Note: Heather and I have switched to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule. To read the previous chapter, click here.
As I followed Tim into the passage, I sized up the situation. We were looking for a gem and some metal to finish a contraption that might get us to Renolia before the Crusher of Worlds destroyed it. Given that gemstones were expensive and the metal we needed might not even exist, our search seemed about as easy as the proverbial grass-filled hunt for sewing implements.
Tim and I exited the passage near a grassy knoll. There were a couple of large trees at the foot of the knoll and, beyond them, the edge of a cliff. The only sound was the wind. Tim and I both stepped forward to get a peek at the cliff. Upon realizing that the bottom was shrouded in mist, I quickly retreated to the safety of the grassy knoll. I sat down and tried not to think about the heights. Tim lingered a moment longer before returning to the knoll and looking around. I looked up at him. “Something tells me we’re not going to find any gemstones or metal here. Shall we move on?”
Tim shook his head. “This is the first place we’ve been since we left Earth that the environment or something in it wasn’t trying to kill us. It’s the perfect place for magic lessons.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “Now? I thought we were in a hurry to finish this contraption of yours.” I suddenly realized what I said. “Not that I’m arguing. If you want to teach me magic, I’m all in. I’m just surprised, is all.”
“If the worlds we’ve been to so far are any indication, we won’t survive long enough to complete it without using magic. Gems are generally well guarded, and we may have to resort to some sort of alchemy to make the metal.”
I got up. “Alright, where do we start?” If Tim was serious about teaching me magic, I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass by.
Tim knelt down and started writing numbers in a nearby dust patch. “You have thirty seconds to look at these.”
I glanced at the set, trying to commit them to memory. All too soon, Tim erased them with his foot. “What’s this for?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you in a bit. First, it’s time for you to learn about the history of magic.”
Tim started talking. I listened at first, but after the first half-hour the names and dates began to blur. Stuff about the first discovery of magic, the development of different types of magic, the origins of the magic spell language, on and on. It was plenty interesting, but there was so much of it. My head felt like it was going to explode. Tim must have noticed my eyes glaze over because he finally stopped. “Alright, that’s long enough. Repeat the numbers I wrote down.”
I blinked at him. Numbers? I tried to recall, but only managed to remember the first four. The rest swam somewhere between the history lecture and my initial excitement for magic lessons. “4, 7, 5, . . . um . . . 9? I can’t remember any more.”
“Those are the first four, yes. Not bad. When Theo did that to me, I only got the first three.”
I sighed. “My memory is out of practice. If you’d have asked me the year I got my Timothy Award in Awana, I’d have remembered twice as many. But what was that for, anyhow?”
“That was the thirty/thirty test. You write down the first nine numbers in a random order and give the person thirty seconds to memorize them. Then you distract them for thirty minutes with lots of dates or other numbers and then ask them to repeat it. If they remember three or more, they’re good enough at memorizing to be a magic user. If not, there’s not much point in teaching them. You passed, so... ready for a real magic lesson?”
I grinned. “You bet!”
Magic lessons commenced. We practiced various defense spells until I was tired, then sat under a tree to rest while Tim quizzed me on lists of magic words and answered my endless questions. Hours turned into days as we spent the better part of a week practicing and reviewing the fundamentals of magic usage. As my repertoire of spells and defenses grew, I felt less and less confident. Tim said I had potential, but what good was potential if we ever did find the Crusher of Worlds? Obviously he was a powerful magician to have crushed entire civilizations. At least I was with Tim. Surely he’d come up with some brilliant plan when the time came.
Tim eventually called the lessons to a halt. “I think we’ve spent enough time training. There’s plenty more for you to learn, but we don’t have time for anything but the basics.”
I nodded. “We probably should get back to building the Tunneler before anything happens. What did we still need, a gemstone and some metal? And we should probably take this hunk of dragon horn back to the secret lab place. I’m tired of carrying it around in my pocket.”
“I guess we can. But after that, back to searching.”
Tim pulled the pendant out of his pocket and located the passage back to the ruined world with the dragons. As we stepped into the passage, I noticed a familiar yet eerie change in scenery. The silent, between-world twilight appeared, with the dragon world nowhere in sight. I glanced around, looking for the Gatekeeper.
“It’s been a long time.” The Gatekeeper materialized out of the dusk, seeming disapproving. “The Crusher of Worlds is still at large. Why do you not make haste?”
“We, uh, stopped for some magic lessons. We were just about to get going again.” I glanced at Tim.
“Magic lessons, hmm?” The Gatekeeper raised an eyebrow at me. “At least it was not a total waste of time. But the Crusher of Worlds is not wasting time either. He moved through my passages again last night. Sadly, he passed through quickly and I was unable to locate a route to his homeworld. You have had more luck, I hope?”
I shook my head. Tim spoke up. “Actually, we may have. We ran across a machine called the Tunneler.”
“Ah yes. I sensed when that machine began construction due to its relation to the passages. The people of that world were kind folk, and I was quite melancholic when I discovered the machine was unfinished and the people exterminated. Are you capable of finishing it?”
“Yes, assuming we can find the last few materials. We need a gemstone and some metal that conducts both magic and electricity.”
“Hand me the amulet.” Tim handed the pendant to the Gatekeeper, who began fiddling with the lights. “I am programming it to show you the locations of worlds that should have the resources you need. After you find the materials, bring it to this place in your world and activate it.” The Gatekeeper handed the pendant back to Tim with a piece of paper. I looked over to see what was on the paper, but Tim stuffed it in his pocket with the pendant.
“Thanks,” I said to the Gatekeeper.
The Gatekeeper smiled. “You are most welcome, young ones. Now go, and godspeed.”
The twilight brightened as we were transported through the passage into sunlight once again. Walking out into the ruins with Tim, I glanced up to see a dragon perched on a nearby walltop. “Well, hello,” I quipped. “Long time, no see!” The dragon growled.