The Legend of Kimberly: Inheritance, p.1J.R. Leckman
The Legend of Kimberly: Inheritance
Copyright © 2011 by J.R. Leckman
Edited by Anne Victory
Cover art by Isabell Weise
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
Visit my website at www.jrleckman.com
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing: October 2011
Paperback ISBN 13 978-1-4664292-6-0
To my wife, for reminding me why I write.
To James “Papa” Aker. I wrote this for you. I miss you every day.
To Alex, for being Kimberly’s very first fan.
“I’m going to die tonight, Ip.”
The little fox in Hal Stone’s lap lifted his head and looked up into Hal’s face. It was a questioning look, eyes wide and ears up. Hal smiled and rubbed Ip’s head, imagining for a moment the sorrow the little fox could see written on his face.
“Yes, I’m sure. My information is never wrong.”
Ip let out a mournful sound, a cross between a whimper and something human. Hal laughed and scratched at a tiny spot between Ip’s ears; the fur there was the softest, and Ip let out a bark of approval.
“Come, Ip, we have much to do.” Ip jumped down and Hal stood, taking a moment to savor the cold feel of the floor on his toes.
Hal wrote down the things he needed to get done. Everything was far too important to leave to his aging memory. Checking his list for the third time, he chuckled to himself. It didn’t look like the list of a dying man; rather, it looked like the list of a businessman.
He spent a large part of the morning filling out paperwork that his attorney, Lance, would need to finish the things he could not. Ip sat in his lap while Hal put everything together, watching the old man’s fingers type, write, and seal.
Hal kept himself busy all through lunch. His one break came when the messenger service arrived to pick up a few things he needed to have sent out. The woman picking up his packages was pleasant, and he regretted that he couldn’t enjoy even a few moments of her company. Far more important things remained to be done.
As night fell, Hal found himself walking aimlessly through his house, lost in personal thoughts. The list was in his pocket, every item crossed off. Years of successes and regrets flitted across his face in all-too-brief moments. Ip followed at Hal’s heels in his wanderings, a warm presence in the silent house.
“Just a couple more years, Ip. Just a couple more.”
He had been saying it all day. In just a couple of years, his granddaughter, Kimberly, would be eighteen. Not only would she be free of her father, the tyrant, but she would be old enough to choose her own path. He could tell her everything then, tell her the secret she so badly needed to hear.
He caught his reflection in a hallway mirror and frowned. Sad lines were written across his face, lines that made him finally look as old as he felt. His hair was almost white, his skin sagging in places. He met his reflection’s gaze, staring deep into bright blue eyes that mirrored his thoughts. The judgment he saw there made his lip twitch.
“We can’t change the past, Ip.” He looked at the little fox, ever present in his footsteps. He smiled then, letting out a chuckle. “We can, however, choose what’s for dinner.”
Ip barked his approval. Prancing behind Hal, the two walked through the quiet hallways, down the stairs, and into the kitchen.
That night he made himself a giant dinner, cooking all of his favorite foods. Still wearing his chef’s hat, he and Ip shared steak, mutton, stew, and seven kinds of cheese. Ip wagged his tail every time Hal pushed another portion of food in front of his paws, a motion that made Hal think of a giant, drunken paintbrush.
His library reminded him so much of the one he had grown up in, full of stone and oak and smelling, just faintly, of dust and paper. The books reached ever upward in long, tall bookshelves, a good portion of them written by him, constructing walls of adventure and excitement just waiting to be held and tasted by the mind’s eye. He couldn’t think of a better place to die.
Easing himself gently into his favorite leather chair, he stared at the large grandfather clock across from the fireplace. The pendulum swung back and forth, every remaining second of his life now on display.
“You’ll take care of her, right?” He turned his attention to Ip. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a small metal key, the kind that looked old and locked only important things away. He placed the key between Ip’s paws.
Ip picked up the key in his teeth and spun around once. Facing Hal again, the key was nowhere to be seen.
Hal smiled and settled back in his seat, knowing that it was out of his hands now.
Several minutes passed in near silence. Hal was so busy watching the clock tick his life away, he didn’t notice Death’s entrance. Turning his head to look at the shadowy spirit in the doorway, he smirked.
“Don’t suppose you’d be up for a game of chess?”
Laughter like rustling leaves came from beneath the figure’s hood. Death knew better than to take the bait. The dark spirit approached and reached out with long, bony fingers.
“Well met, old friend.” They clasped hands in greeting. Death pulled Hal forward, drawing his spirit away from his body. As they walked away, Hal paused once to look back at Ip.
Ip’s eyes sparkled with tears. The fox let out an almost silent whine.
Hal looked at Death and smiled. “I’m ready.”
There was a bright light. He felt warmth on his face and heard a woman’s voice calling his name. His heart soared in recognition, and then he was gone.
A Father’s Summons
Kimberly Stone sat alone on one side of her own private train compartment, staring over the top of her book at her well-dressed escorts. The gentle swaying of the train was doing its best to lull her to sleep, and she didn’t like the idea of her father’s suits watching her while she did so. Sighing to herself, she looked out the window. The mountains hugged the train tracks closely, breaking open on occasion to beautiful, untouched landscape views. The sight, a rare one in the United States, was something that most people would never have the chance to see. She always enjoyed riding on the train for this reason, a train that her grandfather sometimes referred to as the Hogwarts Express. She couldn’t remember much about the book the Express was from; it was one written well over a century ago. She could, however, remember her grandfather reading it to her in bed when she was three. It had been the first of many such books, kindling a love affair with the written word that had come to define her very existence.
The young woman’s thoughts briefly flickered to her grandfather and she wondered what he was up to. Staring at the suits, she sighed and wondered why she was even here.
Kimberly had been preparing for her first lesson of the day at Whitman’s Prep Academy. The academy was incredibly exclusive, hidden deep within the mountains and accessible only by train or helicopter. Walking beneath the tall trees on campus, she had been intercepted by one of the headmasters. Given little explanation, she had been forced to pack her things and was delivered to the train station. Upon seeing the two men in dark suits disembark, she had sighed inwardly, realizing this had something to do with her father.
Her father, Nathan Stone, was a very powerful corporate attorney, the kind a company approached when they needed delicate business attended to. Being an i
She wondered if her father’s summons had anything to do with the letters from her grandfather. How he accomplished getting his missives through to her was nothing short of magic. The school knew she was to have no contact with him, yet they still appeared like clockwork in her mailbox, her name written in his familiar scrawl. She didn’t care how she got them; each one was considered a treasure.
Maybe a treasure that had finally been discovered? Kimberly found herself wondering if her secret mattress stash had been found.
The train went into a tunnel. Her attention turned outward, she was now looking at herself. With her school uniform on and her hair parted just right, she considered herself pretty enough to get by. True, she was still a bit scrawny for a girl her age, and she wouldn’t mind filling out just a bit more.
Staring at her reflection, she got a strange chill up the back of her neck and a bizarre feeling like déjà vu. The one thing she had in common with her father was her eyes. Like mercury pools, seeing them so reflected at once made her think of Nathan Stone.
Not that she needed them to be different from other kids her age. While most kids were unaware of Nathan Stone’s success as a corporate monster, they were all familiar with her grandfather, Hal Stone. The writer of well over sixty fantasy novels, he was often considered the greatest author of his time. He was kind, generous, and Kimberly’s favorite person in the whole world.
Thinking of the two men in her life, she pictured her father as a shadow, creeping behind the light that emanated from Hal Stone. A sick balance had somehow been struck, leaving her father’s heart crippled and bitter.
It had been over two years since she had seen her grandfather in person. If not for the letters, she would have been left to wonder why.
Explaining it all in his first message, he had been candid with her about the lawsuit and his attempt to gain custody of her. Her grandfather, seeing that Kimberly never fell down the stairs at his own house, had finally put two and two together and made a stand.
Eventually the lawsuit had gone public, casting a cloud over Kimberly’s life. Her father’s power in the judicial system had proved insurmountable, and her grandfather’s power with the public had proved irrepressible. In the end, a judge had ruled that Kimberly would remain under the care of her father. Oh, how she had paid for that on a nightly basis, often running to hide from the man when she heard him coming. She could picture those gray eyes peering at her hiding spot in the closet or under the bed, promising even more violence.
One day she had come home from school to find her bags packed on the front porch. Ted and Ed said little that day, taking her to a town car and then to the train station. Nathan’s image had finally become more important to him than a teenage punching bag – an image that Hal had threatened to publically destroy.
In truth, the school wasn’t that bad. She never had to explain away injuries, rarely got yelled at, and even made a few sort-of friends. She couldn’t think of a better way to spend time under her father’s long shadow, a shadow that was currently happy just letting her be.
Kimberly groaned inwardly and shifted in her seat. Congratulations, she thought, you have officially depressed yourself.
Pulling a blanket down from her overhead bin, she made herself comfortable under the stares of Ted and Ed. She reached into her bag and pulled out a large, hardbound book. Holding it up, the two got a good look at her International Finance textbook, the one with a picture of a bullet train on the front.
“Guess I’m going to study now. Hope I don’t get motion sickness.”
Neither of them so much as twitched. Kimberly rolled her eyes, wondering if their pay was docked each time they spoke. She balanced the book in her left hand and scribbled on a notepad with the other. Every few minutes, she would make a little note on the pad. She hoped Ted and Ed noticed how hard she was studying.
In reality, Kimberly was simply recreating an assignment she had done last night. The truth was that she had two copies of International Finance. The first was in her bag. The second had been heavily altered to act as a sleeve for her grandfather’s latest novel, a book that had somehow appeared in her room one day during classes.
It was supposed to be the first of a new trilogy. Entitled Elurra’s Journey, it chronicled the story of a young woman about Kimberly’s age who would discover a weapon made of magic while hiding from bandits in the swamp. The bandits were ruled by a being known only as the Black Knight, an individual who roamed the countryside with a sharp blade and a penchant for killing everybody who opposed him.
On the day she got the book, she stayed up all night to read it. Thrilled, Kimberly had been there when Elurra had faced down the Black Knight, a strange being that was little more than evil in a suit of plate armor. Cutting through the creature with Willow, her enchanted sword, Elurra had defeated evil and restored goodness to the land.
Obviously, there was more to the story, seeing as how the sequel was due in the fall. Kimberly couldn’t wait. Something about Elurra reminded Kimberly so much of herself.
The book had quickly become her most prized possession; she never went anywhere without it. Kimberly also knew that its discovery would cost her dearly. The price for openly defying her father, particularly where her grandfather was concerned, was always high. A broken collarbone when she was twelve had taught her that lesson.
An hour passed. Kimberly looked up from her book occasionally, the fixed alien stares of Ted and Ed on her face. She shuddered, wishing she could see where they were looking. She often pictured black hollows where their eyes were, like something out of a bad science fiction movie.
Closing her book, she sighed and looked out the window. The thought of going home had finally overwhelmed her. Even Elurra’s adventures couldn’t keep her mind distracted now.
With three hours left on the train and an unknown situation at home, Kimberly decided that some sleep was a good idea. She put her book away, deep in her bag, buried beneath the real textbook. Adjusting the pillows under her neck, she pulled the blanket up and closed her eyes, the gentle rocking of the train her lullaby.
It never took long. For Kimberly, falling asleep was like sinking in a pool of warm water. Her mind stretched out like taffy and her thoughts fizzed like soda pop. Her trip through time was brief. She was standing in her grandfather’s house, the safest place in the world. Her hands were small once again and she was wearing a sundress that hadn’t fit her since she was ten.
In her dreams, her fuzzy logic let her recreate broken memories. This was the time Grandfather had taken her to his private island for the first time. He lived on a lake and owned the land all around it. In the middle of the lake was a small lump of land with a few trees and a cave. He had told her that he had built it, but her current mind argued this fact. All the money in the world couldn’t build you a natural formation.
“Are you ready, kid?” Grandfather smiled at Kimberly, his blue eyes sparkling. When she nodded, her floppy yellow hat bobbed down over her face. She held out both hands to carry the picnic basket he had prepared. It was heavy, and her legs bumped into it when she walked.
With a warm hand on her shoulder, he led her around his house and down the hill to the shore. Arriving at the little wooden dock in the lake, they pushed off in a tiny blue rowboat. Grandfather sang old sea chanteys, ones he claimed he had learned from pirates. Kimberly tried to sing along, but kept getting the giggles during some of the funnier lines. While some details of the dream were blurry, she could clearly see her grandfather’s face, his mouth stretched out comically to accommodate the words.
Time stretched and
Her mind skipped ahead once more. They finished their lunch and Grandfather took her further into the island. A cobblestone path led the way, and Kimberly skipped along it. Grandfather skipped as well, their hands entwined.
They came to a door. Looking around for pirates, spies, and dinosaurs, Grandfather put his fingers to his lips and revealed a key that he wore around his neck. Kimberly nodded and placed a finger of her own near her mouth. The pact of secrets had been struck. Grandfather turned the key in the door and they stepped inside the cave.
Her mind went fuzzy and Kimberly clung tight to the dream, afraid to wake. She slipped deeper into sleep and was near the top of a long, winding staircase. She briefly pondered its impossible existence, but was captivated instead by her memory of the special room she now stood in.
Hal Stone was well known for talking about his stories as if they had happened. The fact that he often showed items from his books drove his fans—specifically collectors—crazy with envy.
Blue-hued Mermaid Blade from his first series? By the door. Sir Raggly’s suit of plate mail? Further in, and it had a huge bite mark taken out of it, compliments of a water dragon that had eaten Sir Raggly toward the end of Pirate’s Bounty.
Weapons and magical artifacts of all kinds resided here in his collection. Grandfather’s trove was often mentioned whenever they made a movie based on one of his stories, or whenever he was feeling particularly friendly during an interview. The fact that he kept these things on the island was the big secret, though. This was something he made Kimberly swear to never tell anybody about.
The Legend of Kimberly: Inheritance by J.R. Leckman / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on15 votes