When the blackness of Time’s transport vanished I found myself in a place that seemed familiar, but wasn’t. I was apparently on an island — I could hear the sea in both directions — though it could have been an isthmus, or something like that. I cast my eyes about, looking for the group of people Time had told me would be there. There was no one in sight.
Apparently, I’d been dropped into reality some distance from where I was supposed to be. I began walking. In short order I found myself on a beach; Time had said I would meet the people on a beach, so I turned and continued walking along the shoreline.
Soon enough a knot of people appeared in the horizon. As I drew nearer I could see that they were engaged in eating a meal — logical, since the sun was directly overhead, making it lunch time — though there were no signs of cooking to be observed. Of course, I realized after a moment, this is before they know about Magic and since they’ve just arrived, the air is too rich in — oxygen, wasn’t it?— for them to have any but Magical fires. That’s why I’m here.
“Hello,” said a woman who stepped forward from the group to greet me, once I had come as close as I thought was reasonable and stopped there — Captain Saxby, the leader of the group, I’d been told was the one who would approach me. She looked very physically fit, with short-cropped, dirty-blonde hair.
“I — ah, we were unaware that anyone lived here,” she continued after a moment. “May I introduce myself and these people?” It was what Time had advised me would be said. She spoke a language I hadn’t heard before, though I was confident that my Magic would translate it for me; I still considered for a moment before responding, to be sure I had the meaning right in my head.
“You are the leader of this group? The … ah, cap-tin?” I stumbled over the name or title since like the language, it was something I wasn’t familiar with.
“The captain, yes, that’s right.” The woman seemed to stand taller for a moment, then held her hand out for me to shake. “Captain Evelyn Saxby, at your service.”
I accepted and shook her hand, as I’d gathered over the months was the normal thing for adults to do. “Thank you,” I told her. “Ah … Saxby, yes, that’s what I was told, Captain Saxby. These are the people who have come to make this World their home?” I glanced meaningfully at the others behind her.
“Well ... yes,” Saxby agreed. “Most of them, anyway.” She flexed her fingers for a moment; apparently my handshake had been a bit firmer than she’d expected. It was a moment before she frowned, then cocked her head curiously.
“Ah, wait ... who told you about me and the colonists?”
I stood silent for a moment, gazing past Saxby at the silent throng gathered on the sand, trying to imagine a way to describe Time-mind. “It is difficult to say who, Captain Saxby,” I finally allowed, trying to keep the wonder of Amedia out of my voice, but it looked as though Saxby could detect a hint of something in my voice anyway, something she found to be strange.
“You have come to a World that is far different than any that you have ever imagined. It will be very hard for you to believe what I will tell you, even when I can show you that I’m telling the truth ... so difficult that you will be forced to consider some of what I will describe and demonstrate to be Magic. But for all that, it is critical that you believe me. You must all believe, because the future of this World depend on it.”
Saxby stared at me for several moments before she once again found her tongue. “You can’t be — no, you are serious, aren’t you? Magic?”
I could only shrug under my robe. “It’s only a description, Captain Saxby,” I told her, keeping my tone as deferential as I could. “You may certainly use any word that you wish to name what I will show you — but I am certain that Magic will be the word which most of your people will choose.
“By the way, Captain … welcome to Amedia. The World has been waiting a very long time for you and your people to arrive.”
“So … Magic,” Captain Saxby said, approaching me a couple of hours later in a secluded hut that I had been offered as a place to rest. “What does it entail? How can you possibly prove to me — to us — that it’s real?”
I shrugged beneath my robes. I’d considered lowering my hood to make communicating easier — I know that a lot of talking is being able to see the other person’s face — but Time had warned me against getting too emotionally involved with any of the people I interact with in the past and I figured keeping myself sort of anonymous would go a long way toward that end. Anyway, hiding my face also gave me time to consider tough questions like this one.
“I can prove it by showing you,” I finally offered. “Let me guess, you people have been eating cold food since you arrived?”
“Yeah,” answered Saxby’s right-hand woman, whom I’d learned was named Alison Jeffers. Saxby and Jeffers had been all but inseparable since we’d met. “We’ve tried to light fires, but we can’t even get a spark.”
“That’s because the air here has more oxygen in it than you know, more than your equipment can handle,” I explained, falling back on something I’d learned from Blight, of all people. “The World is suppressing your ‘sparks.’ Amedia — which is the name of this planet, as well as the name of the intelligence that runs this World — Amedia won’t allow you to do anything that will cause harm, like start a huge fire. The only kind of fire that’s allowed is Magical fires.”
“Magical fires,” Saxby echoed.
“That’s right,” I agreed, “Magical fires. If you’ll set up a pile of wood, I’ll show you.”
There was a delay as the settlers scrambled to assemble a pile of firewood; since they hadn’t been able to light a fire, the collection of firewood had become a low priority for them. They finally managed to scrape together enough for a bonfire. After making sure it was optimally arranged to burn, I had everyone stand back and absently kindled the wood.
A huge gasp arose as the wood caught fire.
“Of course, my Magic is different than what you’ll be dealing with,” I cautioned. “I am a rare type of Wizard known as ‘Instinctive.’ Don’t worry about it, it’s not something you’ll see again for a long, long time. Those of you who will be able to handle Magic will not have that advantage, so you’ll have to use words and stances to corral and direct the effect.” Time had told me that I would find some few of their number who would be able to access Magic.
Saxby seemed unable to drag her eyes away from the now crackling blaze, but she managed to shut her mouth and breathe deeply enough to ask me a question.
“Can … uh, can anyone do this?”
“No,” I told her. “Only a rare few have the particular … I believe it’s called a ‘gene’ … that allows access to the Magical field which fills the World. I should be able to identify the few of you who have this ‘gene’ and to give you some of the basics on how to use Magic.
“At least, I can teach you enough to start fires to cook your food.”
Saxby began to laugh, hysterical laughter from what I could see. It was Alison Jeffers who finally looked at me with gratitude.
“That’ll be great,” she said.