WØLFF: Rise Of The Valdyr
Ah, prologues – how I love thee. Which is a problem for me as it’s generally accepted that writers should not start their books with a prologue. It’s also said that writers must toughen up and ‘kill your darlings’ – meaning we may write scenes we love, but those scenes won’t always make it to the final cut. Sometimes the whole of the book is better without that one (or two or ten!) beloved scene.
My Golden Heart finalist manuscript was originally written with a prologue. I mulled over it for days before wielding the knife (delete key) and killing my darling (prologue). The reason I cut the scene(s) was because it didn’t reflect the overall tone of the book. The prologue takes place when the heroine is fifteen. It’s serious and dramatic with LOTS of information (leading to what is called info dumping). The rest of the book takes place when the heroine is twenty-seven, and while many scenes are serious and dramatic, the book is also funny and sexy which is not the first impression the reader gets if they read the prologue.
Seeing as this book became a Golden Heart finalist after I took out the prologue, I think it was the right decision. 🙂
So…here’s the deleted prologue from my Golden Heart nominated paranormal romance WØLFF: Rise Of The Valdyr.
* * *
Kristin’s father had always said she’d drive him to an early pyre; now she’d killed her mother, too.
“Kitta, wake up.”
Her wolf heard the words first and rose onto her haunches in that far, caged corner of Kristin’s soul, whining sorrowfully, then tilted her head back and howled.
The voice belonged to her mother. Strong, loving… urgent.
Hunched over the bed, Kristin opened gritty eyes to see Gale sitting upright among the quilts, which didn’t make sense as earlier her mom could barely lift her eyelids, let alone her body. Now she smiled and brushed her hand through Kristin’s hair, looking healthier than she had in months.
The caress was comforting, yet it felt odd; more a gentle breeze than the caress of palm and fingers. And Gale looked odd, too, her appearance a hazy blend of her human-looking Valdyr body mixed with her wolf – as if the two winked in and out of existence on top of each other.
The wolf’s ruff beckoned, and Kristin reached out to grab a handful of fur, but she encountered only air, making her mom’s eyes glisten. “You can’t touch me, sweetheart. I’m in the Helmingr.”
The once familiar word sat heavy in Kristin’s chest. She knew what it meant she’d just… forgotten. One of the many things she’d forgotten since she’d been locked up in this house with her mom for the past three years. No longer able to run or play. No brothers to tease or father to exasperate with her daredevil antics. No overblown teenage drama to lament – her torment was all too real.
The smell of sickness in the bedroom was strong to Kristin’s Valdyr nose – stronger still to her wolf inside. And now there was something else.
Dead, her wolf thought.
Shut up! Kristin yelled, and her wolf lay back down with a whimper.
Jerking upright, she pushed rumpled, blond hair away from her face, her favorite barrette lost somewhere in the covers. She hated it when the animal thought for her, when she could feel its emotions. She wanted it gone from inside of her. Her life back to the way it was before her wolf had risen and changed everything.
Then he had come.
She closed her eyes as dread forced a shiver up her spine.
“It wasn’t your fault,” her mom said gently. “You were just a girl.”
“I was twelve.”
“You were a baby – mine to protect. And your dad’s and your brothers’. We would do it all over again.”
Kristin shook her head and forced back tears that threatened to spill.
Gale cupped her cheeks; her hands warm and tingly. “Kitta, I don’t know why your wolf rose when you were still so young, or why your scent made the unmated males feral, but I know you didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe if we’d been with a different pack, had a stronger Alpha, he could have controlled them, but… I was afraid a new pack wouldn’t accept all of us, and the boys would have to leave.”
She leaned forward, her blue eyes intent. “It was my mistake, not yours, and now you’re all that’s left of us. You have to be strong, sweetheart. Let your wolf rise and escape. With my passing there’s nothing to—”
“No!” Kristin’s heart pounded and her throat clogged as she realized her mom was leaving her. The Helmingr, she now remembered, was a perfect, magical merging of the Valdyr with his or her wolf and happened the first time the wolf rose and the last time upon death. In between, a strong Valdyr could enter the Helmingr at will, but her mom hadn’t been strong since that terrible night.
Since Hans had come.
Such a beautiful name for a creature so cruel.
“You won’t be alone for long, Kristin. I’ve seen someone – a girl. Different from you, but special, too. She’ll be your family. And later there’s a male. A strong male. With Freya’s blessing you’ll join with him in the Kyssa.”
“I don’t want anyone but you. Please stay, mom. Don’t leave me.”
“I can’t, Kitta. I’ve already passed over. I’m in Asgard, in a forest surrounding Valhalla. It’s beautiful. Your dad is here, and the boys. They see you through my eyes and can’t believe how much you’ve grown. Your father’s so proud of you – at the beautiful young Valdyr you’ve become. How you stood up to that monster and protected me after I was injured. You’ve been so brave and strong. Stronger than any fifteen-year-old should have to be.”
Kristin whimpered and tried to grab her mom. It was like sifting through energized air. “They have each other. All I have is you.”
“No, baby. You have your wolf. Accept her, Kristin, let her rise. She’s a part of you to be embraced, not feared or hated. She’ll help you tonight. You will perform the Hyrr in the forest when the moon is full and afterward you’ll run.”
“The Hyrr?” she asked. Another word she’d forgotten.
“My funeral. You must call on Odin to cremate me in his fire. That’s how it’s done, so we don’t leave a trace.”
Burn her mother’s body. Kristin’s fear and pain ratcheted up another level. “I don’t know how.”
“Your wolf will guide you.”
She shook her head. Even if her wolf could, there’s no way Hans would allow it. “He won’t let me.” For once she was glad to be a prisoner. Hans would never honor the Valdyr way, and her mom would have to stay with her.
“He will. He wants your wolf to rise, so he can use your magic to bind you. But even he doesn’t know how strong you are.”
The bedroom door pushed open with a bang, making Kristin and her wolf jump. She spun around, angry at herself for allowing the monster in the doorway to see her fear.
He was huge, much bigger than her father and brothers, wearing a cream-colored, silk shirt and perfectly pressed black pants – so different from Kristin’s grubby T-shirt and jeans. His hair and skin were the color of moonlight, his eyes as black as the night sky – this time. Other times he was the color of sunlight and his eyes were blue.
She didn’t know what he was. A Valdyr, maybe, because she’d seen his wolf – as big and scary as he was. But he had magic, too, had used it against her, and she knew only female Valdyr had magical gifts. Perhaps he was a witch, or one of the Jotun in the stories her mom had read to her when she was little. But the Jotun were ugly, and no matter how ugly Hans was inside, outwardly he shone like the sun and the moon.
“Given up, have you?” he asked Gale, baring even, white teeth in what Kristin assumed was a smile.
She rose to protect her mom, but Gale stepped between them, her body a hazy blur. “My daughter’s strong. She can survive on her own. Her wolf will never rise for you.”
“Are you sure?” Hans leaned lazily against the doorjamb. “She’ll need the wolf to perform the Hyrr.” He looked around her mom at Kristin. “You want your mother to be safe and happy with your family, don’t you? Who knows what will happen if she’s not properly cremated?”
Gale turned and squeezed her hands. “Don’t do it, Kitta. I’ll be fine. Odin will grant me favor. Whatever happens don’t let your wolf out.”
But in her mind Kristin heard her mom say loud and clear: Do let your wolf out. Then run like hell, baby.
Kristin closed her eyes. She didn’t want the wolf to rise – terrible things had happened the first time it tried to merge with her, during her Ulf-Risa. The confusing mix of pain and pleasure, fear and exhilaration; the foreignness that somehow felt like homecoming; the shock as her brother’s best friend, the sweet one she’d been crushing on for a while, had turned on her.
He was the first to die.
Her mom had said Hans needed the wolf to bind her, but what did that mean? How could she be more bound than she was now? She hadn’t stepped a foot outside this house in three years.
A gentle pressure brushed her forehead. Her mom’s lips. “I love you, Kitta, so much. Odin keep you safe.”
Then she was gone.
The suddenness of it shocked Kristin, and she spun to the bed. Covered in the quilts she had placed on top of her hours ago, her mom lay with her eyes closed. She was pale, solid, and fully in her Valdyr form.
And she was dead.
* * *
The chill of the night air nipped Kristin’s nose, but she didn’t feel it. She didn’t feel anything – too deep in shock and sorrow to appreciate she was finally free of her prison and back in the old forest of the Appalachian Mountains. Even the presence of her old pack surrounding her failed to elicit a response.
Her wolf paced in the caged corner of Kristin’s soul, agitated and grieving, but also excited by the fertile scents of the wilderness surrounding them – the resin from the trees, the decay of foliage beneath the melting snow, the sweetness of new life beginning – making Kristin realize it was the first time her wolf had been outdoors.
The first time she’d wanted to run.
A longing to bury her hands in the snow flooded her, and Kristin almost dropped to her knees. The compulsion shocked her, and she grabbed onto a log for balance.
Roll! her wolf urged.
No! she shouted back.
Her palm squeezed over rough bark, and Kristin realized what she held. Her gaze traveled up the wooden pyre to her mom’s body on top, causing the breath to explode from her lungs as pain punched through her numbness. Inside, her wolf stopped pacing and dropped onto her haunches to howl.
Gale’s body was covered in a linen wrap, her head exposed. Kristin drank in her pale skin, long dark hair, and peaceful expression. The knowledge that this was the last time she’d see that beloved face almost knocked her over, but she refused to let a smiling Hans see her weaken.
A wave of approval and support rose through her body from the wolf, surprising Kristin. She’d never felt those emotions from her wolf before and they comforted her. Maybe she should let her wolf out? It was what her mom wanted; what Hans wanted.
But how could anything he wanted be right?
The wolf’s thought was louder in Kristin’s head this time – and warmer, somehow – like it resonated deeper and farther within her body. She almost looked around, wondering for a moment if someone else had spoken, but she knew none of the Valdyr surrounding her would dare say anything without Hans’ permission.
Nearby, a familiar, wheezing cough erupted that belonged to her old teacher, Mr. Stennersen, while the sweet scent of lilac that wafted beneath her nose surely came from the florist her mom had bought flowers from every Friday. To her right stood two of her former playmates, both seemingly afraid to meet her gaze.
There were others Kristin recognized, and she knew they recognized her. She’d heard them whispering when Hans led her out of the house earlier, her mom’s body carried on a litter by two large human males.
She wondered what the pack thought of humans serving Hans. Did they protest? Or had all the strong members been killed when Kristin first went into the Ulf-Risa?
The image twisted her stomach, and she pressed her knuckles to her forehead. That was the last thing she wanted to think about.
Hans approached and laid a heavy hand on Kristin’s shoulder, claws extended from his fingertips, the points digging in. “Here lies Gale Gullari,” he said. “Beloved wife and mother, blah, blah, blah. Cue the sobbing.” Then he turned to her, an excited glow brightening the whites of his eyes and turning his irises pitch black. “Now do your thing, Kristin. See if Odin still listens to broken, worthless wolves. Call his fire, if you can, and seal your mother in Valhalla with her mate and other children.”
Her wolf growled, and the sound tickled the back of Kristin’s throat. Worse things had been said to her over the past three years but still her anger rose, bringing with it a grim determination to honor her mother in front of the pack that had failed her. Once that was done, she’d never have to look upon their faces again. Or Hans’ face – until it was time to kill him.
Yes! her wolf howled, and the cage door inside Kristin’s soul swung open.
Wrenching free of Hans, she marched to the other side of the four-foot-high pyre. Blood scented the air where his claws had ripped her skin, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered but invoking the fire to seal her mom in Asgard with her mate and other children, and then honoring her last request.
Her wolf leapt from her cage and slunk forward in hunting mode; focused on Hans. Three years ago, Kristin had fought against the Ulf-Risa, but this time she welcomed her wolf. Together they would seal their mother in Asgard with the rest of their family.
She laid a trembling hand over Gale’s heart as formal words flowed onto her tongue. “I am Kristin Gullari. Daughter of Gale and Andrew Gullari. Sister of Adam, Joran, Garet and Finn. I honor my mother by calling on Odin to release her from Earth and welcome her home. She loved well, fought bravely, and will be met with great joy in the woods outside Valhalla. As she burned brightly in life, may she burn even brighter in death.”
Kristin drew her hand upward, drawing on the last spark of magic within her mom’s body, and flames exploded from Gale’s chest. They seared toward the stars, a myriad of colors blazing in the night. The Valdyr surrounding her gasped and stumbled backward as heat rolled over them. Many cowered before the magical inferno, while others stared in awe.
Kristin basked in it.
On the other side of the burning pyre, Hans gloated through the translucent flames. He reached out and played with the fire. “You’re stronger than we thought.”
Her wolf waited just beneath the surface, wanting to lunge at the monster, but Kristin held her back. Reaching for the flames as Hans had done, she somehow cupped the colored fire.
A stirring rose within her body, different from the wolf’s presence. Her magic, perhaps?
“Strong enough to kill you some day.”
The gleeful wickedness fell from Hans’ face. With a deafening roar, he parted the flames and jumped toward her.
Kristin threw the fire at him, her hands shaping it into a cage. Her mind created the image, and the flames gave substance to it like paint on a canvas. Hans howled as it closed around him, but the cage held, giving Kristin precious seconds.
She glanced at the surrounding Valdyr who stared back at her with shock, and wondered how many unKyssed males were in the group. How many would turn feral and come after her once she—
A loud screech sounded behind her as Hans wrenched the cage bars open.
She stopped thinking, leapt forward and let go. Pressure built inside as her wolf filled her skin. Shivers raced over her spine, and she heard a small pop, then felt herself dissolve. Wrenching pain tore through her as her wolf formed. Padded feet hit the snow and she ran – a four-legged gallop. She wobbled at first over the uneven terrain – jumping logs and skidding through trees – and she lost precious time.
Her wolf growled at her. Release!
This time the wolf’s thoughts were all around her rather than inside her. She was the wolf, or inside the wolf, or maybe the wolf was her.
A cacophony of sights and scents overwhelmed her, invading the dark hollow where she’d retreated, and she panicked, reaching back for that familiar place.
Release! The wolf snarled again, and Kristin yelped as she felt her backside nipped.
Demented howls sounded in the distance, making her heart race. The sound was chillingly familiar – as was the scent around her. Her scent. It poured off her, carried on the wind to the unKyssed males; driving them crazy, turning them feral as they fought everything in their paths to get to her.
Her wolf knew what they wanted even if she didn’t.
Horror poured through Kristin, and she shrank into the dark. Grunting approval, her wolf found an easy, pounding rhythm, eating up the distance as she flew across the mountain through the snow. So fast. So strong.
We are strong.
In all the time Kristin had been aware of her wolf, she’d never once thought of them as ‘we’. It had always been her against the wolf, an alien entity that had pushed her way into Kristin’s body.
She attempted to relax, to experience the wolf, and was surprised to feel the pulse of muscle through a heavy, horizontal form, the wind ruffling thick fur, the snow crunching beneath large, clawed feet.
It was… exhilarating.
Can you… we… get away? she asked.
Ulf-Mynd? Oh, right. The everyday merging of the two souls – as opposed to the Ulf-Risa which only happened the first time. But wasn’t she already merged? She was now the alien entity in the wolf’s mind. What more could she do?
The word confused Kristin. What did it mean? In frustration, she crossed her arms over her chest, and her wolf stumbled. Kristin uncrossed them immediately, but she couldn’t stop her panic from rising.
Her wolf slowed and barked at her frantically. Heart!
The deranged howls grew closer, and she sensed… him. His laugh cut through the frenetic yipping, causing terror to curdle her stomach.
Faster! she yelled, but still her wolf slowed. In desperation, Kristin pictured her heart in her hands and shoved it into the wolf who yelped and fell, rolling on the ground. Kristin yanked her heart back, and the wolf dragged herself up. She took off again, whimpering as pain seared her chest and right shoulder.
And it hurt Kristin, too. She rubbed gently with her opposite palm, rocking back and forth, trying to be as small and inconspicuous as possible. Maybe if the wolf forgot she was there, they could still make it.
The pain in her shoulder eased and the wolf’s limping ceased.
They were connected.
Connected through the heart. Through everything. She had to give of herself. That’s what her wolf needed, what Kristin needed. Become the wolf… become whole.
This time she closed her eyes and imagined her heart expanding. It took over her body, over the dark space where she hid, then kept going. Soon it encompassed her wolf, and Kristin seeped into bone, flesh and fur. Her eyesight changed, her sense of smell enhanced, her hearing increased.
She didn’t just feel the wolf. She was the wolf.
And the wolf was Kristin – with all of her strength and power.
A frenzied male appeared in front of them, eyes wild, and that strange stirring rose again in Kristin’s belly as she jumped over him. The air whipped into a colorful wind beneath them, giving her wolf extra height and speed. Another wolf leapt at them from the right, but she easily twirled in the whirlwind and kept going.
Stronger. Faster. They could outrun them all.
They broke through the trees. In front of them, a vast valley fell away from a cliff’s edge under a canopy of stars and moonlight. Kristin’s muscles bunched and her claws dug in as she tried to halt her forward momentum toward the abyss. Throwing her weight back, she twisted her torso, but kept sliding in the icy snow, tail first.
She reached for rocks, branches, anything to cling to with her paws, and finally stopped just as her haunches cleared the edge. Sides heaving, she gingerly crawled forward on her belly.
Hans’ scent hit her and she raised her eyes. A massive, snarling wolf stood fifteen feet in front of her before it morphed into Hans – naked, one hand raised, angry amusement on his face. He was huge and scarily beautiful in the moonlight. Feral wolves flanked him, cutting off her escape.
“Shall I bind you first and then let them have you?” he asked. His hand lowered an inch and the wolves lunged, snapping at each other and straining to get to her. He raised his hand again, and they quieted. “Or just work with what’s left of you afterward? You don’t have to be whole to be useful.”
She couldn’t get past Hans with the wolves there, but if she shifted she’d lose her scent and—
In a heartbeat, her wolf separated from her and retreated inside Kristin. Shock hit hard as she dissolved, then reformed with wrenching pain in her Valdyr form – laying naked in the snow.
The wolves surrounding her stopped snarling. Some of them shifted, looking shaken or confused. Others just looked weary. She could tell they wanted to leave but Hans held them in place.
Kristin stood slowly and faced him, her mind racing. The fact she was naked barely registered. It was the way of the Valdyr, although many preserved their modesty by shifting into the hazy blur of the Helmingr until they could dress.
Her hair whipped wildly in the wind – blond hair surrounding a golden gaze just like her father. The boys had all been dark like their mother. It occurred to her she might see them again soon. Closing her eyes, she said a brief, fervent prayer to Odin. She couldn’t go back to being a prisoner.
When she opened them, Hans stood a foot away. Kristin gasped and jumped backward. Behind her, snow plummeted off the cliff.
“Odin won’t help you, Kristin. The gods aren’t interested in what happens here. You have magic, use it against me.” He raised his hand and heat warmed her skin, gently at first, then hotter until it burned.
She nearly grabbed at the raw energy and threw it back at him. Which is what he wanted, she realized. Her mom had said he needed her wolf to bind her, but what if it was the magic gifted to all female Valdyr he wanted? She’d surprised herself earlier, having no idea how she’d manipulated the energy. Could she do it again?
Could she win?
She raised her eyes, saw his eager anticipation, and had her answer.
In response, she wiggled her heels back. The snow at her feet had melted, and the rocky edge dug into her skin. Deep inside, her wolf raised her head. She stared Kristin in the eye.
Kristin leapt backward off the cliff as far as she could go. Hans roared in anger and reached for her, but his claws barely scraped her belly. She flipped him the bird then free-fell down the rock, the faces of her family flashing before her eyes.
Her only thought – her only regret – was that her mother had promised her she’d find a strong male to Kyss.
Kristin would like to have met him.