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A v a r i c e | T w e n t y S i x

T w e n t y S i x

❝Compulsion can be dangerous;

if you are not careful when using it.❞

I HAD CAUGHT THE LYCANTHROPE OFF-GUARD, luckily. Cain’s sword slashed into the lycanthrope’s leg. The lycanthrope howled in pain, looking to the sky. When he looked back at me, all mercy was gone. His eyes were black and cold, and he was going to kill me.

I held out the sword, but the lycanthrope hit it out my hands. Cain’s sword flew to the side. I was far too preoccupied to have watched where it landed, however. The lycanthrope stepped forward threateningly, baring his teeth at me and growling with all his might.

I stumbled back in order to get my bearings. With the way he moved, I knew the lycanthrope was guarding something behind him. He stayed right in his spot, never moving to the side to gain advantage on me. He was protecting something, and I was willing to bet it was my family.

I couldn’t run around him, even with my cloak. I couldn’t let him hurt Cain.

I had no choice.

I had to use magic.

I reached up, untying the cloak about me and quickly swung it onto Cain. While my guard was down and I briefly looked elsewhere, the lycanthrope jumped at me. I turned to face it quickly, one hand hovering over Cain to make sure he was safe. I lifted my right hand to the lycanthrope. I quickly breathed in, feeling my power course through my veins.

“Relinquo!” I shouted. The lycanthrope was thrown backwards, hitting against a tree. It hadn’t fainted, as I’d hoped it would, but it was hurt. I had learned “relinquo” not too long ago, a sort of present from Lilith, really. I’d been given a book of Latin, and it had been in the common spells section.

Now I understood why.

I couldn’t even fathom the force of such a spell when performed by the likes of a true witch. The lycanthrope probably would’ve died from the impact, or knocked the tree down.

With my free time, I quickly tied my cloak around Cain to insure he would be safe while I looked for my family. When I was finished, I sent the lycanthrope hurling to the tree one last time before making my exit to discover just what it was it had been hiding from me.

Behind the lycanthrope had been more to the blood trail. I followed it, hoping it would lead me to where my family was. The woods were filled with howls of the lycanthropes. No doubt they were communicating with one another somehow. I trudged on. I wouldn’t let them phase me from my mission.

Soon, I came to a clearing, much like the one I had been in the last time lycanthropes tried attacking me. This one was smaller, more secluded. And right in the middle of it, were four people.

Without thinking, I ran to them. Zachariah had been the one bleeding, I could see, based on the gash in his leg. They all were unconscious and dirty, but they were each alive, and for that I was grateful above everything else.

I heard a growl from behind me. I paused. I had begun to rip cloth from the bottom of Sarah’s dress so I could wrap Zachariah’s wound. Swallowing, I began to turn around to face my newest opponent.

There was another growl beside me. Another growl. Another growl.

I had been surrounded.

My power wasn’t nearly great enough to send them all back at once. There seemed to be more lycanthropes, too. Hadn’t there only been six before? Now there were eight, each more scary looking than the other. Their alpha, a great big white lycanthrope, stood on hind legs. He was the biggest of them all, thrice my height. He stared me down unyieldingly. His eyes had gone completely black with his anger and - no doubt - hunger. His mouth dripped with the blood of my family; my brother. He clenched his paws at his sides, kicked once, twice with his hind leg.

And he sprung.

They all sprung.

I quickly turned around, screaming “relinquo” as fast as I could at all the small lycanthropes before dealing with the three largest ones. I managed to take care of five, but they weren’t going to be out forever. And they hadn’t been the ones I was most worried about.

By the time I had finished turning, the largest lycanthrope had descended upon me. He would’ve landed on me, crushing me to death, I was sure, if I hadn’t quickly gotten out of the way. Landing on his two back feet, the wolf turned to me and howled - no, howled wasn’t the right word. He roared at me. His two companions collected at his side in support.

I held my hand out, willing my power to not give up on me and to be strong enough to take care of this mess. “Relinquo!” I shouted. Nothing happened. He hadn’t even flinched. I stumbled back some, putting some distance between us before trying again. “Relinquo!” The alpha tilted his head up, as if mocking my powers.

I focused on the lycanthrope beside him instead. “Relinquo!” That lycanthrope didn’t move, either. Perhaps I was focusing too strongly on the entire lycanthrope. Maybe I should be looking for places smaller. Would that even work?

I narrowed my eyes, walking backwards as fast as I could without falling. I looked directly at the companion’s shoulder. “Relinquo,” I said. The shoulder was thrown back, dislocated. The lycanthrope winced and stumbled, but he didn’t stop. I needed to dislocate something else.

I looked at his leg. “Relinquo.” In a heap, the lycanthrope fell to the ground. I took this chance - his weakness - to finish him off, at least for now. “Relinquo,” I told the beast while staring at his neck. The lycanthrope stilled, but I knew he wasn’t dead. A lycanthrope couldn’t be killed, after all.

Now that one of them was dealt with, I still had two more to go. I killed the second companion just as I had with the first before turning all of my attention to the alpha of the pack, the leader. I held my chin up high while I looked at him. The alpha’s eyes narrowed into slits, its nostrils flaring.

I looked at his leg. “Relinquo.” Nothing happened. No. This couldn’t be happening. I stared at his leg, breathing in deeply to let my power surge. I could still feel it running inside of me, beating just as strong as it had before. Yet nothing worked on this lycanthrope.

Perhaps the spell was to new to use on him. I couldn’t very well use the first spell I learned, could I? I tilted my head at the lycanthrope before looking behind me. “Floresco,” I murmured while lifting my hands at a tree branch. The lycanthrope paused briefly to watch it, but then reached out and snapped the thick branch as if it had been nothing.

I swallowed.

This wasn’t good.

This was not good.

I did the only thing I could do.

I ran.

Soon, the other lycanthropes would wake up and chase after their alpha and me. I needed to take care of the alpha before that happened, and I needed to get my family the hell out of the woods. How I was going to do that, I still wasn’t sure.

While I ran, I used all the power in me, all the spells I knew, to put obstacles in the alpha’s way. They did nothing but give me a few more seconds. A few more seconds that were useless without a plan in mind. I was wasting my magic, my energy, when I needed to preserve it.

The second I stopped making roots come out of the ground to trip the big thing, the lycanthrope leapt onto me, tackling me to the ground. I turned midway, to land on my back. I winced from the impact, but nothing felt broken. Just terribly, horribly bruised was all.

I looked around for something, anything to help me. Perhaps this was where the sword was dropped? Doubtful, and as I looked around me, I realized I hadn’t a clue where I was. This was nowhere near the clearing, Cain’s cabin, or Lilith’s cabin.

I was lost and this lycanthrope - this alpha - was going to kill me. And probably eat me.

The alpha roared in my face, it’s spit and past food going everywhere. Closing my eyes, I looked away from it before looking back.

The alpha straightened, looking me in the eyes proudly.

That was it.

His eyes.

Why hadn’t I thought of it before?

The lycanthropes were part human after all, weren’t they? So if I looked into his eyes - really looked into them - I could use compulsion to make him do whatever I wanted, right?

I stared into the lycanthrope’s eyes deeply, calling forth what power I had left inside of me. “Get off of me,” I ordered it. “Sit down, and stay until I say otherwise.”

The lycanthrope blinked at me, and I worried that he wouldn’t be affected and rip my throat out for a millisecond before he did what was asked of him. The alpha slowly, leisurely as if he knew what was going on, got off of me and sat down beside me. His eyes were no longer black, but a beautiful blue that were vibrant and human-like.

He wouldn’t hurt me or try to hurt me any longer, I knew.

I tilted my head at the beast. Well, for now.

I turned and left the lycanthrope, tracing my footprints from before as well as I could. No doubt the other lycanthropes were awake now. I just hoped they didn’t touch my family.

By the time I reached the clearing, I could tell something was up. I hadn’t seen any lycanthropes, or heard them. So they had left when they awoke, or they...“took care of business”.

Luckily, it had been the former.

Unluckily, Cain was up, and he looked pissed when he saw me walk through into the clearing. He had been leant over Zachariah, tying Zach’s gash up and making sure everyone was still well and alive. They hadn’t moved since when I last saw them, thankfully.

Cain was clearly no longer under compulsion.

“What the hell happened?” he questioned me, throwing his arms up.

I blinked at him. I hadn’t had time to come up with a good excuse. “Um,” I said, looking around, “Nothing?”

Cain narrowed his eyes at me. “One second I was at your house and the next I wake up - with your cloak around me - in the woods. You don’t find that strange?”

I thinned my lips and shook my head. “Nope.”

Cain looked at me incredulously. “I thought you were dead!” he finally said, exasperated yet still yelling. “I woke up with your cloak and there was a trail of blood...I didn’t follow it because I knew whoever made it would’ve made it out of the woods. So I followed another trail of footprints and it led me here.” Cain looked at my family, pointing. “To them.”

I debated for a minute whether or not I should keep on lying. With Cain’s angry expression, stoic posture, and blazing eyes, I knew I probably shouldn’t. Finally, I sighed, and closed my eyes, shaking my head. “There’s a very good explanation for this,” I told him.

Cain laughed drily. “Oh, I bet there is.”

I narrowed my eyes at him, telling him mentally to shut the hell up. “There is,” I nodded.

Cain shook his head. “I’ve come to my own conclusion, Cerise. So save it.”

I blinked at him for a minute, both of us staring angrily at each other, before I nodded and crossed my arms over my chest. “Alright. Let’s hear it. What do you think is going?”

Cain stared at me, his eyes narrowed into slits and everything flexed. He was pissed at me, and he had every right to be. He pursed his lips, willing himself to say what he was thinking. I straightened, preparing for him to tell me something obscene or something about me being a lycanthrope or just something along those lines.

Instead, Cain lifted his head high, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I believe that you are the witch we have been searching for.”

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