The Steele Wolf, p.1Chanda Hahn
The Steele Wolf
By Chanda Hahn
Copyright © 2013 by Word Circus
Cover artwork and design by Steve Hahn
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To my Mom,
Table of Contents
About the Author
I never expected Heaven to be this way. It was my own personal utopia, with rivers of the clearest water, and fields of green surrounded by beautiful mountains. Every tree bore plump fruit and I was able to lay in the soft grass and listen to the song being sung by the river. I never wanted to leave; there was so much light and joy in Heaven. I couldn’t imagine going back to where I had just left, because here I felt no pain.
So if I were dead, why did I feel as if I were burning from the inside out? Gasping, I clutched my stomach in agony and looked around in horror. My beautiful garden was turning black. The soft grass I was lying on turned to sharp pieces of glass. The once gorgeous trees turned to ash and blew away in the wind. NO! NO! I don’t want to go back.
I tried to sit up to stop garden from disappearing and sliced my hands on the grass that had turned razor sharp. The clear river rippled red like blood and the skies turned dark as night. I cried out again as the burning pain in my stomach increased. Glancing down I watched as the blood, my red blood, poured from the gashes on my hands only to change before my eyes to black. Another stab of pain in my stomach and I gasped and coughed and felt my body get sucked out of my dying garden as if I were traveling down a narrow tunnel backwards to collide with a thud on a cold steel table.
I had died I knew it. I had tasted heaven but my soul wasn’t ready to give up the fight and now I was back in hell. Only once again, I couldn’t move, I was paralyzed from the drugs they gave me, strapped once again to the table. I couldn’t open my eyes, my lids felt like lead weights, but I could listen and overheard Raven and Crow discuss me.
“What makes you think she’s strong enough to survive when the others didn’t?” Crow asked.
“Because this one’s not like the others. Her blood makes her stronger, more immune. She’s the only one of her kind.” It was Raven, the leader of the Septori. My hands itched to move against him, to try and fight.
“I hope you’re right because I’m tired of hauling out the failed ones. When will you know?” Crow whined.
“Not for a while. It’s going to take weeks of careful injections of the siren serum, plus more sessions on the machine to activate it in her bloodstream. Then we wait. It will slowly change her from the inside out. These things take time,” Raven spoke as if to a dimwitted child.
I could imagine the Raven even with my eyes closed, wearing his red hooded robe and his silver mask. He always wore the mask, unlike the rest of his followers, the Septori.
“What about the others?”
I felt the cramping of my stomach as my body tried to fight off the newest experiment.
“We will keep trying the portensi serum on the rest of them. I’m hoping one of them will survive the process,” Raven explained.
“None have yet,” Crow whined again.
The pain was too much. It’s what had reminded my body that I was still alive and brought my soul back. Only now I was burning alive and I couldn’t stop it, my body uncontrollably twitched from the pain.
“Wait. Raven, she’s coming back.”
“I told you this one could survive,” the Raven spoke up triumphantly as he walked over to my prone form, silver glinting off his mask. My eyes flew open at the touch of his cold skin on my wrist. He pulled a dagger from his robe and brought my wrist up. There were already numerous half-moon puncture wounds along my arms from the machine, but the Raven took the knife and cut along my arm.
I couldn’t move, all I could do was blink in pain, but I had to know, I had to see. My eyes followed the Raven’s as he and I both looked at my wrist to see what color blood would flow from my wrist. It was black.
Gasping, I woke up. My hair was drenched in sweat. It was a dream… or was it. Each of my dreams had a semblance of truth to them. I pulled up the sleeve of my shirt to look at my arms. The small silver half-moon scars shone in the moonlight, barely discernible, the reminders of my months in prison and the torture machine I called the iron butterfly.
I couldn’t wait; I had to know. Reaching under my bedroll, I grabbed my knife and very gently pricked my finger and watched as a beautiful red drop of blood formed on the tip. Sighing in relief, I placed the knife back under my bed. I shivered as I recalled what Raven had said in my dream; that the experiment would change me from the inside out. I saw that the fire had died down to a bare glow and scanned the camp. I saw Hemi’s back as he leaned over and added more wood. Quickly, I lay back down and pretended to sleep.
The nightmares were getting worse. We had only been on the road two days, but the closer we came to the Ioden Valley, the more frequent they became. I would wake in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. Too scared to sleep I would lie in my bedroll until the sky lightened. For the most part I had been able to hide the nightmares from my traveling companions, but they were becoming suspicious. There was nothing I could do to hide the dark circles under my eyes.
But there was one individual I couldn’t hide the nightmares from. My horse, Faraway, was my closest friend and companion. His voice and encouragement kept me sane during these long sleepless nights but even he couldn’t keep the dreams and visions away. No one could. The worst part was that they were real and they were after me.
The Septori, led by their leader called Raven, were the ones who had kidnapped and imprisoned me, and erased my memories. I was one of only two surviving test subjects. Kael was the other survivor, and he had single handedly orchestrated our escape.
Joss and his godfather Darren Hamden had found me floating, almost dead in a river after my escape from the experimental prison. Joss healed me and took me to the Citadel, which was a school for young Denai. There I worked as a servant until Raven’s experiments began to reveal themselves within me. My unholy gift began to surface and I was forced to pose as a student to learn to control my unnatural abilities.
I was different; I could strip another student of their gifts and use it against them. I had accidentally done it to a young girl who bullied me. Since then I’ve learned control and to pull power from myself and my Guardian, who was a horse. Until Bearen, my father, had come to the Citadel to find me and bring me back to my clan.
There was some joking and laughter but the men stayed quiet, as if they were always lis
Bearen was the largest of the men, with blue eyes that matched mine, and a hawk nose protruding from the black beard. He was the obvious leader of the group. All of the men deferred to him and even served him the first portions of the meat cooking over the fire. Most of the men here wore short sleeve leather vests that reached to their thighs with hoods attached. Their upper arms were bare except for intricately designed armbands, in varying gold, silver and bronze. Around the shoulders each man wore a distinct pattern or color of various furs and leather arm bracers. Each warrior had an array of two-handed swords, axes or mallets.
When I had finished eating, I waited until I saw Bearen finish and made first eye contact. He nodded at me to come over, so I threw my bones from dinner into the fire and silently sat next to him. I had been avoiding talking about the Septori and the Denai for the last few days, because the men still felt like strangers. There was no waiting anymore; I needed to confront my father.
“You’re safe now,” he stated.
“I was safe before at the Citadel,” I hinted.
“Bah!” He spat into the fire. “You can’t be safe with that kind, you can’t trust them. What they can do is unnatural, they are inbred heathens.”
“Is that why you won’t participate in the council sessions?” I asked.
“Thalia, you know the reasons why.” He looked at me questioningly. “You were my biggest supporter for not going!”
I looked at my feet. He cleared his throat. “They said something had happened to you.”
“Yes, it’s time you know the whole truth.” I took a deep breath let it all rush out: the story of my imprisonment, torture and lack of memories, but I left out going to the Citadel. When I was done, I couldn’t even make eye contact, for fear of the disgust I would see in my father’s eyes. Instead, I saw indignation, helplessness and fury, but it wasn’t directed toward me. He was directing it toward himself and I could have sworn I saw tears in his eyes.
My father howled his rage, “WHAT!” He kicked a stump into the fire, which sent ashes flying. He grabbed his sword and motioned towards the closest warrior.
Immediately one of his own clansmen picked up another sword and ran to meet him in challenge. The sound of swords clashing made me jump to my feet and run towards Faraway in fear. Grabbing his mane, I was about to swing myself up bareback and ride away, when a hand grabbed a hold of mine atop Faraway’s mane.
“Wait, Meja Faelan.” Stunned, I turned to look at the hand holding mine and saw the one I nicknamed Fox Fur. “You should know he only fights to vent his anger. When he has bested all of us, he will calm down again.” Holding out his hand towards the fire, I followed him back and took up a seat farther away from the fighting. Bearen had beaten one of the clansmen and another had jumped up eagerly to join in the fight.
“I should know all of this, but I don’t,” I said regrettably to him as he took up a seat next to mine. “I can’t remember anything before...”
Fox Fur stiffened next to me and turned to look at me closely. “You don’t remember us?” he asked. “You don’t remember me?”
Breathing out a frustrated sigh, I turned and looked at Fox Fur a little closer. He was easily the second tallest clansman next to my father. He had long auburn hair that was tied back with a leather strap. Alert green eyes and angular jaw complemented his features, making him resemble the animal that he wore on his shoulders, the fox. His boots were well tended and his arm circlet was silver in design and wound around a very well toned arm. Looking away from him quickly and back at the fire, I shook my head.
I heard him swear. “Excuse me; I think it’s my turn to join your father.” Grabbing a discarded sword, he stepped in the path of Bearen’s downward swing and blocked the sword from hitting another clansman. I watched in fascination, as they were both equally matched fighters. Bearen had been fighting for some time and you could see that he was tiring. About a candle mark later, the fight ended in a draw. Huffing and puffing and with many slaps to the back, both fighters walked away and kneeled by the fire. One of the men brought them each something to drink.
An elderly man handed a tankard to me and I took a swallow, before almost choking on the pungent taste. He watched me give it a wary look before pushing it to the side. The grey haired man sat down next to me cross-legged.
“Sorry, Thalia, I overheard your earlier conversation. It’s hard to believe that someone that we’ve all seen raised from a kittling is unable to remember us.” I heard a catch in his throat and I saw that his grey eyes turned glassy with emotion, before he cleared his throat and looked at me kindly.
“I’m Odin, your chosen godfather, and that young one,” he motioned to Fox Fur, “is Fenri.” Pointing to the others in the camp he named them off; Gotte, Forsk, Hemi, Aldo, and Eviir. I tried to place the names with the faces, but I felt a moment of panic as I realized it wasn’t sinking in. I started to twirl my hair around my finger as I tried to recall each of their names from memory.
“Ahh,” Odin pointed at my finger and hair. “You may have forgotten us, but some things, Thalia, you won’t ever forget. You used to do that as a child.” He smiled in triumph. “You are still our little Faelan, little wolf.” Whereas Joss called me little fish, my clan called me little wolf. I couldn’t escape the stupid nicknames.
“Odin, what happened to me? What happened to me the night I disappeared?”
Odin’s face turned to stone and he quit smiling. “You should ask your father. And not bother an old man with heartache in the retelling.” He started to shut down.
“Please, Papa Odin?” The name just slipped out, and the old warrior looked at me and his eyes became glassy once more as he looked into the night and tried to blink away the tears.
“See, you called me Papa! You’re slowly remembering.” Turning his head he looked to see where Bearen sat, before continuing on. “It was the night of our Hunter's Moon feast. Amidst all of the rejoicing and celebration you had disappeared. We don’t know exactly when, but your father didn’t notice your disappearance until morning, thinking you had stayed the night with your cousin.”
“I have a cousin?”
“Two,” Odin answered. “When we couldn’t find you, your Father sent every warrior out on horseback looking for you. For months we’ve been searching, never giving up hope. We heard of some messengers that were looking for a young girl similar to you, and Bearen decided to investigate. The closer we came to Calandry the more rumors we heard. Your father had every intention of asking the Council for help in finding you, which is a big step, when you know how against council affairs he is. It was just our God’s favor on us that we found you there.”
Looking at the gruff bearded form of my father staring moodily into the fire made me realize that underneath his warrior exterior, there was a kind and loving heart, even if he refused to show it. Getting up, I walked over to Bearen and sat next to him silently.
“It would be best when we get home that you don’t speak of those heathen Denai,” he spoke gruffly. “You will go through a cleansing ceremony and then we will allow some time for you to readjust to being home.” Pulling out a sharp knife he stabbed at another piece of meat that was roasting on the fire and turned it over. “The less you speak of these horrors, the easier it will be for you to resume your old life. I will make excuses to the clan to leave you well enough alone, until you are able to remember your old life.”
“Father?” I spoke hesitantly, letting the word I just spoke sink heavily into the night air. “There’s more, we must speak about what happened to me and what led me to being in the training program at the Citadel.”
“You are strong and will recover; you are my daughter,” he said fiercely.
“No, Father, the Septori… they did something to me when I was captured and I’m no longer the same. I’m different. I’m twisted. I can do things no Denai—” A quick intake of breath between his tee
“No daughter of mine would willingly discuss that which we have forbidden,” he growled quietly. “It’s against our laws, and you must promise to never do it again. Do you hear me?” I could see a sense of panic start to ride the wave of his emotions.
All I could do was look down at my hands and nod my head, holding back a sense of hopelessness. Bearen commanded me to get some sleep because we would be leaving come first light. Odin brought me a blanket and I curled by the fire, willing myself to sleep. I lay awake picturing my return to the village and fearing what would happen when they learned I was no longer the same young innocent girl that left months ago, but something that represented everything they hated. Shivering, I felt Faraway try and soothe me and then he sent me a thread of power to make me sleep. I prayed for a dreamless sleep.
The next morning we woke before sunrise and were on the move again. My back and legs were sore from riding so many hours in the saddle, and I wished for a moment to apply the salve that Mara gave me to my muscles, which was sitting ever so tempting in my saddle bag. But my fellow clansmen were in a hurry and spoke little as they packed and readied to leave.
Once again, I found myself in the middle of the group. When the road became too narrow to pass side by side, Bearen and Fenri rode lead, Forsk scouted ahead, while Hemi, Eviir and Aldo rode rear guard. No one was in the mood for talking so I spent most of the ride silently conversing with Faraway. Odin rode to the side of me whenever the road would allow and he would shoot me little worried glances.
Finally fed up with his worried looks, I decided to confront him. “What is it, Odin?” He looked embarrassed that I caught him.
“You have changed, little one,” He paused, thinking. “What has happened has made you grow up too soon.” Looking at the road ahead he went on, “The bad ones have stolen some of your carefree spirit. Instead you look like you are ready to meet the executioner.”
The Steele Wolf by Chanda Hahn / Fantasy / Young Adult / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes