Chapter 11 - Rabec Clan
I knew that Ray was upset with me for looping in the Deveroe Royal Line about everything that had happened to her, but I stand by my decision. The more that I listened to the things that King Eli and Prince Hernan said, the more sure I became that both the Americas West or South were the wrong places for my niece. King Eli was cruel, cold, and unapologetic and his younger brother was just a weak impersonation of him. I knew that Ray was now fully attached to the Oakland Clan, but I couldn’t let that stop her from escaping this awful kingdom.
As soon as I was able to step away from the group, I called Prince Darron Deveroe. They needed to be here not only to gain answers about what happened to the Rabec Clan but also to continue to make connections with Ray.
The soft sound of whispered giggles pulled me from sleep and I was so confused by the joyful sound that I didn’t even call a blade or put up a Shield. I just blinked in the bright sunlit room and tried to figure out who the three people were in the cabin’s kitchen and why they were here. It took me a minute because my head was still foggy with sleep but eventually, I connected the girl laughing with a hand to her mouth to the woman that was in the corner of Linden’s den yesterday. The other two were significantly older than her and I could see the family resemblance. If I had to guess, I would say they were her parents.
The older woman saw me watching and was quick to put down the knife she was using to cut a piece of colorful fruit and walk over to the entrance of the living room. I risked a glance over to see that Elijah was passed out with his head back against the edge of the couch and I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t insisted he go sleep in one of the beds last night. I returned my gaze to the older woman, ready to defend us if need be. The woman just smiled at me kindly and waved at me like we were neighborhoods passing each other on the street.
“Hello dear,” the woman said in a soft whisper, showing that she also noticed that Elijah was still in need of some sleep. “My name is Kanza. We came to make you two some breakfast on this beautiful morning. Do you want to join us in the kitchen?”
Kanza didn’t come any closer and I appreciated that she was letting me dictate the speed of this interaction. Nahuel had said that we were safe here and he hadn’t been lying, and I was really hungry. After a heavy moment of hesitation, I nodded my head and Kanza’s face broke out into a huge welcoming smile that tugged on my heart. I let out a breath and laid my blankets over Elijah before walking slowly into the kitchen.
“This, my dear, is my husband Wiyot, and I think you met my daughter yesterday,” Kanza said while walking back to the cutting board and summoning her knife to resume cutting a bright orange fruit.
I carefully eyed the blade in Kanza’s hand as her daughter jumped onto one of the counters and said, “Yeah, but Nah never slowed down enough to introduce us. My name is Kimeya. It is so very good to meet you.”
I raised my eyes to the beautiful girl that I would guess was in her early to mid-twenties and was surprised that she was telling the truth. She was happy to meet me for some reason. I swallowed down my confusion and cleared my throat before saying, “Hello. I am Ray.”
“Good morning, Ray,” Wiyot said in an equally cheerful voice, making me think that maybe there was something in the air or water here that breeds happiness. “Sorry to just barge in on you, but we knew that this cabin’s kitchen was bare and we wanted to give you a proper welcome. Nahuel has the best intentions, but he is still young and learning his way in the world.”
That was an interesting way to put it. I was still unsure what these people wanted from me, but their happy natures and calm demeanors were doing a lot to put me at ease. I sat down at the kitchen table and Wiyot brought me a large glass of yellow juice before sitting across from me. “When our ancestors first found the Doba, it was a naturally fertile place and we have cultivated that over the years and have plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grains. But there weren’t any natural occupants of this realm, including animals. So we are strictly a vegetarian group of people.”
“Are there realms with natural occupants?” I found myself asking before I could stop my natural curiosity.
“Of course,” Wiyot explained with the patience of a practiced teacher. “Where do you think Valkyries originally came from? We are from a realm called Valhalla, while the fae call Fairy home. I am sure you have heard of some of the others, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Asgard, Realm of the Gods.”
I paused with the glass halfway to my mouth and just gaped at the older man. Was he telling me that Heaven was a real place?
“Are you telling me that Heaven is a real place?” I asked out loud because I felt that question was just too important to not ask outright.
“Yes,” Wiyot said with a happy glint to his eye. “I Traveled there when I was a young man. I have to tell you that Angels are not nice, gentle, fat babies that you sometimes see portrayed in the Human Realm. No, they are intimidating warriors and I would caution you not to cross one.”
I was speechless for a moment but was brought out of my slight shock when Kanza placed a plate filled with different fruits and slices of bread in front of me. I fingered a bright red strawberry and looked back up at Wiyot. “If you have been to other realms, then that means you have the ability to Travel. But Nahuel said that there were only four Gatekeepers with that ability. He also said that the other two were named Mariana and Louka,” I summarized because I was confused and needed more information about what was going on right now.
Kanza and Kimeya joined us at the table after placing plates of food at each spot at the table. “Mom and Dad are the Gatekeepers of the previous generation,” Kimeya explained easily. “They protected Awenasa for fifty years and then their Gifts waned once the new generation transitioned to power.”
“Okay, so there aren’t four Gatekeepers period. Just four Gatekeepers every fifty years and once they turned eighteen they inherited the power from the enchantment and became the new ruling Gatekeepers,” I recapped and Kanza smiled her big happy smile again. “So you are less powerful now because the next set of Gatekeepers has transitioned?”
Wiyot nodded his head and smiled at me like he was a proud mentor. “Exactly. We can still Travel and have our five Gifts, but they have returned to the power levels that we enjoyed before we transitioned all those many years ago.”
“So because I am going through my Transition, I am taking power from one of you?” I questioned, still trying to follow this thread of information to all possible outcomes.
“Not us, dear,” Kanza said. “We already gave our power to the others. The only one of us not to re-transition is Valerie and she lives in the Northern City.”
“Is that something she will be upset about?” Elijah said from the living room and we all turned to face him. Kanza jumped up to get Elijah some juice and a plate and Wiyot frowned for the first time all morning.
“Yes,” a voice said from a direction I wasn’t expecting and I looked up to see Nahuel standing in the doorway, completely taking up the entire space. “I thought we agreed to give Ray time and wait until she came to us this morning,” Nahuel said in a disappointed tone while not moving from his spot.
“Oh, come dear. Our visitors were starving. You know it is only polite to feed people. And we were just too excited to meet her. She is downright lovely. You are one lucky man,” Kanza said and I turned to narrow my eyes at her. Just what was she implying with that statement?
I looked over to Nahuel to see that he was equally bothered by Kanza’s statement. “Years ago, when it became apparent that another child with the ability to Travel was not among her people, Valerie theorized that she would keep the power of the fourth Gatekeeper. She is very much in love with being the strongest of all of us. I doubt she will be happy that her power is waning.”
“Will this Valerie try to stop the transition of power from her to Ray?” Elijah asked and the room grew tense with the implications of that accusation. I let out a deep breath as the food churned in my stomach. I really didn’t need yet another enemy right now, especially one that I couldn’t use the void to hide from.
“No,” Nahuel said with conviction. “She doesn’t even know about you, and clearly the transition has already started. We know that the power does not shift to another if a Gatekeeper dies. So there is no reason to think that she would regain her power if something would happen to you. But I wouldn’t expect to be welcomed with open arms in the Northern City.”
“How do you know that the power does not shift when someone dies?” I asked because they didn’t seem to mind answering all of our questions.
“Nicolas, Valerie’s pair in the Northern City died about ten years ago. None of the younger Gatekeepers transitioned early. And no other with the power emerged. Some of us also thought that we would only ever have three Gatekeepers moving forward because he died before he could transition his power to the next generation, but when Nahuel, Marianan, and Louka all gained their power and Valerie still had hers, that theory was proven wrong,” Kimeya said and I struggled to keep all of the names straight. I really needed a pad of paper and a pen to take notes right now.
No one spoke for a couple of minutes and Nahuel finally entered the house and fixed himself a plate, but remained standing in the kitchen instead of joining us at the table. “Are there always two girl and two boy Gatekeepers?” I asked, simply because I was curious and wanted to start the conversational ball rolling again.
“No,” Kanza said with ease. “The generation before us had three women and one man. It worked out great for them because two of the women fell deeply in love with each other. The second generation of Gatekeepers after the war were all men. As far as any of us know, they were just close friends.”
“So the paired Gatekeepers don’t always end up in a romantic relationship,” I stated, needing something to grasp onto to keep another set of people from thinking they could match me up before I was even a legal adult.
No one answered my question and I looked up to see that no one wanted to meet my eye. When I finally looked to Nahuel for an answer he took a moment to meet my eyes before saying in a gruff voice, “No, the pairs do not have to be together.”
Okay, so apparently this was a touchy subject. It was time for a topic change and there was a question that I was burning to ask. “There is something that I still don’t understand. How is it possible that I am the fourth Gatekeeper? I grew up in the Human Realm and I know for a fact that my father was from there. His entire clan simply disappeared from the face of the earth twenty years ago but for as long as I can remember, we lived in the Human Realm while actively avoiding other Valkyries. Who is my mother and what happened to the Rabec clan?”
My words hung in the air and the light happy feeling that had been present since I woke up with the elder Gatekeepers in the kitchen faded rapidly. Once again, no one would meet my eye and both Wiyot and Kanza looked downright distraught, making me feel a little guilty about bringing in this atmosphere of misery. But I had had my time of rest and recovery. It was time to stop running and face reality. Elijah was right. These are answers that I needed before I could make informed decisions about my future.
I finally looked to Nahuel, somehow knowing that he would be the one to tell me this truth. He visibly swallowed and then moved to sit at the only remaining chair at the table. He leaned forward as if he wanted to take my hand, but stopped himself before actually touching me. He took a moment to look over to Elijah and my clan leader was quick to stand up and move until he was standing behind me. He braced his hands on my shoulders, providing both physical and emotional support for whatever awful story they were about to tell me.
“As I told you last night, the people of the Northern City are not content to continue to live within the Doba and have harbored an intense dislike and envy towards the human-bound Valkyries. One of the things they especially dislike is the fact that the Valkyrie abilities gifted to us by the Elementals seemed to have split when the witches did their enchantment. Our Gifts are mostly elemental in nature. For example, I have Fire, while Kanza can control the Wind and Wiyot and Kimeya can manipulate Water. But we do not have the ability to produce protective Shields, move objects with our minds, or Heal as the human-bound Valkyries can. The only Gift that both sets of Valkyries seem to have in common is our ability to summon Blades at will.
“Valerie and a specific contingent of Valkyries from the Northern City are especially jealous of the Gifts that they feel were stolen from them. They came up with a plan to rectify this,” Nahuel said and then paused, like if the next part was too awful to even say out loud. A knot tightened in my stomach and Elijah’s grip on my shoulders increased until it was just shy of painful. Nahuel looked away from me and instead stared at a point somewhere above my head as he said in a low monotone voice, “They kidnapped a particularly gifted clan of human-bound Valkyries for the specific intention of integrating their genetics into their next generation of children.”
Nahuel paused and his words started slowly integrating into my mind as I tried to understand exactly what he was trying to say to me. I had already come to the conclusion that my father’s clan was most likely kidnapped by the Hidden, but the way he was talking and the general atmosphere in this room hinted at something even darker.
“You are going to have to spell this out for me,” I told them with a hard edge in my voice. “What exactly are you saying?”
Nahuel fisted his hands, clenched his jaw, and still refused to look at me or answer my question. Elijah’s hands tightened further and he inhaled a surprised breath, so I knew that he was reading the answer straight out of their heads, but that didn’t help me. I turned to look at Wiyot and silently demanded that he put an end to this. The older man looked at me with such sad eyes that I almost chickened out and ran from the room.
“We are saying that your father and his entire clan were held against their will and during that time, multiple women did their very best to get impregnated by them. To the best of our knowledge, they were not kind to them during that time. They took out all of their hate and anger for the human-bound Valkyries on the few they kidnapped. They were tortured for information and quite possibly, tortured for no reason at all,” Wiyot said in a voice that shook with emotion.
My ears started to ring as the real meaning of what he was saying became more and more apparent. The food in my stomach revolted and I turned and ran towards the door leading outside. I just cleared the doorway before everything I had eaten for breakfast came back up and I fell to my knees by a set of bushes. Even after my stomach was empty, my body refused to stop heaving, trying desperately to eject the knowledge that I was a product of rape.
No, no, no, no! This couldn’t be true. My father was a monster and I hated him. I didn’t want to feel sorry for him. No. How could this be true? How could it be possible that my mother was even more of a monster than my father? If they were both irredeemable horrible people, what did that make me?
Someone touched my arm and I spun away from them, not wanting to be touched right now. When I turned and saw who was trying to console me, I was surprised to see Wiyot instead of Elijah. “I can help you,” Wiyot said in a desperate voice. “I have the power to take away your pain. Please let me help you.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I did know that Valerie was an elder Gatekeeper and so was he. "How could you let such a thing happen?” I asked and felt more than heard my Truth power infuse my words
“We didn’t know until it was much too late. We would have put a stop to it if we would have known,” Wiyot said in the monotone indicating that I was pulling the truth right out of him. In the back of my mind, I was screaming that it wasn’t okay that I kept forcing the truth out of people. It was too similar to Compelling them. But I didn’t seem to be able to stop at the moment.
"What happened to the Rabec Clan? Why did I grow up in the Human Realm?” I said as tears started to stream down my face.
“After years of torture and abuse, somehow the members of the Rabec clan escaped. They were no longer the men that they used to be. Transformed by pain into shells that no longer could process emotions like love or parenthood. Consumed by hatred for their captors, they did the unthinkable. They went after the very thing the Northern Valkyries wanted the most. They went after the children that now carried both types of Gifts. Instead of trying to escape, they attacked the daycare and five small children lost their lives before the men were killed.”
I heaved out a sob that refused to be contained at his awful words and felt someone slowly walk towards me. I stood still, unable to react beyond the next sob as strong arms wrapped around me the clan bond burned through my raw nerves, soothing some of the ache. I turned into Elijah’s chest and continued to sob as my knees gave way. I felt Elijah catch me before I could fall to the ground and lift me towards his chest. Then I felt another set of hands on my head and tried to turn away from them but a numbness spread out from their touch quickly overcoming the devastating hurt and confusion that was lacing itself into my soul. Within moments, I was completely devoid of any emotion, the only evidence of my outburst was my heavy breaths and tear-stained cheeks.
I pulled my newly cleared head away from Elijah’s chest and looked around to see that Wiyot was standing just inches away with his hands still spread. When I looked at him with clear questions in my eyes he was quick to answer, “I have the ability to manipulate emotions. It is one of my Gifts. A variation of the empathy that some of the human-bound Valkyries have. Instead of feeling emotions, I can give or take them away from people. All I did was take away your pain. I know that you have a right to your feelings, but it is very dangerous for a transitioning Gatekeeper to feel things so intensely. Please forgive me.”
I pushed against Elijah’s chest, indicating that I wanted to stand on my own two feet, and took a moment to wipe the tears away from my cheeks. I may not feel the pain of that revelation anymore, but I still felt dirty and disgusted.
“I still don’t understand,” I admitted and Nahuel stepped forward, drawing my attention to him. He looked more feral than ever and I had to force myself not to step away from him. Did he want to hurt me like Valerie had hurt my father? Was that why he had kidnapped Elijah when he thought he was the fourth Gatekeeper. Was that why they were refusing to let me leave now? Almost as soon as those questions crossed my mind, a Shield popped into existence around Elijah and me.
A brief look of hurt crossed Nahuel’s features before he regained his composure and said, “We were told that five children died that day. All five children were fathered by one of the human-bound Valkyries. When only three developed the ability to Travel, it was assumed that the fourth Gatekeeper was one of the five that perished. But when I found you yesterday, I knew that we had been lied to. I Teleported to the Northern City and talked to a contact that I have there. He revealed to me that one of the members of the Rabec Clan had a change of heart when he saw his baby and decided to fight against his clan members to protect his child. This child and man were the only ones that were not accounted for in the end. They didn’t know how the man was able to accomplish it, but he escaped with the child.”
Nahuel paused for a moment and then looked me in the eye to say, “Your father escaped with you. And there has been a secret contingent of Valkyries from the Northern City looking for you and your father ever since. But this search was focused in the Doba. No one connected that you would be a Gatekeeper and must have shifted both you and him to the Human Realm. We didn’t know. We had been told all of the children died that day,” Nahuel reiterated and I just looked at him feeling empty and exhausted.
“So that is why my father felt the need to move around so much. Because he was scared that the people that had tortured and abused him for many long years would discover him and take me away,” I said in a monotone because I honestly had no idea how to feel about that. I didn’t know how to internalize this new information of my father protecting me with years of memories of him terrorizing me with his Compulsion Gift. The idea was just too foreign for me to believe.
“Who is my mother?” I asked when no one responded to that mostly rhetorical statement.
“We believe that her name is Constance,” Kanza said with a small voice that betrayed her own heightened emotional state. “She is a close friend and advisor to Valerie and also has the Gift of Truth. She was one of the five mothers, and you resemble her some.”
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine an older version of myself that was capable of the things she had done to my father. My stomach revolted again and I bent over with my hands braced on my knees as a bout of dizziness took over me. Elijah pulled my hair away from my face and gently ran his hand up and down my back until I felt strong enough to stand again. Several tense moments passed and small tidbits of information floated through my mind but flitted away before I could form any sort of organized through.
“What now?” I asked in a small voice and wrapped my arms around myself as I started to shiver.
Nahuel furrowed his brow and looked confused as he said, “What do you mean?”
“What happens now? What happens now that both you and I know that I am the fourth Gatekeeper? What will happen when the Northern City Valkyries finally find me? What happens when I fully transition? What happens when this spell wears off and you can no longer keep me here?” I say, my voice gaining heat the more that I talked.
Nahuel looked more than a little taken aback by my little outburst, but I just couldn’t find it within myself to care right now. “Nothing happens,” Nahuel finally responds. “You are free to leave the second that the spell wears off. I was hoping to show you around Awenasa and let you meet some of the people so that you wouldn’t be so quick to betray us, but I will not force you to do anything. Like I said last night. You are and will always be safe with me. As for the Northerners, you are not a child anymore. In under a week’s time, you will be a fully empowered Gatekeeper and the strongest among us. You will have to decide what type of interactions you want with them in the future. That is for you to figure out. I long ago accepted that I alone would be responsible for Awenasa’s safety, you coming into your Gatekeeper powers doesn’t change that.”
Nahuel gave me one more long look filled with a mixture of longing and hurt and then strode purposefully away. Some part of me wanted to feel guilty about accusing him of something that he had not deserved, but that feeling was like a pebble next to the other boulder-sized emotions trying to break through whatever numbness that Wiyot had caused within me.
“Nahuel isn’t the bad guy here,” Kimeya hissed out with more passion than I had seen from her yet. “Get over your prejudices and take the time to get to know him before making those kinds of judgments. He is the best person I have ever known and he has been hurt by the Northerners too. Stop misplacing the blame here, because it isn’t fair to him.”
After also leveling me with one last meaningful glare, Kimeya took off in the same direction that Nahuel had and that pebble of guilt started to grow. I turned to look at Elijah, silently asking him to tell me what to do right now, but I was too overwhelmed to make any decisions right now. Considering that I couldn’t Cloak my mind right now, I wasn’t so much silently asking him as mentally screaming all of my uncertain emotions through the haze of numbness that was starting to fracture. Elijah noticeably winced and took an involuntary step away from me, adding to my building guilt. He was one of the last people I wanted to hurt.
“Come with us, my dear,” Kanza said in a soft voice and I turned my gaze on her. She had tear stains streaked down her wrinkled cheeks and her green eyes were filled with compassion. Compassion was better than hurt, guilt, or regret. I took a step towards her and saw from the corner of my eye that Wiyot was quietly talking to Elijah about something. Elijah looked directly into my eyes for a moment as Kanza reached out and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. The strongest clan bond, aside from the time that Nahuel touched me, burst to life and soothed some of the turbulence within me.
Kanza led me away from the small cabin and Elijah nodded his head at me, indicating that he thought I should go with the elder Gatekeepers. I was too physically drained and emotionally overwhelmed to do anything but passively follow and vaguely hoped that this wasn’t some sort of trap. Kanza kept her arm around me as we walked down a street lined with cabins that all looked similar but were each embellished with different decorations or plants out front. Soon, people started emerging from their homes and simply stood by their doors and watched us pass. I was starting to feel even more uneasy about this whole situation when Wiyot took my hand and I was engulfed with another clan bond and something else. Feelings of peace and security settled my nerves and before long, we passed all of the houses and started walking on what looked like a hiking trail.
Kanza and Wiyot had to disengage from me when the trail narrowed, but they sandwiched me as we continued to walk the steadily inclining trail. I decided to see whatever this was through and forced myself to focus on placing one foot in front of the other instead of all the thoughts that wanted to start screaming in my mind. We hiked for about an hour before we reached the top of a hill, giving us a spectacular view of the entire valley below. We could clearly see the neat rows of cabins, the few larger buildings and outside spaces, and the plots of land that they must use for farming. The entire valley was a lush green, which I knew was a stark contrast to the dusty red of the Nevada Desert in the Human Realm.
I glanced over at Wiyot and Kanza assuming that they brought me here for some specific reason, but they both were just looking out at the view while catching their breath. I returned my gaze to the valley below and thought about the life that these people have created here. Nahuel had told me that the Doba loosely translated to peace, and I wondered if there was a meaning behind Awenasa. When I voiced that question out loud, Kanza gave me a warm smile before telling me that it meant my home.
Wiyot waited another twenty minutes before talking and in that time I found myself sinking into a feeling of peace and tranquility that I didn’t think had anything to do with Wiyot’s ability to manipulate emotions. “The Sky Goddess and Earth Warrior have been very generous to our people,” Wiyot said in a quiet voice that quickly disappeared into the wind, carefully not ruining the atmosphere of the moment.
“We have lived here undisturbed for hundreds of years. It is a simple, happy existence that Kanza and I did everything in our power to protect. Such a thing is not easy when the Northerners get closer and closer to reigniting the war that nearly destroyed us all. Nahuel thought that he was acting in the best interest of our people when he tried to join with both Mariana and Louka. He truly believed that their union could bring lasting peace to all creatures that call the Doba home and devoted himself to that end. But Louka was already too tainted by Northern beliefs and did his best to poison both of our Gatekeepers against the ways and traditions of Awenasa. He was successful with Mariana, and even though she grew up calling this place home, now she has allowed hate, envy, and revenge to corrupt her soul.”
“Mariana left with Louka and took a part of Nahuel with her,” Kanza said, seamlessly picking up the story where her husband left off. “Now he is only honor and responsibility. He has closed off the rest of himself and is lesser because of it. He is determined to find a way to keep Awenasa safe in the war that we all sense is on the horizon. We will all work to that end, but we are not strong enough to stand tall against both the North and the human-bound Valkyries.”
Both Kanza and Wiyot turned to face me in perfect unison and I felt the air thicken with the seriousness of the ongoing conversation. “We have watched the human-bound Valkyries for decades, and know more about the darkness of their soul than we ever wanted to,” Wiyot said with sadness interlacing his words. “We know that we have just met you and that this meeting was not handled in the correct fashion. But please, please take a moment to step away from that anger and hear our plea. The people that call this place home have no understanding of the other realms, and no notion of war or power games. We have done our very best to shield them from that, but now some of that responsibility lays in your hands.
“The human-bound royal leaders will do almost anything to reach this place. And you have the very real capability of granting that wish. While that choice will always remain yours, we beg you to refrain. Our way of life, the peace that saturates this place after generations of empowering it will fall under the weight of their greed,” Wiyot finished and I felt the weight of the responsibility settle heavily on my already burdened shoulders.
The safety of these people and this place was now my responsibility too.