Authors: Saranna Dewylde
Ride of the Darkyrie
Waking the queen
Copyright © 2012 by Saranna DeWylde
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.
All characters appearing in this work are fiction or from classical mythology now in common usage. Any similarities between persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Cover design by A. D. Cooper
Formatting by Jenna McCormick
am the daughter of a serial killer.
They say my father was sick, but murder isn’t a virus or some alien bacteria. I can’t deny it’s an infection. His blood runs through my veins, his breath is in my lungs and my synapses fire the way he programmed them. Murder is always there, hanging over me—the familiar stranger.
He was a handsome man—black curls framing a marble Botticellian face. Yet for his classic beauty, he was a chameleon. His skin shimmered and there was something beneath it that was not like
—the ones he hunted. I remember his hands the most, strong and broad. Tools of his trade, their width and breadth meant to span a man’s neck. Meant to crush bone and tear sinew. I remember the way blood looked on those hands, like melted rubies splashed against snow.
I am part of him, but I am not like him.
I’m not like them either—the prey.
Once, when I was very young, I tried to be. I rebelled as all children do, and swore I’d never be like my father. I hated him, hated the life he forced us to live. I believed I could have any life I chose, a normal life, if only I was free of him. I was sixteen when I got pregnant, but it wasn’t the boy I’d slept with on the roof of our apartment building who held my hair out of my face through the morning sickness, sat up with me those sleepless nights, or even held me as I shattered when after eighteen hours of labor, my daughter Thora was born dead—the cord wrapped around her tiny throat. It had been my father with his quiet voice and strong arms telling me everything would be okay even as I screamed and choked on my grief. Telling me that if I stopped trying to be human, that I would never feel such agony again. That only humans suffered so wretchedly.
I was something different. Something apart. I was Helreggin, the Queen of Hel reborn to walk the earth and hunt the dark things that needed to be caged. So I surrendered to my father: my humanity, my pain, traded that empty chasm that drilled into my very bones for destiny. I would have given myself over to anyone or anything in that moment if I never had to feel that anguish again.
I was twenty-one when I killed my first victim. They gave me a medal for it because I’m a cop. I have a lot of medals for valor. For service to my community. For killing.
My first execution was a hunter, like my father. I knew it as soon as I saw him. Our eyes met over his prey, a pretty little coed begging me to save her life, the cool halogen street lights flickering in a pale nimbus around him and I knew on a primal level he belonged to me.
My gun was suddenly in my hand and I pulled the trigger. I didn’t tell him to let her go; I didn’t identify myself as KCPD. I didn’t do anything but what I was made to do. An explosive flowering of crimson and meat blossomed against the wall of the building behind him. A splatter of flesh and bone as my bullets ripped through his guts and tore his life from him.
He knew he belonged to me, too. With his last breath, he said he’d waited for me. That all his work had been for me, and he smiled when the death rattle gurgled past his lips in a river of blood.
Father said it would happen like that; they’d come and bring me tribute because of who I am. What I am. He was a monster because of who and how he killed—outside the rest of what homo sapiens say is acceptable. And I am a hero covered in medals and glory because I do the very same thing, but within their societal norms.
He was a beast, some even say a demon. But he was the one who kept me warm, tucked me in at night, read me stories of the Old Gods of the Northmen and the heroes of Valhalla, bandaged my hurts and baked me cupcakes with Nutella frosting every Saturday morning while we watched Nova.
I don’t blame the legal system for killing him, for putting him down like a rabid dog. It was what he wanted. I know as surely as I breathe that they only caught him because he was ready to be caught.
Even after all of this, I am a good cop. I have a good reputation. I was the youngest to make detective in my squad. The FBI has invited me to consult on their serial murder task force. I am a shining star.
And they all want to know how I hunt the hunters. What is it that lets me get into their heads and think as the aberrations think? I have no answer for them except to say it’s what I do. It’s what I was born for.
I am a hunter of hunters.
ancing is much like killing.
There is a certain grace to both, an art. Bodies moving, working in tandem toward a thing of beauty. An arch of a woman’s spine in a backless sequined dress bent over her gentleman’s arm in an elegant dip or the perfect arterial spray in bright red unfurling buds like a macabre spring shower.
A gasp as his hand pulled her too close, or the knife slipped in too far. Anticipation a sweet, sparkling red wine—the perfect pairing to contrast with the dark chocolate bitterness of the end of all things. Or a complement to the sugary milk chocolate rush of mingled breath and a brushing of lips on heated skin.
I was as good at dancing as I was killing, but dancing was not even my favorite part of the Policeman’s Ball. I loved to watch everyone else gliding around in their costumes of propriety. The way they shoveled themselves into suits and dresses that someone else said fit them best, but those cheap, rented tuxedos rub the most intimate of places raw and pantyhose are as binding as any chains.
I liked to watch them because for this night alone, I wondered if maybe they had an idea what it was like to be me. Oh, the impulses they hide are nowhere near as dark as mine, but they have to hide who they are, what they are, beneath some fake, shriveled skin and mouth scripted lines they’d never normally say.
But my enjoyment isn’t malicious. These are my brothers and sisters in arms and no matter what I am, or what I will become, I stand with them behind the blue wall.
The chandeliers of the Westin Crown Center ballroom added to the masquerade, the soft tallow light like some glittery fairy godmother’s wand, painting a pretty shellac over the paper doll cutouts we’d made of ourselves.
My partner and I both came stag, but we drifted toward each other—flotsam across a sea of people to stand together by the punch bowl. It’s what’s comfortable, what we’re used to. Humans are creatures of habit and in that, I am like them. I don’t have to hold my mask as tightly with Jason. Any otherness that might slip through the mask he’d see as the coping mechanism of a good cop.
He laughed when he saw me, eyed my white Cinderella dress up and down like he would a dog with two heads. “Hey, gorgeous. Who are you and what have you done with my partner?”
Not a very original line, but it got his point across. On the job, I’m more like Michelle Rodriguez in
than I have ever been Cinderella, but again, the Policeman’s Ball is a chance to play dress up and I’m good at that, too.
I smiled and gave him a little twirl like I used to do for my father when playing in the trunks of clothes he’d give me. But this dress had been made for me and me alone; there were no bloodstains, no stench of sweat and terror that could cling long after washing. Only my honeysuckle perfume and the cherry-almond finishing spray on my hair.
“You look pretty good yourself, Grimes.” His tux was Armani. It’d been tailored to fit him perfectly. Jason had money, more than he could spend in this lifetime or the next—a family business in antiquities.
I liked the way the light made his blond hair almost gold and flickered over his tan skin. His eyes were a deep blue and reminded me of the sky as it turned to dusk. For as pretty as he was and all the smoothness of youth in his skin, it was his eyes that were most pleasing. There were a few lines around them, grooves worn into the landscape of his flesh—his experiences a steady stream of rainwater marking a path through granite. In the pools of his irises though, sometimes I thought there was something ancient and haggard looking back at me. Or perhaps I wanted to see villainy like my own in places others would look for comfort? Though I
comforted by him, by his steady presence, the scent of him.
The orchestra began the first delicate strains of one of Wagner’s quieter pieces and I moved into his arms. His palm was warm on my bare back as we glided out onto the parquet floor.
I realized I should have worn my hair down because the ghost of his breath over my bare throat caused me to shiver and elicited a sensation I’d never associated with him before.
“It’s your birthday in four hours, Hill.”
As if I needed reminding. In four hours, I could read the last letter my father left for me and begin my ascension.
“Did you get me a present?” I hated how breathless I sounded. I am very fit; I run miles every day, a turn around the dance floor shouldn’t make my heart pound against my ribs—a frightened bird in a bony cage. Yet, it did. It made me sound insipid and perhaps even flirtatious.
He pulled back, his hard gaze assessing me as if I was some new creature he’d never seen before. “And here I thought you were going to hand me my ass on a platter for getting you a gift.”
I leaned closer to him. “It’s good that you know I
hand you your ass on a platter, Grimes. Just because I’m wearing a dress doesn’t mean you should forget it.”