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A v a r i c e | F i f t e e n

F i f t e e n

❝A young boy hunting;

his true self blunting.❞

JUST AS ALWAYS, EDWARD WAS THE one to open the door at the Trills’ house. He smiled when he saw me. “Hello, Cerise. How are you?”

“I’m well,” I told him. I couldn’t look him in the eyes, however. I stared down at my hands, dwindling my thumbs. “I...I have something to tell you, actually.” I peeked up at him through the hood of my cloak. Edward’s face was solemn, unwavering. He had always been a strong young man. Lydia was proud of him because of it, and now I was too.

He had to know that something was up. He’d be an idiot to think otherwise.

Edward pulled the door further open and stepped back. “Would you like to come in and sit?”

I contemplated, tilting my head to the side before I nodded and followed after him into the home I knew just as well as my own. Edward led me into their sitting room and pointed to a chair for me to sit in. “Would you like anything to drink?”

“No. That’d just make me stall even longer, and I really need to get this out.” I said and cracked a small, shy smile. Edward nodded with a straight face and sat down in a chair across from me. I took in a deep breath. “It’s about your mother.”

Edward’s eyes darkened. “I figured it was.”

I still didn’t understand how he could act so cruel towards his mother, even if she was a witch. She had been a good - maybe even great - mother up until Lydia died. But Edward seemed to have forgotten that.

I shook my head, brushing what he had said off and regained my composure. “I was hoping the rest of your family would be here; so I could tell you all in person.”

Edward shrugged. “They’re out doing business, discussing my mother’s release or something. I’m not sure. She’s not going to be released, though. I know it, they know it. I think Father just wants to appear like he wants her out - for her sake, you know?”

I nodded. “Maybe they will release her?” I offered with a slight shrug.

Edward threw his head back and laughed satirically. “Of course they won’t. She created monsters that have killed over 20 people, including her own daughter.” He shook his head. “If they let her off for being a witch, she’ll just be put right back for being insane.”

“Let her off?” I questioned.

Edward nodded. “Yeah. Father has a good lawyer - says that they have to perform some sort of test to determine her ‘witchiness’ before they can do her off.” Edward’s words were harsher than to be expected from a man of 16 years.

“Then there might be a chance for her to be let free,” I said, a slight smile forming. It was shot down almost immediately, however.

“Doubtful. Only an evil witch could say the lycanthropes are to be forgiven and sacrificed to.”

There was a labored pause while I let this sink in. So this was why Edward had been mad at her, even before she was accused of witchcraft. I could understand, kind of. It must’ve been hard for Edward to grieve his sister’s death while his mother was saying such things. Almost like Lydia’s life meant nothing to her. Edward seemed to be the most affected by what she had been saying, however. I hadn’t heard anything from Lydia’s other family members really.

“So,” Edward cut into my thoughts, leaning back against his chair. “What’d you come here to tell the family? I can spread the word, don’t worry.”

Reluctantly, I answered him, “Well, I spoke with the newcomer - Cain -”

“He’s an interesting man, huh? Father and I were talking about him, not too long ago. Have you spoken with Cain?”

I frowned. “Yes, I have. He is...strange...”

“And he’s got that gray hair? Father doesn’t even have gray hairs, really. And Cain’s only got to be, what? My brothers’ ages?”

I shrugged. “I suppose, that sounds about right...”

“He’s a great lycanthrope hunter, though. Him and that Ian guy. They caught that lycanthrope in town almost instantly. It was incredible.” Edward told me, a twinkle in his eye. “I talked to him afterwards, you know. It was quick, but I told him that I wanted to join the lycanthrope hunter crew.”

I blinked once. Twice. “You what?”

Edward nodded, leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He was smiling now, the first genuine smile I had seen on his face for a while. “Yeah. He told me to swing by his cabin sometime, or come and talk to him when he’s in town. I planned on leaving soon so I could talk to him. Rumor is he’s going to be at the pub.”

“Why would you want to hunt lycanthropes? That’s dangerous.” I shook my head, eyes closed in disbelief. I couldn’t see Edward out there, sword in hand, hunting for such a monstrous creature.

Edward rolled his eyes. “You sound like my sisters. I’ll be fine. Cain and Ian would have my back.”

I squinted my eyes, frustrated and confused. Edward obviously wasn’t in on the lycanthrope secret. I suppose that was good, for his safety. But what? Was Cain going to let a young boy just sign on for a suicide mission? There wasn’t a way to kill the lycanthropes. You had to kill the witch, the creator, right? So what was the point?

“I...I need to go.” I finally said, standing up a bit too fast. I nearly fell backwards, but Edward was quick on his feet and caught me before I could.

“Are you alright?” he asked, looking me over as if I had been injured or was bleeding.

I nodded, stepping out of his arms. I brushed my cloak off, as if it had gotten dirty from sitting. I just needed to do something with my hands, honestly. “I’m fine,” I said when he tried reaching out for me again. Edward nodded, his hands falling to his sides.

“What was it you were trying to say, anyways?”

I closed my eyes, breathed out, and sighed. “Your mother is supposed to be...punished during the dance. I just...I wanted you to hear it from me, not someone else.”

Edward nodded, not even phased. “We figured that would be when it happened, so it’s not surprising.”

I nodded again, taking another step back. “Yeah, um, I’ve got to go. But I’ll talk to you later, okay?” I said, and scurried out of the home before Edward could respond.

My feet knew where I was going even before my mind fully caught up. I made my way through town and put the hood up of my cloak, obscuring a part of my view, but hiding me from anyone who might recognize me. I had a mission and I didn’t want to be deterred from it.

The pub was just as rowdy, if not a little bit more, than how it normally was. I wasn’t very surprised. People were still overjoyed that we had “caught” the witch that was behind our lycanthrope problems. Of course, we still had said lycanthrope problem, but people were willing to overlook that if it meant they had a reason to drink all day long.

As I strolled in, pretending like I belonged, I lowered the hood of my cloak and looked around. It was crowded, to say the least. I walked around, bumped into a few people, got hit on by a few pigs, and then I spotted who I was looking for.

It seemed he had spotted me, too.

He looked up just as I had found him, his eyes looking through me with the iciness he seemed to always harness. I moved towards him and he put down the book he had been reading. I took my time reaching him. He kept looking at me, even as he brought his liquor to his lips and took a sip. His gaze was truly captivating.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of seeing you here?” he smiled cockily at me, slushing his drink around in its holder. I refrained from rolling my eyes.

“Is this chair taken?” I asked, nodding toward the seat across from him. He shrugged and drank more alcohol. I took this as a “no” and sat down.

The second I was comfortable, I snapped at him. “Edward is only fifteen, you know. He’s just a young boy.”

Cain raised an eyebrow. “Sixteen, actually. And young man, not young boy.”

I narrowed my eyes and gave him the best death glare I could muster. “Same thing. He should not be prancing around through those woods with zero protection-”

“I’ll be with him,” Cain cut in.

I gave him a look and continued on, “Zero protection trying to kill some heinous beast - of whom is unable to be killed, I might add.”

Cain nodded, looking up at the ceiling. He sighed, put his drink down, and looked me in the eyes. “Look, you are not his mother.”

I recoiled at that. “Someone has to act like one, seeing as how you got his mother the death sentence.”

Cain winced, tilted his head to the side. “True.”

“Please just talk him out of it?” I sighed, and looked him in the eye. “His family’s already been through enough this past month. They don’t need Edward getting hurt, too.”

Cain closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as if he were in pain. Within a minute, he let go, opened his eyes, and nodded. “Don’t you think I tried that already? I can’t just tell him the truth about the lycanthropes, okay? If it were common knowledge, people would start killing everyone in hopes that they’re the witch. It would be chaos. Edward wants to kill the monster his mother created. He wants to avenge his sister’s death, and can you blame him?”

I wasn’t going to relent any time soon. “Just try, alright?”

Cain threw his arms up, eyes wide. “Fine!”

“Thank you,” I sighed, and looked around the pub. No one I knew was here. I thought I had seen Ian earlier when I first came in, but he was gone now.

Cain shrugged. “You’re welcome.”

Since he was here and all...“Have you talked to the king at all lately? Any more word on their experiment to see if she truly is a witch?”

Cain squinted his eyes at me speculatively, but nodded. “It’ll be executed in five days’ time exactly. Right around this time. People have been invited, too.”

I shivered. “Invitations to something like that is horrible.”

Cain shrugged. “I wouldn’t say that. The invitations are really for witnesses. Your family is probably going. I’m going, too.”

I nodded. “How’s Marquise Trill?” I asked, unable to help myself.

Cain’s sharp gaze told me I was on the brink of asking too many questions, but I didn’t care. “She’s as good as it gets, I suppose. King is being pretty nice, even gave her a room to stay in for now. It’s got security, but it’s pretty damn nice for a prisoner. She’ll be transferred to a cell soon, though. I think tomorrow. And then visitors are allowed.”

I perked up immediately. “Visitors?” Now I could ask Marquise Trill the questions that had been bugging me the most - why did she do it? Has she always been a witch? What does she know about the lycanthropes?

Cain nodded. “Yeah, visitors.”

“Where’s she going to be held? Can I go and see her?”

Cain took another swig of his drink before setting it down a bit louder than what he had to. “Why do you want to see her so badly, Cerise? Why are you so...obsessed with this?”

“I am not obsessed.” I refused. Cain gave me a deadpanned look that I chose to ignore. “And I have a few questions for her, so where can I visit her?”

“The castle has a jail cell that she’s staying in. Just ask the seneschal to take you there and he will if he’s not too busy.” Cain paused, looked me over. “It’ll look suspicious, you know. You going to go see her.”

“Why would it look suspicious?” I frowned at the thought.

Cain shrugged and leaned back. “Because you’re a pretty, young, innocent girl who’s going to see a wretched witch with no obvious reason like being a family member. It would look suspicious, to say the least.”

I shook my head. “I’ll be fine.”

“Alright, I’m just warning,” Cain put his hands up in defense and sat up. “He’s here, you know. Edward. I can see him.”

“What?” I instantly turned around in my seat, surveying the mass of people for Edward’s telltale red hair. I didn’t see it. Cain pointed with his alcohol where he was. “Oh.” I said, and stood up. “I have to go, but please remember what we talked about, okay?”

Cain nodded. “Wouldn’t have forgotten.” He muttered as I hurried away from him. I avoided detection from Edward by lifting my hood up and hiding behind extraordinarily tall people. Once he sat down with Cain, however, Cain winked at me and directed Edward’s attention to himself. I managed to get out without being seen, thank God.

As I walked home I thought about all the things I would say to Marquise Trill. I would of course go to Lilith’s in the morning, seeing as how I hadn’t gone today, but straight afterwards I would go to the castle and get some of my unanswered questions answered.

I couldn’t help but smile at the thought.

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