Avarice

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A v a r i c e | T w o

T w o

❝A woman hears feet crunching;

she sees a young lady hunching.❞

MY GRANDMOTHER LILITH LIVED DEEP IN the forest beside the outskirts of our town. It was peculiar that she didn’t live with us, but Mother had always told me Grandmother Lilith didn’t want to intrude on our large eight-person family. After my older siblings had left the household due to marriage or apprenticeship, I’d asked my mother again why Grandmother Lilith didn’t stay with us.

Mother’s answer was a simple: “Your grandmother does not wish to live with us.”

I would never understand why. Our home was much larger than Grandmother Lilith’s small cabin. After all, our home had once carried eight people in it at once. It would be a lot easier on Grandmother Lilith if she stayed with us, but for some odd reason she wouldn’t and now whenever I brought it up Mother would glare at me until the subject was changed.

Lilith had constructed a pathway to her cabin in her early days. My family and I were some of the only people that knew about this path, along with Lydia.

Thinking about Lydia had me upset again.

I understood why my mother was as upset as she was. Lydia was just as much of a daughter to her as I was. In fact, Lydia was probably better. Unlike me, my mother only really got to see Lydia’s wonderful sides and hear about her from afar. Lydia grew up with my family. My father wasn’t really around, so he didn’t get to love Lydia like the rest of us.

Sighing, I hunched over, placing my hands on my knees so I could collect myself. I didn’t mind doing this chore, even after learning about Lydia’s death. Whenever I was depressed about something, as Lydia would know, I needed to take a walk or run errands so my mind could stray from topic to topic and not always settle on what was upsetting me.

I’d never had to deal with this kind of impacting death, though.

I squeezed my eyes shut, bidding the tears to find their way back. Mother had always told me that crying was the best medicine for sadness, but Lydia would always contradict her and say that crying was meant for the weak.

I didn’t know who to believe now, but I chose Lydia’s side for now.

I let out a shaky breath before pushing myself up into a stand and opening my eyes again.

Autumn was upon us. It was my favorite season, though if asked I would say spring to give off a brighter façade. Or perhaps I would say spring because that was what Lydia would say. At least Lydia had always been honest.

The fall was simply beautiful.

Compared to the spring, Autumn was completely the opposite. Spring was rebirth, being born again and starting out fresh, whereas Autumn was dying. But there was something so tragically beautiful about this slow death that drew me in.

The fall wasn’t quite to the point of freezing, but something more than casual clothing was, indeed, needed. The leaves transformed from their usual green to all different shades ranging from orange to yellow and even red on occasions. The trees’ bark seemed to darken its color from brown to something a bit more ashen.

This was how the forest looked right now, decorated with all sorts of colors. It was stunning.

Grandmother Lilith was strange, as my father put kindly. She didn’t want her grandchildren calling her “grandmother” and preferred the very formal “Lilith”. This wasn’t such a big deal; I knew of many people that had their own children call them by first name. This was just the beginning of how different she was.

Lilith requested occasional visits from us, and that they mustn’t last over an hour. She did not want two visits in one day, and she would like the visits to be planned out before they occurred. Of course, planning them was rarely arranged, so most of the time Lilith was caught by surprise. When this happened, she would have the visitors - whether family or not - wait outside until she had finished tidying up enough that she allowed us to enter.

Lilith was not sociable, yet if her name was mentioned in town everyone would know of whom that person would be speaking. I wasn’t certain as to why this was, but I imagined Lilith had been a great personality to know back in the day with the way she acted now.

She often reminded me of a cat my family once owned when I was younger. The cat had a very different personality every time you came about it. Sometimes it was lovely and cuddly and other times it would hiss until you gave up on it. That was how Lilith was. You never knew what to expect from her.

Today, she was anxious.

Finally I had come upon her home. I walked up to the door and knocked lightly on it three times before waiting for an answer. Lilith was always home, but she took her time when answering her front door.

By the time the door was opened and her head peaked out to get a look at me, two minutes had gone by.

I forced myself to smile at her. “Hello, Lilith.”

Her eyebrows knitted together and her eyes narrowed cautiously at me, looking me up and down.

I raised an eyebrow speculatively. “May I come in? Mother sent me.”

“For what purpose?” Lilith finally acknowledged who I was and straightened up. She opened the door wider. I couldn’t help but glance behind her, into the home. It was just as clean as ever. Everything was in the exact same place that they always were.

“Mother is knitting and she’s run out of wool. She said that you might have some.” Lilith wrinkled her nose, her eyes narrowed into slits again before she nodded. I took a step forward, inviting myself into her home. Lilith shut the door tighter, only her head peeking out again. She gave me a nervous smile.

“Let me get things around and then perhaps I can make you some tea.” She offered. I nodded and shrugged. I hadn’t anything to do other than get the wool from her. I had time to sit and have a short visit.

Lilith bobbed her head lightly before backing away from the door and closing it shut. As I waited, I bounced on the balls of my feet and looked around. Lilith’s cabin had always been unusual, but today it was extra out of the ordinary. The grass surrounding her cabin was dead.

I frowned at the sight.

What in the world could make grass do something like that?

The door opened again and Lilith opened it wide this time, gesturing for me to come inside. I smiled at her. “Thank you.” Lilith gave me a tight smile in return. Once I was in the house, Lilith quickly shut the door and hurried me to sit at her small round table in her kitchen.

I drummed my fingers against the wood of the table. “How have you been, Lilith?” I felt like I was obliged to ask her this, to help and ease her nerves. The question did not have the desired effect, however, and seemed to have just worsened the mood that she was in.

Lilith jumped a little, then quickly glanced back at me as if to see if I had noticed.

Which I had.

She turned back around, messing with the tea she had apparently already made. “I’m fine, dear. Everything’s well. How are you?”

I shrugged and looked over at the door. “I’m okay, I guess. Lydia was found dead this morning.”

Lilith turned around quickly at that, her blue eyes wide with shock. “Lydia?” she questioned in concern. Whenever I came up here, Lydia was always with me. Lilith had known her not well, but she did know her. Lilith looked aghast. “Did...did the lycanthropes do it?” Lilith bit the inside of her cheek.

I nodded. “They did.”

Lilith faced the other way again and leaned against the counter. “I’m so sorry to hear that, Cerise.” She finally said after a few hesitant moments. “The lycanthropes will pay for what they did to her, you can be sure of that.” Lilith straightened up, grabbed the two cups she’d poured tea in, and handed one to me while she took the seat on the other side of the table. She had a blank expression on her face, but her eyes were angry.

I didn’t say anything; I took a sip of my tea.

“Those lycanthropes will rot in hell for what they’ve done.” She kept on muttering things like this while shaking her head and drinking her tea. At one point, she mentioned a strange thing. She said that all six of the lycanthropes would go to hell.

I raised an eyebrow. “Do you perhaps know anything about the lycanthropes?” I asked, suddenly intrigued.

Lilith’s eyes widened. “Who, me? Of course not! Don’t be absurd, dear!”

I could tell she was lying.

I narrowed my eyes accusingly at her. “You just said there are six of them.”

Lilith shrugged. “Lucky guess, I suppose.”

“Lilith,” I gave her a look and Lilith sighed loudly.

“I’ve seen them a few times, lurking outside my cabin,” she allowed me to know. I nodded, settling back into my chair. Out of her cabin? That sounded awful.

“You should come back with me and live with us.” I told her. Lilith shook her head vigorously.

“Out here is my home, though. I can’t leave it, and I won’t.” She was just as stubborn as mother had always said she was. But I was stubborn, too, and a woman of her age shouldn’t be out here alone when lycanthropes were lurking around.

“Lilith, wouldn’t you feel safer with us in town?” I raised an eyebrow at her. I had completely neglected my tea by now. It hadn’t been very good. “Mother would love to have you stay with us, I’m sure.” I gave her a reassuring smile.

She didn’t even consider it.

“I mustn’t be a burden, dear. Really, I’m fine.” Lilith smiled tightly.

I frowned. “But you saw the lycanthropes! That’s dangerous!”

Lilith shook her head and waved dismissively. She took a sip of her tea. “Hardly, dear. Truly, I’m perfectly safe here.”

I pursed my lips. We stared at each other for a few seconds before I relented. I sighed. “Fine, then.” I relaxed back into my chair and ran my fingers up the side of my teacup. “Did you get a good look at them?” I finally asked. I was compelled to have more information on the treacherous creatures. I needed to know all I could for Lydia’s sake.

Lilith bit her lip. “I’m not sure I should be talking to you about this-”

“Why?”

Lilith blinked. “Forget what I said. I’ll tell you.” She nodded, drank some of her tea using both hands. “They’re much larger than your average wolf. As I told you, there are six of them in total - at least from what I’ve seen. They hunt at dusk and at dawn, I’ve never seen them during the day.” Lilith paused to look me over. “Do you know truly what a lycanthrope is?”

I thought about this. “I, well, a beast.” I frowned in confusion. That was what I had been told. A lycanthrope was something more powerful than what our minds could comprehend, and much stronger than man and wolf. But no one had ever gone into detail about what they actually were.

Lilith nodded, then stood up. “You should be going soon. Let me get that wool you asked for.” Lilith walked out of the kitchen into her living room where she opened up a great big oak chest. She collected wool by a heaving armful and then brought it over to me. I stood up quickly. I was still trying to wrap my mind around what she had said.

“Am I wrong, then?” I questioned. “Are lycanthropes not savage beasts?”

I took the wool from her. Lilith began to usher me towards the door. “Lilith? Am I wrong?”

Lilith sighed. “No, dear. You’re not wrong. Forget I said anything, really.” Lilith paused and tilted her head to the right. “And don’t tell your mother about our little chat. She wouldn’t be too happy about it.”

“Why?” I queried.

“You must be on your way. It’s nearly dinner time.” Lilith opened her front door for me. I tumbled out of the house and looked back just in time to see Lilith, waving goodbye. “Visit again some time, Cerise!” she called before shutting her door to me.

Well, that was weird. Even weird for Lilith.

As I stared back at the cabin and moved the wool to my side, I had a creeping suspicion that Lilith knew much more about lycanthropes than what she was letting on. I needed to know more about them so maybe, just maybe, I could avenge Lydia’s horrific death.

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