Holly shuddered.

"Would you want to take me from preventing that?" Nïx asked, releasing her.

"Well, of course not, but - "

"If you are adamant about having your gift overturned, then I'll arrange it so that Cade has to get you safely to the sorcerer to earn his sword. Is that what you want?"

"I want to go, but not alone with him! I don't suppose you could hire someone less..."

"Incredibly hot? With less lickable horns and a less sexy Sith Ifrican accent?" She shook her head, opening her car door. "No, Cade can keep you safe. He's strong, and he's ruthless."

Holly's lips parted wordlessly. Lickable horns?

"Oh, I almost forgot." Nïx fetched a weighty satchel from the passenger seat. "Here's your welcome kit. Must go now. Ciao!"

As Nïx started the car, Holly said, "One last question."

"Very well, dearling."

"Can I trust Cadeon?"

Nïx gave her a sunny smile with blank golden eyes. "As far as you can throw him."


I guess we're keeping the conspicuous car?" Holly asked when Cade pulled onto the highway, going north.

"For now. We've got to get out of town fast. Coincidentally, this car hauls ass."

"Where are we headed first?"

"Memphis. Nïx said she put the directions in your bag."

Holly reached into the backseat, grabbing the heavy satchel her aunt had given her. Inside, she found her passport, a handwritten letter, a map with an X right above Memphis, and two weighty tomes. One was called The Living Book of Lore, the other The Book of Warriors.

As she pulled out the letter, Holly asked, "Why did Nïx seem vacant at times?"

Cade sipped his Red Bull, never glancing her way. "She's so busy seeing the future, she spaces out in the present. You get used to it. Plus she's over three thousand years old."

That was mind-boggling. Nïx had looked the same age as Holly. "How old are you?"

"Nearly a millennium." Cade looked no more than thirty-four or thirty-five.

"You weren't kidding about being medieval. Why isn't your accent?"

"Lorekind adapt to evolving languages and dialects. It's unconscious."

When Holly cracked open the letter's black wax seal, Cade leaned over to scan the contents.

She turned down the corner of the letter until he shrugged and faced forward again. Then she read the flourishing script, or tried to - her glasses actually seemed to make it harder...

Dearest Niece,

Welcome to the family at last!

This letter will explain more that I didn't have time to. Inside your welcome package you'll find two books. One is the story of our origin and a record of the Valkyrie's noblest warriors. Your mother's history is among them.

Your father was a human civil engineer, the great love of Greta's life. He was killed in a revenge hit for one of her vampire raids before Greta even knew about you.

Revenge hit? Vampire raid? "Is Lorekind more violent than humankind?" she asked Cadeon.

Without turning to her, he said, "A lot more. We've got constant wars going on."

"Constant wars," she repeated. Why would someone like Holly ever want to descend into this new, even more tumultuous world...?

Greta was heartbroken to give you up, but it's the Valkyrie way to relinquish human offspring. And we all thought you were mortal. She did it with love in her heart for you. Never doubt that.

Holly didn't. She now knew that her placement with the loving Ashwins hadn't been an accident.

The second book will explain some of the aspects of this new world you've found yourself thrust into.

Read both tomes. There will be a quiz.

Now, I know that you expressed some doubts about staying a Valkyrie....

How could she know that? Unless..."She really is a soothsayer," Holly murmured.

Seeming to relax a bit, Cade said, "Oh, yeah."

But I ask that you at least give Valkyrism a sporting try. All the cool kids are doing it. And all you have to do is embrace everything you've ever feared and shunned for the last twenty years. Simple enough!

Lick Cade's horns for me, and, yes, you can treat him like a hireling if you wish, because that is certainly what he is - and what he's used to.

Lick his horns? Holly tried to act as if they weren't there at all, much less licking them!

Two tips: If you need to be certain that your erstwhile guardian is telling you the truth about anything, make him "vow it to the Lore." And if you don't want to get pregnant, don't eat. Valkyrie are infertile if they don't consume the fruits of the earth.


Nïx, Proto-Valkyrie, Soothsayer without Equal, Demigoddess, your loving auntie

Folding the letter, Holly sat stunned. Too much to think about. So much information, and she was only on the intro letter. Simply learning her father's occupation was momentous for her.

With a sigh, she pulled out The Book of Warriors and flipped to the "Origin of the Valkyrie" section - and found herself growing enthralled with the tale.

The Lore said that millennia ago, the gods Wóden and Freya were awakened from a decade of sleep by a maiden warrior's scream as she died in battle. Freya had marveled at the maiden's valor and wanted to preserve it, so she and Wóden struck the human with their lightning.

The maiden woke in their great hall, healed but unaltered - still mortal - and pregnant with an immortal Valkyrie daughter.

In the ages that passed, their lightning would strike dying women warriors from all species of the Lore - from Furies to shapeshifters to Lykae.

Freya and Wóden gave the daughters Freya's fey looks and his cunning, then combined these traits with the mother's courage and individual ancestry. The daughters were all half sisters, each one unique; but according to the Lore, one could always recognize a Valkyrie if her eyes fired silver with strong emotion.

Holly glanced up. "Did my eyes turn silver tonight?"

Cadeon nodded, finally giving her a glance. "It's how I knew you'd turned Valkyrie, or had begun to." He rubbed his palms on his jeans, briefly steering with his knees. "All Lorekind have eyes that turn a specific color." Cadeon's had been black.

Running her pearls along her lips, she pondered this new information. If Holly believed this legend, then that would mean that she was the granddaughter of Norse gods.

It was one thing for an adopted person to find out he or she came from a family of wealth or fame. But this was ridiculous.

And yet, this information explained so much about herself that she'd never understood, things that a pompous psychiatrist had been all too ready to medicate away.

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