Chapter 3 - Family Reunion
I was only eighteen when my brother simply disappeared off the face of the Earth. Sam was always larger than life and I grew up securely in his shadow. That shadow didn’t disappear when he did. In fact, all of the questions and uncertainty around his going missing only made things darker. I never could live up to the memory of him or the expectations that the clan had for him.
Dad was never the same after Sam. He allowed himself to be completely consumed with the investigation and completely forgot that he had other duties as a father and a clan leader. About ten years ago we had held an intervention and on the surface, things got better but Sam’s disappearance caused a rot within our clan that I can’t seem to get rid of. A year ago I took over as clan leader and I thought that we might finally be making progress.
But yesterday Patrick Walsh came to me with news of a female Valkyrie in California with our family name who claimed that her father was a part of the Rabec Clan. Sam was a Hunter within the Rabec Clan and it was the entire Rabec Clan that had gone missing without a trace almost twenty years ago. Dad and I had booked the first flight to San Francisco and today we were finally going to shed some light on what happened to my long-lost brother.
--Sean Olsen. Clan Leader of the Olsen Clan
I felt both Elijah and Max at my back as we walked away from the members of the Blade Clan and my stomach twisted in guilt. I had just completely taken over when this was Elijah’s territory. He and the Oakland Clan had to deal with the consequences of my actions, and I was screwing things up left and right. I was so used to being alone that I hadn’t even considered what the guys would want or what would happen to them before I strong-armed the leader of the most powerful hunter clan in the kingdom.
I saw Elijah’s sleek town car parked outside of Broad Street Diner and slid into the back seat when I heard the locks click open. Max surprised me by getting into the back with me and after Elijah got into the driver’s seat he turned so that he was facing us. The stone of guilt within me got heavier and I found it difficult to meet Elijah’s muddy brown eyes.
“Elijah, I am so sorry for all of the trouble that I have caused you and your clan. I had no right to take control of that conversation like I did, let alone volunteer your house and your clan members to aid in my training. I let my emotions get the best of me and -” Elijah cut off the rest of my mumbling rant by reaching out and gently caressing my cheek.
“Ray, you have absolutely nothing to apologize for. You are garnering all of this attention because you nearly sacrificed yourself to save one of my clan members and I am the one that failed to protect you in my own home. What you did just now with Edison was nothing short of amazing, and I am incredibly proud to know such a strong and independent young woman such as yourself,” Elijah stated in a clear, determined voice and his eyes told me that he actually believed everything he was saying.
“You are more than welcome at our house at any time, and I hope that you will start to see it as a home for you as well. I know that every single one of us are more than happy to keep you company during your training sessions. Edison was trying to use this training as a way to separate you from us and install you within Blade Clan territory. You did a brilliant job of getting the carrot and avoiding the stick.” He paused in his speech to tuck a stray hair behind my ear and then continued in a more serious tone.
“I do want to talk about how you are thinking of leaving the Bay Area and disappearing back into human society.” I cocked my head to the side and double-checked that the cloak on my mind was still in place because Elijah shouldn’t be able to read my thoughts. My cloaking ability allowed me to shield my mind from Telepaths and Empaths.
“I know that you don’t have much tying you here, but I don’t think you realize how much you have changed in the last couple of weeks. When I first saw you sleeping under my favorite tree you looked pale, drawn, and exhausted. You were startled by your own shadow and materialized weapons with minimal prompting. Today, you faced down two royal princes and the leader of an elite hunter clan with poise and confidence. You are literally glowing with allure and radiating out power. And even with everything that happened over the last twenty-four hours you have never looked healthier. Your Valkyrie side was suffocating within the human world and I fear that if you try to return to isolation, the effects will be even more drastic.
“Right now, the Valkyries that you are interacting with are drawn to your strength, beauty, and power. And because we are a species composed mostly of men, their instinctual response is to try to claim you for their own because you are new and unknown. But eventually, you will choose your path and those of us that are lucky enough to be a part of your life will assimilate to having you within their sphere. I know that things are hectic and none of this is fair to you, but please for your own sake, do not run away from your own people. I have no doubt that you will soon have many different opportunities available to choose from, all you need to do is power through this confusing time for a while longer.”
About halfway through Elijah’s incredible words, my eyes started to sting and by the end, several tears had escaped my control and started rolling down my cheeks. Elijah used his thumb to wipe away one and Max pulled my hand out of my lap and gave it a reassuring squeeze. The clan bond burned through their combined touch and I felt loved and safe for one of the first times in my life. I let out a shaky breath and nodded at Elijah to reassure him that I heard what he had to say.
I wasn’t going to disappear today, but I also wasn’t going to completely remove that option from the table. Because of what my father had put me through as a child, I needed to always have the ability to walk away and maintain my freedom.
Elijah gave my cheek one last swipe with his thumb and then turned around and started the car. I assumed that they were going to take me back to my bus and after a few minutes of comfortable silence, I leaned over and rested my head on Max’s shoulder. It felt incredible to have someone to lean on and share my troubles with. Max rested his head on the top of mine and murmured, “The twins are worried sick about you.”
“And,” Elijah called from the front seat, “Derik has sent me three text messages in the last twenty minutes asking about you. For him, that is the equivalent of screaming from the rooftops with worry.” Knowing that each of them cared about me enough to worry brought a small smile to my lips.
“Where are they?” I asked.
“The twins are back at the house and Derik is on duty. We thought it would be better if only two of us came to talk to you and Connor is still pretty sore and worn out from being shot. Blake won’t leave his side right now but as I said, they are both really worried about you and would love it if you came over for dinner,” Max said and I could hear the rumble of his voice through his chest.
I glanced at the clock on the dashboard and saw that it was just after twelve thirty. I wanted to spend some time alone and desperately needed a shower, but heading over to the clan house for dinner sounded pretty good. Almost losing Connor last night had shaken me and I am starting to realize how much the guys really mean to me. I want to put in the time to really get to know them. Plus, I was feeling guilty about just disappearing on them this morning. I hadn’t even checked with Connor to see if he was okay.
“I think I can make that work,” I said as Elijah pulled into Sunny Times Trailer Park where I had made a home in an abandoned old school bus. “Can one of you come to pick me up later? Maybe around seven?”
“Of course,” Elijah said and I sat up as he parked the car.
“You sure you don’t want any company?” Max asked. While I appreciated the gesture, I just needed some time alone to decompress.
“Thanks, Max, but I just need to be alone for a few hours. I will see you guys tonight. Thanks for coming to find me,” I said and slid out of the car. Elijah waited until I had unlocked the front door of the bus and climbed the few stairs to pull away. I let out a deep breath and sank into the bus bench seats that I had converted into a pseudo couch and looked around the only place that has ever felt like a home to me.
I pulled most of the rows of seats out, an old table that I had found for three dollars at a flea market sat in the front corner, and a broken set of bunk beds was set up in the back. I had taken out the bottom bed and turned it into a closet with a loft sleeping area on the top bunk. I had yet to invest in a mattress and couldn’t bring myself to use the ones at the second-hand stores, so I slept on one of those blow-up camping pads. In the very back corner of the bus, an old set of curtains gave me somewhere to change in relative privacy. Jack had helped me wire a set of old Christmas lights to a car battery and I had several camp lanterns set out so that I could see relatively easily.
Two weeks ago, my bus was a sanctuary that I felt privileged to have. Now, after spending a couple of nights sleeping in a real bed in a house with electricity and running water, it was starting to feel like the temporary fix that it was. I let out another deep breath, reminded myself that I was mere months away from turning eighteen and graduating from high school. Then I grabbed my shower caddy and a change of clothes so that I could walk over to the nearby truck stop and pay for a shower. I was still covered in not only my own blood from this morning but also carried smudges of Connor’s blood and was covered in dirt from the factory floor.
On my way over to the truck stop, I stopped at Jack and Amy’s trailer but no one was home. I used my spare key to let myself in and plugged in my phone and let it charge while I took my shower. After showering, I bought myself a snickers bar as a treat for making it through all of the drama from last night and this morning before going back to pick up my phone. I was surprised to see that I had over a dozen text messages. I was grateful that the phone only charged me to send messages and that receiving them was free. I had several from each of the guys from both before and after Elijah and Max had found me. I also had two from Jack and another from a number I didn’t have programmed in my phone.
Jack: Jonas told me you guys were taking off. Let me know if you need anything. Be safe.
Jack: Morning Ray. Haven’t heard from you this morning. Everything okay? The car will be free tomorrow if you want to do laundry with Amy.
Blake: Please come back. We are worried about you.
Blake: How bad is your shoulder?
Blake: Have you gotten any medical attention? Where are you? Is the wolf with you?
Blake: Max told us that he found you. Please let me know that you are okay. How is your shoulder? What did you do with the wolf?
Blake: We need to talk about what happened last night on the beach. It’s not what you think.
Blake: Please talk to me Ray-Ray
Connor: Where are you?
Connor: You need to come back to the house.
Connor: You can’t just save my life and then disappear. That’s not fair. Come back.
Max: Ray, how bad are you hurt? There is a lot of blood at the house. Can you please come back so that I can heal you? Or let me know where you are and I will come to you. We just want to make sure you are okay.
Max: The Blade Clan is calling in their Tracker to find you. I think if you stay cloaked they won’t be able to find you. We are always here to help, please stay safe.
Derik: The Royals are gone. It is safe to return.
Elijah: I am sorry I failed to protect you when I told you that you would be safe in our house, but please let us know that you are okay. Kaiden and Hernan have left and have sworn to give you time and space. Please don’t leave without talking to us first.
Unknown: Hey Ray, it’s Jonas. I got your number from Connor. I heard about what happened last night and just wanted to check up on you. Call or text me anytime. Maybe we could get together to hang something this weekend?
I sat there feeling stunned after reading all of the messages. Never in my life had so many people cared about where I was or if I was okay before. Is this what it felt like to have friends?
I sent messages back to Blake and Connor telling that I was coming over for dinner and we would talk then. I told Jack that everything was fine and that I would get with Amy to figure out a time to do laundry and I programmed Jonas’ number into my phone. Then I tried to occupy myself with school work but my mind refused to focus. I kept reliving what it felt like to kneel beside Connor as he bled out beside me and the agonizing feeling of having my power sucked out of me when I touched Max’s shield.
I ended up sitting at my table examining Kaiden’s dagger. All of my weapons were perfectly balanced and weighted for me, but aside from the Valkyrie markings that decorated each hilt and blade they were free of any other adornments. The hilt of Kaiden’s dagger was inlaid with several large dark red stones that looked like rubies. The blade was still wicked sharp, but the jewels made it look more decorative than utilitarian.
I tried summoning several different sheaths to hold and protect the fancy blade, but none of mine would fit the unique weapon. I decided to place the dagger next to the tackle box that contained my few valuable items within the void. I figured that there wasn’t a safer place to hide my things than another plane of existence that only I could access.
I was just reattempting to start my calculus homework again when the screeching of the bus door alerted me that someone was entering my home. I glanced up expecting to see Jack or Amy, but instead saw two men I didn’t recognize. Both of whom had swords drawn and looked ready to use them.
I jumped to my feet while summoning my katana and executed a forward lunge with the tip of my sword pointed at the center of the first guy’s chest. He easily parried my strike but I reversed my grip and was able to keep contact with his sword long enough to materialize two throwing knives and let them fly at the second man. He was older than the first and looked strangely familiar. Instead of generating a Shield to protect himself, the older man quickly swiped his sword through the air, knocking my knives straight out of the air.
I had only witnessed one person do that before, and seeing it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and bile to coat the back of my throat. My body responded on pure instinct and I started to attack the older man in earnest, almost forgetting about the other man. The strangely familiar older man was wicked fast with his blade and the more we fought the more I recognized his fighting technique.
It was the exact same as my father’s.
“Stop, we aren’t here to fight you,” I vaguely heard the first man call but I was too focused on the older man and struggling not to get pulled under by the rising tide of memories this fight was invoking. My father used to make me fight with him for hours on end, and any mistake I made resulted in my blood and pain. It had been four years since I had been forced to fight like this, but my body had no trouble falling back in time.
The old man was an excellent swordsman, but I was a teenager with comparatively endless energy and he was starting to falter. I think the younger man would have stepped in to physically stop us but the narrow nature of the bus kept him behind the older man and unable to affect the fight.
"Stop fighting and drop your sword,” the first man demanded in a voice filled with power and I could feel the nauseating and familiar fog fill my mind as my muscles froze in place and my hand dropped my katana of its own accord.
The younger man had just Compelled me to stop fighting and I had no control to stop myself from following his orders. However, the second that I had fulfilled his command the power he had over me faded away and I pushed myself back into the void, where his Compulsion Gift couldn’t reach me. Then I called my kukri, positioned myself directly behind the younger man with the Compulsion Gift, and returned to the physical plane. I kicked the back of his knees so that he was forced to kneel in front of me and then wrapped my arm around his neck and touched the edge of my blade to his throat. I formed a Shield around the older man that reminded me of my father so that he would be unable to attack.
I leaned down to the younger man’s ear and whispered in a cruel voice, “If you ever Compel me again, I will slit your throat. Do you understand me?”
The man slowly raised his hands and released the hold he had on his sword and it dematerialized before saying, “Yes, I understand. Please, we are not here to hurt you.”
Even though he was not lying, I wasn’t convinced and continued to hold the Indian machete to his vulnerable throat.
“If you’re not here to hurt me, then why did you barge into my home with weapons drawn?” I asked in a cold, barely controlled voice. The entire encounter had shaken me and I couldn’t pull my eyes away from the older man’s gaze. His eyes were so familiar, and not in a good way.
“You live here?” the older man asked with disbelief and disgust evident in his voice.
I raised my chin and refused to be ashamed about my living situation. “Who are you and why are you here?” I asked because the younger guy hadn’t been lying when he said that they weren’t here to hurt me.
The older man paused and took a minute to look me over before declaring, “My name is Mathis Olsen and that is my son Sean Olsen.” As I processed what he had just said my stomach started to sink and my head began to feel fuzzy.
“Mathis Olsen? Like my supposed grandfather, Mathis Olsen?” I clarified.
“So you know of us?” Mathis asked and I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening right now. Every kid within the foster system dreams that some long lost family will come and take them away from all of their troubles. I however, always feared that possibility. What if they were like my father? There was no way in hell that I was going to get pulled into that kind of life again.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
“Learned about the possibility of you about a week ago,” I admitted in an emotionless tone. I had no idea how to even start to process what was happening right now.
“We heard about you yesterday and got on the first flight out here to see if it was true,” Sean said and I noticed that I was actually starting to draw blood with my blade. I eased my grip and Sean slowly moved his hand up and back until he was gently touching my shoulder. Instead of feeling the warm clan bond that I was growing used to feeling when I touched another Valkyrie, I felt a cool calming sensation steaming from Sean’s touch. I jerked away, completely released my hold on him, and took several steps to create some distance between us.
“What the hell was that?” I demanded and noticed that Sean gave Mathis a nod of his head before slowly rising to his feet.
“That was the familial bond. I just wanted proof that you are who you say you are and that we are indeed related,” Sean said in a calm, careful voice but I still had no idea what he was talking about. Sean moved to take a step towards me and I reflexively formed another Shield around him so that he couldn’t come any closer. He squinted at the barley visible barrier that now surrounded him and looked between me and his father.
“How are you forming two different Shields around us without maintaining constant contact?” Sean asked, but I was more interested in getting my questions answered right now.
“What do you mean by familial bond?” I asked and the two men that were apparently related to me shared another meaningful look.
“Where is my son? Where is Samuel?” Mathis asked and I wouldn’t have answered if his voice hadn’t wavered at the end. I recalled that Felix had something about my father’s entire clan disappearing almost twenty years ago and no one had heard anything about it since.
“Dead,” I unceremoniously said and watched both of their faces fall as I cut the last threads of hope that they were holding onto.
Sean used his hand to scrub at his forehead and Mathis just stared at me for a few moments before asking, “When?”
“Four years ago,” I answered honestly.
“What? No, that’s wrong. My son has been missing for nineteen years and seven months,” Mathis stated in a heated and defensive voice that actually made me flinch away from him because it was so similar to the dreaded sounds of my childhood. I couldn’t handle staring at these two men that looked so much like my father. I turned away from them and started pacing down to the far end of the bus and back.
“I don’t know what to tell you. I am seventeen and you look, sound, and fight just like the man that raised me. Up until four years ago, Samuel Olsen was alive, well, and completely free to do anything or go anywhere he saw fit,” I said while continuing to pace and refusing to make eye contact with the men that I had trapped within my Shields.
“What happened four years ago?” Sean asked in a more reasonable voice. I looked up to see that he was watching me with shrewd eyes. What did these men want from me? Why the world were they here? If I explained about what happened to my father, would they leave me alone?
“Four years ago, Samuel brought us to the Bay area and got mixed up with the supernatural branch of the Yakuza. When he double crossed them, one of the head vampires shot him in the head.” On some level I knew that it wasn’t right to reveal the murder of their loved one in such a blunt manner, but I was so overwhelmed that words just seemed to be flowing out of my mouth on their own accord.
“Bullshit!” Mathis hollered causing my hackles to rise and I slowly turned to face my biological grandfather. “My son would never associate with a criminal organization like the Yakuza. He was a good man, a decorated Hunter, and an honorable Valkyrie.”
I raised my gaze until I was looking directly into Mathis’ eyes and I let him see all of the pain, hurt, humiliation, and guilt that I still held onto because of everything his son had done to me. How dare this man call me a liar after his son made my entire childhood a living hell. After I was sure that I had his full attention I pulled my shirt off so that I stood before them in nothing more than a sports bra and a pair of old jeans, exposing the multitude of scars that marred my torso and chest.
“My father was an unfeeling, sadistic, psychopath who moved from city to city so that he could manipulate, Compel, and rip off supernaturals within the criminal underground. To him I was nothing more than something he could use and abuse to make money or prove a point. His favorite way to do this was to Compel me to fight to the death in illegal supernatural street fights and I am more than lucky to be alive after everything he put me through,” I said in a calm cold voice that did nothing to showcase the emotions roiling within me.
That shut both men up and they stared at my scars with disgust, pity, and disbelief until I felt like some kind of disfigured zoo animal. Why in the world had I thought that they would be on my side? Why did I care that they didn’t immediately declare that they believe me?
I pulled my shirt back on and asked, “How did you find me, and why are you here?”
“I am a Tracker,” Mathis admitted and the pit in my stomach grew even bigger. Running away and staying hidden from a Valkyrie with a Tracking Gift would be near impossible. “We came to gather information about Samuel’s disappearance.”
“We also wanted to meet you and get to know you,” Sean was quick to add and if it hadn’t been for my Truth Gift telling me that he wasn’t lying, I would have guessed that last bit was B.S.
“I don’t know anything about any disappearance,” I stated.
“Okay,” Sean said and I could tell that he wanted to change the attitude of this conversation. “As I told you before, we are not going to hurt you. We just were confused before when Dad’s gift led him to an abandoned bus and we thought that someone might be holding you here against your will. Can you please drop the Shields and we can continue this conversation?” I resented the idea that my bus was only fit to hold someone hostage in it, but I knew that he was telling the truth. I dropped both Shields.
“How did you hold two separate Shields without maintaining contact,” Sean asked for the second time and I shrugged my shoulders. I was tired of having to explain my power level to every new Valkyrie that I met.
“I just do. Remember what I said about Compelling me. That goes for you too,” I said while glaring at Mathis.
“Okay, I promise not to Compel you again,” Sean said in a low calm voice, like if I was a wild horse he didn’t want to spook. “And Dad doesn’t have Compulsion, just the Tracking along with Shield and Weapons.”
“And you?” I questioned.
“Weapons, Shield, and Compulsion. Sam was the one with two rare Gifts.” My father had had Weapons, Telepathy, and Compulsion. A potent and lethal combination of Gifts that allowed him to get away with some truly horrible things.
“What do you have?” Mathis asked in a gruff voice. “How did you disappear after Sean Compelled you?” I considered lying to them, but I figured that the truth was already out there and they would find out sooner or later anyway.
“Weapons, Shield, Tracking, Truth, and Cloaking,” I revealed and both men just stood there staring at me with clear disbelief painted across their features. I was back to feeling like a zoo animal. This really wasn’t my day.
“That’s not possible,” Sean whispered and I gave him a hard glare. I had decided to tell them the truth and now he was calling me a liar.
“I don’t really care if you believe me or not,” I said, not completely telling the truth.
“We will have her fully tested at the training center once we get back home,” Mathis said in an offhand way, making me feel like some kind of robot that they wanted to make sure worked as advertised. “Go on and pack a bag. We will check into a hotel tonight and catch a flight home tomorrow morning.”
I stood there stunned for a moment before it sank in that they actually expected me to just go with them back to Boston. “I don’t even know you. I am not leaving with you,” I stated in a firm voice.
“Of course you are,” Mathis stated. “We are your familial clan. You belong with us until you join another clan, or in your case get married. Once we are back in the Americas Northeast Kingdom, I will reach out to some of my contacts and see if it isn’t too late to start your Matching Ceremonies.” I had no idea what the crazy old man was talking about, but it didn’t sound like a good thing for me.
“I do not belong to anyone but myself. It was good to put a face and personality to the name, but I am not going anywhere with you and I would like you to leave now,” I growled out in a voice that Logan would be proud of.
“Now, you listen here child. I understand that you have been through some life experiences that haven’t been so pleasant, but Valkyrie society does things in a certain way for a reason. We are your family and it is our duty to provide you with protection until you join another clan. The fact that you are a female makes this doubly true. I don’t care if you don’t like it, but you will pack a bag and you will leave with us,” Mathis stated in a classic parental tone that made me want to throw up. The more that this man talked, the more he reminded me of my father. I had pushed down some pretty horrific memories that centered around my father, and his being here was threatening my ability to keep those locked away.
I had to get away from them.
“Just remember that I did ask politely for you to leave first,” I said and then reformed the Shields around each of them and pushed the Shields down the hallway of my bus, and threw them out the front door. I moved to the window and saw that each of them had hit the gravel driveway hard and were sprawled out before the entrance of my bus.
I didn’t remove the Shields from around them and they couldn’t do more than get to their feet. I kept them imprisoned there while I grabbed a backpack and pushed back into the void. There I found my secret stash of valuables, including the book on Valkyrie gifts that Max had lent me, Kaiden’s dagger, a couple of mementos from my childhood I found worth keeping, the small bag of moondust I had confiscated from a drug dealer two weeks ago, and my life’s savings. I put all of it in my bag and then walked off my bus, past my newly discovered relatives, and towards the bus stop.
I figured that the Shields would drop once I got far enough away, but I needed as much of a head start as I could manage.