Cassidie stared at Mrs. Harris incredulously. She glanced around at all of the different monsters in the room and something clicked in her brain. “I know what this is,” she murmured. “I’m asleep? This is just like the dream I had the other night. Where’s the giant white wolf?”
“Giant white wolf?” one of the council members inquired curiously.
“Y-yeah. She said her name was Kadmina. I only have dreams this vivid when she’s talking to me, but she’s never brought in anything familiar before...”
“Allow us to convene for a moment, if you will, Mistress,” a griffin told her as Bill and Mrs. Harris led Cassidie out into the hallway.
“When I listed the things I wanted to be when I grew up, I was joking when I said rule the world,” Cassidie sighed, sinking to the ground and staring at her large paws or hands or... whatever they were now.
“You gave your teacher quite a scare, actually,” Mrs. Harris chuckled. “She thought someone had told you before it was time.”
Bill nodded in agreement. “Took a week to calm her down and convince her that everything was fine.”
Cassidie shook her head in disbelief and looked to the book at her side. She hadn’t let go of it since taking it from the shelf. Lifting it to eye level, the white hybrid asked, “So what’s the deal with this book, anyway? You made it sound important.”
“Oh, it is!” Bill piped up, now creeping closer to get a slightly better look at it. “It’s hideously important. That book belonged to Kadmina herself!”
Cassidie stared at the book curiously. If this had belonged to the large white wolf, then maybe it had a few of the answers she was looking for. Like how to change back into a human, for instance.
The door to the council room opened behind them and the trio in the hall stood quickly. What appeared to be a miniature dragon strode out and nodded to them calmly. Mrs. Harris cleared her throat awkwardly. “What’s the verdict, Alexandra?”
“We will return everything to as it should be,” Sister Alexandra responded firmly, giving Bill and Mrs. Harris a stern glance before she turned to Cassidie. “We apologize for burdening you, Mist-ah, Miss Powers. You must be confused and exhausted. Why not head home and sleep?”
“Uh, yeah.” Cassidie’s eyes flicked to her escorts momentarily. “That sounds killer. But how do I change back?”
“This?” Sister Alexandra laughed softly. “It’s just a glamour charm. I’m sure you’re familiar with those. Just close your eyes a moment while I remove it.”
Cassidie did as told and, when prompted to open her eyes, found everything to be as it usually would be. Holding her hands in front of her face, Cassidie was relieved to find them fur-free, and she turned to the council members expectantly.
“Uh, what now?” she asked them, noticing the look they shared amongst themselves.
“Come, Cassidie,” Mrs. Harris said gently. “It actually is fairly late. The sun will be setting soon.”
Cassidie nodded and followed Mrs. Harris and Bill out the door. Just before it shut, Cassidie heard one of the Council members say, “She’ll come to her senses. Once the procession begins, nothing can stop it. It is only a matter of time before they come for her.”
The words sent an uneasy shiver along Cassidie’s body, but she brushed it away. The City Council always kept to themselves, so this must have just been part of some experiment or something. She might need to check her water supply for hallucinogens from now on.
The trio walked in silence as Cassidie wondered what had just happened. Between the weird energy pulse from that afternoon and the strange joke the City Council had pulled on her, she was certain this entire night had been one large dream. They were halfway to her house when pounding paws and growling could be heard behind them.
“Oh no!” Mrs. Harris gasped. “They’re coming!”
Cassidie glanced back in trepidation. “I didn’t know Midnight Haven had wolves...”
The two adults pulled Cassidie aside and gazed at her sternly. “Cassidie,” said Bill slowly. “Go right home. Don’t stop and don’t look back. Understand?” The young woman nodded slowly, confused at the sudden urgency. “Good. Go, run!”
He gave Cassidie a gentle shove and she and Mrs. Harris took off running in the direction of her house. Cassidie wondered what could be following them at the same time that she realized she wasn’t becoming short of breath. Shouldn’t she have been gasping for air? And if there were wolves possibly coming after them, shouldn’t they have caught up to her by now?
They were turning the block onto her street when Cassidie heard the growls getting closer. She felt her heartbeat spike and the hairs on the back of her neck tingled in warning. Mrs. Harris stopped and Cassidie skidded to a halt beside her, but Mrs. Harris motioned for her to continue on. Cassidie hesitated, not wanting to leave her only parent figure behind to face what sounded like a pack of hungry wolves.
“It’s alright, Cassidie,” Mrs. Harris told her hurriedly. “I’ll be fine, but you need to get that book to a safe place. The enchantments around your house will keep them out, just go!”
Cassidie took a deep breath and continued on her way, spotting her home up ahead. Sliding to a stop, Cassidie waved her hand to dispel her locking enchantments before slamming the door shut behind her and manually bolting it before putting the spells back in place. She hurried to the back door and also secured its lock, shutting all of her curtains to ensure the wolves didn’t come toward the lights.
Once the house had been adequately locked down, Cassidie leaned against one of her walls. She pressed a hand to her chest to calm her racing heart as she took deep breaths. A small chuckled bubbled in her chest for a second. Who would have thought? she mused. All it would take to break through my mask would be a pack of wolves chasing me. I suppose even if you’ve been borderline emotionless for eight years, you still react to fear the same way.
Cassidie looked to the book in her hands. She moved her fingers lightly over the cover, but growling from outside distracted her. Hurrying up to her bedroom, she looked quickly around and spotted a loose tile in her ceiling. It was stupid, but she couldn’t just let the wolves find it before she got a chance to read it.
Wolves can’t even read! Cassidie reprimanded herself, even as she stepped on her bed and pushed the tile aside. She slid the book into the small space and replaced the tile. Just as she fitted it back in place, there came the sound of scratching from downstairs. Were the wolves trying to get in?
A quick look around her room presented Cassidie with her crossbow and daggers. Grabbing the bow and some wooden bolts, she headed downstairs. Hopefully I won’t actually have to use them, though, she thought, feeling a rare spike of worry. They’re supposed to mostly be for show...
Cassidie placed herself in front of her door, crossbow at the ready. The wolves continued their scratching, soft growls filtering through the wood. Sweat beaded on the blonde’s back as she waited, body tense. If the wolves broke in, she didn’t know how long she would last, but she needed to try.
Suddenly, all noise outside stopped. Cassidie blinked, looking to the windows for any signs of movement beyond the curtains. Only the sun’s dying rays filtered through, no shadows or other signs of attack. Did the wolves give up?
A knock at the door nearly made Cassidie let off a bolt at the hardwood, surprised as she was. With a grumble, the blonde took a deep breath. She’d paid attention in Safety and Wellness class. She wasn’t opening the door, not after there was just a pack of wolves outside. That was too suspicious, even for her.
“I know you’re in there, miss. Don’t worry. We won’t harm you.”
That voice, Cassidie thought, slowly lowering the crossbow. It’s that guy from earlier this evening. What’s he doing at my doorstep?
“I only wish to talk, miss,” the voice called again. “I guarantee no harm will come to you.”
Cassidie huffed and gently set the crossbow off to the side. Opening the door, she said, “This better not be a trick. I’ve got the police on speed dial.”
“No tricks, Miss Powers,” Mr. Wolfe stated, dipping his head to her in greeting. “I’ve simply come to relieve you of the book.”
“Book?” Cassidie asked calmly. Playing dumb is probably the safest option right now, and it’s definitely easier than everything else I’ve had to deal with today.
Mr. Wolfe’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Please do not play games with me, child. Everyone in the city felt that pulse of energy earlier this evening. You are without parents, correct?”
A semblance of anger spiked in Cassidie’s chest, her hand tightening on her door. “Why does that matter?” she demanded, her voice taking on a cold edge.
“It may seem like a simple question, but it is actually very important, Miss Powers. You are the only person in the city who’s parents didn’t come over with them. No one to look after you, to nurture you.” His eyes bored into Cassidie’s as he finished, “No one to protect you if trouble comes around.”
“If you’re just going to mock me, I think this conversation is finished.” Cassidie stepped back into her house, but stopped when Mr. Wolfe spoke again.
“I would not take this so lightly, Miss Powers,” he said, moving closer. To her immense surprise, Cassidie gave a soft snarl at him, almost as if she were warning him not to come close to her.
Mr. Wolfe stepped back, holding his hands up in a show of peace. “Very well. If you are insistent upon making this complicated, I’m afraid you give us no choice.” He turned to leave, wolves slinking from the underbrush to join him. Cassidie tensed, ready to slam the door if the wolves decided to attack again. “It’s a pity we couldn’t settle this on peaceful terms, Miss Powers. I’m afraid the next time you see us, we will not be so lenient.”
Cassidie watched them all run off into the last rays of the sunset. She waited until they were out of eyesight before taking a deep breath and leaning against her doorjamb. “What a night,” she groaned, running a hand down her face. Moving inside and shutting the door, Cassidie sank onto her couch with a sigh. With a wave of her hand, she returned the crossbow to its place on her wall and dragged herself upstairs.
Before going to bed, Cassidie took the book down and stared at it, wondering if it really was destiny for her to find it. That had to be wrong. Fate and destiny, that was all puffball nonsense, right? There’s no way this book could be as special as everyone kept saying it was.
Tracing her finger over the title, Cassidie read, “Voodoo Monsters; a guide to anything and everything to do with magic, mayhem, and monsterkind.” Cassidie let a small smile tug her lips as she thought, Finally a book that teaches something I actually want to learn. Tucking the book back into her ceiling, Cassidie buried under her crimson bedcovers and let the darkness overcome her.
The council waited patiently as their two unconscious members slowly stirred from their haze. Bill pressed a hand to his head as Mrs. Harris rubbed her neck. “Glad to see you two are awake,” Elder Thomas chuckled.
“Vincent really wasn’t playing around tonight,” Mrs. Harris groaned, getting to her feet. “Sent three of his wolves on my tail; I could hardly breathe, let alone fight’em off.”
“Is young Cassidie alright?” Bill asked, glancing around. “I tried to hold them off, but I can only do so much with this illness right now.”
“Young Mistress Powers is fine,” Sister Alexandra reassured him. “She was confronted by the wolves, but Vincent overstepped his bounds and was turned away empty-handed.”
Sister Cassandra sniffed in contempt. “Brash man. Had he chosen his words more carefully, the book would be in his grasp. I suppose we should be grateful he’s a terrible way with words.”
“Still,” Brother Matthew snarled, claws scratching the arm of his chair angrily. “To bring up her parents in such a way. There are lines…”
“We will talk of Vincent Wolfe’s terrible conversation skills later,” Elder Katrina said, ending the discussion. “We must figure out what to do about Young Mistress Cassidie’s insistence on defying the prophecy.”
The room fell silent. None of them knew how to convince the young woman that she was to rule their world. She was only sixteen, after all. Bill and Mrs. Harris leaned against one another with heavy sighs. “This would be so much easier if we had better prepared her for this outcome,” Mrs. Harris huffed irritably.
“You know we couldn’t risk it,” Brother Jacko grunted. “If she knew too much, the prophecy wouldn’t have come true for her.”
“We still could’ve trained her better.” Bill looked to the Elders. “So, any ideas how this could be fixed?”
The Elders glanced among themselves before Elder Makayla piped up, “We don’t need to fix it.”
“What?” Everyone stared at the gorgon in shock and she smiled.
“There’s no need to fix the situation. Young Mistress Powers will be faced with the reality in the morning. The pulse was not confined to just us, after all. There are countless people, monsters, in this city who shifted into their true forms once she received her birthright. In the morning, everyone will know, and she will be forced to confront this new reality. She can try to hide from it as long as she wishes, but it is inevitable that she become our ruler.”
All of the council members shared uncertain looks and Brother Jacko muttered, “I hope you know what you’re doing, Makayla. If this goes awry-.”
“It won’t,” Sister Alexandra whispered, closing her eyes. “In fact, it will go just the opposite.”
“What do you mean, Alexandra?” Bill inquired curiously, but all he received was a sly smile.
“I’m not spilling the surprise.”