
I did not intend to sleep, anyway, there was much to be done and each passing second counted. I had to recover my book whatever the cost.
The next day, in the lonely alley he called home: a space covered with trash that smelled of urine, next to a small church, the bum woke up from a stupor of unknown duration. Still half asleep, he searched among his belongings a bottle and put it to its mouth. Beneath the tangled mess of dirty hair, his eyes opened up full of terror with the memories of what had happened the night before. He wondered if it had just been hallucinations.
Throwing himself to the garbage again, the beggar rummaged for another object, the book, in order to ascertain the accuracy of his wicked memory. There was that useless piece of leather full of pages with unintelligible scribbling that surely was worth nothing, that he could not sell, eat, let alone drink. He decided to go back to his bottle, recalling the time when he decided to steal the book. What a lousy decision! He remembered the face of the fountain demon speaking to him—he stopped drinking and looked at the bottle, then the book, then the bottle again.
“Oh, what the hell!” he yelled as he tried to get up and try to sell that petty book he found on the street the day before. He would take it to an esoteric store three blocks from there. If he was lucky, they could give him enough to fill the bottle with cheap alcohol.
“What are you still doing here?” Jen asked as she entered the room. She threw her coat on the bed in the corner and turned her eyes to the artifact.
“I am forging an alliance with the elves on this world. One of them, who lives not far from here, has voluntarily offered to help me recover my book. He says he has seen the beggar who took it.”
“There are no elves, Eletorn . . .”
Jen sounded exhausted, each of her words seemed to require an expenditure of energy she no longer possessed as she paused between the words to highlight her upsetting by my statement.
“That, is only a game, Eletorn . . .” she said glancing at the artifact before sighing deeply and succumbing to sleep as the Sun rose through the window behind her.
Blip! The artifact demanded my attention. I pressed the runes in quick succession to send a missive.
Jen woke up at once and looked at the artifact.
“Two hundred friends, that is just impossible, Eletorn, you’ve only played for eight hours!”
“Actually, it took me the first four to learn how to use this artifact and generate documents with the other artifact,” I said as I showed her the maps of the area I had been able to generate.
“What is all this?” she asked rhetorically as she read from the crystal. “Eletorn, you are wasting your time with this. Conversations with strangers about spells and supernatural creatures won’t solve your problems.”
We both looked at the artifact, illuminated by the crystal and the Sun shining through the window.
Elvenwarrior7: Yes, I have seen this beggar you speak of, the one with the scar. He usually wanders around the plaza.
Eletorn02: I am heading right there now.
Elvenwarrior7: I’ll see you there in 40 minutes.
I got up from the chair where I had been sitting the last eight hours and I walked to the door.
“Are you coming?” I asked Jen, who yawned and nodded, hesitating before following me out.
“You’re going out dressed like that?”
I wore my summer sandals, an elven cape enchanted with abjuration magic, and my wizardry robe—all of it harvested from local trees from the Bangard valley. I did not plan to undertake a long journey so I was not dressed to the occasion.
The garments worn by mundanes were very different from any kind of clothing I had seen before. The way in which they procured these garments was even more bizarre —clothes did not simply grow on trees. Each article of clothing had to be fabricated by mundanes and consequently, it had to be paid for. In this place, money was more than a luxury —it was something essential.
“Nobody makes dresses or hats in your world?” Jen asked.
“There are all kinds of dress and hat trees everywhere, they change with the seasons. There are also, of course, those who would rather weave their own clothes —people of the monarchy in the kingdoms of Sandoria, mostly. And armors are fabricated by Vulcan dwarves made-to-measure. Most fey do not bother to cover their bodies, so in Silvaria clothes trees abound. Many even wilter. In Sandoria, it is quite a different story. The population is too big and many cannot have different clothes every season. There are those who buy it at city markets, but even then they are harvested clothes. Articles weaved by hand are always magical. Why would someone go through all the trouble to make an article of clothing if they are not going to enchant it in the process with a spell?”
“Really . . . two hundred friends? I just don’t get it!”
The beggar was leaning back on the closed doors of a magic items store: completely useless stuff in a place devoid of magic that, nonetheless. was sold to those who, like I did, refused to accept it. The man was glancing over the pages of the tome not understanding a single word of what was written therein, but he stopped at a page that featured an image: the face of a demon with fiery hair.
“Hey, you!” a young man called.
The beggar jumped as if he had just seen the very angel of death.
Much to my disappointment, Jen was right. My collaborator was not, in fact, an elf, as opposed to what the artifact seemed to display. He was indeed, very different from what an elf generally looks like. It was difficult to recognize him as he was a lot bulkier, more unarmed and more human than what he looked like through the crystal. Kevin was, for all intents and purposes, a different person. Jen was right—elves do not exist in this world. Regardless, it was thanks to him that I had found my grimoire.
The book fell open on the floor on the page for Ifrit’s invocation, the spell I was researching in my retreat before calamity took hold and I ended up in this unmagical land.
“This book belongs to Mr. Eletorn, would you mind returning it?”
“And who do you think you are, exactly?”
The beggar picked up my book and mumbled something my ears were not keen enough to pick up.
“Give it back!” Kevin demanded.
“Oh yes? And who’s gonna make me?”
I know not what compelled me to do what I did next, perhaps my longing for magic, perhaps the fact that I had a couple of sleepless night behind me, or that my exit from this dreadful world was so close to me that I could not just stand there. I charged at the beggar and attempted to take what was rightfully mine by force. Next thing I remember is blood and sharp pain. The beggar had pierced me with some kind of sharp weapon and in my weakened condition it did not take many more stabbings to take me down. I could hear Jen’s and Kevin’s shouts as if they were coming out of an abyss.
As I bled to death on the ground I could see the beggar attacking them as well. My companions managed to escape, but I was not as lucky—my legs were not responding and little by little, I was losing my breath. Everything began to fade as I saw the beggar come back for the book.
I woke up, still bleeding, in an alley covered with trash. The pain was unbearable. My cries alerted the beggar, who was not too far away.
“Ha ha ha! Finally the sleeping beauty decided to wake up!” he said rubbing his hands. “Listen buddy, we gotta talk,” he continued as he sipped from his bottle.
“Can you not see I am dying!” I said with terrible pain.
“Don’t worry. This won’t take long.” He cleared his throat. “This book yours?”
“Why, it is,” I said.
“Which are the magic words?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. Magic does not exist,” I said before the man hit me in the stomach. The pain was such that it took me at least fifteen minutes to recover. For a moment, I felt I would lose consciousness again. Tears kept coming out of my eyes. I had never experienced such intense pain before. I had never been so close to death.
The beggar brought my book again before my eyes. It was still open on Ifrit’s invocation’s page.
“Well . . . ?“
“If I tell you what the magic words are, will you give me back my book?”
“You have my word.”
I held the book in my hands as well as I could and read the scroll within.
Had we been in the Bangard valleys, the Forest of Unicorns, or the white streets of Algarath, right there and then a powerful fiery entity known as Ifrit had been summoned, and without the right containment spell, caused unquantifiable and unstoppable damage. For a moment, I wished it would happen, because maybe then I would have a couple of seconds to escape in the midst of chaos with my book before being turn to ashes. However, as expected, without magic nothing happened.
This event also revealed to me that I would be stuck in this world forever. Even with my spellbook, without magic I would not be able to accomplish anything. Spells were useless without the magic to make them work. All my knowledge about spells was completely and utterly useless, all my years at the academy lost, all the valuable advice from my master worthless. My life was hopeless. I might as well end my misery in the cold ground of a mundane city than live an entire unmagical life.
“I don’t want that stupid book—it’s no good!” I said with my last breath before sinking back into darkness.
The beggar anxiously held the tome with both hands in front of the stone face. Dozens of pedestrians surrounded the boulevard, some of them looked at him in puzzlement but mostly the crowd was indifferent towards the beggar and the fountain. An older lady carrying a large purse was sitting on one of the corners of the fountain—she was glancing at the beggar with the corner of her eye and tried to find meaning to what he was mumbling.
The magic words previously uttered by Eletorn had been engraved in the beggar’s mind as if his life depended on remembering them accurately. Upon reciting the last word, the beggar waited open-mouthed with his eyes fixed on the fountain’s visage as if time had stood still. He waited and waited, but nothing was happening. Finally, disappointed, he threw the book in the fountain’s murky water, turned around, and left.
However, something made the man stop a few steps away—his eyes had read something in a small sign on the fountain before turning, something weird… Maybe he had misread, but in his mind he saw the words: “Drink from the fountain”. He went back to the pillar and the sign was there, with the words as clear as he had read them the first time. The beggar’s eyes turned in disbelief to the woman with the large purse, who returned a grimace. He put his hand in the cloudy water of the fountain and secured a little, bringing it to his face. His look wandered to the fiendish face in the stone eagerly staring at him.
Kevin and Jen were in the alley. He rested his hands on his thighs, breathing with difficulty—she yelled shaking her hands violently with frustration.
“What if he’s dead? We can’t just leave him there!”
Jen made a run for it. She did not care whether Kevin was behind her—she felt guilty for leaving Eletorn. She ran all the way back to the esoteric store where an ambulance and two police cars were now parked. Paramedics were loading Eletorn onto a stretcher.
“I remember now,” the semiconscious magician mumbled over and over again. “I remember what happened.”
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