A v a r i c e | F o r t y
F o r t y
❝The witch will sit and wait;
until she is met with her prey.❞
HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THIS? All this time, it was so blatantly obvious that it was her. She was always there. Hell, she had even in a way told me that she was the witch more than a few times, but I never caught on. I was so stupid, so arrogant. Seers couldn’t do what we did. Seers could see the future, the past, and the present. I doubt even a very powerful seer could perform spells and make potions. I was so stupid for ever trusting her, for ever believing her. This entire time, she was the one who was evil. I never wanted to realize that it was her because if she was a witch, I...
I shook my head. I couldn’t think about that right now.
“Cerise?” my mother called to me from somewhere in the crowds, but I ignored her. I looked all around, but Lilith was nowhere to be seen. She had vanished. My stomach dropped at that. I felt like I was going to cry for some reason, while simultaneously feeling sick to my stomach. Everything about this situation was wrong, just wrong.
“Cerise,” Mother gasped as she all but flew herself onto me, burying her face into my shoulder. “Are you alright?” she asked, pulling back to look at me. My mother knew. She had to have. She knew that Lilith was the witch and she refrained from telling me. Lilith had said it skipped generations, but I didn’t know if that was true or not anymore. I didn’t know if anything Lilith had ever told me was true.
Mother frowned at me, seeing the bewildered and frightened expression on my face. “Cerise?” she asked again. “Are you alright? You look scared, honey.”
“I’m going to see Lilith,” I told her, and then pulled out of her grasp. Mother shouted for me to come back, telling me that she forbade me from ever going there, but it was far too late. She couldn’t stop me now. Lilith was the witch and I deserved answers. And after that, I was going to kill her.
I made my way through the crowd of people, pushing and shoving. I could barely process what was going on around me now, all I knew was that I needed to get to Lilith. I needed to talk to her, to confront her. To kill her. I didn’t need the voices in my head to tell me that, anymore. They had been right all along.
I had trusted Lilith, time and again. And the entire time...she was the witch. Not Marquise Trill.
I should’ve known better. With the spells, the auras...seers couldn’t do that.
Which meant I wasn’t a seer, either.
I didn’t have time to dread on that, however. I needed to find Lilith, and I needed to understand what was happening. She had to have been the one who created the lycanthropes. There wasn’t any other way. Unless, of course, my potion had been messed up.
I shook my head. No. There were no excuses.
Lilith was the witch.
I was in the hallway, almost to the entrance door of the castle when a familiar voice called my name. A hand reached out, stopping me from going any farther. “Where are you going?”
Cain’s eyes were wide with worry. He of course knew what seeing Marquise Trill’s dark red blood meant. He knew that she hadn’t been the with. But who did he think it was? There was a time he believed it to be me, after all.
Now I knew he wasn’t so far off after all.
“I need to talk to Lilith.”
Cain frowned. “It’s her then?” he questioned. “I should’ve known.”
I frowned at that. “What do you mean?”
“I came here as a witch hunter, following her trail. But then came Marquise Trill, shouting about how she believed in the lycanthropes, and I got sidetracked. It was all a trick.” Cain looked angry with himself, and shot a hand through his hair. “God. I knew it was her, the second we saw her before we went in. I wanted to tell you, to warn you, but it was too late...” Cain shook his head and closed his eyes before opening them again, gripping my upper arms and staring me deeply in the eyes. “Let me go with you. Let me help.”
I sighed, shaking my head. “I can’t, Cain. I can’t let you get hurt because of me. Just trust me. Please. I need to go.” I begged, trying to pull myself from his grasp. Cain wasn’t hurting me at all, and his grip wouldn’t leave a bruise, but he wasn’t about to let go any time soon.
“Will I see you after?” Cain asked, this time softer. The question was simple, as would the answer be under normal circumstances. That was when I knew. There was an unspoken bond between the two of us, the true meaning of his question lying underneath what he had spoken.
He didn’t think that I was helping Lilith, as I had thought perhaps may be in the back of my mind. I wasn’t sure what he thought I was, but he knew I wasn’t evil. And he knew whatever I was about to do, it would be dangerous. My life would be in danger.
He wasn’t just simply asking me if he would see me after I visited Lilith. He was asking if this was the last time he’d be able to see me.
I stared into his eyes. They were worried about me, but they were calm. I was certain my own eyes looked much the same as his.
My eyebrows creased as reality settled in. “I’m...I’m not sure.”
Cain let go of my arms, but based on the way he looked at me, it wasn’t so I could leave. “Then, Cerise.” He said, and reached out, resting his hand on my cheek. His eyes bored into mine, searching for something that I wasn’t sure I was ready to give. “Please, be careful.” He didn’t ask me to stay, or to come back because he knew I couldn’t promise such things. He knew that I had to do this, that I had to defeat the true witch once and for all.
I nodded. “I will.”
I turned to leave, to meet with the witch and finish what should’ve been dealt with a long time ago. Cain reached out again, tugging me to him. He didn’t have to say anything, and neither did I.
With his hand pressed on the back of my neck, he pulled me to him, our lips meeting in synchronization. Both of his hands found their way to the back of my neck, moving up into my hair. I kept my hands on his waist, tugging him towards me.
Cain tilted my head up, his lips melding against mine. I melted into him, knowing this might be the last time I could ever see him, ever touch him. I reached up, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulled him closer to me. All of the feelings I had held back before rushed out now, exploding around us and inside of me. My stomach went up in butterflies, my skin tingling wherever he touched me.
I didn’t want this moment to end. I didn’t want to let go of Cain only to never see him again. I didn’t want to think about what I had to do, or confront Lilith.
But I knew I had to. I wouldn’t let myself miss my chance.
So, I did what I had to do. I pulled away from Cain, resting my forehead against his as I caught my breath. “I have to go,” I told him breathlessly, closing my eyes. I couldn’t look into his sharp gaze. I didn’t think I could leave if I did.
Cain nodded against me. “I know.” He replied quietly.
I took in a deep breath and turned away from him. I didn’t say anything more and nether did he. What more was there to say after all?
I pushed through the doors and took the stairs two at a time.
I had compelled a man to let me take a horse from him. He had immediately given me his best one, and I was off. With all the times I had gone to the castle this past month, I knew exactly where I was going. I wasn’t worried about that.
What I was worried about, however, was my confrontation with Lilith. I hadn’t exactly thought it through very much. I just knew I had to talk to her. But what if she killed me? She wouldn’t kill her own granddaughter, would she?
There was no way for me to know how evil she was when all this time she had acted like my perfect grandmother. I was still amazed at how well she managed to lie to me. Keeping such a secret from me couldn’t have been very easy, after all. Especially when I was the same thing as her.
I was a witch.
I could finally think it now. I finally got the nerves to let it sink in, to mull it over. I was not a seer, was not a harmless clairvoyant. No, I was a monster. I was everything I despised. I was everything that I feared.
And yet, all I could really focus on was how powerful I must be. It was wrong of me, I knew, but I couldn’t think about anything else. Visions of my power floated around in my mind. I daydreamed of being omnipotent.
I had to snap out of it. Think of something else.
Fortunately, I came to the woods not long after that thought and I was back to being worried about what I was about to do. I could only hope that Lilith would be rational, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect from her.
I cautiously stepped into the woods after tying my horse up to a tree. I set my red cloak onto its back, hoping that would ward off any lycanthropes that thought about killing it. I didn’t want the poor thing to die because of me. That would be absolutely horrible.
I walked through the forest, thinking about what I would say and the many ways she could respond. I would ask her why first, because that was the most nagging question I had inside of me. Why did she create the lycanthropes? What was their purpose?
And then I would ask her about being a witch. And finally, when she least expects it, I will kill her. I wasn’t sure how, but it seemed like I could kill her one of the normal ways, right? Knife to the heart? But could I do it? Could I kill Lilith?
Yes. A voice said, and I trusted it this time, unlike so many other times.
The forest was silent. There were no lycanthropes following me, and no howls or chatters of animals. It made shivers break out all through my body, but I didn’t let it slow me down.
And finally, I was at Lilith’s house.
I thought of the first time I came here, of the dead grass. That had been my first clue. When great magic was performed, all organisms surrounding would die. She had created the lycanthropes here, then. She had taken innocent human beings to her home and forcefully transformed them into horrid monsters.
It made me feel sick to think about.
I went up her porch and to her door.
The house seemed silent as well.
I took in a deep breath, and lifted my hand up to knock, but before I could, Lilith’s wicked voice called out to me, “Come in, dear.”
And so I did.