Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.
We were fools.
At least, I hoped Dreamwalker thought so. Of course, I knew we were walking
into a trap. It's not that my foe made his challenges easy to defeat; he
didn't. But each challenge left me depleted of magic, while he sat here under
the Tap with all the power he could use. Why not, after beating me up with the
skeletons, throw in the clay golem before I could reload? Even with Natomi's
help I could easily have lost. He could have sent the skeletons to Mara's
apartment; without the Japanese mage's help I might not have survived them.
No, he wanted me to come here. He wanted something from me. I just hoped I
could figure out what it was in time. One thing was clear, though... he didn't
want to leave his base of power.
I carefully kept all that away from my surface thoughts. I focused on the
chatter between Mark and Mara; that's a lot of why I wanted them along. Their
"noise" made it easier for me to block out the things in my mind I didn't want
Dreamwalker to know; after all, he either had psychic powers or spells to enter
my mind before, and I knew how easy Mind Reading was to cast. I needed to keep
my secrets secret.
We walked up to the big front door. The house looked solid and sound, but
otherwise unmaintained. Someone obviously mowed the small front yard, but there
was no landscaping or flowers, and the house needed a paint job.
At the front door we stood there, looking foolish. I hadn't thought about how
this would all begin... I couldn't just blow the door down; the neighbors might
well call the police, and I didn't want any outside interference this time.
So, I knocked.
After a brief moment the door was opened by a blond, healthy-looking man in his
twenties. I was not expecting a young man; then he spoke and explained all.
"Hello, Solomoriah. I am David, the Dreamwalker's apprentice. He is waiting
for you in the parlor. Please follow me."
So we did. I went first, with Mara and Mark following in that order. The
parlor was close by, and I got to see Dreamwalker for the first time.
He was old... very old. He sat there in a wheelchair facing across a
glass-topped antique coffee table toward three comfortable-looking chairs. He
waved toward the central one and said, "Be seated, Solomoriah. Your woman and
apprentice may also sit." David took up a position standing behind
Dreamwalker's right shoulder.
As we took our seats I glanced around the room. Mark thought,
"Victorian," and I took it that he meant the style. The room was
darkened by curtains over all the windows; I wondered if he had the same
weakness which plagued my old master.
"Daylight depresses me, Solomoriah," he said creakily. I had expected he would
be reading my thoughts, and this confirmed it. "We have much to discuss, my
Before I could react he waved his hand and spoke a word, and for a moment I
thought his spell had failed, for I didn't feel any different. Then I realized
I couldn't move; but unlike my own Paralysis spell, this spell didn't make me
collapse like a jellyfish. What had he done?
He pointed at Mark and Mara in succession, saying "You, and you, come here," and
my friends arose and approached him. I thought to them, "It's some kind of
domination... be strong." He took each of them by the hand and intoned a
spell, evidently casting it from scratch, and I realized when he had finished
that the Mind Reading I placed on them had been dispelled. They could no longer
"hear" me or each other. Mine was still in effect, though. I wondered what he
"You," he said, pointing at Mark, "give me the gun." Mark reached
under his jacket in the back and pulled it out. Dreamwalker put the
gun beside him in the wheelchair.
"You two, go with David, obey him. David, take them to the dining
room, stay there. This mage and I must speak." David did as he was
told, smirking at Mara. I reached out to his mind and saw what he was
thinking, and raged at my inability to move, to chase him, to strike
"Patience, Solomoriah." That voice... the strength of youth and the
authority of age. Dreamwalker now spoke in my mind. It wasn't my Mind Reading,
it was his mental link spell... I hadn't tried but I was sure his mind was
defended. Why wasn't David's?
"Watch and learn," came Dreamwalker's reply, as he gestured at
the glass-topped table and spoke two words. The glass became a
"window" into the dining room, and of course since he had so commanded
me I watched.
David left Mark standing against the wall, and turned his attention
to Mara. He commanded her to disrobe, and she obeyed, her frozen
features betraying no emotion. I reached out to her mind and found
her strangely calm. She was taunting David in her mind, the sort of
taunts meant to strike a man's pride.
Then she stood there, naked, and David began belatedly to unfasten
his belt. Mara continued to silently taunt him.
Suddenly he stopped, looking dismayed. I looked into his mind and saw
the reason... a sudden case of impotence. He was not aware that Mara
was taunting him, I could tell, but I wondered if it was having an
He slapped her. She didn't respond visibly, but I could see in her
mind that it hurt. He smiled an evil smile, and did it again. Mara
couldn't maintain her concentration; and whether it was that fact, or
the simple sadistic pleasure he was feeling, I didn't know, but his
impotence was passing. I switched back and forth between the two of
them, raging at my own inability to act.
"Now watch, as I let the spell controlling Mark slip..."
Mark was unarmed now, but as I looked at him I saw a dagger hanging
above the mantle of the fireplace. It was ornate, of gold and jade,
and looked old, but the blade was exposed and evidently sharp. Mark
would have seen it when he entered the room, and now as he pulled free
of the spell controlling him he turned quietly and took it down.
It had to be a trap... didn't it? I watched, as that was all I could
do. Mark held the knife underhanded, like a true knife fighter, but
uncomfortably enough that I could tell he'd never actually used one
David struck Mara again, and this was apparently enough to make him
ready. He unfastened his pants and bent to push them down, and then
he saw Mark in his peripheral vision. It was too late for him, as
Mark jabbed under his ribcage from the left side. If he didn't hit
David's heart, he most likely punctured his lung. David fell in a
heap, the dagger still in him.
That's wrong, I thought... a young, healthy man like that shouldn't
die so easily. My rage disappeared as a cold chill seemed to descend
on me. What was happening here?
I watched as Mark stepped away from the body. He spoke to Mara; I
heard him through her ears, saying "Are you okay?" but she couldn't
answer. Then, like a marionette when its strings are picked up by the
puppeteer, Mark gave a jerk and then stood still. Dreamwalker had
reasserted his power.
"He thought himself free," thought Dreamwalker, chuckling. It
was a terrible sound, like he was breathing his last breath. "I
spent much time crafting that spell for just that purpose. It often
pleases me to play puppets with people."
He sat staring at the now-still image in the tabletop. "She's a
beautiful savage, Solomoriah. The beautiful ones are always the
downfall of someone." He had arranged to slay his own apprentice
by using my friend... why?
"I'll tell you soon, my friend. First, though, give me the ring
you are wearing." I complied, though my mind was screaming not to
do it. He took it and shakily put it on his hand.
"Ahhh..." he sighed. "It is as I had hoped." His voice was already
audibly plainer and stronger. As I watched he seemed to fill out
before my eyes. "I'm hungry!" he said. With his mind he reached out
to Mara, and I heard his voice echoing in her mind, "The kitchen is
through that door. Make me a plate of sandwiches. Use the roast and
lettuce in the refrigerator, the bread on the counter, and bring a
glass of water with it."
Evidently instructions to a person under this form of domination had
to be pretty well complete.
He hadn't bothered to tell Mara to dress, and this did bother me a
bit; he sensed this, and when she brought the plate of sandwiches he
said "Dress, for your master here is offended by your nakedness. Then
prepare another plate of sandwiches just like this and bring it."
He began to wolf down the food.
As he ate he spoke to me with his mind. "You wonder why I killed
my own apprentice, using yours as my weapon? I'll tell you, my
friend. In just over a month I'll be one hundred ninety-nine years
old. The year I turned forty my master died. I decided then that the
Reaper would have a harder time with me.
"I studied necromancy, which my master had forbidden, and I soon
learned the secrets of long life. I discovered part of a spell to
stave off aging and death, and I completed it myself. However, it
needed a lot of power, and the older I got the more it required. By
the time I was eighty, I looked only sixty but I was spending more
than four hours a day in meditation to draw the power I needed to keep
the spell going. By its nature, if it ever fails I cannot cast it
"I had an apprentice then, an avaricious youngster who saw my magic
as a way to line his pockets and live a high life. I taught him a few
spells, which he used to perform thefts of numerous items of value. I
let him enjoy it for perhaps a month, and then I killed him with that
"Your master was a necromancer, wasn't he?" asked my foe. He
read my affirmative answer from my thoughts. "Then you know that
when you create a zombie you must cast the spell at the moment of
death, or within just a very few seconds afterward." I nodded,
wondering where this was leading and yet afraid I knew. "That
knife makes the spell easy. It traps the spirit in the body, stopping
the process of death for several hours. I acquired it from an
antiquities dealer who claimed it came from Argentina; he had no idea
what it was really worth.
"I slew my first apprentice with that knife, and put his zombie to work
gathering magical energy for me. It's true, he was not as efficient as I, but
he had nothing better to do all day but gather the energy for me. I had to
create an additional spell for this purpose, to allow me to move about
untethered by the zombie, but that posed no real difficulty for me." He
wiped his hands on his pants then, his last sandwich eaten. Mara entered just
then with another plate. She looked as if she had slept in her clothes, but at
least she was covered.
"Ah, good, you are an excellent slave, my girl." He took the plate and
began to eat. "Where was I? Oh, yes. This sufficed for some
time, but in about twenty years I found myself in the same
predicament. I sought out another apprentice; this one wanted women
to be his slaves. I taught him the very spell you are under right
now; I call it Physical Dominance. He went out that same day and
brought home three women, a petite redhead, a buxom blonde, and a
sensible-looking brunette, all under his spell. I let him have them
for a night and a day; that second night, after he fell asleep, I
entered the room and overrode his spell. The blonde stabbed him while
the other two held him down, and as I was already rather weak I cast
the spell right away and put them to work processing him."
Processing, I thought. What does he mean? "You'll find out soon
enough, Solomoriah. As I was saying, I put him to work alongside my
original zombie apprentice, killed the women, and went on about my
business. This worked well for about fourteen years, before I found
myself needing another apprentice.
"I've had many over the years; besides the ever-increasing power
requirements of my life-extension spell, zombies don't last forever.
You have to replace them now and again.
"But over all this time I was aging, slower than normal men but
still aging. In time I would become unable to maintain my stable of
zombies, and then I would die slowly. This is not to be, now! Your
Ring of Regeneration has set me free! The accumulated damage and wear
of almost two hundred years of living is falling away from me."
I could see by my still-functional Mystic Vision that the ring was
glowing more strongly than ever; and if you had asked me how old he
was, by looking at him I'd have said fifty, perhaps sixty years.
"That's quite a compliment, my boy!" he said, again wiping his hands
on his pants. He took the last gulp from the glass and handed it to
Mara, saying "Get me more."
He stood up from the wheelchair, and stretched, and I didn't have to
be able to read his mind to know it had been a long time since he had
last done that. "Stand up, mage, and follow me," he said, and I did.
He led me to the dining room, and said "You two pick up my apprentice
and follow me." We did so, and he led us to a door; when he opened it
I saw stairs descending. "Put him on the table in the basement below,
and then shackle yourselves to the wall." Mara came in then, and he
took the glass from her and told her to shackle herself also.
There were shackles enough in that basement for six people, and they
were strong enough even as old as they were to hold some very strong
men. As I turned to put my back to the wall and reached over my head,
I saw at the other end of the dimly-lit basement something to make
your stomach turn and your blood run cold.
Heads, in jars. Six of them, all young men, floating in a fluid I
later discovered was formaldehyde. Dreamwalker did not follow us down
right away, and after a time I felt the spell begin to slip away from
Was I really free of it, or had he simply loosened my reins? I looked
about, my stiff neck shooting pains, to find Mara on my left, Mark on
my right. The were also beginning to move.
"How do we get out of here, Solo?" asked Mark.
"I don't know," I said, and it was true.
Next Chapter >>