Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.
I was in the castle of Gruven Ket, hurrying down a corridor I half remembered.
I opened a door and found him, standing before the sacrificial altar, with a
woman bound there. He said "Welcome, apprentice! The time has come!" I
already knew the woman on the slab would be Mara before he moved aside.
"Apprentice, you must sacrifice this woman by magic. You need a spell
which severs the spirit from the body. Do you know the spell?" I
walked past him, horrified, and saw that Mara seemed unafraid, as if
being bound nude to a bloodstained stone altar was perfectly normal.
Again he said, "You need a spell which severs the spirit from the
body." He grabbed my arms with his icy hands and turned me to face
him. "Do you know the spell?" he demanded.
Mara began to speak then, and I turned my head to look at her. "Listen to him,"
she said, and I turned back to him. It wasn't him, though; it was Valerie, her
face twisted in rage, her hands holding my arms with a still-icy grip. "Do you
know the spell?" she demanded. Then as I watched I realized I could see her
aura, and I saw smoky tentacles reach over the top of her head forming a cage
before her face. "Do you know the spell!" she screamed again, and I awoke in a
What did it mean, I asked myself. I saw that Mara was already out of bed, and
in fact it was nearly ten AM. Quickly I showered (to remove the sweat) and
dressed and went downstairs.
To my surprise, Mark was in the office. I heard Emily laughing in the living
room, and assumed that she was watching cartoons. "Good morning, boss," he
said. "How did your night go?"
"Well enough, I guess," I said. "Where is Mara?" I got my answer instantly as
she walked in with a sausage sandwich on a plate and a cup of xocholotl for me;
I took what she offered and kissed her. "There are things I need to speak of
which Emily should not hear," I told them.
Mara went into the adjacent living room and told Emily that we would be having a
meeting, then closed the door on her return. I told them everything, from when
I left the hospital through my Dream Contact with Daniel.
"Wow," said Mark. "How many of them do you think there are?"
"I have no idea," I answered, "but there must be many. Remember all the cases
Moretti showed us?" I asked Mara. She nodded, and I said "How many more went
She shook her head. "What do we do now?"
"Joel and Daniel can be arrested and charged and even convicted without the true
secret being revealed. Joseph Green is powerful and secretive; I don't even
know where to find him. I can't challenge him yet, so for now we'll keep his
Just then the phone rang; Mark answered it. "Solo Jones Investigations, how may
I help you?" He paused, listening; then he said "I'll be there soon," and hung
"Valerie?" I asked.
"Yeah, they don't think it'll be much longer. Mara, can you take care of Emily
for me? I don't think she should be there for this."
"Sure," she said, and they went into the living room. Mark said goodbye to
Emily, giving her a big hug, and then headed for the door. I followed him.
"You don't have to come, Solo," he said.
"You're family," I answered. "Let's go."
At the hospital, things were much as they had been the night before. Mark went
to Valerie's bedside, and she opened her eyes and seemed to know him. As he
held her hand, speaking quietly to her, Art and Laura stood together in another
corner and tried not to be seen crying.
The entire scene tore at my soul. Then I remembered the dream...
You will need a spell that severs the spirit from the body. Do you know the
and then I remembered what Mara had told me about chemotherapy... that it was
poison, and it was hoped that the poison would be more deadly to the cancer than
to its host.
There was one spell I did not rewrite into my spellbooks. It was taught to me
by my old master Gruven Ket, and it was a hateful thing. He called it Death.
Just as it was described in the dream, the spell severs the spirit from the
When he taught it to me, he instructed me to find "something living" to slay
with it, so that he could see that I understood it. Reluctantly I sent some
zombies into the catacombs to capture rats, and after a time one returned. It
was a male zombie, and it had a rat held in its right hand. The rat, undefeated
in its own mind at least, was gnawing at the zombie's thumb. Given time it
might get free.
"Very good, apprentice!" said Ket. "The spell, as you should realize by now,
will slay not much more than a rat at the first tier of power. It would require
at least the third tier to slay a human; most would require at least the fourth
I spoke the words, the dark and hateful words of the spell of Death, and I laid
my hand on the rat's head. In an instant it was dead.
At that moment I promised myself I would never say those words again. I tried
to put them out of my mind, and I did not even remember the spell when I was
rewriting my spell book. Now I hoped I could remember it.
I inclined my head against the wall, feeling the cold hardness of it on my
forehead, and focused myself on the past. I tried to put myself in that moment,
casting the spell to slay the rat; slowly the words and gestures came back to
me, and I ran over and over them, trying to ensure they were all right.
Finally I thought I had it. But I couldn't just cast it... I needed to prepare.
Ket had drilled into me that you don't play with unknown spirits without
protection; unfortunately he hadn't gotten around to teaching me protective
spells for that purpose when I left him. The only thing I could think of was my
Spirit Guardian spell, but I had none of them prepared. The Death spell would
also need power, and that meant a Tap, and a Tap meant attack by the swordsmen
of Joseph Green.
I went to Mark, drew him aside, and said quietly, "I may be able to save her."
"What!" he said, too loudly. I held up my hand and repeated myself. "How?" he
said, more discreetly now.
"Remember the smoky patch? How it seemed not to mix with or even
touch her own aura? I think the cancer has its own spirit."
"Yeah, I remember. How does this help?"
"I have a spell, a spell of necromancy, which severs the spirit from the body.
I think if I tune the power level carefully and touch the cancer's aura I can
slay it without harming her. I'm sorry I didn't remember it sooner."
"You must need help, or you'd have just done it," he said. "What do you need me
I laid a hand on his shoulder and spoke two words, gifting him with the
fourfold spell of Kinetic Shield I had prepared for myself. "You are now
covered by my Kinetic Shield spell, which will protect you from weapons in
motion such as bullets or swords. I will have to create a Tap to power my
spells, and that may draw a swordsman." I released another spell for him, one
of Mystic Vision. "You'll be able to see him as a transparent, glowing figure
using this spell. Don't approach if you see him... just quietly tell me, and
keep the door blocked."
"You got it," he said, and went to the door. He leaned against the doorframe as
if waiting patiently for someone, which I suppose he was. I went to the window
and released my Tap; though I did not myself have Mystic Vision active, I knew
perfectly well where the Ley line was from here.
The Spirit Guardian spell requires a source of smoke or mist, but of course
smoke isn't allowed in the hospital. Valerie's room had its own bathroom, of
course, and I went in there, closed the door and started the hot water running.
Shortly, in the cold conditioned air of the hospital the water began to steam.
I chanted the words to a twofold spell of Spirit Guardian, and was rewarded by
the sight of a winged serpent of steam arising from the sink. It was perhaps a
yard long if it were stretched out, and I instructed it to protect me from
As it took up a position beside my right shoulder, I decided that a second might
be called for, so again I chanted the spell and again a serpent of mist arose.
I turned off the water and opened the door, and heard a double sound of
amazement from Art and Laura. "Don't worry, they're with me," I said.
I released my spell of Aura Reading, and just as in the dream I saw that the
cancer's aura formed a cage over Valerie's face. I walked to the head of the
bed, looking carefully for the center of the effect, and then I began the Death
I chanted those hateful, evil words. The room seemed to darken somewhat as I
did so, and as I chanted the power phrase the second time the sense of darkness
and foreboding increased. Finally I reached the end, and as her parents watched
I touched the smoky aura's center.
The "cage" tore free of her face, causing Valerie to draw a deep,
surprised-sounding breath in her sleep. As the rest of the smoky malevolence
pulled free of her it seemed to shake itself, then dart faster than I could
follow at my face!
The Spirit Guardians intervened, wrapping their wings and tails around the
monstrous thing. Art and Laura couldn't see the dark spirit, but the Guardians
were clearly visible and obviously fighting. Art raised an arm before himself
and his wife, a useless but touching defensive gesture.
I instructed the Guardians to escort the dark thing to the spirit plane, and the
three entangled forms faded from my sight. I looked then at Valerie, and saw
that her aura had a strange empty blankness where the cancer's aura had been.
Naturally the cancer wasn't gone, but now it was a mass of dead flesh within
I removed my ring and put it on her, then held her hand as the power flowed
through the Tap, into me, and on to the ring. I could see the blankness slowly
"We've got company," Mark said, as calmly as if it were only the paperboy.
"The hallway is pretty busy, he's sure having to dance around a lot. I think he
just figured out I can see him. He's got a straight sword I think... can't see
As Mark continued the play-by-play it became obvious the swordsman didn't want
to attack me here. Too many people, perhaps, or maybe it was the security
guards I saw from time to time. True, he was easily a match for any of them,
but multiple weapon fire might break down his shield.
Finally I saw the last of the blankness disappear. I put my ring back
on, and walked to the door.
"Where is he?" I asked, and Mark pointed. I saw nothing where he was
pointing... evidently Aura Reading didn't help one to see the
invisible. I put a hand on Mark's shoulder and gifted him with a
Spirit Servant, then I released a threefold spell of Paralysis in the
direction Mark indicated.
"He fell down, went boom." said Mark, smiling. I hoped so; I was down
to just the noisy spells, and not many of those.
"Send the Spirit Servant to collect him," I said. "I can't see him,
and I don't want to waste time casting any new spells right now."
Truthfully, I was tired. Casting spells takes something out of you,
and the less you have used a spell the harder it is to cast. I
did prepare a replacement for the Tap before I severed it.
Mark and I walked as nonchalantly as we could to the elevator, but the
first to arrive was half full. The riders looked at us strangely when
we motioned them to go on; how could they know it was more than the
two of us? The next elevator was empty, and we rode it to the
ground level. Outside we found the dumpsters and put in the
swordsman. Mark instructed the Spirit Servant to get the sword, which
became visible when removed from the swordsman's hand, and I took it
and became invisible myself.
"Where are you parked?" I asked, and he told me. It wasn't hard to
find his convertible, and a spell of Opening opened the locked trunk
where I deposited the sword. A passing pedestrian looked very
strangely at the trunk opening itself, and more strangely yet when it
closed, but truthfully I didn't care.
I rejoined Mark at Valerie's room, where she had regained
consciousness. Mark, Art and Laura stood at one side of the bed, as
Doctor Harper stood on the other, checking her vital signs. He walked
away, shaking his head, and ordered an MRI. The MRI machine was
available, so we went immediately. I sensed the technician was not
used to having so many people in the control room, but Doctor Harper
took no note of us; he was too busy comparing her scan from just two
days ago to the perfectly clean scan of that moment.
At last he spoke to us. "I'd like to keep her for observation, if for
no other reason than to flush the drugs from her system."
"It's up to her, Doctor," said Laura firmly. We met Valerie in the
hallway, where she was being wheeled out of the MRI room by a nurse.
She consented to stay until evening, then asked to see Emily.
Mark said, "I'll have to go get her... Mara is taking care of her."
He called her on his cell phone to tell her he was coming, then turned
to me. "She says Raziya called, to tell you they are home," he told
me in a puzzled voice.
"Mark," I said, "I'll need your help this afternoon, if you can spare
me the time."
"After what you did here today, Solo, you can have all my time you
want." We followed Valerie back to her room, and he told her, "I have
some work I have to do this afternoon. I'll bring Emily by on the
way." Then they kissed, for the first time in years.
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