Runic Vengeance Preview

  

Chapter 1

  

     Kyle cried out, pain ripping through his chest, his vision clouding, then going black. He felt his legs go out from underneath him, felt himself fall to the ground. He tried to get up, but his limbs would not obey him. He lay there, his chest feeling as if it were caught in a vice.

     And then it stopped.

     The pain subsided almost instantly, his vision slowly returning. Pins-and-needles shot down his arms and legs, almost painful in their intensity, as life returned to them. He blinked, feeling something soft but prickly pressing on the side of his face, and realized that he was laying on his side, on a beige carpet. He groaned, then rolled onto his belly, pushing himself up off of the carpet and onto his hands and knees. He waited a moment – his limbs still felt like jelly – then got up onto his feet, taking stock of his surroundings.

     All around him, there was darkness.

     He spotted a dimly glowing blue light a few feet away, and squinted at it. It was oddly familiar, but he couldn't quite place where he'd seen it before. Then it came to him...it was a nightlight. His nightlight, in his room at his Dad's house. He felt his heart skip a beat.

     Am I really...

     He spun about, seeing a familiar bed tucked in the corner of his room, a nightstand next to it, with the glowing red numbers of an alarm clock sitting atop.

     This was his room. He was home!

     Kyle grabbed the alarm clock, feeling the familiar heft of it, then set it back down. He walked up to his window and peered out from under the blinds. It was night-time outside, the stars twinkling dully in the sky, a curved slice of moonlight casting the wide front lawn in its silvery glow. He turned away from the window, gazing across his room – his room! – hardly able to believe his eyes. He walked to his bedroom door, opening it. The hallway beyond was deserted. He hesitated, then walked to the staircase, going downstairs to the foyer. He turned into the kitchen, stopping to stare. Everything was exactly as it had been a month ago – or rather, several hours ago in Earth time - before he'd been taken from his home to a strange planet. One where magic was real.

     Before Doma.

     Kyle stepped from the kitchen to the living room, spotting someone curled up on the couch, completely covered with a white blanket. The blanket rose and fell gently, a soft snoring sound coming from within. He crept up to the sofa, grabbing the edge of the blanket and pulling it away. What he saw made his heart burst with joy.

     "Dad!" he cried, leaping onto his sleeping father and giving him a big bear hug. His father jerked awake, rubbing his eyes with balled fists, then peering through the darkness at Kyle.

     "Hey buddy," he grumbled, grabbing his phone from his pocket and staring at it for a moment. "It's seven o'clock in the morning!" he exclaimed, sitting up. "Oh man, I must have passed out in front of the TV," he added, rubbing the back of his neck. Then he frowned at Kyle. "Did you just wake up? " he asked. Kyle nodded, grinning stupidly at his dad. He couldn't believe he was staring at his father, his honest-to-goodness father, after a month of thinking he'd never see his parents again. It was almost too good to be true.

     Suddenly he felt a pang of fear, and reached over to pinch himself on the back of one forearm. To his relief, there was instantaneous pain.

     "Kyle?" his dad asked, waving a hand in front of Kyle's face. "Hello, anyone there?"

     "Oh, sorry," Kyle mumbled back, realizing that his father had been waiting for him to answer. Something.

     "I guess we both needed our sleep, huh," Dad said with a yawn. "Well," he added, rubbing his eyes again and standing up from the couch. "...sorry I fell asleep so hard. I was hoping to spend more time with you."

     "You're working today?" Kyle asked. Dad nodded, stifling another yawn.

     "Morning shift," he confirmed. "I've got to bring you back to your mother's house in a half-hour."

     "Right," Kyle mumbled, his heart sinking. He hadn't seen his father in a month, and soon he'd be gone again. Kyle was happy that he was going to be able to see his mom, but not at the expense of being with his dad. He suddenly wished – as he had many times before – that his parents were still together. That they hadn't gotten divorced when he was three.

     "Hey, Dad..." Kyle blurted out suddenly, feeling his heart start to pound in his chest. He felt a pang of fear, realizing that he'd nearly finished the sentence. Why did you and Mom break up?

     "Yeah?"

     "Uh," Kyle stammered, rubbing his hands together. "What do you remember about, you know, your dad?"

     "Not much," Dad admitted. "In fact, I'm not sure if I really remember anything at all," he added ruefully. "I do have some memories, but I'm not sure if they're real."

     "What do you mean?"

     "Well, I sometimes have dreams about a...guy who I think is my dad," he answered, rubbing his chin. Then he sighed. "But I think I watched too many movies as a kid," he added.

     "Why's that?"

     "Well, I, uh, always picture my dad wearing a suit of armor," he said with a sheepish grin. "Too many cartoons, I guess. Maybe I just wished he was a hero who'd come back to save me from foster care."

     "Yeah," Kyle muttered. Then he glanced sidelong at his dad. "What color was his armor?" Dad frowned.

     "That's an interesting question."

     "Well, what color?" Kyle pressed.

     "Black," Dad answered. "With blue lights on it," he added. "Why do you ask?"

     "Just curious," Kyle mumbled. He glanced down at his own hands, at the faint haze of blue light lining them. It was magic, he knew. The ability to see magic had been Ampir’s unique gift...and he’d passed it on to Kyle. Most Weavers could only feel magic, as a sort of vibration in their heads. "Hey, do you ever see strange blue lights?" he asked. His heart began pounding in his chest, and he glanced at his father, who was staring at him with a strange expression on his face.

     "Ah, you've been talking to your mother," Dad deduced. "I used to see them all the time," he admitted. "After the accident, I mean. Always at the edges of things, especially myself, or the things I touched. My neurologist said it was a result of the bleeding in my brain...that sometimes people end up seeing strange lights or patterns at the edges of objects after a stroke."

     "Do you still see them?" Kyle pressed.

     "Sometimes," Dad admitted. "I stopped seeing them during high school," he added. "In fact, I thought I'd grown out of it until you got older."

     "What do you mean?"

     "I started seeing the lights again when you were, oh, I don't know, six?" Dad shrugged. “Just around you and the house, actually,” he continued. "I still see them, even now." He pointed to Kyle's hands. "I see blue all around you, and around your backpack."

     "Huh," Kyle mumbled. He stared at his own hands, feeling a chill run through him. There was no doubt about it now....his father had the ability to see magic. An ability that he'd inherited from Kyle's grandfather, perhaps the most powerful man alive.

     Ampir.

     Kyle swallowed, staring at his backpack, at the faint blue light bleeding from its edges. Of course his father would only see magic around him...after all, Kyle was the only person on Earth who could produce magic. His backpack had absorbed that energy, as had anything else he'd been in contact with, to varying degrees

     Kyle glanced up at his father, a sudden sadness coming over him. Dad would never know the truth, not if Ampir continued to insist that Kyle keep it from him. He would always believe that his memories of his father were just silly dreams. It didn't seem fair to keep it from him. To lie to him.

     "Well, we'd better start getting ready," Dad declared, pushing himself up from the couch. He yawned, stretching his arms to the sides, then offering Kyle a hand. Kyle took it, and Dad pulled him up from the couch. "Get your stuff and I'll drive you back."

     Kyle sighed, doing as he was instructed. They both walked through the kitchen to the mud room, and Kyle pulled on his shoes and grabbed his overstuffed backpack – which seemed lighter than he remembered – and slinging it over one shoulder. Dad followed suit, and they made their way to the garage, hopping in Dad's SUV. They pulled out of the garage and down the driveway, making their way to his mom’s house. Neither of them said much to each other as they drove down the street. Kyle stared out of his window at the passing scenery, marveling at how very different everything was here compared to Doma. The trees, the grass, the smells...even the air was thicker, and he felt a bit heavier somehow. It would make sense if Doma were smaller than Earth, with less gravity and a slightly thinner atmosphere.

     Kyle turned away from the window, glancing at his dad. Then he looked down at his lap, taking a deep breath in, then letting it out. He knew he only had a few more minutes with his dad before he wouldn’t see him again...potentially for another month.

     "Dad?" he asked, feeling his heart skip a beat.

     "Yeah?"

     Kyle paused, taking another breath in, feeling his heart hammering in his chest. He kept his eyes on his own lap, feeling his father's eyes on him.

     "Why did you leave Mom?"

     Dad said nothing for a long moment, and Kyle felt a spike of fear course through him. Then the car slowed, and Dad pulled over to the side of the road, turning the hazard lights on. There was another long silence, and then Kyle felt his father's hand on his knee.

     "Kyle..." Dad began. Kyle paused, then turned to face his dad.

     "Yeah?"

     "I'm glad you asked," Dad said at last. "I've been waiting for you to ask that, actually."

     "Really?"
     "Really," Dad confirmed. "The reason I left was because I wasn't happy," he admitted. He paused for a moment, as if choosing his words. "It was the hardest decision I've ever made," he continued. "And the most painful. By far."

     Kyle nodded, not daring to say anything.

     "Leaving your mother meant losing you," Dad continued. "Not completely," he added hastily. "But it meant I couldn't see you every day. Or tuck you in every night before you went to sleep. I remember lying next to you after telling you a bedtime story, when you were three. Before I left. Thinking that...thinking that if I left, I wouldn't get to do this anymore. And it just..."

     He stopped then, shaking his head.

     "Divorce hurts everyone," he muttered. "Scars everyone." He turned to Kyle then. "It was selfish, what I did."

     "Dad..."

     "It was," Dad insisted. "I did what I did for me. For a chance to be happy again." He smiled then. "And to be honest, I am happier now." He put a hand on Kyle's shoulder. "Your mom is a good person. She is.”

     "I know."

     "We're both good people," Dad continued. "But sometimes you can have two good people, and no matter how hard they try, they end up not being good for each other."

     He went silent then, turning off his hazard lights. He pulled away from the curb then, continuing down the road. Neither one of them said anything as they drove the last few minutes to his mother's house. They reached the long driveway leading up the hill to his Mom's garage, and Dad parked just outside of it. He turned to Kyle then.

     "Well, we made it," he stated. Kyle smiled weakly.

     "Yeah."

     "I'll see you in a few days," Dad said. Kyle paused, then nodded, knowing full well that it would be much, much longer for him. The thought of not seeing his father - for what on Doma could be months – was utterly depressing. Kyle unbuckled his seatbelt, then leaned in and gave his dad a hug.

     "I love you Dad," he murmured. Dad hugged him back, giving him a tight squeeze.

     "I love you too," Dad replied. They stayed like that for a long moment, and then Kyle pulled away.

     "Thanks," Kyle said, opening his door. "For answering." Dad smiled.

     "Thanks for asking," he replied. Kyle stepped out of the car, closing the door behind him. "And Kyle..."

     "Yeah?"

     "You can tell me anything, you know," Dad said. Kyle nodded, thinking of all the things he couldn't tell his father.

     "I know."

     And then he was off, pulling back out of the driveway, then driving down the street. Kyle watched him go, waving goodbye. He stood there on the driveway long after his dad had left, staring off into the distance.

 

***

 

     Kyle opened the front door of his mom’s house, stepping into the foyer and closing the door quietly behind him. He took off his shoes, then walked into the kitchen. His mom was standing there in her blue scrubs, eating a bowl of cereal. Kyle felt his heart soar, and he grinned from ear-to-ear, dropping his backpack on the floor.

     “Hey Mom,” he greeted.

     “Hey honey,” she replied, walking up to him and giving him a hug with one arm. Then she stepped back with a frown. “What’s wrong, baby?” she asked.

     "Nothing," Kyle replied. “Why?”

     “You look exhausted,” she answered. "You didn't have another nightmare, did you?" Kyle paused, then nodded. His experiences over the last month – being mortally wounded by an Ulfar, kidnapped and tortured by the Dead Man, and nearly killed again by the massive Void Behemoth – surely counted as a nightmare of sorts.

     “Kind of,” Kyle replied.

     "What was it about?" Mom pressed. Kyle shrugged.

     "I dreamed that I'd never see you again," he answered. It was the closest thing to the truth he could think of.

     "Oh honey," she murmured, grabbing him and hugging him again. She kissed him on the forehead, then held him at arm's length. Kyle heard steps creaking in the foyer, and saw Steve – his stepdad – walk into the kitchen, squinting in the light. "Kyle had another nightmare," Mom declared worriedly. "Maybe we should have him see a doctor," she suggested.

     "Why?" Steve asked. "They’re just nightmares." Mom arched an eyebrow.

     "About never seeing your parents?" she countered.

     "Well..."

     "I think he should see a doctor," Mom opined.

     "He's fine," Steve insisted. "He'll grow out of it." Mom frowned.

     "We'll talk about it later," she promised. "We shouldn't fight in front of Kyle.”

     "Good point," Steve agreed. "Kyle, go to your room while I beat your mother," he ordered. Mom punched Steve playfully on the shoulder, and he chuckled, grinning from ear-to-ear.

     "I'm fine," Kyle interjected, having no desire to talk to a shrink about his dreams. "Really, it was just a nightmare."

     "Are you sure?" Mom pressed, running a hand through his hair. Her hand stopped suddenly, at his right ear, and he felt her tense up. "What's this?" she asked, grabbing his earlobe between her index finger and thumb. He frowned, pulling his head away from her hand, then reaching up to touch his earlobe. He felt his earring there, the on that Kalibar had given him a few weeks ago. It was a magical earring, a universal translator of sorts, allowing Kyle to understand any language spoken around him. He'd gotten so used to wearing it that he'd completely forgotten it was there.

     "Uh..." he stammered, covering the earring with his hand. "It's nothing."

     "Nothing?" his mom retorted, putting her hands on her hips and staring at him incredulously.

     "What is it?" Steve asked.

     "An earring!" she exclaimed, pointing to his ear. "Is that real?" she asked, reaching for his ear. Kyle pulled back, but she was quicker, and she grabbed his ear, peering at it closely. "It is real!" she gasped, recoiling with horror. "Kyle, who did this to you?" Kyle shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant, all the while wracking his brain for an excuse – any excuse – for having an earring, but his mind drew a blank. He stared at her helplessly, suddenly thankful that the clothing he was wearing was mostly indistinguishable from his usual Earth clothing.

     "Who put the earring in, Kyle?" Steve asked. Kyle shrugged again.

     "A friend," was all he could say. He kicked himself mentally, wishing he could turn back time and take out the dang earring before he'd come in.

     "From school?" Mom gasped. "Kyle, it's not sterile, it could get infected!" Steve leaned in to get a look.

     "It doesn't look infected, does it?" Steve asked. Mom peered at it, and shook her head.

     "Not yet," she admitted. "But it should come out before it does get infected," she added. Kyle recoiled, pulling away from them.

     "No!" he nearly shouted, covering his ear with his hand protectively. They both stared at him. "I mean, it was sterile," he added, knowing that he was doing a terrible job of sounding convincing. Mom stared at him for a long moment, then put a hand on his shoulder.

     "Kyle, why did you get an earring?" she asked.

     "I, uh..." he began, trying to come up with something clever, but coming up empty. "I wanted to try it out," he answered rather lamely.

     "You wanted to try it out," she repeated, staring at him for a long moment. She turned to Steve, giving him a look Kyle couldn't read.

     "Kyle, who gave it to you?" Steve asked. Kyle shrugged.

     "A friend," he replied cagily. "I thought it would look...nice," he added rather lamely. Steve's eyebrows rose.

     "I see," he murmured, staring at Kyle for a long moment, then turning to exchange a look with Mom.

     "Oh," Mom gasped, putting a hand over her mouth. Steve put a hand on her shoulder, then walked up to Kyle, putting a hand on his.

     "It's okay, Kyle," Steve stated, his tone carefully neutral. "If you want to look...nice, your mother and I will support you."

     "Wait, what?" Kyle asked.

     "Steve's right," Mom piped in. "We love you no matter what, it's just that we'd rather you talk about what you want with us first, before you get...pierced," she added. Steve grimaced at that.

     "Yes, well," he grumbled. "We’re going to keep a close eye on that ear...and if it looks the slightest bit infected, we're taking it out," he promised. Kyle nodded.

     "Okay," he agreed. "Thanks," he added, feeling quite relieved. Mom smiled

     "Oh honey," she murmured, reaching in to give him a hug. "Of course we understand." She pulled back then, running a hand through his hair and letting out a sigh. "We just need some time to get used to it, that's all.”

     "Love you mom," Kyle stated, smiling at her. And it was true; he couldn't imagine that, only a month ago, he would have been embarrassed to say those words. Steve cleared his throat then, rather noisily.

     "Yes, well," he grumbled. "Better get going hon," he counseled. "You'll be late for work."

     "I know, I know," Mom replied. "You will too," she added. Steve turned to glance at the clock.

     "I have another ten minutes," he countered. Mom turned to Kyle.

     "Bye honey," she stated, giving him a hug.

     "Bye mom," he replied, hugging her back. He paused then, staring at her for a long moment, realizing that he might not see her again, at least not for another few weeks. He only had a half a day before Darius would come back for him, after all.

     "What's wrong?" Mom asked, disengaging from him.

     "Nothing," Kyle mumbled. "Love you."

     "Love you too sweety," she replied. Then she turned about, giving them both one last wave before leaving. Kyle watched her go, his heart aching. Both of his parents would be gone for work for most of the day...on the one day he'd come back to see them. By the time they came back, he would be gone again.

     He sighed, sitting on a barstool at the island. He glanced at Steve; everyone was gone except for his stepdad. This trip back to Earth was not turning out the way he'd expected.

     "What's up?" Steve asked, sitting down beside Kyle. Kyle shrugged.

     "I'm just tired," he mumbled.

     "How was school yesterday?" Steve inquired.

     "It was fine," Kyle answered, not really remembering whether it had been or not. Steve paused, then leaned in, giving Kyle a conspiratorial wink.

     "Did it hurt?" he pressed. Kyle stared at him blankly. "The earring," he clarified. "I bet it hurt to put it in."

     "A little," Kyle admitted, remembering how Kalibar had leapt at him, jabbing it into his ear. Steve grinned.

     "Who was the surgeon?" he asked. Kyle hesitated, knowing he couldn't very well tell the truth. He thought about it for a moment, then shrugged.

     "A girl," he lied.

     "A girl?" Steve asked. "A friend of yours?" Kyle shrugged again, feeling his cheeks flushing.

     "My girlfriend," he corrected. He glanced at Steve, whose grin was suddenly so wide that it would've taken a sandblaster to wipe it off of his face.

     "You have a girlfriend?" Steve exclaimed. "Really?" Kyle nodded. Steve slapped his knees with his hands, looking oddly relieved. "Oo, wait 'til I tell your mother!" He leaned in closer. “So tell me about her...who is she? What's she like?"

     Kyle blushed, feeling suddenly very self-conscious. He'd never really talked about this kind of thing with Steve before. Then again, he'd never had a real girlfriend before.

     "Her name is Ariana," he admitted.

     "You should invite her over so we can meet her," Steve suggested. Kyle didn’t reply. "Hey, between you and me," Steve continued, "...why the earring?" Kyle shrugged.

     "She thought it would look cool," he lied. Steve grinned.

     "That explains it," he declared, a little too obviously relieved. Kyle frowned, suddenly alarmed.

     "What were you thinking?" he asked. Steve shrugged nonchalantly.

     "I dunno," he answered. "I don't get you young whippersnappers these days," he added in an old geezer's voice. Kyle couldn't help but smile; Steve was a pretty great guy, even if he wasn't his real dad. He'd been less kind to Steve in the past than the man deserved. "Anyway," Steve stated, standing up from his seat, "...I've got to get to work."

     "Wait, already?"

     "Yeah, it sucks," Steve confirmed. "I should be home by six or so." With that, Steve walked out of the living room and back into the kitchen. "See you later kiddo," he said with a wave. Kyle waved back sullenly, watching as Steve disappeared into the foyer. He heard the front door open and close, and then there was silence.

     Kyle sighed, looking around the empty kitchen. He thought about going back upstairs to his bed – he'd hardly gotten any sleep, after all - but the couch in the living room was closer, and he was struck with a sudden, near-crippling fatigue. The thought of doing anything else but closing his eyes and falling asleep was almost overwhelming, and he stood, walking over to the couch and lying down. He knew he only had a few more hours left on Earth before Darius would take him back, but he was too tired to go over his best friend Ben’s house. He felt himself sinking deeper into the cushions, his eyelids growing heavy. Then he spotted something moving in the periphery of his vision, and glanced up at the ceiling.

     A faint ripple appeared there.

     Kyle blinked, then sat up on the couch, staring at the ceiling. The rippling continued, like water in a pond after a rock was thrown in, spreading outward from directly above his head.

     And then the universe ripped open.