Of Magis and Amulets by Cynthia Kimball
© Copyright 2016 Cynthia Kimball
Slinking along the alleyway, Kyle O’Malley darted around garbage dumps and three winos who were passed out. He was way past curfew. While he wasn’t afraid of the patrols picking him up, he was a little terrified of Mrs. Conner, his house mother. So old it was impossible to tell her age, she ruled Kellet House with an attitude that made him and most others shake in their boots. It hadn’t stopped him from sneaking out tonight, though. Nothing would have stopped that.
Never in his life had he been invited to a party for his birthday and once he was, he had to attend. Of course, he knew Conner wouldn’t agree, so he hadn’t told her about it at all. In fact, none of the other boys at the house knew. Kyle wasn’t a favorite there and most of them tended to ignore him which suited him fine. Over a year ago, he took his bedding upstairs to the attic and made his room there. It kept him away from the others and gave him a rather large area to call home. The other orphans at Kellet House had seemed happy for his escape and as none of them wanted him around, they never went up to his bedroom.
The chances of it being found out that he wasn’t there were small. And the party had been a blast. Well, sort of. What he remembered of it anyway. A silly grin crossed his mouth at that thought. He was buzzed, really buzzed. Whatever that pill they had given everyone was wonderful. Maybe they would invite him to the next party and he could pocket a few of them for times when he wanted to be out of it.
At the end of the alley sat his destination, separated from the filthy lane by a tall, metal fence. It was much more difficult to climb it now than it had been earlier, but somehow he managed to do so. As Kyle’s feet hit the ground and he stumbled, the rumble of thunder rang in his ears. “Oh, no.” He hated thunder storms and took off at a run toward his current home. Heading out from the house earlier in the evening, the gate hadn’t seemed so far. Now, running away from a storm, the large Victorian style edifice looked miles away.
He saw the light at the same time he felt it. It flashed up from the ground and down from the clouds at the same time, meeting with him in the middle. If he’d been asked earlier what it would feel like to be struck by lightning, he would have assumed it would be like being zapped by a live wire but worse… along with the scent of charred skin before he fell dead. But that’s not how it felt at all.
Instead, he was cushioned in what appeared to be a white tube a few inches off the ground. A deep female voice said, “Take and guard this.” At the same moment, something clunked against his collarbone. Shocked as he was, he didn’t have the chance to look at it or even to ask the voice what was going on before the tube was gone and he dropped to the ground.
“Oomph,” he grunted, landing directly on his behind. Flumping backward, he stared up at the dark clouds and flashes of light. Logically, he knew he should get up and run, but he couldn’t move. Plus, it seemed to him he had heard once that lightning never struck the same place twice. So he should be safe.
A bolt lit up two feet to his right and with a silent scream, he leapt to his feet and darted to the house. Standing on the back porch, he had two choices. Run in through the door, thus attracting Conner’s attention, getting a lecture, and no doubt a whipping, or go in the way he came out by climbing up on the roof and going through the skylight. Even with the storm raging, there was only one decision worth taking. Conner was scarier than lightning.
Thankfully it hadn’t begun to rain yet and he used the thin crevices in the corner post to scramble up onto the second floor balcony and then the chimney to the third floor. As he grabbed the lattice to climb onto the roof, for some reason he looked up, shocked into stillness by the still sky above him. No clouds, no lightning, no… nothing. Just clear sky and stars. What the hell happened to the storm?
Shaking his head to fight off the confusion, he quickly traversed the rickety lattice and shimmied his way up the roof to the skylight. He had left it partially open when he left and quickly slid through the opening, closing it behind him before falling lightly onto the rug he had placed underneath it. Slipping off his shoes so they wouldn’t make noise on the extremely creaky wooden floor, he stepped on the three places least likely to squeak, making it to his bed without giving himself away.
With a whoosh of air, he had just started congratulating himself on his achievement, when a female voice spoke. “It is time.”
Jolting up, he glanced around, afraid Conner had waited for him. But no. That wasn’t Conner’s voice. It was the same voice from inside the tube. “Hello?” he asked softly.
“Greetings, warrior.” Her voice was so loud, he winced.
“Shhh. They’ll hear you.”
There was a moment of silence before her voice came again, softer this time. “You are surrounded by grunts? Run, warrior. Run! You must protect the amulet.”
Grunts? “Uh, I’m surrounded by junk, but one floor beneath me are fourteen others who can probably hear you.”
The voice spoke, saying some word that made no sense, though Kyle had the feeling it was a swear word and considered asking her to repeat it so he could use it. Before he could do so, she continued. “Place vala near your ear. I will speak as softly as I can. This is your only chance to hear of your charge before I am gone forever, warrior.”
Warrior. Why did she keep calling him that? “What’s a vala?”
Confused for a moment, he remembered the feeling of something hitting his collarbone earlier and reached up, surprised to find a leather necklace around his throat. Hanging from it was a cylinder around two inches long and a quarter of an inch thick. It wasn’t glass. If he had to guess, it was made from some sort of crystal. And inside, it glowed cornflower blue. “Whoa.”
Moving the leather around, he placed the cylinder right beside his ear and lay so that it was cushioned by his pillow. Maybe this way nobody would hear her. “Okay,” he murmured.
“You are ready.” Before he could say yes, she continued. “My name is Kiria. I am one in a long line of those who protect the relics. On my planet we are called magi. What planet are you from, warrior?”
There was that word again. “Earth.” Kyle was pretty sure this couldn’t be happening. Maybe that pill he took at the party had brought about this crazy aberration – or being struck by lightning. For all he knew, he lay prostrate out on the back lawn dead.
“I am unfamiliar with your world, but then I was unfamiliar with the planet the former guardian who protected the relic was from. Are you a fully-trained magi?”
“I’m not sure what a magi is.”
“A warrior with the magical skills to protect that which is most sacred.”
“Uhh. No. I’m a teenager. An orphan.” Which stood for someone no-good by most people’s opinion.
“Ahh, your people call magis orphans. The wording does not matter. The basis is, you have been given a gift, young warrior. It is now your life’s mission to protect vala with all your resources.”
“Uh, I don’t have any resources. And I’m not a warrior.”
“The amulet would only go to a warrior, one who has proven themself in magical battle.”
“Well, it came to me. But I’m just a kid, barely fifteen years old. I’m an orphan living in an orphanage run by a crazy lady by the name of Conner. I don’t know anything about magic except for what I’ve read in books and as far as battle… does being picked on by the guys at school count?”
“This doesn’t make sense,” she murmured.
“It’s probably the pill I took at the party. And the lightning that struck me,” he offered.
“You were struck by magi lightning then, the kind that binds you rather than kills you.”
Frowning, he tried to make sense of that. “Uh, yeah, I guess. It encased me in a white tube and then dropped me to the ground.”
Relief came through her tone. “You may not have been trained, warrior, but you have the gift. Otherwise the amulet would not have found its way into your care.”
“Okay,” he yawned. “But now what?” He kind of wanted to sleep, but knew that once he woke up it would be a dream. So he kept himself awake just to enjoy the craziness. It was the most interesting dream he’d ever had. Maybe it was all a part of turning fifteen. Go to a birthday party, have a delusion.
“You must train up to protect vala.”
“Why do you call the cylinder vala?”
“That is just my name for it,” she said in a quieter tone. “You will give it your own name in time.”
“Um, so how do I protect it? If I tuck it into my shirt, that should do it, right?” Though the blue light was rather bright. Would it shine through his clothing?
“To the average humanoid, yes it would, but that is not who you are hiding it from. You are hiding it from the grunts and they will feel its power and be drawn to it.”
Frowning, he didn’t like the way this dream was going. Why did there always have to be horrible individuals drawn to things? He’d obviously watched fantasy films too much. “Why?”
“It is one of the thirteen relics, created by the gods to protect and nourish—”
His spluttered laughter cut her off. “Ah, come on.”
“Warrior,” she said in a clipped tone. “Do you wish to be derisive or learn? You can do either, but the former will not bode well for vala and those it protects. I only have a short amount of time to explain before I will be no more.”
His stomach tensing, Kyle frowned. This sounded awfully serious. Well, he supposed he could let her tell him everything. Then tomorrow morning maybe he’d write it down. He had an assignment for English he hadn’t written yet. Maybe this could work. “All right. I’m all ears.”
“The first thing you must do, warrior, is seek out the magi on your planet. For you will need protection while you train. The grunts on your planet will feel pulled toward the relic and will find you. Depending on how close, it could be hours, days, or even years before they find you. But find you they will. You must be prepared for them.
“The worst of these is Sak. He has been hunting relics all over the galaxy and to my knowledge has captured two. The vessek has been after vala for a very long time and will not rest until it is in his hands. He killed its former guardian before it came to me and now has killed me. The difference between then and now is the former guardian specifically sent it to my planet so he knew where it was going. I sent vala with no direction except it would go to a mighty warrior.”
Bothered that she kept referring to him as a warrior, he fidgeted a little. If only she knew. He was a nobody. An orphan that spent most of his time hiding out from bullies and waiting until he could leave this dingy place and get away. There was no way he could protect anything.
“How do I find a magi person?” he asked.
“Vala will tell you. The relic throbs depending on who or what is near. The energy will be painful if it is a grunt, and filled with power when it recognizes a magi.”
“So if I find a magi, I can just give them the amulet?” That would get it off his mind.
“No! It is your charge, warrior. If you give up the charge, it will surely fall into the hands of those who would use it for ill.”
“What can they do with it?”
“Horrible things,” she murmured. “But my time is growing short. I do not have the time to go into that. The relic must never leave your body. Ever. Promise me, warrior.”
“I promise,” he murmured, barely covering a yawn.
“Promise me you will protect vala with your life.”
“I promise.” His murmur was barely intelligible that time.
“Promise me that when the time comes for you to die that you will send it on to a new warrior to protect.”
His eyes flashed open. “What?” Die? He didn’t want to discuss his death. That was morbid.
“Promise me,” she begged, her voice sounding as though it was further away.
“I promise. Okay. I promise.”
“Then I release vala to you. It is yours to protect. Let it guide you but never lose sight of your mission, warrior. Good luck.” The last two words drifted on the air and he wasn’t sure how he knew it, but he instantly knew the voice was gone.
“Hello?” he said cautiously.
“I’m never going to pop a pill again,” Kyle yawned. As he fell into slumber, he murmured, “Happy Birthday to me,” with his ear still pressed to the cylinder.