Authors: Kendra C. Highley
MATT ARCHER: LEGEND
By: Kendra C. Highley
Copyright © 2013 by Kendra C. Highley. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: June 2013
Editor: Cassandra Marshall
Cover Design: Streetlight Graphics,
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are a work
of fiction or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or
dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
For my mom and dad
When I was fourteen, a mystical knife, inhabited by a Spirit
of Light, chose me to help save the world from evil. When I was fifteen, I
discovered saving the world might mean losing more than I could stand to give.
Now I’m sixteen, and I’ve learned that sacrifices have to be
made to keep everyone else safe—no matter how much those sacrifices might
hurt—because it’s my fight, whether I want it or not.
I’m Matt Archer. And I was born to kick ass.
* * *
“Ouch! Man, that hurts,” Will whined.
Built like an Abrams tank, six-four and weighing two
hundred-thirty pounds, you wouldn’t necessarily think my best friend was a
wuss. Especially since he made his high school football career out of slamming
opposing quarterbacks to the turf.
He just hated needles.
“You’re awful big to be scared of a little tat,” the tattoo
artist said. He shook his head. “I’ve inked little old ladies who complained a
lot less than you.”
“Well, good for them,” Will said.
“Dude, chill,” I said, trying not to laugh.
He pulled at his hair with his free hand, his face scrunched
up. “Chill? I’m getting stabbed with an ink-filled needle, you butthead! You
were unconscious when you got yours done. You chill!”
Then I did laugh. I held out my right hand. Just below the
wrist joint was a tiny, silver pentagram. It was the symbol for the military
unit we served with…and much, much more in my case. Mine had been inked by a
Peruvian medicine man and had mystical properties. Will’s was a more mundane
“Seriously, mister, are you trying to engrave this thing
onto my arm bone?” Will howled.
I grinned at the tattoo artist. “Sorry, Jimmy, Will’s a
Jimmy grunted, his head bent over Will’s meaty forearm as he
worked. “You don’t say.” A few buzzes later and the job was done. “Look here,
He set down the needle and raised his t-shirt, revealing a
scrawny chest covered in a collage of body art from his neckline to his belly
button. Will recoiled and I started laughing again.
“See? You don’t gotta be big to be a man,” Jimmy said, a
hint of a smile twitching at his mouth. “Now, do you need some ibuprofen for
that little boo-boo on your wrist, or can your friend walk you out?”
“I’ll be fine,” Will said, sounding humiliated.
I whacked him on the back. “Sure you will. Thanks, Jimmy.”
“Don’t mention it. Let me know if you blokes come back to Ottawa.
Maybe I can stencil a few more items for you, eh?” He turned to clean his
equipment, missing Will’s blanched face.
I led Will outside and we headed across the long parking
lot. We’d told the team we were going to dinner, but took the bus here after a
Google search described Jimmy as one of the best tattoo artists in Ottawa. As
soon as Captain Parker saw Will’s wrist, we’d be in for some trouble but I
doubted he’d come down hard on us. All five blade-wielders had the special
pentagram tattoo, and several of the guys on our team had gone to get one, too.
Will wasn’t the only one who wanted to fit in.
The mid-October night was cold and the wind had a bite to
it. Nothing a couple of Montana boys weren’t used to, but I turned up the
collar of my jacket anyway, glad I’d worn my hiking boots.
“Some fall break. Not in Canada eight hours and I’ve got a
tat,” Will said, air puffing in little white clouds from his mouth.
“Millicent’s gonna be pissed. If it wasn’t football season, I’d be looking to
run away from home before she finds out.”
“You know, it sucks that I have to go back to school at
all,” I said. “Mom’s being way too stubborn about that. So what if there isn’t
much activity right now? I could be at the Pentagon, helping Aunt Julie
research or something. School’s a waste of time.”
He snorted. “Can you blame her? You lied to her for a year
before she found out what we were up to. Keeping you in school when you’re
between ops is her way of punishing us
the Army for keeping her in
“Look who’s talking.” I stopped and crossed my arms. “You
ever planning to tell
parents that we travel the world, hunting
monsters on school breaks? Or do you think they’ll keep buying all that crap
about the gifted and talented program?”
Will looked away, jaw clenched.
“Dude, sorry. I didn’t think—”
“It’s okay.” He wouldn’t look at me. “Millicent knows now,
and that’s enough for me. She seems to get why we’re out here. My parents
“True story,” I said. “Doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck.”
“I know. It’s just…I’m not a completely necessary part of
the team; we both know that. If my parents found out, Colonel Black wouldn’t
fight too hard to keep me around.”
I shook my head. “They would if I threatened to quit. You’re
my wingman. I can’t do this without you and the Army better keep that in mind.
Besides, I’m not willing to let all that training we did at your house the last
few months go to waste. We have too many badass tricks to try out in the field
next time.” I started walking again. “C’mon. I’m cold, and I’m sure there’s a
pizza place still open somewhere in this town.”
“Good. I’m hungry enough to eat a brontosaurus.”
“Isn’t that what Fred Flintstone eats?” I asked.
“Yeah, but he only eats a steak. I’d eat the whole thing,
except its tail.”
“You draw the line at eating a giant reptile’s tail? That’s
Will shrugged. “I do have some standards, you know.”
“Now you tell me.” I wrapped my arms across my chest; the
wind had suddenly gotten colder. Jimmy’s tattoo shop was in an industrial park,
deserted this late at night, and a creepy place to be out walking after dark. Thin
clouds, light gray in the moonlight, raced across the sky. I started walking
faster, trying to cross between the amber circles of light from the streetlamps
more quickly to stay out of the dark.
I could see the bus stop in the distance when a blue flash
came from my backpack, catching my eye at the same time a voice crossed my
“Here?” I asked the knife-spirit.
She sounded agitated, which usually meant we
were about to be in big trouble.
The hair on the back of my neck prickled and I glanced back
at the walkway between the metal buildings. Fog oozed from all four directions,
tinged a phosphorescent green and stinking of a sewer.
“We got incoming,” I whispered, not like it wasn’t obvious.
Monsters were rarely subtle.
Will already had his phone out. “…Yeah, northeast corner of
town…No, no idea how many….You picking us up on GPS?...No, we didn’t go to
dinner….Look, can I explain that later?”
An other-worldly screech, like ten thousand metal nails
dragging across concrete, filled the air. Will whispered, “Gotta go, Parker.
Hurry up, will ya?”
“How long?” I asked.
“Parker said ten minutes.” Will glanced at his watch. “No
bus for the next fifteen. Looks like we’re stuck.”
We are not stuck
We fight. Prepare.
Why did I know the knife-spirit would say that?
Sighing, I motioned for Will to follow me. We crouched and
crept behind a rusted-out delivery van parked at the back of the lot. I slid
the knife out of my bag and unsheathed its nine-inch long blade. The handle
hummed, content to be in my hand; the knife’s spirit felt alive, eager to be on
I was, too. “Okay, Tink, let’s kill some monsters.”
Must you call me that?
the knife-spirit asked,
I do not wish to be compared to some petty mythical
“Yeah, well I’m not the one who snaps a person in the
forehead if he’s doing something I don’t like, so I say the nickname fits,” I
whispered. “Now, can we discuss this later? I have a feeling we’re about to be
A brief blue flash of the blade indicated she agreed, then
the knife went dark and an inhuman calm invaded my mind. I accepted part of it
and pushed the rest away. The tug-of-war for control during battle was a work
in progress at best, but tonight I didn’t feel like letting the knife-spirit
take over my consciousness. Not until I saw what we were dealing with, anyway.
Metal screeched, like the warehouse walls were being opened
by a can opener. A man screamed and screamed—whatever was prowling around had
found the tattoo shop.
I grabbed Will’s arm. “Oh, God…they got Jimmy.”
He shook his head once, staring at the buildings. The
screams were cut short and a sick feeling churned in my stomach, knowing Jimmy
had been killed simply because we’d looked up his shop on Google.
Will whispered a few curses and crawled to the back end of
the van. I tightened my fingers around the knife’s handle as grunting laughter
echoed down the line of steel buildings. I shuddered. This wasn’t good. Now and
then the metal thunked, like it had been punched and bent out of shape. These
weren’t run-of-the-mill monsters. No, we were being hit by something huge.
Will eased a collapsible baton—the kind law enforcement
carries as riot gear—out of his backpack and extended it with a snap. “This
probably won’t do much good, but
feel better carrying it.”
“If you run hard, they won’t get close enough for you to
whack them in the head,” I whispered.
“You always make me the bait,” he retorted. “Maybe you
should run this time.”
I rose up to peek through the van’s windows. In the shadows,
between the buildings, was a lumbering blob. No, make that two. Both were
nearly as tall as the buildings themselves and broader than three guys standing
“What are they?” Will asked.
I was about to say I didn’t know when they stepped out of
the shadows, stopping under the nearest streetlight. “Oh, man.”
The creatures were lumpy, as if carved by a dull chisel.
Appropriate, since they appeared to be made of a brownish-red stone. Their legs
were stout and their arms stuck out from their sides like a bodybuilder’s
would, too bulky to rest against their boulder-sized chests. One of them
grunted to the other, then pulled the streetlight out of the ground and threw
it across the parking lot.
“Matt?” Will said. “Can your knife go through rock?”
The knife-spirit didn’t think much about that question. She
harrumphed in my head.
The knife is more than capable for this task. For your
information, the monsters have weak spots.
Tink always got pissy when anyone doubted her abilities. “Where?”
Now she sounded apologetic.
Under the arms.
“You’ve got to be joking.” But when I looked, I had to admit
she was right. One of the creatures held another streetlight over its head. In
the weak moonlight, I saw a glistening membrane stretched across its armpit.
“This…is gonna be a mess,” I said.
“No freaking doubt.” Will bent to double-knot his Nikes.
“Any last words?”
“Yeah.” I punched his shoulder. “Run fast.”
“Do my best.” With a battle cry worthy of an Apache, Will
jumped out from behind the van, waving his baton. His jacket flapped in the
wind as he streaked across the parking lot.
The rock monsters stopped tearing up streetlights to watch
him run. For a second I wondered if they were too stupid to give chase. Then
one howled and they lumbered after Will. The concrete vibrated every time one
of them stomped down.
I tore after them, running as lightly as possible so they
wouldn’t hear me. Will was fast…but I was faster. Luckily, the monsters were
slow and I caught up with the first one before it got anywhere close to Will.
There was a problem, though—the monster’s armpit was seven feet over my head.
Given that I’m six-three, the creatures had to be at least fourteen feet tall.
How was I going to get up there? Climb up its back and hope it didn’t crush me?
Run and jump.
“It’s too high—I’d miss,” I whispered.
No faith in our power at all.
Tink sighed in my head.
A spike of adrenaline slammed through my chest, spreading
hot to my arms and legs, forcing me to run faster, harder. My boots slapped
against the pavement. The monster heard me and stopped.
I overran it.
Somehow, I managed to bank hard and turn back. The monster
waited, its arms open, hands ready to grab me. Another surge of power blasted
through my body. I jumped, an unnaturally high leap, taking me further than an
Olympic long-jumper. I flew toward the monster, knife held aloft. Its
cymbal-sized hands closed too late, and I sailed under its arm, slicing the
membrane as I came back down.
The ground came fast, and I rolled on the landing,
scrambling away from the howling rock monster. It stumbled in a drunken circle,
crushing parking curbs under its feet, before falling on its butt and
collapsing in a rocky heap. One little moan, then it lay still.
“Who knew that would work?” I asked.
Not all creatures carry their hearts in the same place as
you. Now go get the other one before your friend is injured.
Shouts came from in between buildings at the far end of the
lot. I ran hard, not sure of which row to take. Running horizontal to the
buildings, I glanced down each row, like I was looking for someone in the aisles
of a grocery store. A small shadow, chased by a much larger one, ran the
opposite direction at the back of the next row. I spun around, and was blinded
“Get in!” Sergeant Murphy shouted, screeching to a stop two
feet from me in the team’s rental car. He held the steering wheel in a death
grip, and Lieutenant Johnson was riding in the passenger seat. His rifle poked
out the window. Support-staff, armed and ready.
“Will’s on the run,” I said, flinging the backseat door
open. “We need another wielder out there. Where’s Captain Parker?”