Chapter 20 - Retribution
Dad had been drunk off his ass since Ray told us what had happened to Sam all of those years ago. I had thought that I would feel relieved when I finally found out what actually happened to my brother because I had thought that not knowing was worse than anything that could have actually happened. I was wrong. I was so very wrong. Knowing that he had been held, tortured, and abused for years was literally worse than anything I had imagined in my head. I knew it was worse than anything Dad had been thinking too and we both didn’t know how to process the information. It was like we had to mourn for Sam all over again. That these answers ripped open all of our badly healed scars and we were slowly bleeding to death.
How could anyone ever do that to my brother? My older brother who had helped me learn how to ride a bike and taught me how to control my Compulsion Gift. My older brother who had taken the blame for a party I threw in high school and chewed me out the first time he caught me with weed. How could someone take the person I looked up to most in this world and reduce him to a stud-horse? How was I supposed to look at Ray the same way knowing that my brother was not her father consensually? Not that I would ever blame that child for any of this but fuck, I just was feeling too many things.
I had been away from my family and clan for too long. It was time for us to go home. Both Dad and I needed our family. I needed to see my sons and we needed the Valkyries we were linked to so that they could help carry this unbearable burden. To help us carry the truth.
Elijah informed me that Sean and Mathis were coming over for dinner because they wanted to talk to me and for some reason, they were bringing the Northeast Royals with them. Probably wanted to push their agenda of having me move to Boston and consider marrying Ethan now that Regina’s Matching was finally over. But I was actually looking forward to the dinner because I hadn’t seen or talked to my uncle or grandfather since I had told them about what happened to the Rebec clan all of those years ago. I was a little worried about them and was happy that we could check in on them.
When they finally arrived I was shocked at what I saw. Mathis’s clothes were frumpy, his hair was in disarray, and he smelled distinctly like a bar. Sean had deep circles under his eyes and he had obviously taken less care with his appearance than he normally did as well. The moment I laid eyes on them I instantly knew that neither of them were okay. I froze in the living room, completely unsure about what I should do. Should I try to confront them on their appearance? Should I offer support? Do I ask them if they want to talk or do I pretend like I don’t notice that they seem to be falling apart at the seams?
My only experience with blood-related family was my years with my father and we never talked about anything deep or emotional. I was still getting to know them and didn’t completely feel comfortable with my newly discovered relatives. Therefore, I had no idea how to proceed. Sean diverted his gaze away from me and walked stiffly into the kitchen, making me feel like I had done something wrong. Like he was upset with me for some reason. Mathis just stood in the doorway and stared at me for so long that Elijah eventually stepped between us and ushered him into the kitchen. I stared after them, feeling dumbfounded and a little bereft.
All of a sudden, I was dreading whatever talk that they wanted to have with me. I knew that I had just found out about them and didn’t even know them that well, but I wanted desperately to be accepted and liked by my new family. I had a feeling that they were going to tell me that they were going to bail. That I wasn’t worth them sticking around for. That I was too much trouble and now that they knew that Samuel really didn’t ever want or care for me, they wouldn’t want or care for me either. It was every foster kid’s worst nightmare. To finally find family and then get abandoned by them all over again.
Elijah walked over to me and pulled me down the hall and into the library before gently closing the door. I wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings, too lost in the overwhelming feelings slowly encroaching in on me. I even jumped a little when Elijah lightly grasped both of my shoulders and bent so that he was eye to eye with me. “I don’t need to be a mind reader to know that you are not okay right now,” Elijah said in his low calming voice. “But I can tell you that I believe you are reading this situation wrong.”
I looked up into his unhidden green eyes and felt something within me crack. A single tear ran down my cheek and Elijah was quick to use his thumb to wipe it away. “They are leaving. They don’t want to have a relationship with me. To them, I will always be a reminder of the awful thing that was done to their beloved family member. I didn’t even realize how much I want them in my life, how much I want their approval and love until I saw the absence of it,” I told him in a hoarse voice that was filled with barely contained emotion.
“Word for word, Mathis was thinking ‘My god, but she is beautiful. My Sam would have been so proud of the young woman she is becoming. I have to believe that the real him would have sacrificed everything and more for this beautiful child. I will seek my revenge, but not at the cost of her. My boy lives on within her,’” Elijah said without breaking eye contact with me.
Every single word was the truth.
I hiccuped out a sob and Elijah stood and pulled me into his chest. “They are very distraught at the moment. Both of their thoughts are tinged with disbelief, rage, and incredible sadness. People don’t always act rationally when they find themselves in a sea of emotion, but I swear that what they are feeling is in no way because of, or directed at you, Sweetheart. You are so worthy of love, Ray. And there is no way that they couldn’t be extremely proud of you. I know that I am.”
I focused on Elijah’s words and tried to even my breathing. I had been carrying around this sliver of doubt over what I had forced him to say in Awenasa. A part of me believed that Elijah thought I was a silly little child who kept running away from responsibility. So it was really good to hear that he was proud of me. He was always so good at connecting with me and had this uncanny way of reassuring all of my fears. And right now I was hugely grateful that he had stepped up and intervened before I had completely drowned in my insecurities and fears.
We stayed in the library for a while longer while I recomposed myself and the entire time Elijah was my steadfast companion. By the time we walked back out to the main living area, the Deveroe Royals had arrived and mostly everyone was outside gathering around the massive table on the patio. Queen Anne, Darron, and Ethan were talking to Max by the door and they were all quick to say their hellos when Elijah and I walked outside. When I saw Anne look like she was struggling and kept glancing at Sean and Mathis I remembered that she was an Empath. She was most likely picking up some potent emotions from my uncle and grandfather. I quickly cloaked everyone’s minds and hated how easy it was to do. Just how much was my power level going to grow?
Anne visibly relaxed and asked, “Is everything alright? I haven’t seen Sean or Mathis for a couple of days and clearly, they are deeply troubled about something. What happened?”
Well, at least I knew that they had kept their word about not disclosing what happened to my father. “I was able to find out some information about what happened to my father all of those years ago,” I said honestly because I thought that Queen Anne had earned at least that much from me when she had put a stop to the tribunal. “Learning of Samuel’s fate has opened up some old wounds.”
“What happened to the Rebec Clan?” Darron demanded and I simply leveled him with a blank look. I wasn’t going to tell him that information and I also wasn’t in a mood to be interrogated. The faster he learned that the better.
“That information is rather delicate and unfortunately we are unwilling to divulge the specifics at the moment,” Elijah said, trying to smooth things over. “But let’s not allow such dark thoughts ruin a perfectly beautiful evening. If you would please join us at the table, I ordered take-out from my absolutely favorite sushi restaurant. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I do believe that sushi is one thing that the west coast does better than the east coast.”
Ethan clapped his hands together loudly and then rubbed his palms in an excited fashion. “Oooh, I love sushi. And you are so right. We have the superior pizza but no one tops San Francisco in the raw fish department,” he said in an overly exuberant tone and I knew that he was doing his part to move the conversation along and I was grateful. We all sat down at the table and I gaped at the display of at least twenty different sushi rolls that were arranged on platters that looked like boats and fish.
For a while, everyone was focused on passing the platters and trying the different combinations of flavors within the brightly colored rolls. But as we settled into eating, Queen Anne didn’t hesitate to bring up the conversation I had been expecting. “As you know, tonight’s banquet marks the end of Regina’s matching and while we have enjoyed our time in the Americas West, Darron and I must return and see to the logistics of our own Kingdom. Ethan has missed over a week of school and also needs to return to New York City. We would like to extend an invitation for you to come with us,” Anne said as if she was discussing the weather instead of something as drastic as moving across the country.
Before I could say anything Darron was quick to continue, “Ray, we know that you are hesitant to leave here because this is what you are used to, but there is so much more out there. How are you going to make an informed decision about your future if you refuse to experience the different options that are available to you.”
“I haven’t refused anything,” I refuted, annoyed with his high-handed mansplaining of the situation.
“You are willing to come with us?” Darron asked, his skepticism clear.
“Not alone and not permanently,” I replied and felt Max take my hand under the table in a show of silent support.
“Of course you won’t be alone, Child,” Mathis said rather loudly and his words were slurred. Just how drunk was my grandfather? “You would come and stay with us. With your family. Finally have some downtime where you can learn what you need to learn. And then, when you are ready, you can go to the Palace in New York and get wooed by the royals.”
Queen Anne pursed her lips, clearly not happy with Mathis’s lack of respect but I couldn’t help but smile at my grandfather. It sounded like he really did want me. He wanted me to meet the rest of his family. He wanted me to be a part of that.
“Ray isn’t going anywhere without us,” Connor said coolly and there wasn’t any room for discussion in his tone. None of the royals looked surprised by this declaration and Elijah started trying to smooth things over in a more political fashion when I got that overwhelming feeling of being watched again. I was just coming to the realization that Nahuel must be in the void when four people suddenly appeared on the lawn directly in front of the wooden porch. None of them were Nahuel and I had a sinking feeling I knew exactly who they were.
One older woman stood slightly in front of the rest and she was strikingly beautiful with pure white hair that was pulled back in a severe-looking ponytail and surprisingly modern and fashionable pantsuit. To her left stood a boy and a girl, both roughly the same age as me and the guys. He was just as pale as the woman with blonde hair that was cropped close to this head and his electric green eyes were unhidden by color contacts. She had dark creamy brown skin and long wavy raven black hair, reminding me of Nahuel and the rest of the Valkyries I had met in Awenasa. I couldn’t be positive, but I was guessing that they were Louka and Mariana, the other two Gatekeepers of our generation. If that was true, then I could only guess that the severe-looking woman was Valerie.
Leaving only the person to Valerie’s right to be identified. The moment that I looked at her I couldn’t look away. Kanza had been correct. The fourth person could only be Constance because it was like looking at an older and harder version of myself. Same thick brown hair with reddish copper highlights. Same muscular build and curvy waistline. Same round face with a pronounced bone structure.
I could only come to one conclusion. This woman was my mother.
I wasn’t the only one to come to this particular conclusion and before anyone even said anything into the shocked silence, Mathis let out a tortured sounding yell and literally charged Constance. The old man moved surprisingly quickly, especially because I knew that he was at the very least tipsy right now. Constance’s eyes snapped to Mathis’s approaching form. I watched in stunned silence as both materialized swords and a clang rang out as their blades met. Constance’s face morphed into one of twisted fascination and cruel enjoyment, making me feel sick to my stomach. It was like she was relishing the opportunity to fight and cause someone else harm.
Both Constance and Mathis were highly skilled fighters and each initiated strikes that the other easily blocked as they continued to dance around each other. “You must be related to Sierra’s father. Even though you are well past your prime, I can see the remnants of the handsome features that made your son my absolute favorite plaything,” Constance hissed and the meaning of her words hit all of us like a wrecking ball. To her, Samuel had been nothing more than a thing that she enjoyed abusing. Like a psycho kid with a magnifying glass and a bunch of ants.
Mathis let out another roar of pure fury and redoubled his offensive efforts, but he was becoming sloppy in his anger. I saw the moment that Mathis fell for a simple fake, leaving his torso wide open and vulnerable to her extremely sharp blade. Just as a shout of warning was leaving Sean’s lips, I reached out with my power and formed a partial Shield around my grandfather. I didn’t care who this bitch was. Mathis was my family and this was my clan house. No one, especially not someone as hopelessly cruel and sadistic as my biological mother, was going to walk into my home and hurt my family.
Not. Going. To. Happen.
I didn’t utter a single word or move from my position on the porch while I aided my Grandfather in exacting his revenge. I reached out and pulled the fabric of reality around Mathis’ sword so that Constance would no longer be able to see where the next attack was coming from. Then I actively formed and dropped multiple different partial Shields to block any hit that she attempted to make against my grandfather. The tide of the fight quickly turned and within moments, Constance was bleeding from multiple different places and I could tell that the sight of her blood only encouraged Mathis. In a particular gruesome hit, Mathis swiped his blade across the backs of Constance’s knees, slicing through the thick tendons there. Constance let out a high-pitched scream and fell backward onto the grass that was already slick with her blood.
I figured the fight would either end or someone would put a stop to it, but neither of those things happened. Mathis dematerialized his sword and proceeded to pound his fist into Constance’s face over and over again as over a dozen different people watched and did nothing to stop him. My anger had completely disappeared, replaced by horrifying fear. It looked like he was killing her with his bare hands. Killing my mother. Murdering my mother feet from where I stood and I was just standing here, doing absolutely nothing to stop him.
No. Not like this.
A Shield snapped into place around Constance and Mathis continued to attack, hitting his fists against the impenetrable surface and feeding me little zips of power each time he touched my Shield. It was as if the appearance of my Shield broke the spell that kept everyone in their shocked delirium and everyone started moving at once. Derik and the twins were instantly surrounding me with weapons drawn. Sean ran towards Mathis and pulled him away from the bleeding and shielded woman laying on the grass. Max approached Constance while Darron and Elijah stepped forward towards Valerie. Valerie, Louka, and Mariana hadn’t moved a single muscle during the entire fight and continued to watch the scene with interested expressions. Like if this was some sort of test and they were trying to decide if we passed or failed.
“Well done my child,” Valerie purred and everyone’s attention snapped to her. “Such control and precision even in the mists of your transition. I am very pleased.”
The very last thing I wanted in this world was to please this psychopath, I thought as my eyes stayed trained to the bloody mass of a person within my Shield. Countless times over the years I had thought about my mother. I had wondered where she was. What kind of person she was. I even wondered about what she looked like and if she was alive or not. Now she was here. Right within my grasp and full of millions of answers. Bleeding and slowly dying just feet away from me.
Valerie must have not appreciated being ignored because she took a step forward and to the slide so that she was now standing between me and Constance. I didn’t particularly like her moving around and I felt a surge of anger flow through me as separate Shields formed around Valerie, Louka, and Mariana. This was my home and I was in control. I glared at Valerie and she had the audacity to smirk at me while someone tried to say something. I was too focused on Valerie and my dying mother to really notice or care what everyone else was doing. Then all of a sudden, Valerie blinked in and out of view and I felt a huge surge of power flow into me. Valerie let out a high-pitched scream and fell to her knees within my Shield. I let out a breath and steadied myself on Derik as my heart tried to beat right out of my chest.
Holy power boost.
It took me a moment to understand that Valerie had just tried to Teleport out of my Shield, causing her entire self to crash into my Shield and feeding me a significant amount of her life force. Movement caught my eye and I saw Louka and Mariana sharing a look before they both disappeared from sight, but I could feel them within the void. Oh no. They were the ones to come here uninvited. They weren’t allowed to leave until I was ready for them to leave. Almost unbidden by me, my Cloaking Gift reached out and pulled them back in the human plane, and then I felt the barrier to the void solidify under my direction.
The void was officially closed for business at the moment.
I looked back at Valerie to see that she was actually smiling at me again. Like if she was impressed and I felt a katana materialize in my hand. I was about to reenact Mathis’s earlier performance because this woman rubbed me in all the wrong ways. Nahuel had told me that the Rebec Clan had been taken at her direction. My mother may be evil, but Valerie was the one holding her leash. Connor stopped me from attacking and turned me away from the people in the yard. He cupped my face and I could see that he was trying to talk to me. I pushed past my rage and confusion and focused on Connor, drawing myself back into reality.
“Ray, Sweetheart, if you want Max to heal Constance then you need to drop your Shield. She is slipping away. What do you want to do?” Connor said in a forced calm and serious voice. From somewhere else in the yard I could hear Darron demanding, State who you are and what business you have here!
I looked around to see that a lot more people were here than before. Noland and Ransom were here from the Blade Clan and all four of the Hunters from the Northeast that had been following my every move had formed a loose ring around Queen Anne. Ransom was on the phone and I could only assume that he was calling in even more reinforcements. Valerie and the other Gatekeepers had just blown their secrecy in a huge way, and she had no one to blame but herself. My eyes fell back on Constance and I saw that both Max and Ethan were standing by my Shield and trying to assess the damage Mathis had inflicted. I felt like a traitor for doing so, but I didn’t think I could just stand by and watch her die when we could help. I dropped my Shield and both of the Healers quickly stepped forward and laid their hands on her.
Connor wrapped me up in a hug and for a moment I buried my face in his chest because all of this was just too much for me right now. My biological mother was here. The Northerners were here. The two other Gatekeepers of my generation were here. And I had them all trapped in my Shields as the royals all scrambled to take control of this situation. What did this mean for the hidden in Awenasa? What was going to happen now? Had I just inadvertently picked what side of the war I was going to fight on? Was this how the war started up again?
I needed answers and hiding away in the comfort of Connor’s embrace wasn’t helping anything. I pulled away from Connor and surveyed the scene around me. At least ten more people that I recognized from the Blade Clan had shown up and were making a loose ring around the entire backyard, making me feel trapped. Darron, Queen Anne, Sean, and Elijah were standing in front of the Shield that encased Valerie and they were asking her questions. Valerie was back on her feet and standing tall, refusing to even look at the people standing before her. Instead, her eyes were trained on me.
Well, I wasn’t going to play this game with her. She had come here. She had revealed herself. None of this was my fault, and now I was going to leave her to face the consequences of her actions. The royals could have her. And my mother for all I cared. There were other people that I could get answers from.
I shifted Louka and Mariana to the void but kept them within my Shields, eliciting a gasp from those watching the scene. Nearly everyone swiveled around to look at me with questioning eyes, but I didn’t bother looking back at anyone but Elijah. I dropped the cloak on my mind for a split second to send him the message; We will be back. Trust me. Then I pushed the twins, Derik and myself back into the void so that we could have a private conversation with the people that had so horribly betrayed Nahuel.
Louka stood tall in his transparent prison, mimicking the confident body language of Valerie, and suddenly I was struck with a sense of peace and happiness. My anger almost instantly disappeared and was replaced by comfort and a warm cocoon of safety. For a moment I had no idea why I was being so defensive. Clearly, Louka was the epitome of trustworthiness and would never hurt me. It was silly to keep him and his beautiful friend trapped. More than silly, it was bordering on mean and I would never want to be mean to such a gentle and kind soul as Louka.
My heartbeat decreased and my eyelids felt droopy as I reached out and almost lowered my Shields but the buzzing in my head stopped me. I knew that buzzing. The buzzing told me that I was being lied to. The buzzing was my Truth Gift showing me the reality of the situation. I grabbed onto that knowledge with the last of my sanity and felt that spark of anger ignite inside of me. A wave of power rippled through me and just as I had in the tribunal room, I pushed the power outwards and bathed everyone in my supercharged Truth Gift. The synthetic emotions broke and instantly washed away, leaving a fuzzy almost oily feeling in their place.
Either Louka or Mariana had the ability to alter emotions, just as Wiyot did. “Who just did that to us?” I snapped out and felt my words were infused with my Truth Gift.
“I did,” Louka said in a monotone and I zeroed in my attention on him.
“Why did you come here today?” I demanded.
“We came to bring you home. You belong in the Northern City. You belong at my side,” Louka said and from the corner of my eye, I saw Mariana’s eyes widen in shock. Clearly, she hadn’t known that was the agenda for today. I turned to her and asked the same question.
“Why did you come here today?”
“I thought we were coming here just to introduce ourselves and make your acquaintance. There are only ever two Gatekeepers per city. It has always been that way since the original split. Louka and I live in the Northern City. Thus you are supposed to go live in Awenasa with Nahuel,” she replied in the same emotionless voice.
I huffed out a sigh and released my hold on my Truth Gift. Yes, I could learn a lot by forcing them to answer me, but it felt too similar to Compulsion to me and I wasn’t sure I was okay that I could do this. I wanted to get a feel for these two as people too. I needed to know what they would say and how they would act when they were free to say whatever they wanted.
“Do not alter my emotions again,” I nearly snarled and felt Blake intertwined his hand with mine, lending me strength and support. The clan bond tingled between us and I focused on that feeling and tried to calm down. Nahuel had warned me to try to stay calm and happy as I finished transitioning. I was definitely not calm and happy right now.
Louka studied me for a long moment, his eyes scanning my body and lingering on my hand within Blake’s hold before he said, “My apologies. But can you really blame me for trying? In all my years of watching the human-bound Valkyries, I have never seen anyone with the ability to use the personal Shield as a prison. As I am sure you can imagine, being trapped is not a pleasant feeling and I reacted out of instinct to try to make you release us.”
While I could see his point, I wasn’t swayed by his answer. He had come here uninvited with the intention of taking me somewhere against my will. Turnabout’s fair play. Movement from the physical plane caught my eye and I turned and watched as dozens of people marched around the house and into the backyard. I was completely stunned by the rows of Valkyries in formal uniforms led by Florence and Regina in formal ball gowns. Behind them, Hernan, Eli, Kadien, Damion, and Everette, and Yates Norwood all walked with confident strides and decked out in pristine black and white tuxedos.
This was so not good.