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Chapter 17 -- Quest by Taxi
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

I saw Mara and Mark, both naked, their hands nailed to a wall. A figure completely swathed in robes, hooded and gloved, was torturing them with a dagger and a hot poker. I saw atrocities I won't write here, and had I been anyone else my mind might have cracked.

I was trained by a necromancer. Just being in the same castle with him was a threat to sanity. Besides, I knew I was dreaming before I even heard the voice.

"You have no chance, Solomoriah." It was the same voice as before, I was sure. It had the strength of youth combined with the authority of age, and more than a tinge of evil intent.

"Your little show here doesn't impress me, Dreamwalker. I know it isn't real." I was considering using my Mind Reading spell again, but I felt sure that bluff wouldn't work again.

"But I have you trapped again, my enemy. Even now my servants are preparing to do this to your friends for real!" He laughed then, a hearty evil laugh as before.

This was what I was afraid of. I prepared to cast the Mind Reading spell; it was my only hope, I thought.

Then, before my "eyes" Mara pulled herself down from the wall, her wounds fading. She walked through the robed figure like it was only an illusion (of course it was). As she approached me, a dark dress appeared covering her.

"What is this?" asked the voice.

"Solomoriah has an ally, you pathetic coward," she answered, taking my hand. How had she gotten into my dreams?

Somehow that seemed like a stupid question.

When she touched me in the dream I could feel she was filled with psychic power. Together we reached out toward the Dreamwalker, feeling for his link. We had barely found it when he broke the connection.

I woke up, sweating. Quickly I got up and checked the apartment for "servants" of the Dreamwalker. Mara followed me.

It seemed he had been bluffing, probably trying to increase my anxiety. Thanks to Mara he didn't have time to make it work.

I turned to her. "How did you do that?"

She frowned. "I don't know. I woke up, and you were thrashing around and mumbling. I was sure that Dreamwalker was attacking you, and I so wanted to help you... and then I was there, in the dream with you."

"I doubt he'll be back again tonight," I said.

"We should check on Mark," she said. I began looking for clothes, as I was naked, after all... but then she picked up the phone and called him. There was still much I needed to learn about this time.

After she finished she said "He was really groggy until I said you had been attacked; then he woke up fast. Everything is okay with him."

"Mara, my love, I think maybe you should go with us tomorrow." She was a "sensitive," apparently. I had heard of them before but never met one; they have the instinctive ability to make mental connections without using spells. Usually without training or at least experience with other sensitives they never discover their full powers.

"We'd better get some sleep then," she said, pulling me onto the bed. After a time we did sleep.

Even with Mnemonic Enhancement, I can't remember what I had for breakfast that day, but I am pretty sure I ate. Mara called Mark at some point after we were dressed, and he joined us. I'm afraid I was lost in thought, trying to plan the unplannable.

"Is there any way we can be back here by five?" he asked.

"You ask much, my friend. Are you sure you want to go with us? You haven't seen Emily in a long time."

"If I can't make it tonight, I can pick her up tomorrow. It's no biggie." But I could tell it was.

"We'll do our best to be done early. One usually doesn't plan a battle with limited duration in mind." I thought a moment. "There are two phases to this mission. First, I need to prepare spells. This means I need a place near a Ley line where I can be undisturbed for, say, an hour or more." I didn't need that long, but I had only figured out modern timekeeping a few days ago, and estimating time was frankly a struggle. "Mount Davidson worked pretty well, but it's quite a walk there; I don't think we can afford the time."

"Why don't we call a cab?" asked Mara. This led to an explanation; then Mara made a phone call.

While we waited for the driver, Mara helped me with some basic preparations to assist in finding our foe... I'll explain that a bit later.

The taxi was a bit crowded for three. We travelled in silence; the repeated attempts by the driver to talk to us made me irritated, and eventually he noticed and shut up.

I paid the driver on our arrival, including a tip; Mark had explained this procedure to me repeatedly. We walked up to the top, still in silence. I wasn't sure why we weren't talking; I had never gone into battle with comrades who didn't chatter beforehand.

There were a few people near the monument, ignoring its religious significance and enjoying the morning. It was still early, before most people left for work.

I dismissed a few spells to make "room" for what I had in mind; then I established the Tap. I got it right the first time, even with my still-sore shoulder; and the ring began to work in earnest, relieving my pain.

It took perhaps half an hour, and when I was done I had three twofold Force Bolts, a twofold Force Wave, two Lightnings (one of which was twofold strength), Invisibility enhanced to cover those I touched, Freedom, Paralysis, Opening, and of course a Kinetic Shield of twofold power and twofold duration. I found I could slip in a "small" spell, so I added a Spirit Servant spell to the mix.

My friends watched, evidently fascinated, although the other people there ignored me. Modern city people ignore those who are behaving strangely, which has helped me many times.

I called Mark and Mara to me, and placing my hands on their shoulders I cast first Mystic Vision, then Mind Reading, to affect us all. The second spell would allow us to communicate without words. My friends stood there looking foolishly at each other, suddenly much more interested in "chattering," and I had to consciously ignore them to perform my last spell.

This one I was more than a little unsure of. I had learned the principles of tracking a mage by his works from my old master, but he had not taught me an actual spell for it. I had to invent it from whole cloth, as they say.

Early that morning, as I previously mentioned, Mara helped me with some preparations. We attached the two black opals to one end of a small bar of soap, pushing them into carefully carved holes. The bar of soap would be used with a jar of water, but of course since the soap would melt we didn't put it in the water right away. Now I cast the spell I had invented on the completed assembly, and we tested it immediately.

Well, it worked. The soap, which was the sort that floats, turned constantly to point the black opals toward the present location of the Dreamwalker. Since I believed him to be nocturnal I didn't expect that location to change, so we should be able to triangulate.

Mara hailed another cab at streetside, and as we all watched the floating soap turning she called out directions for turns to the driver. Finally, when I judged we were within a block or so I called for the driver to stop. I paid our tab; he looked at our jar and said, "Only in San Francisco. Hoo boy."

Shortly we stood before a house. That it was old was obvious even to me, and it was large besides, two stories plus a full attic. The house was one of several which stood atop the hill, but even without the black opals for guidance I would have easily been able to guess which one contained my foe.

A large, probably permanent Tap was evident to my Mystic Vision, reaching down at a slight angle from a Ley line junction. The house was the target; just the place for a wizard to live, in this time of little magic.

Mark thought, "Now what?"

"We go in." I started up the walk to the door.

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