Halona helped me from my room, wrapping a blanket around my shoulders. Her soft hands were comforting and gentle as she led me through the hallway of her home. The place was cozy. It was a physical manifestation of her, full of framed photos and candles burning and a fireplace roaring. It was close to the end of the afternoon. A golden light shone in through windows looking out to the vast wooded area around us. The evergreen trees waved in the light winds.
We stepped into the small living room with an adjoining kitchen. The men were all sitting around the counter.
None of them spoke. The air was screaming with their silence. Adonis looked at me as though I was a gentle creature that he was trying very hard not to frighten. “Jane. You look weak.” His voice struck me with its power.
I felt like it too. I was absolutely drained, both mentally and physically. It was like my mind and my body were so worn and full that they were just about to give out. Halona kept her hands firmly yet gently on my arms, her presence enough to soothe and strengthen me. I swallowed.
“Can I get something to drink?” Adonis asked. Careful. I nodded my head slowly, the question taking a little bit for me to process.
The men sprang to life, almost every single one of them getting up to fetch me the coveted beverage. It was nearly laughable, seeing all of them with their normal clothing and their everything-but-normal existences. The boy with the dark eyes remained by Adonis. They seemed deeply occupied with one another. It was as though they had some kind of unspoken correspondence. I could feel the pull of their bond from a mile away, and it was nearly electrifying from where Halona and I stood.
“Come, my flower.” Halona said softly, leading me to take a seat in the adjoining living room. The couch was simple yet comfortable. The room was sparse, yet seemed so full. I could see an ancient-looking photograph on the side table. Halona switched on a lamp, illuminating it with soft yellow light. It was a picture of a boy, nearly a man. He was strikingly handsome. Long dark hair flowed from his head. He had her raven eyes.
Halona held onto my hand without a word as Les brought me my drink, the quiet efficiency of the actions nearly alarming. “Thanks.” I said meekly, looking away from the photograph. It had been a lot to take in. It seemed as though my world had been completely turned upside down in the span of one day. A lot can happen in such a short amount of time.
Before I knew it they were all seated around me, some sitting on the ground and some inching close to Adonis as he sat near me. He surveyed me with a gentle regard, stern yet captivatingly engaging. His golden eyes shone. He looked tired. But it wasn’t physical. It was entirely mental.
“Now you know all. You are ready.” Ready for what? I looked at him with a question in my eyes. A sudden striking fear jolted through my body like a bolt of electricity. I didn’t know what more they had in store. All I knew was the inevitable- the event of my Change.
My hands shook as I brought the iced water to my lips. It did nothing to quench the sweltering heat that had slowly built up inside of me, racing through my blood and singing dangerously in my ears, clouding my mind with the remnants of fever.
Adonis and the dark-eyed boy sat close by. They seemed to exchange that same wordless communication that was an absolute mystery to me. The other men looked on, completely stone-faced in their reverence. This was a powerful moment. It was leading up to something monumental that would affect not only me, but all of them as well.
“You will have to do things that you have never done before, Jane.” As Adonis said this, something clenched in me. Halona took the drink from my hands as I struggled to set it down on the table. Halona’s hand in mine felt vaporous. “The Change…it will be painful.” His eyes shone with something like pain. I felt myself gently shaking, vaguely and then all at once realizing the full impact of what was about to go down.
“The fire will consume you. It will change your body into something that it is not familiar with. You will become the ga-ne-tli-yv-da. And as this Change ensues, your body will attempt to reject it. But it will prevail. And it will pain you very much.”
“The physical toll is nothing compared to the mental.” The dark-eyed one began, his words ricocheting off of Adonis’ as though they were spoken by the same being. They couldn’t have looked more different, but yet they were one in the same. He acknowledged me with a quiet sense of respect, a sense of internalized power. “We protect. It is what we do. And with that will come the burden of many.”
“When you take on the form of the ga-ne-tli-yv-da, you are no longer one being. You are part of a unified whole.” The dark-eyed one gestured to the rest of the men, who all regarded me with the same respect. Looking around at all of them, they all exuded that same ancient and quiet power that left me reeling. How would I possibly become them?
“I am the Alpha.” Adonis said this and it rang true in the air with a tangible resonance, a crackle of power.
“And I am the Beta.” The dark-eyed one said, looking at me. Their voices seemed to blend together in a constant and beautiful war, the ricocheting of a bullet. “All will follow our command as the leaders of the Changed ones.” Adonis said, his voice deep and resonant.
“And as the cold descends on the world, we will be prepared to protect our tribe.” Protect from what? The question rang about in my mind, and as though he had heard it, the dark-eyed one looked directly at me and answered that very thing.
“There are dark spirits that we will encounter, Jane. There are beings that exist that seek to spread their evil, the power of the dark. But we are of the Light. We serve only the Earth. And it is our duty to grapple with these forces so that the rest of the world can remain in a state of equilibrium.”
“It will be difficult, Jane. You must abandon all that you have ever known. Your family. Your friends. We have been watching you closely for these past months because we saw the aura about you. From the first time we saw you we knew that you were chosen to be one of us.” Adonis said this with a quiet urgency, the exhilaration nearly contagious. My heart beat loud and fast. I barely knew Halona was there because I was so absorbed in him. In them.
“The question is, are you ready?” He looked at me. The dark-eyed one looked at me. They all looked at me. I felt an immense pressure, a burden along my frail shoulders. And yet, a strange kind of peace came over me. It was as though I was at a fork in the road, standing at a precipice that I could either jump from or back away from. But it was like I knew.
This was meant to happen.
I could feel the same quiet power surging through me at my words, a change in the air. “Yes.” I said. And it was done.