A young couple takes a hike on the Appalachian Trail that leads to the resurrection of an ancient evil. The rise of the Magus signals the return of forgotten powers to the world, and one man will rise to stem the growing tide of evil.


13. The Chase

            “Carol, pull over.”

            “What?  Why?”  Carol glanced over at Danny and saw him regarding her with concern.  “What is it, Danny?”

            “Just pull over, please.  We need to talk about something.”

            “Well what do we need to talk about?  And why do I need to stop the car to talk to you about it?”  Annoyance was beginning to creep into Carol’s voice, but it could not be helped.  Recent events had conspired to shorten the fuse on her temper.  “You know He could wake up any time, and we’ve got to find the other guy before that happens.”

            “That’s what I want to talk to you about Baby.  You’re going the wrong way.”

            “What do you mean?  I’m on I-40 towards 74, right?”

            “No, you just got off at the 240 bypass in Asheville.  So where are we going?”

            Carol was confused and suddenly scared.  Was he telling the truth?  This was still I-40, right?  She scanned the side of the road for a street sign and realized with horror that he was right.  Plain as day, the sign on the road ahead showed that they were on the 240 bypass leading into Asheville.  She signaled and checked her mirrors before pulling the car to a shuddering stop in the emergency lane.  “Danny, what’s happening to me?  And where was I taking us?”

            “I don’t know.  I was hoping you could tell me.”

            “I swear I don’t know.  I know the way back to Cherokee.  You explained it to me very carefully when we changed drivers at the rest stop.  The next turn I should have made from 40 was the exit to 74.  Why did I turn this way?”

            Danny glanced around for a moment before his gaze settled on a sign ahead.  It was a green sign and it said St. Joseph’s Hospital.  Beside the hospital name was an arrow indicating that a traveler looking for the hospital should take the next exit.  Understanding suddenly flooded Danny’s mind and he turned to Carol with a look of icy anger on his face.  “Get out of her head you bastard.”

            Danny’s words only added to Carol’s confusion.  “What are you talking about?”

            “It’s him.”  Danny pointed to the street sign where it waited on the side of the road ahead of them.  “I guarantee you that this is the hospital they took him to.  Somehow he’s in your head and he’s making you take us to him.  Don’t you see?  He’s trying to get his slaves back.  Us!  He wants us back.  And God only knows what he’ll do when he gets us.  If he was a monster before when we really hadn’t done anything to him, what do you think he’ll do now that we left him to die?”

            “Well what can we do?  I mean, I had NO idea that I was going right to him.  And if he can do something like that, how do we fight him?”  A wave of utter hopelessness was threatening to sweep Carol up into its grasp.  She looked to Danny and hoped that he had some idea to counter this next obstacle that Maraydel had thrown in their way.

            “Well, let me drive for starters.  We’ll take the loop on through Asheville and pick up I-40 on the other side.  And make sure you pay attention to me and watch for any turns I make that don’t make sense, okay?  All we can do is keep working together and try to fight the bastard.  I just hope the guy we’re looking for can help us.”

            Carol and Danny traded seats and resumed their journey.  Danny had to fight a sudden urge to exit the interstate and head towards the hospital, but the urge passed after he managed to resist it long enough to go by the exit.


            Maraydel moaned as he lost the tenuous connection that he had established with his slaves.  The effort of sustaining the connection with the slaves and his enemy was more than he could bear, and the severing of the connection with the slaves caused a bolt of pain to blast through his head.  The ache was minor compared with the agony of his skin repairing itself, but it still served to overload his senses and his mind teetered briefly on the edge of unconsciousness before he managed to clamp down tightly on his connection to the shaman.  He pulled the shaman’s energy through the connection and used that energy to quiet the angry buzzing of his nerve endings repairing themselves.

            He sighed and resigned himself to letting the slaves go for the time being.  There would be time to deal with those two later, when he was stronger and the shaman’s spirit had been stolen completely away.  For now, let the slaves run.  He would find them and punish their betrayal when he was healed.

            With that decision made, he returned his attention to his hunt for the shaman’s hiding place.


            John struggled through a dream world that had been changed to a nightmare.  He had run from the top of the hill when he realized that he was trapped.  As he ran he felt the malevolent presence of the magus seeking him.  Somehow, the wounded wizard had managed to lock him out of his own body.  John had no idea how that could happen, but he knew that he needed to get back.  He could feel his energy draining away and had no idea what to do about it, so he concentrated his energy on hiding from the force that was seeking him.

            John sped from the top of the hill in the meadow and dashed into the woods where he had talked with his grandfather.  He needed somewhere to hide.  Anywhere would do until he had time to regroup and come up with some idea of how to escape to his body.  He plunged farther into the woods and splashed into a stream.  He was just about to continue up a forested hill on the other side when he had an idea.  He pivoted and raced down the stream.

            Moments later John’s intuition proved correct and he splashed from the stream into the waters on the edge of a lake.  The storm from the meadow was much more violent here on the lake, and he momentarily questioned the wisdom of his decision to run for the water that he had somehow known was nearby.  A fragment of his most recent conversation with his grandfather flashed through his mind and he suddenly knew what he had to do.  The hard part would be figuring out how to do it.

            John splashed out deeper into the lake as the fury of the storm crashed around him.  Lightning struck the water on the far side of the lake and John knew the next strike would be close enough to harm him.  Driven by the need to hide and the need to survive, he extended his arms, took a deep breath, and arched into an awkward dive into the chest deep water.  He swam deeper into the lake with powerful strokes and soon the dim light from the storm-tossed skies overhead faded into a murky darkness.

            When the darkness closed around him, John stopped swimming and allowed himself to sink to the bottom.  He rested there for a few moments and cast his mind about for the presence that was pursuing him.  The presence was still there, but it was muted considerably by the water around him.  His lungs were only beginning to hint that they needed air and he was glad that he had never been a smoker.

            John stopped thinking about air for a moment and his mind returned to the conversation with his grandfather.  What had the old man said?  Something about being able to turn into an animal if he could only figure out how?  Well, what he really needed right now was to be a fish.  The water was apparently serving to shield him from the mind of the magus, but eventually he would need to breathe unless he could figure out how to breathe underwater. 

            John pondered the problem for a moment and an idea gradually came to him.  Could it really be so simple?  Well there was no time like the present to find out.  He fixed the image of a catfish in his mind and poured his energy into the image.  He felt his body begin to shift into the shape of the catfish, and his lungs stopped begging for air.  In a matter of seconds the change was completed and a large catfish swam easily into the depths of the lake.

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