2. A New World
Earthlings measure time in orbits around the Sun, but Elarrans mark their time in a different way. Their world orbits the great ringed planet Manderion, and, twice each orbit, Elarra passes through a vast gap in the hazy lavender rings. Such a passage happens only once every 24 Earth years. And yet it’s said that time moves differently in different parts of the Universe: that, before the dust had managed to settle once again upon the rocky walls of the well, Professor Doran Biggleroot had already lived in Elarra for what felt to him like almost 33 years.
In the black of night, Professor Doran Biggleroot appeared on an empty platform in the west corner of the Magic Academy courtyard. Disorientated, he could no longer determine if he were asleep and dreaming or if he were perhaps even dead, and this the glorious afterlife. The sky was different. Stars seemed much brighter; more precise, like small pinholes in a shoebox. Touchable. And while no moon could be seen, there were silhouettes of massive stellar bodies on the horizon. He placed his hand on the hollow of his chest for any indication of breath. Indeed, he was breathing. Certainly, the dead did not breathe. But his body was impossibly heavy, and after one weak attempt to find his footing he collapsed once more, prone to the heavens. He smiled as he stared into the beautiful foreign beyond and then, upon considering the recent events, began to laugh at the sheer absurdity of his predicament.
However, the laughter was short-lived. One of the stars began to move, first slowly, and then at the speed of lightning until it fixed directly in front of his nose. He squinted, taken quite by surprise. Encapsulated in a gentle lavender light with a circumference no bigger than an apple, there was unmistakably a person: a little person with humming wings and perhaps the sternest expression he had ever seen. His jaw fell loosely open and, although he attempted to speak, no words manifested.
“What are you?” A demanding, feminine voice broke the silence.
He stammered clumsily, more transfixed by the impossible creature hovering before him, flying, not unlike a common bird. But she was not a bird at all.
“I am Consul Fe’Lora Featherfoot, and if you will not identify yourself, you will stay-” She held her hand forward, wriggled her fingers and then clenched her fist tightly, “-right here!” And when she opened her hand with a flit of her wrist, a swirling, glittering trail of fog fell upon his neck, immediately hardening into a thick bridge of ice, fastening him to the ground he lay upon.
She whisked upward into the air, toward the steeple on the roof of the central building, where a bell began to sound. The world around him lit up with hundreds of windows, revealing his surroundings: a massive castle with towers and intricately carved buttresses. Harried voices erupted on every side, behind the towering stone walls that reached ten stories high in places. Soon, the good Professor was surrounded by a growing crowd, some clinging to each other in fear, some staring in awe as if he were a beast in a zoo. Except, to him, they were the creatures which had no name. Rather than struggle, he watched them all, just as mystified by them as they were by him.
This was his introduction to the world of Elarra, that night so long ago. It was a distant memory now. In his short imprisonment, they’d subjected him to various spells to remove what they called glamours, which would reveal his true identity in the event he were some evildoer who had shape-shifted into this form called “Human.” There were potions of truth so he could not lie, and disenchantments known as “Sheethings” cast upon his person that removed any magic abilities the Elders thought he might possess. They even turned his skin slightly blue for a while. They’d never heard of a Human before. And, as far as he could tell, even today, he was the only one who’d ever seen this world.
Most of the Elders grew to trust him fairly quickly. His one-time assailant, the little lady in the lavender light, he came to know well. She was a Thissling Fairy, and often she’d visit his quarters and revel in his stories of a place called Earth. Despite her diminutive size, she was known as Consul Fe’Lora to her students, to whom she taught the practices of magic according to the seasons. She was very good with frost.
As the Professor became a fixture at the Magic Academy, he saw many young Elarrans arrive, and he watched many depart with new found abilities. He was given his own class, in which he taught Earth Studies to captivated pupils. Often, in moments of introspection, he found it strange that at one time he was desperate to convince the unbelieving that Magic existed, while today, the very concept of a Magic-less world seemed unfathomable to every scholar around him. Magika, in its unfiltered form, was like the very air Elarrans and Humans breathed, a true and tangible substance filled with elements their bodies needed to use to stay alive. To creatures whose biology relied on Magika, its absence sounded deadly, as deadly and impossible as Doran trying to live in a world without air.Not every inhabitant of Elarra relied on Magika to survive, however. Elarrans themselves could survive without it, though they’d easily grow fatigued and heartsick. But most of the creatures native to their world did require Magika.
Magic was everywhere in the world around him. It was not something that occurred upon the world but within it, as timeless as the world itself. It wasn’t always spells and illusions, or potions and enchantments: Elarrans found it in simple things as well – things that even occurred on Earth, like the change from Summer to Fall, or the tides of the Oceans falling and rising. Things that few cared to assign any meaning to, or take any Magical inspiration from. Magic did not rely on Elarra or any of its continents or constituents. Elarra, in fact, relied on Magic. As did its wondrous creatures and the inhabitants of the villages that spanned far and wide, as diverse and unique as those of his own world.. And, although their differences in species, shapes, abilities and colors made their origins evident, each was Elarran, and each was equal. That, alone, was Magic, in merely another display. If you had asked the Professor what he thought of this new world, he would tell you it might sound idealistic, but he found it pleasantly perfect. He had become accustomed to a life here, and as his memories of what Earth once was faded like the waters of a moving stream, slipping gently into the distance, he found himself no longer a stranger in a new world, but a new friend to an old one.
And it would remain so until the darkest day imaginable.
It first took the Forest of Bellthora, took it so slowly one never thought to run. It was quiet, like a thief, and while the air remained breathable and the waters untainted, the colors dulled within the creeping darkness. The Wimsies, which once called the Forest home, all vanished without a trace. So did the Grobbins from their underground homes. And so did the Thissling Fairies, who had once crafted beautiful flowers in the treetop canopies. All the magical creatures were gone.
The Magic Academy dispatched teams to investigate the sudden extinctions within this spreading colorless expanse that all came to call the Gray – seeking out a cause, searching for survivors, striving to find any explanation or hope. But, once within the Gray, their ability to use Magic fell away. Using the magic extractor created by the engineers of the House of Grimthane, they found no Magika remained: not even a trace within the rocks, the plants, or the soil. It was if it had been devoured, and the creatures relying on it had starved and succumbed. Yet these creatures did not merely suffocate: they ceased to be.
As the investigative team reported to Fe’Lora Featherfoot that no survivors were found, that no Magic was found, that her people had ceased to be, and that the Gray was spreading unstoppably, it is said her light ceased to shine, and for the first time in her life, she wept.
Professor Doran Biggleroot had never seen tears in Elarra. But Fe’Lora’s fell to the wooden floor of the Council room like glistening blue diamonds. It was a substance he had seen only once before. And his mind began racing as events of his past revisited him. He slowly stood from his chair and spoke.
“I can help.”
To Be Continued
February 15, 2015