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Chapter 4 -- A Cup of Xocholotl
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

In a village in a country in South America, I was told of an evil sorceror. It was said that he lived on the side of a volcanic mountain and held sway over several villages in the lowlands below. When I learned he was known for human sacrifices, I vowed to defeat him.

His name was Tjarik; that's about all I knew. The last time I had battled a wizard I didn't know anything about, my friends died and I became a slave. Since then I always tried to learn something about my foe first.

I went to the temple district, in the city of Ta Charka. It lay on the mouth of the river Yoris; you know it as the Amazon. I approached the gate to the temple district in the morning, before the heat of the equatorial sun became too much to bear. An alert guard challenged me. "You are impure, stranger. I can see it in your aura."

"I am certain you are right, sir. I need to speak with a priest regarding Tjarik the sorceror. I can wait here if you prefer me not to enter."

The guard sent a runner, a young boy, to get a priestess named Zanice. Shortly she arrived, and we moved to a nearby restaurant to get out of the heat. I bought her an iced xocholotl and sat down across from her.

"You said you wanted to talk about Tjarik," she said.

"Indeed. I am Solomoriah, the sorceror, and I intend to defeat him."

"And take over his domain, I suppose?"

"You haven't heard of me, have you? I am Solomoriah, slayer of mages. I plan to defeat him, take his works of mystic knowledge, and move on, as I always have."

"Why do you live this way, Solomoriah? Has it anything to do with the taint upon your aura?"

I grimaced. "Most likely. Ask not for more than I dare to tell."

"Why should I trust you?"

"You shouldn't, I suppose; but what harm can it do to tell me what you know of him?"

Well, she told me what I needed to know. Tjarik was a fire-mage, and evidently feared necromancers in the worst way; this could work to my advantage. She could tell me little of the lay of the land, but she did reveal that one of the villagers, a man called Bombas in the village of Korth, could be trusted. "Tell him the one with the commanding eyes sends you," she said. I decided to seek him out.

The trip around the coast to Korth was uneventful; I booked passage on a merchant ship heading in that direction, but as it didn't proceed all the way to Korth I had to walk the last few miles. I found the house of Bombas much as Zanice had described it, and likewise the tan-skinned and portly owner thereof.

A glance at the ring on my right hand told me I was being watched; so I said, "Bombas! I am sent by the one with commanding eyes! Call me Zam Nar."

"Well met, Zam Nar. Please grace my home with your presence," he said, as he held open the cloth covering the door.

Inside, he indicated a chair at his kitchen table, and I sat. He sat opposite me, and said "You have come to battle Tjarik, then?"

"No, my friend, to join him. He is said to be a powerful fire-mage, and I believe I can learn much from him."

"Then you don't want to defeat him?" Bombas looked shocked.

"Why should I do that? He is a man of might and power!"

I feared that Bombas would cast me out right then, and then I noticed the stone in the ring was again blue.

"We may speak now, Bombas. I knew Tjarik was listening. I am not Zam Nar; rather I am Solomoriah, the slayer of mages. I do intend to slay Tjarik." Bombas' face softened.

I drank from a cup of warm xocholotl he offered. "I plan to enter his fortress, not by force nor by stealth, but by guile. I will offer him an exchange of knowledge, but he will not know I am a necromancer until it is too late."

"Is your necromancy more powerful than his pyromancy, then?"

"Not really, but he fears it, I have learned. I plan to claim I am an air-mage, then when the battle finally begins I will use some fearsome spells I know to rattle him. I plan to go to his fortress tomorrow; may I spend the night here?"

"Of course, friend of Zanice."

"She wouldn't call me that, but she will be grateful for my intervention."

The next morning after a hot breakfast prepared by Bombas' equally portly wife, I went out to the small barn and sat down in the straw. My ring was a steady blue, so I began with the necromantic spells.

Most spells take too long to cast to be used in battle if you must gather the power and speak all the words; so mages prepare them, performing almost all the casting and capturing the required power. When the spell is to be released, just the last few words and gestures, such as targeting, must be performed.

It had been a long time since I had cast any spells of necromancy; so far as I know, no one outside of Ket's fortress knew I was a necromancer, and this is because I avoided those spells. I found I had to get out my old spell scroll, and refresh my memory. I kept two spell "books," the scroll of necromantic spells from my old master and a leather-bound tome I had created since containing no necromancy. This second book is the one I used when exchanging spells with other mages. Because it was too heavy, I sold Zam Nar's spell book in Gharu after transcribing those spells I had learned from him into my own book.

As I finished my preparations, Bombas hurried into the barn, evidently looking for me. He looked agitated. I checked my ring, then said, "You may speak, Bombas."

"Tjarik has sent word that he requires another sacrifice. It has been only a month since the last!"

"Has one been chosen?" I asked, rising.

"Yes. My niece, Silla."

Now I understood his worry. Certainly, any death by sacrifice to Tjarik's fiery patron was sad, but this hit too close to his home.

"What is the procedure for delivery of a sacrifice?"

Bombas took a moment to calm himself. "The sacrifice is to have her hands bound, and to be delivered by one of our warriors to his front entrance. He lets down his flame barrier, and his guards take the sacrifice inside."

"This can work to our advantage. Bombas, let me take the girl. I swear to you that I will protect her."

"The other elders will never allow it. They fear Tjarik too much; if they knew what you were doing they'd turn us both over to him."

"I doubt they'd find it easy. Still, I can make this work."

I left the village shortly after the warrior took Silla from her weeping family. I went in a different direction until I entered the jungle, then after again checking my ring, I used the spell of Flight to become airborne. Flying low over the treetops, I knew the people of Korth would not see me. Presently I overtook the warrior and the sacrifice.

A wave and a word, and the warrior fell as if he were struck. The spell I used was Sleep, not Paralysis, because I did not want him to see me; the paralyzed still have their senses. Quickly I whispered to Silla my plan, and she agreed to cooperate, though I could see she was terrified. Reluctantly I placed a Compulsion on her to ensure her silence, as I did not want her to give me away.

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