Authors: Derek Edgington
Tags: #Fantasy, #Urban Life, #Urban Fantasy, #Speculative Fiction, #contemporary fiction, #contemporary fantasy, #young adult fantasy, #Leviathan, #teen fantasy, #The Fist of Light Series
Fist of Light Series
Copyright © 2012 by Derek Edgington
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted electronically or mechanically. Neither photocopying nor recording are permitted without permission of the author.
Original cover art and design by Jordan Harris
All the characters, names, and events in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to actual people or occurrences is purely coincidental.
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— Prologue —
ack then, I was only fourteen and still had a lot to learn. I limped through the darkness, not caring which direction I took, knowing only I had to get away from where I’d been. The sound of my feet on the pavement was glaringly loud in my ears. The streets I’d been prowling had been dark and deserted, but I should have known. The power had gone out in that district, and I’d been tempted by it. The garage I ghosted into was empty of any vehicles, and I figured I had a straight shot at getting some clothes, food, and maybe some cash.
Foolish of me, to never stop and think others would have the same idea. When I opened the creaking door to peer through the house, nothing moved in the shadows. My eyes took in antique vases and paintings in the entry hall. The hardwood flooring was protesting my presence with telltale noises, and I winced at each one. A crystal chandelier hung above me, shrouded in darkness. A spiral staircase led up to the second floor. Hesitant, I ascended the stairs and eased the weight I placed on the steps by grabbing the wooden banister, but the squeak of wood still revealed my passing.
I exhaled and only barely avoided crashing into a dresser at the top of the stairs. After a few seconds, I stepped forward and was immediately confronted with an opening on my left. It was large. It had to be the master bedroom. My imagination ran rampant with images of steaming hot food, but that’d have to wait until after I found something of value. My hesitation was swallowed by my hunger as I rushed into the room.
Moonlight filtered in through a pane glass window. If anyone cared to look, they would have seen a figure lurking inside the house. I shrugged off my apprehension and began to rummage through some drawers. Before I could get a good look at anything, a bright silver flash in the corner of my eye caught my attention. Wheeling around, my heart pounded. I wasn’t alone. Two men quickly advanced upon me in silence. The source of the flash I saw was a long-bladed knife.
My eyes widened as I looked into the faces of my two aggressors. The one with the knife was tall and lanky, looking as if he had just crawled out of a gutter. His face was punched in from a previous fight and it hadn’t healed pretty. A scar ran across his cheekbone and his black hair was mussed and filthy. His partner seemed a tad more hesitant, with piercing eyes. He was short and stocky, and his grace was noticeable as he stepped toward me, hands raised nonthreateningly. Brains, as I thought of him, had neatly shaven brown hair. His face was devoid of any identifying marks except for a mole on the left side of his face.
“Come here, boy,” tall, dark, and ugly sneered. He held his knife threateningly in front of him.
“We won’t hurt you, kid,” the other one promised. “We just need your help.”
“To hell with that,” Ugly said. “This is going to hurt a whole lot.”
A note of satisfaction had entered Ugly’s voice, and I had no doubt that he enjoyed harming others. My face twisted with terror and I looked around frantically for a way out. Brains took a moment to think, stroking his chin thoughtfully. Ugly had halted for the moment, clearly awaiting some sort of approval. I was trapped between the king-sized bed, a dresser, and the wall. There was nowhere for me to go. I decided. I would not allow my life to end as I bled out in an unknown house. I needed to survive, or I’d never see my parents again. I closed my eyes, preparing.
“All right,” Brains sighed. “Sorry, kid.” He looked remorseful. “He will make it quick.” Brains shot a glare at Ugly.
As I breathed in deeply and opened my eyes, Ugly had already started closing in with his blade. He was grinning maniacally and I took a reflexive step back in fear. He was only feet away. I put all my strength into rushing sideways, pivoting and launching myself with a high-pitched cry. I flew into the window with my arms held protectively over my face. The glass shattered, which was the tricky part. If it hadn’t, I would’ve been easy pickings for Ugly. Of course, I was jumping out from the second story of a house.
“Get him!” Brains shouted.
Adrenalin pounded through my blood as I pin-wheeled my arms wildly, preparing for impact. I tried to land on the balls of my feet, but one of them hit a loose stone. I cried out in pain as my ankle twisted, and I rolled gracelessly to a painful stop. Scrapes covered my body. I wanted to lie still and wait for death. Instead, I grabbed the amulet hanging from my neck for strength and forced myself painfully to a standing position.
Heavy footsteps pounded down the spiral staircase inside the house. If I couldn’t outrun Ugly, I was as good as dead. My ankle sent spasms of pain up my leg with every measly step forward. Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, and I wiped them away angrily. Fighting through the pain, I ran as fast as I was able. At first, the pain was enough to put me back on my knees. But I forced myself up. I promised myself I wouldn’t die that night.
I hobble-ran toward the sidewalk. When I made it there, panting, I looked behind me. Ugly hadn’t yet appeared, so I took off in an unplanned direction, crossing the street. Hoping the darkness would engulf me, I ran in a frenzy, my ankle still aching. Needles of agony shot up my body, but the adrenaline fueling my panicked movements dulled the pain and allowed me to escape. I rushed down the street, and the next one, until I turned down a different block and did the same.
Eventually, I came to a painful stop, panting for each breath. The adrenaline had abandoned me long ago and with it had gone my reserves of energy. Bushes and trees materialized in the night, offering their shelter. My ankle would no longer bear my weight and I sobbed quietly at the pain. Burying myself within the foliage, I hopped down into the concealing leaves, hiding as well as was possible given the circumstances. Only then did I allow myself more tears to leak past my closed eyes.
he persistent nagging of raindrops falling on my forehead woke me up. I groaned loudly, just like any other seventeen-year-old boy would. With deliberate slowness, I swung my feet off of the rickety twin bed assigned to me and opened my sleep-filled eyes to a dreary world. I sat upon one of thirty dilapidated beds that stretched across the boy’s ward. Rickety wooden floorboards traversed the length of the room. Torn drapes failed to cover the aged glass windows.
Raindrops pounded the roof of the building and even more seemed to be falling outside. On the other side, in the girl’s ward, I presumed you would find a carbon copy of the boy’s ward, stinking of conformity and suppression of imagination. An odd assortment of boys, teens with raggedly cut hair and worn clothes, were stretched out on their own twins. I hadn’t talked to any of them yet. I didn’t see the point. The San Francisco cops had caught me and immediately placed me under the care of this fine establishment, home of the weird and the weirder.
Frankly, I didn’t expect to stay long. I never did in these kinds of places. And so I hadn’t gone through the motions, learning the names of my fellow inmates, those on the run, abandoned, or without a family to care for them. I was at least two of those. My parents had run one direction when I was twelve and I had run another. The only thing that was left of my former life was an amulet that I’ve had since birth.
I held it away from my chest, studying the shark-tooth-shaped enigma with interest. It was divided into five sections, each blazing with a different color: fire red, azure blue, earthy brown, metallic black, and a purplish color speckled with black that reminded me of the sky as the sun began to dip over the horizon, illuminating the clouds with incandescent colors. My parents had said to keep always keep it with me, but neglected to tell me why. So far I had kept it, although there had been a few close calls on some bridges. Some things you can’t run away from, and I wasn’t going to take it out on the last thing I had left to my name. And so I stretched out my arm and grabbed one of the old iron posts of my bed frame.