The dark house was silent, the blue air of the witching hour still. Kal was perched in one of the tower rooms, pouring over his studies. He had picked this room though it was drafty and poorly lit because the winding of stairs was now beyond the capabilities of his mother, whose frail body could handle the exertion no longer. He had taken to spending more and more time up here over the last few years. After their plans to overthrow the Cromwells and avenge the death of his father had failed so spectacularly, they had holed up here, on the ancestral Kalabar family lands. They had sealed themselves off from Halloweentown proper, and months and years had passed in silence and solitude, mother and son isolated as the world spun on.
Kal laid aside the book he had been studying from, a tome of magic theory that he had taken the liberty of lifting from its dusty obscurity in the library of Kalabar manor. He hadn't originally planned to spend so much time letting long-dead witches and sorcerers and druids become his mentors and teachers, but several times in previous years his mother had also raided the library, looking for expensive or valuable publications to pawn to one cult or another who promised her the secrets of resurrection in return. Or to tear through them all, looking for such macabre knowledge herself. Kal had gone in secret and taken all the most important and most influential works, as well as anything that seemed likely to help her in her quest, and it became a goal of his to fill the long hours of the days and nights with educating himself with the knowledge of two worlds contained therein, as it was clear to him that there would be no more formal training in any meaningful way from his mother.
He listened keenly to the silence around him. Ordinarily he could hear his mother, at her experiments. She was often loud, shrieking obscenities and singing love songs by turns as she continued to hit dead end after dead end in her crusade. After Kal had returned from his disastrous encounter with the Cromwells in the Mortal World, with no spellbooks and bad news, his mother had begun to distance herself from him. Previously, he had striven to make her proud, followed her obsessive desire for vengeance like it was his own, provided her with access to his power whenever she needed it for spells and incantations that were beyond her own grasp. And she had encouraged him and taught him to the best of her ability, showed him all the warped care she was capable of. But afterwards, a coolness had sprung between the two. Kal was aware that she was murderously disappointed in him, and had found that provoking her ire did not scare him as it once had. When she asked him for his power to work a complex spell- demanded was a more realistic word, for it had never occurred to her that he would one day say no- he had denied it. When she had tried to take it, he resisted. Since then, she had decided that he was not worthy of being included in her mission to avenge Kalabar's memory. Alone and in the dark, she had come to the conclusion that it was not enough simply to avenge Kalabar: for the past four years her sole purpose had been to bring him back to life. It was one of the few concrete rules of magic- what's dead should stay dead. Invariably resurrections had abysmal endings, a fact Kal was now very well aware of after his studies, and it was for this reason that necromancy as a whole was a banned art in Halloweentown. What his mother was doing was dangerous, a black heresy, and Kal wanted no part of it. With his dragon's hoard of books that had information she could've greatly benefited from, coupled with the fact that he would no longer give her his power freely, he was all but certain she would never succeed.
He was reminded as he heard a piercing scream that his mother's grasp of reality, never the strongest to begin with, had been almost completely severed by her many years of obsession and all the things it had led to. In traffic with banshees and ifrits and Nightmares and djinn and countless others of the fouler underbelly of Halloweentown, she had parted with a great many things. She had parted with jewelry and books and a huge quantity of food in the beginning, but as she began to turn to darker and darker sources of information, so her sacrifices became correspondingly great. She had parted with pounds of flesh and pints of her own blood. Her long, winding hair and several teeth had been bargained away for knowledge she found out only later she had already known. More recently she had plucked out her own left eye to appease a particularly vituperative lamia. Her memories had been a favorite currency demanded by some of her sources, and with each bargain, she lost a little more of her strength and a little more of herself. After each one was concluded, Kal would find her comatose and still. Many times he had thought her dead. After each incident, he had nursed her back to health, questioning why he was doing this when it was only going to enable her to get back up and go right back to her quest. He had yet to find a satisfactory answer. It was with a sinking heart that he began sprinting down the staircase and rushing to the conservatory, where she always conducted her deals.
The two had once lived in a small cottage on the grounds of Kalabar manor. It had been given to them, as his mother had explained once, because his father loved them too much to see them tainted by associating with other residents of Halloweentown, as they were all under the thumb of the selfish and very powerful Cromwells. Having done some research on the matter himself, he thought it far more likely that Kalabar had given her the cottage as a way to keep her away from Halloweentown, where she might reveal that the illustrious, trusted Mayor Kalabar had begotten an illegitimate child on her, and more importantly, away from him. When Kal had been a child, his mothers responses to why she and his father were not married had ranged from airy, happy assurances that until the Cromwells were finished for good and all, he would not be free from the spell one of the witches had cast upon him, but that once he was, he would sweep her into his arms and declare his love before the worlds, to a cracking, stinging slap to the face for impudence. What had been mysterious to Kal as a child was quite clear now- his father had loved neither his mother nor him and had wanted nothing to do with them, merely had wanted to silence them to keep them from besmirching his reputation. His mother's delusions of being his father's only love had always been plausible in only her addled mind. When Kalabar had died, his mother had moved the two of them into the manor proper, and it was after that that she had sealed it off. It was a large, grand house, built for parties and laughter and happiness. It had been sullied from many years of neglect and sorrow and every manner of dark doings. Kal hurried across the threadbare carpet, once plush and vibrantly embroidered, through the main hall and past the library to the conservatory. He eased open the door slowly, praying that he would only find his mother, passed out again. What he saw instead made him blanch.
His mother was kneeling across from an intricately wrought pentagram, scrawled across the floor in dark black ink. Contained within the pentagram was a demon. Kal had known for some time that his mother's ambition to resurrect his father and finally win his love was leading her down increasingly shadowy paths, but he had no idea she had progressed this far. The demon did not have a distinct shape, but instead hovered, a thick, dark gray haze that roiled sickeningly within its confinement. "But I don't have anymore," His mother was explaining, a whine in her voice. "Very well, then. I will accept your son as payment instead." The demon responded, voice like the thud of something meaty falling from a high shelf. Kal watched with horror as his mother rocked back and forth on her knees where she crouched in front of the demon, seeming to think about it. Before she could respond, Kal came to a decision. What little was left of the boy he had been, the boy who had dreamed of nothing more than a father who cared for him and a mother who smiled at him, could not stand it if his mother was to respond that she would give him over to a demon in exchange for a few paltry secrets. Silently feeling thankful for the fact that he had learned demon-banishing rituals a few months ago, he collected the ancient, powerful words in his head. It was important that every individual syllable be in the right place, every single nuance commanded by the spell falling at exactly the right time, or all he would succeed in doing would be to provoke the demon's ire. A simple pentagram was enough to contain lesser demons. The many markings on the floor were far more elaborate, indicating that this was a much more powerful demon his mother had summoned. He collected all his energy inward, focusing on the cold surety that came with using his powers. He flung the spell at the demon as he burst into the room, a handful of blue fire that consumed the demon until it disappeared.
It happened more quickly than to permit his mother to do anything about it. She turned, lone eye searching him out in the shadows by the door. The look of pure outrage on her face would have almost been comical if Kal hadn't felt so sick. "You- oh, why, you-!" she began, incoherent with fury. As she rose from her position on the floor and sprung at him in one movement, Kal was left to wonder if she had been exaggerating some of her frailness so that he would underestimate her. She quickly expended whatever magic she had left in her reserves after the summoning on flinging several noxious curses and spells at him, the wordings and kennings twisted and wrong but the incandescent hatred at the heart of each making the spell flare with brilliant potency. Kal deflected these and listened as his mother screeched at him.
"That was a Prince of Hell, you stupid boy! Do you have any idea how long I looked for the spell that would bring him, for spells that would bind him? How much I had to sell for that knowledge?" Once she had burned through what was left of her magic, Kal had figured she would slump to the floor, defeated, and he could carry her back to her room. But adrenaline, or perhaps simply her anger kept her going, and she continued her assault with nails and fists. Once Kal might have stood still for this rage, would have accepted her blows as punishment for not doing as he should. Though he could not bring himself to strike this wraithlike creature, even as she screamed her fury with rabid, wordless savagery at him, he fended off the worst of her blows and caught her wrists, pulling them close so that he could lean down to look her in the eye.
"Mother. Think about what you're doing. You summoned a Prince of Hell, hoping that he would help you, which has virtually no chance of succeeding. You put yourself in great danger, all for the sake of a man who is dead and should stay dead." At this, his mother flew into further hysterics, voice spiraling higher as she struggled against him with almost inhuman strength. "He never loved you," Kal continued, raising his voice firmly to be heard over her delirium. At this, his mother fell ominously silent. "What did you say?" She croaked, voice nearly broken from her exertions. "He never loved you, and he certainly didn't care about me. He only wanted us here to keep us out of his life." Kal told her, voicing finally the truths he'd become more and more aware of during the past years, overturning the lies of his childhood. His mother stood stock still, mouth agape. Kal waited for her to say something, anything. But when she finally did, he had cause to regret wishing she would.
"Of course he loved me, he always did! He always loved me and he knew how much I loved him, loved him so much it hurt, loved him so much I would have died for him in a heartbeat if I could, and he knew I would raise you right, raise you to revere him and have vengeance for his murder! He loved me more than anything, and we could have had a life together, could have been happy together, if it hadn't been for that gods-damned Cromwell she-devil- and you!" She ranted, stumbling over the words as tears began to pour down her wasted cheek.
"You ruined everything! You turned his love for me sour, you made him send me away. If you'd never been born he would have married me and we would have never been parted but you, you wretched vermin, ruined everything I ever wanted and now, in payment for how I kept you alive and safe and raised you and trained you even though I wanted- so badly- to be rid of you and go back to the man who loves me, you come to ruin everything again!" The words were pouring out of her mouth now, a proverbial torrent of snakes and scorpions and toads. Spittle sprayed from her mouth and made her bony chin shine in the guttering light of the candles. "Bane of my existence! Architect of my destruction! Thief of my happiness! Scourge, affliction!" She continued on, shouting until her voice finally faded. With this she sank to her knees, wracked with sobs, Kal's hands still clamped around her wrists. Kal gathered her seizing body up into his arms and numbly began to walk to her room.
He deposited her in the heap of bedclothes that smelled rank with mildew and the various other substances they had been soiled with over the years that covered the once-fine bed in the master suite of the manor. She was shaking, her hands pulled in close to her chest in fists. She was muttering something with what was left of her voice. Kal leaned down, not quite daring to hope it was an apology, a recanting of the words that he didn't think he'd ever really forget. He put his ear down to her lips, and in her broken voice she rasped. "I hate you I'll kill you I wish you'd never been born." The fevered madness in her eye and steady confidence of her whisper left him no doubt that she truly meant every word. At these words, Kal knelt at her bedside. He felt something rising inside of him, something borne upward from deep within him by dark wings and the words that this contemptible creature that bore no resemblance to his mother was still hissing in an ever-faster litany of "IhateyouI'llkillyouIwishyou'dneverbeenbornIhateyouI'llkillyou-".
"I'm done with you, Mother," He said, beginning quite calmly. "I'm done hiding here with you in the dark like a rat afraid of the sun. I'm done making your meals and cleaning your vomit and looking after you when you've run yourself so ragged in your neurotic quest for a man who never gave a damn about you that you can't even move without help. I'm done with being told to respect my father's memory, and with being told to give up anything I ever wanted in order to avenge him. I'm not going to waste any more of my life here with you," With this, Kal leaned in closer, his mother's eye rolling to find his face as she trembled even more fiercely. "You're insane, Mother. You're pathetic and twisted and deplorable and deranged, and I've let you drag me down with you for too long. But I wash my hands of you now. I'm never going to see you again, and to be honest, I can't think of anything better right now. I'm going to go and live a full life, and I'm going to make something of myself that has nothing to do with you or with Kalabar. You've stolen and destroyed so much of my life already- I won't let you do that for another moment. So goodbye, Mother," On that note, Kal rose and towered above her where she lay, almost looking as though she was having an apoplectic fit. He wished suddenly that he could slap her, but he didn't put it past her to try and bite him. He turned curtly on his heel, and walked back to his room at a measured pace, leaving the piteous, whimpering thing that had been his mother behind him.
He packed quickly with the help of magic. What few clothes he had, all the books in his room, his witch's glass, and all the odds and ends that accompanied and assisted in being a warlock all went into his trunks, which had been bespelled to accommodate whatever he put into them. With a simple incantation, they floated behind him as he roved the house, going to all the hiding places where he'd stashed food and valuables. Thus arrayed, he strode out the front door, banging it closed behind him with a finality that suddenly made it real to him that he would never set foot inside it again. This knowledge made him devoutly grateful as he set off down the gravel driveway.
Even though the emotions storming inside him- loathing, exultance, hatred, anger, sadness- were heady and strong, Kal was aware of exactly what he was doing as he walked into the heavy darkness of the hour of the wolf. Without him to make sure she ate, to keep her from making deals with demons- if she ever regained the strength to try again- to clean her up and care for her, there was a very good chance his mother would die.
Kal did not look back once.
A.N.- Okay. So I know it's been a while. But fortunately, this little fic has been brought to my attention once more. I know that this new chapter is quite a bit different from the previous one. Rest assured that many, if not all, features of the previous version will be retained. There's a different direction I'd like to take the story in- to paraphrase everyone's favorite murderous mayor: "I've got big plans for everyone in Halloweentown!"