“Concentrate,” I heard Joel whisper.
I closed my eyes, feeling sweat gather on my furrowed brow. I focused on the spell I had been trying to learn, pushing away Joel's familiar scent of mint and rosemary. I rolled the words around in my head, gathering my energy. I whispered the incantation.
I waited a few seconds and opened my eyes. I looked down at the handcuffs that were on my wrists. I groaned in frustration and flopped onto the hardwood floor. If the spell had worked, I would have temporarily turned intangible and the cuffs should have fallen off.
“Why isn’t this damn spell working?” I said, “I mastered the invisibility spell, so obviously I should be able to master this one!”
I closed my eyes again as Joel sat on the floor across from me.
“You shouldn’t worry about it,” he said, trying to placate me, “What, it’s been a month since you became Alpha? You’re allowed to have off days.”
I opened my eyes again, this time glaring at Joel. He sat directly in light of a setting sun. His features were thrown into sharp relief, his grey eyes staring out the window of his two story Salem home. His eyes were filled with mirth as I flipped him off.
I got up again, looking around Joel’s home. I had been coming here ever since I was 12, when my spellcasting abilities had started to manifest. There was the blackened smudge that I had accidentally created when I was trying to create my first fireball. I looked towards the kitchen, my stomach growling as my sensitive nose picked up the aroma of food. I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning, and my stomach wasn’t hiding that fact.
“Don’t even think about it Josh,” Joel broke into my thoughts, “That food is for me and Emily.”
I snorted and walked into his kitchen. I saw the covered plates and lifted one of the covers. Steaks. Awesome. My mouth filled with saliva, as a louder rumble echoed in my stomach. I reached towards one of the steaks almost touching one when my entire body froze. I strained, trying to break through Joel’s restraint spell. I struggled for a few seconds before I finally gave up.
“Thank God you actually stopped struggling,” Joel laughed, “Last time I cast this spell on you, you tried for an hour before you finally gave up.”
I began struggling again, trying to get anything to move, a toe, a pinkie, but nothing moved. Suddenly, my body rocked forward as Joel snapped the spell.
“You’re an asshole,” I told Joel.
“Thank you for being so frank,” he said, hands crossed over his chest.
I growled at him, and he laughed again. He grabbed the plates and set them on the table.
“Come on then, eat,” he said.
I stared at him warily, and sat down. I grabbed a fork, waited another second and began to dig in.
“So you never answered the question,” he prodded in between bites, “How’s that first month as Alpha going?”
I had food bulging in my cheeks, which I swallowed quickly.
“It’s been going great!” I said happily, “It’s everything I ever wanted.”
I wolfed down more food, as Joel stared at me, waiting patiently for more information.
“I’ve been training the kids. Nichole completed her first Change last week.”
“Nichole…is that the bitten girl?”
“Yeah,” I said, pushing my plate aside as I remembered when we found Nichole.
As far as natural born werewolves and bitten werewolves go, there’s not much of a difference. We both turn into wolves, full wolves, not those half man half wolf monsters that old movies liked to show. Neither did we turn into huge dogs, like more modern films show us. Bitten wolves were humans that had been…bitten by a werewolf. Natural born werewolves were born to only to female werewolves, but aside from that, the only true difference between bitten and natural born wolves is that natural wolves could Change at any given time, while bitten wolves could only Change during the full moon.
When we had heard rumors of wolf attacks in Allendale Woods, we didn’t immediately think werewolf. Sometimes a wolf attack is just a wolf attack. However, when we heard that a girl had been dragged into the woods, we knew what we were dealing with. We set off immediately, the wolves that could Change, and hunted till we found the wolf about to devour Nichole. After a quick fight, the female wolf died, and we disposed of her body. It was too late to spare Nichole of the werewolf bite, but she had adjusted to Pack life quickly, which goes to show just how quick kids can adapt to just about anything.
“Any word on when you’re going to tell her parents?” Joel asked.
As a rule, we couldn’t tell regular humans what we were. We would be hunted, and while we were stronger than an average human, super strength wouldn’t stop a bullet from entering our brains. Adults understood that, and unless extenuating circumstances were involved, nobody needed to know. Kids on the other hand were different. They didn’t see the danger that could be caused if one fanatic overheard them and started stalking our woods.
Thankfully, most humans had the sense to ignore children when they talked about being werewolves. Bitten children were, thankfully, rare enough that we could afford to tell their parents about their new gift.
“Well, Nichole wants to wait a bit. You know how teenagers are, thinking they know best and stuff,” I replied, “Nichole wants to wait a bit longer, go through a few more Changes before she actually tells them.”
Joel looked out of his kitchen window, processing this new information. I knew that he didn’t agree with me letting Nichole make such an important decision on her own, but he wasn’t a Pack member. He didn’t know how important it was for us to have bonds of trust with each other.
“Any word on Connor?” he finally asked.
I rested my chin on my fist. Connor had disappeared the morning after our brawl. No farewells, just straight up disappeared. I had people looking for him, trying to see if he was okay, but the last time I had heard anything about him specifically had been from a magical healer who had treated him for internal bleeding.
“There were sightings of a red furred wolf down in Mexico and England, but for all we know it could be just local wolves or other weres.”
Joel opened his mouth to ask another question but a loud knock interrupted him. He rushed to open the door, almost tripping on his own feet.
“It isn’t Emily,” I called out helpfully, following him from the kitchen.
He opened the door and Calliope came rushing in.
“Hey Joel!” she yelled.
“Hey Calliope,” he said hugging her tightly.
She made a squawking noise and escaped from his hug giggling. She looked around and saw me standing near the kitchen.
“Josh!” she screamed happily, slamming into my stomach.
I let out a small “oof” as my breath was knocked out of me. Calliope grinned up at me, and let me go.
“Where’s Talia?” I asked her, “Or did you walk all the way from Boston to here?”
“Of course not! She gave me a ride and told me to tell you she’ll see you tonight in the woods! I smell steak!” she said happily, tearing into the kitchen.
“Calliope!” Joel tore after her.
I laughed and followed them into the kitchen again. My laughter stopped abruptly as I saw Joel- and more importantly- Calliope chowing down on the food that I had left behind.
“Hey! That’s mine!” I said as I struggled and failed to cast a restraint spell on Calliope.
“No it’s not! It was for Emily, but now I gave it to Calliope,” Joel said, “Also, your restraints could use more work.”
I groaned as I sat down next to Calliope, snagging a couple of pieces of steak for myself.
“How was school today Calliope?” Joel asked.
As Calliope went into excruciating detail about her classes, I began thinking. Magic was a fickle thing. While most of my magic was purely elemental or conjuration, Joel’s specialty was illusion and mind magic. While I could cast a few mind spells, mainly invisibility and chaos spells, I couldn’t grasp the subtle workings of illusion magic at all, just as Joel could barely cast any fire spells, yet he could create a fire illusion that felt real. His illusions could actually hurt people.
Since I had been able to cast an okay invisibility spell, I should have been able to cast the intangibility spell. I had been trying for over a month and yet nothing. Maybe I was missing something, maybe-
I was suddenly aware of Joel and Calliope looking at me.
“Yes?” I asked uncertainly.
Calliope rolled her eyes and looked at Joel. He laughed and asked me the question again.
“How much time is left until you have to go start prepping for the Pack gathering?”
“About three hours,” I said, looking down at my cracked watch.
Joel had given me this watch, crack and all when I had completed my first Change. He said that the magic in the watch would help him locate me if I was ever in trouble, so I treasured the watch.
“Want to show Calliope the extent of your training?” Joel asked me.
I cracked a grin as me and Calliope ran into the basement, Joel hot on our heels. He had converted the basement into a sparring room, where we could cast magic with no fear of anyone seeing us. I stripped off my shirt and Joel followed suit. We each grabbed a sword hilt that had no blade.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Any time old man,” I replied, conjuring a blade made of fire.
Joel cast his own spell, and a blade made of lightning appeared.
We touched blades, and as always I was surprised that even though it was an illusion, Joel’s blade felt real.
Calliope’s face filled with awe as our blades connected, sparks flying everywhere.
With Calliope watching, we fought till it was time for me and Calliope to leave. As we said our goodbyes to Joel, I looked at her.
“Ready kid?” I asked her as we climbed into my car.
“Ready,” she affirmed.