Heart of a Beast

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Chapter 15 - Tiberius (Part 1)

After paying Kylee for the lotion and tonics, they set out for Madame Papillon’s stall.

A glowing paper crane fluttered in the air above them to lead the way. Despite that, it still took them a while to find her through the throng of stalls and the increased number of supernatural beings now filling the aisles. It was harder for them to stay together and weave through the crowds, especially for Tiberius because he wanted to remain by Crystal’s side at all times, but sometimes was unable to in order to squeeze through. His huge form towered over the others, so he could always see his mate and their companions, but she was such a lithe little wolf. One push by someone not paying attention would set Tiberius off and he would have his head ripped off.

Stares and whispers followed them until they found it—a stall far grander than the rest.

It was also an enclosed tent, but four times the size of the others with lavish curtains surrounding it and a sign with her name on it. Lanterns hung from every corner with a swirling flame that gradually changed colors—from yellow to red to purple to blue to green and back to yellow.

They walked in the open doorway and saw her talking with a man, who quickly excused himself and left.

She was an older woman, around fifty years of age, with graying hair that she pinned neatly back. Dressed in a floor-length black dress with a satin navy blue sash around her waist and blue ribbon over her black corset top, she struck Tiberius as a powerful sorceress than a witch. A collar of black feathers with a dark blue sheen glistened over her shoulders and crawled up her slender neck, elongating it and contrasting against her pale skin. Pale gray eyes encased in tight wrinkles under narrow brows regarded them as they stepped before her.

She exchanged pecks on the cheeks with the vampire slayer before lifting her palms in greeting to the werewolves and Tiberius.

With a wave of her wand, she drew a curtain over the doorway and dispersed cushions on the floor from a large trunk in the corner.

“Have a seat and make yourselves comfortable,” she said.

The first thing that struck Tiberius the moment the curtain pulled across the doorway was the silence. All the noise from the market was locked outside and if no sounds got in, then no sounds within the tent would also go out.

“Now, as those of you with sensitive hearing have noticed, we have complete privacy here. Nothing said within this tent shall escape through the cracks and everyone knows not to enter my tent when the door is closed, or else they get an electric shock. Whatever is said here, stays among us. So, please,” she said with a flourish of her hand, “tell me why you are all here and how can I be of service.”

They took their seats and Tiberius stole Crystal’s cushion so that she’d sit in front of him and he could hold her against his chest. She was calm now, a calmness he hadn’t seen in her aside from when she was sleeping. It was refreshing, but he still wanted to keep her close in case her wolf decided to push against her barriers again.

Crystal sat down without complaint and he draped his arms casually around her, curving his body around hers with his chin brushing the top of her head.

No one said anything at first as gazes slowly turned to him and his mate for her to begin their story again.

As she repeated their story to the witch, Tiberius could feel those steel-gray eyes piercing through him and he looked anywhere but those biting-hard depths.

The witch’s familiar was a sleek black raven perched on a stand behind her, his beady black eyes fixated on Tiberius and making his skin crawl.

Sometimes called the “Keeper of Secrets,” ravens were symbols of magic, introspection and knowledge, but also omens, death and rebirth.

His arms fell to his side and he clenched his paws into fists, locked his jaw, and attempted to overpower the invasive presence pushing against him.

This mortal held power he had never felt in a human being before. It intimidated him, even with the Alpha Bloodline of his parents surging through his veins. He’d never been trained to draw it forth and control the inherent powers of his lineage because only alphas were trained to use it, and he was no alpha. It was a dormant force within him and he could feel vibrations of it being plucked like the string of a harp, slow and deliberate.

“There is a power lurking within him,” Madame Papillon said once Crystal finished talking. Her gaze still locked on him. “An untouched ancient power of nobility, but there exists a darker one as well. A darker one that is also present in you, Crystal. Beckett can sense it more than me. His third eye is keen and sharp and can pull forth the wickedness like a thread through the eye of a needle. This is no ordinary magic that consumes you both.”

She pushed herself up from the floor with a groan and walked to a set of shelves next to Beckett’s stand. He hopped from his perch and landed on her shoulder. To the untrained eye, he looked like he was preening her gray hair, but Tiberius knew better.

“Yes, I agree,” she whispered to the bird, stroking his chest with her index finger as she pulled out a pair of glasses from one of the cabinets in the middle of the shelf and set them on the table behind her. From the cabinet next to that, she pulled out a bottle and poured a clear liquid into each glass. It had a metallic odor to it that was clearly not alcohol or water.

“I will need a sample of blood from Tiberius and Crystal. Does anyone carry a knife?” she asked, looking at the vampire slayer expectantly.

Tiberius’ throat rumbled. No one would dare draw his mate’s blood.

He wrapped his arms protectively around Crystal, pulling her underneath him as he shifted his stance over her, his weight on his knees as he pushed her under him.

He wondered briefly if his soul would be punished for killing a witch for the sake of protecting his mate, for the killing of humans was punishable by death in accordance with the Lycan Code. But witches traded their humanity for the dark arts and lived among the supernaturals and the humans alike.

He didn’t have time to recall the finer details of the Laws before she rolled her eyes.

“It is a necessary test, Tiberius. I need a drop of blood and nothing more,” she uttered dryly, as if expecting this response from him and was bored of it.

“It’s okay, Tiberius,” Crystal murmured underneath him. “If this will help us find the cure, it’s just a drop of blood.”

He growled. He knew the cure. She was the cure. He didn’t need a test or some witch to prove what he already knew.

But she wants this, he reminded himself. She needs this. She needs to discover this for herself, learn the truth on her own, by her own means, and overcome this on her own. You have to give this to her.

Grumbling, he stepped back and released Crystal. Planting his rump back on his cushion, he scooted back a foot and huffed.

Madame Papillon sighed as Darnell handed her a small dagger. “Come here, both of you.”

Crystal rose to her feet and walked over to the table and held her hand out.

Huffing again, Tiberius followed on all fours and parked himself right behind her.

Taking Crystal’s hand in her own, Madame Papillon pricked the tip of Crystal’s finger with the knife. She set the blade down and caught a few drops of blood as it dribbled over her finger and into the cup.

“Done,” she said as she set the cup down on the table and reached for the knife. “Your turn, Tiberius.”

Tiberius ignored her for a minute as he reached for Crystal’s hand and licked it clean of blood and washed her wound with his tongue.

Crystal blushed and tugged the hem of her hood over her head to try and hide her face.

Only when he was satisfied did he turn his attention to the witch and hold out his own paw. His callous pads were thick and she had to press harder to break the flesh.

When his deep red droplets fell into the glass, he could already see it changing and morphing, along with Crystal’s but hers were slower than his.

Madame Papillon hummed as she watched his blood turn black as ink and twist and curl into threads, spiraling into knots. Crystal’s took longer to darken to the same shade of black and took more time to twist and coil and spin, but within a few minutes, they were both twisting and knotting at the same rapid pace before Tiberius’ coiled tightly together into a ball in the center of the glass, coiling tighter and smaller until it was but a pinprick to the naked eye.

Then, the black ball exploded in a blast of energy and the glass shattered.

Madame Papillon froze the shards in the air as black liquid splattered across the room and all over the table.

“Well, shit,” Darnell said in an exhalation of breath, wiping an ink splatter from his cheek with the back of his sleeve.

Using magic, Madame Papillon gathered the glass shards and dumped them into a trash can. She went to the shelf and snatched a small vial from the top row between two thick books and placed a drop into Crystal’s glass. The swirling tendrils of ink slowed as she put the vial back on the shelf.

Tiberius didn’t need any explanation. He knew that if he and Crystal didn’t free themselves from the curse before the next lunar eclipse in January, they would die.

The werewolves stared, stunned into silence, as Tiberius wrapped Crystal up in his arms and pulled her against his chest.

“Well, there you have it,” Madame Papillon announced. “This is an extremely powerful curse with imminent foreseeable destruction in the future. Tiberius is most affected by it, but somehow it has transferred to Crystal as well. Her end is nigh as well, but perhaps not as near as his. It is hard to be certain because she is a werewolf and he is a lycan. Their biological chemistries differ, but they will both die in the near future, within a year, perhaps, unless something can be done about this curse.”

“How?” Justin asked, his voice laced with fear. “Kylee said that a curse cannot be undone.”

“Typical textbook response. Kylee is not as magically gifted as other witches and contents herself with herbs instead of challenging herself to grow stronger. She is only partially right. It cannot be undone by a spell, a weaker and inferior form of magic. However…” she trailed off thoughtfully, her eyes catching Tiberius’ for only a moment before he looked away. “I suspect Tiberius has the answers, if only we can get him to talk.”

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