A v a r i c e | T w e n t y F o u r
T w e n t y F o u r
❝Nobility is only important;
if you are not ardent.❞
I SKIMMED THROUGH THE PAGES OF the small brown book. “What is this thing?” I murmured upon seeing thousands of drawings.
Cain stepped forward, retracting the book from my hand. “It’s a spell book,” he announced to me, flipping through the pages. “I got it out from the castle library.”
“The library?” I mused. “Is it as spacious and beautiful as I imagined?” Lydia and I had always dreamed of getting to roam around in the palace library. Although Lydia hadn’t been very interested in reading, she did enjoy luxurious things.
Cain shrugged nonchalantly. “Sure, if you don’t mind dusty old books and a really strange, musty scent.” I wrinkled my nose at that, shaking my head. Cain laughed, his posture relaxing a bit. “Yeah, I thought so.”
“So where in the book does it talk about making a witch powerless?” I got rid of the question hung between us, reaching out for the book again. Cain handed it over willingly while he shrugged, once again.
“I’m not really sure,” he said, pursing his lips tot he side. “I just know that this is a book of potions and spells, all the most powerful ones, so I’m assuming it’s somewhere in there.” Cain smiled cockily at me. “I figured you would be the one to actually find it.”
I stared unblinking at him with disbelief. Finally, I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “Of course you did.” I sighed, opening the book again. “It would be a lot easier if there was a table of content,” I muttered to myself. “This is going to take forever.”
Cain clucked his tongue and tilted his head to the side. “That sounds truly invigorating. I hope you have fun with that.” He began to slowly walk away while facing me still, as if I wouldn’t notice he was about to make his leave.
“You are such a jerk,” I grumbled.
Cain winked at me, and then ducked out of the room.
Well, I’d better start sooner rather than later. The ball was only, what? A week and a half away? I could get it finished in time. I just had to be fast. I skimmed through the first few pages of the book, looking for anything even remotely related to “powerless witch”.
“Cerise?” Mother appeared out of nowhere in the doorway. I immediately fumbled with the book, trying to hide it somewhere. Dresses didn’t have pockets, however. Mother raised an eyebrow at me. “What have you got there?”
I glanced down at the book. “Oh, this?”
Mother, still with a raised eyebrow, nodded and stepped into the room cautiously.
“Oh, er, just a present.” I said. “It’s a...a journal.”
Mother nodded. “How very nice. And whom was it from?”
I blinked at her. I needed to stall, and for some reason my brain wasn’t working properly today. “Who was what from?” I asked, hoping she’d let go of the subject. I couldn’t tell her it was Cain. She’d get mad. None of the brothers would work, either, or father.
So who was the journal from?
I racked my brain for the answer while Mother tapped her foot impatiently and nodded to the little book. “That book you’re holding. Who gave it to you?”
“Ehm,” I said, tilting my chin up. “It was from an...an admirer.” I winced at my lie. It was clearly false. I didn’t have any admirers that would give me a journal. A flower, maybe, but a journal? They weren’t cheap.
Mother gasped and slapped her hands together. “An admirer!” she exclaimed. I blinked at her. She bought the lie? “Do you know which one?”
I didn’t quite catch what she said. I was far too shocked that she actually believed me. Perhaps I was getting better and better at lying. Just a month ago I was certain she wouldn’t have believed me. Things have changed quite dramatically now.
Lydia would’ve been proud.
“Cerise?” Mother repeated her question.
My eyebrows pulled together as I looked at the book. “Oh, um, the note didn’t say.”
Mother’s eyes widened. “There was a note?” Mother clapped her hands and quickly made her way into the room to look for a note.
“Yes, but I threw it away.” I told her swiftly. Mother raised an eyebrow, but she began to look in the trashcans nonetheless. This was beginning to get funny. I was enjoying myself.
“Cerise, I don’t see a note-”
“That’s right. I forgot. I ate it.” I told her, thinning my lips. I should’ve thought harder about what to say next, yet that was the first thing to come to mind. Why couldn’t I have said I burnt it or something like that?
Mother turned around, eyes wide with an incredulous expression. “You what?” she shrieked.
“Ate it,” I nodded. I couldn’t go back now that the damage was done.
Mother stared at me. Multiple times she opened her mouth as if to say something only to close it a moment later. Finally, after a minute of staring at one another, Mother said, “There’s some food downstairs if you’re hungry.”
I smiled and jumped off of the bed. “Wonderful! I’m starving.” This was actually true. My stomach had recently started to growl its protest due to the lack of food inside of it.
Mother smiled tightly - fakely - at me. “Yes, I know.”
The food had not been true food. It was small - and I did mean small - sandwiches, one for each person who came. It hardly did anything for my hunger. Luckily, we left shortly there after. I kept on getting interrupted by people asking how I was. Everyone thought Marquise Trill had done it, but why?
Ralph and Lenny weren’t coming home with us. They had left a bit earlier, due to their wives’ discomfort. I didn’t blame them, of course. I didn’t see any of the Trills there, not even the father, when I came back. They all must’ve left shortly after her sentence was called.
I sighed and shook my head. I couldn’t believe it had come down to this. Lydia’s mother, Marquise Trill, was sentence to be beheaded. I suppose it was just a good thing that she wasn’t sentenced to burning to death. As I had learned, that was the most common form of execution for witches. Something about the bodies burning and being disgraced by God. Marquise Trill most likely got the beheading sentence because she was a noble.
At least now it wouldn’t be as excruciatingly painful for her. Just for the rest of us.
I flinched at the thought of her lifeless body on the ground, her head a few feet away from it.
I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle seeing her like that, even if she was the one behind all the lycanthrope attacks.
We got two carriages again, one for Mother, Father, Zachariah and Sarah and another one for the rest of us.
Gen and I got in first, followed by Michael and Samuel. It was roomy now, thankfully. Samuel sat next to me so Gen and Michael could sit together. We didn’t talk for most of the ride, until finally Gen spoke up. “Who was that man that helped you?” she asked me.
I frowned. “When I fainted?”
Gen nodded. Samuel immediately turned away from his door window to us and smirked at me with a wink. “That is who Cerise is hiding from our mother.”
I blinked at him. “Nuh uh!”
Sam raised an eyebrow at me, crossing his arms over his chest. “Oh, really? So you aren’t trying to hide it from Mother that he went to see you? Did you even tell her?”
I pursed my lips, narrowing my eyes. I couldn’t help but cross my arms over my chest, too, out of habit. “Okay, so maybe I’m not telling her everything, but it’s not like...like we’re together.”
“You sure?” Samuel chuckled and turned away from me to Gen and Michael, whose eyes were gleaming with humor. “Because when he appeared at the doorway, your entire demeanor changed, Ceri. I could definitely feel some tension in the air, and it wasn’t from anger.” Sam winked again. Sam had always loved to tease me, even when we were younger. He was closest to my age, so we were constantly hanging out and together. He was always with Lydia and me through our childhood.
“Yes, I’m sure.” I wrinkled my nose at him. “Other than friendship, there’s nothing going on between Cain and me.”
Gen pitched in, helping Sam out rather than me, “You know, this Cain guy moved awfully fast when he saw you faint. It was pretty heroic, actually.”
I rolled my eyes in exasperation. “I don’t know what to tell you guys, then!”
Michael smiled warmly at me. “Why doesn’t Mother like him?”
Finally, a question that wasn’t about my relationship with Cain. I was sick of answering those questions. “Well, first off, there’s his name. First thing she complained about was that ‘Cain’ was a name given by heathens.”
Michael tilted his head as Gen and Sam nodded. “Alright. What else? That can’t be all.”
I sighed. “I’m not really sure. You’ll have to ask her.” I shrugged. “I think that she also isn’t very keen of his nobility status, either. He’s a knight, after all.” I widened my eyes. “Not that you’re lower than us, of course. I think being a knight is valiant and amazing. If I could, I would be a knight in a heartbeat.”
Michael laughed and waved me off. “I know how Mother is, Cerise.” He sighed, a crease between his eyebrows forming. “So, even if you were to like him - and I’m not saying you do,” Sam and Gen grinned while Michael winked at me, “Mother wouldn’t have it because you are to marry a man of a higher nobility.”
I nodded, and then shook my head in irritation. “She’s been so annoying as of late. She even suggested that I date Oliver Ackerman.” Everyone blinked at me in confusion. Ah, yes. They’d been gone for a while. They probably didn’t even remember who he was. “Lydia’s fiancé?” I reminded them, raising an eyebrow.
Samuel tensed beside me and turned to look out the window again.
Gen gasped, putting a hand to her heart. “Oh, dear. That must’ve been awful.” I nodded with a tilt of my head and shrugged.
Michael sighed, running a hand down his face. “She’s just looking out for you, Cerise. I doubt she really meant it.”
I rolled my eyes, glancing out the window so I didn’t have to look at him. “Oh, she did.”
Michael bit his lip. “I’m sorry, Cerise.”
I shrugged. “You’re not the one who needs to apologize, Michael.”
Michael nodded. “I know you’re angry with her, and you have every right to be, but maybe this is her way of dealing with Lydia’s death?” Michael gave me a small smile. “Mother has never dealt well with tragedy.”
I sighed, closing my eyes, and shook my head. “I know you’re right, but I’m still mad at her.”
“So what did they do with that lycanthrope they had?” I questioned curiously, figuring Michael might now because he was, well, Michael.
Michael shrugged. “I’m not sure, really. I imagine they locked him in the basement. Or maybe they let him go.”
Sam, while still looking out his window, said, “Perhaps you should ask Cain. He’d know.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. Why the Cain thing again? “Maybe I will.” I jutted my chin out.
“Sounds good, seeing as how he’s right in front of your house.” Sam answered breezily.
I instantly looked out my window, trying to see if what Sam had said was true. It was. Cain stood right next to my house, his body completely straight and stiff. He wasn’t leaning against anything and he didn’t have that oh-so-casual demeanor around him.
I breathed in deeply, my true eyesight coming to me as I focused on the energy he was releasing, or really the lack thereof. His aura was stiff as well, hardly moving. Perhaps that was because he was human. I still got a weird feeling in my gut from seeing it, however.
Michael and Gen were both trying to get a glimpse of Cain, but for completely different reasons. “Oh, he’s handsome,” Gen complimented when she finally saw him. She winked at me.
I ignored her. The second our carriage stopped, I jumped out and ran over to him. Cain straightened even more - if that was even possible - when he saw me heading his way. His eyes were blazing, his jaw clenched.
The second I stood in front of him, Cain gripped me shoulders, looking into my eyes. It was intimidating and I wanted to duck away, but I couldn’t. “We need to talk.”