The Vines That Hold is the first book in my four book series: Coven of Elements.
This first chapter will be posted as a teaser. It will be posted a couple of weeks before regular updates begin. Once I do upload the next chapter then I will start posting updates weekly on Wednesdays, unless otherwise stated.
Additionally, this book and all books within the series are my intellectual property and I do not consent to their use in any form.
As a supplementary note; please choose your words with care when reviewing or commenting. Try to keep in mind, the stories written on this site are done by real people with feelings and not everyone responds to criticism in the same way. Personally, I take criticism very harshly even if it’s constructive and well-meaning.
I do hope you enjoy!
It was a day that was as normal as any other, relatively speaking of course. We were rogue werewolves, our days were never just normal. We spent our lives constantly on the run, never reaching a true level of normalcy. I smiled at my mate as we ran through the forest as wolves, there was a pack close to here so our goal was to cut through this area quickly. We didn’t want to risk being caught. We were nearly far enough out of their range to rest, when I stopped so suddenly that it caused poor Aden to stumble. He whimpered before linking me through our bond.
“What is it, Rita? What’s wrong?”
“Can’t you hear it? Listen.”
I could hear the soft whimper of a child. I couldn’t believe my own ears. We were in the middle of the forest, miles away from any pack or human town. It wasn’t plausible that a child was in these woods, and yet I could hear one. I saw the look in Aden’s eyes change as soon as he heard it. There was no hesitation after that, neither of us needed to ask the other what we wanted to do. We both took off running towards the source. We knew that if there was a child among these trees, it was likely they needed help.
It didn’t take us long to reach her. She was right on the edge of the boundary line to safety. She was sobbing on a rock, clutching her tiny belly in pain. You could see the hunger in her, it was obvious that it had been days since the poor girl had eaten. Her red hair was dull and brittle from malnutrition. I imagined her curly locks were beautiful when she was healthy. I took a step forward, the instincts within were screaming at me to help the little one, but a stick in my path cracked under my feet.
The red-haired child’s head snapped up and she stared directly at us with frightened brown orbs that were rimmed with red from her tears. If I smelled any wolf on this child, I would swear that she could see us but she didn’t smell of wolf. Strangely enough, she didn’t quite smell of human either. There was a different scent on her, one that I couldn’t quite place and that was growing stronger by the second. I wanted to help the child, but she looked so frightened. If she wasn’t a wolf child, then I shouldn’t approach her in wolf form. I decided to shift and put on some clothes that we had in our bags. We didn’t carry much, since we had to carry the bags in our mouths, but enough to have a change of clothes. I quickly dressed, and Aden followed suit. We took only a few steps towards her before all hell broke loose.
The little girl tensed up, as if in extreme pain and screamed. I nearly started running towards her before a mass of roots burst from the ground to wrap around her tiny limbs. They lifted her into the air just seconds before the ground beneath all of us started to shake. There were cracks beginning to form in the forest floor around her. The small circle where she was suspended was safe but outside of the circle devastation began to spread. Any trees in the ground near her were suddenly ripped from Earth only to be thrown with such force that I’m sure some of them landed miles away. I could hear a voice faintly in all the chaos, it took a few seconds before I recognized the voice of my mate.
“Rita! Rita, we have to go. She’s going to kill us.” Aden pulled on my arm, breaking me from the trance that I was in as I stared at the child.
“She’s just a little girl. I think she’s a witch, Aden. You know how deadly their coming of age can be, it’s not her fault.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s her fault or not, if we don’t move now she’ll kill us. We have to wait for it to die down and we can come back for her.”
He was right, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Besides, I knew she would be safe like this. As I looked back one more time at the whirlwind of sticks and rocks that flew around her, I knew nothing could approach her to cause harm. We quickly shifted and ran off to a safer distance, but I kept my ears trained on her position. Any change, and I would know it.
We ran until we were no more than a mile away. I could still hear her screams and I could still see trees and other debris flying in every direction. We were nearly hit by one but Aden noticed it in time. An hour passed before everything quieted down. The moment silence took over the chaos I ran back towards her, shifting and redressing as I entered what was now a clearing in this dense forest. Her small body lay lifeless on the ground, and a sob left me. I hoped that she was still alive. I had heard of witches and how their powers and magick develop at just 6 years old. Even werewolves didn’t have their first shift until after 13 years, though the exact age tended to vary for each child unlike witches that always developed at the same age. A new witch could tear down their own home if the coven leaders weren’t nearby to help keep their magick contained.
When I finally reached her, I immediately picked up her limp body and checked that she was still alive. A sigh of relief left me when I found that she was. I cradled her tiny frame and tried to warm her. Werewolves ran a bit hotter than humans or witches so I was hoping that I could sustain her until she woke and I could get her some food. Aden left at my instructions to find something suitable for her to eat and I just held her while he was gone, stroking her hair and whispering quietly to her that she’s okay, she’ll be okay. It had been a couple hours and Aden had just returned with something for her to eat when she finally woke. She was clearly startled to be in my arms and quickly scrambled away in fear. I did my best to console her.
“It’s alright, sweetheart. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m Rita and this is Aden. We’re rogue werewolves who found you when your magick developed. You looked very sick and hungry, so we just want to make sure you’re alright and get you home, okay?” I watched as she trembled, terrified of us strangers in her midst, but she did finally speak.
“I can’t go home, they don’t want me there.” I was startled by her answer. What coven wouldn’t want such a beautiful and powerful child?
“I’m sure that’s not true. I bet your parents are looking for you right now. It’s not everyday a young witch turns 6, is it?” As soon as I mentioned her parents, I realized my mistake. The tears pooled in her eyes and she jumped towards me and wrapped her arms around my neck with her little fingers tangling in my dark hair. She was sobbing loudly.
“My mommy and daddy died. I didn’t get my magick on my birthday last year like I was ’spose to and it made everyone mad. They didn’t like me anymore. After mommy and daddy died they said I didn’t belong with them so they left me here. I didn’t know I was gonna get my magick late, honest.”
My heart broke for the poor child as I hushed her and brushed back her hair. I couldn’t believe her coven had done this to her. I had never heard of a late-bloomer among witches before, so I understood the fear that this must have placed upon the coven. They relied on their magick to keep them safe and hidden from humans. A coven tended to hide in plain sight among human towns and cities. If they started developing later it could change their whole way of life. Sure, it made sense to eliminate the parents that bred a late-bloomer and get rid of the child, but that didn’t make their actions any less heartless. I had no doubt in my mind that was what happened here. The leaders of every group were the same whether that be pack or coven. They didn’t care about the individual, only the collective. She continued to sob for a few moments before they turned to quiet sniffles, she was too tired and hungry to grieve properly. Aden used this as a chance to speak up, I could tell he was nervous as he ran his fingers through his blonde locks.
“Are you hungry, little one? I’ve got something here for you.”
She eyed him warily, a bit less trusting of him than me, but took the food and water all the same before hungrily devouring them. He smiled and let her eat most of the food before speaking again.
“Eat up, and then we’ll get somewhere safe. I’ll go shift while you eat and you can ride on my back while I’m in wolf form, okay?” She stopped instantly, terrified for a moment.
“You won’t take me back will you? They said I wasn’t allowed. I don’t want to go back.”
My heart broke for the child yet again. “No baby, we won’t take you back if they don’t want you. You can stay with us. It will be hard sometimes since we’re rogues we don’t always have a good bed to sleep in and pack wolves may try to come after us if we get too close, but we’ll take care of you. If you want to stay with us, you can. We can also try and find you a different coven that can take care of you. It’s up to you, we won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
I saw the tiny wheels turning. She was a smart kid, and was definitely weighing out her options. I don’t know what I would’ve picked in her situation. I do hope that she picks staying with us, it wouldn’t be easy in her early years and there would be times we would struggle. We didn’t have the skill set to train her magick either, but a small part of me felt like I was meant to care for this girl. She seemed powerful enough, more so than any witch I had met personally. I hoped that she would be able to hone her magick on her own. At least I had experience being a teacher back in our old pack, I could make sure she had basic learning covered. My mind was racing with all the possibilities of what could be and the poor thing hadn’t even agreed yet.
“I wanna stay with you, as long as I don’t have to be hungry no more.”
She was still wary of us, and I know what I said might’ve added to that but I wanted her to make as informed of a choice as possible for someone her age. I picked her up and nodded before placing her on Aden’s back.
“I can promise you that no matter what, you won’t be hungry anymore. What’s your name, little flower?” She giggled at my nickname, and I knew I would call her that forever.
“My name is Juniper Jordan.”
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