Chapter 9 - Honorary Clan Member
I wasn’t making this decision lightly, but Ray deserved to know all of her options. She may initially be angry that I took this step but I was confident that in time, Ray would understand that I was acting in her best interest. At least that is what I kept reminding myself as my call was transferred for the fourth time. I was trying to talk directly to Queen Anne Deveroe, but as the sovereign ruler of the Americas Northeast Kingdom, she didn’t generally take phone calls from small clan leaders such as myself. After another fifteen minutes on hold a gruff voice barked into the phone, “This is Prince Darron Deveroe. I am told you have important information that you wish to share with the Queen, but I can promise that this call isn’t getting transferred any higher than me. Tell me this vital information and I will decide what to do with it.”
Prince Darron was the Queen’s eldest son and was in charge of the general security of the Kingdom. A sort of counterpart to Hernan Collins and a perfect person to relay the fact that I had just discovered the existence of my niece who is unattached to any powerful clans and was blessed with five Gifts.
Logan positioned himself so that he would be leaning against Lawerance with one arm wrapped around his shoulders and I chuckled as I pushed us free of the void. The younger werewolf nearly jumped out of his skin when Logan simply appeared next to him.
“What the fuck, Logan!” Lawerance yelled and Logan started laughing so hard that he had to bend over and brace himself on his knees.
“Oh, little Val! That is the coolest Gift ever. I could pull the greatest pranks ever if I had you as a sidekick,” Logan said, though his voice was still heavily laced with laughter.
I was quietly laughing too when a disgusted, sarcastic voice filled with judgment called, “Jesus Ray. First, you hang out with humans, then two gifters, and now werewolves. I was hoping that you were better than this.”
Regina’s words effectively silenced all of the laughter in the air and I scanned the faces around me to see that she had offended nearly everyone in earshot. It was equally clear that not a single one of them was going to call her on it. Blake and Max’s obvious shame was the last straw and I physically felt my temper snap.
I turned to face the entitled brat and said in a heated voice, “Regina, you are the crown princess of the entire West Coast of the United States of America. One day, you are not just going to be the queen of the Valkyries but also the ruler of every supernatural person in this territory. The Shifters are a large part of that community, so I would suggest that you rip that stick out of your ass, and start at least communicating with them. The only way you will be an effective leader is if you cultivate some sort of relationship with these people. Disrespecting them like you just did is not the right way to build rapport and respect.”
The atmosphere was equally silent and tense after my little rant as Regina’s pretty delicate face started to turn red in anger. “You cannot speak to me in such a way! My mother will hear of this,” Regina called only deepening my exasperation with the silly girl.
“Good,” I responded. “From what I can tell, your mother could use the same advice.”
That might have been a step too far because Regina wasn’t the only one to gasp in surprise as my rash words fell from my mouth. After the initial shock passed, Regina tipped her nose in the air and stomped away towards her hundred thousand dollar sports car. Austin, Nui, and the royal guards were quick to follow her lead. Felix gave me a sympathetic look before hurrying after them just like I had predicted he would. I was surprised that Jonas didn’t follow. Instead, he actually seemed to be taking small steps that were bringing him closer to me.
“Ray, that was.... Not good,” Max said in a serious voice that broke through my anger and my stomach started to sink.
“Damn it!,” I scolded myself and crossed my arms over my chest. Had I really just done that? What was going to happen now? It wasn’t against The Law to speak out against the royals but I understood that it just wasn’t done. After her mother, Regina was the most powerful and respected supernatural west of the Dakotas.
Would I be punished? Would they demand that I leave the Kingdom? Or would they take their anger out on the Oakland Clan?
I felt a hand come down on my shoulder and looked over to see Logan was looking down at me with a sad smile on his lips. “They really broke the mold with you, Little Val. Don’t forget to call. I will always be here if you need me,” he said in a soft voice and I had this horrible feeling that he was saying goodbye. All of sudden, I felt my eyes sting with tears and I realized that I didn’t want to leave. I was just starting to build a real life here and I didn’t want to leave my new friends.
I surged forward and gave Logan one last hard hug and then walked over to Blake’s truck so that no one would see me fall apart. When I felt someone shadowing me, I glanced up to see Jonas was walking slightly behind me with his shoulders hunched and his hands stuffed into the front pockets of his jeans. I wasn’t the only one to think it was weird that he was here because Connor asked, “Dude, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be back at Blade reporting what just happened?”
That confirmed my suspicion that Jonas was most likely a spy for the Blade Clan. “Lots of strong emotions flying around right now,” was all Jonas said in a clipped tone.
“I thought that the stronger the Valkyrie the more you felt their emotions,” Blake challenged. “Ray is the strongest of us by far. Why are you trailing her like a lost puppy?”
“She constantly Cloaks her mind,” Jonas provided in explanation and I started to understand. In this large group of Valkyries and other supernaturals, he was seeking me out as a kind of shelter from all of the crazy emotions people were feeling. By this point, the guys and I were climbing into Blake’s truck and I concentrated on Cloaking the guys’ minds too. When I had the Cloaks in place I heard Jonas let out a relieved sigh and I saw that he was visibly more relaxed.
“What just happened?” Max questioned and I studied Jonas’ face, once again sorry that his Gift caused him so much pain.
“Ray Cloaked your minds too,” Jonas revealed. “I haven’t felt this normal around other people since my power level increased in the seventh grade.”
“Wow, I wasn’t aware that you could do that Ray,” Max commented and I just shrugged my shoulder.
“Well get in,” Connor told Jonas after rolling down his window. “You can hang with us, it will be good to catch up.” It was then that I finally connected the dots and realized Connor and Blake would have grown up as brothers in the same clan as Jonas because all of their fathers were all part of the Blade Clan.
I scooted over closer to Max and Jonas jumped in the back with us. Connor started up some small talk with Jonas about the members of Blade Clade but I couldn’t follow what they were talking about. That pit in my stomach was growing again and I played the words that I had said to Regina over and over again in my head until I felt sick to my stomach.
If nothing else, I needed to make sure that my actions didn’t have any negative blowback on the guys. When we got to the house I would confess everything that I had said to Elijah and ask his advice. Or even better yet, I would talk to Derik. He and I were cool, but I knew that he would put the safety of his clan before me and would give me a straight answer of how much trouble I was in.
When we pulled up to the clan house I followed Max inside and was surprised to see Mathis and Sean sitting at the dining room table with Elijah and Derik. I silently walked over to a spot next to Derik and pulled out a chair without looking anyone in the eye. Even though I had just met them, the idea of disappointing Sean and Mathis turned my stomach even more. Apparently, I was a people pleaser. Who knew.
“Hello Ray,” Sean said in a happy but hesitant voice. “Is everything alright?”
At his concerned yet patient tone I felt my eyes start to sting again. I swear that before I met the guys it had been years since I had allowed myself to cry. Best to be honest.
“I had a really long day at school and when it was done my friend Logan was waiting because he wanted to talk about something. Regina made a comment about how it wasn’t appropriate that I was friends with a Shifter and I snapped and yelled at her,” I said in a monotone while refusing to look up. “I did more than yell at her. I told her that she needed to take the stick out of her ass and start building a relationship with the Shifters and other supernaturals in her kingdom. And when she brought her mother into it, I might have also said that the Queen could use the same advice.”
When several moments passed and no one said anything, I risked a glance up. Instead of being furious or disappointed like I had expected, Sean was looking at me with a slightly raised brow while Mathis was trying to hide a smile behind his hand and Derik was full-on smirking. It was only Elijah that looked a little put off.
“After everything that happened with Kaiden, I am afraid that I just blew my chance to get on the royal’s good side. Do you think they will ask me to leave the Americas West?” I asked and gave voice to my biggest fear.
“Shit Ray, the Prince stabbed you and you are willing to go dinner with them. I am pretty sure they will forgive that you said something that Regina needed to hear,” Derik said bluntly and I felt my shoulder sag with relief.
“What in God’s name do you mean that the Prince stabbed her?” Mathis demanded and stood so fast that his chair was knocked backward. From the corner of my eye, I saw Jonas flinch and figured that he was picking up Mathis’ emotions. I closed my eyes and concentrated. It took a little trial and error and all of the Cloaks slipped a couple of times, but on the third try, I was able to Cloak everyone’s mind. When I opened my eyes I gave Jonas a small smile. I was proud that I could do this for him.
While I was experimenting with my Cloaking Gift, Elijah had been explaining to Mathis and Sean what happened on Saturday morning. He was just starting to explain how we had rescued the hunters and Logan when his voice dropped off in mid-sentence. Elijah was quiet for a moment before he turned to me and asked, “How in the world are you doing that?”
Bananas, I forgot that I would also block everyone’s thoughts from Elijah by Cloaking their minds. I hope he wasn’t mad.
“Umm, Jonas said that being able to feel everyone’s emotions could be a little overwhelming so I have been experimenting with Cloaking other people’s minds like I Cloak mine. I can stop if it bothers you,” I said because Elijah’s face wasn’t giving anything away.
“You can block telepathy?” Mathis asked in surprise. “Nothing can block a strong telepath. Or a strong empath, now that I think about it.”
I shrugged my shoulders and replied, “What can I say? I specialize in things that everyone else thinks is impossible. I also took Kaiden’s dagger away from him and I still have it, not to mention that I can call thirteen different weapons.” I supposed that I should be keeping this information to myself, but I was tired of pretending to be something I wasn’t. This is who I was. If Mathis and Sean didn’t like it then it would be better to figure that out now rather than later after I have a chance to get attached.
“Incredible,” Mathis breathed and I studied him carefully for any signs that he would try to use me for my power like so many other people were trying to. However, I only could discern awe and pride in his expression.
“This is a good segway into something else I wanted to discuss with you. Ray, have you had a chance to think over my offer to become an honorary member of the Oakland Clan?” Elijah asked and the Three Musketeers all snapped their heads towards their clan leader. I had thought they knew and just hadn’t brought it up, but it looked like Elijah hadn’t told them.
“Yes, but I wanted to clarify what it would actually mean to be an honorary member of your clan. What does that entail?”
“You would be extended all of the protection and status as a full member of the clan, would have full access to this house, and the ability to act as a working Valkyrie in official Oakland Clan business. Like I mentioned before, you are more than welcome to stay with us, but you do not have to live with us and you will have the power to terminate your honorary status and join another clan at any time. Likewise, as Clan Leader, I also have the power to revoke honorary status. Usually, this kind of status is given to young Valkyries that need to train rare Gifts outside of their parental clan. And training is something that I do want to talk to you about. But first, do you have any questions?” Elijah said in his formal manner.
All of that sounded pretty straightforward to me, but there were a couple of things I wanted to double-check before I signed on the dotted line. “Will this keep me from being auctioned off to the highest royal bachelor who wants to make me their pet princess?”
Derik barked out a laugh at my blunt question and Mathis responded before Elijah had a chance to. “Young Lady, this is a serious matter. In our society females are given the utmost respect and responsibility. I know that all of this is new to you so we are trying to be patient, but you must understand that leadership is in your future. It will ultimately be up to you what form it takes, but you already exude power and demand respect. Our people are going to trip over themselves to follow you and I believe that you can be a strong force of good in the supernatural world. But before any of that happens you need to not only be educated, but you also have to be open to the opportunities that will be presented to you. You may not like how our royal families unite through arranged marriages, but please do not be so disrespectful of generations of tradition.”
I felt the full weight of Mathis’ disappointment and it was heavy.
I nodded my head to let him know that I heard him and then Elijah said, “Long story short, becoming an honorary member will stop those who think that they are protecting you by offering to allow you to shelter in their clan. This is what both the Blade and Collins’ Royal Line Clans used to try to get you to join them because to them, no Valkyrie would ever choose to live outside of a clan. However, we are a small and relatively powerless clan. If someone were to try to take you by force, the Oakland Clan would be easily overrun.”
“Does that really happen? Clans will kidnap people?” I asked in disbelief.
“Generations ago, there were a couple of instances of royal female babies or young children being stolen from their families by significantly stronger clans. However, these days it is very rare for Valkyrie clans to physically fight or war against each other. Instead, we tend to play political power games,” Sean informed me. “Because you are so unique, if you weren’t so able to protect yourself, we would insist on you living with more males that could protect you from such a thing.”
I blew out a breath and considered that I didn’t necessarily want to know that. Now I was going to be extra jumpy. “A while ago, when the Blade Clan first found out about me, they mentioned linking. Can you explain what that is again and would that happen if I became an honorary member?” I asked and Mathis and Sean shared a meaningful look between them.
“Linking is when members of a clan form a strong magical bond between them. This bond takes a good amount of time to form and can only be completed with an official linking ceremony. Once it is in place, it acts in a similar fashion to the bond you feel to your chosen protected. We,” Elijah said while pointing between him and Derik, “can tell if the other is seriously hurt or sufficiently afraid. Our Gifts and general well being is better and stronger when we spend significant amounts of time together, but both of us will suffer if we stay away from each other for too long. This is one reason why we live together. Linking is one of the most important and sacred things to a Valkyrie clan. And no, you cannot start the process as an honorary member. As I said before, honorary is a status used mostly for training. One has to want to permanently join a clan before the linking process will be initiated.”
Hmm, there was a lot to think about with that one but now wasn’t the right time. “You said you want to talk about training,” I said to get the conversational ball rolling once again.
“Yes,” Elijah agreed. “Mathis was correct when he said that you need to be educated so that you can make the best decisions about your future. Also it is important that you are fully in control of your Gifts and understand what you can and cannot do. Clearly you are very talented with your Gifts, but we would like to work with you just to be sure and to maybe even teach you something different. We were thinking you could train in Weapons and Shield with Derik and the twins. You can choose to train Tracking with either Mathis or Dominic from the Blade Clan.”
I looked over at Mathis and saw that he was clenching his jaw and I guessed that he was trying really hard not to say that I had to train with him. Elijah probably told him that I don’t react well to directives like that. “I will train with Mathis,” I said and the older man relaxed in his chair.
“Truth is harder,” Derik cut in. “The only other Valkyrie with Truth in this Kingdom is Kaiden and something tells me that he would rather try to stab you again than actually help you improve.” I didn’t know why I needed training in Truth. It was just a buzz in my head that told me if people were lying, but I wasn’t going to say that. They seemed really serious about this training thing.
“There is a Hunter in the Americas South with Truth,” Mathis said while rubbing the shadow of stubble that was surrounding his lower face. “Word of Delia is going to get out soon enough. I can put in some calls and see if he would be interested in training you. If nothing else I am sure he would at least talk to you over the phone.”
Everyone seemed content with this and I was happy that the Olsen’s were getting along with the guys. It just made everything easier. “And my Cloaking?” I asked because they seemed very concerned that I got trained in each of my Gifts.
“That we are just going to have to experiment with,” Elijah said. “I would like to test the bounds of what you can currently do and then try to push them further. Like what you just did with Cloaking our minds to protect Jonas.”
I looked over at Jonas because I had forgotten that he was even here. We had just said all of this in front of someone who might just report back to Edison. Oh well, it wasn’t like we said anything that wouldn’t be easy to find out. I thought everything over for a moment and did an internal check that I was okay with everything on the table and then said, “Okay, sounds good to me. How do we make me an honorary member of the Oakland Clan?”
Blake jumped from his seat and fist-pumped the air before rushing towards me. “Ray-Ray! This is going to be so awesome!” he almost squealed and pulled me out of my seat to twirl me around. I laughed at his excitement and felt happy about this decision too. Once he finally set me down I had to steady myself on the back of one of the chairs and I saw that everyone in the room also looked happy. Evan Mathis and Sean had a smile on their face. This might just work.
“While this is a cause for celebration, we have a couple of other things to discuss with you Young Lady,” Mathis said and I wished that he would just call me Ray.
“Okay,” I said and sat back down. Max was nice enough to bring me a glass of orange juice and I took a sip before asking, “What else is on the agenda for today?”
“Elijah tells us that you are a very good and dedicated student who is determined to graduate with honors from the local public school,” Sean said and I could tell from how he was setting this all up that he was about to say something that I might not like. “This is excellent, and we applaud your hard work especially considering everything else that you were dealing with. However, there is much that you need to learn that a human school cannot teach you. All royals and even high-level Valkyries home school their children so that they can learn Valkyrie history, law, and ensure proper training in all of their Gifts. We would like you to formally transfer to the private school front that the three Americas Kingdoms have set up for exactly this purpose and spend your days studying with Elijah, Mathis, and I.”
I didn’t say anything at first because I really hadn’t seen this one coming. Drop out of school? Just like that? School has been the one thing to keep me sane since I was dumped into it after Samuel was murdered. When the foster homes were bad and the system just kept bouncing me from place to place, school was my one constant. Yes, I transferred to a couple of different schools, but the classes were always an easy way to escape from my reality. Then it became my life goal to do better than everyone else and find a way into a college so that I could get a decent job.
But I guess things were different now. Technically I had three million dollars in the bank and a future as some sort of leader within the Valkyrie community. I didn’t really need to go to a human college to learn a set of skills that wouldn’t really be applicable to my new future. But what if everything fell through and I was back to just being a street kid without a high school diploma.
Maybe I could still go to college and earn a degree that would be helpful in either the human or the supernatural world. Like business. Getting a business degree was always a smart move. But even if I did get accepted to one of the colleges that I applied to, that acceptance would be dependent on me actually graduating. I couldn’t just give up on four years of hard work, three months from the finish line.
“I’m not dropping out of school,” I said in a firm voice. “I have seen what happens to high school dropouts and I am not allowing that to happen to me.”
Mathis was about to say something but Elijah raised his hand to quiet the older man. “I know that you are worried that all of this is going to disappear just as fast as it appeared in your life and you don’t trust or really believe that the future we are promising you is actually going to happen. And that’s okay. None of us can even come close to fully understanding all that you have gone through or what you have needed to do to simply survive. But by doing this you are not limiting your future options, you are increasing them. The Frigg College Preparatory Academy is a fully accredited and highly ranked American high school and you will receive a diploma. On paper, you will have completed a far superior education that will help you get better jobs or accepted into higher-end colleges.
“Ray, what do you think you are really going to learn by continuing to attend a public high school for three more months?” Elijah asked and paused for a moment for me to consider his question. What would I learn? A couple more chapters in Calculus? The themes within The Great Gaspy?
“But I can guarantee that with us you will learn invaluable skills, political information, decorum, and training that you will use for the rest of your life. Please let us prepare you for the life that you are about to be plunged into.”
Well okay, when he said it like that it didn’t sound too bad. But I still needed a little time to think it over. This felt like a huge step into the supernatural world and I had a feeling the moment I stopped resisting and decided to corporate I would be whisked away faster than I could adjust. “I will think about it,” I told him and checked my watch. “I need to get going. Does anyone want to help grab some stuff from Jack and Amy’s? And when I say help, I mean let us use your car.”
This was my way of ending the conversation because my head was too full and I needed time to process and I think everyone understood. No one tried to push the subject but Mathis did ask, “What stuff? And where are you going?”
“Jack and his little sister, Amy, are going to move some of their stuff into the rental house and crash with me when their mom is out. We are just going to help them move from the trailer park to the house,” I responded without really thinking about it.
“Jack is the human that you were eating lunch with yesterday?” Mathis asked and I nodded my head to confirm. “You can’t be serious. You cannot allow two humans to move in with you.”
I took a moment to process what Mathis had just said to me and then slowly raised my chin and met his eyes with determination and stubbornness burning in my gut. “Ah, Dad didn’t mean that,” Sean was quick to jump in and try to backpedal from the racist remark. “He is just surprised that after finding a clan that you would continue to choose to live with humans.”
“Jack and Amy are family,” I said in a low, dangerous voice. This was a make it or break it moment for me. “They were there when no one else was and have never let me down. I am not going to abandon them now, just because my life is starting to take a different direction. So if they are not welcome in that house, then neither am I.”
I expected Mathis to get angry with me and start spouting off more nonsense about how female Valkyries were more important than everyone else and insist that I say away from all humans. I was ready for that and prepared to walk away not only from the rent house but also Mathis and Sean themselves, but that’s not what happened. Instead, Mathis surprised the hell out of me by looking down at his hands and I could have sworn he was actually trying to suppress tears.
“Okay child. I’m sorry. All of this is going to take a little getting used to, but if you need the humans to feel safe then who am I to deny you that,” Mathis said in a shaky voice.
That hadn’t been exactly what I had said or meant, but I would take what I could get. I saw Sean share a sympathetic look with his father and wondered what had caused the change of heart.
My thoughts were interrupted when the twins volunteered to help move Jack and Amy. Max said that he had an appointment with one of the Royal Healers for training and he looked really excited about it, but Jonas seemed happy to just keep tagging along with us. Blake and I took his truck and Jonas went with Connor and they took his Jeep so that we would have room for Jack, Amy, and their stuff.