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Dead Chaos (A Valkyrie Novel - Book 3)

By:T.G Ayer

Chapter 1

My wings.

They’d taken my wings.

A sob caught in my throat. I desperately wanted to cry out, but no sound escaped my lips. I struggled for my next breath, and for one hysterical moment, I feared I'd be unable to perform the simple action.

My body held traces of numbness from whatever drugs still swam through my blood. My vision clouded at the edges, darkness threatening to take over, to take away the pain.

I almost gave in.

Almost.

I forced myself to glance behind me again. To look at what was left of my wings. I blinked, dry-eyed, at the damage that made my stomach twist. Silence echoed around the room. And in my head.

Pain-filled silence.

Finally, a sound, somewhere between a sob and a low moan, spilled from my stricken throat, bouncing off the walls of the sterile room. I shuddered, unable to turn away from the horror of those two broken, splintered bones . . . jagged edges, raw and bloodied.

A clock in the room ticked off every second, and with each metallic knock, the drug faded and pain blossomed within my body. My forearms and inner elbows throbbed. I lifted my right hand and inspected skin now mottled with purpling bruises. They'd drawn blood from every available vein.

I blinked; I didn’t want to think about everything they’d done to me while I’d been unconscious. I didn’t even want to think about the things I remembered. That my blood was the reason all those einherjar had died, that Loki was father to Dr. Lee and grandfather to Aidan.

My heart ached for Brody, who was still gone. I blinked again, the heat in my eyes fading as my anger rose.

Goosebumps pebbled my skin, hundreds of fine hairs standing ramrod straight and fierce. Odd to be cold. Compared to Asgard's biting chill, Midgard's weather was nothing, and the canned air of the hospital room even less yet I rubbed my arms to calm the rash of raised pores, to generate some warmth in my body.

I gritted my teeth. I couldn’t bear to look at my wings any longer. Twisting back around, I blinked through the haze of shock. I hadn't been alone at all. Now, I faced the Valkyrie and the einherjar who waited so quietly for me.

Sigrun and Aimee stood before me, both silent, their faces a mirror of sorrow and worry. Sigrun placed a warm hand on mine, and though my skin craved the heat, all I ached to do was shove her off. I didn’t want to be comforted. I didn’t want their sympathy.

What could they say, anyway? How could they explain what Dr. Lee had done to me? I didn’t think I could handle their pity or their sorrow. I’d scream if either of them even said the word sorry.

But one question needed asking because I needed answers.

"Why?" Even as I asked the question, I knew. They wanted to know more about how I functioned, about my physiology, about how a Valkyrie was made. They’d kept me drugged and unconscious for who knew how long. What experiments had they performed on me? They wanted my blood—and we knew why.

But they’d wanted my wings too.

Hot tears singed my eyes. I clenched my fists, wanting to pound them into something, to slam them into the bed, or into my thighs. It took an immense amount of strength to curb the urge.

"I’m going to kill him." I almost growled the words, the depth of both my emotional and physical pain impossible to bear.

"You know you are not doing any such thing." Sigrun gripped my shoulder, her voice low and comforting, yet firm. "Stephen Lee experimented on you. For reasons we cannot yet fully understand."

I glared at her, anger suddenly flooding my veins. "You think I want to understand? I don’t particularly care to understand his twisted reasoning. I want my bloody wings back." I was being unreasonable but I didn't care.

"You know we cannot put them back, Bryn." Sigrun spoke, trying to keep her voice reasonable. I could tell. My awareness seemed split in two. A part of me could hear and feel the sorrow and pain my Valkyrie friend experienced. But I didn’t want pity.

I needed action.

Now.

"Are my wings here? Did you find them?" I slid off the bed, hardly caring when the jarring action of my feet hitting the floor produced agonizing, splintering pain in what was left of my wings.

"Bryn." Aimee touched my other shoulder, her eyes filled with worry and sadness. "We found them, but do you really think it’s necessary right now? Maybe you should get some rest first. You can go when you’re feeling a little stronger." I hated that my friends were barely able to look me in the eye.

"I want to see my wings." I stood tall and straight, and glared at Sigrun. I got away with my act, holding back waves of pure agony. The drugs they’d pumped into me had begun to wear off while we’d listened to Loki’s confession. But the painkillers seemed to work stronger on my wings as only now did the agony begin to spread through them. It spiked, as if someone had taken a handsaw to my back. From the condition of the remaining bones, it seemed that was pretty much what they’d done.

Hesitation played across Sigrun's face, and I saw the glances exchanged between the two girls. "If you don’t take me, I'll find my own way there."

"Very well then, but be prepared. It is not a pretty sight." Sigrun replied, steeling her features, hiding her emotions. She slipped an arm around my waist and helped me out of the room and down the passage. The sterile white walls and floors seemed to close in on me. Invisible fingers gripped my lungs, squeezing, expelling every last breath, suffocating me slowly.

When Sigrun tightened her grip, I realized I’d begun to slip, my body demanding release from the pain, my knees strangely disconnected from the rest of my body.

Catching myself, I concentrated on walking, putting more of my energy into each step forward. Aimee walked beside me, mournfully silent. I appreciated her empathy, but how could she really understand? To me it felt like a limb had been removed. I no longer felt whole.

I frowned. I hadn’t even had wings until a few months ago, yet it had become so much a part of who I was. I stared at the floor tiles, counting each one as I walked over them. The more I counted the closer I’d get to the lab.

Four … five … six.



Nine … Ten … Eleven.

Sigrun slowed, interrupting my concentrated counting, and guided me into another room. Two einherjar, worked in the lab, the light golden glow of their skin confirming them as Odin’s Warriors. One Warrior bent over a plastic bag, labeling it with a black felt marker. The other stood beside a gurney, staring through a microscope.

My heart clenched.

"Jasper, could we have a moment in private, please?" asked Sigrun. The Warrior at the gurney glanced up. Mild curiosity mixed with annoyance at the disturbance transformed into pained shock and worry as his gaze flitted to me. He looked back at Sigrun.

"Valkyrie Sigrun, I do not think this is wise." He protested, his face wrinkled with concern, hand still gripping the microscope.

"Jasper, please. Brynhildr has every right to see them." Sigrun met my eyes and nodded, then turned to the Warrior. "Will you leave us, please?’

Jasper let go of the microscope, which danced on its extendable arm, and stepped away from the metal bed. He flicked his gaze from Sigrun to the doorway to his Warrior partner, reluctant to leave the room. Then his eyes traveled from Sigrun to me to the gurney and back to me.

I hated seeing the pity in his expression. I wanted to scream at him to stop looking at me that way. Sigrun gripped my waist and moved me forward. Aimee stood close behind me and I felt her hesitation. She took a step away, as if intending to leave.

"Aimee, please don’t go." I glanced at her over my shoulder, barely registering the departure of Jasper and his Warrior friend.

"Are you sure?" she asked, her voice small and relieved.

"Yes. I’d like you to stay. Please."

She nodded and moved beside me.

The three of us stood at the gurney, staring down at what lay on the steel surface. My vision blurred as hot tears flooded my eyes. Beside me, Aimee drew in a shuddering breath that failed to mask her sob. Sigrun, on the other hand, remained stoic although the slight flutter of her wings gave away her emotions.

A ripple of shock ran through me as I realized my wings wouldn't ever do the same again, wouldn’t ever show my sorrow or my pain or my anger again. They couldn’t. Because they lay on the gurney, limp and lifeless.

Both my wings were splayed on the metal table looking much like the corpse of a gigantic, lifeless bird. The deep red, almost burgundy feathers showed me things I’d never noticed before. The way the light caught the tips of the feathers revealed a golden glint, shimmering and beautiful. And the feathers weren’t red. Or rather they were red, and a myriad more colors, a deep burgundy blended with blood red, copper with russet, and interspersed within each individual feather were streaks of gold.

Hysterical laughter bubbled up in my throat but I swallowed it down.

All this time I’d envied Astrid’s stunning white wings that shimmered silver as she walked, so bright as to appear angelic. All that time wasted coveting someone else’s feathers and yet I’d already possessed wings of such stunning beauty. A beauty I'd never seen for myself.

A beauty now wasted.

We stood staring, horrified. One lay spread out, revealing the splayed feathers individually. It seemed perfect, untouched and undamaged. The other was mutilated beyond imagination.

Different parts of the wing were in varying stages of desecration, one section stripped of its feathers, bare down to the prickly skin covering the bone, and beside it, more horror.

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