Authors: Stella Rae
"Just thought I would stop by to visit my two favorite girls," he said as he put her down. That was when she noticed her mom sitting by the window. The expression on her face was the same one she always wore when something was wrong. It was the same expression as when she told her about her grandma having cancer and the same when she died. She was wearing a forced smile and slightly narrowed eyes.
"What's wrong?" Dani asked automatically after seeing her face. She glanced between Uncle Joe and her mom and noticed that they were staring at each other. "Are you sick?" she whispered.
A startled laugh escaped her. "No, why would you think that?"
"Because I can tell something is wrong and the way you two are looking at each other..." She shrugged and didn't finish her sentence.
Joe sat down next to her and grabbed her hand. "Nobody is sick Dani. But we do need to talk to you. I'm just going to dive in here because I don't know how else to go about it. And when I'm finished, I will answer any questions you have... ok?" he said, and she nodded.
"Your dad and I..." he started. He seemed to be trying to figure out what to say. He shook his head took a deep breath, and stood. Dani looked at him in confusion as he started to take off his red flannel shirt. She gasped when she saw the tattoo that sat between his shoulder blades. It was a dagger just like hers, only it was outlined in ink. The tips of the hilt sat between his shoulder blades with the blade of the dagger going up the back of his neck.
Before Dani could say anything, Joe sat back down, still bare from the waist up. She couldn't take her eyes off the tattoo. "Your dad had one too," he said quietly. "Dani, can I look at your neck?" She slowly turned her back to him and moved aside her hair. She felt his fingertips gently trace the raspberry outline. "That's the same spot Jakes was."
"What does it mean? And how come yours is like a real tattoo?"
"I'm getting to that. I just thought that by showing you mine first it would be easier for me to explain and for you to understand...” He reached for her hand again. "We, you and me and your dad, we have what’s called Demon Hunters blood, running through our veins. Your dad was a Demon Hunter, just like I am-"
"I thought you are a business man?" she interrupted him utterly confused.
With a laugh he continued, "To ordinary people yes, I am. But mostly that is just a front. Out here in our world Dani, there are scary monsters. Those few of us that are Demon Hunters, we risk our lives night after night to rid our world of these soulless creatures. We give ourselves over to protect the innocent around us."
"We have schools all around the world. It is where kids mostly around your age go to train. It is where our hunters in training learn of all of the ‘species’ that inhabit this earth. These schools are where they learn how to defeat them or even if they should.
"That mark on your neck, the mark on my back, it is the Mark of the Dagger. It is how you know that you are of this blood. It is how we know that you are ready to train."
Dani took advantage of his pause to ask questions. "How come I didn't know about you and dad? You said that you protect humans; does that mean that we are not human? And why am I just now getting this mark, I'm a little old to start training. Will I not be far behind? Does this mean that dad didn't really die of a heart attack?" she finished quietly and all in one breath.
She didn't miss the small nod her mother gave Joe but decided not to call her on it. "Well, People of the Dagger normally get marked around their fifteenth birthday. So yes, you are a year behind. If you decide this is something you want to do, you will have to train harder to catch up. We are all still humans Dani; we are just the Chosen Ones to help protect the others."
"As for not knowing...” he shrugged. “After your dad died your mom and I decided not to tell you. We weren't sure that you would get the Mark of the Dagger because your mom doesn't have Demon Hunters blood. When People of the Dagger breed with mundane people, their children will just be ordinary. We thought it was highly unlikely that you would be Chosen."
"Then why was I?"
"The only reason I can think of is because of our lineage. We come from the oldest line of Demon Hunters. Our ancestors were the first to be marked. So maybe it was just too strong to let the line end at you." he shrugged, “I'm just not sure. That’s something that we can research later on."
"You never answered me about my dad," she said quietly, despite the fact that she wasn’t sure she could take any more information. Her world was just turned upside down in a matter of hours and with everything that she thought was fact and fiction changing, she didn’t even know who she was anymore.
"No, your dad did not die of a heart attack. He died in battle. He died a hero, Dani. When you were three years old, all Demon Hunters available were called out to Pennsylvania. There was an attack on the training school there." he started. With the deep emotion surfacing, his English accent was more pronounceable.
"Your dad and I were among the hunters called. And when we arrived it was total chaos. By the time the faculty caught wind of the attack it was too late to move the students elsewhere. We gathered the students in the auditorium because it sits in the middle of campus. Its’ location would make it more difficult for the vampires to get to them because they had to go through the hunters outside. Your dad was one of the hunters selected to guard the students. Unfortunately, a few of the vampires got past those of us further out. Had it not been for him, we would have lost a number of kids that night.”
Dani was in information overload. She had no idea how long she sat there without saying anything after he finished telling his story. It wasn't until her mom handed her a box of tissues and wrapped her arms around her that she knew she was crying. Her father was a hero? Joe was a warrior? Was she supposed to follow in their footsteps? It seemed like her whole life was a lie. She didn't even know who she was anymore. She wasn't normal and never would be again.
"I can't believe you didn't tell me." When she opened her mouth that wasn't what she was planning to say. But it was out and there was no taking it back. "You both have lied to me, my whole life. How could you do that?" she stood up. "How could you think that springing all this on me would be ok? With no warning? I..." she trailed off, not knowing what to say to express what she was truly feeling. Betrayal.
"Dani," her mother reached out to grab her hand.
"Don’t." Dani said and watched her mom flinch back in surprise at her tone. "Don't touch me." With that, she spun on her heel and ran to her bedroom and slammed the door.
"Well that went well," Sarah said in a rueful tone to Joe.
He gave her a small smile and stood to redress. "Come on, let’s order in Chinese tonight and we can talk more to Dani about the school once she calms down a bit."
"Do you really think she will? Calm down, I mean?"
"Sarah, she is a sixteen year old girl. She's resilient." And with that, he wrapped an arm around her and dragged her into the kitchen.
Exhausted from the day’s events and the after effects of crying Dani must have fallen asleep. She woke up to her mother sitting beside her on the bed.
"Honey I’m sorry that we didn’t tell you. We didn’t think you would become marked and we thought it best that you not know of their existence."
"You didn't see the point in telling me who my father really was?" Dani asked incredulously.
"Knowing this doesn’t change your view of him. While he was alive the fact that he was a hunter was never hidden from you. It wasn’t until we lost him that I decided to keep what he was a secret. I couldn't handle it anymore. I had just lost my husband Dani and I was scared of losing you too." Sarah took a deep breath, trying to calm the quiver in her voice. "Please understand that. Now, your Uncle Joe and I have dinner waiting out here. Please join us, we have more to discuss." She kissed Dani on the forehead and left the room.
Dani sat there in the quiet room for a minute, wondering what else they wanted to tell her. Learning what was in her blood, that her family members were kick ass warriors and that she was expected to be too, the pink frilly curtain and bedspread were laughable.
She looked around her walls at all the band posters and Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and other books and posters and she thought the room was a little young for her now.
Now that she had time to calm down and think she thought the whole idea of Demon Hunters was pretty cool even if a little scary.
Thinking of her dad and Uncle and what they do, it was almost awe-inspiring. If the reality was anything like what she has read about in her fantasy books, she could imagine how scary that job must be in real life. She shivered as she thought of her dream and wondered if living the life of a hunter would be similar.
Dani wondered if her mom was going to let her train. She remembered the feeling of elation when she lifted her sword in her dream and decided she wanted to train. She wanted that feeling back. She wanted to do something important. Feel like she was making a difference in the world. She wondered if the school would even let her in.
After all, didn't Joe tell her that normally kids that come from mixed blood didn't get marked? How in the world did she? What if they didn't accept anyone who wasn't pure blooded? Even if they did, maybe she didn't have enough Demon Hunters blood to make a difference. She was probably going to be slower and weaker than the rest of them.
But Dani decided she didn't care.
She at least needed to try and if she had to work harder than the rest of the students then she would. She would do whatever it took to be the best hunter she could be. After all, the blood that ran through her veins was the oldest in history and no matter how diluted it may be, she knew she was meant to do this.
She wanted to be more than what she was. More than the sixteen year old story teller. The dreamer, the girl who loses herself reading and creating fantasy novels for hours at a time. This could be her chance to actually live one. With her mind made up to join the Demon Hunters, she headed toward the kitchen to talk her mother into it.
Dani sat at the table next to Joe and dished out lo mien noodles and sesame chicken. She waited until they both had food on their plates before she said anything.
"I want to do it," she looked from her mother’s resigned face to her Uncle's happy one. She clarified. "I want to train; I want to learn more about all of this Demon Hunter business."
Joe nodded, "That’s great Dani! But you need to learn more before you make that decision."
“Well, if you do this you’ll have to quit public school. You won’t be able to see Mia as often, well, hardly ever except for when you are on breaks. And most importantly, you can’t tell her or anyone else where you are going or what you are really doing. You will be living with the hunters, closing yourself out of the ordinary world. There are a lot of sacrifices to choosing this life, and you need to think long and hard before you make this decision.” She nodded.
"You will be attending Mount Claussen, the school in Pennsylvania as it’s the closest. You will live on campus taking the classes to get your high school diploma as well as classes on Demons to learn what they are and how to handle each individual ones. There will also be extensive training. Your days will be long and sometimes your nights even longer. These schools are not easy, they are not for the faint of heart. The instructors push their hunters in training very hard but if you choose to do this, I have great faith that you will exceed expectations.”
"I have to lie to all of my friends? What about mom, will I still see her?"
"Your mom can come visit you anytime she wants. And you will have four breaks a year that you get to come home. Plus, it's only three hours away. So it won’t be too bad."
Sarah had been quiet throughout their entire discussion and Dani turned to look at her. "What do you think mom?" She asked her.
"I think that if you want to do this, it is your choice. And no matter what you decide, I'll support you in your decision." Her mom told her and gave her hand a quick squeeze.
"I still want to do it," she said quietly. "I think that no matter the sacrifices, it will be worth it."
"Your dad would be proud of you," Sarah told her.
"We need to get you packed up and ready to go," Joe said and clapped his hands. "I've already talked with headmaster Charleston at Mount Claussen, he is expecting us in two days. I figured that would give us enough time to get everything taken care of here," Joe said.
Joe laughed at Dani’s surprise, it was obvious that she did not expect everything to escalate so quickly.
"How did you know I was going to say yes?" she asked him through narrowed eyes.
"Because you, my dear niece are your fathers’ daughter," he said with a slight tug at her hair. She smiled.
Dani is her father’s daughter. She was going to be a warrior just like him and would do everything in her power to make him proud. Vowing to herself right then to work hard and train harder until she was the absolute best Hunter that she could be. Anything less would likely get her killed.
"I will talk to the school tomorrow, get all her paper work finished up," Sarah said to Joe. To Dani she said, "Looks like you don't have school tomorrow. You and I will do something special. You should probably tell Mia you are not going back and have her come by tonight to say your goodbyes."