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Chapter 3 -- Adventures in Yardwork
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

By late afternoon we were nearly done with the first terrace. Mara and I were doing most of the digging, but the stone and earth moving I assigned to a group of four Spirit Servants I had summoned. I put a lot of power into each of them, so they could do a lot of work before returning to the spirit world.

Mara was bent down arranging the last of the stones, and I was leaning on a shovel and watching. Without looking up, she quietly said "We're being watched."

I cast my eyes over the yard, trying to look unconcerned, but I saw nothing. On a hunch I silently released a Mystic Vision spell, and then I saw him.

He was invisible, of course, but with the Mystic Vision spell I could see his silhouette. He was downslope a ways, probably fifteen or twenty yards from us, skulking along the fence. I tried not to let him know I saw him, but I must have given myself away, because he suddenly became visible and leaped at me, brandishing a sword.

The leap was incredible; he covered the entire distance between us in a single leap, and had enough momentum left to plant his feet on my chest! While he was still in "flight" I reflexively released a Kinetic Shield spell.

It's all that saved me. The Kinetic Shield absorbed his weight hitting my chest, but in the same move he slashed at me with his sword. My defensive spell absorbed only part of his assault, deflecting the sword enough to change a decapitating strike into one which merely cut my throat. My blood sprayed on his dark clothing as I fell backwards and fell unconscious.

I was only out a moment or two; and I saw that my opponent had made the same mistake which many of my enemies had before... he turned away, assuming I was dead. Of course, the ring began immediately to heal me.

I hurt, naturally, and I doubted I could speak. I looked up slowly, and saw that he was drawing back his arm to slash at Mara.

My fury was instantaneous, and I silently released a twofold Force Bolt at him. He was lifted from the ground and thrown several yards away, landing heavily on his face. I slowly stood up, and waved at Mara to go into the house, but she was already going that way.

The dark-clothed assailant jumped to his feet in a single move, spinning around and coming at me again. That Force Bolt should have broken his back; suddenly I was worried.

He was very strong, fast, capable of incredible physical feats, and armed with a sword which, in the view of my Mystic Vision, glowed powerfully. I was weak from blood loss and half-drowned in my own blood, and I couldn't speak. So, I was afraid. Who wouldn't be? I released a Force Wave as he leaped at me again, and it caught him in midair, knocking him back to the hedges.

The swordsman fell from the hedges and landed running. What would it take to stop him? I released a Paralysis spell, but he began to literally shrug it off as I watched. Before he could resume moving toward me, I followed up with a threefold Lightning Bolt, and at last he fell.

That Lightning Bolt had enough power in it to kill a normal man outright, but as I shuffled cautiously toward him I saw that he was still breathing! Incredibly, he had survived two attacks from me which should have been fatal, as well as avoiding injury from the Force Wave and resisting the Paralysis. As I looked closer I perceived a mystic energy glowing just above his skin. Normal protective magic such as I was familiar with would extend several inches from the skin level; this was a magic I was unfamiliar with.

Tentatively I cleared my throat, and found that I could again speak, though hoarsely. I quickly cast a potent Sleep spell on the swordsman, then called painfully to Mara to find me some rope. She was unwilling to approach him, so when she returned I walked up the steps to get it.

"I'm going to interrogate him in the kitchen," I croaked. She didn't look happy about that. I quickly bound his hands behind him and then bound his ankles. I was still far from healed and didn't feel like carrying him, so I ordered two of the Servants to do it. As I had recently gained a healthy respect for traps, I didn't touch his sword either; rather I had another Servant get it. The last Servant had almost no power left, so I dismissed it.

Mara left the kitchen before the Servants came in with the swordsman. As they put him in a chair I sat down across the table from him, and instructed the Servant carrying the sword to approach me.

Now, at that time I knew little about swords, but there are few things made by humans which have such obvious purpose. I believe that a savage from the deepest jungle, who had never seen a weapon other than spear and blowgun, would immediately heft a sword by the obvious handle, perhaps cut himself on the blade, and quickly realize it was made for killing men.

This one was no exception. It was slightly curved, with the leading edge and a few inches of the back side sharpened. The crossguard curved around into a loop on the side where one's index finger would be; I didn't see the purpose of this, and have since found it to be an unusual design.

The strangest thing about the sword didn't hit me right away. It was clean. I took off my bloodsoaked T-shirt and wrung a few drops of blood from it onto the hovering blade. It ran off the blade like mercury. Even the leather-wrapped hilt repelled the blood.

Mara came in then. "Here, Solomoriah, give me that," she said quietly, taking the bloody shirt. She then handed me a damp towel to clean up with, and I thanked her as I removed the blood from my skin. I felt my neck and found the skin nearly healed, as I expected. "Here," she said, taking the towel and handing me a clean white T-shirt. I put it on.

The swordsman stirred a bit, alarming me, since I expected the Sleep spell to keep him out for at least an hour if not two. It seemed that he was dreaming; so I sent the Servant with the sword to the basement to place it in the room under the stair.

I then studied my assailant. He was tan-skinned and dark haired; in fact, he was colored much as I am. He was a shorter man, though, muscular and blocky in form. His features at first I took for Caucasion, perhaps from India, but then I noticed he also resembled a black man enough to pass as one with his skin darkened. His eyes had a hint of the Oriental in their shape. In short, I found his origin difficult to place.

Now, I often hear that one shouldn't discriminate on the basis of race. Realize that I don't, at least so far as to expect certain things of someone based on his color. I learned long ago (very long ago) that such "profiling" is usually an easy way to eliminate potential allies and overlook new enemies. Remember also that I, a nominally "white" man, fell in love with Mara, a "black" woman, literally at first sight.

But here was a fellow whose origin was cloaked. I found myself wondering if somehow it was intentional.

Well, enough time wasted, I thought. I dismissed the Sleep spell, then said loudly, "Wake up, dead man!" It still hurt a bit to speak, but I was determined to show him no weakness.

He stirred, then sat bolt upright, his eyes open. "What... where?" he said as he looked wildly about. "The sword," he said to me, "what have you done with it?"

"The" sword, I thought, not "my" sword? He seemed less angry with me for taking it than afraid of having lost it. This led to a theory, which I decided to test.

"Who is your master, dead man?"

He straightened up then, seeming to come to his senses. "I have no master."

"He's lying," said Mara, surprising me. I had thought she had gone from the room, but she was evidently standing behind my left shoulder. I tried not to look surprised at this.

"I know," I answered her, turning slightly; then I looked back at him with what I hoped was coldness in my eyes. "What is your name?" I demanded.

"Joseph Green."

"He's lying again," said Mara. I just nodded.

"So, 'Joe,' why did you try to kill me?"

"You're Dreamwalker's apprentice. Do you have to ask? Where is your master, anyway... shouldn't he be gloating over me by now?"

I burst out laughing at that point, which befuddled my "guest" greatly. "Dead man, you are a fool, and so is the master you claim not to serve. I was never Dreamwalker's apprentice. I was his enemy, and I ended his evil life."

"Why do you keep calling me 'dead man,'" he asked. "Do you mean to kill me?"

"You are already dead, so far as I am concerned. You gave up your life when you tried and failed to take mine. I can end you right now if I wish." I sat there a moment, as if thinking, though I already knew what I would do. "Go back to your master and tell him that I will return the sword to him, and only him, when he knocks at my door and asks for it." Then I began casting a spell; Joe began to struggle in his bonds, trying to escape, as I repeated over and over seven times the phrase for power. Usually I couldn't hold concentration for a sevenfold spell, but I was unusually determined this time. He would not resist me.

Finally I released the spell at him... a powerful Compulsion to do just what I had instructed him to do.

I got a sharp knife from the drawer then, and cut the ropes binding him. He immediately got up, pushing by me forcefully, and ran out the door in a blind rush. He leaped over the fence in a single bound and was gone.

"What now?" asked Mara.

I got up and got myself a drink of cold water. "Well, I guess we finish the first terrace. We still have lots of daylight."

"No, about him," she said in a bit of a huff.

"We do what I said. In other words, my love, we wait."

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