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a glimpse of the other world

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The tower in the middle of the woods is a tall thing, crooked and slanting, and Hamid thinks that it must be supported with magic to be leaning that far and still be standing. Moss and ivy curl around the sides, crawling up to a small window at the top of the tower, and Hamid takes a moment to gawp up at the thing. It looks like everything he’d ever imagined a wizard tower to look like, complete with the tiny birds and plumes of smoke climbing out through the chimney. It’s idyllic, in a sense, with pine trees stretching up to the sky above, looking a little bit larger than they maybe have any right to be.

The very air feels saturated with magic, here, and Hamid can feel static start dancing across his skin the closer he gets to the tower. It makes his blood sing, kicks up the butterflies in his stomach, and Hamid glances around, as though he expects to see an aura coming off of his skin. There’s nothing there, but everything looks just a little bit more golden here. Small lights dance through his fingers, and Hamid holds his hand up to his face, marvelling at the sight. 

“Amazing,” he whispers, and one of the lights dances up to rest on the bridge of his nose. It tickles, and Hamid sneezes, causing the rest of the lights to disappear from between his fingers. He frowns slightly, but continues on his way, making his way ever closer. 

He’s here on a mission, after all. Hamid can’t avoid dealing with… whatever happened in the mines forever, and Grizzop had suggested that he go visit the weird wizard in the woods the last time they’d talked about it. Hamid had been… sceptical, to say the least (he still remembers the time that Grizzop had sworn that Vesseek loved being surprised, and he never has gotten that stain out of his shirt from them tossing a carton of paint at him). He’d asked Zolf and Azu for a second and third opinion, respectively, because neither of them would knowingly send him into danger - well, Zolf probably wouldn’t. He wanted to know what was going on with Hamid and his… special skills just as much as Hamid did. Azu still didn’t know the full story - Zolf and Grizzop had sworn to keep it a secret, even from her and Sasha, so Hamid had made up some cockamamie story about needing magical makeup when he’d asked about visiting the wizard. 

Zolf had promised that the wizard was harmless, if a bit eccentric, and Azu had repeated the sentiment with a fond smile on her face. Apparently, she and the wizard - Einstein, was his name - had worked together on a project in the past, and he’d been nothing but lovely and slightly odd, but in a sweet way. So, with their two additions onto Grizzop’s recommendation, Hamid had headed off to see a man about some magic. 

Hamid hadn’t really wanted to come here alone, but it was the only day that the shop would be closed. Zolf was busy clearing out a few different levels in the mines with Feryn, getting ready to stock up the store before the winter months really set in. It was late November, and cold, but the snow hadn’t hit yet; Zolf said that he’d wanted to get it out of the way earlier rather than later. Azu, on the other hand, had taken a day trip with Sasha out to a local shopping place. The holidays were coming up, after all, she’d explained, and she wanted to get a head start on shopping. Hamid hadn’t asked Grizzop - he was always being run ragged over at the centre, anyway, and he’d considered asking Ed or Brock before deciding against it and making his way out to the woods alone. 

It’s a nice day out, if a little more chilly than Hamid really enjoys. He’s got a thick jumper on, one that might actually be Zolf’s, and a hat and scarf covering his ears and neck. 

He gets up to the tower proper and glances up. It’s even bigger than he thought it was, and wonders if it’s some sort of illusion that makes it look like it could stretch up into the clouds and keep going forever. He shakes his head and rests his hand on the railing, starting to climb. The stairs curve around the side of the tower up to a small wooden door, and they creak ominously as Hamid slowly makes his way up to it. There’s a small door knocker nailed to the wood, and he lifts it up carefully, inspecting it. It’s in the shape of a raven with its mouth open, and is more than a little uncanny. Still, Hamid doesn’t want to be out in the cold longer than necessary, so he knocks on the door. Nothing happens, for a moment, so Hamid tries again, making the knocks a little bit louder this time. 

He rests back on his heels and waits, but can’t hear anything coming from the interior.

“Maybe he’s not home…” Hamid matters to himself, and knocks one more time, the loudest yet. There’s still no response; curious, he reaches out for the doorknob and twists it. He’s not sure if he’s actually surprised as it twists and opens, door clearly having been left unlocked. 

“Er - excuse me?” Hamid calls, pushing the door inward; it makes a loud creaking noise as it opens into darkness, showing another set of stairs that curves upwards beyond Hamid’s field of vision. 

Hamid should turn around. Hamid should absolutely turn around and leave, because a vaguely creepy tower in the middle of nowhere with an open door and a dark interior is the set up to so many horror movies, and Hamid rather likes being alive, thanks very much. 

“Uh, hello?” he calls again, cupping his hands around his mouth. His voice echoes around the stone walls, and he frowns, anxiety settling in along the back of his neck. He peeks his head in for a moment and listens, trying to hear any sound of life, and thinks that he can hear the sound of… something coming from whatever is up the stairs. He thinks it might be potion bottles clanking together, or maybe wind chimes? Whatever it is, it sounds delicate, and Hamid feels the curiosity bloom in his chest even as alarm bells start to blare in his head. 

He wrestles with himself a moment longer, a push and pull of staying versus leaving, and eventually his curiosity wins out, all notions of self-protection tossed behind himself like yesterday’s rubbish. Well, maybe not all ; Hamid is still being cautious as he heads into the tower, on high alert for anything creepy or strange. The stair creaks as he puts one foot on it, and then the door slams shut behind him as Hamid whirls around and gasps, hand clutching his chest as his heartbeat picks up the pace. 

“It’s alright,” he mutters to himself, smoothing his shaking hands down the front of his coat. “Just the wind. That’s it.”

He’s not convinced, but the only other option is going to check that the door is locked, keeping him trapped in here, and Hamid gently pushes that thought out of his head the moment it occurs to him. It’s all definitely fine, and this is all explainable. 

So saying, he starts to head up the stairs, but the apprehension just keeps growing, turning into a small pit in his stomach. He doesn’t pass any windows or doors on the way, and it keeps getting steadily darker, dim

lamps becoming fewer and farther between the higher up he goes. The stairs feel almost interminable, and Hamid wonders for a moment if this is a trap designed by the wizard to punish any burglars who break into his tower. It certainly seems possible, and the anxiety creeps up and along Hamid’s back the further he goes without seeing anything other than stair and stone wall. Magic absolutely has to be in play here -

Hamid had seen the tower from the outside,

and there’s no way it was this tall or this wide. 

He pauses for a moment and listens, and the sounds that he heard earlier are louder than before; it must mean he’s going in the right direction. The noises get ever-louder as he climbs, and his breathing is rapid by the time he finds himself at a landing, both from the slowly-rising panic and the exertion. He takes a moment to stop and leans against the wall, glancing around himself. The noise is the loudest here, and Hamid eventually spots the outline of a door set into the wall in the dim lantern light. There’s a light coming from under the door, and Hamid takes a cautious step toward it, hand reaching out to knock. 

A small explosion rips through the air and Hamid shrieks and leaps back, heart pounding as his back presses against the wall opposite, breath coming in short bursts. The door is thrown open before he can even catch his breath, and smoke comes billowing out along with a short man in lab goggles who’s coughing violently. 

“Wow!” he says in between coughs, waving his hand in the smoke. Hamid covers his own mouth with the sleeve of his jumper and squeezes his eyes shut as the smoke pours over him as well, and then the man claps, and the air is suddenly clear again. 

Hamid cracks an eye open and slowly lets his hand fall away from his mouth, gaze coming to fall on the man standing in the doorway with his hands on his hips as he stares inside. His hair is standing on end and pointing in all different directions - Hamid wonders if it’s from whatever spell he was working on or if it’s just like that normally. He looks more mad scientist than he does wizard , if Hamid is being honest. 

The man is mumbling something under his breath in a language Hamid can’t understand, although he’s almost sure that it’s German. He takes a few more moments, looking between two different vials in his hands, and then spins on his heel, doing a double take as he spots Hamid still trying to catch his breath while using the wall as a support. 

“Who are you? Why are you in my lab?” he veritably shouts, although it seems like his voice might just always be this loud. “Quickly! We don’t have all day, you know!” Hamid’s mouth opens and shuts as the man gets even closer to him and begins snapping in front of his face. “Hello…!” 

“Sorry!” Hamid finally stammers out, scooching back along the wall to get some space in between the two of them. It doesn’t work exactly as he expected, considering the man keeps following him and staring at him with one eyebrow raised. “I, er - I don’t mean to intrude, the door was open, I just -“

“Come on, spit it out!” the man says again, and, yes, definitely German, Hamid thinks.

“I need your help!” Hamid says, as awkward as anything, and the man pauses, tilting his head and staring at him.

“Help with what? I am very busy, you know!” he chides, and Hamid can feel the embarrassed blush start rising in his eyes.

“Well, sir -“

“No, no, that won’t do. Call me Einstein!” he says, and grabs Hamid’s hand in his own, pumping it up and down rapidly. 

“Er - Hamid?” Hamid says in response. Einstein lets go of his hand and Hamid flexes it a little bit, unsure of how someone could have this much energy. 

“Hamid! Very pleased to meet you, very pleased. What do you need? Curse, love spell, maybe a height potion, those are all the rage nowadays, I tell you -“ he rambles, rooting around through a set of cabinets in the corner. “You seem like the love potion type, honestly, is there anyone in mind?”

“No, no,” Hamid tries to say, but Einstein isn’t paying him any mind anymore.

“Love potion, love potion,” he mutters to himself, sticking nearly half his torso into a cupboard. Glass bottles clink against each other as Einstein digs around, and Hamid sighs.

“Really, sir, I’m not looking for a -“

“Nonsense, you don’t need to be embarrassed! Einstein will help, I have the perfect thing, just you wait, yes?”

“Sir, I don’t -“ Einstein doesn’t seem to even hear him at all, now, humming a jovial tune to himself that reminds Hamid eerily of a song Bertie used to hum at university. He shakes his head to snap himself out of the memory and steps into the room. 

“I used magic!” Hamid calls over the din, cupping his hands around his mouth, and that, over anything else, seems to get Einstein’s attention. He pauses and puts a few vials back, straightening up. 

“So you are a wizard!” Einstein exclaims, and comes up to him, clapping Hamid on the shoulders. “Good, good, is a very fun job, you must like.” 

Hamid laughs, uncomfortable. “I don’t… I didn’t actually know I could do magic until a few weeks ago? It was quite the shock, really.”

“Ohhh! A new wizard, then!” 

“Well, sir, I -“

“Oh mein Gott!” Einstein groans, running a hand down his face. “Again, again with the sir , it is just Einstein! Just Einstein. Professor if you must. Now. What did you say your name was, again?” 

“I, er - Hamid. Hamid Saleh Haroun al Tahan,” he says, and Einstein squints over at him, looking either suspicious or intense. Hamid really can’t tell, so he coughs quietly and pulls at the collar of his jumper. 

“Wait, are you - you’re Apophis’ grandson!” Einstein exclaims, and Hamid nods.

“Yes, I -“ 

“A good man! Very powerful wizard! Yes, he helped me many times, many times.” Einstein doesn’t let him finish the sentence before he’s off on one again, grabbing a few more vials and holding them up close to his eyes as he examines them. 

“Yes, he - wait, what?” Hamid asks, words finally processing in his brain. “My grandfather was a… wizard?”

Einstein halts his motions, halfway done with mixing a potion, and turns to stare at Hamid. “You… he did not tell you?” At Hamid’s shake of the head, Einstein throws his hands in the air. “Ach! Why he did not tell you, I do not know. But he was. Very talented. Very talented! He used to help me mix potions, cast spells… oh, we really got up to some mischief! He was very good man, very sorry to hear he had passed.”

Hamid blinks rapidly, staring at Einstein. He hadn’t been super close with his grandfather, but anytime he’d visited, Apophis had seemed relatively serious and dour; Hamid can’t imagine him causing mischief or, honestly, even getting along with Einstein. 

“Sorry, you knew my grandfather?” Hamid asks, and Einstein nods.

“Yes! Very good friends, for a while, but then he moved away and returned and since then we had lost touch,” Einstein replies. “Very skilled.”

“Yes, er - you said,” Hamid says, quietly. He sort of wishes that he were sitting down for this, honestly - he’s still a bit in shock from the whole revelation. It’s - he knew, somewhere in the back of his head, that magic existed in the world, but never in a million years had he thought that he would have any of it flowing through his veins. 

“You say you cast magic in the mines?” Einstein asks, and then points behind Hamid. There are a series of clattering taps against the floor and then a soft cushion pokes at the back of Hamid’s knees. He jumps a bit and looks behind himself to see a small stool sitting there where there hadn't been one before. “Sit, sit, tell Einstein everything.”

“O-okay,” Hamid says, and sits down. The stool is comfy, if a bit large, and he leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Me and, er, do you know Zolf?” 

Einstein nods rapidly. “The farmer boy! He is very kind, used to bring me canned fruit in the winter time, yes. Nice boy.”

Hamid feels his heart flutter at that, but quickly tamps it down. (Still, he can't quite hide the fond smile that pulls at the corner of his lips.) “Well, we were down in the mines - it’s quite a long story, really, but I convinced Zolf to take me down there so that I could prove that I could handle it. And it was fine for a while, honestly, just small things, but then we made a wrong turn and suddenly monsters were coming at us from everywhere and -“ his heart rate picks up again as he squeezes his eyes shut, remembering how terrified he was, watching weird bugs swarming over both of them. A hand lands on his shoulder and squeezes, and he looks up to see Einstein standing in front of him, an encouraging look on his face.

“We were surrounded, and then I backed up against a wall and closed my eyes and it was like - like a wave of fire just rolled off of me. I don’t - I don’t know how to explain it?” 

“Sounds like a localised fireball to me!” Einstein says, and stands up, clapping his hands together. “Now. Your friend. Zolf. Was he hurt at all by this?”

Hamid shakes his head. “No - no, he carried me back. He wasn’t burned at all.”

“Hmm,” Einstein says, starting to pace back and forth. “It’s impressive that you managed to cast a spell without knowing how, but being able to shape it around a person who you care about is even more advanced.”

Hamid splutters for a bit. “I - I mean - well, we -“

“I suppose you could have just inherited the magic, Apophis was eerily skilled with spell shaping, I swear he was using something to focus it,” Einstein continues, ignoring Hamid. Hamid mostly loses track of what he says after that, catching a few words in between what largely sounds like technobabble (magic…babble? Is that even a thing? ). 

Einstein seems to run out of steam (or at least breath) discussing some concept that Hamid can’t even fathom out. 

“Sorry - Professor, what does that all mean?” Hamid asks, completely lost, catching Einstein before he can launch into another explanation that Hamid won’t understand in the slightest. 

“It means that you’re a wizard!” Einstein says, and Hamid rubs at the bridge of his nose, trying to come off more confused than properly frustrated. 

“Yes, professor, I’m just not completely sure if -“ 

“Nonsense!” Einstein cuts him off with a flourish. “You are a wizard , you need to be sure of these things now.”

Hamid certainly doesn’t feel sure. Half of that is because he still doesn’t completely believe it, and the other half is because he genuinely just… can’t quite grasp what Einstein is trying to say to him. 

“How - how am I able to do magic? Is it because of my grandfather? No one else in my family can, why me?

“Everyone can do magic if they really want to, you know, you just have to,” Einstein clenches his fist, holding it out in front of him. “Have to want it badly enough. And be taught by someone experienced, usually. There are a few out-there cases, like you, who can just do magic because!”

“... Because why?” Hamid asks.

Einstein shrugs. “Who knows! I don’t! Some people are just lucky. They can do… this!” He points at what looks like a chemist's lab bench in the corner of the room, and all of the vials sitting in small flask holders start to whistle and boil over. Hamid watches it with stars in his eyes, feeling the residual magic of the spell course throughout the room. 

“Well? Was that it?” Einstein asks, turning around and starting to mess with whatever he had been working on when Hamid showed up. 

“Oh! Er. I was hoping you could… teach me how to do magic?” Hamid asks, an awkward smile on his face as he waits for Einstein’s response. Einstein doesn’t say anything for a moment, continuing to fiddle with a few different ingredients. 

“Wow! An apprentice!” Einstein finally exclaims, throwing his hands out to the side. Some of the ingredients in his grip fly out, scattering on the floor. He just snaps, not looking at the mess, and they vanish, stuffed back into the appropriate vials. “I haven’t had an apprentice in years, since I was last teaching at university. My last one was completely useless, so annoying . You seem much more capable!” 

“Oh, r - really?” Hamid says, eyes lighting up as he goes over and pulls Einstein into a hug. “Thank you so much! I won’t let you down. I promise! I’ll be the best apprentice you’ve ever had, professor.”

“Yes, yes,” Einstein says, gently easing Hamid off of him. 

“You will need to be here tomorrow morning at eight sharp so that we can get started. The earlier the better, you know!” Einstein says, and Hamid laughs, rubbing awkwardly at the back of his neck.

“Well, actually, professor, I have… I have work? In the mornings, I mean. Er - I could come earlier? But we… open, then, and I need to get the shop ready.”

Earlier?” Einstein says, as though the concept is foreign to him. “Whatever do you mean, earlier?”

“I - I’m sorry, I -“

“We will start tomorrow after your work,” Einstein announces, and Hamid blinks a few times, trying to figure out how he’d gotten from there to here. 

“But you just said -“

“Nevermind what I said! Later. Later is best, yes? When the sun sets, that is the perfect time for magic training! Tomorrow we start. Don’t be late!” Einstein begins to shoo him out of the tower, escorting him down the stairs

“Wait, professor, I still had -“ Hamid tries to get out, but Einstein doesn’t stop to listen.

“Very sorry, questions will need to wait until tomorrow! As you can see, I am very busy . Save them, I am sure they are important, but I have to finish making this potion before it - well, before it explodes, yes? I am sure you will be fine until tomorrow!”

“Professor -“ Hamid starts, but then he finds himself on the bottom landing and turns to face Einstein. 

“Goodbye!” Einstein calls to him, and then points. A strong gust of wind blows straight at Hamid, pushing him back against his will until he’s standing on the doorstep once more, and the door slams right in his face. He stands there for a moment, more than a little stunned, but then takes an even step back to the edge of the doorstep, craning his neck to look up. 

“Er - thank you!” he calls up to the window on the top of the tower, unsure if Einstein will be able to hear him, or if he’s already forgotten Hamid exists for the time being.

Well. He certainly is eccentric, Hamid thinks, sighing slightly as he heads down the stairs and back into the woods. Hamid hadn’t thought that he’d spent much time speaking with Einstein, but it’s already starting to get dark out, and the magic in the meadow surrounding the tower is even more clear than ever. The dancing lights are back, floating carelessly from one flower petal to the next, and Hamid stands there for a moment, transfixed. It truly is a lovely sight; he almost can’t believe that this has been here for so long without him knowing about it. 

Gods. He has magic. He’s a wizard. A small smile creeps over his face, and Hamid punches the air. It’s maybe more of a relief than it should be, considering everything that happened in the mines, but it’s nice to know that it wasn’t a one-time fluke and that he actually can do magic. His heart is beating a mile a minute as he stands in the center of the meadow, lights sparking all around him and dancing around his hair. He laughs, bright and unconcerned, and it echoes off of the trees that slowly sway in the wind on either side of him. 

He’s magic.