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A v a r i c e | F o r t y O n e

F o r t y O n e

❝Avarice is as sweet as any sin;

and avarice is as sweet as the bodies it burns.❞

YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON THE BALL, dear. They were just about to celebrate Arete’s birthday.” Lilith told me as she backed away from the door and into her kitchen, giving me room to come in. She very noticeably was not looking at me, which I found to be very strange.

I shrugged nonchalantly and closed the door behind me. I went over to her table, just as I always did, but I didn’t sit down. I couldn’t sit in her house like nothing was going on while knowing just what she was and what she had done. So, I stood up and rested my hands on the chair, watching her every move.

“Cerise? You didn’t answer.” Lilith said, and finally glanced back at me. She looked the same as she had when she left. She was wearing the beautiful dress, everything about her looking even more beautiful than usual.

I frowned. I was certain I looked angry, but I couldn’t bring myself to put on a façade. “Sorry. You left in such a hurry...I thought I might see why you left.” I said, and raised an eyebrow, hoping she would figure where I was getting at.

She did. Lilith nodded slowly and collected some tea for the two of us. She gave me a cup and sat down across from me, setting her cup down. “It was just so horrible, watching Marquise Trill die like that.” She told me, shaking her head. She was really good at lying. Her eyes were downcast, her face turned down as if she was truly sad.

But I saw through it.

“It was horrible.” I agreed after a while, and took a sip of the tea. It was sweet and palatable and everything it usually was not. I stared down at it and then looked up at Lilith, who was watching me very carefully. “You changed your recipe,” I said suspiciously.

Lilith shrugged. “I just added some sugar. I thought you would like some, after the terrible, terrible thing you saw-”

“Nix,” I hissed, glaring at Lilith. I was tired of her acting like she actually cared when I knew she didn’t. “I know it was you, Lilith. I know that you’re the witch.”

Lilith stared steadily at me for a moment, looking me over before she nodded, her voice becoming sweeter while she said, “How’d you guess?”

“Seers can’t cast spells.” I said simply. “And I looked at her aura when it happened...she was human.”

Lilith smiled at me, almost proudly. She pushed herself into a stand. “Seers can cast spells, surprisingly. As I told you, only very simple spells. What they cannot do is cast spells in their minds, nor create working potions.” Lilith gave a tilt of her head, looking away at the door. “As for Marquise Trill...I threw you off for a while, there, huh? Playing the innocent, using my power through her to make it seem like she was actually using magic...You were completely convinced it was her.”

My stomach turned over. I was beginning to feel queasy, but I ignored it. “I kept you from visiting her so you wouldn’t realize what I was doing.” Lilith sighed and looked at me again. “But I knew you would find out when you gave her the potion. Bitch just wouldn’t keep quiet, huh?” Lilith chuckled t that and shook her head, rolling her eyes. “And now you’re here, Cerise.” She turned her body toward me. “What are you doing here, I wonder.” She winked.

“I want my questions answered. How could you condemn innocent people to this horrible life?” I shook my head. My body was aching; throbbing, even. All over. And my head felt fuzzy. I stumbled back and stared down at the cup in my hand. “Did you poison me?” I stared at Lilith.

She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “I can’t kill you,” she admitted. “Otherwise I would’ve a long time ago.” I glared at Lilith. “It’s just a potion, dear.” Lilith smiled almost kindly at me. “It’s to take care of the problem.” Lilith came around the table towards me, and reached a hand out as if to touch me. I quickly jerked away, but that just made me dizzier.

Lilith sighed and let her hand drop to her side. I backed away, leaning against her counter. “I saved quite a few of them, you know.” Lilith told me, tilting her head to the side. She scrutinized my every move.

I shook my head. “How could you save them? You turned them into monsters!” I couldn’t believe I had ever trusted her. It had all been a lie; every single bit of it. And I was stupid and naïve to have believed her. I hadn’t thought clearly enough when I was with her; I only thought of revenging Lydia’s death and my own magic. All the signs had been there, but I was too caught up to notice them.

Or perhaps I just didn’t want to.

“Some of them were dying,” Lilith told me. “They were ill with no chance of ever getting better. By turning them into a lycanthrope, I gave them immunity.” Lilith shrugged. “It could be worse, my dear. Every generation of lycanthropes are different. It all depends on the power of the witch and the reason they are made.” Lilith explained to me. “I needed protection.”

I scoffed at that. “Protection against what?” I raised an eyebrow. “The only evil in this kingdom is you.”

Lilith clicked her tongue and shook her head. “I was terrified of the mortals, my dear. As of late, all they want is the blood of a witch.” Lilith sighed and took a step closer to me. My body began to shiver and shake and overheat. I still wasn’t sure what she had given me. “I’m a little old lady known to be strange and I live out in the woods.” Lilith gave me a deadpan look. “I really shouldn’t have been surprised when people started sniffing me out.” Lilith’s mouth pulled back in a snarl, her eyes narrowed. “That man - Cain, right?” Lilith huffed. “A witch hunter, no doubt. I created the lycanthropes to keep him and anyone else off my trail, and it seemed to be working pretty well until you came and messed it all up.”

I wanted to interject then, frowning, but I let her go on.

“You helped with a few things, and so did your lover-boy.” Lilith grinned knowingly at me, a wicked gleam in her eyes. “I had you played. But I could see you beginning to doubt me.” Lilith sighed, looking away. “So I sent my lycanthropes at you.”

I shook my head, my eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “But the cloak. You gave it to me, to protect me from them.”

Lilith nodded. “The cloak attracted them to you, so they always knew where you were.” My stomach dropped as I thought about all the times I had leant it to Cain for his protection. Lilith read my facial expression. Or perhaps she could read minds because she then said, “Don’t worry. Your lover boy is untouchable, and they know it. I want to be the one to kill him,” Lilith smiled, “So you can watch.”

A shiver went down my spine. I was sweating now, little balls of perspiration drenching my skin. My body shook vigorously, and the pain in my joints had reached the point of extremes. My body contracted and I groaned, closing my eyes.

Lilith wasn’t phased. “I turned the powers of your cloak off for the most part. But your power had grown. You could easily defend yourself.” Lilith let out a deep breath and shook her head. “I had you once. You were pinned and although the humanity inside of that lycanthrope wouldn’t have killed you, he couldv’e called for others.” Lilith looked away. “If it wasn’t for that damn seventh son of a seventh son walking up, you would be dead.”

I could barely focus on the words she was saying now. “I tried poisoning you. I tried taking away your powers, but to no avail.” Lilith tilted her head to the side and stared at me with a melancholy expression on her aged face. “This was the only thing that worked.”

I frowned at that. My fingers tightened and cracked. I rolled my neck for a release. It didn’t help. “What worked?” I could barely get the words out.

Lilith threw her head back and laughed in spite of me. “My dear, can’t you tell? You’re-”

My father had impeccable timing. He kicked down the door, his sword in hand, and marched inside. His eyes raked over the scene before him and he turned the sword menacingly toward Lilith while he spoke to me, “Your mother said you would be here.”

Mother knew, then. This entire time. I wasn’t surprised, really. I was more worried than anything. How long had she known?

Lilith whipped around to face my father. “Ralph,” she acknowledged. She scorned him, wrinkling her nose up. “Have you a death wish?”

Father frowned, taken aback. He opened his mouth to respond, but Lilith was far too fast for him. She didn’t have to utter a word. She flung a hand out at Father and he flew back, crashing into the back wall with a loud crunch.

I winced from seeing the impact. My eyes widened. “No!” I reached out, as if I could somehow help him, but Lilith turned and glared daringly at me. She held a hand up to keep Father pinned against the wall.

She glanced back at me, a smirk upon her face. “I had planned to kill Cain,” she told me. My stomach and heart dropped.

“No,” I whispered, shaking my head as I stared wide-eyed at the wicked witch.

She grinned at me.

She turned towards Father. Using her other hand, she looked at the sword forgotten on the ground and raised it up. “Relinquo!” I shouted, trying to get the sword or her or something away. But it didn’t work. She was too strong for me. I wasn’t be able to protect Father or myself, for that matter.

I wasn’t able to kill her just yet, but I could possibly injure her. “Permoveo!” I shouted, and threw a chair at Lilith’s back before she could move the sword into my father’s heart. It knocked her down for a moment, but it just made her angrier. Father and his sword had been released, but now she was turned towards me.

“Sileo,” she told me, and pinned me to the back wall before I could do anything more. She moved my father back to where he was. I tried screaming, tried using my magic, but nothing came out. She had taken my voice from me, had made me quiet. I was useless now. I couldn’t do anything.

I hoped that Cain would dash in, saving the day just as he always did, but he never came. No one came. Lilith didn’t need a hand to lift the sword up. She used her mind. Father looked at me, yelling out, “I love you” before the sword sunk into his chest.

I couldn’t even scream.

Lilith released both of us. I ran to my father, ignoring her presence completely. “No!” I screamed, and lifted him into my arms. Lilith just watched us, no remorse on her withered face.

I was shaking, and I could no longer tell if it was from the potion or my anger. She had killed my father. Lilith had taken him from me, murdered him right before my eyes. She was going to die.

I stood up and turned to her. “Relinquo!” I screamed, trying to send her back. Lilith just laughed at me, and rolled her eyes.

“I’m far too strong, Ceri-”

“Relinquo!” I screamed again, louder this time. Lilith’s shoulder flew back. Her eyes widened in surprise.

My body contracted and convulsed, and I was sent to the ground. It was becoming ever so clear what she had done to me. My joints cracked. I could feel my insides change their position. I could feel my body changing its form. And I could see it.

Fur poked its way through every pore in my body, and my hands and feet lengthened. My arms broke and transformed, but still the most painful thing of it all was my spine elongating and breaking and changing.

I was surprised I hadn’t fainted from it all.

When it was finished, all I wanted was out. My master clucked her tongue and smiled down at me. “Go on, dearie. We’re finished here.”

She nodded toward an open door, and I took my leave, running into the forest to find the rest of my pack.

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