Chapter 8 - Tracking
Before I met Ray, I didn’t believe in love at first sight. I believed that love was carefully cultivated and grew stronger over time. That was how things had developed between Derik and me. Slowly over time, we grew to love each other deeply. But the first time I saw Ray as she rested under my favorite tree I felt this immediate and strong pull towards her. At the time, I had just figured it was because she was a female Valkyrie and my biology was pushing forward evolution’s agenda. Now I was questioning everything because I felt that same exact pull towards the absolutely gorgeous and slightly feral man standing tall before me now.
He was stunning. Or rather, I was completely stunned by him.
I wasn’t sure why, but I did know that my life unalterably changed the moment I set eyes on him.
When we arrived in the void the first thing I noticed was the two people that I didn’t know in the room. One was a man and one was a woman. Both had deeply tanned, almost brown skin and long hair that was so black that it almost looked blue in the sunlight shining through the wall of windows in Hernan’s office. They were both relatively young, maybe a couple of years older than me, and both had this indescribable wild energy about them. Like if they weren’t quite of this world.
As soon as Derik and I entered the void, the two strangers briefly looked us over and then returned their sharp gazes to Elijah and Blake. Their faces were slowly morphing from anger to something that looked like shock, and I didn’t like it. They were the ones spying on what could be considered our people. If anyone should be angry in this situation, I was pretty sure it should be us. And why were they shocked by Derik and my arrival? I didn’t think it was the normal awe over me being a girl, because they clearly had at least one girl of their own.
“It’s not possible,” the woman said and the man’s features started to return back to their original angry ones. Strike that, he was way more upset now than he had been before. The wild energy that surrounded him seemed to grow impossibly stronger, and matching Kukri blades materialized in both of my hands without me directly calling for them. But the man didn’t even acknowledge the fact that I was now armed. He was still completely focused on Elijah and I started getting a panicky feeling about all of this.
I looked over towards Elijah to see if I was missing something in this situation and saw that he had his head tilted to the side and he looked as if he was concentrating. He must be reading their minds, and trying to decide what to do next. This is what Elijah excelled at. Reading the situation and coming up with a plan. I needed to slow down and trust that he knew what he was doing rather than run into this situation with blades blazing.
Max and Connor came running into the room followed closely by Sean and Mathis. The more people that showed up in the void, the angrier the man seemed to get. The woman had an opposite response. Her eyes just got wider and wider until she lowered her head in a sort of bow in Elijah’s direction.
I was so confused.
“It’s not what you think,” Elijah said in a soft voice that conveyed a huge amount of empathy that further confused me. Why did it sound like he was siding with the Hidden guy instead of us? Not that I thought we should just attack them outright, but something had happened to the entire Rebec Clan all those years ago and these people didn’t look exactly welcoming. I wanted answers, and these people were the first lead that we had.
I took a step forward and the rest of the guys including my uncle and grandfather followed my lead. The two Hidden were clearly outnumbered and I liked that we had the upper hand in this situation.
“I think I am just beginning to understand. And I will not take this betrayal as well as I took the last,” the man said in a foreboding voice that reverberated through my bones, and then they were just gone. In a blink of an eye, they simply disappeared. One moment they were there and the next they weren’t. And the worst part was that Elijah had disappeared with them.
Derik surged forward, frantically searching the area where moments before Elijah had stood while I dumbly stared and tried to understand what my eyes were telling me. I even pushed back into the physical plane for a moment and looked around to see if somehow this man knew how to manipulate the fabric of reality in a way that I didn’t. But the only people in Hernan’s office in the physical plane were Hernan and Eli.
Hernan yelled at me again, as he had been doing the entire time this tableau was taking place and Eli actually lunged at me. I pushed back into the void to avoid his grabbing hands and mentally visualized Elijah’s face, nudging my Tracking Gift to tell me where to find him. It was a very faint tug, fainter than I have ever felt while using my newly discovered Tracking Gift and I didn’t know what that meant. The only thing that I knew was that Elijah was alive and somewhere to the east of here.
I turned to Mathis and demanded that he Track Elijah because he was so much more experienced than I was. Mathis snapped out of his own shock and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, he looked absolutely distraught and I felt like someone had kicked me in the gut.
“I can’t Track him. The only explanation for that is that he is not in my range of fifty miles or that he is no longer alive. I am so sorry child but considering that he was just here, we can only come to one conclusion,” Mathis said in a gentle sorrow-filled voice.
“What! No! You are wrong. There is no fucking way he is dead!,” Derik bellowed and took ahold of Mathis by the edges of his shirt while Max fell to his knees.
I couldn’t watch Max’s face crumple in distress and quickly shouted into the growing chaos, “HE ISN’T DEAD!” Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to look at me with heartbreaking hope in their eyes. Well, everyone except Mathis. He just looked at me with a whole lot of pity that I pointedly ignored.
“I can feel him with my Tracking Gift,” I quickly explained and Mathis looked surprised. “It is a smaller tug than I have ever felt before, but I can definitely feel it. If I Track the man or the woman that took Elijah I feel the same light tug to the east. I think they are all together, just really far from here.”
“How is that possible?” Blake questioned but I didn’t have any answers for him. I could disappear from sight with my Cloaking Gift, but I had no idea how they got so far away so quickly. I just knew that they had.
“We need a map,” Mathis said and I immediately turned to face the far wall where I had seen a large framed map of the United States the last time I was in this office. Instead of outlining the fifty states that the humans used to define different borders, the country was split into three kingdoms. There was a thick red line running east-west from the tip of Lake Michigan to the Utah-Colorado border. Then the line took a ninety-degree turn and ran directly south until it hit Mexico at the Arizona-New Mexico border. This western section of the United States was labeled with bright red letters spelling out Americas West Kingdom. There was a thick green line running at a diagonal from Lake Michigan down to where Virginia - North Carolina state border ran into the Atlantic ocean. The upper right corner of the U.S. was labeled Americas Northeast. The rest of the country was designated with a blue line and blue letters that spelled out Americas South.
As a group, we walked up to the map and I turned to Mathis, looking for instruction on what he wanted me to do. I was really regretting that we hadn’t progressed further in our training with my Tracking Gift right now.
“Okay child, this is some pretty advanced stuff but some of the more powerful Trackers have been able to pinpoint where their targets are by using a map,” Mathis said but I could barely make out what he was saying over all of the shouted demands that Hernan and Eli were making on the physical plane right now.
I turned to Derik and Sean and ordered that they deal with them before pushing them free of the void. The shouting was replaced by demands made in more normal tones and I didn’t envy that they were having to deal with two pissed-off royals right now. I turned back to Mathis, took a deep breath to push away the panic I was feeling because of Elijah’s disappearance, and nodded my head to indicate that I was ready to learn whatever Mathis could teach me.
“Okay, close your eyes and picture Elijah’s face in your mind’s eye. Once you feel that tug in your chest, you need to isolate that feeling within you and push it out towards your fingertips. Then hover your hand over the map and let that tug pull you in the right direction. It is very nuanced and not very accurate on such a large map, but it should be able to give us an idea of where they have taken your clan leader”
I had no trouble initiating my Tracking Gift with Elijah’s image and felt the tug that Mathis was talking about. But it was just a feeling within my chest. How in the world was I supposed to grab it and move a feeling into my hand? This didn’t even seem like something that was even remotely possible. I tried willing my body to push the damn tugging feeling but nothing happened. Then I tried to somehow pull it, but I had no idea what I was supposed to be pulling with and the continuous talking in the physical plane was really not helping me concentrate.
Because they were so not being quiet about it, I knew that both Hernan and Eli were planning on coming with us to look for Elijah. But we weren’t going to go anywhere if I couldn’t get this damn feeling to start moving and needed a couple of minutes of quiet to concentrate. Since our presence in this room was not a secret, I pushed all of us out of the void and then did some loud demanding of my own.
“Please stop talking. Or at the very least go and have this very distracting conversation somewhere else because I need to use this map. And I have to do something I have absolutely no idea how to do and could really use some peace so that I can concentrate,” I snapped with a distinct edge to my voice. No one left the room, but they stopped bickering about the semantics of what was happening right now.
What was happening was perfectly clear to me. Elijah had been kidnapped. Again. Because of me. And now we were going to go in weapons out and get him back because just like Derik told me when I was on that Russian plane, that is what clan members did. They would always come after you.
I turned back towards the map, closed my eyes, and started counting up by threes. My age-old trick started to work and I was a lot calmer when I let out a deep breath and pictured Elijah’s kind smiling face in my mind once more. The tugging was insistent that I go to the east, but I needed more information. I couldn’t just get in a car and start driving east. What if he was somehow clear across the country or even across an ocean. We had no idea what motives were driving the Hidden and could very possibly be hurting Elijah right now.
That thought sent a spear of fear straight through my heart and I felt my power surge in response. I still wasn’t sure why my Gifts were acting up so much lately, but I decided to try to use any edge that I could right now. I rode that wave of power and placed my right hand directly over the tugging within my chest. Then I pushed with every single metaphorical and magical muscle that I had and even talked to my Gift.
Move into my hand! I commanded silently and would have felt utterly ridiculous if it hadn’t worked. But it did work. The second that the demand left my mind, the tugging feeling jumped from my chest and into my right hand. I was so surprised that it actually worked, I felt the power shudder and I refocused my will before I lost it altogether. I reached out so that my hand was hovering over the map and let the gently tugging guide my hand away from the west coast of the United States and towards the southeast. I followed the tugging until it suddenly switched from pulling my hand east to pulling back towards the west coast, indicating I had gone too far. I slowed down my movements until I pinpointed the exact moment where the tugging didn’t pull in any particular direction and touched my finger down onto the map. Under my finger was a black dot that was labeled in small black lettering. Las Vegas.
I blinked at my finger for a moment and then looked over at Mathis questioningly. If I had done this correctly, then Elijah was now in Las Vegas. Why in the world would he be in Sin City? Mathis was just looking at me with clear pride in his eyes, obviously more concerned with the fact that I had progressed in my Tracking training than worried that Elijah was six hundred miles away from us right now. And the Hidden had somehow taken him there in a blink of an eye.
“Over the years, we have documented several run-ins with the Hidden in the desert outside of Vegas,” Hernan said in a slightly excited tone but his words gave weight to my conclusion of where Elijah was.
Max had his phone out and said, “It is going to take us at least eight hours to drive to Vegas. We need to leave now. We can form a plan in the car.”
I was good with that because just standing here was killing me. I was itching to do something. “We will take my private jet,” Eli said with cold authority. “It will be faster and we have no way of knowing if they will stay in Vegas for long. I will text the pilots and order them to have it ready to fly by the time we get to the airfield.”
My stomach dropped. I had beheaded a man at the airfield, not to mention that I had killed a man by throwing him off an airplane the last time I was on one. After that day, I had decided that I most definitely didn’t like airplanes. But Elijah needed us, so my discomfort didn’t really matter. Someone reached out to hold my hand and I startled a little. I looked up to see that Blake was right beside me and was doing his best to provide the support I so desperately needed.
Everything moved extremely quickly after that. The five of us in the Oakland Clan, Mathis, Sean, and six others including Hernan, Eli, and some royal guards were all crowded in Eli’s private jet. It was significantly smaller than the Russian plane I had been on last and we had just enough seats for everyone. I had a suspicion that if the plane was bigger than Hernan would have brought more people. He was preparing for a war with a people that had eluded him and his family for generations. Apparently, he was ready to use force even though he had told me that he wanted to broker peace with the Hidden.
Worked for me. All I cared about was getting Elijah back. Once I knew he was safe, I was going to try to get some answers about my mother and father, but that was a secondary goal. Elijah was the most important thing here. I was really starting to get sick of people kidnapping Elijah and hated that I felt so responsible for the fact that I had turned everyone’s lives upside down just because the Oakland Clan had been the one to discover my existence.
I was sitting in a window seat with Connor next to me, but somehow King Eli Norwood managed to take the seat across the aisle from him. I hadn’t really ever talked to the King of the Americas South Kingdom but every time I was in his presence I got this cold, creepy feeling off of him. Now I could feel his heavy gaze on the side of my face and I was trying very hard not to snap at him to look somewhere else. The last thing any of us needed was for my Cloaking Gift to act up during the flight. I could very possibly phase us all out of this plane if I pushed us to the void.
“What do you think is going to happen when we find these elusive Hidden?” Eli asked in a voice completely devoid of any emotion.
I finally turned to return his stare and answered, “I am going to demand that they return Elijah. If they refuse then I will persuade them to change their mind because there is no situation where we do not return with every member of my clan.”
Eli studied me with his cold eyes for a beat too long before asking, “And why do you think you have the right to demand anything from these people. Both Hernan and I significantly outrank you and as such we are in charge of this rescue operation. Furthermore, as a collective group, the Valkyries of all three Americas have been searching for the Hidden for over a hundred years. You are barely educated in our culture, policy, or government. Making you the least qualified person to have any sort of interaction with these people.”
I turned so that I was facing the insulting man more head-on and raised my chin in challenge. I always had this response to people that thought they could control me. I was not lesser than this man and he was most definitely not my king. I had zero reasons or motivation to take any direction or disrespect from this man. He clearly had a purpose for talking to me this way, but I wasn’t willing to play along long enough to discover what it was.
“You are free to have whatever interactions you want with the Hidden. I have no control over what you do and frankly, I don’t really care. But don’t presume for one moment that you can give me orders because I don’t report to you. I am the only one with the ability to access the void and thus I am the only one able to reach them and will do so on my own terms. And as of right now, those terms include leaving you behind,” I said and felt as Connor grew tense beside me.
I was just about to open my mouth to berate him some more when I felt a sharp kick to the back of my calf. I looked behind me to find Max giving me the stink eye. I glanced to the left to see that Blake looked just as serious and subtly shook his head. Both of them were not happy about what I said and obviously wanted me to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t particularly feel like remaining quiet when I had more things I wanted to say to the overbearing king, but I decided to trust the guys with this one. If they thought it was better for me to drop this, then I would drop it.
I turned and studiously looked out the window for the rest of the flight while picturing Elijah’s face in my mind. I was comforted by the slight tug in my chest that only grew stronger the closer that we got to landing in Las Vegas. That tug meant that even if I didn’t know exactly where Elijah was or what was happening to him right now, I did know that he was alive.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and there were four identical black SUVs waiting for us when we landed. Royal Valkyries loved their intimidating and stereotypical vehicles almost as much as the FBI did. I climbed into one with the rest of the Oakland Clan and directed Derik where to go based on my Tracking gift. The tug in my chest was leading away from the city and into the desert. We drove for about fifteen minutes before I told them to stop. I got out and walked about ten feet away from the car until my Gift was telling me that this was where Elijah was at. I figured that he must just be in the void and turned to see if the guys were ready for this.
On the plane, we had decided that going in and attacking right off the bat would be a bad idea. We had no idea how many of the Hidden were here or what they were capable of. Seemingly either the man or the woman that we had seen were able to Teleport which was a Gift that none of us even knew was possible. Meaning that they could have other Gifts that we weren’t prepared to defend ourselves against. So the plan was to go to the void while I held Shields around my clan members to ensure their safety. We had decided this solely through text while Hernan and Eli came up with their own plan. But for me, they were only here as back up and the only way I was bringing them to the void would be if we were losing and needed extra muscle.
Unfortunately, Derik had convinced me to also leave Sean and Mathis behind to start. He had argued that they might be more interested in getting answers than rescuing Elijah. I had finally agreed that we couldn’t afford the possible split focus but hated that it felt like I was somehow betraying my newfound family. Mathis and I were just starting to trust each other and I knew that finding out what had happened to his son was really important to him. I was going to have to find some way of making it up to him later because there was no way I was going to take any risks where Elijah was involved.
The other cars were just parking and people were looking around at the vast empty landscape before us when Derik gave me a distinct nod of his head. I took a steadying breath, put Shields around the guys and myself, finding that I didn’t even have to strain to form five Shields now that my Gifts were growing, and pushed us back into the void. I know that we agreed not to call any Weapons until we were actually attacked, but I braced myself for a fight as I looked around.
What I saw was not possible.
There was absolutely nothing here. There wasn’t a single person here in the void that wasn’t in the physical realm. I didn’t understand. I activated my Tracking Gift again and knew that I should be standing just feet from where Elijah was. But no one was here. Not Elijah. Not the Hidden man or woman. Not anything.
“I thought you said he was here,” Derik practically yelled at me but I didn’t take it personally. Derik was reaching the end of his rope stress-wise and having the person he loved most in this world get kidnapped for the second time in a week’s time couldn’t be easy for him.
“My Tracking Gift is telling me that he is right here,” I said as I took two steps to the right and pointed to the ground. I felt the tug in my chest stop pulling in any one direction and give an almost contented hum like it was happy that it found its target. “I swear to you. Elijah is here.”
“Open your pretty little eyes, Wonder Girl. Elijah is not here,” Derik growled back.
“Hey!” Connor snapped back at him. “Don’t talk to her like that. None of us know what is going on. This isn’t Ray’s fault.”
It almost looked like Derik wanted to argue that point but instead just clenched his jaw and started pacing back and forth. Tracking was the Gift that I was most unfamiliar with because I only discovered that I had it less than a month ago. I turned around and found Mathis and Sean with the angry men that were stuck on the physical plane whining about how I had left them behind. I pulled them into the void and as soon as Mathis realized that he could see us, he started repeating the rant that he had been saying moments before to my face.
“Twenty years! For twenty years I have searched for some scrap of evidence to tell me what happened to my son. Now that I am finally getting somewhere, it is not okay for you to leave me behind. This is too important. And I deserve to get some answers. I didn’t raise the monster that hurt you. I need to understand what happened to him to turn him into that. Because the other alternative is that I was just that bad of a father, and I refuse to believe that until I have stone-cold proof. So you can’t just leave me behind,” Mathis said and my heart clenched with guilt.
Everything he was saying was true. It just wasn’t the most important thing right now. Whatever had happened to my father happened a very long time ago and nothing we did now was going to change it. Elijah was real and he was part of my future. We needed to save him. There just wasn’t another option.
“Can you Track Elijah?” I asked loudly, talking over the next words that my grandfather started to say. He stopped talking and looked at me with a slightly cocked head, reminding me of a dog when they hear a sound that doesn’t belong.
“I thought you were Tracking Elijah and that is why we are here.”
“I did. And my Gift is telling me that he is right here. But,” I said as I spread my arms out wide, “clearly he isn’t here. I must have made a mistake. Can you please Track him?” Mathis narrowed his eyes at me and then closed his eyes. When he opened them he looked confused and slightly disappointed.
“He isn’t here, Child,” Mathis said in a disappointed and defeated tone. Like if he had placed all of his hopes in me and they were now crushed. I felt his disappointment crash into me like a heavy wave and my confidence in my own Gifts waivered. Had I really failed this badly? If what I was feeling in my chest wasn’t my Tracking Gift telling where Elijah was, then what was it? If Elijah wasn’t here then where could he be?
Derik tersely quizzed Mathis on what he meant and I watched as everyone’s hope turned into anguish. They were all quick to believe Mathis, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. Something had led me here. I pictured Elijah in my head and stood in the spot where my Gift was telling me that he was. Just as it had before, the feeling within me started to hum and almost felt warm. My Gift was trying to tell me something, and I wasn’t ready to just ignore it and walk away. It wasn’t like we had any other ideas of where to start looking.
After an hour passed of me standing in the same spot, racking my brain trying to understand what was happening right now, Derik and Sean asked to be returned to the physical plane. They wanted to discuss with Hernan and Eli what their next move in finding where Elijah was. It was then that something struck me and I turned to Mathis, “Can you Track me when I am in the void?” I asked abruptly and he just stared at me for a moment like he had been caught off guard and was trying to catch up to what I was implying.
“No,” Mathis said slowly like he was considering the possibilities of such an admission. “When you are invisible my Tracking Gift doesn’t work.” I wondered if the same was true for me. All of my other Gifts were stronger than the normal Valkyries, so it was plausible that I would be able to Track people even when they weren’t in the same plane of existence. I tested this theory out by picturing Derik in my mind and I instantly felt the tug telling me that he was to my right. I looked to my right and saw him talking to Hernan in hushed tones.
“You are telling me that if you use your Tracking Gift to find Derik right now that it won’t work because you are in the void and he is in the physical plane?” I asked Mathis because I needed to be sure about this.
Mathis furrowed his brow at me, and I think he was starting to catch onto what I was trying to prove. He closed his eyes and I knew that he was taking me seriously when he told me that his Gift didn’t work on someone who was in a different plane of existence than he was. I looked my grandfather in the eye and said, “Mine does. I have no problem Tracking Derik or anyone else in the physical plane even though we are in the void.”
Max had been sitting in the sand not far from us and clearly listening in to our conversation. He sat up straighter and said, “Ray, are you saying that you think Elijah is here but that he is in a different plane of existence than either the void or the physical plane?”
I ran that sentence through my head several times making sure that was what I was trying to convey before nodding my head. Max surged to his feet and reached out to hold both of my hands with his. “Are there more than just the two planes of existence?” Max asked with a renewed hope ringing in his voice.
“I have no idea,” I admitted. Max surprised me by not deflating again, but rather he squeezed my hands in encouragement.
“If anyone can figure this out, it is you. Just please don’t stop trying. I can’t lose my brother,” Max pleaded with me and I knew that I wasn’t going to leave this spot until I figured this out. Max and the guys had done so much for me since discovering me. I could do this. I would do this for not only Max and Elijah but also for the twins and Derik. I would do this for my clan.
I nodded to Max to let him know that I wasn’t going to give up and then sat down in the sand, resting my palms upon my bent knees like I saw people do in the movies when they tried to meditate. I had never really meditated before, but I needed to focus on my Cloaking Gift if I was going to try to understand what was going on right now. I counted up by threes until I reached sixty-six and then reached out with my Cloaking Gift.
I used my Cloaking Gift so often that it always just felt like second nature to me. I could feel and manipulate the fabric of reality that was separating the physical plane for the void as if it were an actual sheet of material. As real to me as the shirt on my back. It was almost second nature for me to reach out and wrap that fabric around my shoulders to control not only my visibility but also the amount of allure that I gave off.
I had zero trouble finding and manipulating that barrier between the physical plane and the void, but Elijah wasn’t in either of those places. I needed to push harder. Find a way to reach further and find where the Hidden had taken my clan leader and friend. I reached out and explored the fabric that I thought I was so intimate with and reevaluated everything I thought I knew.
Hours passed and the sun set before I opened my eyes again and huffed out a sigh of frustration. No matter what I tried, I could only move between the two planes that I already knew existed. I flopped back onto the cooling sand and realized that I was shivering. The twins came over and each laid down on either side of me and I was thankful for their body warmth. None of us talked and I could feel their worry coil through the air. The longer that it took me to do this, the longer Elijah might be enduring something horrific. I don’t know why I thought that the Hidden were hurting him, but I couldn’t shake the menacing tone the man had used moments before he disappeared. And if they were treating him as a welcomed guest, why would they have stolen him away from us.
I initiated my Tracking Gift and felt that Elijah was no longer in the exact place he had been hours earlier, but he wasn’t far. I squeezed each of the twin’s hands to convey that I wasn’t giving up and then walked over to where Elijah was but also wasn’t. I started at the beginning and mentally started listing everything that I did to move from the physical plane and into the void. It was only then that I realized that I had to push back into the barrier to get to the void but then I stepped forward into it to return to the physical plane. It was like I was walking in and out of the same doorway. But what if there was another door at the other end of the room? What if there was more than one barrier? The one that I regularly used stood between the physical plane and the void, but what if there was another one that stood between the void and whatever plane of existence the Hidden were holding Elijah?
What if there were countless planes of existence all piled up against each other and I could travel between them?
If that were true then I just needed to find the other barrier and push through it. I reached out with my Cloaking Gift and completely ignored the fabric of reality between us and the physical plane and searched for something different. Almost as soon as I thought about it, I felt it. It was there. All I had to do was step through it.