Truth: A Valkyrie Saga Book 3

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Chapter 24 - Heartbreak

I hadn’t really ever warmed to the idea of having children. I had found early on that I was too self-centered to ever maintain a successful relationship. I always got bored and felt that the man needed too much attention. Love was a distraction that I didn’t understand why so many people were obsessed with. I would much rather spend my time and energy on myself than any other person. Simple logic told me that I would feel the same way about any offspring that I may have. This is why no one was more surprised than I was when I formed a deep bond with my child. I had endeavored to become pregnant at Valerie’s orders and had thought that the only thing I would ever feel towards my daughter would be a sense of duty. But something changed as I felt her grow inside of me. When I held her completely vulnerable form in my arms and she looked up at me with trusting green eyes, I felt something I had never experienced before.

I only ever loved one person other than myself. Even though I fought against it, I loved my daughter. I loved Sierra and she was ripped away from me. Sixteen long years later and that love hadn’t diminished. I had to find a way back to her.

-Constance Belanger

We all circled through the kitchen where Renata had dishes upon dishes of food laid out for us and sat down to eat. For a while, everyone was too busy eating to talk. Or maybe we were all trying to put off the inevitable. I doubted that I was the only one that realized that our lives were about to change. There was no way for us to continue living as we had been. Just too much had happened and we needed to protect ourselves from both the Northern Hidden and the Collins Royal Line.

Nahuel was the first to break through the silence barrier and said in a matter-of-fact voice, “Pala has been following the human-bound Valkyries for years. She is blessed with Teleportation and Speed, therefore is a perfect person to watch the many different factions of Royals and looking for any sign that they are close to discovering Awenasa. She knows the human-bound valkyries best, so I turned to her when you asked for more information about the Southern King, Eli Norwood.”

I felt myself tense at the mention of his name and the food I had managed to eat churned in my stomach. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was dead now, or if Valerie had taken him. If they had, was it possible that my biological mother was torturing him? Would he be subjected to the same treatment that had destroyed my father? Was I to blame for that fact? Was it now my responsibility to try to save him from such a fate?

“I knew from her reports that Eli was not a good person, but honestly I don’t pay that much attention to the human-bound Royals unless I think that they are taking a heightened interest in us. Eli’s brother, Hernan Collins, is the one that I know the most about because he is the one most interested in finding us. Eli is more concerned with the power games played within the human realm and thus, less important to me. But Pala has detailed knowledge and notes of everyone she watches,” Nahuel explained and I nodded my head. All of that made sense.

Then Nahuel stopped talking and turned to look at Pala, who seemed extremely anxious. Her shoulders were tense and her gaze kept darting around as if she wasn’t used to people actually paying her any attention was feeling stressed about the sudden spotlight Nahuel was forcing her into. I completely understood. Having spent an inordinate amount of time in the void, I understood how easy it was to watch without being seen. When the guys had discovered me and people had started paying attention to me at school, I had felt the same way.

I reached out and wrapped the fabric of reality around her shoulders so that she became significantly less visible. The guys were all used to me doing this and knew that she was still there but they were also decent and kind people. They would have been picking up on her nervousness just as I had. Everyone diverted their eyes towards their plates while I gave Pala an encouraging smile. She finally focused on me and let out a deep breath before she started to talk.

“Okay, so I have been watching these people for years. I jump to different ones each day and keep a log of what they are up to. My favorite ones to watch are the royals from Ecuador. The prince and princess there have four kids and the babies are twins and are just about the cutest things you can imagine. My least favorite ones to watch are the Norwoods in the Americas South,” Pala said and you could discern her distaste from the change in her voice.

“Eli Norwood is abusive to both his children and his wife. He has them so far under this thumb that they actually believe that they deserve the punishments that he gives them. Most Valkyries are thrilled when they have daughters because human-bound females are so rare, but Eli hates his two daughters. They are still pretty young, but you can tell by the way he looks at them and by the way he encourages the older brothers to treat them badly that he hates his daughters. It took me a while, but I think I finally figured out why,” Pala said while all of the guys had matching looks of shock on their faces. When I first showed up they were adamant that all female Valkyries were treated amazingly well, but I knew better. I knew that all sorts of horrible things occurred behind closed doors.

“Eli Norwood hates his daughters because he hates his sister. He is older than Florence Collins but did not inherit the Americas West throne because he was a boy. He never thought that was fair and doesn’t think that females should be the ultimate rulers of the supernatural world. Even though he is King of the South and controls everything that his wife does, he hasn’t gotten over the fact that he was passed over for the Americas West throne. He and his top confidants are actively working to weaken the Americas West Kingdom while strengthening his own. He plans to overtake his sister and claim what he believes is his birthright - to rule over the Americas West Kingdom.”

“Pala has overheard many different conversations about his plans and after you asked me for proof, we traveled to his home and retrieved these,” Nahuel said while handing a folder to Elijah. Elijah didn’t hesitate to open the folder and scan the contents within. “It is proof that Eli Norwood contracted a coven of witches to develop a drug that would boost a Valkyrie’s overall strength and power level of their Gifts. This drug’s main ingredient is blood from another supernatural. The inherent magic within the blood is distilled and will temporarily be infused into the person using the drug. This moondust is what you asked me to look into.”

“But I don’t understand. How is the production of moondust linked to Eli trying to overthrow Florence as queen?” I asked because I wasn’t seeing the overall bigger picture here.

“Eli didn’t set up the moondust factories in his own kingdom. No, he set them up here where more and more disappearing shifters and now vampires are causing Florence’s people to question if she can really protect them,” Elijah murmured as he continued to scan through the papers within the folder. “He stockpiles a portion of the drug so that his forces will be more powerful when things come down to a fight and sell the rest. The profits from the drug finance his efforts and the chaos from humans taking a supernaturally based drug further distract Florence and her top Hunter clans. It is rather ingenious.”

“He also has people loyal to him within the Americas West,” Pala added. “He has this whole plan to force a contingent of vampires and fae to attack that he will later declare were rouge. He wants both Florence and Regina dead. Then he is going to invade and take control of the Americas West Palace under the guise that it is for the protection of the kingdom. That he is the rightful king and the best person to lead them now that there is no female heir.”

My head was starting to throb at the thought of how many people were going to be hurt and how many lives were going to be destroyed just because a man was not happy with the throne that he already had.

“Okay, well I know that we aren’t exactly team Florance after what she did to Ray yesterday, but we have to do something,” Blake declared and everyone turned to look at him. “Dad and the rest of the Blade clan will be in the first line of defense against an invasion. They will all die fighting before they lay down arms and support an unlawful king. We have to do something or our entire familial clan will die.”

“Not to mention that Shifters are always the first to die in a war. Queen Florence will order the local packs to defend the kingdom and wolves will die,” Santiago said and I was surprised to hear him speak up. He was listening to me. I had asked him to give me his opinion, to be an advisor, and he was.

“It gets worse,” Pala said as her eyes darted to me and down towards the table. I was expecting her to expound on that ominous statement, but she remained quiet. It was Nahuel that dropped the next bomb.

“When we were looking for proof, we found these in his desk,” Nahuel said and he also looked like he was having a hard time looking me in the eye. He was holding out a stack of what looked like 5x7 photos and for some reason, my stomach sank. I didn’t know if I wanted to see whatever they had found. Clearly, neither Nahuel nor Pala was happy about those photos.

With a shaking hand, I reached out and took the stack of photos from Nahuel. “What are they?” asked Connor with a distinct edge to his voice as I flipped the stack of photos over and looked down at the glossy surface. It was a photo of Derik snapping the spelled cuff onto my wrist the day that he attacked me. My stomach sank further as I guessed what the rest of the photos were going to depict.

I slowly tipped the top photo up so that I could see the one underneath. In this one, I was laying on my back and Derik was straddling me with both of his hands wrapped around my neck as he choked the life out of me. Seeing the image made everything I had felt in that moment come rushing back and I dropped the stack of photos and pushed away from the table. Instantly, two machetes formed in my hands and I felt a wave of power crash within me. Individual Shields snapped into place around each person sitting at the table as I fought to stay present in the moment and not get pulled into a flashback.

“Eli Norwood Compelled Derik to attack me?” I asked in a voice full of so much anger and disbelief that I didn’t even recognize my own voice.

“What?” Derik hissed before slowly standing and walking over to where I had dropped the stack of photos. They were now spread out on the floor in a sick mosaic of pain, blood, and humiliation. I jumped in front of Derk, trying to stop him from seeing the evidence of what he was forced to do to me. But I knew I was too late when his entire body locked up and the blood drained from his face. I dropped the Shield that had formed around him and dematerialized my weapons so that I could try to somehow fix this. Derik had just stopped treating me like glass. He just started touching me freely again. He just stopped trying to put space between us. I couldn’t let these photos ruin that.

“Oh my God,” Blake whispered in a horrified tone and I glanced over my shoulder to see that all of the guys including Santiago were on their feet and looking down at the many photos illustrating the awful things that had been forced on us. I hated that they were seeing them. Seeing me like that. Seeing Derik like that because that wasn’t who we were. I wasn’t weak or a victim. Derik wasn’t a monster or unfeeling. I pushed the photos into the void and sealed the entrance, but their disappearance didn’t break the atmosphere of anger and repulsion they had created.

Derik was still frozen in place and as white as a sheet. I was worried he was going to pass out and placed my hand on his cheek. He flinched away from the contact, turning away from me and the rest of the guys before fleeing out of the room. I was about to follow him out of the house when Elijah stepped in my path.

“Let him go. He isn’t going to leave you or us. He is stronger than you think. Just give him a moment to regroup,” Elijah told me under his breath and even though it felt wrong to let him go off on his own right now, I decided to listen to him. Elijah knew Derik much more than I ever would.

“You said you found those photos in Eli Norwood’s personal effects?” Max asked, pulling our attention back towards Nahuel and the information that he had come here to give us.

“Yes,” Nahuel said and I could see the same fury that was present in the guys reflected in the depths of his eyes. “They were combined with a larger collection of equally disturbing photos. As I told you before. Eli Norwood is a sadistic and depraved man that keeps a collection of supernaturals as his submissives.”

“But King Norwood does not have the Gift of Compulsion,” Max stated and I turned to look at him. Was he suggesting that even though he had the photos that he was not one that Compelled Derik? “And what motive would he have to do such a thing in the first place. Ray hadn’t even met him when that attack took place.”

I didn’t like that Max was poking holes in our new theory. After the initial shock had worn off, I thought that Eli was just the kind of person that would sink to the level of forcing someone to rape someone they cared about. That kind of action fit the disgusting way he looked at me when I was getting whipped. Now, I kind of wanted him to be guilty. One bad guy that I could focus all of my hate towards. Plus, I already knew that he was somewhere where he couldn’t hurt me or the guys anymore. I didn’t like the idea of someone else out there who was just as willing to hurt us.

What if Eli had an accomplice.

“I have heard on multiple occasions that Eli wants one of his sons to be named his heir instead of his daughter,” Pala said in a quite unsure voice as if she didn’t know if we would appreciate her speaking up. Nahuel placed his hand on her shoulder and nodded his head, clearly indicating that she should continue. “Eli seemed to think that if they could get one of the lesser princesses to agree to move to the South and marry one of his sons then he could name them as his heir. They have submitted marriage proposals to all of the royal families that have more than one female child but so far neither Everette nor Yates have been chosen. They are starting to get too old. They would be very interested in attaching themselves to Gatekeeper Olsen. It is possible that they believed this attack would render her vulnerable enough to play into their plans for her. I do know that King Norwood has a trusted lieutenant that carries out most of his commands.”

“Both Everette and Yates showed up at the house the other day. Clearly interested in Ray,” Blake added and a shiver of revulsion ran down my spine. Where would I be now if I had ended with them instead of with the guys? What would they have reduced me to? I had a hard time believing that any princess would allow herself to become a victim of domestic abuse overnight. Eli must be a master manipulator to have gotten away with how he acts for this long. The entire Valkyrie community turned their backs on the Russians because one of their Kings did something similar to one of the royal princesses. Clearly, this sort of thing wasn’t something that was just allowed to happen.

“It is also possible that he ordered the attack simply because he wanted to see my pain,” I murmured, my mind reeling with everything Nahuel had told us. “There doesn’t have to be a master plan behind such a thing. Not for a monster like Eli. Clearly, he took and kept the photos for a reason.”

That thought made me think about what he did with those photos. What kind of reaction it would have evoked in him and my stomach heaved as that familiar rage burned through me. An intense spark of power pulsed within me and all of a sudden, hundreds of throwing stars materialized mid-air and dropped to the ground, making the entire room ring with the clattering of metal. Thankfully, there was a clear ring around each person in the room where I had inadvertently avoided materializing weapons, but the stars littering the floor were a powerful illustration of how out of control my Gifts were becoming.

“Your transition is close,” Nahuel said in a commanding tone. “Getting this emotional is not smart.”

“Yeah, well, you try learning that some sadistic pervert Compelled someone you love to beat you and force themselves on you for shits and giggles and see how unemotional you can stay,” I said dryly while desperately trying to withhold the next wave of power.

“King Norwood is currently here for the Matching. You are not safe. Come back to Awenasa with me. You will be safe and Wiyot and I will help guide you through your transition. Once you have fully transitioned, we will come up with a plan to avenge you and your clan member,” Nahuel responded and all of the guys turned to him, clearly listening to his suggestion.

“No, he isn’t,” I said and Nahuel looked at me with clear confusion on his face. “Eli isn’t here anymore,” I clarified and then gave him a short summary of everything that had happened after Valerie and the other Gatekeepers showed up at the clan house last night. In the end, I explained how I had sent Eli right into Valerie’s grasp and that she had disappeared. I no longer felt any guilt or regret over giving Eli over to the Northern Hidden. He deserved every last thing that happens to him now and the vindictive side of me hoped that wherever he was now he would die a slow and painful death.

Nahuel took a moment to process everything that I told him and I saw that Pala had gone pale. The war that Nahuel and Pala had worked so hard to prevent was on the horizon. I did still feel guilty about my part in that. “I still think you should come back to Awenasa with me,” Nahuel finally declared. “It is the best place for you to complete your transition. There are too many people here that are too interested in you.”

“And you are what?” I heard Derik growl from the doorway and my heart leaped. Derik was back! He hadn’t left! “Disinterested in Ray?”

“Of course I am interested,” Nahuel said without one shred of embarrassment. “But I am mostly worried about her safety. A transition is not an easy time in a Gatekeeper’s life and everything else she is facing will only make it more difficult for Ray. Let me help protect her as she goes through this as the elder Gatekeepers of Awenasa helped and protected me.”

I could see Derik and the other guys warming up to the idea but I knew that I couldn’t go. “I will not leave them. You told me they were not welcome in Awenasa and I will not leave them. Not now. Not ever,” I declared and both twins looked at me with hope and vulnerability in their strikingly similar faces.

Nahuel stared into my eyes for a moment, as if he was searching for something before he turned and treated Elijah with the same studious glare. “Okay. Your clan can join you. As long as you agree to tell me when you are coming and going from the city and not to bring anyone else in, your friends can come too,” Nahuel finally said and I watched as Elijah’s lips tipped up into a smile. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but this moment felt important. Like something life-changing had happened. I felt this need to somehow mark this point in time and honor it. I had a feeling that this was the start of the next chapter of our lives. Whether that chapter would be a good one or a bad one was still left to be seen. But our going to Awenasa together as a clan was a step in a new direction.

It didn’t take long for each of the guys to agree and they decided to stop by the house to grab some clothes and supplies before allowing Nahuel to bring us back to his home. Elijah and I talked briefly with Arlo and Lawerance and then asked Santiago if he would rather come with us or stay here with the Oakland Pack. He decided to stick with us and I had to say that I wasn’t all that surprised by that choice. I was learning that Santiago had a loyal streak a mile wide and also liked to feel like he was a part of the action. He wasn’t really a sit-at-home and wait for news kind of person.

We all piled into Blake’s truck and drove back to the house. Mathis and Sean were waiting for us inside and I had the feeling that my normal amount of watchers/guards would have only increased after everything that happened last night. That was okay. Nahuel told us that he could teleport us all to Awenasa so I knew that none of the royal spies would be able to follow us where we were planning on going.

The moment I walked into the door, Mathis walked right up to me and wrapped his arms around me. The cool, calming sensation of the familial bond swept through me and soothed a lot of my raw emotions. I remembered how he had fought for me without any regard to his own safety or well-being even after I had protected Constance from his deathly blows and hugged him back with everything inside of me.

“I am so proud of you, Dear Child,” Mathis told me and my heart soared. I had spent my entire childhood being treated like a possession that Samuel had ultimate control over, never once receiving any love or affection. His pride felt overwhelming to me but in a good way. I think he felt the same way because our touching moment quickly turned awkward as neither of us really knew how to express what we were feeling. In the end, Mathis kissed me on the forehead and I fled to my bedroom, needing a moment to myself.

I was just packing my newly unpacked stuff back into my used duffle bag when I heard frantic knocking at the front door. Each time that someone pounded on the door I became more and more convinced that an army of Royal Guards was here to arrest me for what I had done to the King of the Americas South. Instantly my Gifts surged and everyone was encompassed in a Shield. Both twins came rushing down the stairs and stood between me and the door while Nahuel and Pala came to attention in the kitchen. In the next moment, they had vanished from sight, but I could still feel them in the void. Elijah and Derik walked out of the library looking a lot less stressed than everyone else. Obviously, they knew something that we didn’t.

“Calm down. It is just a human,” Elijah said and I felt the tension leave my shoulders. What in the world was a human doing here. I knew that it couldn’t be Jack or Amy because Elijah would never refer to them just as just a human. My heart gave a painful throb at the thought of my protected that I would be leaving behind. “She is here for the twins and she seems to think it is very important.”

“Who the fuck would be here for us?” Connor asked at the same time that Elijah opened the door and we all saw Maddison standing in the doorway with her hand still raised so she could continue to knock. She looked as good and put together as she always did, but there was this crazy glint to her eyes that I could see even from here.

“There you are!” She nearly screeched as soon as her eyes found both Blake and Connor standing before me. Because she was a human, Maddison wouldn’t be able to see the Shields that were still surrounding each of the guys, but I didn’t want her to accidentally walk into one so I blew out a breath and concentrated on dropping them. “You two have literally dropped off the map. At first, I thought you were just avoiding me, but you don’t even come to school anymore,” Maddison said while walking into the house without being formally invited.

The last time I had seen Maddison, had been after she had put condoms that were filled with spoiled milk into my locker. She had somehow made the entire mess explode in my face and then documented my embarrassment and shock for the entire school to see. It had not been pleasant and I was fairly sure that both Blake and Connor had made a point to stay away from her after that. I had absolutely no idea why she was here now and it was actually kind of jarring to have her here. She was part of the human world and right now our lives were filled to the brim with supernatural drama. I hadn’t thought about Madison or any of the high school drama for a long time. And I didn’t appreciate that she was here now.

“Why the fuck do you care what we do?” Connor asked her bluntly, clearly just about as happy to have her here as I was.

Maddison stopped in her tracks and seemed to be at a loss for words at the moment, but Elijah sucked in a breath and instantly turned to look at me, fear like I have never seen before evident in his eyes. My stomach instantly dropped and then started to knot at the look on Elijah’s face. Whatever was going on was big enough and scary enough to make Elijah look like our entire world was going to come crashing down at any moment. I didn’t like it. Elijah was always steadfast and calm. What in the world could Maddison have to say that would make him react like that?

“I umm, I need to talk to you. Both of you. Privately,” Maddison said but I still couldn’t tear my eyes away from Elijah to see the look on her face.

“Whatever you have to tell us, you can say it right here and right now,” Blake responded, sounding more like Connor than his normal cheerful self. “We aren’t going anywhere with you.”

“Maybe you should -” Elijah had started to say but was interrupted by Maddison’s hurried confession.

“I’m pregnant,” Maddison blurted and I saw both of the twins freeze.

What? I must have heard wrong because there is no way that -

“I’m pregnant and one of you is the father. I am freaking out here. My dad is going to kill me when he finds out. What am I supposed to do? My whole family is super religious and would never forgive me if I took care of the problem but I can never find you and I am only seventeen years old. I can’t be a mom. What about college? What about my trip to Italy this summer?” Maddison rambled and the meaning of her words started to sink in.

Maddison was pregnant. Either Blake or Connor had gotten her pregnant. There was no buzz in my head meaning that she was telling the truth. This wasn’t a trick to get them back or stir up drama. She was pregnant and one of the twins was going to become a father.

Betrayal ten times thicker than what I experienced when I found Jonas and Jack together flooded my system like thick syrup. My vision clouded over as tears filled my eyes and my heart felt like it was literally breaking in two. The pain was so instant and intense that it took my breath away. Some small part of me was trying to break through the growing icy betrayal and say that the twins hadn’t been with me when they were with Maddison. I tried in vain to convince myself that this wasn’t as bad as it felt. That just because they were going to have a baby with her didn’t mean that they weren’t still with me.

But the larger part of me knew the truth. Knew that this was going to change everything. They were going to have a baby with her. A child that would forever bind them to her and tear them away from me. And I couldn’t say that it didn’t hurt to have their physical relationship thrown in my face like this. I had never been with anyone sexually before. Hell, before Jonas I hadn’t even been kissed, but the twins had gotten one of the vilest and vindictive people I knew pregnant.

My heart was breaking. More than anyone, I thought of the twins as mine. And now they felt like hers. Pain lanced through me and hit a solid wall of power that was growing inside of me. This felt different than all of the other waves of power that had been crashing inside of me. This felt like a chain reaction that had already started and was going to lead to an explosion. Or maybe an implosion.

Through my blurred vision I saw that while Blake was still frozen in place, Connor had turned and was looking at me with a matching mask of fear plastered on his face. He felt it too. He knew that this was going to change everything. That this was too big for our fragile united relationship to bear. I felt that fear too, but I knew that I couldn’t be selfish in this moment. Connor and Blake were going to be a father. That was bigger than me. And I knew without a shadow of a doubt that they would be amazing fathers. Kind and caring yet stern and supportive too.

I swallowed down the hard lump of emotion in my throat and dug deep for enough courage and grace to not completely fall apart at the seams. I locked eyes with Connor and tried to memorize every intricate facet of their beautiful green depths. Another portion of my heart shattered as I held back my agony and told him what he deserved to know. “She isn’t lying. I think you will make a wonderful father. Both of you will,” I said and couldn’t quite keep the quiver out of my voice.

I think Connor understood that I was releasing him from any kind of commitment that he felt towards me because his face was an outward reflection of the pain I was living through. I would always love both of the twins with my whole heart, but now that came in second place. Their son needed them more than I did and there was no way that we could bring Maddison along where we were going. I was at the epicenter of a war that was just about to reignite and that was no place for a baby. Maybe we could figure something out and maybe in time, we would find a way back to each other but right now I was drowning in too much heartbreak to see that far in the future. This was our present and I knew that Connor and Blake were too good of men to ever walk away from it.

This entire time the ball of wild magic within me had been growing, adding an entirely different layer of pain that I was forced to endure. That ball was slowly consuming me and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I knew this was what Nahuel had been talking about. This was my transition and I didn’t want it to hurt any of the guys or Maddison. She was now carrying precious cargo.

I smiled weakly at Connor giving him my silent goodbye, still holding back the lion’s share of my emotions, and then I pushed back into the void. Just as I was using my Cloaking Gift to push through the barrier between this plane of existence and the next, I saw Nahuel materialize at my side. I don’t know if I was joining him in the void or if he was joining me in the physical realm, but I guess it didn’t make much of a difference. I just knew that I had to get away from the guys, from Maddison, before this ball of magic exploded within me.

The second that I called on my Gift to take me to the void I knew that something was wrong. Instead of a gentle parting of the fabric of reality that I usually experienced as I stepped back into the void, I felt the ball of energy swirl outwards and direct its entire power into splitting open the fabric of reality. I had the sensation of falling off a cliff but knew that my feet were firmly planted on solid ground. Vertigo hit hard and I had to close my eyes to fight off the sudden bout of dizziness. I cradled my head in my hands and clenched my jaw as I fought to stay upright and conscious. Within moments the feeling passed and the ball of magic within me completely deflated, making me feel drained and exhausted.

I remained still, trying to evaluate everything that I was feeling, and noticed that it was unbearably cold. I started shivering and wound my arms around my middle as I finally peaked my eyelids open and looked around. The guys were gone. The clan house was gone. All there was for as far as the eye could see was white.

“Tehya, what have you done,” I heard Nahuel whisper behind me in a disbelieving and vulnerable voice that only added weight to the wrongness of this situation.

I turned to look at Nahuel and saw that he looked shocked and completely devastated. A strong and viciously cold wind cut through me and I hunched my shoulders against it. I once again scanned our surroundings and once again didn’t see anything but a barren field of white. A wave of exhaustion crashed over me and the next burst of wind pushed me to my knees. I slammed into the hard ice sheet and my hands stung as my palms came into contact with the all-consuming coldness of the frozen world I found myself in.

I tried to push back against the barrier of this plane of existence, needing to return home now that the danger had passed, but nothing happened. I searched inside of me in vain. The spark of my Gift was gone. I had completely drained every drop of my power and now I was stranded here.

I felt a body of heat approach me and I looked up at Nahuel. “Bring us home,” I begged with a pitiful voice that showcased how close I was to completely breaking.

Nahuel knelt beside me and pulled me into his burning hot chest, “I am sorry Tehya. So very sorry,” he murmured in a mournful voice. “You are a stronger Gatekeeper than I. The premier of our generation. I cannot Shift you from this place. You are stuck here. Your power will be drained for at least a full day and even then, you will never be that powerful again. We are a very long way from home and this is not a hospitable realm.”

I stared past Nahuel’s chest at the icy hell that I had brought us to as understanding started to sink in. I was stuck here. I was stuck here and would freeze to death long before I would recharge enough to escape.

I had just doomed myself to a slow painful death.

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