The initiates made up the first two rows of the auditorium. The next row was made up of the acolytes where Lynuel found himself. He took relief in knowing that he wasn't the oldest of them, but he had been there the longest without gaining the rank of novice. It was something everyone knew about him if they knew nothing else.
Usually the auditorium was reserved for the nights when the newest novices and initiates were announced and introduced to the rest of the brotherhood. But such a ceremony shouldn't have been held for another two months which meant this was something else. They were all on edge. Soft murmurs rippled through the crowd. Everyone wanted to know, but at the same time, something like this could mean the ruination of someone. Their order was known for their public disciple after all.
Lynuel shifted in his seat anxiously, feeling a touch too sick to actually speak to any of the other acolytes around him. He wasn't sure where the feeling had first arisen from. Maybe he simply had a guilty conscious. But ever since he had heard the call that had brought them to the auditorium, everything had seemed wrong.
Silence still the room as footsteps echoed across the stage. The council that ruled their order consisted of four men and a woman to represent the only female who had ever actually been a member of the order. Mother Eurydice came from their sister order of Saint Sebastian, women who from the second world war and on had vowed that no woman would be without the ability to protect themselves from those who would invade their homes. He had no doubt his mother would have been one of them had it not been for him.
Four of the council members sat in the chairs set on the stage while their leader, GrandFather Nicholas II stepped forward to the podium. He was an impressive sight in the single long black robe bordered with red that covered the tight black body suit that marked everyone of their order. Though well into his seventies, the man was more than a match for anyone who dared to challenge him.
"Gentlemen," the man's voice filled the auditorium and any last vestiges of conversation was forgotten as all eyes turned to their commander. "The country is in a state of shock and fear. Never before have we taken a public stance on the men and women who call themselves the Nzombiy. Nor shall we. However, this does not prevent us from doing a duty when we are called to it. You all joined this order because you believe that the world must be protected. You believe that God has called you to step forward and defend your home no matter what the cost. You joined us because you wanted nothing to stand in the way of the safety of what you hold dearest. It is true that our methods are questioned as is our faith. But that is not so this day. Several hours ago, we received a commission from one of the highest officials in the country. Who, I am sworn to secrecy to not say. That is not what I come to tell you. Instead, I stand before you to announce the men who shall bring honor to our order."
Whispered conversations burst through the crowd. Curiosity was gaining over discretion. Such a summoning had only held place in time in records alone. Such a thing had never been done in the lifetime of any of the men assembled in the room, even the men who sat on the council. And that had them all wondering what the mission was and who would be lucky enough to find out.
"This group will consist of eight men. They will be led by Father Marcio who has offered his services to us and returned from his transfer to the Order of Saint Kolbe. Along with him shall be Father Thomas, Father Grayson, Father Parrish, Honored Father Silence, Novice Father Henry, Accolyte Brother Lynuel, and Initiate Brother Marcus."
The words didn't sink in at first. He was too surprised to find that those not fully ordained and accepted into the order would be chosen for this so profound of tasks. Eyes turned to him, staring. Some of those eyes appeared inquisitive. Others were jealous. A few were shocked. Why were they looking at him?
The realization sank in slowly. His name. They had called his name. Of all the acolytes that existed in their order, he had been chosen where before he had been forgotten. Why would they do that? And what if, worst of all, it wasn't a mistake. What if they had chosen him because they wanted him for some purpose? It made him feel on edge.
Someone nudged him and Lynuel looked up to see one of the younger acolytes watching him. "I never thought I would be jealous of you Lynuel," the boy admitted a little sheepishly. "Unless, of course, you wanted to trade places."
Lynuel snorted and shoved himself up. The boy looked flustered, his cheeks turning a pale shade of red. Normally, he would have apologized for his actions, but he felt too on edge. There was something missing. He looked up to the stage and found that there were more eyes on him than he had realized. "To the right my son," GrandFather Nicholas advised him lightly.
It was Lynuel's turn for his cheeks to blaze with color. He could only thank his darker coloring from hiding it better than most. He had a feeling that his cheeks would have matched his hair had his skin been light like his mother's. Bowing his head to GrandFather Nicholas, he moved as quickly as he could out of the row and towards the indicated door. Though he felt his stomach twisting with embarrassment, he could also feel anxiety growing once more, slowly doing away with the annoyance he had felt only moments before.
Something was wrong.
He was almost certain of it.
Lynuel was the last to enter the room. The seven other men stood around the room, their eyes watching him. "Forgive me brothers," he murmured bowing his head. "I found myself rather...distracted."
"No doubt," Marcus said with a chuckle. The sound was greeted with a crack that resulted form Henry's hand connecting with the back of the youngest man's head.
"Show some respect boy," he ordered. "Lynuel is a high rank than you and has more seniority than even me. It doesn't matter what his tests have said. There is a reason God chose him to be here and if you can't respect or appreciate that than you are not welcome in this order."
"Well said young one," Father Marcio's deep voice rumbled through the room and through their very beings. Everyone turned their attention to the man, heads bowed. "We do not have time to argue nor bicker. We have been given a mission and that must take precedent. I am your leader and Grayson will give orders if anything were to happen to me." Lynuel's eyes flicked to a man he knew all to well. His hazel-green eyes met with dead amber ones before he quickly looked away. He always forgot how unnerving those eyes could be.
"The reason we have been called here must never leave this room on penalty of death." None of them laughed. They knew it was true. Though the order was a religious one, it was one of the most secretive orders in the world. No one spoke of their secrets unless they wished to die. No one in this room appeared to have that wish. "You have all heard of the Nzambiy attacks so I will not elaborate on them. However, I will tell you all that we have been commissioned to...deal with them."
"Sir," Father Thomas's voice was quiet as he stepped forward. "How exactlyare we supposed to deal with this? It isn't as if it is an isolate incident. We don't even know if there is a connection to these attacks."
"That's what we have been commissioned to discover," Father Marcio explained. "If these attacks are isolated than we form a reactionary plan for law enforcement agencies. However, if there is something more to this, than we will deal with it." The words held a note so sinister to them that Lynuel felt a shudder go down his spine.
"Yes Father," the men murmured in agreement.