To set this up: Valeriah has returned home to Chimeria (the place where all our legendary creatures come from) for her dying grandfather. The old man has died and now Valeriah and her cousin Cristel are burying him.This is the first time in twenty years she’s been into the crypt where her own murdered family is buried.
Valeriah is half-werewolf on her mother’s side.
When Valeriah carried her Grandfather’s shrunken body through the crypt door, she saw the empty bier straight ahead of her at the back of the tomb. She placed him on the cold, white stone and arranged his body so that he appeared to be asleep, hands on his chest. She patted the cold hands once before she looked around her.
Grandmother Elsibel’s bier was right next to Grandfather’s. Elsibel, who had died before Valeriah was even born, appeared to be in a natural sleep. There was probably some spell on the crypt to prevent decay. That was a strangely comforting thought. Looking at Elsibel, Valeriah realized how much Cristel looked their grandmother.
Cristel was on the right side of the crypt, staring down at one of the bodies. From where she stood, Valeriah couldn’t see the body Cristel was looking at clearly, but she assumed it must be one of her parents. She turned away, to give Cristel a moment of privacy. Her eyes fell on the four bodies on the left side of the crypt. She crossed to them in three quick strides.
None of them looked like they were asleep. The death wounds were too obvious and so were the signs of feeding by forest scavengers before their bodies had been found.
Her father. Daddy. Tall and blond, still in his prime. The hole in his chest where the sword had passed through–all the way through. She remembered seeing the point come out of his back, the blood spurting around it. Mama. Her throat slashed so deeply that the bone of her spine showed through. Conall. Still ten years old. Ten years old forever. Ruddy like their mother, but already lengthening to be as tall as Daddy some day. That would never happen now. Nothing could hide the slash that had nearly cut him in two. Martin. Forever eight years old. The only one with Father’s coloring. And one side of his skull sickeningly caved in by a blow from something heavy. A club? Valeriah didn’t know. She hadn’t seen Martin fall.
They shouldn’t be in this crypt. They should all of them be alive and still with her. Her brothers grown tall and strong like Daddy. Maybe others, younger than her. That’s the way it should have been. She should not be alone.
Pain wrenched through Valeriah as if it had happened yesterday, not twenty years ago. All of them cut down in one moment. Her vision darkened. She clamped her mouth shut against the long, mournful howl that wanted to escape. Even now, at the new moon, when her wild blood should be quiet, she felt the blood rage boiling up in her. And Grandfather wanted her not to seek revenge? If the Goddess herself were responsible, Valeriah would avenge them.
The scuff of a shoe on stone and a choked-off sob brought her back to the moment. Valeriah raised her head, wiping away tears she hadn’t even realized she was crying. She crossed over to Cristel and stopped, one stride away, looking at what had to be Cristel’s parents. The woman was almost like a waxen image of Cristel–except for the gash across her neck. She’d been killed exactly like Valeriah’s mother. The man, presumably Cristel’s father, looked like he had been hacked with an axe.
“Yours, too?” Valeriah asked softly.
“Your parents were murdered, too. I didn’t remember that. But, then, I had my own nightmares back then. I wasn’t very interested in other people’s pain.”
“I didn’t remember, either. I’m not sure I ever knew. I was so young. I only remember Grandfather crying and saying that he would take care of me, now. I’m not sure he ever told me how they died. Or maybe he did and I just didn’t understand.”
“You weren’t there? When it happened?”
Cristel shook her head. Then she lifted her head to look at Valeriah. “Were you?”
“Oh, yes. I was the baby, only five and small for my age. I was holding Daddy’s hand when we were attacked. Mama and Conall fell while I watched. Daddy pushed me behind him. I saw the sword point come through his back and disappear again as he collapsed. He fell on me and the men who killed them didn’t find me.” She shuddered at the memory. She would say no more about that. Not here. Not now.
Valeriah took hold of Cristel’s arm. “Let’s get out of here.”