Authors: Alecia Stone
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #Speculative Fiction, #Mystery
TALISMAN OF EL TRILOGY
First published in the UK in 2012 by Centrinian Publishing Ltd Winnington House, 2 Woodberry Grove London, N12 0DR
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For my mother, Pauline, the first to hear the story.
Thanks for all your wonderfully weird tales.
Manhattan, New York January 25, 2013, 11:15 P.M.
DERKEIN ODESSA SAUNTERED INTO a study lined with bookshelves and a high ceiling of gold leaf and bas-relief sculptures. He stopped when he saw his father standing behind the large mahogany desk at the back of the room, rifling through the wall safe. A muscle in his jaw ticked. ‘You’re alive then,’ he said.
‘Not now, Derkein.’ His father closed the safe, covering it with a portrait of his wife.
Folding his arms across his chest, Derkein advanced on him, his footsteps echoing off the hardwood floor. ‘Not now.’ He chuckled without humour. ‘Well, why don’t you give me your card, and I’ll book an appointment.’
‘I’m sorry I didn’t call, but I can’t talk right now. I have a flight to catch.’
When his father turned round, Derkein stopped, his eyes widening. A blood-soaked plaster covered the right side of his father’s neck, red stains on the collar of his white shirt. Derkein hurried over to him. ‘What happened?’ he asked.
‘I’m fine. It’s just a scratch.’
‘You don’t look fine. Where have you been …?’ Derkein paused, the strong smell of tobacco assailing his nose. He scrutinised his father – the purple bags under his eyes, scratch marks on his chin. ‘You’re still searching for it, aren’t you?’ He sighed, raking a hand through his shoulder-length black hair as he lifted his head back. ‘You gave me your word.’
‘I know you disagree with my decision, but you have to understand –’
‘Understand what? Dad, this is not normal.’ Derkein grabbed the bag at his father’s feet, lifted it onto the desk, and tipped it onto its side, scattering the surface with a collection of daggers and guns. He picked up a black leather sheath and pulled out a knife, its broad, stainless blade honed until the cutting edge was almost invisible. He dropped the knife and sheath among the other weapons. ‘You have to stop this.’
Derkein’s heart skipped a beat. ‘What … What happened?’
‘Natural causes. Apparently, his heart gave out.’
‘What do you mean “apparently”?’
With a hesitant glance at Derkein, his father opened the front pocket of the bag and pulled out a talisman, burnished in copper with an engraved steel band and a circular dip in the centre. ‘Luther and I dug this up in the Roncador Mountains in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The earthquake that hit South America two months ago ... We caused it when we removed this from the earth.’ He looked down at the talisman then back at Derkein, distress clouding his features. ‘The moment the earthquake struck, we passed out. Two hours later, we woke up on Manhattan Bridge.’
‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.’
‘We didn’t fly to New York.’
‘Then how did you get here?’
His father started packing the weapons back inside the bag. ‘I don’t know. Three weeks ago, Luther called me and told me that someone was following him. I think whoever was after him wanted the talisman, and when they didn’t find it, they killed him. Now they’re after me.’
‘So give it to them. Dad, this isn’t worth your life.’
‘I can’t. This is my only connection to Arcadia.’
‘Where are you going?’
‘England,’ his father replied. ‘Thomas might be able to help me. If what he told me about these beings is true, I can’t be around you. They got to Luther. I won’t lose you, too.’ He turned round and stared at the portrait covering the safe.
‘I miss mum, too, but it’s been five years. Give up before you end up killing yourself. Arcadia doesn’t exist.’
His father looked at him. ‘It’s out there. I’m going to find it. I will bring her back.’
‘Mum’s dead,’ Derkein snapped. ‘When are you going to get that?’
‘I have to go,’ his father said in a calm voice. ‘I’ll call you when I get there.’
‘I’ll be fine. I always am.’
‘Dad, please –’
An ear-piercing scream ripped through the building. Derkein froze, his eyes the only things that moved. His gaze fixed on his father, who was rummaging through his bag. He took out a black pistol and turned to Derkein, a tortured expression on his face as he placed the weapon in his son’s trembling hand.
‘Shoot anything that moves,’ his father instructed. He placed the talisman around Derkein’s neck, tucking it inside his shirt. ‘Don’t let it out of your sight.’ Cupping Derkein’s face in his hands, he made him meet his gaze. ‘I’m so sorry I got you involved in this.’ He grabbed another gun from the bag.
‘What exactly have you got yourself into, Dad?’
His father looked at him with a solemn expression. ‘If anything happens to me, you find Thomas. Tell him … Tell him he was right.’ He headed towards the door.
‘Dad, wait.’ Derkein went after him. ‘Dad –’
The double doors burst open with a bang.
His father opened fire. ‘Derkein, shoot!’ he yelled.
Derkein glanced around the room in panic and confusion. He saw no one but his father. Then he felt a sharp pain in his arm, heard his shirt tear, and cried out. Something warm dribbled down his arm. When he placed his hand on it and drew it back, he saw blood. His father screamed, and he looked up and saw him flying across the room, crashing into a bookshelf that collapsed under him.
‘Dad!’ Derkein sprinted towards him but felt a powerful blow across his chest that sent him flying backwards, and he landed hard on the floor, his gun falling out of his hand. Staggering to his feet, he glanced around for whatever had attacked him but saw nothing. His gaze landed on his father, who was groaning … and then he was gone. There were no bright lights or loud noise. He had just vanished.
As Derkein stared wide-eyed at the spot where his father had been lying only moments before, something like a blast of electricity stunned him, and he felt an intense burning inside his chest. He let out a cry as his body lifted off the ground and hung in midair. Seconds later, he came crashing down …
THREE THOUSAND MILES AWAY, Charlie Blake jolted awake. He clutched at his chest as he tried to catch his breath. His heart was racing, his body trembling. He looked up at the bearded, heavy-set man standing over him, and it was then he realised he was on the floor.
‘It’s all right,’ said his guardian, Jacob Willoughby, as he helped Charlie onto the bed. ‘I’m going to call the doctor.’
‘No,’ Charlie protested. ‘I’m okay.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I’ll get you some water,’ Jacob said, and he left the room.
Running a hand through his unkempt black hair, Charlie pulled it back from his face and looked at the clock hanging on the cream wall above the dresser opposite him. It had just gone three thirty in the morning. Taking hold of the chain around his neck, he looked down at the two silver rings attached to it, clenching his fist around them. A feeling of despair overwhelmed him, and he took a deep breath. He’d had nightmares before, but only once had he woken up feeling this way. That was four years ago – the day before his tenth birthday. The day before his dad died.
Jacob returned to the room. ‘Here you go,’ he said, handing Charlie a glass of water.
‘Thanks.’ Charlie took a sip and rested the glass on his bedside table.
Jacob stood with his arms crossed, his paunch hanging over his belt, his short brown hair damp, as if he had just stepped out of the shower. ‘Feeling better?’
Charlie nodded, forcing a smile. It had only been a week since he moved into the three-bed cottage, yet he was already waking the man up at the most inconvenient time. If he was planning on this adoption succeeding, he was going about it the wrong way. ‘Sorry I woke you.’
‘You don’t need to apologise.’ Jacob’s face assumed an amiable expression. ‘Do you need me to get you anything?’
‘No, I’m fine.’