Demons may be strong, but the Guardians of the Trinity are even stronger. New Guardian, Romia, has to battle her own demons so they can't be used against her in the great battle between good and evil. While the demons are gathering strength--and the church's secrets are unraveling--Romia's Familiar, Aric, is the only thing keeping her from falling apart. Can they save the world, or will evil ultimately triumph?
As much as I had prepared myself for this last night, today didn’t go at all the way I expected. When the elders trained us for Guardianship, they warned us repeatedly not to concoct a mental image of what we thought our Familiar would look like. Sound advice, sure, but we were all fresh graduates with dreams of perfection. A familiar isn’t just a partner to a Guardian; they are so devoted and loyal that to prevent the union from being polluted, the pair will marry on the eve of their shared 18th birthday. The elders firmly stamp it into our brains that marriage for us isn’t about love—it’s about our duty to the trinity, the Order, and to the children of God. Unlike the other Guardians, romantic love is a foreign concept to my heart. I almost cringed at the idea of kissing this mystery man in our home church under the watchful eyes of the marrying minister someday.
As I sat in the waiting chambers that preceded my bedroom, my heart started pumping with an unknown vigor. The door creaked open slowly and I set eyes on him for the first time.
At least a foot taller than me, chestnut hair cut short, foggy amber eyes (international sign of a Familiar Guide) that sort of drooped in the corners like a sad puppy. He was of lean build but there was clearly defined muscle tone beneath his immaculately pressed Academy blues.
He took a graceful bow before me, his eyes never leaving mine. “Lady Orsatti,” he greeted me, in a voice far deeper than I was expecting.
“Gentleman Doyle,” I replied, offering him a smile and my hand the way I had practiced in etiquette class countless times.
Aric grinned and planted a soft peck on my exposed knuckles. “Please, call me by my given name.”
“Then you too should call me by mine.” I gestured for him to take a seat across from me, noticing that when he smiled a small scar stretched out across his bottom lip.
He sat down, pulled a small Polaroid out of his breast pocket and slit it across the table towards me. It was a picture of me taken a few weeks ago at my birthday party. Across the bottom was written only my name: Romia.
“I’ve got ten of these,” he stated, watching me closely for a reaction. “One every year since I was 7. But I really must say that seeing you in person trumps these photographs exponentially.”
I ignored the rising heat in my cheeks in favor of the gross irritation I felt at the preferences shown towards Familiars over Guardians.
“That’s funny, considering I had no inkling of what you looked like until you walked through my door,” I snapped, shoving the picture back into his hands.
“Don’t be cross with me, Romia; this is a time of celebration.”
I clucked my tongue in disgust before I could help myself—an action that had cost me plenty of ruler slaps to the fingers.
“Call me Romi, please, only the elders call me Romia.” I stood up and wandered over to the window, admiring the gloom that had begun to settle over the grounds. “Pardon my discourtesy, Aric, it’s just that as my first mission approaches I feel more like a bug trapped in a glass, expected to perform with the abilities of a swan. I am required to place my life in your hands because they say so, yet the only information I receive of you is a name. How would you feel in my place?”
I turned away from the window and gasped to see Aric only inches from my face. Slowly he dropped to one knee. He gathered my hands in his own and gazed up into my eyes. “Aside from the duties you swore in the oath you took for your church, the only thing required of you as a Guardian is to arm yourself with knowledge to rid this world of evil. As your Familiar, my duty is to protect you from these things that will seek to harm you. I was given the pictures to cement my focus, and keep my will from faltering. Forgive me for the transgression?”
This time the blush in my cheeks won, and I dragged him to his feet before there was a proposal I was in no way ready for. “It isn’t your fault; I just have a tendency to get overwhelmed by the enormity of what my life has become.”
“Well I’m here to help you shoulder the weight,” he said, smiling.
Looking back, I’m not really sure what I was expecting when Aric walked through the door but seeing him was surreal. Meeting him meant that training was over, and it was time for the real thing. I am well-versed in all matters of the occult. I can list the textbook steps of an exorcism under pressure. I can recite binding prayers in my sleep, and I keep vials of holy oil stashed everywhere.
But there’s a big difference between training and the field. I have no choice but to be ready because on graduation night, the forces of evil can smell a freshly spawned Guardian. Whether I like it or not, they’re coming for me.