Alderon's Tower     
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Chapter 7 -- Safe Haven
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

He took me into a nearby building, and up the stairs. As we ascended we met a woman who seemed familiar to me; she was of African extraction, I assumed, based on her xocholotl-with-milk skin color and her features. She was beautiful, wearing a dress of a simple design and complex print; her shoulders and most of her legs were bare, and she was altogether a wondrous sight.

Of course, like everyone on the street she avoided looking at me. I had thought I was used to it, but this time it stung.

He led me to a third-story apartment. It was two rooms and a bath, and it appeared that he lived alone. Many of the things in the apartment were strange, of course, but I paid close attention to what my new friend did to make each device work.

I noticed that the apartment was mostly unadorned, but on one small table there were numerous pictures of a red-headed little girl. I had never seen a photograph, but by now I was prepared to accept about anything. His daughter? What about his wife, or lover?

He put the groceries on a table in the end of the "common" room where the kitchen was located, and began putting the bag's contents in the cabinet. He talked almost constantly, looking at me frequently as he did so, but of course I didn't understand.

There are (or were) spells of comprehension to let one understand and converse in a foreign language, but as I have said, in my time all civilized men and women spoke one language. I rarely interacted with primitive peoples, and when I did I usually found one among them who spoke the civilized tongue. You can see why I never paid much attention to those spells. Now, I wished that I had.

My new friend went into the bathroom, closing the door, and I heard the telltale sounds of a man relieving himself. When he came out, I went in.

Of course, I had not watched him, but the operation of the fixtures was easy enough to puzzle out, and I took care of my needs. As I was about to leave, I suddenly had an idea that might help me to communicate. I sat down on the toilet and began to focus on collecting the scant mystic energy to cast a spell.

A bit later I emerged from the bathroom. My friend had calmed down somewhat, and began by pointing at himself. "Mark," he said, and I was sure that was his name.

"Solomoriah," I said, mimicking his gesture. I had to repeat it, as he had trouble with my accent. Eventually he said it back to me correctly.

He began then to teach me his language, and was astounded at how quickly I picked it up. He didn't know I was reading his mind. Now, don't believe all that rubbish you may have read about a "universal language" of the mind, because it is false; but as we speak we usually form images or sensations that correspond to the words, and the harder we try to be understood the stronger those impressions are. I only needed to understand part of the words to get the meaning of his statements.

I thought it safest to stick to items and concepts inside his apartment, and so I learned such words as "chair," "table," and "computer," though not all of them had meaning right away. As he taught and I learned, he prepared a meal consisting of bologna sandwiches and chips. I found that I liked mustard, but really didn't care for iced tea. Nothing beats a good cup of xocholotl; I wondered if it still existed.

We had finished eating, and moved into the "living room" to more comfortable chairs. About that point I asked him about the red-headed girl in the pictures, and his reaction was powerful.

I must admit at this point that I am writing this under the influence of a Mnemonic Enhancement spell; so I am able to remember his words pretty well exactly even though it has been some time.

"She's my daughter, Emily. She's four years old. Her mother, Valerie, divorced me when she was just two. I don't know what went wrong... we were so happy in the beginning, and then when Emily was almost a year old Val began to change.

"She accused me of doing all sorts of little things to infuriate her; yeah, I did them, but they were accidents, I swear. Then she decided my late nights at work were because I was cheating with my boss' secretary. I wasn't, swear to God.

"My lawyer advised me to accept the divorce under negotiated terms. The judge assigned me child support and alimony to pay, and I got Emily alternate weekends. I was to get custody each summer after she turned six.

"It wasn't what I wanted, but I lived with it. I got this place because it was cheap, so I would be sure to be able to make my payments. Then the dot-com crash hit, and I was out of a job. Freelancing keeps me in this apartment, but it doesn't pay enough, and pretty quick I was behind on my payments. Even after the judge lowered my payments I still couldn't make them. I haven't seen my daughter for more than a few minutes since then, almost a year ago now."

No, I didn't get much of that then, but I understood that he couldn't pay his obligations to his ex-wife, and so was unable to see his daughter. I also could feel how it rended his soul.

Without another thought, I reached into my tattered shirt and removed the pouch. It was hard to open one-handed, so it took a few moments; Mark watched me closely. He almost fell out of his chair when I poured the pouch of gold and silver ringlets onto the coffee table.

Imagine this for yourself... you are sitting across from a one-armed, disfigured beggar, and he offers you a pile of gold. What would you think?

"Are... are you giving this to me?" he asked.

"No. Half, trade for helping me in this world."

"This world?" he asked, moving aside the other papers and magazines on the coffee table; I think he meant to count the ringlets. As he did so, he uncovered a newspaper with a certain picture on the front page, and he stopped, his mouth hanging open.

The picture was of me, as a statue. It was a file photo from the museum where I awoke, and the story with it told of the missing statue and the pool of blood. In his mind I saw him compare the broken nose and missing arm of the statue with mine, and he looked back and forth between the paper and me over and over again.

Finally, he said "This can't be you."

"It is." I sat back on the couch.

"How?" he asked. I shook my head.

"I don't have the words. Wait, you learn while I do."

I had to end it there; my spell was fading and I really didn't know enough to continue conversing. After a few moments, he did count out the ringlets, then said "I know a man who will buy these for a fair price." I nodded, pretending to understand. He put the ringlets back in the pouch and left it on the coffee table.

He brought me out a blanket and pillow and indicated that I should sleep on the couch. He then went to the bathroom and took a shower. When he had finished and gone to his bed, I also took a shower. It was a new sensation for me, and I liked it.

I lay down on the couch under the blanket on the couch and thought about a woman with skin like xocholotl-with-milk...

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