When I next awoke, my body was just as exhausted as it had been before.
Sleep had done nothing for me. By then, as I lay there with the fatigue weighing down my limbs and the warmth spreading through my body like a sickly fever, I knew that something was very, very wrong with me. Something was going on inside of me. I didn’t know what it was. But I knew that it was something that I had never encountered before.
Thinking of Halona, I opened my eyes to the room. The canopy was drawn. I couldn’t see anything but the paleness around me. It was day. I could see that by the light that had risen from the outside, a pale blue. I wished for Halona’s comfort. She had been the only thing that had brought on any sense of normalcy. Hell, she had been more comforting to me than my own mother had ever been.
Thinking of my parents, a feeling of intense loneliness and sadness rose up in me. I had been so isolated for the past days that I had no idea what was going on without me. I wondered if my parents had raised any kind of alarm. I wondered if Aurora was in a panic, search parties and dogs out looking for me. I thought of Adam. He was probably worried sick. And Monica.
So many things had changed. Thinking of normalcy brought on a strangeness that I couldn’t shake. Something felt like it had shifted. Like I couldn’t go back to the normal world even if I tried. Not after all that I had seen.
Thinking of Adonis, there in the moonlight with his writhing body and the creature that he had become, I knew that nothing would ever be the same.
I heard a door open. Someone was in the room. I was hoping that it was Halona, but instead, it was Adonis that I saw.
His form was truly hulking as he drew back the canopy that surrounded me. I could see that his face was completely serious. Almost severe. His hair was pulled back tightly. Adonis, strikingly similar to Halona, wore simple clothing. Jeans and a t-shirt. His features were like stone.
“Jane. Are you feeling alright?” I couldn’t comprehend the concern that followed their actions. Halona. Hunter. Everyone. Remembering the heat, collapsing, hands carrying me, voices floating and swirling, speaking their language…again, that feeling that something permanent was occurring was unnerving.
“I’m fine.” I spoke shortly. Adonis nodded his head. His eyes were truly beautiful there in the day. A new brightness shone on him that I hadn’t seen before. Looking at his eyes, I thought of the wolf.
I swallowed. My throat was dry once again. “What’s happening to me?” I had too many questions. What was he? What were they? Why was all of this happening? My thoughts were racing. I nearly trembled with the fear as I realized the magnitude of everything that was occurring. It was all so…confined. I felt part of a select few that knew of what was happening. Of the strange boys in the woods who spoke a language that many could not understand.
Adonis looked perplexed. Pained. Again, there was the sense of something old being renewed. Something old and painful. They had all given me that impression that first night. It was like something was happening that had happened many times before. Something ancient. Engrained in them.
Adonis, standing there at the foot of the bed, looked as godly as I had ever seen him. Inhuman. Untouchable. Powerful.
“We are ga-ne-tli-yv-da.” The word rolled off of his tongue in a graceful and beautiful way that was raw and ancient. I looked at him, dumbfounded. I felt so small in that bed, laying there as he stood with such presence. “What does that mean?” I whispered.
“It is Cherokee for changed.” He spoke simply. It was as though he were being careful. He didn’t want to scare me.
I let this sink in. Cherokee. That was what they were? Changed? What did that mean?
“Changed….into what?” I nearly trembled. I willed myself to remain calm. To remain still. I needed to hear this. I needed answers. The memory of the heat crept up my spine, the feeling all too familiar.
“The wa-ya.” He spoke. “The wolf.”
They were all there.
It was like Adonis’ presence, his words to me alone had commanded them to gather there. It was all so eerie to me, so surreal. Nothing seemed real. The only face that I clung to was Hunter’s, as he looked at me with such a painful pity.
There were seven of them.
They were absolutely daunting. All of them standing there with such power, such secrets in their eyes. I had just been let in on something that was known only to the few. Something that I had never in a million years thought possible.
Les kept inching closer to my bedside from where he stood, as though he expected me to pass out or something from the shock. But despite his concerns, I managed to keep it together.
“This is what you all are, then?” The question was obvious, but I asked it anyway. It rolled off of my tongue in an unfamiliar way. Awkward. Fumbling. Adonis nodded in the stern way that he had, his light eyes brooding. Serious. I felt a heaviness in the air. A chill ran up my spine that reminded me of the desperate heat. A strange and startling fear gripped me.
“The wa-ya…is this what…” I could hardly finish the sentence. “Is this what I’m becoming?” I looked at all of them, my voice a sliver of a whisper. I could feel my body weakening by the day, succumbing to the sickness. Whatever illness was plaguing me, I knew that it wasn’t something that had an over-the-counter remedy. Looking at Hunter, he just stared at me grimly.
“Yes.” Adonis answered. He was careful. “Yes, Jane. You are becoming the changed one, the ga-ne-tli-yv-da.” His face never altered, but I could see a certain apprehension in his gaze. He was afraid for me. They all were. I could feel it thick in that room, the seven of them standing around me with such a guarded, careful stance. Protective. I swallowed. Hard. My saliva was thick in my mouth. I thought of my heightened senses. Sight. Smell. Touch. That night at the movie theatre with Adam. The Venn diagram of blood on my jeans. The heat that had plagued me in the dead of night, the frosted air doing nothing to aid me.
It was happening.
“Oh god.” The sound choked out of me. I sat up in bed, throwing the sheets off of my sticky body with shaking hands. It had become too much for me to handle. “No, Jane. You must lay down.” One of the boys that I didn’t know took me by the elbow, his grip gentle yet demanding. I looked into his face. He had these dark eyes. These beautiful dark eyes. I imagined those very eyes on the face of a sleek white wolf. I almost lost it.
“This is all too much. I need Halona.” I gasped out the words, letting the unknown boy with the dark eyes settle me back into my bed. Adonis shot a quick look at the boy with the dark eyes, not a single word of communication spoken between them, and the boy left the room. I didn’t relax until Halona appeared in the doorway, moving by my bedside. Her familiar hands touched mine in a comforting way that I craved.
“I need to know everything.” I swallowed thickly, looking up at her earnestly. She looked at me with her raven eyes. Secrets danced behind them. Ancient. She looked sad. Like something heavy was weighing on her mind.
She looked at Adonis. Adonis seemed so strange there in his normal clothing, his jeans. They all did. They looked almost normal. But the power that radiated off of all of them was undeniable. I thought of Adonis’ writhing form beneath the moonlight. The language that had spilled from their lips. It was beautifully twisted, horribly mesmerizing. I needed to know what I was becoming.
All of the normalcy had faded away from my life. In that moment, all that I knew was the future. I didn’t look to the past, or even to the present. All that I knew was what lay in store for me. The unknown existence of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da.
The day was slipping into mid-afternoon as Halona sat by my bedside, one of the boys hastily supplying her a chair that had been in the corner of the room. These actions were smooth. Swift. I kept ahold of her hand, looking at her like she was an absolute godsend. I needed her. I needed to know. They hadn’t told me enough, careful to walk around the edges of the truth. I needed the whole truth. I trusted this woman. Looking at her, I knew that she held nothing but the truth.
Halona looked calm and intent as the others slowly left, only Adonis lingering in the doorway for mere moments before he was gone too. Yet his presence still remained. Always watchful. I saw his topaz eyes flicker in my wild mind.
Halona spoke slowly, her sweet and hearty voice filling the room. “Let me start by telling you where you are now, my a-ge-yu-tsah.” She looked at me kindly as she spoke. Her hand remained in mine. I drew from her strength, her essence.
“I am of the Lupus Tribe, as are the men. We live in the Warm Springs Reservation, just as the remaining tribes of our people do. Those that remain of the Cherokee.” She spoke slowly. The Lupus Tribe. Something about the words sounded familiar.
Her eyes were clear and strong as they met mine. Her nimble fingers ran themselves through the ends of my long dark hair. “You were brought here to me, to them, because you were chosen, a-tsi-lv-s-gi.” She said this with a gentle smile, a certain reverence, in her dark eyes. I was left utterly bewildered.
“Chosen?” I questioned. My voice was steadier than I felt inside. Halona nodded her beautiful head, something ancient overtaking her. She absolutely mesmerized me. They all did. “As the Lupus Tribe, we descend from a long line of those who worship the wa-ya. We see this animal as something sacred. It had always been this way, long before you or I were ever born, Jane.” She continued to stroke the ends of my hair slowly, her actions tender. Bringing her hand up to my face, she looked at me as though to question whether she should continue. I nodded my head, staring up at her with a sense of intrigue. I wanted to know. I needed to know.
“This begins the tale of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da.” She began.
“Long ago, the men of the Lupus were said to have been hunting in the forests of our land. This was before the reservations. The land was free. It was ours.” I listened quietly, trying to absorb all of this as she spoke. “The lands were wide, thick with trees and snow. It was the beginning of winter, the long cold months. It was said that in the legend, the great hunter Akacheta was there with his men, carrying out the last hunt of the year. However, it is said that Akacheta was separated from the rest of the men by some unknown force, wandering deep into the wood. And as he ventured further into the forest, he was met by the a-da-nv-do.”
“What is that?” I questioned, feeling horrible to interrupt. Halona studied me patiently. “Spirit.” She responded. I focused on her words as she continued to speak of the ancient legend.
“It is told that Akacheta fell in love with the a-da-nv-do, the spirit that had appeared to him in the form of a graceful white wolf. The essence of the a-da-nv-do was that of a beautiful woman, manifested into the earthly form of the wa-ya. It was then that Akacheta and the she-wolf manifested a child by the name of Istaqa. He of wolf and man.”
“Akacheta took the child home as he was born from the spirit, created from the spirit realm. He appeared as a child of man. He was a beautiful boy. Strong.” Halona said these things as though she had known Istaqa, her eyes withholding something gentle. She suddenly looked much older than I had interpreted her to be, lines forming around her eyes as different expressions of remembrance danced across her beautiful face.
“Istaqua spent many passing summers with Akacheta, along with his father’s many wives and children, who accepted the boy as their own.” A certain distant sorrow began to overtake Halona, a disturbance in the flowing river of her words. I wanted desperately to comfort her somehow. But I let her speak.
“However, as Istaqa grew into manhood, he fell very ill. As the long summer ended, and the leaves fell from the trees and the snow blended with the earth, Istaqa was overcome with the fire of the spirits.
"His body began to deteriorate. He spent many nights crying out in distress as the kiss of many flames overcame him. The boy became weaker. Distraught, Akacheta took his son to the tribe’s medicine man, Liwanu. Liwanu urged Akacheta to kill the boy immediately, for he believed that he was possessed by evil spirits. Nothing would aid him. Stubborn, Akacheta refused Liwanu’s advice. And so, it came to be that on a long winter’s night as the stars fled from the sky, Akacheta carried Istaqa into the woods to meet with the child’s mother, the a-da-nv-do.”
Halona’s presence took on a certain gentleness that exuded from her spirit. She looked at me with her shining raven eyes. “The a-da-nv-do descended from the spirit realm, where she had been watching over the distress of her beloved Akacheta and her son Istaqa, of man and wolf. She told Akacheta to let Istaqa into the spirit realm with her, where he would cross over to the other side and take on his true being. His pain would then leave him forever.
“But Akacheta refused this, for he loved his son beyond the point of truth. He did not wish to part from him forever and leave him to walk with the spirits. The a-da-nv-do then summoned her power, and reached down from the sky to lay her hands on her Istaqa, blessing him with the power of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da. Those of wolves and men. It was then that the ga-ne-tli-yv-da were created.
“Istaqa, of both spirit and of man, would change from the form of man to that of the wa-ya as the cold descended upon the earthly realm, only shifting back to his mortal form as the summer was upon him. As this was done, it could never be erased.” Her eyes shone with that familiar reverence. She kept on.
“The Lupus Tribe welcomed Istaqa as he descended from the forest with his father, renewed from the touch of his mother. He shone with the blessing of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da, forever altered in spirit. Akacheta, however sorrow-ridden, watched his beloved son become the ga-ne-tli-yv-da, taking on the form of the wa-ya as the cold prevailed. Istaqa remained alone in the winter months, protecting his tribe as an honored warrior, and only returning to his father as the golden time of summer fell upon the earth. And as many moons passed in this way, Istaqa became a man. He had taken on the full power that his mother had afforded him. And as he did this, growing stronger in his own self, he reached out to the chosen ones of the tribe to become as he was. They would then absorb some of the magic of the a-da-nv-do into their spirits, becoming that of man and wolf.
“These men who possessed the magic of the a-da-nv-do were worshipped by the tribe. They were upheld as royalty, regarded with utmost respect. And every winter, as the cold approached, those who were chosen to possess the magic of the spirits would join Istaqa and those of both wa-ya and a-s-ga-ya. The men would serve to protect the tribe from all of the evil of the earth, forever possessing the magic of the spirits. These ancient traditions live on in the Lupus tribe, never to be forgotten. We uphold the legacy of Istaqa as our duty and our culture. His magic still prevails, even as earthly things consume the rest of civilization.” She looked at me, her eyes holding the voices of the ancients. She smiled warmly. “Every winter, as the cold descends upon us, one is chosen to possess this blessing. The magic of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da.”
As Halona looked at me, I felt a heavy weight come over me that nearly took the wind from my lungs. Halona stroked my head, looking into my eyes with such a reverence that I couldn’t look away. She looked so joyous, yet something ominous was carried with her next words. They held the significance of the coming responsibility, a burden that I would carry.
“You, Jane, are chosen. You are the first woman who has ever had this blessing from the spirits. This is a gift from the realm beyond, my child.” She put my face in her hands, and I looked at her as though I were a newborn baby just come into the world, unaware of her surroundings. She continued to speak with that same sense of awe, that exuberant excitement.
“My Jane, you have the magic of the a-da-nv-do. You are of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da.”