Avarice

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A v a r i c e | E i g h t e e n

E i g h t e e n

❝The wretched will turn divine;

if you give them some time.❞

I STOOD VERY STILL, AS IF that would somehow make the lycanthrope go away. This lycanthrope was different than the other ones I had seen. While the others were truly menacing, this one was trembling as if he was sick or something. He might not be strong-looking or sturdy, but he was growling and was still more than three times my size.

I thought about what Cain had said last time I was in this situation, and I ran.

I didn’t make it very far. I had never been a fast runner, and in the forest I was even slower while trying not to trip over tree roots. The lycanthrope ran after me. I knew he could run faster. It was as if he were playing with me or something, letting me get a head start.

He must’ve gotten sick of the game, however, because within only a few seconds he had caught up in me. The moment was in slow motion. I looked behind me, briefly, to see how far away the beast was. At the same time the lycanthrope jumped - no, leaped - with its front paws stretched forward and its back legs out. My heart raced and I froze in my place.

The lycanthrope landed on top of me, pushing me to the ground. His mouth immediately attached to my throat. He used his front paws like they were hands and pushed my arms and shoulders down. I squeezed my eyes shut.

Was this how Lydia met her end?

I couldn’t move even if I had wanted to. I was stunned. A stinging pain ran down my spine from hitting the ground so hard. My brain felt jarred. But the worst pain was in my left wrist. I was too frightened to look at it, but based on the throbbing beat concentrated there and the aching pain whenever it was even slightly moved, it was broken.

Here was my end. I was going to die.

The lycanthrope moved, his sharp canines brushing ever so gently against the tightened vein in my neck. Then, just as suddenly as he knocked me down, the lycanthrope let go of my neck and lifted his head up.

He was still shaking, though no visible wounds were on him.

I was expecting the same darkness I had seen in the other lycanthrope’s eyes to be in this one’s. Instead, there was something off about this one. His eyes weren’t beady or black or dangerous-looking. They were dark brown with a round pupil and little specks of golden. He made no movement to get up or kill me, giving me time to study everything I could about him.

It seemed as if he were staring into my eyes too. He reminded me of something, but I wasn’t sure what.

Something snapped in the woods and the lycanthrope glanced away to look back at where the noise had come from. He looked at me one last time, his eyes wide and frightened.

They looked human.

My heart dropped with realization as the lycanthrope ran off into the woods. Maybe they were like la bête. Perhaps they still had a bit of humanity left inside of them. Perhaps they were still a little bit human still.

The snap from within the woods stepped out. I tried to sit up, but the quick movement sent me back to the ground, unconscious.

I woke up inside of a home that was not mine. I was wrapped in covers on top of a bed. I sat up carefully. My back was tight and it hurt to move, but I resisted the urge to wince. Beside me was a stand. It had a big bowl of water and a cloth next to it. There was a cup full of water as well, presumably mine. I leaned over to get it and instantly retracted into myself, eyes closed as pain coursed through my left wrist.

When it only throbbed, I looked down at it. It was wrapped in cloth. It had broke, as I had thought.

I was wearing the same clothes I had been before, and beside the bed on a chair was the red cloak Lilith had made me.

“Cerise?” my mother said from the doorway.

I looked up at her. “Mom? Where am I?”

She didn’t answer me. She ran to my side and hugged me very briefly. “Are you okay? Are you in pain? What happened? Why were you in the woods?”

I closed my eyes. Now that I was hearing her - or, really, anything - I discovered I had a pounding headache. As if I hadn’t heard what she had said, Mother repeated herself.

“Mother,” I groaned, and put my right hand to my forehead. I knew I had to answer her. That was the only way to settle her down and get her to leave. “I’m...alright.” I told her. It wasn’t exactly true. I was in pain, of course.

Mother nodded and grabbed the cup on the stand. “Here. Drink some of this. It has herbs that will help with the pain.”

I took it willingly and drank most of it in one large gulp.

Mother put it back on the table. “Why were you in the woods?” she asked for the third time.

The cloak was off, which meant I could tell her the truth, right? “I went to visit Grandmother Lilith,” was what I wanted to say. Instead I said, “I went to visit Cain.” I frowned. She must’ve casted a spell on me, then. The cloak hadn’t been enchanted, or at least not with that.

Mother scrunched her face up. “Why would you visit Cain?”

I shrugged. “I...don’t remember.” I carefully lied. Mother believed me and sighed, standing up.

“We’re at the doctor’s home, Cerise.”

“What?” I questioned in surprise. “How did I get here?”

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Mother questioned.

My eyebrows pulled together. “I...the...beast ran off and someone stepped out of the woods.”

“Do you know who?” Mother raised an eyebrow.

I shook my head. “No, when I tried to sit up I fainted from the pain.”

Mother’s eyes softened and she reached out, running her hand down my hair comfortingly. “You’re safe now, darling. No beasts to hurt you.”

I nodded, closing my eyes and leaning in to her hand. And then I frowned and stopped. My eyes opened. “He didn’t, though.”

Mother raised an eyebrow. “Who didn’t do what?”

“The lycanthrope. He didn’t hurt me.” I elaborated.

My mother’s eyebrow rose higher as she looked pointedly at my wrist. I closed my eyes and shook my head. “No, no. I...I don’t think he really meant to do that.”

“Cerise,” my mother’s voice lowered an octave. She glanced at the door as if someone were listening and leaned closer in to me. “Stop talking like that or you’ll get sent to where Marquise Trill is.”

Marquise Trill, I thought to myself. I wonder how right she was about the lycanthropes. Marquise Trill, no matter if she was a little insane, still felt the loss of her daughter. So she had to know that the lycanthropes at least could be bad. Perhaps she protected them, however, because she knew the people cursed were still there somewhere inside of the horrible monsters.

“How long was I unconscious for?” I asked mother, glancing around as if something would be able to tell me.

“You were unconscious for approximately 13 hours. It’s morning now, of the next day.” Mother told me. “You awoke at one point before but the doctor gave you some medicine and you passed out again. You don’t remember that, though?” Mother raised an eyebrow at me.

I shook my head. “No. I don’t.” She nodded and reluctantly stood up from my bed.

“I suppose I should go inform the doctor how you’re doing. It was very kind of him to see you on such short notice.” She told me. I nodded in agreement, not saying anything. It was clear on her facial expression she disapproved of me not saying anything to agree with her, but I didn’t much care. I was too deep in thought.

Lilith and Cain had both said that the lycanthropes’ humanities were no longer intact. So what am I getting so worked up about? Whatever was in those eyes was not humanity. It couldn’t be.

...But it certainly seemed like it. Emotion had riddled all throughout them, something only humans truly felt. It had been sad, longing. It wasn’t anything like the eyes of the hungry lycanthrope I had met just weeks ago. Perhaps they weren’t a part of the same pack?

Doubtful.

Two witches in a town creating different lycanthropes? It was hard to believe there was one witch already, much less two.

Yet...something had definitely been off about that lycanthrope. If not humanity, than what though?

I needed to get out of this place and find answers.

I sat up and swung my legs over the edge of the bed. My left wrist was still very sore and was currently throbbing, but I did my best to ignore it. I pushed myself off of the bed with my right hand lopsidedly and quickly steadied myself. The affects from the fall to my back, although not fatal, were still very much painful.

I winced as I walked towards the door.

I only made it so far until a crowd of people appeared in the doorframe. I blinked at them all.

“Madamoiselle Cerise?” the doctor, presumably, said with a questioning brow. “What’re you doing up? You really must rest for a few more hours to help the swelling go down.”

He herded me as if I was a sheep back to my bed and then stood by my side, watching me lie back down. “You have many visitors,” he acknowledged, glancing at the door. “I’ll let you speak with each of them for only a few minutes, but then you really must rest, alright?”

I nodded. I didn’t seem to have much of a choice. “Alright.”

The doctor nodded and turned to the doorway. “Madame Victoire, I’ll let you decide who goes first.” He said before exiting. The people in the doorway made a pathway for him to walk through, but then quickly rejoined.

Mother stepped into the room and looked through the people. “Edward? Why don’t you speak with her first?”

Edward Trill stepped into the room while everyone else exited. “I’ve come on the behalf of my family and your brothers.” He said.

I raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

Edward nodded and smiled. “We’re just glad you’re okay, Cerise. When we heard there had been a lycanthrope attack...” Edward shuddered and closed his eyes. “You’re like a sister to me. It’d be like losing another Lydia, and I really don’t think I can go through that again.”

I smiled up at him. Edward glanced down at my wrapped wrist. “You got lucky, huh?”

Knowing how he would react had I told him what I thought to be the truth, I said, “I suppose so. Must’ve been the runt of the pack, running off from a snap in the woods.”

Edward smiled and nodded. He leaned over and brushed a hand over my hair brotherly. “Your brothers would’ve been here, Cerise. But most of the men were called into the castle.”

I frowned. “Why?”

Edward’s face became serious, his smile dropping. “Besides you, there was another lycanthrope attack. This one was fatal. He was hurt pretty badly. It happened around the same time as yours. Your father raged on about how they needed to hurry up and rid the witch, but the king is pretty adamant about the dance. I personally think that Cain might be telling the king what to do. I’m not sure why he would, though. Everyone’s discussing how to officially kill the lycanthropes.”

My heart dropped. That was the last thing I wanted.

“Why aren’t you there?” I asked.

Edward shrugged. “Someone had to be here when you woke up, and I didn’t want it to be one of my sisters. They can be a bit overbearing.”

I smiled, but it wasn’t completely sincere. “Thank you, Eddie. It really means a lot to me.”

Edward nodded and left my room. Another family friend was sent in, and more after that, but I wasn’t paying attention much anymore.

I needed to talk to Cain.

Now.

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