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Chapter 3 -- I Lose Another Friend
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

I reached the village of Zimba some weeks later; it was the second village past the borders of Elmarin's territory, and I felt much safer at last. I stopped at a tavern and inquired about a room; the barkeep referred me to the owner, and he in turn showed me to a private room.

"Room and board, one night, one silver ringlet. Drinks extra." I paid him a gold ringlet, worth in those times about fifteen silver ringlets. "Will you be staying long, then?" he asked, a gleam in his eyes.

"I doubt it, but I may not have time to check out properly when I do leave. You may keep any excess." He left with a spring in his step. I closed the door and lay down on the surprisingly clean bed.

Later that evening I went down for my complimentary supper of stew. A gold ringlet bought my beer for the evening; I told the waitress to keep the change, and she also got a spring in her step.

I should tell you that money means little to me. Once I sold myself into slavery to a monster for the price of my life; money seems unimportant after you have lived through that. If I have enough for my physical needs, generally I am content.

As I finished my second beer, which I resolved would be all for the night, lest I become dangerously impaired, I overheard several men at a nearby table having a heated argument.

"I say he's a menace! Who knows what he's doing alone in that cave? He's a wizard, for Zor's sake!"

"Now, Rasha, how do you know this?" asked another man. "I, for one, have not seen him eating children or consorting with demons."

A third man spoke up. "Aye, but still, he at least is rustling our sheep, for how many herders have lost sheep in that district?"

The second man said, "Foo. That region is full of bluffs and washes. Sheep are stupid enough to die on their own there, and I fear some of the herders are also."

Rasha must have been a herder, for he lept to his feet and raised a fist in the second man's face. "Cor Vinus, you have insulted me too many times!" A fight seemed imminent.

I considered a spell, but decided (perhaps it was the beer talking) to step in instead. "I am Solomoriah, the slayer of wizards. Calm yourself, Rasha, and you all will tell me of this man who lives in a cave."

It came out then that a hermit named Zam Nar lived in a cave in a nearby area. He was known to be a sorceror, but no one knew his speciality, if indeed he had one. He came to town every month or so with skins of various types to trade for food and supplies, and he never spoke to anyone if he didn't have to.

I resolved to meet this Zam Nar, and take his measure. "I will go to his cave, my friends, and learn about him; and if he poses a threat to you and yours, I will deal with that." There was some grumbling, but all agreed this seemed a reasonable course of action.

They were terrified, of course. They were scared of me, too; I could see it in their eyes. This had been my lot in life for quite a while.

The next day, I renewed my prepared spells and set out into the countryside. It took me about three hours to reach the bluffside cave the men in the tavern had described.

"Zam Nar, are you here?" I called. "I am Solomoriah, come to parley with you." My voice echoed in the cavern.

After a few moments, I heard "Enter, Solomoriah, slayer of wizards. Have you come to slay me today?"

"Not today, my friend. Many of the village of Zimba fear you, and they would like me to kill you, but it is not my way. Only if you are truly a threat to them would I do that."

At that moment, a light appeared in the cavern. I could see the hermit, wearing worn but generally clean clothing, standing in the back of the cavern with a flaming torch in hand. He put it in a crevice in the wall, a sort of makeshift sconce, and motioned me to sit on one of the several large rocks which formed his furniture.

As I did so I looked around his cave. He had bedding, in the form of skins and straw, in one spot, with a large, shapeless leather bag placed nearby... his "luggage," I presumed. Boxes and sacks of dry foodstuffs were in another corner, and hanging from a sort of wooden frame was a gazelle, obviously for his next meal, and some skins drying beside it.

"I am finishing my apprenticeship," he began. "My master feels that seven months spent in the wilderness, meditating and focusing, is the best way to make the transition to adept."

"A sort of sabbatical before you begin?"

"Just so. I am forbidden to eat meat or fish I have not caught and killed myself, but I may trade for other foodstuffs. I am also not to have visitors, so I am afraid you must leave."

"Who is your master?" I asked.

"Tigris, first mage of King Elmarin." I could not hide the brief moment of shock from my face; and Zam noticed it. He stood up. "You know them, don't you?" Then he looked me over, taking my measure again. "That ring on your hand! It is the ring of Elmarin! You have slain them both, then!"

I braced myself, my spell of Kinetic Shield at the forefront of my mind.

"I suppose you think I should slay you now," he said, "to defend the honor of my master. In truth, I am relieved."

"How so?" I asked, relaxing slightly.

"Tigris was a dark and evil man. When he learned I had demonstrated unusual talent, he decided he wanted me as his apprentice. I refused, but he found out I have a little brother, Ren; so he blackmailed me, and I gave in to save my brother."

"Sit, Zam Nar, and consider your apprenticeship at an end a bit early," I said. "Let me tell you of my former master." So I did.

We talked all day, and all night, exchanging spells, drinking the wine he had brought to celebrate the end of his seclusion, telling tall tales of women we had known, and considerably more realistic tales of the men I had fought. I drank more than is my normal quota, and became quite drunk.

I awoke after noon the next day, in a smoke-filled cavern in terrible pain. As I looked down, in the smoky gloom I saw a spear working its' way out of my abdomen; the ring at work. I looked around, and realized that we had been choked by smoke from a fire at the mouth of the cave, and then attacked by spearmen. They had apparently been too fearful to loot our bodies...

I saw Zam, a spear in his chest. He was not breathing.

My rage cleared my head. I prepared a fearful group of spells, and cast a potent Flight spell on myself, with enough power to carry me all the way to the village. I flew swiftly, and I saw Rasha and his friends laughing as they entered the tavern. I landed, and I listened at the door a moment.

"Barkeep! Beer all around!" yelled Rasha. "We have slain two foul wizards this day, and that's thirsty work!"

That was all I needed to hear. I cast a Force Bolt, which blew the door off its hinges. I stepped inside, already protected by a Kinetic Shield, and said "When you kill a foul wizard, you damn fool, make sure he's DEAD!"

I won't list the spells I cast; it is sufficient to say that the killers' bodies were a bit hard to identify when I was finished. Those not involved in the murderous plot quickly realized I wasn't interested in them, and fled.

The red haze before my eyes finally faded, and I was left drained of emotion. I picked up a forgotten mug of beer, drank it, and flew out the door.

I decided then and there to leave Africa. I had lived on that continent seven years, and had perhaps a month's worth of happy memories from that time. In the city of Gharu I found a merchant with a large ship (for the time, anyway) and arranged to exchange my magical services for passage to the continent now known as South America.

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The Adventures of Solo Jones Last Updated 07/18/2005