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You may have heard of my father, Numair Salmalín, a famed black robe mage with an extremely powerful Gift, with which he can accomplish extraordinary feats. You may have also heard of my mother, Veralidaine Sarrasri, now Salmalín, the Wildmage who can talk to animals, turn into any (non-Immortal) animal she wants, and even—if they want—change animals' minds so that they're more like humans' minds.

But my older sister and I aren't famous like our parents are… well, not yet, Sarrralyn swears; she's told me over and over again that one day she'll be more famous than our mother and father put together.

Me? I don't much care. They cast a shadow so long individually I would never be able to escape, but together I have no chance. With that in mind, I had long since decided that I only cared about being Rikash Salmalín, not just my parents' son, to those who knew the real me.

I have my father's black hair, tanned complexion, and tall and lanky build, with my mother's blue-grey eyes. And while Sarralyn got Ma's wild magic, I have the Gift like Da has, his Gift.

When I was eleven, I was finally allowed to participate in some of Da's experiments. One in particular I doubt I'll ever forget—not because of the experiment itself, but because of what happened. Everything was going just fine and according to plan, until this giant hole opened up, and neither Da nor I could stop me from going through.

I landed in what looked like a shop of some sort. The area was filled with shelves upon shelves of long, thin, dusty, boxes that looked like they hadn't been touched in years. And then there was the feeling that this was a very magical place, something that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I saw a sliver of light from a door left cracked open and started in that direction. Lightly, I pushed the door open; an old man with whitening grey hair, wearing what looked like a purple version of mages' robes, slowly turned to face me. "Who might you be?" he asked curiously.

"Rikash Salmalín, son of Numair Salmalín, chief mage to His Majesty King Jonathan IV of Torall, and Veralidaine Sarrasri, the Wildmage," I replied proudly, certain he had heard of at least one of my parents, two of the strongest and greatest mages in the realm of Tortall. And after all, I was extremely proud of being my parents' son.

"I'm afraid I've never heard of your father and mother, or the realm you claim to hail from. Where is this Tortall, exactly?"

"South of Scanra, north of Tyra, east of the Copper Isles and Yamani Isles," I informed him, wondering why he might be asking that. "Everyone who knows even a little bit of geography knows that."

"Well, Mr. Salmalín, it seems you are in a bit of conundrum, as you seem to have stumbled into another dimension, or perhaps another time," I was told. "Do you have any sort of magical power? If so, you may be able to blend in with the students attending Hogwarts, the newest of which are your age."

"Hogwarts? What do warts on a pig have to do with magic and students? Is it some sort of university for magic?" I was very confused about this. "Da went to the university in Carthak and there's another one in the City of the Gods, but he never mentioned other universities."

"The school's formal title is Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is the best school in the country for young witches and wizards, children with magic, in the country; I suspect you have the magic required to use one of my creations, though you may have a different name where you come from. Oh, I forgot to introduce myself; my name is Garrick Olivander, and I am the best known wandmaker in Britain," Garrick Olivander replied as he offered the only chair in his shop. Once I sat down, he asked me to tell him more about magic at home.

"In Tortall we know about two kinds of magic—the Gift, like I got from Da, and wild magic, with animals, like Ma and Sarralyn have. Neither of them use wands, whatever those are, though. Wild magic… it's kind of rare, and normally with just one certain animal and from what Ma and Sarralyn said it's kind of instinctive or something. But the Gift, Da says, has to be taught. He taught me a little bit, but it's not much yet. Everyone can light a fire with the Gift, and then there's other ways of using it—for healing, for making light, and even for battle. Da's Gift is so strong that he can't even put out a candle with it like most Gifted people can—the candle just explodes. Some of the most powerful mages, like Da, can actually use what are called words of power to do things that aren't normally possible—Da turned a man into a tree once, though he said that somewhere in the world a tree turned into a man. And he gets really tired after he uses up too much of his Gift—weaker than a newborn kitten," I explained.

"Fascinating, simply fascinating," Olivander responded. "You inherited your father's Gift, did you not?" At my nod, he continued. "In order to blend in, you must look like you are a Hogwarts student until you find your way home. But all Hogwarts students channel their magic through wands like these." He held up a long piece of wood I assumed was a wand.

Olivander turned his back from our conversation and started pulling out box after box, muttering to himself; he flicked his wand and a measuring string started taking readings. "If you could hold out your wand arm please," he requested, before clarifying, "your dominant hand."

I held out my left. Olivander looked pretty pleased about that, for some strange reason, and muttered something about "a tricky customer," and other things I didn't quite catch, as if being left-handed somehow made the wand-finding harder.

He set a box on the counter and pulled the wand out, handing it to me. "Hawthorn and unicorn hair, nine inches, bendy," the wandmaker informed me.

I took the wand from him, but almost as soon as it was in my hand, he snatched it back, and handed me another: "Alder and phoenix feather, thirteen inches, rigid."

I took this one, too, only to have it taken away just as the first hand.

Higher and higher the pile of discarded wand boxes rose; I stopped keeping track after 136 wands, and the process went on for at least ten or fifteen minutes after I stopped.

Finally, though, he seemed to be getting close, if his mutterings were any indication. "Blackthorn and dragon heartstring, twelve and a quarter inches, slightly springy."

I felt something, a warmth or an energy, and a sensation of being so close but somehow not close at all. Olivander seemed to be waiting for something, so I waved it and nearly exploded the entire shop. The old man didn't seem to mind though, and instead was delighted that I had gone through so many wands.

"Hmm… Aspen and dragon heartstring, twelve inches, flexible but not bendy, good for martial magics."

I took the wand and felt that same energy rushing to meet my Gift from it—this was my wand. "Martial is like battle and fighting isn't it?" I asked, remembering my wand's description.

"Indeed, Mr. Salmalín, that it is. Dueling is one such aspect of martial magic; perhaps you might enjoy dueling when you learn more magic."

Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of two people. One was a giant of a man with wild black hair and eyes and a shaggy beard. The other was a short boy the same age as me; he was black-haired with emerald-green eyes, and much shorter and thinner than me. The boy also had a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead… I wonder where it came from.

Olivander recognized the pair, and started quizzing the tall man about the details of his wand, which had evidently been snapped when he was expelled from school. the man, Rubeus Hagrid, admitted under Olivander's stern gaze that he still had the pieces and claimed not to use them. I doubted the claim, though; he was gripping his pink umbrella awfully tight for someone who had nothing to hid.

After finishing with Hagrid, the wandmaker started on the boy, Harry Potter. Olivander rattled off the details of Harry's parents' wands; his father's wand was "eleven inches, mahogany, pliable," and good for Transfiguration. His mother's was "ten and a quarter inches, willow, swishy," good for Charms. I had no idea what either of those were, though from the look of it Harry didn't know what they were either. That made me feel a little better.

He went through 127 wands before finally he found one that was eleven inches, holly and phoenix feather; Olivander told Harry that the phoenix that gave the feather for his wand also gave the feather for the wand that killed his parents. Harry didn't seem too pleased about that.

Hagrid invited me to come with them, since I would be going to Hogwarts in the fall with Harry. I was only too happy to be with someone my own age.

I made friends with Harry, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.

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