Chapter 5 - One Crisis At A Time
I was listening to Queen Florence and Prince Hernan talk about the agreement that Ray made with them about her schooling when a woman I have never seen before walked into the middle of the room. Neither Florence nor Hernan even blinked an eye at her presence, even though she moved to stand not three feet from the Queen. I was starting to get a bad feeling about this woman when she looked up and made eye contact with me. I was most definitely in the void and was invisible to anyone in the physical plane. Meaning there was only one very disturbing explanation for why this woman, or rather why this female Valkyrie, could see me right now.
She was in the void too.
As we continued to stare at each other, I knew that she was starting to put the pieces together too because she materialized a very hostile-looking spear into her right hand. As far as we knew, the only other people that had Ray’s Cloaking Gift were the Hidden. Meaning that this woman was most likely one of the Hidden.
I meant to raise my hands to show her that I didn’t mean her any harm but before I did more than turn my palms over, everything went black.
“It is my understanding that we have to separate Desi from the enthralled vampires for three days. If they have zero contact with her in that time, the power holding them to her will break,” I stated, to get the ball rolling. I could use the void and just steal Desi away, but I really didn’t want three crazed vampires to come hunting us down. Plus, I wanted to avoid making an enemy of Marcello. I already had too many people I had to watch my back from.
“Have you ever seen an enthralled vampire before, Valkyrie Olsen? Or anyone under a Siren’s song?” Marcello asked and I shook my head. “I can assure you that it is not as easy as keeping them apart. Right now those three vampires are even more out of control than a newly turned one in the middle of bloodlust. They freaked out and started attacking my guests just because they were in the same room as their beloved Siren after she entranced them. It took nine of my people to subdue them long enough for us to get them into a steel and silver reinforced room. Their level of territorialism will fade over time, but for the next couple of months or so, no one is getting anywhere near that fae.”
I took a moment to study his face before deciding that he wasn’t trying to play me here. I knew he was telling the truth but I also guessed it was the whole truth. Marcello wasn’t happy about this situation and was dealing with it the only way he knew how.
“I have the ability to safely remove Desi from that room and can keep her safe. If I do that, will your reinforced room hold your vampires for three days?” I asked and Marcello lifted an eyebrow showcasing his skepticism. Apparently, me just showing up in the middle of his locked club wasn’t enough of a demonstration. I pushed Derik and Connor free of the void, leaving Blake to keep Miku company. The black-haired vampire went to attack again and this time I trapped him in a Shield.
“Control your underlings, Marcello. Or I am going to teach him how to act when a Valkyrie comes to visit,” Derik growled. I looked over to see that he had twin short swords in his hands and looked so angry that for a moment I flashed back to when he attacked me.
“Vadik!” Marcello said in a commanding voice. Instantly the black-haired vampire went still within my Shield, but I decided it would be for the best if I didn’t drop my guard again. Connor didn’t have a Shield. “Regardless of if you can remove the girl or not, that room will not hold my vampires once she is gone. Philip is my oldest friend and is nearly as old as I am. I tell you this so that you understand not only his strength but also realize that I want the Siren’s song broken much more than you do. I have been racking my brain, but not even a direct order from me will phase them right now.”
I moved to stand because I felt weird sitting when the guys were standing. “Can I see this room that they are in? It will help us come up with ideas if we all know exactly what we are dealing with.”
Marcello let out a breath, even though he doesn’t technically have to breathe, and drummed his fingers on the table. I allowed him time to think and took a moment to visually check in with Connor and Derik. Connor looked vigilant but steady while Derik still looked like he was ready to kill someone. I bit the inside of my mouth to keep myself in the here and now and then made myself take a step to the side so that Derik would be forced to look at me. I was pretty sure he was having his own mental fight with memory lane right now and I needed to pull him out of it. When I was sure that Derik was seeing me and not a flashback I relaxed my shoulders and put an easy simile on my lips. I continued to smile at him and could see him pull himself back together piece by piece.
By the time that Marcello agreed to take us to where they were holding Desi, Derik was back to his normal, steady self. We were led through a door in the back of the club and down a set of stairs. After descending five floors, Marcello directed us to walk down a dark hallway and I itched to call on a Weapon. How stupid did I have to be to follow a master vampire into his underground dungeon?
I could tell that Derik and Connor were feeling just as suspicious and jumpy as I was because they were walking so close to me that our arms touched. Finally, Marcello led us into a small room that had nothing in it but a large flat screen T.V. I was about to say screw it, and start searching this place in the void when Marcello turned the T.V. on. On the screen, I saw multiple people in a fully furnished room. Three men that all looked to be in their late twenties or early thirties and one young woman with curly brown hair and a heart-shaped face.
Desi was sitting in a corner with her knees drawn to her chest. She had her arms wrapped tightly around her knees and was blankly staring past the man who was kneeling not six inches in front of her. Plates of food and half a dozen glasses littered the ground around the Siren but she hadn’t touched any of it. Desi didn’t look hurt, but she most definitely didn’t look okay either. I would have started demanding answers on why she looked like that if Miku hadn’t told me that Desi shuts down when she feels overwhelmed.
“The girl refuses to eat or drink anything and my vampires are becoming more agitated about it by the minute. Every time we approach the door to deliver something, they react badly and Desi draws even further into herself. I am at a loss for what to do. If the girl doesn’t start acknowledging them, they are going to start hurting themselves. But every time I try to make her more comfortable so she will accept them, things just get worse.”
“Desi cannot stay here,” I said in an understanding but firm voice. “I am going to take her with me and return her to her family. She has special needs and doesn’t belong here.”
“Where she goes, they go. And I cannot allow them out of my compound because they will very likely hurt someone. If they expose themselves or kill a human, Valkyrie Hunters will kill them. I understand that this situation is not ideal, but they cannot leave here,” Marcello said in a defeated voice. He was too far gone with preemptive grief that he wasn’t listening to me. We couldn’t keep having the same conversation over and over again. It was time to act. I pulled out my phone and texted Blake that I was about to shift Desi to the void. I told him and Miku to take care of her while we figured out what to do with the three enthralled vampires.
I waited a minute to give Blake time to get into place and then pushed Desi into the void. The reaction to my decision was swift and significant. All three vampires ran to the place where Desi was most likely still sitting within the void and when they didn’t find her, they went absolutely berserk. After a blurringly quick search of the room, all three started to attack the reinforced door and the entire compound started to shake with their efforts.
“What have you done?” Marcello cried and lunged forward in an attempt to grab me. Derik intercepted him and I put each of the vampires in an individual Shield, thus protecting them and the building.
“I have done exactly what I told you I was going to do from the start. Desi is coming with us. End of story. Stop focusing on that and let’s move on to figuring out how to safely contain your vampires for the next three days,” I said and Marcello turned to the T.V. screen to see that his friends were not about to escape.
“I didn’t know Valkyries could use Shields as holding containers,” Marcello said and I narrowed my eyes at him. Not only was he lying, but he had seen me do the exact same thing to the black-haired vampire upstairs not ten minutes ago.
“Why are you lying to me right now?” I asked him bluntly because we didn’t have time to play games.
Marcello’s shoulders fell and he turned to face me. “Unless you are willing to stay here for the next three days to keep them contained, we are back to the original problem.”
I studied the frantic vampires through the screen and racked my brain for a solution. If I had to, I could stay here for three days, but I could only guess that option wouldn’t go over well. I was supposed to be attending Regian’s Matching this week. Not to mention that Max and Elijah were still in the void back at the palace. I couldn’t just leave them there.
“Connor,” Derik said with authority and we all turned our attention on him. “Compel the vampires to sleep. Make it so that they don’t wake up until enough time has passed for the Siren’s song to break.”
I looked at Derik with shock. It was a simple answer and should work, but I was surprised that he of all people would turn to Compulsion as an answer. After I regained my composure and admitted that it really was a good solution, I turned to look at Connor. He must have been taken even more off-guard by Derik’s suggestion than me because he had gone pale and literally started shaking his head.
“No. I am never using my Compulsion Gift again. You were right when we first met and I forced you to answer about who had given you a black eye. I was wrong to make you do something against your will. And after seeing what Derik was forced to do, I... I... I swore that I would never Compel anyone ever again,” Connor said in a frenetic pleading voice that didn’t sound like him at all.
Hearing Connor so afraid and disgusted with his own Gift tore at my soul. I never wanted that for him. He had the ability to Compel people and that was never going to change. If he allowed this hate for his Gift to grow, he would be despising an integral part of himself. That wasn’t healthy or right. I hated that I let my own fear of compulsion color how he saw his Gift.
“Connor, Gifts are not inherently good or evil. I could use my access to the void to become an unstoppable assassin but instead, I am here using it to help a girl everyone turned their back on. Blake could easily use his Weapons to hurt people, but I know that he would never do that because he is a good person. Connor, you are a good person and I trust you,” I told him with as much feeling as I could muster. “It will always be your choice of when or how to use your Gift, but I believe that the reason behind an action is important. If you Compel someone because it is in their best interest, then it can’t be evil.”
Connor was breathing heavily and looking at me with a desperate intensity. I should have noticed that he wasn’t using his Gift before now. Derik and I weren’t the only ones that were severely affected by the attack last week. The guys were the ones that had to deal with the aftermath and I needed to talk to them about it. Clearly, they weren’t as okay as they had been pretending to be. I knew I wasn’t.
“If you decide to Compel these vampires to sleep for three days, you will be giving them their life back and making sure they don’t hurt anyone else while feeling the effects of the enthrallment. It isn’t perfect, and you would be forcing them to do something without their consent, but the alternative is that they will be awake and fully aware during that time. They will feel every second that they are away from Desi and quite possibly hurt themselves while we keep them captive. You did not cause this situation, but you are our best option to help them out,” I said and then forced myself to stop. This had to be Connor’s choice and I wouldn’t push him any harder than I already had.
While Connor thought about what he wanted to do my phone buzzed within my hand. Assuming it was Blake with either an update or an opinion on what Connor should do, I opened up my text messages. But it wasn’t Blake. It was Max.
Max: Elijah isn’t responding to any of my text messages. He has been unresponsive for over a half-hour. I am worried about him.
I looked up at Derik and saw that he also had his phone out. When he looked up our eyes met and I could tell that we were on the same page. We needed to take care of this crisis so that we could move on to the next one. Like it or not, Elijah was more important than the three vampires. If Connor decided not to Compel them, then like it or not they were going on a field trip with me. I was the only one that could keep them in Shields and I needed to head back to the palace.
“I am not even sure Compelling them will work,” Marcello said into the gathering silence. “The Siren’s Song is already a type of compulsion. I know that the song is keeping them from following my commands when they usually would find such a thing impossible. I am not sure that Valkyrie Compulsion is stronger than a Siren’s call.”
I let out a heavy sigh and started thinking about the logistics of driving back across the city with three invisible vampires stuck in Shields. It really wasn’t going to be pretty.
“I will do it. We have to at least try,” Connor said but he sounded far from confident.
“Are you sure?” I asked and looked into his contact-covered eyes. “It’s okay if you don’t. We can find another way.”
“Yes, I am sure,” Connor said and turned to walk out of the small viewing room. “I need to be in the same room as them.”
We hadn’t really asked for Marcello’s permission, but he seemed to be on board with the plan because he hurried out of the room. He walked further down the hall and then used a combination to open a huge metal door that was built like the old bank vault doors that you see in movies. Inside the room was no surprise because it looked exactly as it had on the T.V. screen. All three of the vampires were doing their very best to break out of the Shield that was keeping them captive, but they hadn’t so much as scratched the surface. At least it wasn’t draining the vampires of life force like it would if they were Valkyries.
We all stood by and just watched them struggle for a moment as Connor took several deep breaths and stared at the ground. As more and more time passed without anything happening I was starting to think that asking Connor to do this was a bad idea. I was just about to step in and stop him when Connor snapped his head up and spoke with a voice filled with so much power it chilled me to the bone.
"You will sleep for eighty-four hours without waking for any reason.”
As soon as the words left his mouth, all three vampires dropped like lifeless dolls and were now crumpled on the ground. I quickly did some mental math and understood that Connor had ordered them to sleep for three and half days. It was smart of him to put a little grace-time in there. Nothing with magic was perfect.
Marcello surged forward and knelt in front of one of the downed vampires that were still encased by my Shield. I assumed this one was his close friend, Philip. I turned my attention to Connor only to find that he was already staring at me with that same desperate intensity as before. I met his eyes and saw barely restrained fear. That’s when it struck me. Connor was afraid that I would be scared of him after seeing him use his Compulsion Gift.
I took three slow steps towards him and reached out to cup his cheek in my palm. The clan bond burned between us, and I prayed that it would offer him comfort. I tipped my head up and looked directly at him as I said, “Thank you. They owe you their lives. You did a good thing here.”
Connor closed his eyes at my words and leaned into my touch. I felt more than saw Derik walk up behind me and I knew that we would have to continue this conversation later. Elijah needed us now. I pulled away from Connor and walked over to Marcello who rose from the floor as I approached.
“I will keep them in this room as a precaution, but I believe that it is safe,” Marcello said and I could tell that he felt relieved.
I pulled out my phone and handed it over to the master vampire. “Put your number in there so that I can call and check-in in three days’ time. I will give you my number too. Call if something goes wrong and we will come back.”
Marcello looked at me questioningly for a moment before gently taking my phone. “Why are you doing this? Who is the Siren to you?” Marcello asked but I didn’t have time to have a lengthy chit-chat with him right now.
“We are both a part of the supernatural community. Just think of me as a friendly neighbor helping out when I was able. Now, I am sorry to be short with you, but something has come up and we must be on our way,” I said in a distracted voice as I watched Derik text furiously on his phone.
“What a novel way to look at things,” Marcello said while handing me back my phone. “You will have to return one day soon. I wasn’t kidding about treating you to a VIP experience that you will never forget.”
I nodded at him because I didn’t trust myself to respond to that statement and was turning away when Marcello reached out and grabbed my arm. Both Connor and Derik surged forward and Marcello was quick to drop his hand. “Thank you, Valkyrie Olsen. Whatever your motivations were, three of my vampires, including my best friend, will not spend the rest of the days as a slave to a silly little girl because of you.”
I turned to face him fully once more and put a hard edge in my voice as I said, “You just make sure none of your vampires make unwanted advances on any more silly girls. If I hear this sort of thing happening again, I will personally make sure those responsible learn their lesson.”
Marcello’s eyes turned cold and I knew he understood my threat. Then I pushed Derik, Connor, and myself into the void so that we could find Blake, Miku, and Desi and get back to the palace. It took me a few seconds to actually find them because I searched the room that they were holding Desi in first, but they were standing out in the hall by the stairway. At first, I only saw Blake who was standing guard with a short sword in each hand. I paused in my walk towards them and studied Blake carefully as my stomach began to sink.
Please tell me that Desi hadn’t enthralled Blake. Not Blake. He is mine. No fae was going to take him away from me.
I had to suppress the urge to call my own weapons and cut the Siren to shreds and was completely surprised by the level of possessiveness and jealousy that I was feeling. I was just about to lose control when Blake took a step towards me and said, “Ray, are you okay?”
The beautiful sound of his voice broke me out of my fear and I glanced behind Blake to see that Miku was standing halfway in and halfway out of the stairwell and had Desi in her arms. Considering that Miku looked like a strong wind could break her into many pieces normally, the sight of her holding a woman who had to outweigh her without struggling was making my head hurt. I snapped my gaze back to Blake and saw that he was still focused on me, not the girls. That had to be a good sign.
“I’m fine,” I told Blake without moving towards him, not trusting myself right now. My out-of-control Gifts were really starting to become a problem. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Desi still hasn’t snapped out of her trance and Miku insisted on being the one to carry her. We should get out of here and back to the palace. Max still hasn’t found Elijah, but he has started searching for him.” I studied Blake’s handsome features for a moment longer and tried to process all of the possessive feelings that were still surging through me. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to jump on him and try to claim him somehow.
I am pretty sure this is what Shifters feel like when they have found a mate. But as far as I knew, Valkyries didn’t have predestined pairs as Shifters did. And I am fairly confident that is something someone would have told me about. I forced myself to look away from Blake and walked stiffly past him and the girls, leading the way back up the stairs. No one talked as we walked out of Solace and all piled into the SUV. Miku sat upfront with Desi on her lap making me feel a little better. I sat back with the twins and kept a wary eye on the Siren for any signs that she might act out.
Now I understood why no one was willing to volunteer to help. They were all deathly afraid that she would enslave them. I was deathly afraid that she would enthrall one of the guys.
I pulled out my phone and read through all of the texts that Max had sent to keep us in the loop. Apparently, he and Elijah had been keeping up constant contact through text with check-ins every ten minutes. Elijah hadn’t been responding for the last fifty minutes and Max was now going room to room searching for his brother. I mentally pictured Elijah in my head and nudged my Tracking Gift to find him. The tug in my chest was directing me in the exact same direction that we were driving, so I could only hope that he was still at the Palace.
We were about ten minutes away, with Derik speeding like a NASCAR driver when Max sent a text that had a weight lifting off my shoulders.
Max: Found him.
Max: He was unconscious when I found him, but I had no trouble healing him. He is okay now.
Max: We need to talk. We will meet you right outside of the front gates.
Okay, so maybe the weight didn’t completely lift but instead changed shape. What could have happened to knock Elijah unconscious in the void of all places? Other than him and anything that we brought with us, there wasn’t anything solid in the void. The only thing I could think of is if he tripped over his own feet and hit his head on the ground. But I doubt that Max would be calling us for an urgent meeting if that was the truth. Could Elijah be sick?
The more I thought about it the more worry and dread started to coil within my stomach. Why did everything feel like a life or death situation these days? I reached out and took a hold of Blake’s hand and took comfort knowing that whatever happened next, I would have the guys. That was so much more than I have ever had before, and I knew that it would be enough. That they were enough.
I was starting to tear up because I was an emotional wreck these days, so to distract myself I cleared my throat and asked, “Miku, do you two have somewhere safe to go? Does Desi’s family know about what happened? What will you two do now?”
Miku turned just her head to face me, twisting her neck at an unnatural angle and I had to repress a cringe. This girl really didn’t follow the same laws of physics as the rest of us did. I hadn’t been around that many faes and silently wondered if they were all like Miku or if it was a nymph thing. “Our frollick lives just outside of the city in the woods. There are about one hundred of us who have taken refuge here within the human realm because we have angered the Summer Queen and are no longer welcome in Faerie. Our village is shrouded in glamour and is safe from all those who wish us harm. I am the only family that Desi has. Weakness is not a virtue to us faeries, and most have shunned Desi for being different. But she is my friend and I will not abandon her,” Miku explained in her chime-like voice.
I was very interested in hearing more about this faerie village because I have always thought that faeries were solitary creatures that didn’t like to work together. Then again, my father was the one to tell me that so I should have known that he wasn’t telling me the whole story.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one taken by surprise by this because Derik growled, “Are the Valkyries aware of this village?”
Miku turned her head to look at Derik before answering, “You are Valkyries, and now you are aware.”
Fae can’t lie, but they were experts at bending the truth. I wasn’t positive, but Miku’s answer made it sound like this village was a secret. But if that was true, then why did she so easily tell us about it? I wanted to see if I could get more answers out of Miku and maybe even go and see this village but now wasn’t the time. I needed to focus on Elijah. I had enough of my own problems without taking on ones from a secret hidden group of faeries too.
“So you and Desi can get back to this village by yourself? And you will be safe there?” I asked because my protective instincts drove me to ensure they would be okay.
“Yes, Queen Valkyrie. Because of you and your Knights, we will be safe,” Miku said in a deep serious voice that not only was drastically different from how she had sounded all night but also felt wrong coming from her. I was about to tell her that I wasn’t a queen when she continued. “I Miku Rainburst, formerly of the Sky Warriors Nymphs offer up formal and binding thanks.”
My knowledge about Faeries might be small, but even I knew that Fae didn’t say thank you. Because when they did, it meant that they were pledging a debt that they would be honor-bound to repay at a later date. I tore my eyes away from Miku’s large ones that were now the grey color of an approaching thunderstorm and glanced around the SUV. Each of the guys had the same surprised, dumbfounded look that I was sure was on my face.
This was huge.
Before I could come up with something, anything to say in response Derik pulled over to the side of the road about 100 feet from the large iron gates of the royal palace. I looked out of the window, searching for Max and Elijah before remembering that they were still in the void. Derik got out of the car and the rest of us followed his lead. Miku was already standing with Desi in her arms when I stepped out of the large vehicle and I could tell that she wanted my attention. I needed to wrap things up with her so that I could focus on Elijah and whatever happened in the void. Luckily, it seemed that Miku understood that.
“We will part ways now,” Miku said, sounding more like her normal self. “When you wish to find me, find the boulder with a face south of where old forest road crosses CR 135. Circle the boulder three times and sit with the sun at your back. I will come. Goodbye for now,” Miku said like she somehow knew that we would one day meet again and turned to leave without waiting for me to respond.
Blake came to stand by my side and reached down to take my hand. I looked up into his face to see the same kind of uneasy shock that I was feeling. The whole interaction with Miku was weird. Oh, well. I would have to worry about that later. Now it was time to get some answers.