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Chapter 1 -- Interlude, Before Beginning
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

Mara leaned against me on the back porch swing. Mark and I had found it in the storage room upstairs, the room Mara chose for our bedroom. It wasn't in too bad shape, so we fixed it up and hung it on the back porch.

Two weeks had passed since we took over the house, and it was looking much better. Oh, there were many things still needing our attention, but with the roof and siding work completed we no longer needed much professional assistance.

Just as well, since they didn't like working in the spooky old house.

It was a warmer night than we had been having, and we had no air conditioning; so we sat out in the cool breeze a while, looking over that spooky back yard, before going to bed.

We had been quiet for some time, just enjoying being together. Mara's eyes, in the full moon's light, were truly like deep, dark pools, and I considered telling her that the way lovers do; but she spoke first.

"Solomoriah," she said, "after you were free of your old master, why didn't you go home?"

"Back to my people?" I asked, and she nodded. "Several reasons, I guess. I would have to tell Sol's mother, and Kras' parents, what happened to their sons. I might say they died in battle and leave it at that, but such a lie to people I had known all my life would tear at me." I thought for a moment.

"What about Fresia's parents?"

"I never knew them. She wasn't of my people; Sol met her in another village, where he was apprenticed." I looked off into the darkness. "The most important reason, though, was that I was tainted. I left my people as a headstrong warrior to make my reputation fighting evil; I could hardly return after five years as a necromancer."

"How would they know?" she asked.

"I considered hiding my powers, or pretending to be another type of mage, but almost all my spells were necromancy. Mostly, though, I was afraid they would somehow see it in my eyes."

"I've seen... no, I've felt your coldness, my love. Perhaps they would know."

"Priests and priestesses always seemed to know. They said my aura was impure."

Mara seemed lost in thought. "So you set out away from home, an undesired wanderer who's only love died before your eyes. You must have been lonely."

"I was. I cannot measure the depths of my loneliness, but it was never in me to give up. My will to survive made me Ket's slave, and though I regretted that act I never regretted that power of will which drove me to it." I paused. "I only wish I had been able to confront Ket. That was my ultimate plan, to travel the world gathering power to defeat my old master."

"So collecting the magic books of defeated enemies was not just a quest for power for the sake of power; you had a plan for it." Mara smiled. "A worthy plan. Still," she added, "Personally, I'm happy that your quest brought you to me."

I looked at the moon for a while. "I do regret that I never made it back there."

After another pause, Mara asked "Do you believe in God?"

"God, the One, the Creator? I don't know. Four years with Gruven Ket followed by three years battling the most evil mages of Africa and South America left me with little faith in anything besides my magic, my staff, and my ring." I thought a moment, with Mara staring into my eyes. I smiled. "Recent events have made me reconsider somewhat..."

We kissed, for a time.

Presently she said, "My people are Animists. They believe in animal spirits which guide their fate. When we came here, my father felt that we should try to make a place for ourselves in the neighborhood we were placed in. It turned out to be a mostly Black neighborhood, and pretty much entirely Baptist. So we joined. I think that my mother truly converted; I thought I had too, but I was just a girl. I don't know what I believe, now."

"I've told you of the beliefs of my people, haven't I?" I asked.

"Yes, I think so. Refresh my memory."

"My people believed in a single infinite God of limitless power. He was so far above us as to be beyond our comprehension, so he created beings of great power and set them over us. We called them gods, without meaning insult to God. We were both monotheists and pantheists; we considered the gods worthy of our worship because they were made by our Creator to rule over us."

"Yes, I remember." We resumed kissing for a while, eventually relaxing into an easy, peaceful quiet. I looked at the stars. You think they are unchanging, but they do change, and the sky looked very different than the one my father taught me about.

A while later, Mara said, "You're circumcised."

Puzzled, I said "Yes..."

"So why doesn't the ring make your foreskin grow back?"

I didn't answer right away... I just stared at the heavy silver band.

"I don't know," I finally answered. "I never met a mage or priest who could do with a spell what this ring does. I don't know where the Madman got it, or who made it; the workmanship and design is totally unique, so far as I know. It's really the most powerful item of magic I ever saw."

"Doctors can't do what the ring does either. You could help a lot of people with it."

"I've thought about that," I said. "But I can't help everyone. Maybe it's selfish but I don't want to lose it; I've come to depend on this ring." I looked at my right hand, which had just been regenerated when I got it blown to shreds by one of Dreamwalker's traps. "Maybe too much."

"Could be." Mara sat up, and looked at me. By the gods, but she was beautiful. "Can I ask a favor?"

"I can't imagine anything I wouldn't do for you," I answered.

"I joined a support group for women victimized as I was. I didn't go for very long; sharing the pain helped for a while but eventually it was more like reopening a wound every time I went."

"You want me to heal them?" I asked, certain I was right.


We spent a hour, perhaps, making plans for this mission. Mara wasn't sure how many women would be there; it took about an hour to heal Mara, so that was our benchmark.

Naturally I didn't intend for any of them to see me, or know about me. The plan was to enter the room invisibly and cast a powerful blanket Sleep spell, then simply give each woman an hour of wearing the ring. I would have to cast a Tap spell, but fortunately the location was near a Ley line.

Mara told me that the group sessions took place in a medical office building, and that the therapist always locked up at the end. She thought the cleaning crew was already gone by that time, so barring guards or a security system to defeat, it should be pretty easy.

It'd be nice if things were as easy as they seem.

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