The temperature dropped suddenly. I pulled my cloak closer around me as snow began to blow in my face. For a moment, I almost looked back at the warm rainforest we had just come from, but memories of carnivorous dinosaurs kept me moving forward. Snow was better than becoming a dino snack any day. Or dragon snack, for that matter.
Tim started making for a nearby grove of evergreen trees. I followed in his footsteps, taking care not to tread on the hem of my cloak. The blowing snow was so thick that the pine trees were the only landmark in sight. I shivered and trotted to catch up with Tim so as not to get separated in the blizzard.
The trees provided welcome relief from the blowing wind, though the drifts presented their own problems. Tim stumbled, his foot caught momentarily in the deep snow. As I helped him to his feet, I glanced down to see what he had stumbled on. Tim swept the snow off of a small plaque that was buried in the snow. It read “To commemorate the crushing of 25 worlds”. Tim and I were silent for a moment, taking it in. I shivered again, but not from the cold.
Finally, I broke the silence. “Want me to take a turn breaking trail?”
“Yeah. I need to get all the snow out of my shoes.”
I stepped around Tim and started pushing through the knee deep snow. A clearing in the trees appeared ahead and I headed in that direction. I half expected to see the Lantern Waste lamppost any moment now. And a faun with an umbrella.
My thoughts of Narnia were abruptly interrupted when my shoe hit a patch of ice under the snow. I suddenly found myself sprawled on my back in a snow drift. Tim came and helped me up. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Just surprised.” I looked down at the slick spot that I had cleared in my fall. Something seemed to be frozen under the ice. I pushed more snow off the ice patch with my foot to see what is was. A door latch came to light, then the door itself. Tim started helping me sweep the snow off. In moments, the entire door was revealed, covered in about two inches of ice.
I looked at Tim. “How are we going to get in? The ice doesn’t look cracked, even after I fell on it.”
“We’re going to melt it.”
“Melt it? How? We don’t have any . . .” Realization dawned on me. “Wait, we’re going to use magic, aren’t we?”
“Yes, you are.” Tim pulled me several steps away from the frozen door. “Point at the ice and say the word ‘fiba.’”
“Okay,” I turned toward the door and pointed. “Fiba!”
I blinked as a bright fireball flew from my hand and hit the ice slab squarely. There was a sudden hissing sound and a blast of steam as the ice began melting. As the steam cleared away, the latch of the door protruded from the ice slab.
Tim stepped forward to inspect the latch, then started examining the remaining ice slab. “That’s strange. The only time I’ve seen ice put up that much resistance to fire was when I dueled a magic user who specialized in water magic.”
“Was this ice made by magic? It does seem very transparent and very thick for an icestorm to have created.” I picked at some of the remaining ice, but none chipped off. “At any rate, there’s still too much ice on the door to open it. Should I try another fireball?”
“No, it won’t do much good. Just help me pull.”
Together, we pulled on the latch. After several yanks, there was a sudden snap. The door inched open a bit as a section of the ice broke. We pulled a few more times until the ice slab finally cracked through and the door swung open. A dark stairway and a blast of warmer air greeted us. I hesitated only a moment before descending into the warmth. Tim hesitated a moment longer before following me.
I stopped when I could no longer see. “Where are the lights in here?”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. I haven’t seen this type in ages.”
I turned to see Tim by the door, examining what appeared to be a hanging lantern. “What type is that? I hope it’s the type that doesn’t need matches; I’m fresh out of those.”
“No, no matches.” Tim motioned me over. “All you have to do is touch it.”
“A touch-activated lantern? What’s the catch?” I looked the lantern over skeptically, but touched it anyway. Immediately a small light began to glow inside. Not hot, but bright. I shrugged, “Huh, well, add that to the list of cool things I’ve seen today. How does it light up like that?”
“It siphons a bit of magic from whoever touches it. It doesn’t take much, but it lasts several hours. I would have turned it on myself, but seeing as how I’m made of magic... I probably would have lost a finger.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot you can’t use magic.” A small suspicion formed in my mind. “Say, you didn’t bring me along just to do all the magic for you, did you?” I frowned at Tim. “You keep telling me to say magic words and use magic, but you haven’t even told me how it works. Where does the magic come from?”
“Believe me, when I first brought you, I wasn’t even going to mention magic. However, we’re in dangerous situations often enough that it would be helpful to have a competent magic user around.” Tim began walking down the stairs. “So, magic. Where it comes from. A magic user converts energy from their environment into whatever spell they are casting, usually done in the forming of saying magic words. Most magic users have a specific power source they draw from.”
“Like what?” I followed Tim down the stairs, lighting lanterns as we went.
“Well, anything made of energy. I used heat. My teacher used solar power. Well, not solar per say since we weren’t in the solar system... But you get what I mean.”
“So . . . what am I using? I just said the word and it happened. Where does that magic come from? From saying the word?” I lit another lantern as we continued down the stairs. “And what about this? I’m not even saying anything.”
“The word and the lantern are just instructions for how the magic should manifest itself. The power comes from the environment, flows through you like a conduit, and then appears as a spell or a lit lantern.”
“Magic comes from the environment, got it. Does that mean only certain worlds are magic? I mean, we never use magic at home, but obviously it works here. Is there no magic in the environment on Earth?”
“No. There’s something that allows for the conversion of energy into magic, and I’m not sure exactly what it is. But whatever it is, the Renolians took it with them when they left Earth. Worlds where magic is possible have a different feel to them than worlds where it isn’t. It’s hard to explain the difference.”
“Okay, so not all worlds are magic. But where does my magic come from? You said your power source was heat, but what about mine?”
Tim turned around and looked me straight in the eye, like he was searching for something. After a few seconds, he said “Wind.”
I blinked at him, slightly disconcerted by his abrupt stare. “You can tell just by looking? How do you know all this? I thought you were only in Renolia a couple of months.”
“I spent a good deal of time in the library, as well as being taught by one of the kingdom’s best magic users. If you wish to find out what a magic user’s power source is, you look into their eyes and see what’s there. It’s like that saying, the eyes are the window to the soul. Except in this case, it’s the window to your power source.”
Still slightly uneasy from that stare, I didn’t respond. We continued in silence as I mulled over the information. It sounded like Tim intended to teach me more magic. That would probably come in handy if we ever did find the Crusher of Worlds. Though, obviously, he knew far more about magic than I did. Maybe even more than Tim knew. Now more than ever, I felt like a novice.
The staircase ended in a closed wooden door. Tim pushed it open on creaky hinges, revealing a large dark room. I began lighting more lanterns around the room. Lamps on desks, lights over workbenches, each lit automatically at the touch of my hand. I maneuvered carefully around toolboxes, stacks of books, and papers scattered across the floor. The workroom appeared deserted, as though the workers had left in a hurry some time ago. I glanced at a few of the book titles on a nearby desk: Passages: Do They Exist? and On Magic and Matter. A leather-bound journal caught my eye. A pencil lay next to it, like its owner had been writing shortly before leaving. I was vaguely aware of Tim poking around the workbenches in the background as I picked up the journal and began reading the open entry:
Nasin 328/3: My stores are almost gone. Despite my inhibitions, I must brave the worsening weather and return to town. I am convinced this relentless blizzard is caused by magic far beyond this world. The Tunneler I am building is my only hope; it must be completed! But how? I am still missing a few components, I know, but it must be finished if I am to survive much longer in this magical blizzard. If only I could figure out how to adjust the power source. The only thing I can think of is an alternating power current, but where to find one? I doubt I’ll ever find one; not if this blizzard keeps up. I’ll head to town in the morning to look for food. My only prayer is that I’ll be able to find someone still alive in spite of this evil weather . . . .
I set the journal down. A magical blizzard sounded like the work of the Crusher of Worlds. But what was this “Tunneler” the journal spoke of? The writer had made it sound like a desperate hope of survival. I looked around for Tim. He was far across the room at one of the worktables. I took the journal over, intending to show him what I had found, but set it down on the table when I saw what he had found himself.
It was . . . large. Mechanical. Unfinished. The contraption covered the workbench, roughly the size of a small copier machine. Assorted parts lay scattered around its frame on the table. Tim was fiddling with a few crystal shards on one end. “What is this thing?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s wonderful. I’m not sure what it’s called, there’s no name on it. It seems to be designed to open passages, to... burrow through. Or something.”
“Wait!” I flipped through the journal. “Look here. Maybe this is the Tunneler that this writer is talking about.” I handed the notebook to Tim so he could read the entry.
“Yes... yes! This is it! It’s not finished, though.”
“What does it need? I hope there’s some blueprints or something around here.”
Tim thumbed through the front of the journal. “If this journal is being translated properly by my inherent translation spell, he didn’t have blueprints. He didn’t have time. He was just trying to throw together a working prototype before it was too late and... failed. But I think I can finish it. It will need power, but we should just be able to plug it in if we drag it back to Earth. Societies based on magic tend to skip electricity in their technological developments. Aside from that, it just needs certain magical properties found most commonly in dragons’ horns, a gemstone of the correct size and shape to focus the energy, and some kind of metal capable of conducting both magic and electricity. I’m not entirely sure the last of those three exists, but it’s not like the interactions between magic and technology are well explored.”
I blinked at him. “Well, I’m glad you know what you’re looking at, because I haven’t a clue how this thing works. But why are you so interested in finishing it? Could it help us find the Crusher of Worlds?”
“Better.” Tim turned to me excitedly. “It’s our ticket to Renolia.”