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Chapter 17 -- I Die Again
Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.

Well, I died. I remember floating free of my body. I could see myself, lying face down on the floor, my assailant's sword protruding from my back, a spreading pool of blood around me.

I had died before. In particular, when Zam Nar and I were attacked in his cave, I died. I recovered from death because of my ring, and because the weapon was not totally fatal. That is, in that case a spear was used, and I died of a gut wound. The ring literally healed me around the spear, then worked it out of me.

This sword, however, was jammed into my heart.

My spirit watched, helpless, as the swordsman bent over to inspect my body. Truly I would have no chance if he removed the ring. He reached toward my left hand even as I felt myself pulled away from the earth. Then I saw movement behind him...

It was Ghedi! He had a wooden chair in his hands, and like in an old Western he brought it down on the swordsman's head. The chair shattered into dozens of pieces and the swordsman was driven to the floor.

Ghedi obviously thought he had achieved victory, but the swordsman was much tougher than that. Probably he was protected by magic besides. He stood up and savagely kicked at Ghedi, but the large man was swifter than he looked as he dodged the kick and smashed his huge right fist into the swordsman's chin, spinning him around.

They fought thusly for some time, though I could not say how long. I fought the power pulling me from the material world, fought with all my spiritual might, but it was a losing battle from the start. I saw the light that so many speak of, and I began to move toward it...

In a sudden, painful rush I was back in my own body. What had happened? I raised my face from the floor and looked up, to see that the swordsman had withdrawn his sword from my back. Even as I watched he slashed through another heavy chair which Ghedi was using for defense, and hacked the big man's right arm off at the elbow. Blood sprayed as Ghedi screamed and the anonymous attacker laughed in victory.

After my battle with the second swordsman, I resolved to be better prepared. Well, I was a fool again, for I had not thought about the Tap attracting unwanted attention. I tried to release the powerful Paralysis spell I had prepared for my next battle with Joseph Green's minions, and discovered that I had no spells prepared!

Death sucks, as Mark would say.

The Tap was still in effect, though. This was a good thing, for after all I would not have recovered from death without it. The swordsman was still standing there laughing, facing away from me, as Ghedi slowly slumped to the floor. He was trying to staunch the flow of blood, and evidently the swordsman was enjoying his pain and panic.

In my mind, slowly, I began to chant the words to the spell of Paralysis. I immediately began to sweat as the effort of concentration wore away at me. Over and over I chanted the phrase of power, boosting the spell fivefold before I let it fly. I had only one chance, and I didn't mean to fail.

As I released the spell the swordsman turned toward me. He struggled against the power of the magic, raising his sword high to behead me. I still lay on the floor, physically almost powerless; he would surely kill me this time.

Down came the sword, and the swordsman. The magic took hold of him just in time, and though he fell across me the sword did me no further harm.

I would have liked to lay there, and regain my strength, before struggling out from under him; but Ghedi lay as one dead already, and it was my fault. It took all my strength and will to pull free, and I crawled to Ghedi's side. First I put my ring on his left hand; it barely fit on his little finger. I tied the Tap to the ring, then I found his arm and dragged it over. I didn't know if the ring would reattach it if I held it there, but I tried it anyway, and it worked!

Shortly he regained consciousness. I removed the ring and put it back on; I wanted the upper hand, just in case, and I was in marginally better shape than he was.

"You... are the sorceror, the one who healed my wife," he said. "Have you now healed me?"

"I have. Ghedi, though in my heart I despise you, I must apologize for this. You were not supposed to become involved in my battle."

"It is alright," he said. "I deserved much worse punishment than that. I have not been punished enough this day." His accent was strange, stiff and choppy. His wife had a more musical tone.

"You should go to your wife, Ghedi, and beg her forgiveness."

"I will." He sat up slowly. "Sorceror, there is another who owes you a debt of thanks, though she knows it not. When I took my wife to be circumcised I arranged the schedule for my daughter. Now I know what I was about to do, and it will not be."

I had by then recovered much of my strength. I prepared my spells anew. At the end I cast Flight, a powerful one with great load capacity, then Invisibility to cover the swordsman and his sword, and a second one for myself. I picked up the invisible attacker and threw him over my right shoulder, then picked up the sword in my left hand and went out the back door.

I put the invisible swordsman down atop the roof of a shop on the waterfront. He would just have to wait for the paralysis to expire; he had tried to kill me, and that gave me the right to his life in return, by the laws of my day. The sword I took with me, back to the house.

There was no one there when I arrived, which was as I expected. I put it in the small room below the basement steps, taking time to renew the spell of Closing there. I was about to leave when I remembered my bloody clothes, so I quickly showered and changed. I then cast a new Invisibility spell and returned to the hospital.

I walked into an empty room and dismissed my Invisibility, then quickly went to Valerie's room. Mara met me in the hallway nearby. "Solomoriah, I was worried! Where were you? What happened?"

"I'll tell you the whole story later. Come..." I led her to Raziya's room, where we found Ghedi kneeling on the floor beside her bed, crying. He held her hand, and she was speaking softly to him, telling him things would be alright.

I walked into the room. "Solomoriah!" said Raziya. "You have returned!"

"Didn't you know I would?" I asked. I walked to the window and released a Tap spell, then I went to the bedside and put the ring on her. "I am only going to heal you for five minutes," I said, "just enough so that your doctor will send you home. When you are home, call me and tell me so, and I will come and finish the job."

"Why not do it all now?" she asked.

"Too many people already know about me. I don't want your doctor asking too many questions. I'd appreciate it if you changed doctors soon."

"Of course," she said with renewed strength. I watched the clock on the wall until the time had elapsed, and then asked her if she felt any better. "I do," she answered, "I feel pretty well now, just sore. I'm sure I'll be calling you tomorrow."

We said our goodbyes. I thought that Ghedi would break my hand shaking it; he was a changed man. Forcing him to walk along her trail a while made him see things differently.

The view was not so pretty back at Valerie's room. She had not been herself all afternoon, and the cancer was worse yet. Presently she was sleeping, under the influence of drugs, and Mara whispered to me "This is better. When she's awake, she screams at us, fights the nurses... see, they put her in restraints."

Eventually we went home. It was nearly midnight, and Mara began getting ready for bed. I sat down in the darkened living room and cast Dream Contact, trying to reach Daniel, but it failed; most likely he was not in bed yet. I decided to work on my staff and try again later. I kissed Mara goodnight and went down to the basement.

I finished the second half of the Actuator enchantment (as I had begun to call it) and tested it in less time than the first half. It worked perfectly; but as it was after two AM at that point I decided to defer the next part until later.

I secured the magic workroom, that is, the small room under the basement stairs, and went back to the living room. Again I cast Dream Contact, and this time was rewarded with success.

I found myself viewing from Daniel's perspective. I (he) was nude, lying on his stomach on the bed, and there was an air of anticipation about him. I guessed what was in store, and quickly chose a separate vantage point for myself.

Now I could see Joel (for I was sure it was him) and sure enough, they were about to "do it," so to speak. I am not gay, as I have said, and it made me more than a bit uncomfortable to be there, in that explicit dream, watching; but I felt that there was something important to be learned.

I was right. Suddenly I had the answer to everything... all the strange parts of the case began to fall into place. I took over the dream then, dismissing Joel's image as well as the room itself, replacing the dream with one of Daniel dressed and sitting at a table in a deserted diner.

I didn't consciously choose the diner, but it was the same one I had experienced in Valerie's dream. I entered and sat down in the seat I remembered the spectral Valerie using. "I am Solo Jones," I said, as he stared at me open-mouthed. "I was hired to look into the rape of your sister, and I know you are involved."

"What's going on here?" he asked angrily.

"It's simple. We're going to have a discussion here, and illuminate some dark spots in my understanding." I paused a moment, but he didn't speak; his sullen look told me that he didn't plan to say anything.

"You aren't gay, are you?" I asked. "You're what's called a hermaphrodite, half male, half female."

"No," he said forcefully, "all male plus half female. We are more than human."

The way he said that, it wasn't just a statement, it was a slogan. "We. There are many of you, aren't there? Don't try to hide it. I have seen a large stack of very suspicious police reports. You interbreed with each other, but you need a normal woman to carry the child... isn't that right?"

He looked away, and I knew I was right. "Joseph Green is your father, isn't he?"

"Grandfather, I think," he answered, a resigned tone in his voice. "He is our leader." So that was why he wanted me dead... he was afraid I'd discover what they really were. Now I had... was I truly marked for death?

I had a thought. "Your secret is very important to Joseph Green, isn't it?" He nodded, so I said "Remember that. Under no circumstances may you reveal it to normal humans." He nodded again, looking puzzled. Then I smiled at him, and ended the spell.

I took a shower and generally made ready for bed. Too many late nights in a row were beginning to take a toll on me; for it was almost three in the morning, and I still had to get up in the morning to go to work.

At least the commute wasn't too long, I thought as I climbed into bed.

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