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

T h i r t y S e v e n

❝Day fall to a man who feels nothing;

a secret witch constantly bluffing.❞

WE MOVED OUR CONVERSATION INTO CAIN’S main room to get more comfortable. I sat across from him with my legs crossed. Cain didn’t sit, however. He wasn’t really one to get too cozy, I imagined. He was always very on edge; very alert.

He probably noticed every move I made, which was pretty unsettling.

“Well?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. I leant forward, resting my elbows on my knees and my face in my hands. “What happened?”

Cain ran a hand down his face. “It’s a long story.” He warned me, glancing over. He stood behind the seat in front of me, his hands gripping the top of it. He was no longer relaxed or soft. He was intense, his body rigid. He was back to his usual self.

I purposely lied back against the chair I was sitting in, and raised an eyebrow quizzically at him. “I’ve got time.” Cain looked at me, his gaze steady as he contemplated my offer. I didn’t look away from him. After a few minutes of hesitation, Cain sighed and nodded, going around the chair across from me and sitting in it.

“Alright, then,” he agreed, nodding. “I’ll tell you everything.”

Cain and his mother were moved away by the king after the realization of who Cain’s father was. The king put them in a nice home with money and nice town. Cain would sometimes visit his father. They never quite saw eye-to-eye.

As Cain grew up, his town was infiltrated by the prospect of witches and witchcraft. They weren’t just accusations, either. There was proof for every single witch that was burned or hung, each one more malicious than the last.

His mother was frightened of them, of course, and because of this fear she made some bad choices concerning her son and herself. Choices that would in time get her killed by a witch.

When Cain found out about the paranormal death of his mother, he promised to avenge her death and set off on an apprenticeship with a witch hunter. He studied with this white-haired man for three years, but never was forced to actually kill a witch. He kept his eye on Helen, the witch that killed his mother, so he knew where she was at all times. And when it was time, he would kill her.

With his apprenticeship finished, he went back to his hometown. Outrage and rallies were all over. The townspeople were frightened for their lives. Since Cain had gone, there had been over ten deaths.

Witches had created the lycanthropes, he knew.

There was a lycanthrope hunter who had come to help the village. His name was Ian. He was looking for men to join him in his quest, and a few did. Cain speculated whether or not he should join, weighing his options. Finally, he took the chance and became a lycanthrope hunter.

No one knew how to kill the lycanthropes. Cain hadn’t realized yet what they were exactly or how he could actually be rid of them. He tried everything. He cut off their heads, burned their bodies, but nothing worked.

These lycanthropes weren’t nearly as horrific as the ones he was encountering now, but they were deadly nonetheless.

Finally, Cain came to the conclusion that he needed help in defeating the beasts. He contacted his master, his teacher, and gained knowledge about the lycanthropes and how to kill them.

He would have to kill the witch that created them.

That was a task in itself. Many women had been accused of witchcraft, but none of them seemed capable - powerful enough - to actually create the lycanthropes. Cain searched and searched until finally he came to a sudden realization.

The only witch he knew that was powerful enough the create the lycanthropes was the one who had killed his own mother: Helen.

Helen was now a well-respected lady in town, married to a powerful man. She was cunning and resourceful and she was not afraid of the lycanthropes. Cain was naïve and led by the want to avenge his mother’s death. He wasn’t thinking straight or intelligently.

He confronted Helen. Luckily, he had taken her by surprise, otherwise he would’ve surely been killed. She didn’t realize who he was, and when he brought up his mother, Helen didn’t know who she was, either. This just angered Cain further. He wanted - needed - to kill her, to be rid of her and her evil ways.

But she was untouchable. Every time Cain thought that he was close enough to kill her, she was a step ahead of him. She admitted, at least, to the creation of the lycanthropes raiding the town, but that she was no longer in control of them. A witch powerful enough the be in control was impotent and deadly.

Still, the only way to kill those lycanthropes, Cain knew, was to kill her.

And that was a price he was willing to pay.

The witch was constantly guarded, however, and the lycanthropes were still attacking people. Cain could barely touch the witch, much less kill her. He needed a way to just pause the lycanthropes for a day and then focus his attention on the witch.

It was a difficult task, one that needed to be planned out thoroughly. The lycanthrope hunters in town watched the forest that the lycanthropes hid in, making sure that the lycanthropes wouldn’t attack. Although they were seemingly fearless beings, there was only two of them. So, the seven lycanthrope hunters were able to fend them off.

While they did this, Cain went to make an attack on Helen. She was constantly surrounded by innocents, and she had created a protective shield around herself. But Cain was determined to be rid of the unholy witch.

With the lycanthropes fended off for the time-being, Cain put his plan forward for the witch’s demise. He followed her, waiting for her guard to be let down. She didn’t move much out of her house, and when she did, her protective shield was stronger than ever. But she had to get tired out at some point, right?

Cain hoped so, anyways.

She did.

It was night when it happened, but Cain was set and ready. Helen walked quickly back home, which was strange. She usually walked slowly, confidently with poise and her head held up high. No, she was hunched over, all but running back home, while her gaze diverted all around.

She was probably looking for him.

Helen had to know that Cain wanted her dead. Otherwise she wouldn’t be so nervous about walking without her protective shield.

Cain had planned this very moment for so long. He knew every movement to make, everywhere to hit, and all of the witch’s weaknesses.

The time had come to take revenge for his mother’s murder.

Cain was wary. Even though her protective shield was down, Cain knew that she was still very powerful. She was a witch, after all. They were, with no doubt, the most powerful beings he had ever had the displeasure to come across.

Cain stalked the witch until she was completely alone, her guard down, and cornered. Only then did he act.

With a flourish, he unsheathed his sword. The witch instantly turned around, eyes wide. “You,” she screeched, surprised and maybe even a little bit scared. Cain took a strong stance, not replying to her. If he had been smart, he would’ve swung then and there, cutting her head off.

Unfortunately, he had hesitated.

The witch flicked her hand, screeching an unknown word at Cain. Cain flew backwards for only a second, as there had been a wall behind him. He slammed into it. He was expecting it to be harder, more painful. He winced a little from the impact - and he was certainly going to have a few bruises - but he could manage.

He took a stand and held his sword back up. “You’re dead,” he murmured to the stunned witch. She must’ve expected him to be more hurt. She backed away instantly, flinging her hand out and saying the past word, but her accuracy failed her. She was too frightened by Cain.

She was becoming angrier and angrier by the second. Cain ducked and jumped out of the way of each of her treacherous spells, infuriating her further. Now, Cain was too close. She had nowhere to go; she was pressed up against the wall already.

Cain pressed the sword against her throat. Helen began chanting something. It had to be a curse, as Cain could feel something inside of him throbbing in pain, but he ignored it. He didn’t hesitate. He applied force to his sword, and it slid through her neck, decapitating her.

Helen’s body fell, her head sliding off of the sword.

Cain stepped back to stare down at the scene before him. She was dead. He had avenged his mother, yet it didn’t feel like it. He was expecting to feel happy, to feel like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.

But he didn’t.

He felt nothing.

It was strange.

He wiped his sword off and left the scene quickly, before anyone happened upon them. It was shortly thereafter, while Cain was in his cabin thoroughly cleaning his sword, that Ian came bounding him, saying that the lycanthropes had died out of nowhere.

Cain didn’t tell Ian why, but he knew now what he must do. He needed to hunt every witch, to kill them all for the sake of his family and the people around him. He wouldn’t give up until he had killed them all.

Ian had mentioned something was off about him during their visit, but Cain didn’t realize what it was until later. Now he knew.

Every time he killed a witch, his hair became whiter. Just like his master’s.

I stared at Cain quizzically. “So you aren’t a lycanthrope hunter. You’re a witch hunter.” I speculated.

Cain nodded. “Yes, I suppose.”

I nodded as well, taking in his story some more. I tilted my head to the side, pursing my lips. “So that was why you reacted so strongly when you thought I was a witch.” Cain nodded once more. I frowned, shaking my head. “Why didn’t you kill me then?”

Cain paused at that, staring at me for a moment. His eyes never wavered from my own. I squirmed in my seat uncomfortably. Cain’s gaze was intimidating. Finally, he stood up and turned away from me. He shot a hand through his hair with a sigh. “I couldn’t,” he admitted to me.

My heart leapt at that. I tingled all over from his admission, but I didn’t comment on it. I just nodded in acknowledgment and stared down at my feet. “How many witches have you killed, then?”

Cain turned back around to look at me. “Three, in total. Helen, a witch from the south, and another witch called Matilda. I usually don’t do the killing; I expose them. My father caught wind of my practice, and because he thought a witch hunter would be good to have around what with the lycanthropes, he asked me to come ‘home’. I originally had been chasing someone else,” Cain gave me a weird look, “but then it became clear to me that the culprit was, indeed, Marquise Trill.”

“Ah,” I said simply.

Something else came to mind. “Did you ever tell Ian, then? About witch hunting and such?” I questioned curiously. Ian had to have known a little bit about it, right?

Cain shrugged. “Yes and no. He knew I also hunted witches, and he knew how evil they were. The third witch I killed he had a part in. He had been compelled, forced to kill innocents. Ian was horrified by this once his memories came back.” Cain looked away again, a faraway look in his eyes. “He made me promise that if he was ever compelled like that again, he wanted me to kill him before he could hurt someone else.”

My stomach dropped. So that was why Ian had said “thank you”, and why Cain killed him without hesitation. Ian had asked him for it, had made him promise to do it. I felt horrible, knowing that I was the innocent Ian had lost his life too. Cain must’ve seen this somehow on my face, because he said, “It’s not your fault, Cerise. The witch could’ve sent him after anyone. I’m almost glad it was you; I was there to help before he could do any real damage.” Cain gave me a small smile.

I stayed for a bit longer after that, going over the plans for tomorrow over and over again, but when it began to get dark, Cain escorted me to my home (he said the lycanthropes were far too dangerous to be travelling alone).

I wanted him to take my cloak back with him, so he also had some sort of protection, but Cain refused and walked away.

I went inside, finding my mother in her rocking chair and my father sitting beside her in a chair he’d pulled up. They both looked over at me. “Welcome home,” Mother said, smiling. “You’d better get some rest before tomorrow; it’s a big day.”

I nodded in agreement and went to my room to get ready for sleep.

Tomorrow the truth would be exposed and the monstrous beasts that hunted my friends and family would be dead.

Lydia would be avenged.

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