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Chapter 15 -- I Learn The Secret On Television
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

That morning I awoke before dawn. I had been having an "interesting" dream, and was surprised to find Mara beside me. I looked at her in the dimness, innocent and peaceful. Her beauty astounded me still.

She awoke slowly, looked at me and smiled. "Solomoriah."


"I love you." Those words put a thrill in me which was like lightning running through me. That was what I had been waiting for, I realized... that was why her advances had made me uncomfortable. She was too important for a casual encounter.

"And I love you, Mara," I said.

We made love, then. It was glorious!

Afterward we lay together as the sun rose and tried to creep past the curtains. "I have been so alone, Solomoriah," she said. "When other people look at me they see a black woman. Of course I am; but I'm not what they are expecting. I have slaves among my ancestors, but white men weren't their masters. My family came here willingly to escape slavery and abuse. I'm not the 'sister' that other black people are expecting. I don't belong among them."

"Surely there are other refugees from Sudan here?"

"Yes, there are. I have turned my back on that culture, though, as they most all feel as my parents did. They encourage mutilation, they mutilate their own daughters. How can I feel I belong to them?"

"I see," I said, knowing nothing else to say.

"But Solomoriah, you don't belong here either! You are part of a culture long forgotten. We are alike, that way... neither of us belong."

"You know how dangerous my life is, Mara. Do you dare stay with me?"

"There is nowhere else I would ever want to be, and no danger will keep me from you!" She kissed me then, and that line of conversation was closed forever. I was glad of it.

After a time, we made love again.

When I set out to write this, I told Mara that these things were nobody's business. She disagreed. "If you are going to tell your story, don't leave out the important parts. Just don't make it X rated." So I have tried to comply with her wishes, though I admit it does make me uncomfortable.

Finally hunger overtook us and we went in search of breakfast. Mara said, "Oh, my love, I don't want to go to work today!"

"Do you have to?" I asked.

"I'm afraid so. It's a good job, and you must admit that your money will run out sometime; so I must work at least until you figure out your place in this world."

"I'm sorry it's that way, Mara. I promise I'll make it up to you."

She smiled a impish smile. "I know you will, love."

After she had dressed and gone, I sat down with my notebook. It was the work of an hour to puzzle out the Force Wave spell; just a matter of figuring out how to insert an expansive element into the regular Force Bolt. I determined to test it as soon as I worked out the power problem.

That still stumped me. I had figured out how to create a conduit for magical energy, but the math doesn't lie... I couldn't create a conduit large enough and long enough with the energy available at ground level, even directly below a Ley line. How did they do it?

After probably another hour or so of banging my head, I went into the "living" area and sat down on the couch. Mara didn't have a computer, but she did have a television. Mark had named it for me during that first lesson, but I didn't know its purpose. I decided to investigate.

I identified the buttons on the front; I didn't know what "channel" or "volume" referred to but "power" seemed pretty obvious. After considering for a moment I pressed the power button.

Well, to make a long story short, I had the thing figured out in a few minutes, and in a few more I had discovered the purpose of the remote control. Mara said later that it was a "guy thing" and it was some time before I understood the joke.

So I wasted the rest of the morning, conscious that I did so and feeling a bit guilty about it. Just as I was about to look in the kitchenette for something for lunch, I saw a commercial that stopped me.

It seemed they wanted to sell me a hose. Its purpose, namely watering the lawn of my non-existent estate, was perfectly obvious; but one thing about it was very important. You see, the hose was the one which lay flat for storage, then expanded when the water was turned on... and I had the answer to my problem!

Lunch forgotten, I sat down at the table with my notebook and scribbled furiously. The spell was more complex than I imagined, but well within my skill to cast. The conduit would be thin, composed of mystic elements in an explicitly loose chain; thus little power would be required to form it. When it reached the Ley line and connected, the power from the line would expand it to full capacity, strengthening it in the process!

I thought I was starving when I finally sat back from the table. I transcribed the finished spell onto a sheet of the computer paper and put it with the others. The ideogram for Tap headed the page.

I ate quickly. I had to try it! I needed a place of seclusion near a Ley line; I would have to look for one. I laboriously wrote Mara a note in my still-terrible handwriting, in case I wasn't back when she got home, and then I dressed (yes, I was still in my underwear) and went out.

It was a warm day, and my dark clothes quickly became hot. I had at least had the sense to wear short sleeves. I released a spell of Mystic Vision and began to look for Ley lines. I had to detour to avoid the library, but I thought it prudent to avoid that place for a while.

I was looking for a place of seclusion; a park with dense undergrowth, perhaps. I couldn't think of another place that would serve as well.

Then I saw it, as I crested a hill... one of the great junctions, a six-way, seemed poised above a tall hill. The hill was covered with trees, grass, and wildflowers, and atop it I could just make out a monument of sorts. I was intrigued, so I turned in that direction.

I was glad I had left the note, for I was going to be late.

The sign called it "Mount Davidson," although where I came from it would not have been called a mountain. Still, it was obviously an esteemed park. Traversing it on the paths provided was easy enough, and at the top I found a large cross.

I knew what it represented, of course; I had studied modern religion somewhat during my library visits. The interesting thing to me was that the junction was almost directly overhead. The sky was still bright, but the Ley lines seemed brimming with energy.

I noticed some individuals in foreign dress praying before the cross. Of course, I couldn't understand their language...

It hit me like a sling-stone. No one could understand mine either! How would anyone know I was preparing spells? Only another mage would know, and the Tap would be a giveaway there, so why worry?

This was the perfect place to hide my magic in plain sight.

I looked around somewhat for the best location; then, trying to look devout, I began casting the Tap spell. As I completed the words I brought my hands together over my head, pointing up at the Ley lines...

The spell fizzled, the first time. A wizard learns to expect failure, and I was undaunted. After a moment's reflection I believed I knew what had gone wrong: I had gestured too late, too quickly. I resolved to make the motions more slowly, and I began again.

This time it worked! The Tap snaked up to the sky, like a line trailing an arrow, then ballooned into full power on contact. It was exhilarating!

I must have looked beatific indeed; the other worshippers wandered away, casting sidelong glances at me. I wandered into some nearby trees, the Tap following me, for I had made it elastic and bound it to me.

When I was sure that no one could see me, I cast Flight, drawing enough power to ensure not only a long flying time but also a large weight limit, and then Invisibility. I then dismissed the Tap and lifted off slowly between the trees (not wanting to be lashed by the branches). When I had attained perhaps a thirty yards of altitude I accelerated to my maximum velocity and headed back to the apartment.

As the wind tore at me I wondered if a Kinetic Shield could be modified to act as a windscreen; but I had only one prepared and didn't want to waste it. The shortage of mystical energy I suffered from most of the time was beginning to wear on me; in the old days, I would freely release a full load of magic, then prepare again right after the battle. I didn't prepare every spell, for those not useful in battle could generally be cast at leisure. Did modern mages have some tricks to increase their prepared spell load?

Back at the building, I stepped into the shadows and dropped my Invisibility, then went up to Mara's apartment and let myself in.

"Oh, Solomoriah!" she cried, and threw herself into my arms, "I was so worried!"

"Did you get my note?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, "but with everything that's happened I still worried. Dreamwalker will surely attack again tonight, won't he?"

"He hasn't missed a beat yet," I answered. "I have succeeded with the Tap spell, Mara. Now I just need to find a place near a Ley line where I can prepare my spells. I have enough to battle Dreamwalker, I think, if we can avoid being surprised by him. We should go get Mark as he may be a target also."

Together we closed up the apartment and went downstairs to find Mark. That's when things got interesting...

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