by Dan Swanson
As his chartered plane approached Greenland, Wizzo the Wizard began to sense a very strong, yet still distant source of magic, somewhere in front of him. By the time they reached Godthåb, he knew he would have no trouble tracking these magical emanations. He discovered that not only could he feel the magic in the air around him, he could also tap into it and use it to augment his own power.
He had planned to spend one last night in the civilized comfort of a hotel, but this new discovery caused him to change his plans. After they landed, Wizzo cast a trance spell on his pilot and ordered him out of the plane. He then used his augmented magic to levitate the plane, and continued flying north, powered by magic instead of technology.
As he floated north, the magic slowly grew stronger, and it became easier to lift and move the plane. He kept speeding up, but suddenly, without any warning at all, he was torn with awful pain. He felt as if there was a powerful electric current tearing through his brain. His vision blurred, he became very dizzy, and suddenly he felt very light.
On the verge of passing out, Wizzo couldn’t concentrate to maintain his spell — and as soon as he dropped the spell, the terrible pain ceased immediately. He was still dizzy and feeling very light, though, and suddenly his body was jolted with adrenaline as he realized that the plane was falling.
He didn’t know how much longer before he would hit the ground, so he put all the power he could gather into his fly-the-plane spell. The force of gravity was terrific, and he realized he was again on the verge of blacking out, so he transferred some of that power to sustaining his body. The plane eventually stopped falling. Wizzo didn’t look out; he didn’t want to know. He willed the plane to get moving again, while he tried to figure out what had attacked him.
He had a theory, and a little cautious experimentation proved his theory correct. He hadn’t been attacked, but instead had almost killed himself through his impatience. His human mind and body could only channel so much of the ambient magic. Up to a critical point, everything was fine. His magic worked, there was no pain, and he controlled more power than he ever had before. But if he pulled just the smallest bit more than that, it was as if he had been struck by lightning. There was no warning, no preliminary signs that indicated danger, but it was there. His second experience with passing the critical point convinced him that he was flirting with death, and he thought he would much prefer living long enough to flirt once more with Sandy.
He had been lucky before when he realized the plane was falling. He had drawn on all the magic power he could reach. He shuddered to think what that would have done to him if he hadn’t been dizzy and barely conscious, barely able to sense the power around him, much less channel it.
This was an extreme disappointment for him. Here he was, surrounded by powerful magical energy — energy he could control — and yet the power he could control was extremely limited compared with what was available. He remembered well his encounter with Captain Marvel, and his observations of Ibis the Invincible, and he realized that even here, almost at the source of this limitless power, he wouldn’t be powerful enough to defeat either of those heroes.
Surely, though, Ibis must have a similar limitation, being a human being, yet he routinely used magic more powerful than any Wizzo could control. Wizzo brightened up when he realized that — it was the Ibistick that gave Ibis this ability. Of course! He simply had to find or create a suitable magical token. Just as machines augmented the ability of normal men to control and use vast scientific powers, he would use a magical tool to command the vast magical power he had discovered here.
He had passed completely over the epicenter of power before he even realized it. Suddenly, he sensed that the source was now behind him. He slowed and returned, but even when he was directly above the strongest magical emanations, all he could see was barren tundra covered in snow and ice. He moved off quickly about a quarter-mile, and cautiously landed his plane.
Bundling up warmly, he started walking, but each step left him sunken almost knee-deep in the crusty snow. So he decided to fly instead. He drifted slowly, cautiously, toward the epicenter of magic, just above the treacherous snow. He could see nothing unusual, nothing at all to indicate the tremendous source of magic that was so close by.
Then, suddenly, the world around him changed dramatically.
His flying spell failed, and he fell to the street.
Wait, what street? He had been in the literal middle of nowhere, floating over a tundra covered with ice and show. The only outstanding feature within many miles had been his own airplane. Yet that world had completely vanished, and he was now standing on a street in a city.
And what an amazing city it was. His first impression was that it was the Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz movie. Everything he could see was green. There was so much green that it confused his eyes and his mind, and he became so dizzy he was forced to sit down, right there in the street. Fortunately, there was no one around.
After a few minutes, he started to adapt to the unusual color scheme. In a normal city, the most common colors were shades of gray and brown. Here, everything that he expected should be gray or brown was instead colored in some shade of green. His vertigo slowly passed, and he got to his feet. It was time to explore this marvelous city. His destiny awaited.
The architectural style of the buildings was what he thought of as Greek. He could pick out examples of the three classic styles of Grecian architecture, Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian. Ah, the benefits of a classical education. He was surrounded by buildings with fluted pillars and peaked roofs, with lots of open spaces for winds to blow through for relief from the warm, humid Mediterranean climate.
At that thought, he realized he was sweltering in his Arctic clothing — the air temperature must be in the high seventies. He cast a spell to make his cold weather gear vanish, but it didn’t work. He quickly tried two or three other spells, the simplest and most reliable he knew, and none of them worked, either. Even though he could still feel the magic in the air around him, something was preventing his own magic from working. This convinced him that it was time for a strategic withdrawal. He needed time to think about all of his discoveries and make new plans.
Turning around to head back to the plane, he was again stunned. As far as he could see in every direction, he was surrounded by this city. Well, it had to be an illusion; he knew the tundra was only steps away. Yet, when he retraced his steps, he didn’t return to the snowy plain, he remained in the city.
He walked for almost a half a mile, and there were no signs that he was nearing the edge of the city. He must have passed through a magic portal to get here, and now he needed to find it so he could get away. He returned to the area of his arrival and searched for almost an hour, but still found nothing. He was going to have to find some other way out.
Though the city seemed absolutely empty of people, there was no dust — the city was as spotless as if it were scrubbed frequently by diligent washerwomen. He looked around again and realized that even the puddles of water he had left from the snow melting from his boots were now gone.
Except for the fact that he couldn’t find a way to leave, and his magic didn’t work, and some magical force he couldn’t sense and didn’t understand was cleaning up after him, there didn’t seem to be any other obvious dangers. Still, he wished he had obtained the Ted Williams Hunting Rifle back at Sears. That reminded him, though, he did have a Ted Williams Bowie Knife strapped to his calf. That once again reminded him how hot and sweaty he was, wearing all of his Ted Williams Arctic gear in a subtropical climate.
Taking off the parka and snow pants, he then pulled up his pants leg and unstrapped the Bowie knife, reattaching the sheath to his belt. He tied the parka and snow pants into a bundle and started exploring again, carrying his warm clothing with him. He didn’t want to freeze to death if he accidentally stumbled through a magical gateway back to the tundra.
It was spooky, walking through a completely empty city like this. With a start, he realized that he had gotten used to the ever-pervasive greenness, and the mixture of exotic architecture around him was beginning to look normal. He wondered if his mind was adapting naturally, or if the magic of this place was changing him. Of course, right now he couldn’t do anything about the effects of the ambient magic, anyway, so it hardly mattered.
Ahead of him there was a slight rise, and atop the rise was the most magnificent building he had seen yet. He actually recognized it — it was a copy of the Temple of Theseus in Athens. But as he grew closer, he changed his mind — the Temple of Theseus was more likely a copy, and a crude copy, at that, of this magnificent building. Maybe from higher ground he might see some other features of the city worth investigating. He wished he had brought Ted Williams Binoculars with him.
As he approached the glorious temple, he realized that it was as empty of life as the rest of the city. He was about a quarter of a mile away, when suddenly, the world changed drastically once again.