A v a r i c e | T w e n t y T h r e e
T w e n t y T h r e e
❝A strong, sturdy man;
with a shaky, sudden hand.❞
CAIN AND IAN STOOD ON EITHER side of the beast. The lycanthrope stood in a cage, though it didn’t look very durable. Cain, Ian, and knights carted the beast into the ballroom. Many people gasped and stood back to make way for them. Marquise Trill trembled at the sight of the caged beast, falling to the ground.
On her knees, she looked at the king. “What do you want me to do, sire?” she questioned. Her voice was no longer strong. Her hands were shaking, balled into fists in her dress. She was frightened. Perhaps she was scared of the beast. “I-I don’t understand what you want me to-”
“Silence,” the king ordered. She bowed her head in respect. “Stand.” Marquise Trill quivered while she pushed herself off of the ground. I wanted to reach out, to help her. The knights beside her bid her no mercy. They stood idly by, not a care in the world about what was to happen to their prisoner.
It made me sick.
“Look at the monster.” The king told her. Marquise shook her head, biting her bottom lip. Her eyes were shut tight. The knights stepped in finally, but only to tighten her chains. They pulled her arms back farther than what they should go. Marquise screamed out in pain, but she didn’t break. “Look at what you created!” the king bellowed, gesturing pointlessly at the lycanthrope.
“I did no such thing!” Marquise spat back, eyes still shut.
“Look,” the king demanded again, ignoring her plea of innocence. His eyes briefly met the knights who held her, nodding at them. It happened too fast to truly see it. The knight on the right of her handed the chains he held to the other knight. He kicked the back of her legs, sending her to her knees. When she was down, he gripped her hair and tugged her head back, a sword pressed to her throat. Marquise held stiff. “I will say this one last time. Look. At. The beast.” His last two words were but a whisper.
Marquise heard him, however.
She reluctantly looked at the lycanthrope, thrashing about in his cage and roaring to be set free. My heartbeat quickened at the sight of him.
Marquise’s body shook upon seeing it, tears streaming down her hollowed cheeks.
The king turned his attention to the people, his audience. “Our case of witchcraft is most precarious, wouldn’t you say?” His people murmured their agreement. I said nothing. “I’ve decided to let the lycanthrope be our test,” he announced, almost proudly to his crowd. “Marquise Trill, order this beast to stand down. If he does not, you are innocent. If he does, you are guilty.”
Marquise shook her head, looking sideways at the king. “A lycanthrope listens to no one but itself,” she told him.
A wicked smile crossed the king’s face. “Then it appears you’ve nothing to worry about, doesn’t it?”
Marquise swallowed, looking back at the lycanthrope.
“My knights, let her stand,” the king ordered.
They of course did as he asked and let go of their hold on Marquise Trill. She stood up, glancing around the ballroom. I noticed her eyes meet each of her children and her husband. Melinda and Margaret glanced away, burying their faces in my brothers’ shirts.
“I have nothing to worry,” Marquise said quietly to herself. I wanted to close my eyes, to look away and wait for it all to be over. But I couldn’t. Marquise’s back straightened and she looked straight at the lycanthrope.
As she did this, I focused on the energy she was releasing, calling forth my own powers so I could look through their eyes. My heart pounded as I was finally able to identify whether or not she was supernatural. Her aura rippled, just like Lilith’s had. It was clear, and she wasn’t shiny, but her aura did ripple.
But was she really the witch?
“Sit,” she commanded the beast. Her voice gave a slight shake, but it was loud and strong. Everyone in the room held their breaths, watching how the lycanthrope would react. He looked at her, eyeing her up and down as if she was something new to him. Then, he sat.
“No!” the Trills’ screams filled the room while Marquise Trill fell to the ground, her head hung in despondency.
“Seize her!” the king instructed. The knights tightened their chains and lifted Marquise to a stand in front of the king. “Marquise Olivia Trill, you have been found guilty and sentenced to death by sword!” he shouted amongst the outrage of people. “You will be beheaded during Arete’s ball.”
With that, Marquise Trill was dragged away from the ballroom and the people.
Everyone wouldn’t stop talking. They shouted and laughed and chatted amongst themselves as if what had just occurred meant nothing to any of them. The Trill family had been taken aside by the jury and king to discuss something while the rest of us were left here to chatter and talk about what had just happened.
Lilith had left already and Mother had leeched herself to my father’s side. The lycanthrope had been taken out by many knights. I wasn’t sure what they intended to do with it.
I was dizzy, my mind was fuzzy. I needed out of the ballroom. I needed to get away from the crowds, from the people. I couldn’t celebrate as they did. My breathing quickened, my heartbeats escalated, and I could her the blood pumping inside of me.
“I need air,” I murmured to myself, making my way through the people standing around.
“Cerise? What’s the matter?”
“Are you alright, dear?”
Cerise, Cerise, Cerise....
That voice... I needed out.
“Cerise, where are you going? Stay!” someone grabbed my arm, tugging me to them.
“I can’t,” I shook my head, pushing their hand off.
“Stay, Cerise,” another person said, gripping my forearm in his hand.
“Yes, stay.” A stranger appeared in front of me, a smile on her face.
“Stay here, Cerise.” More people joined in, their words slurred and sloppy. Everything was beginning to get hazy. Their faces began to fade away, as if they were being melted altogether.
“I-I can’t. I’ve got to...I’ve got to go...” I shook my head and tried taking a step, but it was of no use. A familiar person stepped forward. I wasn’t sure who it was, but I recognized their demeanor, the air around them. The person grabbed my left wrist and squeezed with all their might. Throbbing pain coursed through me and I gasped, eyes wide at the stranger.
“It’ll all be alright, Cerise. They’ve got the witch,” the person told me. “It’ll all be alright. It’ll all be alright.” The person kept repeating this, over and over again. It was ingrained in my mind, a never endless loop of horror.
“It’ll all be alright.”
I blinked, opening my eyes. I was no longer in the ballroom. I wasn’t sure where I was, exactly. “It’ll all be alright,” my mother told me as she walked to my side. She gripped my hand, her eyes watery and her eyebrows pulled together in worry.
“What happened?” I asked her, looking around.
“You collapsed after...after Marquise Trill’s sentence was announced.” Mother told me. “I was so worried, Cerise. If it weren’t for Samuel finding you and bringing you to the court physician...who knows what would be of you.” Mother smiled at me, brushing my hair away from my face. “Two times now you’ve had me worried sick. You really need to stop. I’ll begin to get wrinkles,” Mother joked, leaning down to kiss my forehead.
She sighed, putting a hand where she had kissed. “You’re still very warm,” she muttered, shaking her head. “Samuel said it was very strange, your collapse. He’s run many tests on you, but he can’t find a steady reason for it.” Mother shook her head and stood up straight. “I’ll send your brother in. He’ll be happy to know you’re awake. All of your brothers will be.”
I nodded, giving her a small smile. I certainly didn’t feel well. My head was pounding outrageously and my lips were chapped to their core. The second I heard the door open and close I coughed and muttered for some water.
Samuel quickly went to retrieve some at the opposite side of the room. I closed my eyes, breathing in the nice scent of the room. My water was set down on the table beside me. I smiled and grabbed it, drinking it all in a matter of seconds.
“Are you alright, Cerise?” Samuel asked, his eyebrows pulled together. I nodded, setting the cup down. “That was quite a scene you made in the ballroom,” he told me.
I frowned at him. “A scene? Mother told me you found me.”
Sam smiled and nodded. “She wanted me to not tell you, to keep you from being humiliated, I suppose. But I feel like had I been in your position, I would want to know.” I nodded, jaw tightening.
“Well, go on then. What happened?”
“You started hyperventilating. Everyone was worried about you, telling you to stay calm. Everything will be alright. But you wouldn’t have it. You started screaming, Cerise. You were hysterical until finally you fainted.” Samuel told me while putting a hand against my forehead and then to my cheeks. “You were crying and feverish. I thought it best to take you up here.”
I nodded. “That bad, huh?”
Samuel tilted his head to the side. “It was worse, actually. I was lucky to have gotten you out when I did.”
I raised an eyebrow curiously. “And why is that?”
“You began...clawing and shouting how you...you wanted to kill everyone.” Samuel looked away from me at that, looking down at his feet. I sat up immediately, ignoring the headache that said I should really lie back down.
“Who was there, to see me like that?” I asked.
Samuel looked up at me, frowning. “Just me, really. I had already gotten you pretty far upstairs when you began to shout.” I nodded, sighing in relief. Had anyone else been there, I would be in the dungeons alongside Marquise Trill. Samuel stared at me quizzically.
“What?” I asked.
“You don’t seem surprised by this,” he said, scrutinizing me. “You don’t actually want to kill everyone, do y-”
“No! Of course not!” I shook my head. “That’s absolutely preposterous!”
Samuel nodded slowly. “Then what was that, Cerise?”
I sighed and closed my eyes to think of how to respond. I wasn’t quite sure myself what it was. Finally, I opened my eyes again. “All I know is that a lot of times when I feel overwhelmed or something triggers it, I just get this...this urge to rue the land.”
Sam’s eyes widened in disbelief. “If that was supposed to set my mind at ease, it sure as hell didn’t work.”
I shook my head and sighed, running a hand down my face. “I would never act on it, Samuel. I don’t know why it happens. I thinking it has something to do with...stress.” I nodded. Sam would like that answer, I was sure. And who knew? It might even be true.
Sam stared at me for a little while before nodding. “I’ve heard of that. It’s rare in your case, but it can happen.” Sam smiled and sighed. “Your fever is already going down quickly.” I nodded and smiled at my brother.
“Thank you so much for helping me, Sammy. And taking me away from the mob of people.”
Sam smiled, but shook his head. “I didn’t do that, actually, Cerise. Some guy got you away. A knight, I think. He left the rest to Mother and me.”
My eyebrows creased. “A knight, you say?” I questioned.
Samuel nodded. “Mother seemed to know him.”
“Oh?” I asked. “And was she happy to see him?”
“She was not,” another voice from the doorway answered for Samuel. I looked over to see Cain leant against the doorframe, his arms crossed across his chest.
Samuel smiled, gesturing at Cain. “Ah! There he is!” he said. Sam looked at me, his smile fading. “You of course knew that already, though, huh?”
I didn’t answer him. Sam was always an awkward child, but he would catch on soon enough that his presence was currently unwanted. Samuel looked between Cain and I a few times before he nodded. “I see. I’ll be leaving, then.”
“Thank you, Sammy!” I called out to him. Sam awkwardly squeezed himself through the space between Cain and the doorframe. He was fast to get away, based on the pitter patter of his feet down the hall.
Cain stepped into the room, languidly walking towards me. “You feel better, I take it?” Cain raised an eyebrow.
I nodded and smiled in thanks. “I do.”
“Good, good. You scared a lot of people downstairs, you know. They were all worried Marquise Trill had put a spell on you when she yelled your name.” Cain said, running a finger along the counter beside him, his eyes downcast.
It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “She shouted my name?”
Cain nodded. “That she did, along with some other gibberish. Right afterwards you collapsed. Everyone’s worried about you.”
I nodded. “I’m lucky you saved me, then. Thank you.” I gave him a brief smile.
Cain shrugged, only a few feet in front of me now. “I try to help where I’m needed.” He told me. I laughed at that and rolled my eyes. Cain smirked at me, but the fun was cut short. “Cerise,” he said, his voice all too serious. “With all the commotion downstairs I managed to get you a...sort of present, if you will.”
His hands seemed pretty empty to me.
Cain reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny, brown leather book with fancy writing on the top. I took it from him, running my fingers across the writing on it. “What is it?” I asked, looking up at him curiously.
“That,” Cain nodded towards the book, “is how we’re going to make the witch powerless.”