Members of the Alliance began to gather at Lulu’s Hideaway over the next week. My grandmother only stayed at the safe house long enough to visit with Tatum and myself before she would return to my little brother’s side.
“I have to go to your mother’s funeral in the morning, Evan.” She told me as the others began to retire for the day. I frowned at her comment. “I know it’s difficult.”
“That’s not it,” I said sadly. “I’ve always been there for Ethan, nana. For everything. Now,” I hesitated for a moment. “Now, I’ve already let him down twice, and he still hasn’t even learned about Tatum.”
My grandmother reached out and patted my hand softly.
“He’s stronger than you think, Evan.” She reassured me. “Don’t give up on him.”
“I’m his big brother, nana.” I told her with a brief smile. “It’s my job to worry about him.”
“And you do it very well, grandson.” She laughed lightly and hugged me. “I’ll be back in time for the meeting. Be safe.”
“Give Ethan a really tight hug for me, please.”
She nodded once, before she stepped away from me and vanished with a twist of her hand.
So many things throughout my childhood suddenly made sense the moment I witnessed my grandmother’s little trick. I was dumbfounded for a moment before I just laughed and shook my head. There were more important things to worry about. The Elders of the Alliance had been summoned, and they were all gathering to meet me. Jon had warned me that I was beginning to gather a rather dedicated group of followers, but I didn’t believe him until they started to arrive.
Lusindra arrived with Dominick and Emily in tow, and gave me a brief kiss on the cheek before introducing me to the other two vampires.
“Dominick. Emily.” Lusindra smiled up proudly at me. “This is Evan. He is the one I’ve been telling you about.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Evan.” Emily’s blood red eyes reflected the white of the fluorescent lights of the motel’s lobby as she studied me. Her brown hair cascaded down her shoulders in bountiful curls as she turned her attention to the Asian man standing beside her. “I told you that he would be beautiful, Dominick.” Then, she turned her gaze back to me. “He never listens to me, Evan.”
The Asian man rolled his eyes and smiled at me as he extended his right hand.
“I’ve heard great things about you, Evan.” Dominick stated as I shook his hand hesitantly.
“They’re all true, Dominick.” Jon stated proudly as he joined us in the lobby. He immediately went to Lusindra and hugged her tightly. “Hello, sister.”
“Hello, Jon.” Lusindra returned the werewolf’s greeting. “Is Jackson coming this time?”
“No,” Jon said grimly. “He has yet to see the benefit of a unified race.”
“Is that what I am?” I asked suddenly.
Everyone glanced at me sharply.
“No, Evan.” Jon told me calmly. “You are something else, entirely. The unified race is something the prophecy talks about. It is a way of expressing how the different creatures of the World of Darkness will come together in the belief that we need to return to the shadows. Our kinds have taken too much notice, and it’s only getting worse.” Jon sighed wearily. “We can talk about it after everybody leaves, Evan.”
“I’m holding you to that, Jon.” I told him. Jon simply nodded before he led Lusindra away so they could talk privately. I turned my attention back to Emily and Dominick. “Sorry about that.”
Dominick chuckled nervously.
“Remind me to stay on your good side, Evan.” He said with a smug grin. “So, I hear that you nearly took out an entire pack of werewolves by yourself…”
And that is how the next few nights went as more members of the Alliance arrived at Lulu’s Hideaway. Tatum and Dylan were able to make themselves scarce until Leslie arrived with Nikolas in tow. She purposely pulled both of the boys out of their seclusion, and made them spend time with her. Dylan kept reaching up and rubbing his temples as Leslie introduced him to the various council members.
“I’m getting a headache,” he mumbled to me as Leslie drug him past me to talk to Dominick some more. All I could do was giggle quietly at his expense.
‘Good luck, buddy.’ I pushed the thought out towards Dylan, and tried to put as much warmth into it as possible. ‘You’ve got this.’
Jon made it a point to introduce me to Samuel when he arrived, though I’m not sure as to why. I could tell from the moment Jon said Samuel’s name that the blond-haired Elder didn’t like me. His red eyes seemed to flash with anger before he excused himself to talk to Emily.
“That was tense,” Jon stated with a chuckle.
I shrugged my shoulders indifferently.
“Such is life,” I said before I turned away.
The others that I met were friendlier, and I made certain to spend time with each group as they arrived at the motel. It helped that I didn’t sleep and could spend time with the new guests if they came down to the lower levels of the Hideaway. My grandmother arrived with another witch that was dressed all in dark clothing. The woman looked to only be a few years older than myself, and when I shook her hand, I felt a wave of darkness course through my body. She was pleasant on the exterior, and even gave me several healthy pointers on how to control my monster, but she bathed in the powers of Darkness.
“I’m a Dark Witch, Evan.” Cordillia explained with a slight smile. “I must remain on this path until I fulfill my destiny.”
“Does it hurt to use black magic?” I asked as I tried to remember if Mr. Hunter had ever gotten around to telling us about witches.
“You’re beginning to settle into your form, Evan.” Cordillia stated as she watched me struggle. “Your human memories are going to be harder to recollect the further along you go. You may see glimpses from time to time while you sleep…”
“I don’t sleep, Cordillia.” I stated. I didn’t even realize I had interrupted her until I glanced up to see that she was staring at me in disbelief. “What? Is there something on my face?”
“Patricia?” The Dark Witch turned her attention to my grandmother.
“Yes, Cordillia?” My grandmother looked up from her conversation with Tatum.
“Is it true that Evan doesn’t sleep?”
“It is,” my grandmother started to say before she froze.
“You feel it, too.” Cordillia said. “Don’t you?”
My grandmother closed her eyes for a moment.
“Feel what, nana?” Tatum asked hesitantly.
I glanced at Dylan who was sitting in the corner with his hands planted firmly against his ears.
‘What’s going on, Dylan?’ I pushed the thought out towards him. He shook his head, and motioned for me to wait. ‘Damn.’
My grandmother’s blue eyes opened and she looked at me in shock.
“Why didn’t I notice it before?”
“Shit,” I grumbled under my breath. “Now what?”
“It’s nothing bad, Evan.” My grandmother reassured me. “I promise.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
“You’re more than just the Father of a new race, Evan.” My grandmother ignored my comment. “You’re going to be the leader of all of the races. The entirety of our civilization will turn to you for guidance during our darkest hour.”
“We really need to work on your perception of what is bad or not, nana.” I told her with a brief shake of my head. “This is too much for me to handle right now.”
“You’ll get used to it, Evan.” My grandmother said before she turned her attention back to Tatum.
Cordillia smiled at me and squeezed my shoulder. Her long black hair hung to her waist, and her emerald green eyes stood out against her tanned skin. Cordillia and I fell into the topic of magic and how different prophecies could all mean the same thing. The only thing that differed between them was the wording and the delivery. We discussed the different ways that the prophecy affected the world around us, and how it led us to our current situations. When we tired ourselves of prophecies, Cordillia began to show me different things that she could do with her type of magic. She was a truly amazing individual, and we quickly became friends during our short time together.
Arella was the last to arrive, but she arrived at Lulu’s Hideaway with several extra members to her party. One of the men was clearly not a vampire. He had tanned skin, and was wearing jeans with a flannel shirt. He had a cropped beard that was silvery in color and the hair on his head was the same, but it hung down to his shoulders in a loose tumble of gray and silver. He had a deep scar down the right side of his face, but it only seemed to make the glare in his silver eyes seem even more fierce. I knew who the strange man was without even needing to be introduced to him. Jon had told me enough about his father for me to have a healthy respect for the Alpha werewolf standing across from me in the parking lot. There were three other wolves standing behind him in their human forms, each dressed in jeans and t-shirts. All of the men were barefoot as they had ran the entire way to the Hideaway. Arella greeted me the moment she laid her eyes on me.
“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Evan.” She said as she kissed my cheek lightly.
“You, as well, Great Mother.” I replied before I bowed to the Alpha wolf. “I have heard great things about you, Lord Jackson.”
“I’m not sure how to judge what I’ve heard about you, Evan Bentley.” The older man stated as if he didn’t care either way. “But, I have heard plenty.”
“I apologize for what happened with Paul and his pack, Lord Jackson.” I stated, feeling like he was the one that deserved to hear those words. The man’s demeanor softened for a moment. “He would have killed Jon if I didn’t do something.”
The man grunted in surprise.
“Apology accepted, Evan.” Jackson said with a brief nod.
“Paul was my son!” One of the men behind Jackson growled. “I’m the one who gave Paul part of my pack to help start his own! This fucking bloodsucker murdered them! I think he deserves to pay!”
Jackson didn’t even turn to acknowledge the other wolf’s comments. Instead, he addressed me.
“How would you feel about helping me solve a problem in my pack, Evan?”
“Sir?” I asked in confusion.
“There’s been dissension amongst my ranks ever since Paul met his end,” Jackson explained before he motioned at the bald man to his left. “Diego has been the leader of the naysayers. They’ve already lost two of their group because of weak challengers.”
“They challenge you?”
“Continuously,” Jackson said grimly. “Diego has been talking about how he wants to challenge you, and frankly, I’m sort of curious to see this as well.”
“You want me to fight him?” I asked as I glanced at the muscular man that was glaring furiously at me.
“I don’t want you to fight him, Evan.” Jackson corrected me. “Diego wants to fight you. I’ve put him on restraint, though.”
“So, you’re asking my permission for the butt sniffer to challenge me, Lord Jackson?”
“I’ll show you butt sniffer, you bloodsucker!” Diego sneered in anger. I chuckled in amusement at his reaction to my prodding. “I’m going to wipe that smile off of your fucking face!”
“Stop!” Jackson commanded. “I haven’t given you permission to challenge Evan yet, Diego. You will mind your tongue until I make my decision.”
Lulu stepped outside with Jon beside her. They were both at my side in an instant.
“Father, we weren’t expecting you.” Jon said as he bowed to the Alpha.
“Someone,” Jackson’s eyes flicked to where Arella was standing before they turned back to Jon. “Convinced me to meet the Chosen One for myself.”
“And?” Jon asked nervously. “Have you made any judgements, yet?”
Jackson turned his attention to me.
“Well, Evan?” He asked with a grin. “It’s up to you.”
“What’s up to Evan?” Lulu’s gaze switched between Jackson and myself.
“What happens if I win?”
“I’ll bring all of the werewolves under my control to your side, Evan.” Jackson admitted. He wanted me to prove my strength before he joined me in my fight. “We will follow you everywhere.”
“And if I lose?” I asked as my confidence began to fray. An entire alliance relied on my being able to defeat Diego in a one-on-one fight.
“You die,” Diego answered with a sneer.
I considered my options for a moment. If Tatum was here he could let me know what the possibility of my winning the fight would be. If I lost, the entire world would be destroyed by the followers of Orthis. If I won, the majority of the werewolves in existence would be my followers. I would be the Alpha.
“I’ll do it,” I said with a nod.
Diego began to step forward, but Jackson stopped the werewolf by holding up his hand.
“Diego, you would dare violate the rules of our host’s home?” Jackson asked without glancing back. I was quickly brought back to the list of rules that Jon had passed on to me.
No fighting within two-miles of the safe house.
Diego frowned, but stood down.
“My apologies, Lady Lauren.” The werewolf said without taking his silver eyes away from me. I noticed a ripple flash over his skin as he fought against the anger that threatened to shift him into his wolf form. “It won’t happen again.”
“There’s a clearing three miles to the east if you wish to fight, gentlemen.” Lulu said with a scowl as she finally realized what was going on. “I suggest that you go there before coming inside.”
“Issue the formal challenge, Diego.” Jon demanded as he watched Diego circle me.
I stood there and waited for the werewolf to shift and make his move. I assumed that he was going to lunge at me and shift at the same time to try and keep from grabbing any specific part of his body. I was waiting for it to happen. Finally, he stopped directly in front of me and snarled angrily. I refused to even blink at his sudden action. I think I even began to smile a little. Diego blinked in disbelief and took several steps away from me.
“Evan Bentley, I formally challenge you in a fight to the death!” Diego snapped angrily. There was hushed murmuring from the edge of the clearing where people were watching. “Do you accept?”
“I do,” I told Diego with a shrug of my shoulders.
As expected, Diego lunged at me and shifted at the same time. I easily sidestepped his attack, and reached out to grab his forming tail. I yanked hard on the wolf’s tail, eliciting a sharp yelp from the creature. He turned and snapped at me, but I avoided his sharp fangs and slapped him across the face. The werewolf’s gold eyes furrowed in anger before I grabbed him by the throat and tossed him away from me. Diego slammed into the ground and slid a few feet before he got back up on all fours. He shook his head before he charged at me with a roaring growl.
This time, as I sidestepped his advance, I decided to change it up a little and punched the monster directly in his ribs. I smiled with satisfaction as I felt the bones shatter beneath his skin, and Diego screamed out with a whine of pain as he stumbled away from me. The werewolf snarled with fury as he glared at me.
“Are you sure that you want to fight to the death, Diego?” I taunted the creature. I already knew how it was going to end, I just really wanted to get it over with. “Even Paul begged for his life.”
I knew it was a lie, but the man was already too far gone to pay attention to details. He saw me as the reason his Child of the Moon was dead, and there was no changing his mind. My words had the results that I wanted. Diego charged me again. This time, I didn’t step out of the way. I met the werewolf’s charge head on. As he ran into me, I brought my right hand up to grab ahold of Diego’s throat. I could feel the rumble of his fierce growl beneath my fingertips as he struggled to break away from my grasp. I used my left hand to place quick jabs with my fingertips along his canine frame before I twisted around and slammed the werewolf to the ground in front of me. I straddled the monster and his upper jaw as I wrapped my legs around him. Then, I wrapped my other arm around his throat before I easily broke his neck with a quick yank.
I stood slowly and walked away from the scene of what I had just done. I didn’t necessarily want to kill Diego, I just knew that it was the only way of dealing with the situation. Plus, it did help to cement my personal alliance with the werewolves. I glanced up at Jackson as I passed to see the man bow respectfully to me. Jon and the other werewolves did the same. The werewolf clans were officially mine.
I walked back to the motel alone.
“Let us begin the meeting,” Arella said as she sat at the head of the long conference table with a slight smile on her smooth face. I was seated to her right, and she reached over to touch my arm as she addressed everyone. “As many of you know, this is Evan Bentley, and he will be permanently joining the Elder’s Council. This is not up for debate, either. If anybody feels that he doesn’t belong as one of us, you may excuse yourself from the Elder’s Council at this time. If you choose to leave the council, remember that you also choose to give up the protection you receive from the council. All funding to your personal accounts will be stopped at once, and you will lose access to all of the amenities that the Elder’s Council provides. Is that clear?”
I glanced around at the others only briefly before I turned my attention back to Arella. When nobody made a sound, Arella smiled at me.
“Welcome to the Elder’s Council, Evan Bentley.” The Mother of Vampires said pleasantly. Then, she sat back in her wooden chair, and took on the demeanor of someone about to scold her children. “Lusindra?”
“Could you explain to me the rules of creating newborn vampire armies, love?”
“It is forbidden to create any group of newborns at one time over the number of four,” Lusindra said as she recited the memory. “Doing so is in such creating a chance for our kind to be noticed by humans, and is a danger for everyone involved.”
“And the punishment?”
“The punishment for creating newborn armies is death, Mother Arella.” Lusindra replied.
Arella glanced around at the remainder of the people surrounding the table before she sighed with contempt.
“It saddens me that we have to gather for reasons such as these,” the woman finally stated. “I thought more of us were civilized than we used to be. Apparently, I was wrong. Apparently, it is even too difficult for Elders themselves to follow the few simple rules that we have governing our kind. The rules that keep us alive. The rules that keep us safe.”
Arella took another glance at everyone around the table.
“Before I continue, I have a witness that I would like to call forward.” The woman turned her head towards the door. “Dante?”
The door opened slowly and the nomadic vampire that had helped me and Jon take down a pack of werewolves stepped into the room with a nervous look in his red eyes. He didn’t trust being around this many of our kind at one time, and it showed in his demeanor.
“Lady Arella,” the man bowed stiffly. “My Lords and Ladies…”
“Welcome to the council meeting, Dante.” Emily greeted the man with a warm smile on her face. The moment he looked into her eyes he started to relax. “It’s been a while since you’ve come to visit me, old friend.”
“My apologies, Lady Emily.” The man stated with a brief incline of his head.
“Dante, would you please tell the others what you told me?” Arella asked of the nomad.
Dante nodded once before he addressed the rest of us in the room.
“My Lords and Ladies,” the nomad’s voice took on a tone of formality as he spoke. “Esteemed members of the Council. I come from Philadelphia, where I have just witnessed the makings of a newborn army.”
The room was suddenly filled with murmurs of disbelief and shock as the nomad’s words reached everyone. Arella held up her hand to silence the council members.
“Go on, Dante,” Arella urged once the room had quieted back down.
Dante appeared nervous as he got ready to continue with his narrative.
“I was halfway through the warehouse district when I came upon a small group of ten newborns,” Dante explained. “When they didn’t notice me, I decided to follow them back to their lair.”
“Where did they come from, Dante?” Dominick asked curiously.
“I followed them down to the shipping docks, Lord Dominick,” Dante told the Asian man. “There were thirty of them, and that’s not counting the ones that were still returning from their night out.”
“There’s more, Great Mother.” Dante interrupted Arella. “There were ten werewolves standing guard for the vampires.”
“I’ll kill each of them!” Jackson declared as he slammed his fist into the table.
Arella reached over to her left and placed her hand lightly on top of Jackson’s.
“Is there anything else, Dante?” The Mother of Vampires asked.
“Marcel was there, as well, Lady Arella.” Dante stated in a regretful tone. “Once I saw him, I ran here as fast as I could.”
“Thank you, Dante,” Arella said with a dismissive nod of her head.
Dante bowed respectfully before the nomad left the room. I turned my attention to Arella.
“Now, what do we do?” I asked her nervously.
“First, we need to send a scouting party to Philadelphia to see what we’re truly up against,” Arella said loud enough for everybody to hear.
“There’s only one Elder living in Philadelphia, Mother Arella.” Emily said almost sadly.
“I know,” Arella replied with the same sadness in her voice.
“Who are we going to send to Philadelphia?” Lusindra asked to change the subject.
“I think we already know the answer to that, Lusindra,” Arella said with a smug grin.
“Shit,” Jon muttered under his breath. “Pack a bag, Evan. We’re taking a road trip.”