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

T w e n t y N i n e

❝I ran all night, all day;

I couldn’t get away.❞

I MANAGED TO CATCH CAIN BEFORE he could fall completely on the ground and let everyone know inside what was going on. I was lucky to have only opened to door slightly. I quickly pushed Cain outside and stepped out with him, shutting the door behind me.

“Cain?” I whisper yelled, my eyes wide. Cain blinked lazily up at me in response. I didn’t want my family (especially my mother) to see him like this. And if this was done by who I thought it was, then they certainly couldn’t know. It would break the cover from yesterday; that he had saved everyone and protected me from the lycanthropes.

Carefully, I rested Cain against the side of the house and scurried inside. Everyone looked worriedly at me. “What’s going on?” Father asked, clearly wanting to go outside himself. I blocked the door, making sure no one could exit. Samuel stared at me, his eyes narrowed. He knew something was up of course.

He probably thought I had something to do with it, too.

“Er,” I said, glancing towards the door. “Cain really can’t eat dinner with us-”

At that, Mother straightened. “Why ever not?” she interrupted, her eyes blazing with anger.

I swallowed. I needed an answer that would get Mother to settle down. I wasn’t worried about anyone else. No one else cared as much as Mother. I was certain, even with a good response, she would still hate Cain for “ditching” dinner with her family.

I raised my chin. “Cain came to announce he must attend important meetings with the King at the palace, and has asked if I could come along with him.” Mother frowned at first, glancing at Father for any sort of insight on the situation. He shrugged. Sarah and Gen were both giddy, clearly taking this as a romantic gesture.

Mother bit her lip before sighing and nodded. “Fine, fine. Have you any time to change?”

I shook my head. “I’m afraid not. I need to go now. Farewell, love you all!” I called, grabbing my cloak quickly and exiting the house.

Cain was in the exact same place as I had left him and looked up at me with a smirk. His mouth was bloody. “Meeting with the King? That doesn’t even remotely sound believable,” he said. His voice was scratchy and he kept on coughing through his sentences, making it sound choppy and not nearly as arrogant as he might’ve hoped.

Cain frowned, closing his eyes. “What’s the plan?” he asked.

“I haven’t got one,” I said. “Only that I need to get you back to your home.” I kneeled down, hoisting Cain up so one of his arms were around my shoulders. “Can you walk?” I questioned, frowning at him. Cain struggled to get to a standing position, but once he was there, he nodded.

“I think I can manage.” Cain nodded.

I didn’t bother asking how he’d gotten like this. I already knew. A lycanthrope had attacked him. He was lucky to have escaped with his life, by the looks of him. “Here,” I gave him the red cloak, draping it around his shoulders. Cain shook his head.

“I don’t want this silly thing. I’m fine.”

“Believe me,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “You do want it.”

Cain grumbled under his breath, but he didn’t fight with me more on the subject. I helped him walk along, but hardly did he ever put his weight on me. Cain was right; he could manage. He obviously was able to walk all the way to my house, after all.

I immediately sensed another presence the second we entered the woods. A lycanthrope. He didn’t growl or howl. He followed us; watching us as we made our way into the forest. He was stalking us with his beady eyes, the only things I could see of him. They shined brightly in the dark of the woods, a yellow pair.

Halfway to Cain’s cabin and another one came, this time on Cain’s side. He followed after us, not growling or making a move, just like the other one. What were they doing? I wondered to myself, frowning. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be anything good.

Cain, even in his current state, caught on to what was happening. “What are they doing?” he asked, mimicking my thoughts.

I shrugged. “I’m not sure, exactly. But I don’t think they’ll hurt us.”

Cain laughed at that, rolling his eyes. “Of course they won’t.”

I narrowed my eyes at what he said, but I didn’t reply at first. Something else had caught my attention. Foot steps, behind us. I stopped, glancing back.

My heart stopped.

The alpha stood their, carefully breathing, his eyes bright and the moon casting a horrendous shadow beside him. He was the true definition of the word “monster”. I swallowed hard, turning away from him. “Cain,” I forced my voice to be steady and calm. “I want you to run as fast as you can to your cabin. They will not hurt you. Just run.”

Cain frowned, looking at me. “What’s going on?”

“Cain,” I lowered my voice. ”Please.”

Cain shook his head stubbornly. He gave me no choice. Looking into his eyes, I repeated myself one last time. Cain’s eyes glazed over and he nodded. Then, he ran.

The second he was out of eyesight, I turned back around to look at the alpha lycanthrope. I was expecting him to lash out at me, try and kill me for using compulsion on him. But he didn’t. Instead, he did something completely unexpected.

He morphed.

It was strange to watch as he became shorter, his snout going in to be a face, his eyes becoming human. His entire body changed. It didn’t look easy, however. Throughout the process I heard cracks and groans and when he was finished, he rolled his neck, tilting his head from side to side. Then, he opened his eyes.

I was expecting his eyes to be something grand, something truly meant for a leader. Instead, I was hit with simple brown eyes, the shade of wood. He gave me a wicked smile. “Do I not meet your expectations?” he asked, walking forward.

Even while in his human form, I wasn’t dumb enough to believe he was human. I stepped back, away from him. “Why are you here?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” he growled lowly, narrowing his eyes into slits at me. “The likes of you are not welcome in this forest.”

I frowned. “Why not?”

“We do not take kindly to witches.” The lycanthrope said. My voice caught in my throat. A gasp could be heard - most likely from me - but I was no longer certain of anything I was doing. Regaining my composure, I shook my head.

“I am not a witch.”

The lycanthrope raised an eyebrow. “Oh you aren’t?” He took a step closer. “Then what was that yesterday?”

“I am a seer,” I jutted my chin out, daring him to prove me wrong.

The lycanthrope laughed. “Are you really?” he questioned me. “Well, my little seer...” Finally, he stepped close enough for the moon’s light to hit him just right. I could see his face now. “You’d better run.” And with that, the alpha morphed back into his beast form. I scrambled to get away, running as fast as I could possibly could. I knew my powers other than compulsion affected him, so as I had done the day before, I sent obstacles in his way to keep him busy.

My mind was jumbled, thoughts running across it quickly. I could hardly focus anything except for the fact that I had known him, before he became this monster. He had been my father’s friend, rumored to be the first one killed. And here he was, the alpha of the pack of lycanthropes that terrorized our - his - kingdom.

When I’d gotten close enough to Cain’s cabin, the alpha stopped, turning back. I wasn’t sure why, exactly, and I didn’t want to know why.

I was just glad he was gone.

I ran into Cain’s home, shutting the door behind me as fast as I could. Cain was sitting on his table, wrapping his arm. When I burst in, he jumped up, quickly grabbing the sword beside him. “What are you?” he interrogated, narrowing his eyes at me.

“I’m on the good side,” I told him breathlessly. “I swear it. I did not create the lycanthropes, and I never will.” Cain paused, taking this in. I held my breath, waiting for what he would say. Finally, he put the sword down. I exhaled deeply, bending over to rest my hands on my knees and catch my breath. “So you are a witch?” Cain said after I had stood back up.

I shook my head. “No. I am a seer, but because I am magical I’m able to perform simple magic spells.” I explained to him, walking towards him. Cain backed up, clearly not yet ready for me to be near him. I stopped in my trail, putting my hands up. “I won’t hurt you. I swear it.”

Cain’s jaw tightened before he nodded. “Fine.”

I walked over to him. He’d already gotten his shirt off, wrapping up his arm. He did a horrendous job of it. I reached out to touch it, to unravel it and redo it, but Cain’s entire body froze up. “Cain,” I murmured, shaking my head. “How many times do I have to tell you? I’m not-”

“It’s not that,” Cain snapped at me. He settled, his body relaxing. He didn’t bother to give me an explanation. I undid his bandage. Cain watched me carefully, his eyes following my face and my movements. “How did you do it, Cerise?” he whispered.

I glanced up at him. “Do what?”

“How did you save me and your family from an entire pack of lycanthropes? And what happened before then?” he elaborated.

I nodded, biting my lip. “Do you truly not remember anything?”

Cain shrugged. “It comes to me, in bits and pieces. I remember leading you to the woods, mostly. And that we came upon a lycanthrope. But it all seemed like it was my idea, everything that was happening. Like I had come up with it.” He shook his head. “Clearly I didn’t. What did you do to me?”

“I...compelled you.” I said. I couldn’t look at him, instead focusing on correctly wrapping his arm.

Cain stared at me. “You...compelled me?” he muttered, shaking his head. “And then what happened?”

“I needed you to show me where it had happened. You led me there and we ran into a lycanthrope. I couldn’t let you fight him, so I knocked you out.”

Cain raised an eyebrow. “No wonder I had a pounding headache when I awoke. And what was the cloak for?”

“The cloak is enchanted; whoever is wearing it cannot be harmed by lycanthropes. So, I put it on you.” Cain nodded. “I used...a spell on the lycanthrope, to send him flying into the tree and out of my way. I know a few spells. I’m still learning.”

“Learning from who?” Cain asked.

I blinked at him. Could I tell him now? I hadn’t gone to see Lilith in a while, what with all that was going on. It had been about two days, right? I opened my mouth to tell him, but whatever spell was on me still had its toll. “A book.”

Cain raised an eyebrow. “A book?”

I nodded. “A book of spells, to be exact. Not the one you gave me, though. Behind that lycanthrope was more blood, so I followed it to the clearing, where my family was.”

“They must’ve cleared the blood while I was unconscious,” Cain interrupted. “I only saw your footprints.”

I frowned. “I’m not sure why they would do that. Anyhow, I was surrounded. The spell worked for most of the lycanthropes, sending them hurling backwards. But three of them were too strong. The alpha was in the middle. I managed to get rid of the next two, but I nothing seemed to work on the alpha. He chased me through the forest. I was certain I was going to die,” my voice wavered at that.

Cain reached out, cupping my face in his hand. “It’s fine now, Cerise. You’re safe.”

I shook my head. “I’m not, and neither are you. The lycanthrope was going to kill me, but I used my last resort to save myself: I compelled him. And it worked. When I came back, you were there.” Cain didn’t bother apologizing for what he had said, and I wasn’t surprised.

I was finished with his arm and moved on to taking care of his chest, which had scratches and blood all over it. I first used the wet rag he’d gotten out to wash away the blood, and then proceeded to wrap it with gauze covering his wounds. Cain watched me intensely, and I felt naked under his gaze, like everything that I was...was being exposed to him right then and there.

“So what now?” Cain asked.

“Now...“I trailed off. I knew what I had to do. “Now, I need to make that potion and make the witch powerless. And keep away from the forest.”

Cain frowned and raised an eyebrow. “Why’s that?”

“Because I just spoke with the alpha lycanthrope,” I looked up, into Cain’s eyes, “and he told me that I was going to be killed.”

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