Relentless, p.8Part #1 of Relentless series by Karen Lynch
“REMY, PLEASE STOP glaring at me like that. You’re scarier than the vampires when you make that face.”
“This not funny,” he scolded, pacing the mouth of the small cave we had claimed as ours years ago. His tone was angry, but I could see the worry in his eyes. “You almost die. Why you not tell me you going to city?”
I turned away from him to stare at the waves crashing against the rocks below. We both knew why I hadn’t told him. He would have fussed and made me promise not to go and it’s hard to say no to a troll when he sets his mind to something.
Trolls don’t fear vampires or much else for that matter, but Remy worried about me a lot. I had some amazing supe friends and the power to heal things, but I was still just a human. I had never felt more mortal than when I thought I was going to die in that alley.
I’d been tempted to not tell Remy what happened because I knew exactly how he would react. I forgot that my troll friend had the nose of a bloodhound. He’d smelled the vampire on me as soon as he got within a few feet of me. The knowledge that after three days, I still carried any scent of that monster made me want to jump into the ocean and scrub it away.
But the ocean couldn’t clean the images from my mind or the memory of those cold claws pressed against my throat. I saw them whenever I closed my eyes, and at least once a night I woke in a cold sweat, still seeing Eli’s snarling face and hearing his parting words, I will have you!
Other times I dreamed of falling, only to be caught by a dark-haired man with granite eyes. He never smiled and his eyes were cold, but I felt safe in his arms. I woke from those dreams feeling oddly bereft, but they were infinitely better than the nightmares.
The hardest part was hiding everything from Nate. I stayed upstairs most of the weekend, coming down to eat and do my usual housework chores. I felt Nate’s questioning stares when we ate together, but thankfully he didn’t bring it up. Roland texted me a few times to see if I wanted to do something, but I just wanted to hide in my room and lick my wounds. The animals seemed to sense my distress and made it their mission to keep me company. The cat, who I’d named Oscar, took every opportunity to snuggle up next to me, purring like a little motor boat. Daisy left Nate alone and spent the weekend sleeping at the foot of my bed. Even the imps were oddly subdued. Usually I could hear them shuffling behind the walls, but for the last two days they had been quiet except for an occasional chirrup.
After so much time alone with my thoughts, I had looked forward to getting back to school today, but I found it almost impossible to focus on classes. School seemed trivial compared to what I’d been through, and I didn’t feel like the same person who had walked out of school on Friday. How do you go back to everyday life after experiencing something so life-altering?
“You know city not safe. Best to stay here with uncle.”
Remy hated the idea of me leaving New Hastings, but someday I’d have to if I ever wanted to go to college or see the world. Or find out the truth about my father.
“I had to go. If there’s a chance of learning more about my dad, I have to take it.” I still didn’t know why NightWatcher hadn’t shown up at the Attic, and he hadn’t been online since then either. Wulfman said it didn’t sound like his friend and he’d see what he could find out. I did tell Wulfman that two vampires had been seen at the Attic so he could warn others, but I asked him not to quote me as his source. His post had shown up last night and caused quite the stir. PixieGirl was not mentioned.
“Knowledge not bring father back. It not make you less sad.”
I picked up a pebble and tossed it into the waves. “I need to know, Remy. He was everything to me.” I looked up at him. “What would you do if it had been your mother or father?”
Remy came over to sit beside me, his longer legs dangling beside mine. “I not lose anyone yet so I not know how you feel,” he admitted. “It different with us. Humans alone, but trolls always stay together. If one killed, all trolls rise up and find killer. Protect our own.”
The thought of a horde of angry trolls made me quail inside. There is a good reason why everyone fears trolls. It all started about five hundred years ago. Trolls and vampires hated each other because trolls mined silver and silver can kill vampires. One day, a vampire hunting party came upon four troll children unprotected in the woods and they slaughtered all but one, who escaped. The trolls went on a bloody rampage and literally destroyed every vampire within two hundred miles. Since then, no vampire will mess with a troll.
“Promise you not go back to city,” he implored.
I watched a gull dive toward the water and rise up with a wriggling fish in its beak. “You know I can’t promise I won’t ever leave here. But I will promise to stay away from Portland for a while. The werewolves are hunting the vampires now, and they said the city will be safe again soon.”
Remy nodded. “Werewolves not as strong as trolls, but they good hunters. Good you have werewolf friends.”
“Oh yeah, about that.” I faced him. “Why didn’t you ever tell me? And don’t say you didn’t know, because you must have smelled them on me.”
“Not my place to tell,” he said unapologetically. “Trolls respect other Peoples. Other Peoples respect trolls.”
“Does that mean my friends know about you?”
“No. Werewolves know trolls live here but keep distance.” He gave me a shark grin. “You braver than pack.”
I laughed, and he joined in. I wondered how Roland and Peter would react if they ever came face-to-face with a troll. What would they say if they knew about me and Remy? Maybe someday I could bring them all together and find out. That would be something to see.
I glanced at my watch and got to my feet. “I’d better head home. It’s my turn to make dinner.” Which meant we were having tacos. I could make three meals well: tacos, spaghetti and meatballs, and hamburgers. It was a good thing Nate liked to cook, or it would have been ground beef every night.
Remy stood and patted his shoulder. I climbed on his back and wrapped my arms around his neck. The cave was halfway down the face of a one hundred foot cliff and partially obscured by a couple of sturdy little trees growing out of a crevice in the rock. You could climb down to it if you were brave enough and knew where all the hand holds were. But the fastest way was on the back of a very strong troll. Remy started bringing me here when we first met, and it was one of our favorite hangouts because no one could see us here. This was also the ideal place to hide the troll bile because it was too dangerous to keep it at my place. At that moment we had three small vials tucked away in a hidden crevice at the back of the cave. Even if someone managed to stumble on the cave, they would not find the bile.
My stomach did a little flip when Remy grabbed a jutting rock and swung us out over the boiling waves. It always felt like this would be the time he lost his grip and sent us falling to our deaths. But he quickly scaled the cliff, never faltering once.
At the top, I slid off his back and picked up my bike helmet, which I’d tucked under a lone stunted pine tree. We crossed a small meadow and entered the woods to start the short trek to where I’d hidden my bike. Neither of us needed a trail to find our way to the road. Remy and I had explored every inch of the woods and cliffs south of town, and we probably knew the area better than anyone.
“Sara! Sara!” a high voice thrilled as we trekked through the woods. I stopped and peered through the trees because I knew that voice. Suddenly, a small body landed on my back and a pair of thin arms slid around my neck.
I reached up to swing the little troll around into a hug. “Hey, Minka, what are you doing out here alone?” The trolls lived in a network of underground caverns somewhere south of here and they did not allow their young ones to go far from the clan. That rule did not contain some of the more adventurous young trolls like Minka. Remy had been just like her at that age.
Remy’s little cousin gave me a sweet smile that would one day make grown men quiver with fear. “I not
“Minka, you not allowed out here,” Remy scolded. “You go home now.”
Her lip quivered, and tears welled in her round eyes. “Not yet, Remy, please. Sara fix Nog first.”
I gave Remy a questioning look. “What’s a nog?”
He made a face that suggested he didn’t care much for it, whatever it was. “Nog is his name. He one of the People.”
One of the People? Curiosity overcame me. “If he’s hurt, we should help him, shouldn’t we?”
Remy sighed heavily and nodded. “Show us,” he said to his cousin.
Minka slid down from my arms and ran ahead of us. “This way!” she cried. “Not far.”
It was only a few minutes before we heard voices up ahead. We came to a small clearing where we found Minka’s brother, Haba, and their cousins, Creah and Sinah. The three little trolls were gathered around someone huddled on the ground.
“I got Sara!” Minka yelled happily, and the others cheered and ran over to greet me. I was pretty sure the elders would not be happy to know the youngsters were this familiar with me.
Strong little hands grabbed mine and pulled me forward. “You fix Nog?” Sinah asked.
I smiled down at him. “I’ll try.”
“Oh!” I stared at their friend, Nog. The creature on the ground was about two feet tall with walnut-colored skin and wild yellow hair that came to his shoulders. His face was long with owlish eyes, a long nose, and a mouth that was turned down either in a scowl or in pain; I couldn’t tell. On either side of his head, a pointed ear stuck straight out. He wore a crude vest and short pants made of some kind of animal hide.
He was not happy to see me. As soon as I approached him, he started thrashing and making a screeching sound that hurt my ears. I backed up a few feet into Remy.
“Remy, is that what I think it is?” I turned to him. “Is that a gobel?”
Remy nodded, and I held back a gasp. Gobels – or goblins as they are commonly called – were rumored to have died out a long time ago. Horrid creatures, they stole, liked to torment children, and were known to eat any small animal they could catch, especially cats.
“I thought there were none left,” I said over the screeching.
Remy shrugged. “Not all gone. Nog live here many years. He stay away from most other People. They not like him.”
I rubbed my ears. “Gee, I wonder why. Is his name really Nog?” It seemed more fitting for a Disney character than a real-life goblin.
“His real name too long to say in human tongue.”
“Oh. Nog it is then.”
Remy stepped past me and spoke to the goblin in what I assumed was Nog’s language. He gestured toward the goblin’s leg and then pointed at me, which only set the creature off again. Then Remy raised his voice, something I rarely heard him do, and spoke very forcefully. Watching the goblin suddenly calm down and glower at me sullenly, I was reminded of how Remy had talked to Fren that day in the old house. Very few could stand up to a determined troll.
“Come,” Remy said. I followed him cautiously, not wanting to upset Nog again. Remy pointed at the goblin’s leg, and I saw blood around his calf. “He caught in trap. Little ones free him, but his leg hurt.”
I gave Nog what I hoped was a comforting smile and knelt beside his legs. “I’ll need to touch his leg.”
Remy spoke to the goblin again and then said, “Fix now.”
I reached out tentatively and pulled the pant leg up over the wounded leg. The cut wasn’t as bad as I had expected, but there was a lot of swelling and I suspected the bone was broken. When I laid a hand gently across the swelling, Nog made a growling sound and bared his teeth at me. Of course he has to have a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth.
“Is he going to bite me?”
“No,” was Remy’s response. I trusted him, so I set to healing the goblin’s leg. The heat filled my hands and quickly found the fractured bone. I heard the creature gasp as my power did its work, fusing the bone together until it was whole again. Soon after, the swelling shrunk and the last of the heat seeped out of my hands.
I sank back on my heels. “All fixed,” I said, and the younger trolls cheered.
“I knew you fix him,” Minka said, running over to give me a rib-crushing hug.
Remy spoke to Nog, and the goblin got to his feet slowly, testing out the leg. He peered at me for a long moment then said something to me that I could not understand. I looked to Remy for help.
“He say you smell bad and now he smell bad like you for days.”
“Not big on gratitude, is he?” I retorted, and Remy grinned. I turned back to the goblin, who had already started walking away. “Next time you get caught in a trap I hope a bear eats you,” I called after him.
“Gobels not know how to say thank you,” Remy explained. “This just their way.”
I let him pull me to my feet. “It’s no wonder they almost went extinct.”
Remy chuckled. He ordered his little cousins to go home. Then we resumed our walk to my bike. We took our time so I could regain my energy. Strangely, I didn’t feel as drained as I normally did after mending a broken bone.
“So what’s Nog’s story? Does he have family here?”
“No family. He like to live alone. Gobels not like other People much.”
“He seemed friendly enough with your cousins,” I said as we reached my bike where I’d hidden it behind some bushes.
Remy made a snorting sound. “Little ones think he funny. When they grow older they not like him so much.”
“Yeah, everything looks different when you grow up.” I strapped on my helmet and grabbed the bike’s handlebars to stand it up. “By the way, I’ve been keeping an ear out and no one’s mentioned the bile. I think we’re safe. But we should probably lay low for a while.”
“Okay. We wait some time before we make more trade.”
“We’ll have to wait a few months, maybe longer,” I reminded him. For someone wise in so many ways, Remy knew very little about technology or the resourcefulness of humans. He did not understand that someone determined enough could track trade patterns in this area. I’d used the bile twice as currency, and I always tried to be as vigilant as possible, trading only with Malloy. But there was no telling who was paying attention out there.
“You feel strong to ride?”
I wheeled my bike up to the road. “I’m fine. It’s only a few miles.”
The road was little more than a gravel path with grass pushing up in the center. A long time ago there used to be an old silver mine down this way, but that had closed up back in the forties. Now the only vehicles that came down here were the occasional ATV or dirt bike. There were a lot better trails out past the Knolls and up near the old lighthouse.
It was a rough ride until I reached the main road. I thought for the hundredth time that I really needed to get my license. Nate had a Honda Element that fit his wheelchair, and he’d probably let me borrow it sometimes if I could drive. Roland was always offering to teach me; maybe it was time to take him up on it.
Once I hit the main road, I moved to the shoulder to avoid the evening traffic. Halfway home a sleek black Ducati roared past me, and the wind almost knocked me sideways. “Watch it!” I yelled at him as if he could hear me. For a moment, he started to slow down and all I could think was Oh crap! But he apparently changed his mind and kept going. Hanging around Jed’s I’d seen a lot of bikers and most of them were decent guys, but there were always a few troublemakers. The way my luck was going lately, I didn’t want to push it.
Needless to say, I was taken off guard when I reached the waterfront and saw a black Ducati sitting in front of the coffee shop next door to our building. It could have been a coincidence – there are lots of black motorcycles – but something told me that wasn’t the case. I considered cutting between the buildings to Market Street and going the long way around to our building, but I dismissed that idea. Eli had made me suspicious of strangers, but I wasn’t a coward and I
I changed my mind when I spotted the tall figure leaning casually against the side of the coffee shop. Wearing jeans and a black leather jacket over a gray T-shirt, Nikolas appeared to be waiting for someone – and I didn’t need three guesses to figure out whom.
As I drew near him, I felt the stirring in the back of my mind, the same faint tickle of recognition I’d experienced the moment we met. My stomach fluttered as I remembered our first encounter in the club and then how he had faced down two vampires to save me. But then I remembered his strange behavior. One minute he’d looked at me with something akin to hostility, and the next he was swooping in to save my life. Then he was back to being cold and distant again. Which Nikolas was waiting for me now? More importantly, what did he want?
I was tempted to ride past him, but curiosity got the better of me. “How did you find me?” I asked brusquely. After the way we’d parted the other night, I didn’t see any need for niceties.
The corners of his mouth turned upward, and amusement flashed in his gray eyes. “What, no hello after everything we’ve been through together?”
He could turn that charm on someone else, because it was wasted on me. “Hello. How did you find me?”
If he was bothered by my less-than-friendly greeting, he didn’t show it. “I tracked your friend’s license plate.”
I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or disturbed; maybe a bit of both. “Why?” He hadn’t exactly left on a friendly note the other night, and I could not think of any reason for him to come looking for me. He didn’t strike me as a guy who made house calls.
My question seemed to make him pause for a moment before he pushed away from the building. “We need to talk.”
His tone had lost some of its teasing, and I instantly felt uneasy. I tightened my grip on the handlebars. “Talk about what?”
Nikolas raised an eyebrow. “You look ready to flee. I don’t bite, you know.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought about the other fellow,” I replied dryly, and he surprised me by chuckling. His face lost its hardness, and his sensual smile made my stomach flutter before I gave myself a mental shake.
“You sound like you’re well recovered at least.” His eyes met mine unwaveringly. “I’m not here to harm you, and we really do need to talk.”
“What could we have to talk about? I don’t even know your last name.”
“It’s Danshov, and your last name is Grey. Now that we’re acquainted, can we talk?”
He sounded sincere and we were out in the open, so I didn’t think I was in any real danger. Plus he had saved my life. I should hear what he had to say; I owed him that much at least. “Okay.”
“Is there somewhere we can talk privately?”
I thought for a moment. “We can go down to the wharves. They’re usually pretty empty this time of day.”
“That will work.”
I told him I’d be back in a minute. Then I wheeled my bike around the corner of our building and hid it behind Nate’s car. When I came back he was standing in front of his motorcycle waiting for me. Neither of us spoke as we started walking toward the wharves. I wondered if he felt as awkward as I did. No, guys like him probably never feel uncomfortable. His every movement emanated confidence, and he had the added advantage of size. At five-five, I felt dwarfed by him as we walked side by side.
He was silent until we passed a stack of lobster traps and began strolling along one of the deserted wharves. “How long have you been friends with the werewolves?” he asked.
The question confused me until I remembered what Maxwell had said about the werewolves and the Mohiri disliking each other. If Nikolas had a problem with my friendship with Roland and Peter he would just have to get over it. “A long time.”
“And your parents don’t mind?”
“It’s just me and my uncle, and he likes my friends but he doesn’t know what they are. He doesn’t know about any of this,” I said pointedly.
He nodded. “Do you mind if I ask about your parents? How did you come to live with your uncle?”
“My parents are gone. My mother left when I was two, so I don’t remember her. My dad died when I was eight.” I swallowed the familiar lump and stared straight ahead. “Uncle Nate is his brother.”
“Do you know your mother’s maiden name?”
I stopped walking and looked at him. “Why do you want to know about my parents? What do they have to do with anything?”
His face gave nothing away. “Answer my question, and I will answer yours.”
I turned away in a huff and resumed walking. “Her name was Madeline. I think her maiden name was Cross or something like that. She abandoned us. I don’t really care who she was.”
It took me a few seconds to realize Nikolas was not beside me. I turned to look back at him and saw an odd expression on his face. “What’s wrong?”
“Madeline Croix? That was her name?”
“It could be. I’m not sure. Why are you looking at me like that?”
He stared out at the water. “I just haven’t heard that name in a while. If she is the Madeline I knew, it explains a lot to me.”
“Well, it doesn’t tell me anything, so why don’t you fill me in? You said you would answer my question if I answered yours.”
He gave me a small smile as he walked toward me. “I will.” We were almost at the end of the wharf where two large lobster boats were moored. Nikolas pointed at some overturned crates. “Let’s sit. This is a good place to talk.”
I sat on one of the crates. Nikolas took the other and turned it so he was facing me. This close, his eyes were like liquid mercury, and I tried to ignore the funny twisting in my gut.
“You didn’t know who the Mohiri were before the other night. How much do you know about us now?”
I lifted a shoulder. “I know you guys are vampire hunters, and you and the werewolves don’t like each other. That’s pretty much it.”
“I imagine your friends don’t talk about us any more than we do about them. Would you like to know more about the Mohiri?”
“Yes.” I had no idea why he was telling me this, but I was curious about him and his whole race.
My response appeared to please him because he smiled. “You seem very familiar with our world, but how much do you know about demons?”
“Nothing, except to stay as far away from them as possible.”
“What if I told you there are thousands of types of demons and that vampires are one of them?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’d ask you if you are deliberately trying to scare the hell out of me.”
He leaned forward with his elbows resting on his thighs. His eyes held mine with the same intensity I’d felt when we first met. “I am not here to frighten you.”
I tore my gaze from his and looked down at my hands. Too late.
“Do you still want to hear about the Mohiri?”
I looked at him again, glad that whatever I’d seen in his eyes a minute ago was gone. “Go ahead.”
I gave him an encouraging smile. “Yes. I want to hear this.”
He looked out at the bay. “It all started two millennia ago when demons learned how to leave their dimension and walk the earth in corporeal form. Most of them were lesser demons, and they were dangerous but not a major threat to humanity. But then a middle demon called a Vamhir appeared. It took a human host and gave the human immortality… and the thirst for human blood.”
“The first vampire,” I whispered, feeling a mixture of revulsion and fascination.
Nikolas nodded. “The demon soon learned how to make more like him, and before long there were thousands of vampires. The earth’s population was small back then, and ancient civilizations were virtually defenseless against the vampires’ strength and bloodlust. If left unchecked, the vampires would have eventually overrun the earth and wiped out humanity. So the archangel Michael came to earth to create a race of warri
He stopped and looked at me, waiting for my reaction. But I was still trying to absorb the part about a demon impregnating women without squirming off my seat. It finally hit me what he was saying, and I couldn’t help the incredulous look I gave him.
“The Mohiri are demons?”
“Half demon,” he corrected me. “Each of us is born with a Mori demon in us.”
I felt the color drain from my face. “You mean you live with a demon inside you like… like a parasite?”
“Exactly like that,” he said as if it was no big deal. “We give the Mori life, and in return, it gives us the ability to do what we were created to do. It is a symbiotic relationship that benefits us both.”
It was too much. I got up and walked to the edge of the wharf, struggling to grasp what he was telling me. Demon parasites? I peered down at the water, and I could just make out a few tomcods and a sculpin below the surface. The water looked deceptively shallow here, but I knew it was over fifteen feet deep at this end of the wharf. Nothing in this world was what it appeared to be.
“You’re not planning on jumping, are you?” There was amusement in his voice but also something that sounded like concern.
I sucked in a fortifying breath and faced him. He was still sitting on the crate, watching me expectantly. What was I was supposed to say to him? Everything I’d ever heard or read had taught me to fear demons and keep my distance from them. Now Nikolas was telling me that he was a half-demon warrior who went around protecting humans by killing other demons. I didn’t know how much more weirdness I could handle.
“Why are you telling me all this?” Somehow I didn’t think he had tracked me down just to educate me on demons.
He stood and walked toward me, stopping a few feet away. “Because you need to hear it.”
“Why? What does this have to do with me? Or my parents?”
Nikolas’s face grew more serious. “I’ll get to them in a minute. First, tell me, haven’t you wondered why you’re different from everyone else you know?”
“D-different?” How could he possibly know about that? “I don’t know what you mean.”
“I think you do.”
“Listen I – ”
His gaze captured mine again, his eyes turning a deep charcoal gray. Before I could contemplate how a person’s eyes could have so many different hues, I felt the softest brush against my mind. Some unseen force pushed gently against my walls, testing them, and in the recesses of my mind the beast stirred in response. Panic flared in me, and I reached for my power, suddenly feeling like I was locked in a battle of wills. The comforting strength of my power coursed through me and slammed against the foreign presence, flinging it away from me. Gasping, I whirled away from him. What was that? I’d never felt so exposed and vulnerable in my life, and it terrified me.
I can’t do this. I wasn’t sure what this was, but I suddenly knew I didn’t want to hear anything else he had to say. “I have to go,” I uttered, moving to go around him.
“Running away won’t change anything, Sara.”
I didn’t answer, just kept walking.
“I didn’t take you for a coward.”
His taunt brought me to a halt, but I didn’t turn around. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I think we both know that’s not true.”
I spun back to him because there was one thing I wanted to know. “What about my parents?” I demanded. “Did you know them?”
“Not your father. But I knew Madeline Croix for many years.”
I shook my head. “You’re only a few years older than me.”
His face was unreadable. “I’m older than I look.”
“So what are you trying to tell me?” I asked weakly. “How do you know Madeline?”
There was no softness in his voice, only truth. “I watched her grow up.”
I stared at him mutely, and his words hung in the air between us. No, it wasn’t possible. Madeline Croix was a terrible wife and mother, but she was not… one of them. Because if she was then that would make me…
Relentless by Karen Lynch / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on20 votes