Alderon's Tower     
 The Adventures of Solo Jones Home  
Chapter 9 -- The Library
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

The next morning Mark's alarm scared me half to death. I had not awakened as early as usual, and the strange sound made me leap to my feet. I was trying to remember why I didn't have any defensive spells prepared when I remembered where and when I was.

Mark came out of his room looking like a zombie. He went straight into the bathroom and took a shower without a word along the way. I decided to prepare us a breakfast; he still had some eggs, and the stove was simple enough to operate. While I was looking through the cabinets for oil to fry with, I found a brown tin which had "Cocoa" written on it. It was in the way of the oil, so I took it down; and when it got near my nose I smelled a heavenly smell...

Xocholotl! I was elated!

Quickly I got the eggs frying, then I found a pan and filled it with water. I set it to boil, then looked for a cup that could hold hot liquid (a coffee cup, of course). I found such just as the eggs got done, so I turned off the gas flame and began spooning the powder into the cups.

I didn't know how strong the cocoa was, so I had no idea how much to put in. It took several experiments before I found the right proportion. A dash of sugar and a dollop of milk helped the flavor, and though I had drunk better, still I was pleased.

Mark appeared, dressed, drawn by the smells of my cooking. "What's the drink? Hot chocolate?"

"Xocholotl. Try it."

Mark took a sip, and made a face. "Bitter. How do you drink this stuff?" I motioned toward the sugar bowl and the milk carton which I had not yet put away. He put entirely too much sugar in to suit me, but evidently he liked it that way.

He ate his eggs on bread, and as he finished he sat back and said, "Tonight, Solo, you are going to tell me where you came from. You've kept me waiting long enough." I smiled.

"While you are working today, I'd like to study this world. Where would I find books on history?"

"The library would probably be best. There's one not far from here. Since you don't have any ID you'll have to do all your reading there." Now, in my day no library would let you take works home, so this was no problem for me.

He went into his room, and came out with a sweatshirt. "This should fit you well enough." Mark is a bit shorter and smaller than me, but the shirt was elastic enough to be comfortable.

"In San Francisco, leather pants aren't that strange, so no one should pay you much attention." I was sure his pants wouldn't fit me, so this was welcome news. He gave me a twenty from his wallet. "You'll need lunch money, I expect. Tonight I'll pay myself back from the proceeds of the gold."

I nodded. We had discussed denominations of money briefly; I hoped I wouldn't make a fool of myself. "I need my pouch; these pants don't have pockets," I said. Mark double-bagged the gold in paper sacks, rolling the tops down to close them, and put the bag in his briefcase. I put the pouch back under my arm with the bill rolled up in it.

"Try not to get mugged," I said.

After Mark left I cleaned up from breakfast, then sat down on the couch and prepared a Mind Reading spell. I didn't know if I'd need it, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared. I tried to prepare Paralysis but couldn't hold concentration long enough to collect all the power needed.

Mark had given me directions to the library, and it was no problem to find it. No one paid me much attention, although the librarian at the front desk did give me a looking over. I pretended I already knew where to go, diving between the bookcases and trying to look nonchalant. I started by picking books at random from the shelf and reading from them, then I worked my way to the section marked History and collected a few books. I sat down at a table near the Reference section so I could grab a dictionary or encyclopedia if needed, and began to read.

I spent all day at that activity; lunch was forgotten. By the time hunger moved me it was suppertime. I put the books in the bin provided (for the sign said that the librarian would return books to the shelf) and I headed for the door. As I passed her desk the librarian looked at me strangely; I didn't know why, then, but soon I would find out.

Mark was already there, preparing supper, which appeared to be steak and some sort of tuber; I had never had potatos, but it turned out that I liked them. I fixed myself a hot xocholotl as we bantered about our respective days.

"I got a pretty good return from the gold... ten grand." Mark had a grin on his face much like the cat that ate the canary. I wasn't sure how much that was; my people may have invented mathematics, but this money business still had me confused. Then Mark said, "That's five hundred of the bills I gave you this morning."

"Ah. That should help matters, shouldn't it?"

"Well, my half is five thousand, and I'm behind just over three thousand, so I should be able to see my daughter this weekend!" Mark did a little victory dance then; I dodged the swinging spatula.

"I imagine I will have to spend much of mine on clothing and accomodations."

"You may have to spend it on ID; as of right now, you're undocumented, and the government is liable to try to deport you if they can figure out where you are from."

"Not likely. You are saying I'll need forged papers then?"

"Possibly. I've always lived on the clean side of the law, Solo, so I don't know anyone who can help. I'm sure there are lots of forgers in SanFran, but I don't know them personally."

We ate mostly in silence as I considered my next step. Clearly I needed to get clothing to help me fit in, and I couldn't sleep on Mark's couch forever.

After supper was over and cleared away, Mark sat down at the table and began to count out hundred dollar bills, saying "One for you, one for me" over and over. I reached into my shirt and got out my pouch. I had not spent the twenty, so I gave it back to Mark and stuffed the wad of hundreds into the pouch. It made quite a lump under my arm.

"So when are you going to tell me what happened to your nose, Solo?"

My nose? I felt it, and discovered it was almost whole. "I don't know, Mark, but I have a feeling I'm going to be pleased when I figure it out."

I went to the kitchen and made some hot xocholotl. Mark had shown me how to use the coffee maker, and I ran it without any coffee in it to make a carafe full of hot water; then I made the xocholotl right in it. I took mine straight this time, as I always do when I am going to be speaking a lot.

I sat down there on the couch and told Mark everything. The more I told him, the more amazed he looked, but to his credit he took me seriously. Perhaps growing back my nose proved something to him.

When I was finished with the story, Mark said, "So what about your nose then?"

"I expect the level of mystic energy was greater at the library, though I'm at a loss to say how. In my time magic was like air; it was everywhere, and we took it for granted. This idea of magical energy having high and low points is new to me."

"Ley lines."

"What?" I asked.

"Ley lines. I've read about them; they're supposed to be the most magically powerful areas of the world. I don't know if they are real, but it does make sense considering your experience."

I thought on this for a moment. "Can we go up to the roof of this building?" I asked.

"Sure. Follow me." This time we took the elevator, which Mark seemed to think was slow arriving; he called it several foul names before the doors opened. At the top floor we got out and walked down the hallway to the door marked "Roof Access Management Only."

"Shoot, it's locked," said Mark.

"Allow me." I focused my mind and began to gather the power for a spell of Opening. The power was no greater here, but I was determined to get out onto the roof, so I made myself maintain concentration.

When I spoke the words and turned the knob, I could tell Mark was finally convinced.

We went up the stairs to a second door, then out onto the roof. It was dark, and the city was beautiful. That wasn't what I came to see, I reminded myself, and began again summoning power for a spell. This was a simple spell of Mystic Vision, which needed much less power, and I completed it easily if not quickly.

"There they are!" I cried. Mark couldn't see them, of course, and I didn't think I could get the power together for another spell, so I said "Take my word for it. I can see them!"

They formed a glowing golden net in the sky. Each segment was three to five miles long, connecting into a pattern of triangular sections. I wondered if the power was greater at a junction than in the middle of a segment.

The library was just visible from the rooftop, and it was, in fact, right under a line. The magic obviously got stronger the closer to the line you were; what if you got inside one?

Then I saw it... an office building downtown which stabbed up into a segment of the Ley lines. I counted floors. "That building, there, Mark, the Ley lines go right through it at the twenty-fourth story."

"That's 50 Fremont Center."

"And that's where I'm going tomorrow."

Next Chapter >>

Questions, Comments, or Complaints? Contact:
  Chris Gonnerman <>
The Adventures of Solo Jones Last Updated 07/18/2005