[Wolves Camp | Tempus 19th, 2525 | Sundown]
The walls of the cabin groaned with a swirl of wind. A shower of dry autumn leaves descended upon the roof. Dani glanced at the source of the sound, distracted from the objects sprawled atop her bed. She let out a breath and packed up the equipment. Nothing had changed from the last time she checked it. No amount of checking would make her more prepared than she already was. A knock on the door served as a welcome interruption. “Just a second!” She set the travel bag down next to her boots, ready to be picked up in the morning, then went to open the door. “Oh. Hey, squirt. Wasn’t expecting you.”
After being sworn in, Dani started working closely with experienced Actives, going on assignments with them in order to get her bearings. It meant coming and going at all hours of the day and night. It was disruptive, not only for Sarah, but their parents as well. It became clear to everyone that it was time to claim her own space in camp; everyone except for Sarah. Dani knew there would be an argument, that her sister wouldn’t want her to leave, and she compromised by taking the closest cabin available to the Alpha’s. The cabin was built for the Beta’s use, and according to Tom, it was rarely ever occupied. Most Betas in the past—the ones who didn’t share a home with the Alpha—preferred to stay closer to encampment and utilized the cabin either as a study or a storage shed. It wasn’t a big improvement on the room she shared with her sister, and definitely not as nice as some of the cabins closer to the central clearing, but she thought being closer to home might appease Sarah somewhat. It didn’t. In the couple of months since she moved, Sarah had barely spoken to her and despite numerous invitations, refused to come over and see what she’d done with the place. Even now, she stood outside her door with a sulky expression, cowering from another gust of wind. “You said I could come by whenever.”
Dani nodded and moved to allow her in. “Is mom making you do this?”
Sarah entered the cabin, dragging her feet. “No.”
“Sarah . . .”
She sighed. “She said I’m being unreasonable.”
Dani closed the door, frowning as a trail of dry leaves now littered the floor. “What do you think?”
Sarah shrugged, examining the map Dani had pinned on the wall above her bed.
Dani watched her sister, unsure. “Did you take over my side of the room yet? I mean, more than you already had.”
“No,” Sarah mumbled. “Not yet.”
Dani’s shoulders dropped and she moved to sit on her bed; foolish of her to think getting back into her sister’s good graces would be that easy. “So, what do you think of my home decorating skills?”
Another shrug. “Pretty boring.”
Dani snorted a laugh. In all fairness, she wasn’t wrong about that. Compared to her old space, the place still felt, and looked, impersonal. A place she occupied as needed, but didn’t rightfully own yet. “Guess you’re right. These walls are pretty empty, for starters. Wonder what we could do about that.”
“I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”
“Maybe, if you can afford to spare an afternoon you could help me figure something out sometime?” Dani asked, tentatively.
Sarah shrugged yet again, opting to scrutinize the cabin’s interior further instead of making eye contact. “I’ve been busy, so I don’t know.”
Dani ran her fingers through her hair, frustrated. “Listen, squirt, this isn’t easy for me either, alright? I’m not used to sleeping in this place, being here by myself when I don’t have anything else to do is pretty boring, but it just has to happen. You understand that, right?” Sarah simply nodded, staring intently through one of her boring, empty walls. “Are you having nightmares again?”
Sarah glanced at her, then looked down at her shoes. “Sometimes.”
Dani hummed. “Tell you what, kiddo, I have to go out on assignment, but . . . When I get back, why don’t you come over and we’ll have a slumber party? How does that sound?”
The offer prompted another brief glance and more mumbles. “I don’t know. Good, I guess.”
“Alright, kiddo.” Dani stood up and wrapped one arm around her sister, pulling her into a hug. “Why are you so glum? Hm? It can’t be just because I moved.”
“. . . What if you don’t?”
“If I don’t what?”
Sarah hesitated, then whispered. “What if you don’t come back?”
Dani flinched and pulled back to look Sarah in the eyes. “I’ll always come back, squirt.”
“I’m not dumb. Everyone’s always talking about how the Hunters are out there and now you’re going out there. What if . . .”
“Hey, no. It’s not happening. And I don’t want you worrying about it.” Dani was worried about it—of course she was—but as much as she hated lying to her sister, there would be no point admitting it in front of her now. “I promise I’ll be back, alright? Have I ever broken a promise before?”
Sarah let out a breath. “No, but . . . You can’t be sure.”
“I’ll let you in on a secret, squirt . . . Adults? They talk big, but at the end of the day, no one’s ever sure of anything. Not being sure doesn’t mean the worst has to happen.” Dani offered her sister an encouraging smile. “It’s okay to worry, it’s okay to be scared, even, but you should always, always, expect the people you love will come back for you. Alright?”
Sarah nodded, but the way she turned and clung to Dani’s side made clear she wasn’t over her fears. “You think I can sleep over tonight?”
Dani sighed, smoothing her sister’s hair. “I have to leave early in the morning, kiddo. But we can hang out until bedtime. Alright?”
Sarah huffed. “Mom said I need to go to storytime with the other children.”
“What’s wrong with storytime?”
Sarah pulled away with a shrug. “Dahlia always tells the same stories and they’re all for babies, but mom says I need to go because stories are how we keep our culture alive.”
“She’s not wrong, but maybe putting Dahlia in charge of it wasn’t the best idea.” Dani glanced at her travel bag with thoughtful hum. Then, with one arm still around her shoulders, led Sarah out of the cabin. “Tell you what, squirt, when I get back from this assignment you can come over, we’ll make some hot chocolate and stay up a little later playing cards if you want, but for now . . .” Sarah groaned, about to protest when Dani added, “I’m sure Dahlia won’t complain if I want to hijack storytime for a night.”
For the first time since she showed up at Dani’s doorstep, Sarah seemed legitimately excited. “You think so?”
“I know the character. She’ll jump at the opportunity to go home early and not deal with you lot interrupting her with questions for another hour.”
As they arrived at the central clearing, Dahlia was already having trouble controlling her group’s impatience. Judging by the exasperated tutor’s expression when she laid eyes on Sarah, Dani knew her tardiness was partially to blame. Sarah flinched and looked up at her warily, but Dani simply motioned for her sister to join the other children. “Hey. Dahlia. Uhm . . .” She glanced over to the children, offering them a smile as some of the younger ones waved to draw her attention. “Sarah wanted to spend a little more time with me before I head out tomorrow, so I was wondering if you would let me take over storytime tonight?”
Dahlia hummed and Dani could almost see the woman’s thought process unfold. As Dani anticipated, she wanted nothing more than to be done with the children for the day, but was hesitant to accept something that might allow them a fun time. Why, of all people, Dahlia was assigned to tutor children aged five to ten years old was a mystery. The woman had no patience or affinity for them. Eventually she caved with a disgruntled, “Alright. Just make sure you don’t keep them up too late.”
“Of course.” Dani forced a straight face, but winked at the kids behind Dahlia’s back. This caused a wave of giggles and a disgruntled mutter from the woman as she began to leave. Dani waited for Dahlia to walk completely out of earshot before giving the group of children her full attention. “Alright,” she told them, clapping her hands together, “now, what to do with you, little monsters?”
The group of children erupted into a chorus of excited voices, only Sarah and one of the boys remained silent and seated. The boy was shorter than Sarah, black short hair, dark green eyes, freckles. . . For all intents and purposes a regular-looking nine-year-old boy, politely waiting for storytime to begin. However, the way Sarah glared at him from her side of the circle, one could assume he’d insulted every generation of her family at some point. Dani hadn’t met all of the children in Sarah’s tutoring group, but context indicated this had to be the infamous Perry. Much like her mother often did, Dani simply crossed her arms and waited for the ruckus to die down on its own. In the meantime she assessed the group of children in front of her and attempted to draw from memory a story they might find more entertaining than Dahlia’s usual spiel, but that would, hopefully, still allow them to sleep that night. Finally it dawned on the kids that they were cutting their storytime short with the commotion and one by one they settled on the wooden benches around the campfire, leaving an empty space for her.
Dani sat and, once again, observed the expectant faces around her. Another gust of wind stirred the tall flames of the campfire, distorting the children’s shadows cast across the ground into sporadically twitching figures. A soft, thoughtful hum lingered in the back of her throat as she watched the tops of the trees sway in the distance—places the firelight was unable to touch. Her initial silence tested the children’s patience, whispers erupting despite their attempts to wait quietly. It was Sarah who inevitably spoke up for the group. “Dani, you’re supposed to tell us a story.”
“I know.” Dani smiled. “I’m just deciding if this one is a good idea or not. Lena told me this story when I was around your age and I had trouble sleeping for weeks.”
Dani sensed the collective eyerolls. Again, Sarah gave voice to the group’s sentiments. “It can’t be that scary.”
Dani knew her sister was acting brave in front of the other kids. Until a few months ago she still woke up some nights afraid of her own shadow. However, she wasn’t about to call her out on it in front of the group either. “Alright, if you’re all sure you want to know.” She scanned the group of children as they nodded agreement. “Okay, so when I was around ten years old, I decided that since I was about to start training soon and knew my way around our territory pretty well, I was old enough to start exploring on my own. Didn’t matter that my mother said it was too dangerous, I was confident I could handle it. So I packed some supplies one night, waited for everyone to sleep, and snuck out. I walked over to the lake and I found a small path that would take me further out and beyond the camp’s borders. I didn’t go that far out, but I was in the forest on my own, late at night and I was very pleased with myself for it.” She smiled as a few of the children seemed impressed with the prospect of being out in the forest alone late at night. “I wasn’t planning on going too far out. I chose a path and decided to follow it until I found a good enough place to set up a camp, which, eventually I did. So I set up a bedroll and lay down to look at the stars for a while. It was early Tempus, so while it wasn’t that cold, it was a windy autumn night, just like this one. And just like tonight, the forest was anything but quiet. With every gust of wind, dry leaves ruffled and crackled as they cascaded onto the ground, branches snapped above my head and, even though I knew those sounds as well as I’m sure you all do, they’re perfectly normal this time of year,” Dani paused, allowing the wind to emphasize her words, “it was my first time being out there alone, so I was definitely on high alert. That, and the way the wind was blowing that night, might be the only reasons why I even heard it.”
“Heard what?” One of the girls cut in.
“Probably a bear,” the boy sitting beside her chimed in, unimpressed.
“It wasn’t a bear,” Dani told them. “It was a hum. This strange, droning hum. And first I thought, I’m just getting sleepy, it’s in my head. It faded and I tried to push it out of my mind, but then, as the wind blew past again, I heard it a second time. This time, I stopped to really pay attention, but I was still trying to tell myself it was the wind blowing through a hollow branch somewhere in the distance. The wind blew past and the sound faded with it. And this time I kept my ears open, and I waited. With another gust of wind, came the same sound again. So I lay there, holding my breath and straining to hear it clearly. The same hum as before, a monotone drone at first, but more and more it changed into something that couldn’t just be wind blowing through branches. It was the voice of a woman, sweet and melodic. It was a distant sound at first, drawing closer then fading away. Like the wind itself was singing a lullaby as it passed. For a while, I just lay there and listened. And the more I listened the more I began to feel entranced. A part of me really wanted to just lay there with the music forever. And if it wasn’t for my guilty conscience, maybe I would have, but . . . This nagging voice in the back of my head kept reminding me I shouldn’t be there and people would worry if I wasn’t back before the sun came up. So I forced myself to pack up my little camp and walk away, but the music continued, and with every step I took it seemed to get louder and louder. So I walked faster and faster until I was inevitably running all the way back to the lake. The music finally silenced when I got there and I was able to sneak my way back into bed without alerting anyone, but I was shaken. Morning came and I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. I needed to talk to someone, and there was only one person I could go to under those circumstances.”
“Lena,” Sarah chimed in.
Dani nodded. “Mhm. I confided in Lena as soon as morning came around. I told her what I’d done and what happened. I was sure she would scold me and dismiss the entire thing. She’d tell me it was just my overactive imagination, but no. Instead she became agitated. She wanted to know exactly where I’d gone and what I’d heard. When I asked her what she was so worried about she said ‘you don’t know what’s up there?’. Of course, I didn’t. Lena told me that a few miles away from where I’d set up, just a little ways up the river there’s a village. A ghost village.”
“A ghost village?” The same girl who interrupted before spoke up. “How can a village be a ghost?”
“That’s what they call it when a place is completely abandoned. It’s a ghost village because there are no people living there anymore. Lena told me this village had been abandoned for thousands of years. That ever since the last days of the Twins, it had stood there, empty. So, me, being a kid, I wanted to know . . .”
“What happened?” Several of the children voiced the lingering question, voices high pitched with anxiety.
Dani smirked. “Good question. It so happens that there is an actual myth connected to that village. It involves Heart’s eldest daughter. Have you guys ever heard of her?”
“Heart’s daughter was the first Alpha ever, wasn’t she?” Sarah asked.
“Heart’s second daughter was the first Alpha, that’s correct, but Heart had many sons and daughters and the one this story’s about was her eldest child. Have you guys been told about the First Children yet?”
Sarah frowned. “No.”
“They were the first children born from the Twins in the mortal realm,” Perry answered. “Story goes that they all went insane and committed atrocities, so after they were defeated Mother and Father wouldn’t allow them into the Immortal Realm and created Hell to keep them contained.”
Dani hummed, amused. “I guess Lena isn’t the only person in this camp that reads in her spare time. Who would’ve thought.” She chuckled. “Yes, that is correct. Though I’m not sure about ‘insane’, they did commit atrocities.”
“So what atrocities did they do to the village?” Sarah asked.
“Well, according to the story Lena told me, the Twins were, to human eyes, indescribably beautiful. That even the pictures of them we’re able to find in books and paintings today couldn’t possibly do their likeness justice. Their first children, on the other hand, were said to range from ‘ordinary’ to ‘unsightly’. And Heart’s daughter in particular was regarded as having a face only Heart herself could ever love.”
“What does that mean?” One of the girls asked.
“It means she was so ugly no one else would ever love her,” the boy sitting next to her answered.
Dani concluded, based on the glare she gave him and their matching hair colors, that he was her brother. “Alfie, that’s rude.”
“But that’s what it means, dummy!”
“Alright, easy with the name calling,” Dani warned. “Alfie is right though, that’s exactly what that means. And yes, that’s incredibly mean, but you should keep in mind that things were very different back then. The few enlightened that existed at the time were all directly related to the Twins themselves. And people generally expected them to be closer to Gods than humans. Unfortunately, the Twins’ children, especially the first to come into existence, weren’t really seen as people. But that is a discussion I’m sure Dahlia would enjoy having in class, I’m not here for that.” She briefly smirked and refocused on the story she was meant to be telling. “As I was saying, Heart’s daughter wasn’t very easy on the eyes. And for many many years people wondered how such a hideous creature could be born from such a magnificent being. That is, until the news broke throughout Valcrest the War had finally fallen. As you’d expect, the Twins didn’t concern themselves with death too much, but War’s grief-stricken generals decided to hold the biggest fanciest funeral Valcrest had ever seen. The remaining Twins, of course, wouldn’t attend, but some of their children did. It was during that funeral that one of her siblings asked her to sing. Never, since the gift of music was introduced to Valcrest, had humanity been graced with such splendorous notes. If I was a poet; which I certainly am not, I would still have trouble describing it in words, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t long before all of Valcrest caught wind of how Heart’s deformed child was able to drive even the most battle-hardened warriors in Valcrest to tears with the sound of her voice. Word spread like wildfire and Heart’s daughter went from being considered an unnoteworthy pariah to the most sought-after singer in all of Valcrest. And for a time, wherever she was called to sing, she went. She traveled the entirety of Valcrest, from the southern mountains to the northern woods beyond Blackpond, until eventually she came to a small isolated village in the depths of the forest.” Dani paused and chuckled as the mention of the village drew an excited gasp from the group.
“This village was so isolated, in fact, that they had never heard of Heart’s daughter or her incredible voice. This suited her. She settled in a simple home on the edge of the village and because of her hideous appearance, the villagers mostly kept their distance. This suited her. All she wanted at that point in life was to lead a quiet existence, tend to her home and garden, that kind of thing. She wasn’t interested in attention and the village’s apparent disgust for her appearance only seemed to serve that purpose. However, one day, while tending to her daily chores, she mindlessly hummed a melody. By the time she was finished with her tasks, a crowd had gathered around her home, drawn by the sound of her voice. And from then on, every time she was spotted outside, the villagers would flock to her in the hopes of hearing more of her singing. Over time word spread of where Heart’s daughter had settled and travelers came to the village from all corners of Valcrest only to hear her voice. As the crowds grew in size, the residents started charging visitors a fee to come and watch her sing. But the visitors had no interest in looking at Heart’s child, furthermore, overtime the crowds grew bored with only listening to the music, many expressing discontent that the singer’s likeness didn’t measure up to the wonderful music. Since this was an opportunity to keep their newfound source of income, the villagers began discussing fixes for this issue. The answer, they decided, would be to find someone whose likeness more closely matched the beauty of her music. Messengers were sent all over Valcrest, summoning all beautiful people to come and audition.”
“They just asked for ‘beautiful people’ and people showed up?” Alfie interrupted.
“Yes,” Dani answered. “And yes, before you say anything, that is pretty stupid, but I guess people didn’t have anything better to do back in the day.” She smiled at the boy’s skeptical expression. “Moving on . . . People answered the village’s call and many auditioned, but among all of them one young lady stood out from the rest. Her name was Calliope.”
“Wait,” Sarah cut in. “Why does she get a name? Didn’t Heart’s daughter have a name?”
Dani sighed. “I bet she did, but I don’t know her name.”
“But it’s her story!”
“Sarah, I’m just telling the story, I wasn’t there. If it’s not written somewhere, then I don’t know it. Now, if you kids keep interrupting me, I won’t be done before bedtime and you won’t find out what happened to the village.”
Sarah frowned. “Fine.”
Dani chuckled, but wasted no time in continuing. “Alright, so, Calliope was by all accounts everything one would expect Heart’s daughter to be; tall, stunningly beautiful, delicate, and most importantly, she was able to put on an emotional performance to match the music almost perfectly. Despite the fact even her splendorous beauty paled in comparison to Heart’s daughter’s voice, the villagers acknowledged that she was the closest thing to perfection they would find in a human being. With the addition of Calliope the show drew much larger crowds, but the crowds struggled to come closer to the performance. They would see where the voice truly came from and, with the illusion broken, complain that they had been deceived, demanding the villagers return their coin. In order to correct this, the villagers built a structure around her home, so that curtains blocked the view of the house from visitors.”
“Okay, no. Why would she just put up with that?” Sarah complained.
“Squirt, let me finish the story. You’ll see how it plays out, alright?”
Sarah rolled her eyes, but went silent, waiting for Dani to continue.
“Heart’s daughter was a little annoyed the curtains blocked her view, but she did go there to live a quieter life and not draw attention to herself, so it didn’t feel like a great inconvenience to her. The real problems arose when, over time, she wasn’t able to keep up with the performances as well as tending to her house. When chores started piling up and the house fell into disrepair she sought the aid of the village elder. There was no way she could get the place back into decent condition on her own. But the elder was dismissive. They couldn’t spare the resources, or the men, to help repair her home. Besides, the condition of her house didn’t really matter to them, as it was now hidden behind the curtains. Out of sight, out of mind.”
“What a bunch of assholes!” Sarah exclaimed, drawing an outburst of giggles from the group.
“Language, squirt. But yes, they were.” Dani gave the children a moment to settle down and carried on. “Of course, she wasn’t willing to accept the elder’s excuses. It was her voice that drew the crowds to the village in the first place. All the coin they’d spent there, down to the last piece of copper, was thanks to her and her gift. The elder and the villagers were unmoved by her arguments and uncaring to her precarious living conditions. And after that meeting with the elder, the music stopped. The decrepit, unkempt house became eerily silent. Days turned into weeks, turned into months and the village moved on. They tore down the stage, and the curtains. They used the materials to fix up the house; not in the hopes Heart’s daughter would return, but so that Calliope could move in instead. As far as anyone knew, Heart’s daughter and her music were gone, never to return.”
As another, stronger gust of wind blew past the group some of the children startled and Alfie was forced to push his sister away when she instinctively clung to him.
Dani withheld a smirk. “Then, on one foggy, cold, bleak morning, Calliope was drawn awake by a sweet melodic hum. The melody entered her ears still in sleep, dispelled whatever dreams might have been holding her unconscious and beckoned her to rise from her slumber. Rise and follow. And follow she did: out of her bed, across the small living room, barefoot on the cold, damp grass. . . As she crossed the center of the village and saw all of her neighbors, equally entranced, some barefoot and still in their nightclothes; like her, all walking in single file in pursuit of this otherworldly melody, some small suppressed part of her knew this wasn’t right, that she should be afraid. That she should turn around. But the music felt like a soft, warm blanket wrapped around the very core of her being, and regardless of what her mind knew to be wrong, her heart wished for nothing more than to be forever in its embrace.” The wind blew past again and Dani paused, briefly closing her eyes as if listening for something more than just the crackling leaves dragging across the forest floor and cascading down on wooden roofs. She reopened her eyes and continued, lowering her voice. “Calliope was at the very end of the long line of villagers and as she walked she started to hear these dull, heavy sounds. Distant at first, but closer and closer with each step. It was rhythmic and almost complementary to the sweet captivating voice, but the closer the sounds became the more they injected her with an overwhelming sense of dread. Yet, she didn’t turn around and flee. She couldn’t have if she wanted to. With her every step those sounds, as well as the song, grew closer, louder, more distinct. . . Until broken by Calliope’s own terrified scream as the ground seemed to give way beneath her feet. Her body crashed with a dull heavy sound and was quickly enveloped by furious, unforgiving, currents. As the villagers hopelessly struggled against the might of the river, the music finally ceased. And the very last sound they heard was that of a soft, satisfied, and ever musical laughter.”
The group sat silent for a long, sullen moment as the story ended and Dani watched the children’s faces as they processed the events she had just narrated to them. Non-surprisingly, Alfie was the first to shatter the moment. “There is no way you actually heard her. You have to be lying.”
Dani raised an eyebrow. “How so?”
“It’s like Perry said, all of the first Children were defeated and contained in Hell.”
“Nothing in the Myths specifies what Hell is. And some of the people who like to debate these things actually have several different theories about it. Some think that Hell isn’t actually a separate plane, but a different state of existence within our own plane . . . But again, these are things you might want to ask Dahlia about in class. For now I suggest you all scatter and head off to bed.” She smirks. “Just don’t get any ideas and wander off. On a windy fall night like this? I wouldn’t risk it.”
The children scattered almost as if on cue, thanking Dani for the story as they went their separate ways. Alfie remained skeptical, but didn’t put up any more of an argument, letting his clearly more gullible sister cling to his arm on the way home. Finally, only Sarah remained. Dani smiled and held out her hand for her sister to take. “Come on, squirt. I’ll tuck you in for the night.”
Sarah took her hand with a nod, thoughtful. “So . . . Is any of it true? Did you actually hear her?”
Dani snorted softly, leading the way towards the Alpha’s cabin. “Pft, no. You want to know how it really went? Lena figured out I was planning on sneaking out, so she told me this story to scare me out of going. And it worked. For a few months, at least.”
“So there’s no village?”
Dani hesitated, eyes trained on the dark path leading away from the central clearing. “Oh, no, there absolutely is a village. I’ve been there once. It’s creepy as hell. You can ask any of the Scouts and they’ll tell you they avoid the place like it’s plague-ridden. And, who knows, maybe the myths have truth to it, maybe they don’t, but . . . If ghosts exist in whatever shape or form, you better believe it, Valcrest is probably full of them.”
Hey, guys! Blackbird here. If you enjoyed the story Dani told in this chapter just as much as the Wolfpack’s children certainly have, consider pledging to our Patreon to gain access to the original myth written by Plotstains, which served as the basis for this chapter.
Here’s a little snippet:
So if you ever hear the voice of a beautiful maid call your way,
Shutter your ears, or be met by foul play;
For it isn’t the sweet Calliope’s face that you will meet,
It is the bitter drink of death to whom you’ll greet.Myths of the First Children: Heart’s Daughter
Pretty cool, right? If you want to read the whole thing and a little more about the Myths of Valcrest, even our lowest tier grants full access to all of our (currently 2) blocked Patreon posts for more cool little lore bits and extra content.
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