(Chapter 27 of Senses)
"Bonding spell," Rand said.
Rand, Morgana, and Larry were all sitting at Morgana's booth in the store; Rand and Morgana drinking herbal tea while Larry sipped at a Coca-Cola Classic, a vice picked up from his younger brother Jim before Jim switched to alcohol.
"Explain," Larry responded.
"A bonding spell is one of the biggies," Rand began. "It ties two or even more people in soul. Should one feel pain, so would the other. Same with pleasure. Same with death."
"So," Morgana added, "when this one guy fell from Tomlinson's office, he was in effect murdering Tomlinson." Morgana did not mention her dream.
"Murdering? Probably not that simple but that's the idea."
"Can you do this spell?" Larry asked.
Rand nodded. "I can but I won't. It's a Curse and Curses I won't deal with."
"Wait a moment," Morgana said. "You're starting to speak a foreign language. Curses? Black?"
Rand smiled. "Sorry," he replied. "Black is how we refer to the bad side of Wicca, and it's followers. Both the White and Black sides have their own lists of spells. The White are called Constructs and the Black are called Curses. I don't mess with Curses."
"A bonding spell is a Curse," Larry said, acknowledging the new information. "That means the police won't solve the crime."
Rand considered for a moment. "They have a photo of the jumper?"
"That's a problem."
"Why is that?" Morgana asked.
"Any model representation," Rand answered, "or at least any permanent model representation of a person with a spell over his or her head will contain that spell."
"So the police," Morgana concluded, "due to their own evidence, are stymied from the start?"
"That's correct." Rand stood up from the table and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Larry asked.
"To get something."
Rand cocked his head and winked. "Involved," he said. "Gotta follow that destiny." With that, Rand left the shop.
Morgana looked at Larry. "Shouldn't we go with him?" she asked.
Larry took a sip of his drink and shook his head. "No, we shouldn't," he said. "First of all we have a business to run. Second of all, if I've read him right, he's gone to see the local Wicca leader, who lives in the same building as Rand's ex-fiance Connie. If she's there as well, we don't want to be within five miles."
Among Wiccans, the battle of Darkwell is the best known, and most closely guarded secret of the order. Wiccans fear persecution, and in the case of Darkwell the fear is perhaps justified. Ordinary mortals cannot cast spells, and to reach the upper ranks of the Wiccan religious order you cannot be an ordinary mortal.
Darkwell is how the Wiccans refer to portions of Kern County, in Central California. It is a large area; seven U.S. states are smaller, as well as a dozen or so countries. The battle itself took place in an isolated onion field a few miles north of Grapevine.
There were six participants, as sides usually fight in groups of three. The White group was led by Rand Weiss, who at the time lived in Darkwell. Black was led by someone known as Begorra, a man who would never show his face.
The reason for the battle was never clear to the members of Rand's team; all they knew was the unprecedented challenge Begorra had thrown down; a battle for control of Darkwell. However, after consulting with Wiccan leadership in San Francisco, Rand had accepted the challenge as an opportunity to "stomp on Black".
A battle of Constructs and Curses is not like a war; it is not like a science fantasy. It is more a battle of wills, the stronger will winning. Rand and Begorra faced one another to a virtual stand-still while the others fought it out through the neural pathways.
A member of Rand's team, Donovan Silver, feigned an attack at his opponent's emotional center and instead shut off control of his opponent's adrenals. The opponent soon collapsed.
The third man of Rand's team shut down his opponent's bladder control. As his opponent realized in surprise what had happened Edgar, the third man, hit his sleep centers. This opponent also collapsed.
Rand and Begorra were at a virtual tie, standing mere inches apart, feint being matched by feint, each blow being countered. Both men were sweating profusely when Rand decided to try a new tack. He kicked Begorra in the groin.
Both men broke contact as Begorra reeled back. "You want it to get physical?" Begorra asked. "That's cheating."
"It's not cheating if it works," Rand replied.
"Rand, you'd have made a good Black." Begorra then collapsed, falling under the simultaneous attack of Donovan Silver and Rand's third, Edgar Lowell.
Rand collected himself and checked his watch. Six hours, must be a record. "All right," he said aloud, "let's examine these idiots and neutralize them."
They examined Begorra's henchmen first, only to discover neither had any power of their own. "Shit!" Rand yelled. "How did he do that?"
"More importantly," Donovan added, "just how powerful is this guy?"
"Was," Rand added. "Let's neutralize the powers of this asshole."
They discovered, much to their own horror, that the man who called himself Begorra was dead. Edgar spun and threw up, and Donovan went white. Rand simply stared in disbelief.
Although many had lost their power in such struggles, this was the first time anyone had died in one. This event alone caused Rand to initially leave his religion.
No one died in a battle of wills. No one except Roger Tomlinson.
"Rand, if you had any ambition you would have this job now, not me."
Rand had left Larry's shop and headed directly to an apartment in San Francisco's Marina district, where the Western leader of Wicca lived in an apartment that came with the position. He thought he had never met the man who called himself "Moonbeam", but Rand discovered upon his arrival that he was an old friend.
"Edgar," Rand replied, "I gave up ambition years ago. I see you didn't though."
"Please," Edgar said, "call me Moonbeam." He chuckled. "I know it sounds silly to you, but I like it. I've done well with it, and if a witch isn't superstitious..."
"...Who will be?" Rand finished. "Bad cliche."
Rand's friend stopped smiling. "Why are you in San Francisco? From what I've heard, this is the last place in the world you'd be."
Rand walked into the living room and sat in a chair. "You've seen her," he said.
Edgar followed Rand, sitting in the room's only other chair. "Hell Rand, she lives here in the building. Visits all the time."
Rand expelled a long breath. "That means I'll be running into her any moment now."
"Probably. You'd best tell me why you're here. You didn't know you'd be seeing me, so this isn't a social call. Talk to me."
"Yeah," Rand said, leaning forward. "How strong is Black up here?"
"Too strong," Edgar said with obvious disgust.
"Black killed a local businessman a few days back."
"Who? Do you know?"
"Fellow named George Tomlinson. Knew a friend of mine, and he saw a picture of a man with a medallion who's been implicated."
Edgar had stood, and was now pacing, radiating concern. "Rand," he said, "how many others know about Black's involvement in this?"
"Not counting the police, who don't count because they have a photograph, two."
"Shit. This won't be pretty, Rand."
"Fill me in."
"Think about Darkwell. You, I and Donovan Silver killed a man."
"A man named Begorra," Rand said. "I still have nightmares."
"A man named Roger Tomlinson," Edgar responded. "I had feared this. Two men in the same family killed by Wiccans."
"Wow," Rand whispered.
"An understatement if ever there was one. Rand, a lot has gone down since you left the ranks. I should never have become Wiccan leader as fast as I did, but you left and a lot of more qualified people have gone."
"Defections," Edgar said. "A lot of good people have gone Black. Donovan Silver, for one."
"Donovan?" It was almost a scream.
"Something big is happening, and I haven't the slightest idea what. The defections, now this. I don't believe in coincidence."
"Have you been doing readings?"
"Yes," Edgar replied. "There is a central figure. The Knave of Staves. Damned if I know who that is."
"Larry," Rand muttered.
"That friend of yours," Edgar observed. "Dangerous."
"You don't understand. Larry Christopher isn't an empowered human being. He has a knack for reading body language, but that's all."
"Larry Christopher the bookseller?"
"Yes," Rand said. "We go back a long ways. One of the least power-hungry people on Earth."
"You sure of that?"
"He's a fucking millionaire! Have you noticed he resembles a well known rock star? No, Larry's not a power-monger. He could live in Bunker Hill if he wanted, but he stays in Haight-Ashbury."
"You and Donovan went a long way back, didn't you?" Edgar asked.
Rand sighed. "Point taken. But I assure you, Larry is more disgusted by Black than either of us."
"Could be a cover."
"Jesus! I came here for help! Not to have you question my friends!" Rand stomped out of the room, then out of the apartment, ignoring Edgar's protestations.
It was outside, on the street, that the other portion of Rand's past caught up to him.
Rand hung his head. "Hello, Constance."