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A House Divided

Breakfast the following Friday was very quiet. No one seemed in the mood for any sort of chatter. Surprisingly, Cristine was the first to open the floor with speech.

"Father, Mother. I have thought about something this week an have decided upon it." Our parents simply stared, waiting for an explanation.

Cristine set her fork down and cleared her throat. “I..I would like to take a step down to Fourth Order.”

Mother gasped and grabbed Father’s hand. “Absolutely not, we will not allow this!”

"Dear, let her provide some reason. We need to be fair about this," Father murmured.

He gestured for Cristine to continue.

"Well, why should I even be a part of Third Order? The point of it is to bring up future leaders, for Third Order to replace Second one day."

"Third Order is for leaders, and you belong there because you are a leader," Mother snarled.

"No, Mother. Adelina is a leader. I am a planner. I do not combat. I do not inherit the pack. I belong to a group like myself. And that is what Fourth Order is meant to be."

"Cristine, you are being ridiculous!"

"You’re being ridiculous. Why is it so wrong for me to wish to belong somewhere?"

"Why is it so hard for you not to throw away your good fortune?"

"This isn’t about luck, Mother. It is about who I am. I am tired of pretending I am one of them. I am not. And I will not pretend anymore."

As Mother opened her mouth to continue their argument, Father raised a hand and silenced her.

"Camila, I said we had to be fair. Cristine is old enough to decide this on her own."

"Absolutely not, Giuseppe. I will not allow it."

"Camila. I said yes. I never override your choices. However, I disagree with you. I am the father. I will make this decision. And I say that Cristine may step down if she wishes."

Mother stood up, anger radiating fr her. She threw down her napkin and left, slamming the door as she went.

Father looked down. “We will leave for the meeting in an hour.”

Then, he left us in silence.

The Great Change

About a week later, on a rainy Sunday dawn, I was shook awake by Christine. I grumbled and pulled the gentle covers from my face.

"What?" I growled.

"Father said to rise. We have an impromptu meeting, which all orders are to attend."

I sighed, truly not wishing to leave the comfort of my bed. However, I knew it was not optional, and I rose and dressed with the speed of a corpse.

In the foyer, Father and Mother were groomed and waiting. Father smiled joyously, and I scowled, irritated that he could be so bright before the seventh hour even broke.

Outside, the weather matched my mood, raging a storm full of fury and wrath. I sat as far from my family as possible and pouted. I was not a morning person.

We arrove soon, and swiftly took up to the usual room. My three uncles were stationed at the front, as they should be. The Landry family had not yet made it, but there were two others at seat on the Second Order. Father and Mother joined them and began chatting politely.

Stefano was the only one present in my Order, a situation I was not exactly thrilled about.

Off behind us were two others, a boy and a girl who I recognized from the carriage so many years before. They were Stefano’s siblings.

Not in the mood to make conversation, I promptly sat in a chair in the middle of my Order, and stared blankly ahead. There was a rustling and a shadow fell on me from behind. I set my jaw and glanced up.

"Goodmorning, pup." Stefano beamed- whether happily or arrogantly, I could not determine.

"Hi," I responded, monotone.

"Was somebody woken out of her beauty sleep?"

I didn’t answer, simply staring at him. His eyes laughed at me and he titled my chin towards him.

"Trust me, sweetheart, it shows."

Stefano cackled and walked away, leaving me with my mouth gaping at his snobbish speech.

I huffed loudly and turned back to the front, ignoring his humored glances and rude chuckles.

I noted the entry of the Landrys and was glad to see Natalia. She smiled, happy as usual, and sat beside me.

"Having a good morning?" She inquired.

I tossed my head to the side and looked at Stefano for a moment. “Eh,” I replied.

Natalia raised an eyebrow, but my uncles stood down front, calling us to attention. Uncle Reuben cleared his throat.

"My friends, we have been brought here on this Sunday to discuss an important matter that seems to have befallen the minds of some of our members. I find this issue quite a large deal, thus I called a meeting. I am going to give the floor to Second Order Aldo Landry. Aldo, if you would."

A man stepped forward, and I recognized him as the man first there this very morning. When he took place on the platform, I saw that he looked very familiar.

"This is my uncle, Stefano’s father," Natalia whispered to me.

This made sense. Stefano and his Father looked so similar that I was sure they must be the same person. But the lines of age touched Aldo’s face, where they were absent in Stefano’s.

"I have been sitting on the arrangement of Orders for some time. I have come to the thought that is this: why must we choose from our children who will lead, then cast the others from the council?" Aldo raised his hands in question.

"The answer upon which I have decided is that we should not. I have three children. My son Stefano is the one chosen to Order. What has become of my daughter and other son, Aletta and Galileo? They have no place on this Council. And I see that as unjust. Are they not from a royal family just as Stefano is? Then, why must they be pushed from this?"

I was captivated by his strong speech. It was fascinating, the emotion with which he delivered this idea, presenting it in a way impossible to reject. And only out of goodness and the love he had for his children.

My father stood up then.

"Aldo, if I might?" Aldo nodded, and so Father continued. "My son was on the Council in his lifetime, as are both of my daughters now. However, I have another daughter, Evalina. She is a part of our family, and thus she deserves a spot here, just as do Aletta and Galileo."

I grinned, proud of my father for standing up for Eva.

Then, Mother rose.

"Two of my nephews, who aren’t present today, are Order members. And so are their parents. However, another nephew, Elio, has not a place here. Why not?"

All the adults were standing now, chattering over one another about who belonged in an Order. The noise swelled until it filled the entire room.

"Silence!" Uncle Reuben called. The room fell void of noise. "We seem to all feel strongly on this. Thus, we shall vote amongst the Second Order, then move from there."

Everyone nodded.

"Very well. All in favor of finding a solution, say ‘Aye’."

All the adults said so.

Uncle Reuben turned and conversed with my other uncles for a moment. Then, he looked back to the crowd.

"All in favor of creating a new Order?"

"Aye," they all replied.

"Then, it is settled. I, Reuben Marino, along with my brothers, Cristoph and Davito, declare an official Fourth Order, to which members will be added at the Council meeting held next Friday. Meeting dismissed."

We all stood, everyone chattering excitedly about this new Order. However, all I could think about was my bed.

The Induction

The Monday proceeding, I was to attend my first Council meeting. This was something I regarded with anticipation, not sure if I more so feared or longed for the time to arrive.

Nonetheless, the morning came quickly after a restless night and I prepared to face this new life I was beginning now. I dressed myself and brushed my hair, taking so much time in thought that I missed breakfast.

"Adelina, we have to go or we’ll be late," Father said, standing in my door frame. I took a deep breath, then followed him downstairs and out to our carriage.

I was enveloped in my ideas and the scenarios I had concocted in my own mind the whole way to the meeting. When we arrived, Father had to snap me to attention.

"Listen, my child. Today is one of the most important days of your whole life. You must collect yourself. Please."

I nodded at my father and he kissed my forehead reassuringly.

Father helped me down from the carriage and I latched onto his arm as we ascended the marble steps. The June air lifted my hair and whispered in my ear. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply.

The massive iron doors before us swung open with several moans and creaks. Father smiled at me and we stepped forward.

A long hallway lit by candelabras led us to a great room. The place was some grandiose beauty that would be hard to word. Each detail complimented another. The architecture was simply glorious, with high ceilings, engraved pillars, and chapel-like structures.

Several levels of oak appeared to be the rows where each order would take place. At the head of the room were three great stands, each having one throne-like seating operation and a podium.

I knew those three chairs belonged to my uncles, the Originals. They were the First Order of the Council, and would overseas everything.

Father walked me forth to an isle that led upward and directed me up one level. He remained where he was, waved at me, and sat down. My Father was part of the Second Order, along with Mother and Lord and Lady Landry.

I would be a Third Order. The current time was the reign of the Second Order, but one day the Third Order would run the Council.

Anxiously, I took a lonely seat in my row. Not much time passed before Mother and Christine entered. My mother took a seat next to Father, and Christine one next to me.

"Nervous, little sister?"

"For whatever reason," I said shortly.

"It is natural. This is the beginning of the rest of your life. You are, for all intents, an adult as soon as you are admitted, Adelina."

I closed my eyes, not wanting to discuss this. The twisting in my stomach only grew the more we spoke.

The door from the hallway opened once more and Natalia, Segora and their parents entered. Natalia and Segora trounced up the steps to where my sister and myself sat.

"Segora," Christine greeted.

"Christine." The two smiled at one another.

"We should move to the end, as not to disturb the best friends," Natalia whispered to me.

We found spots on the farther side of the table and sat.

"So, are you ready?" Natalia asked.

"I do not really know. I just want to get this over with. I am just a little anxious about it all, I guess."

Just as Natalia went to answer, someone breezed by, bumping into me. I tossed my head over my shoulder to see Stefano Landry gracefully sliding into a seat.

"You will have to excuse my cousin. He isn’t always the most polite," Natalia said.

"I am aware," I mumbled in response.

There was throat clearing down front, drawing our attention to one of my uncles. Even so far down, his power and beauty radiated so greatly I could feel it upon me.

"We are present, this Monday of June, to induct our new Third Order. This is my very own niece, Adelina. Dear, if you would please come forth."

I rose, my legs numb from nerves, and made my way down, trying not to stumble. My uncle grabbed my hand and pulled me up on the little stage he stood on.

"Adelina de Luca, daughter of the moon, do you solemnly swear to protect that which is your kind primarily, followed by that which is lesser and weaker than you?"

"I do."

"Do you indeed long to stand as a member of the High Council, representing the de Lucas, keeping alive honor and integrity?"

"I do."

"Do you swear to fight any battle, shed any blood, take any life to protect your race and the races of your world from harm or malicious demonstrations?"

"I do."

"Adelina, do you so solemnly swear to one day take from your mother the position of Alpha and lead your brothers and sisters of the moon as someone now should lead you?"

"I do so solemnly swear."

My uncle put his hands on each of my shoulders.

"On this morning in June, as surely as the sky is blue, or as you are my direct descendant, I now induct you into the High Council. For this day, forevermore."

Everyone stood and repeated, “Forevermore.” Then bowed to me. I smiled. This was my true start.

A Dance

Years seemed to come and go. I did the same thing every single day, only breaking every once in a while to spend time with my best friend or cousin or to visit the grave of my brother. Everything was some sort of dull, ridiculous blur.

Before I knew it, six years had come to pass. Six boring years. I had spent all that time anticipating my coming of age. And it had finally arrived. I was thirteen.

My thirteenth birthday was the biggest event the de Luca household had ever seen. It was a well known fact that our family loved to throw wild parties. I had never attended a single one until that night.

Over the years, I had made many lower class friends and even some human acquaintances. Every single one of them was invited to my party, along with the entire pack, my whole family, and the complete Landry family.

Words could never be enough to describe the magnanimity of it all. Platter upon platter of various appetizers were served, punch was dished out continuously. Music was blaring, varying between slow traditional dances and more upbeat tunes. The dances ranged from smooth and elegant to crazy and rough. Alcohol was a major role in the night.

I could never recall all who I spoke to or who I danced with, except three people. The first was my father, who led me on a gentle waltz. The second was Natalia, who pulled me aside for a quick chat before I was swept back into the crowd. The third, and most memorable, was the confident brown haired boy that had been in the carriage with Lord Landry so many years before.

He was older now, still older than me. And I could now decide that his eyes were brown with many triangles throwing different hues about. He was tall and extremely well built. He looked simply striking in his black and silver tuxedo.

It was completely by chance that this boy came to take my hand for a dance. The object of the dance was to trade off partners, and I just happened to lie in his wake. As he glided into place, taking control of me, I smiled politely.

"I seem to recall seeing you a few times before, sir," I said. "What is your name?"

"Should I be surprised that my face is familiar to you?"

"Whatever do you mean?"

He spun me then dipped me. “Adelina, is it?” He asked, pulling me back up. I nodded kindly. “Well, let me put this as frankly as I might. You are greatly privileged to be touching me right now. Many girls would fight to the death for such a fortunate opportunity. Do not ruin your luck with incessant chatter, dear.”

I stared at him, dumbfounded.

"Oh, don’t stare so. You look like a fool." The boy spun me once more, then pulled me in. "And my name is Stefano. Stefano Landry."

Then, he released me and simply walked away.

The party then ceased to make sense. I was enveloped in some odd state of mind, feeling irritated and enthralled all at once. I sat down in a room off to the side and thought to myself. I had just met Natalia’s cousin.

The Golden Comb

At the turn of June came my birthday. I was seven years old. Everyone was too busy to spend time with me that day, so I sat in my room all alone, mulling over how far away my life was from truly beginning.

I stayed there all day, dreading waiting for my future more and more with every passing second.

Around dinnertime, there was a knock on my door.

"Come in. Or don’t. I truly care little what you choose," I droned. There was a snicker followed by the door opening.

"You are one optimistic child," Dario teased. He walked toward my bed and I grinned slightly. "Go ahead and smile, you brat. I know you’ve been waiting all day to see someone."

Instead, I looked to his hand. He had in it a little silver box. “What is that?” I asked.

"Ah-ah. Patience."

I scowled and my cousin laughed. He sat down next to me.

"What are you doing all locked up in this room?"

"The only thing I ever do."

"So, you’re moping."

"Dario!" I slapped his arm.

"Calm yourself, I am only poking fun at you. I know you’ve gone through a tough period. But you have made it through, Adelina. And now you’re seven. From here, the years practically fly by."

"Maybe," I sighed.

"I miss the days when you were so positive."

"As do I."

"Well, maybe this will cheer you up a bit." Dario extended the silver box to me and I snatched it and removed the lid.

Inside was a golden comb embedded with twinkling diamonds. I looked up, speechless.

"I’ve told you a million times that anyone can treat you like just a naive child, but I never will. You aren’t just a child to me," Dario said.

I retrieved the comb from the box and eyed it adoringly. I noted the perfect arch and each tooth and every reflection.

After I still hadn’t spoke, Dario said, “I thought you could use something to help you hold up those miles of hair.”

I grinned now, twisting half of my hair and pushing the comb in the twist. I turned to my mirror to admire the wonder. Then, I looked back to my cousin and threw my arms around him.

I felt Dario smile as he hugged me back.

"Happy birthday, cousin."

First Glimpses

There was a great deal of controversy in my household over the postponement of the wedding. Although Father was disheartened by the circumstances, he stood by his decision to support Eva and her period of wait.

Mother, on the other hand, was most unhappy. She only complied by the request of Father, but she took every available opportunity to express her displeasure.

Eva suddenly had much more work than normal. I was irritated by this injustice, but Eva only told me to hush, saying she was expectant of this and would work diligently so she would still be able to see Elio.

Now, with Eva always busy between servantry and Elio, I was alone again. Studies grew boring and I grew restless.

One day, I took myself on to Father’s study. He was quietly delving in records. I was mischievously toying with everything I could find.

After knocking over many things, and making quiet a racket of many others, Father huffed, growing irritated.

"My dear, please. Go on somewhere."

"Father," I whined. "I’ve nothing to do. My studies are all done for this week and everyone is busy. This home is a dull travesty."

"Oh, what a melodramatic youth. Just like Adele. Very well, come with me."

He stood up and I followed respectfully, as any good omega would their alpha.

The place to which he led me ended up being the stables. He turned to me and knelt to my level, resting a hand on my shoulder.

"If you would be so kind, would you liken to take Laredo to Natalia’s and play there?"

My eyes grew large. “Take Laredo all alone?”

"Why, yes. You are quite the age to do so. Just so long as you return by sunset."

"Oh, of course!" I exclaimed, throwing my arms around my father. "Thank you!"

He laughed gently. “I love you. Be safe.”

"I promise. I love you too."

Father patted my head and went on his way. I quickly saddled and mounted Laredo. We trotted off to Natalia’s.

I drove Laredo hard on the ride over. Still well in his youth, he seemed not at all to mind, and whinnied softly as his feet stamped the ground.

His hooves clacked against the gravel in the Landry driveway. I smiled, excited to be so close.

I swiftly dismounted and tied Laredo off. After doing so, I climbed the great steps to the grandiose wooden door and knocked. The door opened to reveal a servant.

"Yea, child. Does your Father know you’re out alone?" She said, seeing that I was by myself.

"In fact, he sent me that way," I replied. She scoffed and made a remark about common sense. I ignored her rudeness. "Where’s Natalia?"

"Off in the den. You best not cause her trouble. Her parents are out."

I, once again, ignored the prude and went forth to the den. Natalia was sprawled on the floor, writing in a neat script.

"What’s this?" I asked.

"Adelina!" She exclaimed. "I wasn’t expecting you. And, this is just some planning exercise I have to do for my studies."

"My, how boring that sounds. I got off with Laredo on my own."

"How in Heavens did you manage that?"

"Well, I assume I was just annoying Father enough."

Natalia sat up and capped her ink. She blew on the wet pages to dry them. Her dark hair fell around her face.

"You know what would be so fun with a horse to carry us?"

"What?" I asked.

"Going to see the Gypsies." She said it, then looked up. "Were I allowed to go, of course."

"Allowed? Of course you’re allowed. I don’t mind."

"No, Adelina," she said, collecting the sheets and stacking them away. "My parents won’t permit such a thing."

I glanced around. “Do you see your parents around?”

Natalia looked at me hesitantly. She had never been one for breaking the rules in any way. She bit her lip, then smiled.

"Okay, let’s go."

After telling Cook we were heading to town, we set out. Laredo carried us carefully, as he always did.

When we got to the outskirts of town, we gasped. Where a usually empty field existed, Gypsy caravans went on as far as the eye could see, making a new horizon.

Caravans of all types and colors of wood and sizes and models existed. They were each decorated differently. Some were lit on the inside. Others hung clotheslines. Even more were opened as sorts of markets.

The Gypsies were dressed with a uniqueness neither of us had ever before witnessed. The men seemed like elegant, witchy pirates. The women donned billions of skirts and scarves and large, dangling, noisy jewelry. It was so crudely beautiful that neither of us could do anything but gape at them.

The children were dressed like the adults, but in a more gentle way. These children played out in the open, laughing and imagining all sorts of things. They were well-behaved and respectful and treated adults and nature kindly.

Furthermore was the air itself. It was light, sing-songy, and, in some way, inviting. Each of these people did normal things like that of normal people. But they did it in nature, living off the earth, with no servants to baby them.

Women washed the clothes and cooked and men gathered and did handy jobs. The children helped when called and played otherwise.

I was almost jealous of this lifestyle and the freedom it seemed to offer. I could feel myself falling beneath its spell, so desperately coming to love this Gypsy sunset.

Just then, a loud, familiar voice shocked me from my thoughts.

"Enjoying yourselves?" The voice belonged to Lord Landry. He was in a carriage drove by a servant and two white mares.

Natalia sunk in the saddle, prepared to be scolded.

"Please forgive me, milord. Natalia wanted to come to town for some more paper, and I led my horse over here on my own accord. I was quite mesmerized."

"Hmm, I see that," he said. "Adelina, dear, you know that I trust you and I, therefore, believe you are being sincere."

"I a-" Natalia cut me off.

"It was my idea, Father " she gushed. "I just wanted to see. I’m sorry."

He smiled. “I knew curiosity would get the better of you one day. You are my child. You are not in trouble. Just, in the future, mind what I say.”

Natalia nodded silently.

"And Adelina, noble as always, taking up for others." I blushed lightly. "I am sorry to interrupt, but I need to ask that you let Natalia to go with me. I have her cousins here with me and we are off to the house for dinner."

For the first time, I noticed three others in the carriage. The first was a large, dirty blond boy. There was also a slender, pale, beautiful girl next to him.

And across from them was a boy about Natalia’s age. He had dark brown hair and beautiful eyes in which I could not decide upon a color or emotion. The air about him was confident. Something about him struck me oddly, sticking with me. I wasn’t sure what it was.

He looked at me and a look of confusion crossed his face. I wondered if there was something distorted about me.

Natalia touched my arm, jolting me back to the present.

"Thank you for visiting. I shall see you soon." She hugged me tightly, then made her way to her father’s carriage. They said their farewells and left.

I sat for a few moments more, staring at the Gypsy scene. Something within me felt different. I sighed and pulled Laredo around.

"Let’s go home," I said, staring at the soon setting sun. I’d had enough first glimpses for one day.

A Lesson In Uniqueness

That evening, Father was not in his study, but instead bore a spot on the sunporch on a poorly-cushioned dais. This was the only portion of our home which Mother’s decorative touch was not allowed to rest its fingertips, even for a quick graze. The sunporch was an original section of the castle, built on by my father’s father who had created this splendor for Father’s mother Sheridan de Luca.

Grandmother Sheridan had spent much of her time invested in books on this very porch, reading from sunrise to sunset most days. On days when the skies clouded over and she could not see the pages, she chose not to light a candle, but instead to lay upon the very dais where she should be reading and hum lullabies.

Some called Grandmother Sheridan senile, but she was simply on a higher intellectual level than all others she encountered. She was also more than a mother to my father. She was his best friend, his confidant, his advisor.

When her passing came, it took such a toll on Father that it is rumored he wouldn’t leave the sunporch for weeks. I never knew the truth to the rumor, for I was just born when Grandmother Sheridan passed and I knew better than to ever ask Father about such a nonsense.

Usually, when Father was found on the sunporch, it was at a time of heightened emotion. I could go forth and listen to stories of my grandmother and see Father cry or laugh or just simply exist.

This evening, that was not the case.

I entered the sunporch quickly, with Eva directly behind me.

"Father," I said. He looked up and smiled.

"My girls, come and sit with me upon Grandmother’s dais and watch the sun fall from the sky."

We both shifted anxiously.

"Uh oh," Father replied to our movement. "What is it?"

"We just need to speak with you seriously," I answered respectfully. Father gestured for us to sit before him on the floor and speak.

I plead Eva’s case. Trying my best to win for her, as I truly knew this would make her happy. When I’d made every point, completely detailed, and Eva had added any loose ends, we sat in silence and allowed Father to absorb it all.

"I must say, this is not what I expected. I was quite enthralled with the prospect of some change in our family’s dynamics. I assume this is a change whether a wedding goes on or not." He tapped his chin thoughtfully.

A deep silence followed and Eva fidgeted nervously. Finally, Father caught her hands locking at her skirt and pulled them up closer to him.

"Eva, if you so wish to remain betrothed until you feel prepared to marry, you may do so. Until you are older though, the standards between my nephew and yourself needs remain in courtship. I believe that if you wish to cast off marriage for now, you should also cast off its normal practices."

Eva nodded, her cheeks blushing red. I looked to Father.

"You are fine with this variation?"

"Girls," Father said, running his fingers through his hair. "Let me just tell you a story about being unique. There was once a little boy named Gio. He had no family, and never knew what happened to any of them. At age fifteen, he was taken from his orphanage by a lawyer. This lawyer gave him a letter from his parents, giving him his very own house and vinery. Gio lived his entire life in this home in Venice, working the vines. He bottled the greatest wine ever to touch a person’s lips. When Gio was twenty-five, a man stopped by the house. He saw Gio working in the vineyard and yelled out, "What in Heavens are you doing?!" Gio grinned and said, "Well, sir, I’m making wine for your businessmen and relatives." The man replied, "Oh, boy, this is not the way you are meant to make wine!" Gio grinned wider and retrieved a bottle for the man. He demanded the man drink from it. As he drank, Gio said, "Who, sir, has the right to decide what way we are all meant to do things? Is not my wine at least as good as other productions?" The man looked upon the way that Gio was working and laughed. "Sometimes, just a slight variation can change things for the better." The man offered to buy over Gio’s vineyard and allow Gio to rest peacefully, never again to have to labor, if he would teach others how to make his wine. However, Gio refused to give up his technique and, as a result, lived a complete life that left him with a sense of accomplishment."

Silence hung over us while we thought on this story. Then, Eva spoke.

"You are saying that sometimes it is better do what you believe in, and to never give it up, lest you squeeze by, only half living."

Father nodded happily. “Exactly, my dear. It is a Lesson I want you both to keep in mind and to pass down to your children. No one person can define each individual.”

I sunk into a deep process of thought. I loved Father’s insightful stories and speeches and I loved to pour over them as if I were studying my bible.

"Adelina," Father called. "Have you any words to add?"

Without a word or gesture, I rose and left to my room, all the while pondering what Father had said.

The Betrothal

Within three weeks time, the betrothal ceremony had been planned. This specific gathering was special to our family and invited many important individuals. The entire High Council was there, even the Original Three (who just so happened to be my uncles- Reuben, Cristoph, and Davito Marino.) It was considered a great honor to be betrothed, especially at such a finely ripe age.

The process of engagement was unique in my family. Everything was done in a way traditional to us, while still honoring Italian values. I was very excited to experience my own firsthand witness to this process.

On the morning of the betrothal, Elio waited at the foot of our cascading staircase for Eva to descend. He was dressed in a dark suit with his long hair tied back. He crossed his hands behind his back anxiously.

As Eva came into view of the room, a simultaneous gasp erupted. She looked gorgeous in a dress of ivory silk. The skirt trailed behind her, mocking the train of an actual wedding dress. Her long red hair was intertwined with lilies- which I had twisted in her hair on my own- and her cheeks flourished with a blossom of joy.

She was the most beautiful adolescent any of us had laid eyes upon in all of our days.

Eva grinned nervously as she carefully stepped down to meet Elio’s side. He took her arm and nodded politely. Then, he cleared his throat.

Thus ensued the traditional serenade prior to proposal. He sang her a beautiful tune, longing for her love. His voice rose and fell, gushing forth a substance so golden and pure, one might call it the elixir of life. Knowing better, I recognized it as its honest form- true love. It was flawless and wonderful and I wanted for it myself.

When the song came to a close, an applaud rose from the large crowd. Elio fell to one knee and gazed deeply into Eva’s eyes. A hush fell over the room, so seemingly that it may be each held their breath to prevent missing a word spoken.

"Evelina Blanchard, you are the most valuable thing to me. In all that I am and all that I have, you are the greatest existence. Please, I beg you, do me the momentous honor of marrying me."

Elio squeezed Eva’s hand so tightly that I noted her knuckles turning white. She did not seem to notice, however,and met his eyes with a smile.

"Elio Lombardi, of course I shall remain faithfully by your side and take on the greatest fulfillments a wife can have. I shall marry you."

The room broke out into cheers and Elio swept Eva up, spinning her around.

After the ceremony, dinner was served for all attendees. Each begged to know the date of the wedding. Providing requirements for all details to be individually and meticulously picked over, Mother alotted at least half a year’s time for the planning.

To some, this came unsettling, as no werewolf can claim any form of patience. Mother assured them the time would pass swiftly though, encouraging them to drink and eat and not worry over such minute things.

By the late afternoon, all were taking leave from my home. Elio had to return to pack duties, as work had resumed by now. Eva and I, being alone at last, ventured up to my bedroom. I sat on the bed while Eva paced.

"Sister, please, cease to move. What drives you?" I asked. Eva took seat with me on my bed.

"Adelina, I’m much too young to be married."

"You are right of age for our society," I assured her. She bit her lip.

"I cannot be expected to conform to the average person’s expectations. I am different. You are different. We are not meant to be married and mothers so young. It is wrong. And it sickens me to think that in six months, just turned fourteen, I will be so. Does that not appeal to you oddly?"

I pondered her words. After some time, I spoke. “Eva, I understand your conception, and it is true. But, do you not love Elio and he you?”

"Can we not love and be unmarried?"

"Again, with society."

"Well, Adelina, if you think about it, your entire family lives on their variation of society. This ceremony past- was it not a change to the standard? Please understand me, I do wish to marry. Just not so soon. Elio understands this. I would like for you to also."

"Eva," I said. "How will you bide your time between now and when marriage suits you?"

"I will work as I always do. For some time your mother, for other Elio. However, always for you."

I took an interest in watching the flooring, not quite sure what to say.

"My dear, Adelina, don’t you see? This means more time together."

I stared up into Eva’s face. I could interpret how she longed for me to accept her choice. I nodded simply and she beamed with happiness.

"I must speak with your Father on this before they begin preparing a dowry. Care you to assist me?"

I jumped down from my bed, willing to go forth, but not sure what sort of wrath would impose on the announcement of this news.

A Big Announcement

By the end of winter, I was more or less myself. I did not invest much of my time in pondering over the past anymore. I just followed the rules and my routine.

As the cold began to thaw, March came like a vision. A sweet-smelling, cool vision that I was happy to see. The grass was a luscious green and the animals romped freely, now out of hibernation.

In the evening of a mid March day, Eva came to me in the stables. I was meticulously grooming Laredo when she entered.

"Adelina, be a darling and assist me down the way, would you?"

"Forgive me, sister. I am busy."

"Adelina," she said again, more demanding. "I truly think you would want to be present."

"For what is my presence required?"

"A surprise. One I can’t wait to share with you."

"Share it now," I replied, brushing through my horses mane.

"If you don’t come along, I’m going to tell your mother that you broke that vase of hers." She gave me a satisfied look, adding, "It was of the rarest china."

"Fine," I growled, throwing the brush into a bucket.

"I will wait outside for you."

I put Laredo in his stall and picked up my things. Eva was waiting patiently beside the stables. She gestured for me to follow and I did.

We walked beside the winding brook from my land onto my Uncle Bruno’s land, then continued on. When we finally stopped, I saw that we were at my cousin Elio’s house. I knew that Eva and Elio had been sneaking around to see one another, but that was all the information I had obtained.

Elio was outside on the stone steps of his home.

"Hello, cousin."

"Hello," I replied, confused.

"Adelina, the two of us have to tell you something."

Oh God, I thought. Here goes my life, changing right when I have finally settled. I braced myself for the worst, whatever that may be.

"It seems that Evelina and myself are..well…hmmm..we are…"

"Just tell me already!" I groaned. Elio’s joy from my annoyance shone in his icy blue eyes. He laughed and his blonde hair fell from the tie.

"If you would excuse him," Eva said. "What Elio is trying to convey is that he and I are soulmates."

My mouth hung open. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. My crude, never serious, perverse cousin was the mate of sweet, goodhearted, hardworking Eva.

"My apologies to you, Eva," I finally said. "The universe could not have chosen a more opposite fit."

"It is a fit that suits me, I assure you. Though he may be somewhat of an ass, I love him."

Elio grinned. “And though she may not let me touch hers, I love her.”

I rolled my eyes at my cousin. “Well, won’t Mother just love this,” I said.

"I was planning to discuss this with your father first. I am thirteen years of age, right time to be betrothed."

My head began to spin. How could this be happening so soon? I smiled outwardly, trying to relate my happiness for them. Yet, inwardly, I felt sick. I’d lost my brother so soon before. And I’d never had Cristine really. So, Eva was my only remaining sibling. Where she to be married, I’d be left all alone.

I shook off my feelings and listened to my cousin and sister tell stories about the past and plan for the future. I agreed to go forth with Eva to my father that night.

At seven at night, Eva and I entered Father’s study. He was enthralled with some work of literature and did not even hear us come in.

I coughed to gain his attention.

Father looked at us and smiled. “Hello, girls. What may I do for you?”

"Father, we need to tell you something."

With a worried expression, he reached his hand out. He pulled both of us into his arms.

"Whatever is it? You know you can speak to me anything you ever see fit."

I looked to Eva and she nodded nervously, then she spoke.

"It has become quite evident to me in the time passed that your nephew Elio.." She stopped and turned to me anxiously. "What about Elio?" Father asked. I reached out and took Eva’s hand.

"Eva and Elio are soulmates."

Silence resonated throughout the room. It wasn’t the average silence. It was extensive and nervewracking.

Then, Father laughed. A good, hearty laugh that I hadn’t heard of him in a long time.

"Father, what strikes you as funny?" I asked.

"I find nothing funny, my child. Only joy! This is wonderful. Ah, we have felt the stretch of so much sorrow for the greater part of a half year. And now, here we are, a promise of love before us in our own family!"

Eva giggled apprehensively. Father reached out to her.

"Come to me, dear. Let me hug you and congratulate you."

He did so, then laughed again. “I will share the good news on with Camila, then we will plan a betrothal. I am so very happy for you.”

Father kissed Eva on the forehead. He turned and darted from his study. All the previous angst and fear left me as I saw my father so genuinely joyous.

Maybe this is what we need, I thought. Some changes for the better. Things can’t be the same always.

I looked at Eva and saw she was glowing ever so radiant.

Yes, this was right.

A Gift Horse

The following week, Eva returned. She had been staying with Mother’s cousin, helping with her new baby. Father decided to let me take the week to spend with Eva.

Eva got me to eat normally again. She helped me work past my pain through magickal works and herbal remedies. It was then that my magickal studies really expanded. Eva and I began to work together, mixing up potions and working on spells.

We started our own Book of Shadows. I found comfort in magick. I felt closer to my brother for some reason.

Father, seeing that I was better, agreed to let Eva teach me this magick if I continued my studies. I did as he asked, and eventually I had formed a new routine. I was almost alive again.

Christmas was there before I realized it. I went into town with a little money I had stored away and bought flowers. I took them to Alessio’s grave on Christmas Eve. I could have easily picked them from my own garden, but that seemed too commonplace.

I knelt before his grave, describing to him the painting I had done for every person in my family. I was excited about the gifts I would give in the morning. I could feel my brother there with me.

Just then, it began to snow. Snow was my brother’s favorite weather condition. I laughed aloud as the flakes stuck to my eyelashes and skin.

That night, I sat in my windowseat, my face pressed to the glass, watching the world turn white. I finally didn’t feel so sad. It was as if the snow was washing away my pain, and replacing it with memories and warmth. I wasn’t cold anymore.

In the morning, I took my paintings downstairs. I gave Eva hers first. It was a painting of her in candlelight. She grinned and handed me a gift. It was a beautiful journal. I hugged her.

I gave Cristine a painting of the sunrise, as she loved such a thing. She gave to me a quilt she had sewn.

To Father, I gave a painting of us at the grave so many nights before. He held me tightly. To Mother went the painting of a red rose, just like the ones I had placed on Alessio’s grave. She smiled gently.

Each of us had recieved a dress, bonnet, brush and shoes. We grinned at our gifts, pleased with the outcome of our Christmas.

"Ah, Adelina, can you come with us?" Father asked. He and Mother rose. I followed, wondering what was going on. They led me to the stables.

"Second stall," Mother told me. I opened the stall. Inside, Laredo was wrapped in a huge red bow. I looked at my parents, confused.

"Laredo is all yours. We decided that you needed something to care for,and he would be the perfect thing. You have to take care of him every day though," Father informed me.

"But, he is a big responsibility," I said.

"You are six and a half. You are old enough for this. I know you can train him, feed him, love him. If you want him, he is yours."

I grinned at Father.

The following day, I began working with Laredo. I started loping him, feeding him,walking him, brushing him. Eva came out to help wash him.

I incorporated Laredo into my routine. Studies, magick, horse. I felt complete again. When no one was looking, I stared up at the sky and smiled.

"I am happy again, brother," I whispered.

A Tragedy

For the remainder of the season, I led the average life. I kept up with my studies, played with Natalia, visited with my family. Nothing new ever seemed to happen and nothing old ever seemed to matter. I just was and that was all.

Every moment of that changed that fall, during August. Life suddenly went from existence to something I didn’t know how to describe.

The last week of August, my brother grew very ill. The leaves had just began to change color. At first, Alessio simply became exhausted. He began napping frequently. We didn’t pay any mind to the situation. The more he worked, the more he slept. Soon, he couldn’t get up without having to sit down immediately thereafter.

His eyes sunk into his head and became bruised and bloodshot. He began coughing, coughing so hard it shook his entire body and made him cry.

Mother finally called the doctor. It was a futile plead for help. No one could figure out what was upon him. The doctor ordered bedrest.

I quit my studies to stay with my brother all day. I’d sit there and chat with him when he felt up to it. When he couldn’t manage to speak, I’d read some of his favorite works to him and I’d tell him stories I made up. When he couldn’t hold his eyes open, I’d sing him to sleep.

This went for two entire weeks. On the morning of September 16th, I woke up and went directly to Alessio’s room. He had eaten all of his breakfast, a positive sign. His eyes looked a little brighter and he was grinning.

"Adelina! Good morning!" I smiled at him.

"Someone is feeling himself today."

"I feel wonderful. Addie, I really think this is passing. I think I’m getting better."

"Good." I smiled again. "You really need a bath." I scrunched my nose.

"Feel free to sponge me, sister."

I made a face and he laughed.

"I am really sorry you have to miss your work for me, being as I smell and all."

"Eh. I volunteered."

"You are a great sister. The best actually."

I kissed his forehead. “Don’t write Cristine off just yet.”

"Do you know how often she visits? Every other day."

"She is..busy.." I tried to make an excuse, but I knew he saw through it. He scratched his forehead. I took him in. He was beautiful. He really was.

"I cannot wait to get out of this bed."

"I cannot wait either. Every teenage girl in Florence has been by asking for you!"

"And you haven’t sent them in?!" Alessio frowned.

"You needed rest, not another’s saliva."

"It is medicine of its own, sister."

"If you say so." I rolled my eyes. Just then a knock came on the door. Father entered swiftly.

"Hello, my children. Adelina, I am sorry to spring this upon you, but today is the Council’s father/daughter luncheon. Cristine does not want to go. If you do not wish to go, that is fine. I just thought I might ask."

I glanced at my brother. “Well..”

"Go," Alessio ordered. "I will be right here in this bed when you return." He grinned at me.

"I love you," I said, kissing his cheek.

He hugged me close to him. His hold was strong and I felt confident that he was indeed getting better. “I love you more. Never forget that.” For a second, he looked sad, but he immediately resumed his smile.

I took Father’s hand and we went to our lunch. It was a nice affair with mild laughter and joking and delicious food.

When we pulled up at the house, I was feeling splendid. The front door opened as we neared it, and Mother came out, her face streaked with tears.

"What is the matter, love?" Father asked. She flung herself into her arms and began to wail. "Camila, what is it?"


I dropped the flower Father had picked for me on the trip home and ran into the house. My vision swirled as I ran upstairs. I swung the door open to my brother’s room.

The doctor and one of the in-home nurses were standing in my way. I shoved them away so that I could see Alessio.

He seemed to be sleeping peacefully. But his chest did not heave with breath. He showed no signs of life.

"No!" I screamed. I climbed onto the bed. His skin was cold. I shook him, screaming "no". I could hear commotion behind me and feel people pulling at me. I growled at them and held onto my brother.

In his left hand, he was clutching a picture I had painted of him as a wolf. I lost my ability to hold in my tears. I began to cry, and I cried until I shook. I couldn’t hold onto him anymore.

Someone lifted me. They craddled me like a baby and took me away. I choked on my tears, watching the distance between my brother and I grow. I closed my eyes.

When I opened them, it was because Father was pleading with me to do so. I stared at him through teary eyes. It was obvious that grief had struck him. He suddenly looked years older than he was. “Adelina, please stay with me. I can’t lose two children.”

"Alessio..Papa..he’s dead, Papa.." I hadn’t called my father "Papa" since I was able to say "Father". He hugged me tightly.

"I am sorry I made you leave.." The two of us sat in silence, weeping the loss that had befallen us.

Sometime after dark, Mother entered. She tried to speak with us a little, but was quite shook up herself.

"He was better when we left.." I sobbed.

"No, he wasn’t.." she replied, wiping her eyes.


"Adelina..your brother wanted..when you left, he went into the worst state he had been in. He was coughing and shaking and gagging."

"But he was happy! He was smiling! He ate!" I screamed, jumping up.

"No, dear. He didn’t eat. He threw his food out.."

I backed against the wall. He had known he was dying. And he had taken all of his energy and put it to making me believe he was okay. I fell into the corner and began to rock and cry.

My parents couldn’t touch me without me screaming. Eventually, they got me to my room. I stayed there for the next few days. Mother brought me food and I didn’t touch it. Cristine came to brush my hair and I didn’t move. Family members visited when they stopped by to drop off food and I spoke to no one.

On the fourth day, I dressed all in black and went to my brother’s funeral. I was six years old. I laced black ribbon in my hair. I was six years old. I tucked the picture I had painted for Alessio into my dress. I was six years old.

I refused to speak. Before my brother was placed into the ground, I walked forth to his coffin. No one moved or spoke.

I removed the painting from my dress. I placed it in his hand. He was motionless. He was lifeless. Tears stung my eyes and froze my cheeks.

I turned around. “My dead.” My voice broke. No one said a word. I walked back to Father. He took my hand and squeezed it. I stared straight ahead as my brother was buried.

That night, I left out of my house. I took off running into the woods, shifting into a wolf. It wasn’t a form I was used to, but it was one I was comfortable as.

I ran endlessly. I ran in circles. I ran straight. I ran back. I ran until the sun rose. I ran until I collapsed. Then, I laid there until I could move.

I went home, ignoring Mother’s questions. I stayed in my room all day. Then, I ran that night. For two straight weeks, I did this.

Eventually, I began to eat, a little bit at a time. Father came and sat with me in the evenings. For two hours, he’d sit there with me. Then, he would leave, and so would I.

The numbness didn’t fade. Daily, I heard Mother discussing my suffering of major depression. One day, she called me as good as dead. I didn’t feel the words. Father did. He yelled.

That night, he entered my room. He picked me up.

"What are you doing?" I shouted.

"You can’t stay locked away!" He made his way to the door. I kicked in the air, screaming at him to let me go. He held on, taking me out of the room. Mother was yelling for him to stop. Cristine came out of her room and began to yell also.

Father kept going until we were out of the house. He kept going until my throat was raw from screaming. Mother and Cristine were standing at the house, calling after us.

When I looked up, we were entering the cemetery. I squirmed in Father’s arms. He was crying, and I was furious. We came upon Alessio’s grave and Father set me down.

"Listen to me!" He screamed. "My son is dead! Your brother is dead! You can’t die too! You’re driving yourself sick! Do you think he wants you to die to?" He bellowed.

"At least then, I’d be with him!" I screamed.

"Your brother doesn’t want to hear you say things like that! He is listening! He is watching! He sees you suffering! If you don’t hear anything I say, at least hear that your brother hurts when you hurt! You are hurting him!"

I began to cry.

"He knew he was going to die! He let me leave!"

"Because he loves you! He was helping you let go! Now, I have to teach you how to hold on! To life! I won’t lose you!" Father wrapped his arms around me and held me in an iron grip. "I won’t lose you," he whispered.

I cried into my Father’s shoulder. “I miss him, Papa..”

"So do do I, Adelina..but I miss you too."

"I love you," I wept.

"I love you so much. Please hold on."

After a while, Father picked me up and carried me home. As we stepped inside, Mother and Cristine rushed in to take me, yelling at Father. He held up a silencing hand and let me down. I stood there for a moment. Everyone stared at me.

"Can I have something to eat?" I asked hushedly. Mother swept me into her arms, crying.

"Yes, baby. You can eat whatever you’d like." She clutched onto me tightly. Cristine hugged the two of us, then Father joined in. We sunk to the floor and stayed there, holding each other and mourning a loss that could not be measured.

A Chocolatey Beating

On Thursday, Uncle Bruno stopped by the house to visit with Father. Father and I were in the study, and I was allowed to stay as they spoke.

"Well, brother-in-law, I do think our pack has shaped up remarkably well this year. They had a wonderful hunt."

"Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?" Father asked.

"What makes me feel old is how close that one over there is to joining us." Uncle Bruno pointed a thick finger at me.

"She isn’t quite that old." Father frowned.

"Halfway, Giuseppe. Halfway. Anyways, I just came to drop of these papers." Uncle Bruno tapped some papers on the desk. "I guess I will be off now."

"Uncle Bruno?" I called. He turned to me and smiled.

"Yes, little bit?"

"Can I come to your house? I haven’t seen Danilo and Dario since before they left for the trip."

Uncle Bruno looked to Father, who nodded.

"Of course," my uncle said.

"I will pick her up tonight when I bring these papers back to you," Father told Uncle Bruno.

"Well, let’s get on then, child."

I went with Uncle Bruno to the stables. He retrieved his horse and pulled me up with him.

They didn’t live far from us. Just a little ways south. They had a nice castle, not as large as mine, but still big enough. Their home was much different from mine. Mine bustled with life while theirs lay silent and still most of the time.

When I entered their home, my eldest cousin Dario was lounging on a dais in the den, fingering through a book. Dario was tall, dark and peculiar. He was strong and confident, but in a quiet way. Unless you made him angry.

"Hi," I said hushedly. Dario set his book down and scooted to the edge of the dais. He waved me over.

"Hello there." He smiled brightly. Dario and I had been close since day one. He was my idol, my role model, for lack of a better term, my brother. He ruffled my hair. "What are you up to?"

"What am I usually up to?" I replied.

"Trouble." He smirked. I stuck my tongue out at him. "The fool is in his room, if you’re wanting to play." I nodded and Dario picked his book up and began reading once more.

I went upstairs to Danilo’s room. He was sitting on his bed, tossing a coin in the air.

"Oh, hello, cousin," he said.


"How was your week?"

"Boring. How was yours?"

"Eh, hunting in the mountains. A long trip, but a nice one. No adults. It was fun, I guess."

"I see." I rocked on my feet. Danilo caught the coin and looked at me.


"Always." I grinned. We went downstairs to the kitchen. Aunt Adele was humming while she iced a cake.

"Adelina, how nice to see you, dear niece. How are Camila and Pepe?"


Aunt Adele licked her fingers clean of chocolate icing. “Mm!” She had one cake already baked and iced, and a bowl full of batter for another. “Alright, I need to run upstairs and find that recipe for the pie Lady Dorian made..Please, children. Don’t touch, okay?”

Danilo and I nodded innocently. Aunt Adele left out the backdoor.

As soon as she was well out of view, I reached up to grab the already prepared chocolate cake. In the process, I knocked the batter bowl over, spilling brown goo everywhere. Then, I knocked the cake off. I turned to Danilo, panicking. My aunt was sweet, but she had an evil wrath when angered.

"Help?" I asked. Danilo, bent down and began cleaning up. I pretended to be looking for a towel. Danilo was covered to the elbows in chocolate.

Thinking quickly I ran out the backdoor, locking the bolt on the outside. Danilo came to the door and began tugging on it. The door wouldn’t budge. Danilo’s horrified face touched the glass.

I saw Aunt Adele enter the room.

"Danilo!" She screeched. "What in God’s name!"

"Adelina, it was Adelina!" my cousin stammered.

"Don’t try that with me! Don’t blame her, she is an innocent little girl! And you! You’re getting a flogging! Come here so I can beat you!"

It is safe to assume that my cousin didn’t speak to me for the remainder of the evening, nor did I confess the truth.

A Beautiful Friendship

The week came and passed at a remarkably slow pace. On Thursday night, I thought I’d never sleep for I was so thrilled. I struggled to sit still and pay attention during my studies on Friday. Father, realizing that I wouldn’t be getting anyhing done, told me that I may be dismissed to prepare my belongings for my trip.

I packed my chemise, hairbrush, toothbrush, and dress for the following day all into a saddle bag that I found under my bed. I retrieved Natalia’s coat from the hanger. Grinning from ear to ear, I pulled it on over my simple gown.

"Prepared?" Father asked, entering the room. I nodded, smiling brightly. "Well, let us then go!" Father lifted the bag with ease and he followed me out.

In the foyer, Father ordered that I say goodbye to Mother.

"Mother!" I called. She leaned her head around the door frame of a room.

"Yes, Adelina?"

"Goodbye!" I said, heading for the door, anxious to get on.

"Ah ah!" Father said, catching the neck of my coat. "This is the first time you will be away overnight. You give your mother a kiss goodbye."

I huffed, irritated, and walked to Mother. I kissed her cheek.

"Have fun. Mind yourself," she said, kissing my forehead. I turned and rushed out of the house before they could delay me any longer.

Father called from behind, “Adelina, dear, the horses will still be there if you walk.”

"I would like to get there!"

"Well, I would like for you to cease kicking dirt on me with your running," he retorted, catching up to me. I stuck my tongue out at him and began to skip.

When we reached the stables, my uncle was standing outside with Greatheart saddled.

"Giuseppe, we have a mandatory Council meeting. It is on an urgent note that us men are being called in."

"I am on the way to drop Adelina at the Landry manor, then I will be right on my way," Father said, putting the saddle bag on Greatheart.

"There isn’t enough time to take her. We have to go now."

I scowled. All the talk of urgent meetings made no apparent sense to me, but I understood that I was delayed once again.

"Let me go in your place to the meeting," Alessio said, appearing from the tack room of the stable. He put down a saddle brush and wiped his hands on his pants.

"It is strictly First Order business," Uncle Bruno countered.

"Then let me take Adelina."

Father hesitated. It hadn’t been long before that Alessio had been riding his horse Levi and had an accident. Levi had stepped into a snake hole, bending his leg unnaturally and breaking it. Alessio had been thrown off, landing beneath the large horse where he was rolled over. His injuries had kept him from Shifting for a week.

"Father, it is right down the road. I will take Druele. Please let me help." Alessio hated being found incompetent for any job. He stared at father, strong, confident.

"Alright," Father said. "But be wary. You have your sister’s life in your hands." Alessio set his jaw. Father hugged me tightly. "I love you. Enjoy your sleepover. I will retrieve you in the morning." He climbed on Greatheart and Uncle Bruno mounted his horse.

As they rode away, Alessio went for Druele. I noticed as he saddled her that he did so angrily.

"What is the matter?" I finally asked.

“‘You have your sister’s life in your hands,’” he mocked. “Adelina, I can’t help that grass grew up over a hole and Levi stepped in it. I mean, of course I could have been more cautious. But I handled the situation as best I could. And for him to suggest,” he growled, yanking the girth, “that I would allow harm upon you…Well, can you see that I am royally pissed? I know he loves you and just wants to ensure your safety. But honestly, am I so irresponsible that I can’t take you a couple of miles on horseback?”

"Well, if you would allow us to get moving, you could prove him wrong," I said, trying to rush him.

"You, sister, have the patience of a damn wolf." Alessio ruffled my hair and threw me up into the saddle. He climbed on behind me and began to lead Druele.

As we turned onto the main road, realization struck. “Oh no!” I exclaimed.

"Whoa," Alessio called to Druele. "What is it, Adelina?"

"Father rode off with my saddle bag!"

"Well, we are halfway there now. I can go.back if you’d like, but it would be a wasted mile."

"No, no," I said, not wanting to waste anymore time. I would just manage with what I had.

We arrived without incident. Alessio tied Druele’s reins to a post and walked me to the door. His knock was answered by Lady Landry.

"My! Why, Alessio, aren’t you shaping out to be such a handsome young man! I hardly see you anymore, child! And, Adelina, dear, you are darling as always! Won’t you come in?"

"I have to be heading home. I am going hunting with the other adolescent pack members. I just came to drop Adelina off. Father had to rush to a Council meeting."

"Ah, yes, my husband left for that as well."

"What business do the First Order males have that is so urgent?"

"Do not ask me, those men tell me nothing."

Alessio smiled. “Well, Milady, it was a pleasure to see you.” He bowed respectfully. “I will see you at home, sister.”

Lady Landry gestured me inside. I followed, taking in the beautiful home. “I thought I’d never get here,” I said.

Lady Landry laughed. “Men are unreliable with time, darling. Absolutely unreliable. For example, Alberto here.”

A teenage male appeared before us. “Forgive my tardiness, Madre. I have good reason.”

I recognized Alberto. He Wasatch pack member. I was suddenly confused as to why he would be referring to Lady Landry as his mother.

"Adelina, you know Alberto, yes?"

"Of course she knows me, I have lived in that large castle of hers since my father died. Not to mention, she will one day rule over me in her mother’s place."

"Hush up, I wasn’t talking to you," Lady Landry said, rolling her eyes.

"Yes ma’am, I know him." I held my hands behind my back.

"Alberto is to be my son-in-law. He is soulmated to my eldest daughter, Segora." I nodded in understanding.

The Soulmate Principle was customary to all inhabitants of our world. Every one of us had our own mate, whether human or of any opposite race, whom we would meet and spend forever with.

"Anyway, he was supposed to have been here an hour earlier to help me prepare the tabernacle for you girls." She gave him a scolding look.

"It is Segora’s fault. She kept ordering rolls at the restaurant."

"I’m sure that is it. Now, Adelina, Natalia is in the library. You may go for her while we get the tabernacle ready. You remember where it is?"

"Yes ma’am," I answered, heading down the hallway.

I swung the great oaken door of the library open. Natalia was laying on the floor, indulging in a neat little picture book. I cleared my throat.

"Adelina!" She exclaimed as she looked up. She stood to give me a hug. "You’ve come at last! Oh, I am so excited! We are going to have a delightful time."

I smiled, still attempting to adjust to this new situation.

"Shall we go on somewhere? Would you like to meet my sister? She just got home, so she surely isn’t busy yet." Natalia, without waiting for my reply, grabbed my hand and dragged me down the hall. She lead me up a flight of stairs to the North Wing of the house.

The door was shut, but Natalia didn’t knock. She barged into the room. The golden haired girl was laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling. She turned her head to the side, glanced at us, then looked back to the ceiling.

"Segora, I’d like you to meet Adelina de Luca." At the mention of my name, Segora turned her focus on me.

"De Luca? Alberto’s de Luca?" I nodded in response to her question. "Hmm," she said. She turned away again.

"Alberto is Segora’s mate," Natalia explained. I didn’t announce that I’d just earlier had this conversation. I was scared to speak. The golden haired girl was like stone. I didn’t think she liked me at all. "Anyways, I just wanted to introduce the two of you."

The girl’s only response was, “Send Alberto up, if you will.”

As we left the room, Natalia whispered, “She isn’t always like that, I swear. You just have to get used to her.” I didn’t respond.

Natalia lead me to a part of the house I had yet to see. This was the tabernacle. As we stepped in the entryhall, Natalia commanded that I take my shoes off.

"The tabernacle is holy ground. Whenever there is a new moon, we sleep here with the spirits. We prepare meals and rest them on the altar. When we wake up, the food is gone and we are reminded that the spirits hunger to be with us."

Confused, I just nodded.

"I know it sounds quaint, but it is a tradition that our French side of the family began. Mother feels that it keeps that part of the family alive, in a sense. You will enjoy it."

The place was mesmerizing. Walls and pillars of ivory detailed by gold gave way to a pure golden altar. There were three pallets made up on the floor and silver platters on the steps before the altar.

"What do you think?" Lady Landry asked.

"Wow," I breathed.

Natalia sent Alberto to Segora as I took in the place. I kneeled before the altar, the sheer beauty of the place having weakened my knees.

Just then, a bell chimed. “Suppertime!” Natalia announced. She led me to the dining hall where a full course meal awaited. I ate silently, listening to the family converse.

After dessert, Natalia led me to her room. The sun had just set.

"Would you like to dress for bed?" She asked.

I explained the circumstances leading to my arrival without my belongings.

"Would you just like to borrow an old gown of mine? I’m sure I have one somewhere that will fit you."

"I keep having to borrow from you," I said, looking to her bed where the coat I’d had in my possession lay.

"Friends share," she replied, smiling. "Ah, here we are. Try this on." I changed into the gown. Sure enough, it was a perfect fit.

"Well, let us go forth to the tabernacle!" Natalia suggested. I followed her back. Servants were entering pushing silver carts with trays of steaming hot food. They placed the food onto the platters, then left with the carts.

"What now?" I asked.

"Mother will be in when she is dressed down. Until then, we may just talk, if you’d like."

We sat on the pallets, lightly discussing our families and daily routines and such. The doors opened again and Lady Landry entered. She looked elegant in her nightgown.

"Now, girls. Come." She lead us to the altar where she instructed us to kneel. She began to tell us stories about her ancestors. Natalia had already heard them all, so she nodded throughout the conversation.

When Lady Landry was done, she ordered us into our makeshift beds. We talked quietly for a bit. Then, Lady Landry blew out the candles lighting the room and we fell into a deep sleep.

In the morning, I sat up, surprised to see that all of the food really was gone. Lady Landry was picking up her pallet. She was dressed for the day in an elegant black silk gown.

"Would you like breakfast, dear?" She asked me. I nodded, then looked around. "Where is Natalia?"

"She had to go do her chores. She should be at the table by now. Go ahead."

I ate, then Father was there to pick me up. I invited Natalia to come over to my house sometime. She respectfully accepted.

"Did you enjoy yourself?" Father asked on the way home. Still overwhelmed with changed, I simply nodded shyly. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

An Invitation

By the next weekend, I’d managed to concur my element wielding skills. I was very excited and, as a reward, I was allowed that Friday off from studies.

Not used to being free, I quickly grew bored and mischievous. I crept around the castle, staying underneath everyone’s feet. (Quite literally in Mother’s case when I tripped her).

"Truly, Adelina! Get on somewhere!" She threw her head over her shoulder. "Pepe!" She bellowed to my father.

He rounded the corner. “Yes, love?” he asked.

"If you would, please take our child somewhere. I cannot accomplish anything with her running around."

Father smiled and took my hand, telling me to come along. He took me to his study and asked me to please mind my own until he finished his letter. I plopped down on the floor and he sat at his desk and dipped his quill in the ink.

After a few moments of silence, except for the scratch of his writing, I grew bored. I began to click my tongue, quietly at first, then much louder.

Once this had gone on for a good bit, Father sighed and set his pen down. “Alright. What do you say we just deliver this message in person?” I nodded excitedly.

Father and I went to the stables where he saddled Greatheart. On any normal basis, I would be riding Laredo. However, since Father was insisting I ride with him upon Greatheart, the visit must be rather important and, therefore, could not allot time for straggling.

Father ran Greatheart down the long drive and out onto the main road, where he took a right. We traveled on for a mile before he turned down a long, rock covered road. Greatheart trotted along until Father directed him on another turn. This lead to another drive that ended at a circle drive.

The castle was a great existence. I had never before seen it. It was surrounded by walls of shrubbery and covered in flowering climbing vines.

"Do you remember this?" Father asked. I shook my head, confused. I knew I had never before laid eyes on such a place. "I am unsurprised. You were only three months old. We brought you here to meet the family."

"Father, what family?" I finally questioned. Father smiled teasingly.

"Why don’t you go knock and see?" I looked at home, searching his face cor seriousness. "Go on," he said, helping me on the ground. A servant rounded the side of the house to stable Greatheart for our visit.

I climbed the steps to the large doors and stood on my tiptoes as to reach the iron knocker.

After I had knocked, I took a step back and waited. The great doors swung open to reveal a brightly lit entryhall.

A smile spread across my face. The man who answered the door was Lord Landry and, behind him, was Natalia.

"Adelina!" She exclaimed, hugging me. I glanced back at father who nodded, indicating that I could go play with Natalia.

Lord Landry ruffled my hair. “You girls tell Cook I said to fix you some cookies and milk.”

We giggled and took off into the kitchen. Servants were busy preparing lunch.

"Cook," Natalia spoke to a large, jolly woman. "Father said we might have cookies and milk."

"Before dinner! Ha! That man and his sweet tooth! Very well, girlies. Have a seat. I will be right along with your snack."

After we had devoured the delicious cookies, Natalia dragged me along to show me her favorite places in the home. Her room was beautiful and elegant, as was her library and den.

"You must see the garden!" As she pulled me along, we passed the weapon room, where a golden haired girl was swinging a club. I stopped.

"Who is that?"

"My sister Segora. I would introduce you, but she doesn’t like her training to be interrupted."

I stared at the golden haired girl for a moment more, mesmerized with her beauty, before Natalia yanked me along.

The walkway was narrow and stoned over. We ran across it to the wall that lead to the garden.

"This place is mine and Mother’s," Natalia explained. "Come on."

We entered the garden and I gasped. It was beautiful. Hundreds of bushes and plants bloomed and flowed all over the place. The path wound through, passing gorgeous statues until it reached a canopy with a stone bench.

On the bench sat Lady Landry. We approached her, our heads bowed respectfully.

"Adelina!" She expressed, pulling me into her arms. "It has been a great while since I have seen you, dear."

We spoke for a few moments over the current circumstances of our lives. Lady Landry smiled.

"Please, darling, say you will stay the night next weekend. We would greatly love your company."

"Well," I said, fidgeting, "I have to ask Father and I have studies and-"

"Please!" Natalia begged, taking my hand. I bit my lip. "Alright. I will come," I said.

"Wonderful," Lady Landry said.

"You can return my coat," Natalia joked. I smiled. Just then, Father called my name.

"I better go. I will be seeing you."

"Friday at sunset," Lady Landry replied. I nodded and went to Father.

On the way home, I wanted to ask what business he had with Lord Landry, but I knew better. Instead, I informed Father of the following weekend’s plans. He smiled.

"If there is any invitation I ever hope you would except, it is that one. The Landry’s are a great family. They are some of your Mother and I’s closest friends. Of course you can go."

I held onto Greatheart’s mane, grinning. I had received my first invitation.

The Green Overcoat

As it was summertime, I turned five. It was the age when my studies were to begin, as any child. First, I had to learn everything about my family, my race, and my world. I poured over books throughout the day, all the while dreaming that I could be playing like I used to do. I was afraid of becoming like Cristine, and prayed I turned out more like Alessio.

My brother began his combat training with the other members of the pack. Some days he would come home destroyed from the bouts of the day.

Cristine never attended combat as she had resigned to be the skillful planner, and no more. Father constantly insisted that she be trained, but Mother shushed him, saying Cristine could learn when I did, as we were to serve together in the future. I didn’t look forward to it.

I gained more responsibility. I was expected to do everything on my own, which was something I didn’t very much mind. I preferred to do things independently. As the youngest of all, it made me feel empowered.

For the remainder of the year, I studied. There were no signifcant events in that time of my life. I simply existed. I read and my parents quizzed me.

I gained new perspectives on life and people, based upon the books I read and the people who entered and left our house. They all referred to me as the sagacious one, a title I didn’t understand, nor did I mind. I enjoyed being acknowledged by the people I would one day work alongside.

The following spring, I met my best friend. It was a silly occurence and I could never forget it.

At the melt of the snow, I began my magick studies. One of my main focuses was element wielding. The teacher of this specific topic, Angel, showed to me a convenient way to wield all the elements at once. Frustrated that I could not seem to conquer this skill, I ventured off into the woods for practice.

The forest was a natural location for my studies. I felt closest to the great life force there. I placed myself on the southernmost point of the creek and took to my futile attempts.

For a good hour, I tried and failed. The grueling process was depleting my energy and causing me to grow severely irate.

It was then that I heard a creak in one of the trees.

"Who’s there?" I shouted, crouching to the ground. The noise didn’t repeat and I didn’t recieve an answer. I returned to my practice.

I had just nearly gotten the hang of it when I heard a loud thud, followed by a groan. I spun around, ready to attack.

Before mine eyes was a girl. She was older than me and had long black hair and blue-green eyes. By her scent, I knew that she was a vampyre.

"H-hi.." she stammered. I glared at her.

"You’re on my land."

"Forgive me. You see, you caught my eye with your…rain dance, and I was trying to get a closer look.."

"So, you scaled my tree. On my land." I turned away from the vampyre and resumed my training. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that she hadn’t moved and was watching me. I spun around.

"What are you staring at, bloodsucker?" I growled, only half teasingly. The girl stared at her feet, tears brimming in her eyes. Being so young, I’d never experienced anyone who even truly listened to what I said, much less took it to heart.

She dusted the dirt off of her pretty dress and coat. “I will go,” she finally said, turning from me.

"No, wait!" I called after her. She stopped. "Hi," I tried, shyly. She looked at me. "I..I’m Adelina de Luca."

"Natalia Landry," she introduced herself. I knew of her family. They worked on the High Council alongside my own family. "I guess we would met sooner or later," she stated, obviously thinking the same as myself. "So, you’re a werewolf."

"Yes," I replied, nodding for emphasis.

"Well..Come on then, let me see your armour."

Not the slightest clue what she meant, I glanced at her, confused. “Pardon?”

"Your fur? Wolf form?"

I stared down at my dress. It was baby blue and one of my favorites. I knew I could have a new one made, but the thought of ripping it while shifting hurt me.

"Come on!" Natalia rushed.

I sighed and shifted as she had asked. The change was wonderful and I embraced it like a visiting relative.

Natalia’s eyes evaluated me. At first, they just seemed to take in the picture. Then, a look of mesmerization overtook her.

She smiled and reached a hand out, waiting for me to allow her to pet me. I leaned my head down and she stroked my muzzle, all the while stuck inside that childishly joyful look.

I laid in the grass as Natalia pet me and gushed over my wolf form. After a while, I grew tired of laying there and I shifted back. Of course, I was naked, and the only clothes I had with me were in shreds upon the ground. I huffed my breath in frustration.

"Here," Natalia said, offering me her green overcoat. I took it and put it on. Moments later, the sound of a horse approaching warned me to my feet. I jumped up and backed a few paces, taking an attack stance.

The horse came into sight. It was a solid white horse, calm and well-behaved. The rider was a familiar man with brown hair and blue eyes. Depaul Landry.

Lord Landry had made his presence in my house many times throughout the course of my life. He was a kind but serious man. When he visited, he always brought me candy and told me not to listen to what anyone had to say about the way I manage things.

"I see you have met Adelina, daughter," he said to Natalia. My eyes surely grew large at that moment. I had expected Natalia to be related to Lord Landry, but had not thought it possible that she was his child.

"Lord Landry is your father?" I asked her. Natalia nodded.

"Natalia, this little one is the daughter of Lord and Lady de Luca. You remember them, yes?"

"Yes, Father."

Lord Landry smiled at me, then reached a hand out to Natalia. “We must be getting home. Mother is waiting on us with our meal.” Natalia grinned at me.

"I will be seeing you." She took her father’s hand and he pulled her up unto the front of the saddle.

"Oh, your coat!" I exclaimed.

"Keep it," Natalia said. "As I said, I will see you again."

I smiled and waved. Lord Landry and Natalia rode off, leaving a trail of dust in their wake.

I was no longer interested in my studies and so I sauntered back to the house. When I got to my room, I removed Natalia’s coat and hung it in my closet where it would stay until I saw my new friend again.

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