"'Cause I'm just a girl I'd rather not be,
'Cause they won't let me drive,
Late at night I'm just a girl,
Guess I'm some kind of freak,
'Cause they all sit and stare,
With their eyes."
Just a Girl, No Doubt, 1995
Two days had passed since I'd handed down the announcement that the second part of the Becoming would be in two days. I had just gotten dressed and was about to leave to go get the group. I'd been given permission to gather everyone for a dry run of the spell before the actual event later in the evening. I waved at Natalie and headed out the door.
Another cold snap had pushed through overnight, so I wore a heavy green coat and long blue jeans. I had to brush my hair back in the wind as I headed next door to grab Demi. I enjoyed the short walk over. It was already around three in the afternoon, so we had enough time to practice, eat dinner, and then actually do the ritual. I passed through the Fae Gate and into the area where the Air Nymphs stayed.
Their two-floored building was made of all white concrete bricks that were a little dirty. There were three windows positioned in the front of it in a triangle pattern. I pushed open the cold metal door and stepped inside. The walls inside were painted green like a grassy plain. I walked around the corner and headed into the practice room. The nymphs were a very diligent people. And very boring. They always had their days scheduled for weeks to come.
I pounded up the stairs and walked down more green halls. I had become familiar with all the different buildings a while ago. After I moved here and my witch lessons were finished, I'd always snuck away to see the other species in action. I stepped around the corner and screamed as I was met with a blast of air that nearly knocked me down.
I clung onto the wall and flipped my hair out of my face. Demi ran over, struggling not to laugh.
"Oh my god, are you okay?" She asked. Her mouth was slightly upturned, but the smile shone in her eyes.
"Yes, I'm completely freakin' fine," I huffed. "I was just here to jailbreak you. We got places to go and people to bang." She raised an eyebrow and stepped back to tell Natasha that she was leaving. Natasha gave a modest nod and waved from across the room. Demi waved goodbye to the other kids and ran back over to me, gesturing for me to hurry.
Once we were out in the hall, "What was that all about?" I asked. She sighed and rolled her eyes.
"It's just like… I'm having fun learning about how these powers work, don't get me wrong. My problem is that all of these kids need a personality lift. I've practically been snoring for the last couple days." She said, twirling her hair in her hand. She wore a gray tank top over some blue yoga pants.
"Yeah, I understand. The nymphs were never very exciting to me either. Looks like you'll have to whip 'em into shape." I said. "Also, you might want to change before we get leave. It's pretty cold today." I gestured to my fashionable winter apparel.
"Oh, just stand here. My room's over there. I can just pop in and change." She walked around the corner and I heard a door close. Even though we had met under the pretense of me looking for the Becoming candidates, I actually felt like me and Demi had gotten close. We both came from similar backgrounds. Well, minus witchcraft. That one's all me.
She came back out a few minutes later dressed in normal winter wear; one of those puffy jackets and a pair of blue jeans.
"Alright, I'm ready to go. Are we seriously practicing the second part of Becoming already?" She asked as we walked downstairs and egressed from the building.
I nodded, shielding my eyes from the sun. "Yeah, man. We're really doing it. It'll pretty much be the same day for the next two weeks after this. The new moon is when the last ritual is performed, but we've got a lot of junk to get done before then, so don't get too ahead of yourself." I explained. She sighed a little. "It isn't like you've really got anything to worry about. I'm doing the hard part." I thought.
It gave me butterflies the longer I thought about it. If something were to go wrong when I was casting the spell, it could cause something unpredictable to happen. That's the only real downside to being a witch. I suppressed the thought as we approached the Siren's Den. It was set up somewhat different than the other buildings because it had a large pond off to the side. I stared at the fish that were floating in it as Demi opened the door and ushered me inside.
"Whoa, it's really cold in here." She said, hugging herself. She was right, being part fish, the sirens typically ran a few degrees colder than most other species, opposite the phoenix, which ran a bit warm. I pulled my gloves out of my pocket and slid them onto my hands.
"They're probably out back. We can just go through here." I pointed ahead to a large glass door. As I slid the door open, I covered my ears. The sirens had the power of influence, so if they sang you a command, you pretty much would have no choice other than to do what they said. Some people have a natural resistance to it, like me, but it still makes me feel a little foggy, so I try to avoid listening to them.
"Oh crap." I said, turning to warn Demi, but it was too late. Her brown doe eyes were glazed over, and her mouth hung slightly open. "Hey," I shouted into the yard. "Give it a rest for a minute." I looked on in concern as she regained her senses.
"Oh, my head," She whispered. "What happened, and why does my head feel so funny?" I reluctantly pulled my hands away from my ears.
"Yeah, that's what the sirens do. It pretty much totally sucks, right? C'mon." I pushed her gently in the back, directing her outside. She held her forehead all the way out to where the group of girls and Chris stood. They had a large beige gazebo placed away from the rest so they could practice their singing without accidentally hypnotizing anyone.
I walked up the two steps and waved at the group. The siren girls and I were like oil and water, so they just fake smiled and continued on with whatever vapid discussion they were having. I greeted Marizelle with a ladylike handshake, while Demi stood close to me, hopefully avoiding another hypnotic experience.
"Hey Mari, Ms. Morganite talked to you already, right?" I asked, looking into her murky turquoise eyes. She had the typical siren features. She was tall and slender, had a pale complexion, hair as dark as the tumultuous sea, and the blue-green eyes. Another indicator was the delicate matting of sky blue scales that ran up and down her forearms.
"Oh, yes she did, Gemma. I was just demonstrating the proper tone to keep when trying to induce a trance. I'm sorry if you were captured." She said. I giggled a little and pointed to Demi, who shrank back behind me.
"No way," I laughed. "You got her, not me." I stepped aside to reveal Demi who nervously smiled at Mari.
"Hello, I'm Marizelle, you must be Demi? I can tell by your hair. You're very beautiful." She said, extending her hand. For sirens, which were typically girly and superficial, Mari had a very direct, authoritative way about her. Demi blushed slightly and took her hand.
"Thanks, I guess. Your singing was very beautiful, what I remember of it, I mean." She said, obviously still shaken. I shook my head.
"You can set those tits to neutral, Demi. She's not going to do it again unless you piss her off." I said, putting my hand on her shoulder. It was around this time that Chris stepped forward. He was wearing his blue windbreaker over a plain black shirt.
"Not that I don't totally love this exchange, but what are you guys doing here? I was told we weren't allowed to leave." He butted in.
"Oh, that's what I forgot to do the other day." I bopped myself in the forehead. "Tonight's the second stage of the Becoming ritual. I was supposed to stop by a couple days ago and let you know, but I guess I forgot. My bad." I shrugged. He nodded and shrugged back at me.
"So, uh, why are you here then?" He asked again.
"We're going to practice, then go eat dinner, and then go do the actual ritual. It'll be really easy, I promise. You won't have to lift a finger." I explained.
"Well, cool. Let's get out of here then. I could go for something to eat. Later, Mari." He waved at Marizelle and began walking away.
"Oh, alright then. See you later, girl." I began to walk away, pulling Demi along. I stuck my tongue out at the girl that was giving me a stank face and ran to catch up with Chris.
"Do you even know where you're going?" I asked him. He shook his head and stopped.
"No, not really. I was just ready to get out of there. Listening to someone else sing isn't really fun when you can't do anything else." He explained.
"Yeah, I guess so. We've still got to go get Nic and Shane, so let's move this bus along. It's already a little late anyways." We talked about some nonsense as we went and grabbed Nic and Shane. They hadn't been doing any practicing because the only could really learn how to utilize their powers once they had them.
Tonight would be the start of that. Traditionally, one would be able to use their powers after the second ritual brings out more of their nature, but we've never had four kids at once, and there were lots of exceptions. Once we were together, I decided that we should just head out into the forest to a little clearing so we wouldn't be disturbed.
The trees parted into the perfect circle around us and grabbed at my amulet and muttered the charm to create a temporary bubble around us. It was so we'd be invisible from the outside, and it was soundproof too, so I wouldn't have to worry about the sweet sounds of Mother Nature interfering with my concentration.
"Aight, guys, I need you to stand in a square formation." I reached into my pocket and pulled out a compass I had been holding onto. I pointed it north and faced that direction.
"Chris, get over here and stand right here." He came and stood where I was, then I moved around in a circle and set everyone up, matching them to their cardinal direction. Once that was done, I took my position in the middle. I took a deep breath and prepared to chant the incantation. Luckily, I was able to perform the spell in English instead of the old tongue. The butterflies in my stomach began seizing as I opened my mouth.
"Waning moon that lights the skies,
Whisper power into I,
I wish to break the blood-made ties,
Smothering these being's light.
Water, air, wood, earth, and fire,
Shatter the ties that have been sired,
Warm the air and light the sky,
Become what inside."
I opened my eyes and looked at the group. They were all still standing and alive, so I took that as a sign that I hadn't done anything wrong. "Alright, that's all. Let's get out of here." I said, waving my hand to dispel the privacy bubble.
"Wait, that's really all?" Nic asked, putting her hand on her hip. I rolled my eyes, still feeling the after effects of the jitters.
"Yes, that's really it. I'm thinking Chinese for dinner? You want to drive, Chris?" I heard him groan.
"Yeah, I guess," He conceded. "Wait, I thought we weren't allowed to leave?" He pointed out. I mentioned that I planned for it to take longer than that, so I told everyone that we'd be out for the rest of the afternoon.
"So you're springing us?" Shane asked. I chuckled a little.
"Basically yeah. Now let's get out of here. I'm starved." I said, walking quickly back the way we had come. We headed to Chris's car and I had to jam myself in the tiny backseat between Shane and Demi. My foot fell asleep on the short ride down the mountain, so when I got out of the car I nearly fell.
I managed to catch myself at the last second, but the four of them had seen me, and were struggling not to laugh.
"Yeah, yeah, you might as well just h'yuck it up." I said, rolling my eyes. We headed inside and selected the large circular booth on the side. After the waitress took our drink orders, we all walked over to the buffet and perused the options.
I settled on a plate of sweet-and-sour chicken with some lo-mein noodles on the side and big egg roll. We all sat back down and I listened to Shane's story about how he basically got his ass handed to him, but tried to play it off like he'd gotten in a few good punches.
"Dude, you're such a liar. I've known Jordon for the last two years, and all the new recruits get their butts kicked. Hard." I refuted. He shrugged a little, knowing I had caught him.
"I might have embellished the story a little bit, but it's not like it really matters." He said. "And what's up with you, anyways? We never got an explanation for your little spy op." He asked. I clenched my teeth and frowned.
"Yeah, I was afraid of that. I hoped you might have forgotten." I admitted, shoving a big bite of noodles in my mouth.
"And why is that?" Chris asked, propping both his arms on the table. I swallowed the bite and put my fork down. This wasn't a conversation I had been hoping to have. I was a little nervous that they might think I wasn't actually trying to be their friend.
"It's just a lot of my life, I haven't had very many friends that are just my friend because they like me. Most of the people I know only interact with me because they have to, not because they necessarily want to. You were just the first people that ever liked me without needing to." I explained.
"Okay, well what about your spying thing. We don't care about the friend part." Demi said, gesturing for me to get on with it.
"You… don't?" I asked. "I mean, I was basically just sent down to the campus to take some fake classes and wave a glowing rock around until I had sniffed someone out. Only it turned out to be four people instead of one." I explained.
"So, is that rare? I know that your teacher said something about it, but I didn't really get the gist of it." Shane replied. I felt a large pressure come off my chest when I realized that they really didn't care about my supposed transgressions. For some reason, they still wanted to be friends with me.
"Well, I didn't really know because I wasn't here for the last Becoming, but when I told her I had found four kids, she practically had a heart attack. She didn't even really believe me until I brought you guys up to the mountain. So yeah, would have to say that this is pretty breakthrough."
"Well, that's all great, but does this make us like the chosen ones or something?" Chris asked, gawking at me. I scoffed and leaned back.
"Hardly, in all the villages around here, the people that have already Become are pretty much accepted. More or less, there are always haters." I shrugged. Nicolette had been giving me a skeptical look through most of my explanation, and it was making me feel uncomfortable.
"Is there a problem?" I asked, looking her in the face. She pursed her lips and squinted.
"No offense, but why are you so special? Isn't that old woman already the matriarch, why do they need you?" She asked bluntly. I was taken aback by her very direct question, and it didn't help that I wasn't sure what the answer was.
"I… don't really know, honestly. I've asked, but she said something about my family's history, and then gave me a new book of spells to learn." I stated. Demi's eyes grew wide.
"What kind of spells?" She probed. I searched my memory in an effort to at least remember more than one example.
"I only thumbed through it, so the only spell I really remember was to summon a ghost, but I haven't learned the incantation yet. You have to have some stuff to do it with anyways." I explained. I flipped my wrist up and checked my watch. It had grown a little late in the time we'd been eating, so we had to hurry so we weren't late. "Not that it really matters" I thought. "You're going to be the only people there"
I didn't like it, but it was true. I had begged Alyssa to oversee my casting, but she had refused. She told me that she had faith in me, but I still wasn't exactly sure.
"Alright, according to my watch, it's about time to head out to the ritual grounds." I whispered, attempting to avoid the overbearing waitress. We paid, left, and drove back up the mountainside to where the training facilities.
As we were beginning the walk out into the forest, "Isn't there a faster way to get out there," Chris asked.
"Yeah, but you can't use it yet. Once you get past this ritual, I'll basically be able to teleport us out there. It's just kind of complicated. You'll see." I dismissed him. The walk out was basically the same as it normally had been, although it was much colder than a week before. There were a few more obstacles in the dark than I had anticipated, but nothing seemed completely out of the ordinary. I noticed that it was oddly quiet, but when I attempted to start a conversation, it always died out. It wasn't hard to figure out why; their nerves were plastered all over their faces.
I felt my own nerves flare up as we approached the area. Someone had brought out large torches and placed them in a circle in the area. As we approached, I channeled some power into my hand to remove the charm that hid the ceremonial plate on the ground. It was made of the same rocky stone as the rest of the surrounding ruins, but it had been taken care of for some reason and was still smooth.
"Are you all ready? All you have to do is stand in a circle and allow me to cast the incantation." I said, gesturing for them to stand on the plate. It was about twenty feet wide and had symbols etched on it that were similar to the symbols on the Gears. They each stood on their respective symbol, and I took my place in the middle. As I put my hands on my amulet, my thoughts turned to my grandmother. She was the one who had helped me adapt to being a witch after my own parents rejected me. A lump grew in my throat as I opened my mouth and repeated the spell from earlier.
The plate lit up slightly, diffusing the magic from me into them. I watched in unease as they all doubled over. I'd been told that the spell could cause some discomfort, but I honestly wasn't sure what to have expected. The next thing I knew, the amulet at my throat had begun to tingle with a little heat, and I had to remove my hand from it. It was completely unusual, especially for what had happened. I slid it from my neck and placed it in my pocket, making my collarbone feel unusually naked.
Once the light died out, they all stood and looked at me. It appeared that nothing had gone amiss during the spell, and that I had succeeded. Despite the cold, I realized that I had been sweating slightly, so I wiped the sweat off my forehead and began to move off the plate.
"Alright, we're done, and now we can get back to the complex fast too." I said, moving a few feet away. They followed and formed a flank across from me.
"How does that work?" Nic asked, crossing her arms and shivering in the cold.
"Okay, well you all need to hold hands, but I need Demi to hold mine." I replied. They frowned, but did as I said. Demi came over and placed one hand in mine, and the other in Chris's.
"What did you have to hold my hand for? This feels really elementary school, I'm not going to lie." She said. I rolled my eyes and reached my free hand into my pocket to take hold of my amulet. It had cooled down in the few moments and was already almost icy to the touch. I whispered a transport spell, and a short gust of wind later, we stood back on the cobblestone path of the training campus. I heard a few gasps, and had to snicker to myself.
"How did you do that? Dude." Chris exclaimed, obviously awestruck. I released Demi's hand and stepped out of the line.
"Magic, duh." I said. "No, I just used a spell to tap into Demi's air powers. They can naturally teleport by transforming into wind, so I just magnified it so we could bounce back over here."
"Well, that's pretty badass, Gem." Shane said, giving me a bro pat on the back. I rolled my eyes and smiled. It appeared I had managed to gain the acceptance of my peers, and it really meant a lot to me.
"I'm sure my grandmother would be proud of me." I replied, blinking back a tear. I was glad the path wasn't lit, because the last thing I wanted was for them to see me being all emotional about nothing.
"How about we get you guys back inside? It's getting late, and I'm bushed." I offered, changing the subject and throwing my shield back up. It was relatively short walk, as I left them at the start of their path. Once it was just Demi and I, we began to chat about something silly, before we reached her turn.
"I guess that's all for tonight?" She asked. I smiled and nodded.
"Yeah, you should get some sleep. It only gets more difficult from here." I said. She grinned before giving me a silly over-motioned wave and skipping off towards the nymph building. I sighed and looked up at the moon as I walked alone to the witch's hold. It hadn't been a long night, but I was pretty exhausted from all the excitement. As soon as I hit the door, I stripped out of my jacket and tossed it onto the sofa inside.
I headed back to my room and changed into some silly pink pajamas and glided gently into my bed. I realized I left my amulet in the pocket of my jeans, so I hopped back up and retrieved it. I returned it back to its rightful place, and climbed back into the blankets. I flipped the lamp on next to my bed, and grabbed the spell book I had gotten from Alyssa, hoping to maybe look over a few of them.
After a few minutes of hopeless studying, I realized I was too tired to even look over a new spell, so I placed it back on the nightstand and turned my lamp off. I rolled over in the bed and fingered my amulet. I still wasn't sure what had caused it to heat up like that, but I was going to find out.
A/n If you've been reading up on BC, then I'm sure you're confused as to what happened to it! Well, with my decision to increase my word count, it inspired me to go back and edit all my previous chapters into 1 chapter per character, and bump up the word count so they're all similar lengths. Plus, it let me iron out a few inconsistencies in the plot so for reading and review if you like it!