Alderon's Tower     
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Chapter 16 -- The Clay Golem
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

As soon as we entered the stairwell, we could hear it... a loud pounding noise from the next floor down. We ran. As we stepped into the hallway we were both amazed at what we saw.

It was masculine, but sexless, more than two yards tall and almost two yards wide, and it seemed carved out of reddish-orange clay. They are called golems; automatons of normally inanimate material, powered by magic. The pounding was its footsteps.

As we watched it approached Mark's door, and with a single blow of its fist it smashed through the door. I didn't know if Mark was there or not, but I had to assume he was. I fired a Force Bolt at it.

The hole in its chest was bigger than my head and went clear through. The walls and floor were splattered with large gobbets of clay. The monster stood still, stunned it seemed.

I decided to investigate further. I walked slowly down the hall, leading Mara by the hand, and as I approached I released my Mystic Vision spell. Golems are quite unintelligent and usually require a controlling mage close by; I thought he might be there, invisible, but all I saw with my spell was the potent glow of magic from the monster.

Then the clay on the floor and walls began to move, and flow, and rejoined the creature's body. As soon as the hole filled in, it began pounding toward me.

I told Mara to back away to the stairwell, and then spoke the word to activate my Kinetic Shield. The golem swung its massive right fist at me in an uppercut and threw me down the hallway. The shield took the hit, and the fall, but before I could stand up again the monster was standing over me, pounding one, two, one, two on my shield.

What to do? I didn't know, and I got as close to panic as I have ever been. I needed to get it away from me, and stand up, but I had not prepared the Force Wave spell.

If I could draw enough energy I could modify one of my remaining Force Bolts. It was hard to concentrate with those massive fists pounding so close to my face, but the alternative wasn't good either.

I yelled the words, no longer caring if anyone heard, and let the spell fly. The results were spectacular! From mid-thigh up, the monster was pancaked against the ceiling and walls, leaving its feet and legs standing.

I got to my feet and backed toward Mara as quickly as I could. The hallways in that building formed a square, and we were almost back to the corner. I saw Mark on the other side of the clay mess, stepping out of his doorway to come toward us. I yelled, "Stay back!" just as the clay began to drop from the ceiling in great chunks. The monster began to reform.

I hadn't really thought I'd destroyed it; I just needed a breather.

Just as the golem began to move again, I saw a policeman come around the far corner, beyond the monster. He had his pistol out, and when he saw the clay thing begin to walk toward me, he lost it. Two gunshots echoed though the hallway, and I felt a stabbing pain in my left shoulder. The bullets had passed through the golem and struck my Kinetic Shield; it stopped the first, then failed.

Naturally the golem was unharmed. It began to walk toward me, its footsteps echoing. I didn't know what to do, but a strategic withdrawal seemed logical. I could have picked up Mara and flown away, as the spell still persisted; the golem could not keep up. In fact I thought I could outrun it on foot easily. But without me for a target what havoc would it wreak?

At least the cop didn't shoot anymore. I was half-deafened by all the noise but I thought I heard Mark yelling at him.

The golem got closer. I began to tell Mara to run around the hallway the long way to Mark and the policeman; but she interrupted me. "Remember the black opals!" she yelled.

What was she talking about? Ah! I peered at the golem; it was almost in arms reach of me... and I saw an area of greater magic, around its left eye. As it drew back to smash me I released a tightly focused Force Bolt. There was a twanging sound, the sound guns make when the bullet ricochets, and the monsters head collapsed. Then its body did the same, leaving a pile of red clay on the floor at my feet.

Down the hallway I saw that whatever I had dislodged from the golem's head had become embedded in the wall. Another stone, I assumed. A moment of silence passed, as I waited to see what would happen next.

As I expected, the monster wasn't finished yet. The clay began to roll and ooze down the hallway, toward that dark spot in the wall. Before I could decide what to do Mark ran to the spot and began to pry the stone out of the wall with a pocketknife.

The clay rose up in a wave just as he pried it loose from the wall. "Throw it here!" I yelled, though I hadn't thought about what to do with it when I got it. He threw sidearm around the wave of clay, and somehow I caught it.

Naturally the clay pile changed direction. I looked around... a hammer, pliers, something to smash the small red stone with; but we were in a hallway, after all, and there wasn't much there.

Then Mara took the stone out of my hand, and put it down on the metal threshold of the elevator. She removed her right shoe and began striking the stone with the heel.

It took her three hits before the stone broke; and the clay subsided into a quiet puddle.

I was sure it was over then. I surveyed the wreckage... the light gray walls and ceiling were stained orange in multiple locations, and there were cracks and one small hole in the walls. Of course Mark's door was smashed. I was at a loss how to cover this up.

Mara and I went the long way around; stepping in that clay seemed somehow foolish even though we were sure it was no longer dangerous. The police officer, whose name was evidently Carson, was looking at the damaged hallway, and some of the tenants were timidly peeking out their doors.

"How am I going to explain this?" Officer Carson asked, to no one in particular it seemed. Mark stepped up to him.

"What did you see?" asked Mark.

"It doesn't matter what I saw," said the policeman, "I can't write it on a report! I'll be in the funny farm for sure!"

"Then make something up. It's that or your career, bud."

"Okay, here it is... vandals came up here with that red clay in buckets to make a mess. You tried to tell them to stop and they broke your door down. How's that work for you?"

"Fine," said Mark. Just then a man showed up, and introduced himself as Mr. Kreisler the "building super." I suddenly felt conspicuous with my bloody shirt; black doesn't show it too badly though, so I stood slightly behind Mara and she hid the spot for me.

I felt the bullet fall down inside my shirt; the ring had done all it could until I fed it some more power, but I thought that would be enough for now. Other people showed up eventually, including Officer Carson's supervisor and a man from the building's insurance company. They walked around inspecting the mess, shaking their heads almost in unison. It was obvious to anyone that Carson was lying, but given the evidence what other conclusion could they come to?

Eventually they were gone; Mr. Kreisler put a totally useless sign on the wall over the clay puddle which read "Watch Your Step" and told us that a cleaning company would be brought in the next morning to deal with the mess.

Mark's door wasn't as bad as it had appeared, and with a spell of Closing on it (which I attuned to him rather than me) it would be fine until morning. Mark brought us beer and we sat and drank it, even though Mara didn't seem to care for it much. I put my arm around her, and she leaned into me.

"How long will this go on?" said Mara into the silence.

"Until I stop the Dreamwalker, this Caleb Smith fellow. Have you noticed that he attacks only by night? That tells me that he is strongest then... so it stands to reason he is weakest in the daytime."

We hadn't had a chance to tell Mark about the skeletons, or about Natomi Osaka for that matter, so Mara and I took turns at the story.

Mark said, "So he does necromancy, and summons demons, and creates golems too? A real Renaissance Man." I didn't get the reference but I ignored it.

"Not so different really; I suspect the 'demons' were actually golems of a different sort than the one tonight. I remember my old master talking about liquifying darkness; he said it wasn't what it sounded like but it didn't matter to the victims. I think I finally know what he meant. And animated skeletons, well, they are only necromantic because you use human remains. Really they are more like golems, but no controller stone is needed."

"What are you going to do, Solomoriah?" asked Mara.

"Tomorrow I'll search out the hiding place of this snake Caleb Smith, and I'll convince him to leave us be."

"You'll kill him," said Mara.

"If he makes me. I expect he will."

"I'm going with you, Solo," said Mark. Before I could answer, he got up and went into his room. He came out carrying a gun.

"You know how to use that, I hope," I said.

"My uncle taught me. He was a cop. It made my mom mad, but I spent a lot of weekends with him after my dad left. He felt guilty somehow, that his little brother had skipped without a word." He looked off into infinity for a moment. "Anyway I got pretty good with it."

"You don't have work tomorrow?" I asked.

"'fraid not. I got the job I was on done, at least until they approve more website expansions. I doubt I'll have anything on Monday either."

"I'm going too, Solomoriah," said Mara.

"I don't want to be mean about it, Mara, but can you fight? Cast spells? I love you, and I respect you, but you are no warrior. You have the spirit but not the training." She looked disgusted; I hoped I had not driven a wedge between us.

"Very well," she said. "I will learn, though. I promise you that." I believed her.

"How are we gonna find this guy, Solo? Magic?"

"Yes," I said, pulling the two black opals from my pocket. "He gave us the key. I just need to draw the power."

After a moment, I had a thought. "Mara, how did you know about the controller stone? I know how they work and I didn't think of it."

"I'm smarter than you think, love." She laughed, and my heart lightened. "I saw it. You cast your Mystic Vision on me, so I assumed I was supposed to be looking for something."

Ah. I had forgotten that the second Mystic Vision spell I prepared was modified to affect all those I touched. I had thought to use it with my friends to study the Ley lines more. In fact it was still in effect; it's easy to ignore once you get used to it.

"Well, I'm glad you were thinking. I was just trying to stay alive."

"You're welcome, love. Sure you don't need me?"

"I'll think about it," I answered. She kissed me deeply, and after a few moments Mark cleared his throat.

Mara and I took our leave of him then, and went to her apartment. It was a long time before we slept.

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