The Brotherhood

Arriving at the Brotherhood

Tatiana was putting off the inevitable. Laying under a bush, uncomfortably, and watching the house was just a way of having a few more minutes alone. She didn’t want to become a part of the community that lived there. It was too easy to imagine what they were like and what she would have been like under different circumstances. From the first moment she had changed into animal form she’d been able to feel the pull of the crystal, but she hadn’t needed to follow it. When her parents had found her fox self curled up under her desk they had known, somehow, that it was their daughter. Looking down at her paw she snuffed. They knew who she was because she had become an arctic fox, which wasn’t native to England.
Being Russian… well, half Russian… meant that Tatiana had turned into something that was right for her. She couldn’t imagine having turned into a native English animal, because she had never really felt the connection to them that she had felt to the animals of her maternal grandparent’s birth place. It was thanks to them that her mum had know how to create a charm so she didn’t have to feel the crystal, until the day she needed to, due to a new power that she couldn’t control. That power was why she was outside the shapeshifter’s house, feeling like her world had fallen apart.
At first Tatiana’s parents had wanted to take her to the house, so she didn’t have to travel as an animal. They thought it was too dangerous, and a part of her agreed, but she knew that she couldn’t let them know where the house was. It had taken some explaining, because they didn’t want to believe that any parent wouldn’t know the difference between their child and a real animal, but eventually they had understood that the children in the house, and the adults, wouldn’t want them to know the location of the house or who any of the people in it were. She wasn’t even sure they would accept her, because she was much older than the average shapeshifter would be when they first arrived at the house.
That was why Tatiana was still laying under a bush. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to be accepted, but she knew she needed to learn how to control her ability to create fire. Being able to set fire to things at random hadn’t been very useful. Unfortunately the house was the only place she knew of, otherwise she would have found somewhere, or someone, else, because even looking at it filled her with trepidation. A child with powers was dangerous, and they had all grown up without real parents. Under those circumstances she could imagine being a very different person. She didn’t ever want to meet that person.
Finally Tatiana stood. It was time she did what she needed to do, instead of put it off. Once she learnt how to control her abilities she could leave. She wasn’t in the same position as those children when they had first arrived. Her parents would welcome her home, things would be normal again, and she would be able to live her life. However, she could only do that if she let go of her worries and dealt with her problems.
Tatiana couldn’t help hoping for something that might mean she didn’t have to enter the house, but it didn’t happen. When the kitchen door opened she slunk in, certain that the residents had seen the same thing happen before, so it was a surprise when someone grabbed hold of her. Unfortunately they had a tight grip on the scruff of her neck which meant getting away from them was going to be difficult, especially as she didn’t want to hurt anyone, and to stop herself from fighting, when she decided that was the best option, she told herself that she had made the choice to come to the shapeshifter’s house.
“Sorry,” a female voice whispered, only just loud enough for Tatiana to hear. “This isn’t the sort of greeting that you’d normally get, but we’re in a transition period at the moment and I think it would be better for you if we were alone when you changed. If Tristan was here there wouldn’t be a problem – he’s come to accept that we’re all different, so you turning up at a strange age would be fine. Unfortunately it’s Daniel who’s currently in charge of the house and he isn’t even used to the fact that newbies arrive at all hours of the day. Lucas, thankfully, actually gets along well enough with Daniel to be able to deal with him then, because I don’t have the patience to, not with everything else I have to do.” The girl sighed. “Honestly, you aren’t here at a good time, but I’ll help you as much as I can.”
Being placed gently on something that felt soft was just as unexpected and Tatiana took a couple of minutes to look around. She was on a bed in what looked to be a bedroom that was shared between two people, one of whom was transient as they had a sleeping bag instead of a bed. That might have been one of the other things the girl had mentioned she had to do. Tatiana’s curiosity was the only reason she changed then, because she had questions that she needed to ask, and the only way she could do that was if she was human. Smiling, the girl passed Tatiana a dressing gown.
“Thank you,” Tatiana said, almost managing to return the smile as she wrapped it around herself. “What do you mean I’m not here at a good time?”
“About a month ago Daniel turned up at the house and decided he was going to take it over, which meant, for some reason, that he had to get rid of Tristan, who was previously in charge. Thankfully we have some very good healers here who managed to get to Tristan in time, so he’s somewhere safe. None of us know where exactly, because that means we can’t accidentally give the information to one of Daniel’s group. Miles is telepathic and, even though he usually has some very good shields up, can pick up on things we don’t want him to. Fortunately he knows me well enough to come to me first if that happens, instead of Daniel – if it was any of the others we’d be in trouble.”
“Will Miles know that I’m here?”
“Yes, but I don’t think he’ll have any idea when you came, so your arrival is something we can keep between us, if you want.” The girl shrugged. “There are very few people I trust here and all three of them were in the kitchen when you came in. It’s unlikely they’ll ask any difficult to answer questions, but if you don’t want to reply that’s fine. We don’t mind if people want to keep to themselves, as long as they make sure they turn up for training daily, and a lot of people do their own thing as we’re technically all missing. No one actually know we here or that the house actually exists – Leonard made certain of that, because he didn’t want anyone to know we were here until he was ready for them too.”
“Leonard was the man who originally set up the house?” After hearing so many different names Tatiana needed to work out who was who. “Tristan took over from him and now Daniel is in charge, with help from Lucas, who I’m guessing is one of the people here before Daniel’s arrival, and Miles is someone who came with Daniel.”
“Sorry, this isn’t usually my job and obviously I’m not very good at it. I’m Kara, you’re currently in the bedroom I share with Mim, and the reason you’re here is that I know enough about foxes to realise you weren’t a child.” Kara sighed. “That’s why I grabbed you the way I did. Hopefully we’ll be able to pretend that you’ve been here all along, instead of having to give Daniel a reason for your very late arrival.” She brushed a hand through her hair. “Leonard was one of the Brotherhood, which was, about fifty years ago, a group of young men who knew of the existence of what they called Millennium Crystals. We have one of them here, which is what drew you to the house. From the beginning they knew what we were and each one of them had plans for us, but none of them were happy with what Leonard wanted to use us for, when the time came that we were born, so they planned on replacing him. Sadly he realised what was going on and left them all behind, taking one of the crystals with him.
“We think we know where the other six houses are, because we all have more than one power and each of those crystals draws someone to them if they have the right ability. The one in the study attracts shapeshifters, like us, and it’s not unusual for us to arrive in our other form, after our parents throw us out.” She bit her lip. “Obviously that isn’t something you had to deal with, but there are a lot of damaged children here, none of whom ever really get help for their abandonment issues. I was six when I first changed into my animal form, six when I found myself homeless thanks to my ability, and it took me just over three weeks to get here. Leonard took me in, even though my arrival obviously surprised him, and this place has been my home ever since, no matter how hard I wished otherwise sometimes. Being here hasn’t been easy.”
“I can’t imagine it has.” Tatiana could see the pain in Kara’s eyes. “My parents somehow knew I was me, even when I was in my fox form, but as I turned into an animal that isn’t native to this country I’m not entirely sure it was down to them knowing as such. Mum’s mother was Russian and she left with us one of her old journals that makes me think she might well have known about this before it happened. Unfortunately I had to leave it behind, as I couldn’t carry it in my other form, but within it was the instructions for making a charm that meant I didn’t have to hear the call of the Millennium crystal. It meant I could be raised by my family until I started setting fire to things.”
Kara nodded. “How many powers do you have… I really am useless at this job. I gave you my name and didn’t think to ask for yours.”
“Call me Ana.”
“Well, Ana, it’s nice to meet you.” The half smile on Kara’s face told Tatiana it wasn’t unusual for new arrivals to withhold their full name. “I know you can shift and I’ve seen your other form.”
“That is one of my forms – my natural form. I can change into three other animals and I’m sure you could too if you tried. Before the fire problem started I was beginning to believe that I wouldn’t have any other abilities.”
“How old are you?”
“My twentieth birthday is in three months.”
“Did you actively use your abilities before you came here?”
“Not as much as I would have liked. Even though I don’t think a place like this is a good idea the one advantage you had over me is that your life wasn’t full of other things. You could focus on learning about the abilities you were born with, while I found myself trying to work it around school, homework, and trying to live as normally as possible, so no one knew that there was something different about me.” Tatiana shrugged. “Having the chance to grow up with my family was worth it, I know that, but there were days when it was hard.”
“You’re the oldest new arrival at this house and I think you’re going to be good for us.” Kara smiled. “All we know is what it was like to grow up here, so having someone to talk to with a different perspective, who knows what it was like to grow up out there… Daniel lived a very different life to you, because he knew what his parents had done to his sister, and he made the choice at a very young age to walk away – or at least that’s what he told me he did. It is Daniel. He could well have been lying to me.”
“Daniel’s sister?”
“Miriam – she arrived here not long after me, after her parents threw her out because she was a badger.”
Tatiana studied Kara. “Miriam is Mim, the girl you share this room with? If she’s been here since the beginning why doesn’t she have her own room?”
“Long story, but the short version is that Miriam found out about Leonard’s plans for us and didn’t want us to have to go through that. She decided the best option was to free us all, first making sure that he wouldn’t be able to do the same thing to any other Millennium children, so she took over the strongest male in the house. Using him she killed Leonard, then the other children, until she tried to make him hurt me. We were close friends, so it was hurting me that gave him the strength to shove her out of his mind. By then, sadly, he was close to death, because I didn’t know what was happening. I just thought my best friend was trying to kill me and I needed to fight back. When I realised what had happened I went straight to her room. She thought I was going to hurt her, but I knew her too well to think she’d done all that for no reason, and that’s when she told me about Leonard.
“I wished then that she’d talked to me sooner, so we could come up with another idea, but Miriam didn’t think we’d believe her. Leonard, to her, was a sort of father figure, and she assumed we saw him the same way. We didn’t and I think even then we knew that he was up to something, even though we weren’t certain exactly what it was. She told me she didn’t want to live any more, she could feel that her mental ability was making her mind unstable, and I helped her to die.” A tear trickled down Kara’s cheek. “Daniel decided when he arrived that he was going to bring them both back to life, her and my best friend, in an attempt to make me love him. Now Mim shares with me and Conrad shares with Lucas, because it was easier that way at the beginning. They came back exactly as they were when they died and for three nights it was hell thanks to them growing to the size they would have been if they had lived their lives normally.”
“How did he bring them back?”
“Unfortunately at some time after I left he met a necromancer, who was willing to bring back Conrad and Miriam. I left because I knew he was becoming unstable, about six months after I arrived at the place he was sharing with other Millennium Children, like Miles, to tell him about Mim. Even though I didn’t know him I thought he had the right to be told, by someone who knew her, exactly what had happened to his sister, and I stayed there until I realised how dangerous he really was. Somehow he’d managed to hide it from me.”
“You probably didn’t want to see it. He was Miriam’s brother and that meant he was the one link to her that you had left, so why would you want to think that he was dangerous. Being a part of his life was almost like having her back again.”
Another tear trickled down Kara’s cheek. “That’s exactly what Tristan said, but he knew me.”
“Kara, I don’t need to know you. If I was in the same position I would have felt exactly the same way.” Tatiana reached out and squeezed Kara’s hand. “Telling Daniel what had happened was a way of getting the weight of those deaths off your shoulders, because you felt responsible, probably for all of them, and by staying with him you had a chance of leaving the place that held bad memories. Unfortunately they’re the sort that cling to the very fabric of the building, so they’ll never truly fade away. I can’t help thinking that Daniel brought them back in order for them to absolve you of any guilt.” Tatiana shrugged. “I don’t know the whole story, I don’t know Daniel, but I understand people. You’ve chosen to be more open since Daniel arrived, because you were the sort of person who kept everything bottled up. It was easier that way, until people found out that you were keeping secrets from them, even though they were secrets that you kept for a good reason – you didn’t want anyone else thinking that Leonard’s plan was a good one. By keeping those secrets you were keeping everyone safe, the way you couldn’t when you were younger.”
Even though there were still tears in Kara’s eyes she studied Tatiana. “You might have a second ability that you didn’t know about.” Kara blinked away the tears, sniffing slightly. “Conrad, before he came back to life, was an empath, and he said things like that to me. Of course back then things were different, I was different, but he always seemed to know more about me that I did. It might have something to do with your Russian grandmother, though. I don’t know very much about Russian magic.”
“Neither do I, and I’m not even certain that what my grandmother did was Russian magic. It could well have been her own creation. Unfortunately she died not long before my first transformation, so I have no way of asking her, and there was never anything in the journal that said where her knowledge had come from.”
“If you really wanted to we have a couple of people here who can speak to the dead. Before Daniel brought Conrad and Mim back I was thinking of asking them to help me talk to Conrad, but that would have meant they’d know more about what had happened than I was comfortable with, especially as I’m almost certain he stayed with me until we buried the bodies. Even though he couldn’t help me he wanted to be there.” Kara shrugged. “When I returned to my room I told him everything that Mim had told me, because I didn’t want him to hate her. She did the wrong thing for the right reasons. I wouldn’t have wanted to be used by Leonard and she had never really spoken to Tristan, so she couldn’t have known that he was nothing like his grandfather. There was a chance that Tristan might not have taken over, but the crystal accepted him the moment he touched it, and it was a relief to know that someone I trusted was in charge.”
“How much has Daniel’s take-over changed things?”
“More than I’m happy with, but unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about it. We did manage to remove everything from the study before Daniel got there, thanks to Conrad and Lucas’ quick thinking, so he doesn’t know as much about the house as we do. He won’t have a chance to read Leonard’s journals either, which was what we were really worried about. From what Tristan told me Leonard wrote about all his plans and Daniel is the sort of person who’d think that taking over the world was a good idea.”
“He might still think of it himself.”
“That is one of things I’m worried about, but it’s not something I can stop. Not really. Even though Daniel accepts our help, because we know more about running this place than he does, he doesn’t trust any of us. He won’t talk to us about the sort of things he’d talk to Miles about. If Daniel does start talking about something as worrying as taking over the world I really hope that Miles will come to me. Being friends with him before helps and we do talk, even now, but he’s changed and I think it has something to do with their new friend – the necromancer.” Kara shook her head. “Annoyingly he’s a really nice person. I wanted to hate him, but that’s impossible. The problem is Daniel seems to trust Casper more than Miles now and that seems to have made Miles angry, for some reason. It’s not something any of them will talk about, yet, although I think the more time Daniel spends with Casper the more likely Miles is to tell me what the hell happened between the three of them.” She sighed. “It was a year between the time I left and the time Daniel arrived here, with all of his friends, so I’m not surprised that something happened to change the friendship between Daniel and Miles, but leaving them didn’t make me stop caring about the people I got close to, and I was close to Miles. Closer than I should have been, really.”