Wrath of the Wendigo is the third book in J.L. Hickey’s bestselling YA adventure the Secret Seekers Society. Hunter and Elly prepare for their second year in their Enlightenment classes which includes a dangerous field trip alongside their parental Seekers deep into the Michigan wilderness to investigate the recent sightings of one of the most vicious cryptids they've ever encountered, a Wendigo. Elly struggles with her new "curse" stemming from her run in with Solomon's Seal, and Hunter attempts to come to an understanding over his true feelings for Olivia.
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It wasn't often that Professor Claudio Calenstine invited children (or anyone for that matter) down into his sublevel study. So, when Elly had been summoned to his secret chamber for a personal visit, she was more than a bit nervous. Was she in trouble? Had she done something wrong? A million reasons ran through her head, but only one made any sense. After all the craziness she, and her brother, Hunter, had gotten themselves into over the last year, there was only one lingering question that still haunted Elly ... Solomon's Seal ...
Elly thought about that life changing moment a lot. She sat up at night replaying the events in her head, how the ancient and magical ring fastened itself to her finger, never to come off again. It was a split-second decision that would haunt her forever. Despite the suffering the ring had brought her, deep down she knew she had done the right thing. She wouldn't do anything differently given the choice. How could she? It was her courageous act that saved her good friend Remy, from a perilous fate.
Yet, the ring has been a terrible omen. Since its attachment to her finger, she had been going seemingly mad; at times she questioned her own sanity. Elly told no one about the voices, the whispers that were barely audible, sneaking up around her when no one's around.
Even worse, the shadow people she caught out of the corner of her eye ... were gruesome looking figures, often times deformed with maddening faces. These things ... haunted her, followed her. Even in sleep she couldn't escape their presence ... in fact, sleeping was ten times worse. Some nights weren't as bad as others. Sometimes she dreamt of the ghostly man who spoke to her that fateful evening when she and thering became one. He was a tall and slender apparition with kind blue eyes, silvery flowing hair. He had aided Elly in trapping the demon Moloch back within the Daupnir ring.
He'd spoken to her that night, claiming he was the legendary King Solomon. It was the nights she didn't dream of the King that terrified her. Those nights were occupied by the terrifying shades, in her dreams they were more than mere glimpses, they haunted her, screaming for help, stalking her. She'd wake up gasping for air, her heart racing uncontrollably. Elly hated sleeping. She found herself spending the majority of her nights fending off sleep.
Elly hadn't told a soul about the voices, the night terrors, or the shadow-people that haunted her. She thought it was doubtful that the Professor was seeking a visit about the ring; she'd already told him everything about the night in question. How she put the ring on, how she seemed to see the world in a strange blue color, and how she spoke with the slender faced ghost with the silver-grey hair. There wasn't much else for him to know.
Elly wouldn't have to wait long to find out. She found her palms were sweaty, clammy, as she made her way down the lengthy hallway leading into the entrance of Calenstine's enormous study. She thought of her older brother, Hunter, wishing he was there by her side. Having him there would curb some of her angst. If Hunter was good for anything as an older brother, it was making her feel safe.
* * *
"I don't see why you're getting special treatment," Hunter had said the night before as he readied for bed. He kneeled down to feed their large Cu'Sith pet, named Trayer, a treat. The massive dog had curled up like a giant ball of green fur in the middle of their bedroom snoring loudly.
The smell of the treat awakened the dog, whose mouth salivated, leaving a pool of drool on the floor where he lay. Trayer's head perked up quickly in anticipation of his surprise. Hunter held out a very largedog treat, easily the size of his arm. Trayer was a gentle dog, who carefully snatched the giant treat from Hunter, making quick work of the tasty treat.
Even as a pup Trayer had been a monster in size. Over the summer he had matured into his full size, easily growing to the size of a large steer. Thankfully, he was mostly a lazy pet; spending his days lounging on the children's beds (he broke Elly's twice, already!).
"It's not like I asked Ms. Ellingbee to see the Professor, I'd rather spend the afternoon reading up on next year's school books." Elly was already irritated with Hunter's questions.
She normally didn't mind the extra attention from her teachers and staff. Elly was always known as the smart one, always on the honor roll, and top of her class in all categories. She fondly remembered how her parents reacted when she took first place in the spelling bee at their former school. This wasn't the type of attention she wanted, though. It felt more like she was being paged down to the principal's office. Something she knew Hunter was quite used to.
"You're crazy! Who would want to study during summer break?" Hunter shook his head in disbelief.
"Anyway," Hunter went on, "Calenstine's study is amazing. He has so many cool treasures in that mile-long hallway. Every time we go down it I find something new I didn't see before." Hunter scratched Trayer's large fluffy ear, causing the dog's right leg to thump repeatedly against their floor.
"I'd rather not deal with it," Elly sat at the edge of her bed, book in her lap. She mindlessly flipped through the pages, failing to focus on anything other than her meeting.
"So, what's it all about anyway?" asked Hunter. "Don't tell me they're punishing students for studying too hard? Because, that's all you ever do."
"What's what all about?" Elly paid half attention to Hunter's ramblings.
"You seeing the professor tomorrow for the one on one meeting?" "I dunno ... maybe he is giving me an award because of my perfect grades?" Elly forced a nervous laugh, knowing it was not the reason. "You've been having a lot of bad dreams lately ..." Hunter added casually, not wanting to sound too worried about his little sister.
Deep down, though, he was a bit worried. It wasn't like her to wake up from a dead sleep, screaming; recently it had become a nightly routine. Hunter wasn't a stranger to nightmares, either. He'd struggled with them himself, since his parents disappeared in the plane crash.
At first, the dreams would wake him up at night, too. He'd jolt awake bawling his eyes out, his pillow soaked in tears. That had changed though ... with time; he'd learned to welcome the dreams. It wasn't quite as terrifying after the hundredth time, he found a bit of peace in them. Every night he went to bed knowing he would see his parents' faces one more time.
"Nightmares?" Elly frowned, unaware Hunter had any clue what she was experiencing. "Well, I don't remember what they're about so ..." she lied, making light of the question, "nothing to talk about, really."
"Well, don't worry about it." Hunter smiled, trying to reassure his little sister. "I mean, the Professor hasn't seen either of us since the end of the last school year. It's been months, maybe he wants to give you some sort of academic award like you said. You did ace all your classes and passed the first year of enlightenment with flying colors."
"I doubt that ...," said Elly. "But, I guess I will find out in the morning."
Elly reached over to her small oak desk, clicking off her bedside lamp, enclosing the children in complete darkness. She laid her head down on her pillow and tried to rest her mind....
Please don't dream of those things tonight, she thought to herself.
* * *
"Elly, come in, please. I am so glad you could meet with me," Professor Calenstine met Elly with a fatherly smile. He sat comfortably at his large crescent shaped desk, lovingly petting his best friend, Monty, his grey-haired lap dog.
The Professor was surrounded by numerous, large, dusty books sprawled out in every direction. A steaming hot cup of tea accompanied the antique tomes.
"Please, have a seat," the Professor gestured with his bony hand. "Get comfy."
Elly obliged, taking a seat in an old squeaky leather-bound chair that sat across from him.
"It's been a few months since we last spoke, my dear," the Professor's brushy white eyebrows rose in excitement when he spoke.
"Am I in trouble?" Elly's bottom lip quivered, anticipating some sort of bad news.
"Trouble?" Calenstine let out a small chuckle, "heaven's no dear, not in the least."
"Oh ..." Elly breathed a sigh of relief.
"Tea? A special blend just for you, it's called Bai Hao White Tip Oolong. Funny name I know, but it tastes a bit like peaches. I think you will find it pleasant." Calenstine slowly poured the steaming hot brew into a small tea cup.
"Two sugar cubes if I remember?" He winked playfully, dropping two cubes of sugar into the beverage. He passed it over to her, careful to not spill the steaming liquid.
"It smells amazing," Elly took a cautious sip. It tasted exactly like fresh peaches, delicious.
"I almost did not recognize you when you stepped into my office.
You and your brother have both grown so much in the last few months," Calenstine closed the current book he was reading, putting it off to the side.
It was true; Elly had grown a few inches over the summer months. Her auburn hair had turned a lighter strawberry-blonde from the summer sun. Her sparse freckles seemed a bit more dominant around hercheeks and nose. She had turned twelve –a bittersweet birthday because it fell so late into the summer. All of her friends had gone with their families on summer vacation, leaving her alone with Hunter to spend the summer months. Somehow, Elly had slipped into that awkward stage where her body was quickly turning into that of a young woman's.
"My birthday was two weeks ago," Elly stirred her steaming cup of tea before taking a second sip.
"Yes, I am so sorry I missed it. I was overseas visiting with an old friend," Calenstine frowned. "I am sure you had a magical party, nonetheless?"
"No," said Elly plainly. "No one was here. I spent it with my Uncle, Margot, and my brother. That's it ... we had cake and ice cream, I got a few gifts."
"I see, I am sorry to hear your friends missed out on such an important occasion," Calenstine frowned.
"It's okay," replied Elly. "I thought you called me down here because I was in some sort of trouble, like I did something wrong."
"I am sorry my dear, nothing could be further from the truth." "Good," Elly smiled.
"We are quite proud of all you and your brother have accomplished here with us at the Estate."
"Proud of us?" Elly repeated, baffled by his choice of words. She was not sure what there was to be proud of, it seemed like they got into trouble every other day for something.
"Very much so, you both have acquired many virtues that most people take years to mature into. You have shown your bravery time and time again. You came to the aid of your friends when the easiest thing to do was to run. You have sacrificed yourselves, both physically and spiritually, in order to do so. You battled a nasty feline of a monster during your first few months here. That alone is marvelous. Thanks to you two, the Estate was much safer that summer. Not even a year later you rescued your friend from a wraith, of all things, and not just any wraith, an ancient evil ... there are full-blown adult Seek-ers who would have failed at such a feat; Truly remarkable, although gravely dangerous ... Not quite sure what you children were thinking." Calenstine snickered.
"Oh ..." Elly blushed. She was at a loss for words, unsure where the Professor was going with all this.
"Don't get me wrong," Calenstine pulled out his beloved Cobb pipe from his drawer, packing it with his favorite cherry flavored tobacco before continuing. "— many of these virtues you and your brother have shown have stemmed from mischief and disobedience. I am sure you are aware the two of you have broken numerous Estate policies." Elly squirmed a bit in her chair. It was coming. She knew it. She was going to be disciplined for something stupid her brother had talked her into. The Professor must have been playing coy, telling her she wasn't in trouble.
"But I digress," Calenstine struck a match, lighting his pipe. The sickly smell of the sulfur caused Elly to turn up her nose.
Calenstine puffed a few dark clouds of smoke from his nostrils, "Tell me of the ring," he said matter-of-factly.
"What do you mean?" asked Elly.
"Well now," Calenstine held out his fragile arm in front of him, tapping lightly with his forefinger on his wrist watch, "Let's see ... If I am doing my math correctly, you have had the ring for about four and a half months. Surely, you have experienced some ... how shall I say ... paranormal activity?"
"I suppose ..." Elly frowned, unsure of herself. She didn't know where to start, or how much to reveal; she trusted the Professor, that wasn't the issue. She wasn't sure if she was ready to admit how much stuff was truly happening.
"Err ... Well ... to be honest ... I try to ignore it. Everyday there's stuff ... like, really scary stuff; I try and push it out of my mind."
"Hmmm ..." Calenstine leaned back into his chair, scratching his chin in deep thought.
"Do you remember what I told you that night?" Calenstine asked. "You know, after you and your friends rescued Remington from thewraith?"
"When you chose to become one with that ring, your life changed forever. There is no going back my dear. Pretending it's not real will only make things worse. That ring, Solomon's seal; it's a connection to a foreign world. A realm we mortals are not meant to traverse. Tell me child, what is it you have experienced? Perhaps I can help you. I have, after all, studied a great many years in the paranormal sciences."
Elly took a deep breath before spilling everything out. She told Calenstine everything she could remember: the disembodied voices, the shadow-like people following her around ... Calenstine didn't say a thing, he sat back listening intently to every word she said.
Elly finished, letting out a sigh of relief. "Felt good to get all that out ..."
"I see ... very intriguing, glad it made you feel better," Calenstine inhaled a long drag from his pipe, slowly exhaling circular clouds of smoke from his mouth. "You are very much connected with this other realm. You are starting to blur the line of the living and the 'hereafter.' Tell me, have you seen him since that night you fended off Moloch?" "The ghost who said he was King Solomon?" Elly nervously sipped from her hot tea.
"Yes, you spoke of him in great detail that night."
"No, I have not seen him; I only see the shadows out the corner of my eyes. I dream of him though."
"I see ..." Calenstine frowned. "The more you ignore these 'incidents' the more you may anger these spirits. So, do your best to acknowledge their presence, remember these entities were at one time people just like you and I. However, like people ... there will be good and bad spirits. Basically, Elly, I need you to be very careful as this new power of yours matures. Do you understand me?"
"Why can't I ignore it? I don't want all this happening to me." Elly could not contain her fear. Her eyes watered from the frustration. "I have to focus on school, keep up my grades ... the second year of Enlightenment courses are coming up. I don't want demons being able to talk to me ...," she argued. "My dear," Calenstine frowned, unknowing of how harsh and utterly terrifying his words of wisdom would sound to a twelve-year-old child. "Forgive me," he handed her a white handkerchief to dry her tears. "I only wished to advise you to be cautious. There are potential dangers with your new power, but it has been four months, and as you see, despite a few voices here and there and a couple of extra shadows following you around, you are fine. You will learn to control the ring, use it when you wish to, silence it when needed. It will become an extension of your body, mind, and spirit."
"Hunter and I never wanted any of this ... we want to be normal again." Elly sobbed. She held the ring tight in her opposite hand, trying with all her might to pull it off. She knew it was impossible because she tried every night.
"Once a week we shall meet here, the two of us," Calenstine spoke softly. "I can help you, learn with you. There are techniques I can teach you that may help harness this new power of yours. We will do this together."
Elly composed herself, dried her tears. She was thankful for the Professor, albeit scared out of her mind.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Secret Seekers Society Wrath of the Wendigo"
Copyright © 2018 J.L. Hickey.
Excerpted by permission of Black Rose Writing.
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