Alderon's Tower     
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Chapter 14 -- Dreams and Nightmares
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

I worked late into the night on my staff. I needed to keep my mind occupied. I was able to complete the second enchantment, Strengthening, which in truth was rather a simple one.

In the days of my youth, the most advanced people were able to work with copper, silver, and gold by means of magic. Everyone else had only stone tools and weapons. Yet, we built an entire civilization that way. One of the secrets was the enchantment of Strengthening; we used it to give hardness and resilience to weapons and tools made of soft metals, weak wood, and brittle stone. I have toured many museums, and seen with my Mystic Vision that some of the oldest stone items still bear dormant enchantments.

When the magic went away, and the Ley lines appeared, those tools became weak again. The valuable metals eventually would have been melted down and reformed, breaking the enchantments on them and leaving no trace of my culture's metalworking arts.

So I used the ancient enchantment, the only one I ever learned from Gruven Ket. It's good that I did learn it, for if I hadn't I wouldn't have known the basic principles of enchantment. I would have found it rather hard to puzzle out the other enchantments without that theoretical grounding.

Finally, exhausted and sweating again from the constant concentration, I finished the second enchantment on both halves of my staff. I climbed the stairs slowly, to be greeted as I entered the kitchen by the smell of hot xocholotl. Of course I poured a cup, downed it rather quickly, and poured another. It was late at night by then, and I didn't know where Mara was; so I went looking.

I found her in the master bath upstairs, lights out and lit candles arranged around the room. She was in the bathtub relaxing; I thought she was asleep. The scent of roses was in the air.

Then she opened her eyes, and with a smile she arose.

Much later, we lay together in the bed. I had thought myself exhausted when I came up from the basement, but Mara had kindled new fire within me. Now that fire had run its course and we were both tired together.

"Solomoriah," she said, "I have something to ask you." She sat up then, the blanket falling away, and I wondered if she could again fan the flames within me.

"Ask, my love," I said, reaching out to touch her.

"Will you marry me?"

I could not have been much more surprised. For a moment I lay there, my mind reeling; then I realized that there could be only one answer.

"Yes. Yes! I will marry you, Mara!" I sat up and embraced her, and then we kissed for a long time.

Finally we parted, slowly, looking into each other's eyes. I said, "How shall we do it? My people's customs and religion are long forgotten. Will we have a Baptist wedding?"

"We could, my love, but they really aren't my people. I don't have any people of my own, save for you and Mark." She thought a moment, and I just sat there, my hands on her shoulders, savoring her beauty. "I suppose," she said presently, "we might have a civil ceremony."

I had to have that explained to me. We talked for a while longer about our options, but no truly satisfactory arrangement could be discovered. Finally I kissed my frustrated bride-to-be, and said "Let's sleep on it. Perhaps in the light of morning something will present itself. Believe me, we will find a way to make this happen."

She smiled at me then, a warm and rich smile, and we made love again.

I opened my eyes to find myself in the doorway of Gruven Ket's sacrificial room. I was disoriented, and confused, and then I heard his cruel voice. "Apprentice!" he called, and I saw him standing before the stone altar. There was a nude woman shackled there, obviously to be sacrificed to Ket's dark gods, but I could not see her face because Ket stood in the way.

"Apprentice!" he called again, "Approach me! This is the day you complete your training! This woman is yours to sacrifice." I began to walk toward him, though every fibre of my being screamed at me to run away. "You shall slay her not with a knife, but with your necromancy. You need a spell to sever the spirit from the body." With that, he moved aside so I could see the woman.

It was Mara. She looked at me, with not fear but love in her eyes. I said, "Master, I cannot kill her!"

"You will need a spell to sever the spirit from the body," he said again. "Do you know the spell?"

"Master, please, no, don't make me do this!" I cried out again.

"Do you know the spell?" he asked insistently.

On the stone slab, Mara opened her mouth to speak...

I sat bolt upright in the bed, my body drenched in cold sweat. Mara was sitting beside me, and I embraced her desperately for a moment as tears of relief ran from my eyes.

After I regained control of myself I said to her, "I had a nightmare about my old master."

"I knew you were having a nightmare, and I tried to enter it as I had before, but it didn't seem to work."

"Your entrance woke me, I think. Remember, the previous time you entered my nightmare, Dreamwalker was forcing me to remain asleep." I kissed her briefly, then got up out of bed and went to the large window, which faced east. As I was still naked, I peeked carefully around the blind to see the sun beginning to rise.

"Are you coming back to bed, my love?" she asked me.

"I don't think so. I don't feel like sleeping now. I think I'll take a shower, then go down to the basement and continue working on my staff until Mark comes to work."

"If he does," she added, and I remembered the events of the previous evening. "I think I'll stay here until the alarm rings."

I went to her and kissed her, then as she lay back down I went to the bath and took a long, hot shower. As the sweat was cleaned from me I felt as if the phantom presence of my former master was washed away also.

A bit later I resumed my work on the staff. I had completed the simplest enchantments, and now it was time to work on the complex multimodal enchantment that would actually make the staff work. There's no name for it, as I invented it just for the staff.

The staff's enchantment consists first of force-magic to extend and retract the segments, then another force-magic to bind and release the halves, then third a durable enchantment of invisibility which can be turned on or off, and last a controlling enchantment to make the others work in unison.

I completed and tested the first enchantment on one half of the staff in about two hours. When I held the staff-section and spoke a magic word in the old language, the segments extended suddenly with a hiss-click-hiss-click sound. I put the tip on the floor and leaned my full weight on the butt, but the enchantment was much stronger that that (as I had planned) so the staff did not collapse.

Another magic word, and the staff collapsed hiss-click-hiss-click. I tried to pull the small end out, but again the enchantment worked correctly and I could not.

I decided it was time for a break, so I laid down my work and went up the stairs. Enchantment was still tiring, but I noticed I was not as sweaty as I had been after the previous session.

Upstairs I found Mara having a bowl of cereal in the kitchen. I told her of my progress as I poured myself a steaming mug from the pot of xocholotl she had prepared for me, then I also got a bowl and spoon and joined her at the table.

As I began to eat she said, "Have you had any thoughts about our marriage?"

"No, I haven't," I answered. "I would be happy with the civil ceremony you described to me."

"It would be okay," she said in a tone that said it wouldn't, "but I'd like something more special than that."

"I understand," I said, knowing nothing else to say. We ate our breakfast in silence for a while then, and just as I was finishing the phone rang. I got up and went to the office to answer it.

"Hey, Solo," came the voice, "I need a favor."

"Anything, Mark."

"I need to skip work today. I've got to make some changes in my apartment if I'm going to be keeping Emily indefinitely, and I think we're going back to the hospital around lunchtime anyway."

"Take all the time you need, my friend," I answered. We said our goodbyes and hung up.

Back in the kitchen I found Mara cleaning up after breakfast, so I helped what little I could as I told her of the phone call. She looked at me, annoyed, and said "Now how are we getting to the Burke's this morning?"


"I guess we'll have to fly," I answered.

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