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A v a r i c e | N i n e t e e n

N i n e t e e n

❝A werewolf could be forgiven;

but a lycanthrope was in treason.❞

WITH A FEW MORE HOURS OF coaxing and begging and pleading, I was officially released by the doctor and was able to go home with my mother. He gave us herbs to make into tea for the pain, which I thanked him for, and then immediately dispersed from his home.

Because of how long I had been out and stuck in the doctor’s home, Marquise Trill’s pre-execution was in two days’ time. Mother made that very clear to me on the carriage home. “Do not let your injury get in the way, Cerise,” she told me, her eyes straight ahead, “I want you on your best behavior. It’s an honor to be invited to such an exclusive event.”

I held back the snort that wanted to make its way out. Honor my arse. In two days it would be determined whether Marquise Trill - a woman who I had known my entire life and a woman I considered to be a second mother - was going to die for sins I did not believe she committed. To call it an honor was unfathomable to me.

When we got home, I allowed my mother to care for me some more so she wouldn’t suspect me of anything. I ate, I drank water and medicinal tea, and then I sat with her in the living room calmly while she braided my hair.

It wasn’t until hours later that I escaped from the clutches of my overbearing mother. I didn’t have to go very far to find Cain. I figured soon enough the men would come back from the castle, and I had been right. Along with many other men - including my own father - Cain came riding into the kingdom. I had been casually walking around the marketplace as if to buy something.

Cain immediately caught sight of me, midway through a conversation with someone else. He didn’t wave or nod in acknowledgement. He just simply looked. That was all I needed to know that he would talk with me, however.

Others caught sight of me. “Cerise!” one of Lydia’s many brothers called out to me. My father’s head whipped around to look at me. A smile broke out on his face instantly. He jumped down from his horse, along with Lydia’s brothers and my own brothers, and walked towards me.

“How are you doing?” he asked, reaching out for me.

I gave him a brief hug before pulling away. “I’m alright. The doctor gave me some medicine to keep the pain at bay.” I nodded down towards my wrapped wrist.

Ralph, my eldest brother, clicked his tongue and shook his head. “I still can’t believe you survived a lycanthrope attack, Cerise. Perhaps you should be a knight.” He was joking, of course.

Father glared at him and Lenny cut in, “Don’t give her any ideas, Ralph.” Lenny winked at me, the trickster of the Victoire family.

Ralph winked at me. “Wouldn’t dream of it, Lenns.”

“How did the meeting go?” I asked, looking at each boy in turn.

They all shrugged. “It went fine, I suppose. His Highness and his sons and Cain did most of the talking, really. They discussed the lycanthropes and...the witch.” Rem Trill, Lydia’s older brother, told me. He winced when he mentioned his mother.

“I see. Well, I really must get back to...shopping. I’ll speak with you all later.” I smiled at the Trill boys and my brothers. I turned to my father. “I’ll meet you back at home soon, alright?” Father nodded. They hoisted themselves up into each of their horses and bid farewell before riding off together, most likely to the pub to celebrate.

Cain watched them leave. When they were out of sight, he left the conversation he had been in and got down from his horse to meet me. He gripped the reigns in one hand and with the other he gripped my upper arm and tugged me into a dark corner, somewhere private. “How are you?” he asked, letting go of me. He glanced down at my wrist.

I nodded. “I’m fine.” I told him. Then, thinking about my mother’s suspicion, I questioned, “Did you perhaps...carry me out of the forest?”

Cain raised an eyebrow and straightened. “Do you think I’m telepathic? I cannot read your mind. I had no clue what had...happened...until it was far too late to stop it. I don’t know how you got home. I was called into town and told about the lycanthrope attack. Then the next attack occurred and all the men were called into a meeting with the royal highnesses.”

I shrugged. “I don’t know who saved me is all.”

Cain crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back on his heels with a speculative look upon his face. “This time around, it was not me who saved you.”

“I see.” I nodded. “Well, it was good that I had been attacked-”

Cain laughed heartily at that. I frowned. “What is it?”

“Only you, Cerise, would ever say being attacked by a lycanthrope is a good thing.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes at me. I immediately took offense and crossed my arms.

“It was a good thing,” I told him.

Cain smiled languidly at me. “I’m sure it was, Cerise. In what way?”

I sighed and let my arms fall to my sides. “The lycanthrope could’ve killed me, Cain, but it didn’t.”

Cain raised an eyebrow. “So you think you’re special now?”

I narrowed my eyes. “No. I don’t. But I’m telling you. The lycanthrope’s teeth had been pressed to my neck and at any moment his jaw could’ve closed and I wouldn’t be here. Instead, however, he pulled away.”

“So you got lucky. It happens sometimes.” Cain wasn’t listening to me.

“Cain,” I warned angrily, “Listen to me.” Cain sighed, looking up at the darkening sky before looking back at me. When he did, my eyes met his. I wouldn’t use the compulsion to make him believe me; I would use it to make him listen to what I had to say. And to stop interrupting. For it was getting on my nerves.

“When the lycanthrope let go of my throat, he looked me in the eyes. His eyes weren’t like the other lycanthropes’, though. They weren’t glazed over or hungry. They were like ours. They had emotion within them. They were sad and powerless and scared. They reminded me of a human’s.” I begged him to understand what I was saying. Cain just nodded quietly. “I...I think perhaps the lycanthrope still had its humanity.”

I set Cain free from the compulsion once I was finished. He blinked and frowned, shaking his head. “What you saw can’t be right, Cerise. You were near death. Adrenaline was driving you and you were hurt badly. Who knows what you actually saw.”

“Me. I do. I know what I saw, Cain. This lycanthrope did not want to hurt me.” I said. Cain looked pointedly down at my injured wrist. I sighed. “That was an accident.”

Cain rolled his eyes, looking away from me and shaking his head. “Sure it was, Cerise.” Cain turned back to me and laughed in spite. “You’ve gone mad, Cerise. The you I knew would not be saying things like this. You sound like...“he trailed off and shook his head.

I crossed my arms proudly. “Like who, Cain?” I prodded.

Cain ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. “Never mind.”

“No, I’m curious,” I nodded. “Who do I sound like, Cain?”

“You sound like the witch. You’re defending those...monsters. They killed your best friend, Cerise. OR have you forgotten about her already?” Cain blew up, his hands flying up as he yelled. His face had gone red from his outburst. Cain closed his eyes tightly, taking in a few deep breaths. “I didn’t mean that.”

“Then perhaps you shouldn’t have said it,” was my only reply before I walked away from him.

I ignored his calls to come back and trotted forward. I had thought Cain would help, would understand. But he was just like everybody else. I would have to devise a plan by myself. But I didn’t know enough about what the lycanthropes are made of. I couldn’t very well ask Lilith, and Marquise Trill was inaccessible.

I made my way home, for it was the only thing I could do at the moment.

“Cerise?” my father questioned. “Where are the groceries?”

I sighed. “I didn’t get any, father. I was too tired. I’ll go out tomorrow morning.”

Normally, my father would have a fit with me. But he let it go due to my wounds. I went straight to my room and to my bed. Father brought me my medicine and some water to help with the pain.

Sleep consumed me within no time.

My room, unusually enough, had a window. My parents’ room hadn’t a window, but mine did. It was a small window, but I could still look out it if I wished. Mother hadn’t been pleased that I received the room with the window. Not because she wanted it, however, because she didn’t trust me not to try and sneak out.

Perhaps she had been right to be wary.

In the middle of the night, it seemed, a tatter on my window awoke me from my deep sleep. I woke up groggily and rubbed my faces and eyes, adjusting to the darkness of my room. The only light was the moon’s, and that wasn’t much.

I sighed and sat up, looking around.

Another tap came from my window.

I fired up my oil lamp and made my way over to the window, waiting to open it after I heard a next thud. When it came, I opened up the wood and looked through it. The night was freezing and I winced at the sharpness of it, but tried my damnedest to ignore it.

Cain stood before me, a smirk on his face. “Hello, Cerise.”

My eyes widened and I glanced behind me as if my parents would just walk into my room. “What are you doing here?” I whispered as loudly as I could without fearing my parents would wake up.

Cain shrugged. “I want to show you something.”

I stared at him incredulously, eyes wide. “Now? It’s in the middle of the night!”

Cain nodded and shrugged once again. “Think you can get out?”

I closed my eyes and shook my head in disbelief. “I suppose. Give me a few minutes.”

Cain shrugged. “I’ve got nothing but time out here, Cerise.”

I closed the window and set my lamp down. I had gone to bed in the close I had been wearing earlier, lucky, so there was no point in changing. I got on a warmer cloak and then got on the enchanted cloak. I felt safer going out in it.

I grabbed my lamp and opened up the window again. Cain turned around. “Let’s go,” he urged me.

I nodded. “I’ll come out the front.”

I shut the window again and turned around. Sneaking out wouldn’t be very hard, to be honest. My mother slept like a rock. My father, although trained to wake up in an instance, had never done so in his own home. I constantly used to wake up and sneak out with Lydia and I had never run into any problems then.

I didn’t run into any problems now, either.

I opened up the front door and Cain was there waiting for me. “I want to show you something,” he told me.

I nodded. “You said that before.”

“Ah, well, let’s go then. We haven’t got much time before the pack is finished eating.”

My eyes widened at his words. “The pack?” I questioned, stopping in my tracks.

Cain looked back at me, raising his eyebrows. “Relax, Cerise. I would never let anything happen to you.” I blinked at him, but Cain had already turned around and began walking towards the forest again. His words had been so...warming. Something inside of me flipped, making me feel sick but in a good way somehow. I shook my head.

What the hell was wrong with me?

I jogged a little to catch up with him. “What are we doing, Cain?”

“You said you saw humanity, correct?” Cain glanced back at me as we began our trek into the woods. He held out his own light in front of him. “In the lycanthropes eyes?”

I frowned in confusion at him. “I thought you said you didn’t believe me.”

Cain chuckled quietly. “I don’t. And I’m about to show you why.”

Chills crossed my spine and my arms prickled. It wasn’t from the cold, however. A pitching sound rang through the air and Cain looked back at me once again, stopping. “We’re close to them,” he whispered.

My eyebrows pulled together. “Close to the lycanthropes?” I asked. Cain didn’t answer me. He grabbed my good arm and tugged me forward so I was next to him.

“Cerise, I need you to stay by my side, alright?” he looked me in the eyes. I nodded, knowing what could become of me if I strayed. My stomach was in knots and my hands were shaking. I was terrified of what was to come.

Cain knew, too. We hiked forward but right as the howls became distinctly near, he stopped and turned me to face him. “Remember me telling you how lycanthropes are made from people?” he questioned.

I nodded mutely, frozen in place.

“Well, perhaps what you’re about to see will help you realize that these monsters are nothing like us.” He told me, and tugged me forward with him. We hid behind a large oak tree. Cain was in front of me and glanced in front of the tree. He immediately pulled back and looked at me. “Here,” he held his hand out to me.

I set my lamp down carefully in order to have a free hand and took his in my own. Light was coming from behind the tree, a fire.

“They have two faces, Cerise. I think perhaps you caught one in between a transition.” Cain whispered to me, his mouth right next to my ear. Shivers went down my spine. Cain pressed his body close to mine. “Look,” he nodded.

So I did.

Behind the tree there were six people dancing joyously about a fire. And on a stick above that fire, there was a man.

A very dead man.

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