8. Land of Wizards

In the Land of Mages, the inhabitants are happily greeting the arrival of the traveller Kino, the first traveller to pass through in some years. For one woman named Nimya, however, the day brings something far more important to her- she has finally completed her long dreamt-of flying machine. Now, all she is needs is a particular permit from the chief, and she will be able to test it out.

Flying has been an ambition of Nimya’s ever since she was a child, and one she has dreamt about for years. When she was young, both of Nimya’s parents were killed in an epidemic, and her greedy aunt was quick to snatch up Nimya’s inheritance, even sending the girl to live in a separate house.

The house Nimya’s aunt bought for her was little more than a warehouse, previously inhabited by an old man. In his younger days, the old man had travelled the world, learning and discovering many new things. Unfortunately, in the Land of Mages (where ‘mage’ simply means one who can create farmland out of swamp), worth is judged solely on the ability to increase crop yield- and so his esoteric knowledge was considered useless to the general populace.

As it turned out, however, the house was a perfect place for Nimya, for, after living there for a while, she came across a journal filled with all of the things the old man had learned- information on both culture and technology. Nimya was fascinated by the contents of the book, and the experiments and inventions she created from it soon earned her quite a reputation amongst the people of her land.

Finally, at the age of twenty, Nimya managed to recover both her parents’ house and her inheritance, and their return reawakened memories of her fond childhood dreams of being able to fly. Reading the old man’s journal, she soon discovered that there were others who shared this ambition, although attempts to create a flying machine had so far been unsuccessful. At first, these stories made Nimya more inclined to dismiss her fantasies, until one day, her idle gazing at fans and windmills lent her inspiration- they could also function as propellers. Her ambition rejuvenated, Nimya set to work in understanding the principles of flight and creating a flying machine of her own.

Back in the present, Nimya arrives at the chief’s office, only to find that she is unable to go inside and ask about her permit because he is busy entertaining the visiting traveller. Inside, Kino and Hermes are being entertained (or rather, sent to sleep) by the chief’s account of this country’s crop production history, and are all too glad of the distraction when Nimya bursts in to ask about her permit. Unfortunately, the chief seems disinclined to listen to Nimya, and she is soon removed by the guards.

After finally escaping from the chief, Kino and Hermes decide to go and see Nimya. When they catch up with her at the town’s bronze statue, she invites them to come home with her. Back at the house, Nimya proudly shows off her flying machine, and explains that she needs the chief’s permission to move the town’s bronze statue so that she will have a decent runway for takeoff. The chief has refused to grant her request, however- the statue has too much cultural significance to be moved for what is, quite literally, a flight of fancy.

Nimya takes the opportunity to fill a curious Kino in on the principles of flight and the work she did to build the machine, and to her pleasant surprise, Kino is actually impressed. She and Hermes have yet to see a flying machine on their travels, but nonetheless, they see no reason why Nimya shouldn’t be the first person to successfully create one.

Kino and Hermes stay with Nimya for the night, but the next morning, they are all in for an unpleasant surprise. The chief has collected together complaints from the townspeople and decided that it would be best if Nimya dismantled and burned her flying machine. Worse yet, it was Nimya’s fiancé who initiated this- believing it to be in her best interests to get her head out of the clouds and become a more ‘normal’ person.

Upset but undeterred, Nimya confers with Hermes about the viability of her craft- as a motorrad, he has the requisite knowledge of physics to help her out. Reassured by his assertion that the craft will be able to fly, Nimya decides that she will have to take it on a test flight the following morning; no one will be able to dismantle it once it’s in the air. The only problem that remains is finding a good runway; having the statue stuck in the middle of the road still presents quite a large problem.

Kino suggests building a ramp to let the machine fly right over the statue, but a few quick calculations show that even this won’t be quite enough. Thinking about it some more, Kino and Nimya decide that gunpowder could well be the solution- a couple of tubes filled with it would make a booster that could provide the speed necessary to get off the ground.

By the next morning, the ramp and boosters are ready, and the townspeople can only gape in disbelief as Nimya starts up her flying machine and sets off down the road. Whilst Kino marshals everyone to stay back, the flying machine successfully takes off, and everyone watches in wonder and surprise as Nimya flies high above them.

For Nimya, the exhilaration of finally being in the air and fulfilling her dream is a worthy payoff for the time and effort spent on her machine, and as they watch from the ground, Kino and Hermes cannot help feeling a little envious. Nonetheless, Nimya will have to land sooner or later, and Kino realises that she will need a long straight runway in order to bring her craft to a halt. Having been suitably impressed by her accomplishment, the townspeople rush to move the bronze statue out of the road.

Back on the ground, Nimya is surprised by how happy everyone is to see her- not just her fiancé, but the rest of the townspeople as well. To their thinking, someone who could have created such a machine must be a mage, and they ask her forgiveness for their former rudeness and disbelief.

For Kino and Hermes, it is time to move on, and despite Nimya’s entreaty that they stay, they bid her goodbye and continue on their way. Whilst Nimya sends her silent thanks after them, Kino admits to Hermes that she didn’t quite believe that the machine could fly; she wanted to help out just so that she could see if it would. Seeing a human fly was almost like witnessing magic- just another affirmation of the incredible things even a single person can accomplish…

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