Chapter 1: Where it Began...
At first, I did not understand what I was meant to do. I wondered why I was alive. Why did I have to live after what happened? So many had died... So why was I still here? Before my fateful encounter with him. My life was simple. Why did he have to teach me how to feel?
Why did he have to open my eyes to a world I did not want to see? Why did he have to do all that? It would have been much better if I had never met him... But... if I never met him... I would not have ever learned how life was truly meant to be lived. Thanks to him... I got to see beauty in this forsaken world.
14 years earlier...
While staking out the shop, it was not long until the boy that had caught my attention was in my sights again. The first time I had seen him was weeks before, during an errand for the coven. What had caught my eyes? A Lycan boy who smiled radiantly while he visited the same game shop with his friends, who were all of his kin.
How could he smile like that? That was the first thought that ran through my mind.
They all belonged to a part of his clan. The boy who intrigued me had silver hair, fair skin that matched perfectly with his amber eyes. A feature shared by all Lycans. It was one way to identify them if they were hiding their ears and tail with clothing. However, if they wore contacts to hide their color, it would be a bit more difficult. Although their temper and pride sold them out rather quickly, if untrained. Their hair color reflected their coats while in their beast form, which was one of a wolf.
In their humanoid form, though, they had wolf ears instead of the ears that most normal humans had. Their clothes most of the time had a hole for their long tails. It seemed uncomfortable for them to be with it inside for long periods of time. After all, their tail was fluffy too. Part of me wanted to touch it whenever I saw one.
When the boy’s radiant smile caught my attention, I followed him before I could even notice what I was doing. I wondered many times how he could smile like that, even though the world we lived in was so cold. It seemed so freeing… that I wanted to reach for it. Every time I could get away from the sisters or was doing an errand for them, I would hide, trying to stay out of sight as I watched the wolves play in front of a gaming store.
Most of the time they would buy cards and try them out at the tables outside the store. If not, they would bring their devices to play there until the sunset. Other times they would come to buy and head out towards the beach to play with balls. Or anything else that seemed fun to do for the day. Sticking to the shadows, I saw them laugh and smile at each other. It made me want to do the same, even if I did not know how to. I envied their freedom to do whatever they wished. Their ability to smile and laugh without a care in the world was something I never knew how to do.
The day started like any other where I would study them from afar. I was satisfied with this alone, but it changed when one of the wolf boys, a brown-haired one, grabbed the silver-haired boy by his arm and whispered something to him before going inside the shop. At first, it did not seem like it was anything significant, but a few moments later someone grabbed me by my shoulder, startling me to my core. A yelp left my lips before I could turn to face them as they spoke, making my heart drop.
“Hey, what are you doing?” someone began.
My hands trembled in response to their voice. It was not the voice of an adult, but a young boy. Turning to face him, I could see it was the wolf boy I had been admiring from afar for the past weeks. He seemed alarmed to have found me peeking at them.
Part of me panicked as I peered around, only to see it was us two alone in the alley I had been hiding at. Noticing my resistance to say anything, he sighed before continuing.
“You have been watching us every day for the past three days. Who are you?” the boy questioned, leaving me speechless.
They had only noticed me for the past three days. If they knew the truth, I would be... My hands trembled as fear swelled within me. It slowly gripped me in ways I did not even know I could feel. If the sisters found out Lycans saw me outside I would... Especially today when I was not supposed to be out, let alone be noticed by someone.
I had to get away before he reported me or brought me back to the sisters. He observed me as my mind went blank.
“I am nobody!” I replied, bolting away with little success.
The boy caught up to me effortlessly. He grabbed onto my arm and pulled me towards him, causing us both to tumble onto the ground. I did not even know what I was thinking when I ran. Lycans could run faster than most races, only matched slightly by vampires. I, a human, would have been no match for him.
Even if he was a kid, he also had the strength to snap my arm in half, but the way he held onto it even as we tumbled was so gentle. The only force he used was to pull me onto him as we fell onto some crates, making sure I would not injure myself.
“Ouch.” The boy complained.
I shifted my eyes towards him, only to see blood flowing down his forehead from a gash from the crate’s sharp edges. Trying to get away from him, I profusely apologized. He held me tightly, preventing me from running away, causing me to fall onto him once again. However, this time he held onto me tighter than ever before.
This was not good at all. At that moment, I felt like a butterfly caught in a bug net. I could not get away from his strong, yet gentle grip. He was relentless. He would not let go of his prey.
“Fenris!” his brown-haired friend called from behind us, startling me further.
They caught up with us after hearing the rucks I had caused. Ignoring his friends, the boy called Fenris grabbed onto my other arm, preventing me from trying to escape.
“I gotcha, you aren’t going anywhere.” Fenris beamed.
It astonished me. Even though he was injured, he could still smile like that. How was that even possible? Wasn’t he angry with me? Didn’t he want to hurt me? I could not understand the meaning behind the smile that captivated me.
“Are you okay?” Another yellow-haired friend asked.
The boys gathered around us. Before I knew it, I had found myself surrounded by four wolf boys, with one being my captor. All had little intention of letting me go free after what I had done to their friend.
“I am fine. It was my fault anyway.” Fenris answered his friends without letting go of my arms.
He took the blame for what had happened. The reason he did not let me go was that he knew I would bolt at any chance he gave me. While the motive behind taking responsibility for my mistake was a mystery. The grey-hair boy noticed a familiar scent in the air before becoming slightly alarmed by it.
“It smells like magic. She is a mage?!?” the grey-haired boy announced.
His words caused the brown-haired boy to slap his face in disappointment.
“No, dumb-ass she is human. Mages are elves.” The boy corrected the grey-haired boy for him to gasp again.
“A witch?!?! Was she trying to curse us?!? Should we take her to Cerberus?” He added, escalating the entire event.
It left me terrified upon hearing the name of the organization that once changed my life. The difference between mages and witches/warlocks was the source where we got our magical power from. While mages got theirs from the elements of nature, witches got it from sacrificial magic, otherwise known as death magic. It was worse than dark magic, one of the magical elements already frowned upon used by one sub-species of elves.
All the races viewed witchcraft as dangerous and unpredictable. My kin had been the ones responsible for recent plagues and chaos in most instances in our history. These alone made our kin stigmatized. We had even tried to end the world on one occasion. During those times Cerberus was an organization founded. Its sole duty was to stand up against them and stopped their plans before they became irreversible. It was an organization of peacekeepers made up of many races but led mainly by the Lycans.
They called themselves the protectors of the gate to the netherworld, which was why they picked the name Cerberus. A three-headed dog who was once said to be the gatekeeper to the underworld. It was always present in their emblems that every officer wore. It was also said that there was where the power of the witches came from. A myth, of course.
“Shut up, Ezra. If it was a curse, she was trying to cast on us, then she clearly failed. No spell takes 3 days to cast. Plus, she looks younger than us. Doubt she can even cast any magic yet.” Fenris snapped at Ezra, who quickly stopped in his tracks.
I trembled where I sat. Were they going to report me to the authorities? If they took me to the authorities... The sisters... In this society, witches were the lowest of the food chain. They looked down upon and suppressed us, while Lycans were on the top and protectors of all races. The wolves were resistant to most magical spells, making them the apex of all the races.
Their only rivals in power were vampires, but they had a weakness in the sun. They would not burn while in it, but their power would drain drastically. Most vampires used umbrellas while out during the daylight, while others avoided it altogether, making them night owls. Before I could think of a way out of this mess, Fenris asked once again.
“Why were you watching us?” The question left me shaken, desperately looking for a way out, only to find none.
Grabbing onto the hand that held me captive, my head slanted down towards the floor. This was the moment I should have done everything to get away from him, to make sure I never knew him. Everything would have been much simpler if I had done that. But I felt lonely and desired more than what I had.
“It...” I stopped myself before I finished my thought.
I felt pressured by all the eyes that were on me. At this moment, it was just the wolf boys with me. The alley lacked the pedestrians that were in the main street. It was too much for me to handle. Releasing another sigh, Fenris grabbed onto my cheek and gently made my glance meet with his. His eyes and expression were all so gentle.
“It what?” He gently asked.
Grabbing hold of his hand, I pulled it away from my face before finishing my sentence. I did not deserve any type of touch that came from him. I would not be let free unless I answered the young silver Lycan that seemed interested in me.
“It looked like fun,” I whispered, feeling hollow inside.
It stung me to know that what they had was something I could never have. I did not know if it was my expression or my voice that triggered a change in Fenris. But his eyes narrowed before he stood up, grabbed onto my hand, and pulled me up onto my feet.
“What are you doing?” The yellow-haired boy questioned Fenris’s intentions as he pulled me along with him.
“She will join us for today,” Fenris answered, shocking me to my core before heading back to the store, yanking me along to follow him.
Before this moment, the weeks I had spent watching him and his friends, it felt like we were worlds apart. The street was like a bridge I could never cross, but that did not stop him from pulling me into the sunlight and onto the forbidden street. Our worlds could not be stopped from colliding with each other anymore. This was the point where everything should have ended.
They should have sent me to Cerberus, as the boy named Ezra had suggested. Instead, Fenris sat me next to him and introduced everyone. First went Fenris, who then let the sharp brown-haired boy continue with his name, which was Liam. The easy-going yellow-haired one was Owen, and the slightly annoyed grey-haired one was Ezra.
Upon everyone giving their name, they glanced at me as they expected me to say mine, but I choked up instead of letting it flow out normally as they had. It was not like I wanted to be put into the spot, either. I was not good at these types of situations. Why couldn’t they just let me go?
Noticing my hesitation, Fenris placed his hand on my head, petting it gently before laying his cards down on the table. His action surprised me yet again. Wasn’t he going to press me for it?
“You do not know how to play, right?” Fenris asked with a friendly demeanor.
I shook my head as to say no in reply. This could not be true... There had to be an ulterior motive. He could not be this naïve and nice to a stranger like me. One thing the sisters had beaten into me was to never trust the wolves or anyone other than the coven itself.
“Ezra sit down let’s show her how it’s done or are you scared that a girl is joining us?” Fenris provoked Ezra, who seemed to be already on edge by my sudden appearance.
At least they taught him how dangerous witches could be. But then again, so were the other boys who seemed fine with me. However, Ezra had prejudice towards me.
“N-no!” Ezra stumbled.
Liam sat beside Fenris, and Ezra sat on the opposing side with Owen. Fenris asked Liam to shuffle his deck as he held onto my hand, making sure I would not bolt. Not that it was any help to do so. He would just catch me again. Was he testing me or being kind to me? I could not tell, but his grip on my hand was so gentle that it coursed warmth through my body. It was the first time anyone other than my mother touched me this way. Gentle and caring, but why?
The only reason Fenris let go of my hand was to play his cards. Every turn that passed, he would explain what he was doing and what was the purpose of the game. In this case, the winning condition was for every monster card beaten. One could draw a prize card until there were none left. There were six prize cards. If one could beat six monster cards and gather all the prize cards, then the player would win the game.
Every move he would explain to me so I would understand what was going on. Even though it meant Ezra knew what he was planning. The gentleness swayed me in ways I thought impossible. Back then I was only ten years old. I had little concept of what love was, other than what I felt for my mother. In my belly, with every moment I spent with Fenris, I could feel tingling sensations rise within me. Even when I stared at him from afar, I could feel the weird sensation blossom. I could not explain it, nor did I want to do so.
Once the match finished, Ezra was victorious only because Fenris had been explaining to me the entire time what was happening. Instead of focusing on winning and taking his opponent by surprise. But that did not deter Ezra from rubbing it into Fenris, who just shrugged it off. Liam and Owen went next while Fenris, Ezra, and I watched. With each match that ended, I learned more of the concept that was the card game.
Watching them curse under their breath when one outplayed the other caused me to giggle slightly. My sudden outburst triggered everyone to stop and glance towards me, stopping me right in my tracks. To me, it was enough being able to watch them play, but then Fenris grabbed Liam’s deck and handed it to me.
“Play one with me.” Fenris challenged me, putting me in the spotlight.
Was it because I giggled? Was this a punishment?
“N-no... I-I...” I stumbled.
My clumsiness caused Fenris to sigh before standing up and taking the chair in front of me.
“Please?” He pleaded with an expression that caused my heart to skip, leaving me flustered.
It was almost as if a puppy were staring straight into my soul. It should have been illegal. I glanced towards Liam to see if he was okay with this, but all he did was smile and nod to encouraging me. He was fine with me, using his cards to play against Fenris.
“Shuffle them,” Liam reassured me.
I clumsily did, trying my best not to scatter them into the ground as my hands trembled. Was it the nerves or fear? I could not tell them apart anymore, but I also felt something else along with them. Excitement? I had been watching these boys play for the past weeks without their knowledge. But I never thought I could play with them. Let alone be in their presence. It was a bit too much for me to handle.
“Just take your time reading what each card does. If you don’t know, you can ask Liam. I am sure he will help you out.” Fenris informed before the match began.
My heart raced while I tried my hardest to not make a mistake. After watching them for hours playing, I somehow got a grasp on how the game was, but obviously lacked the experience of doing it strategically, which was required. Whenever I looked up from my cards, all I could see was Fenris’s gaze on me. Never once did he look at his cards as he played against me. Instead, he analyzed me.
Winning the card game was never the point of this. It was how Fenris coax me out of my shell. It all lead to him letting me win my first match. Even though most people would be happy about winning, I was not.
Ezra made fun of Fenris for being beaten by a girl. All this victory did was leave me bitter. Why did he let me win? Why was he being so kind to a stranger? Was he testing me? Why didn’t he just let me run away? Questions bombarded me as I glanced away from him, annoyed by the results.
“Why did you let me win?” I whispered, annoyed by his kindness.
I wanted no pity.
“I didn’t let you; you won fair and square,” Fenris answered an obvious lie.
I had been watching him for weeks. His friends rarely ever won against him. I, with barely any experience, could not beat him surely.
“Liar, I have seen you play, being beaten by someone like me. Isn’t possible for you.” I stated firmly, annoyed he would let me win just because he wanted my first experience to be nice.
I did not need his kindness. Even if it was fun.
“Are you angry?” Fenris asked.
I kept looking away. The other boys remained silent when Fenris suddenly stood up and sat next to me.
“Good. All I had seen you today was shy and hesitant. It seems you can get out if you want to. Well annoyed enough at least.” Fenris chuckled, triggering me to glance at him, flustered by his intentions.
His smile was even more radiant up close. It almost melted away my anger. Oh, how I wished I could smile like him. It seemed like he had no worries in the world. Stopping myself from reaching towards his face, I turned away from him again. He challenged me to another round. This time, though, if he won. I would have to tell him my name. And if I won, I could ask him to do anything I wanted.
Hesitantly I agreed, a bit annoyed at him cheating me out of a good game, even if it was my first one ever. This game was completely different, as he took me down with no mercy. This time he had something to win, after all. While I did not even know what hit me before, it was over. The other boys seemed to hold back their laughter. Fenris reached his hand towards me before asking for my name with that sly smile that seemed to sway my heart in ways that it should not have.
Unable to run away from the fact of being beaten in a fair fight, I hesitantly gave into the silver-haired boy.
“Lilith.” I hesitated a bit after saying it.
Fenris beamed radiantly upon hearing my name.
“Well, Lilith is a pretty name. Why did you not want to say it in the first place? Anyway, it is nice to meet you, finally.” His words left me wide open, as I expected a different response upon hearing my name.
It was almost as if they did not know who they named me after. Maybe I could be normal with them for a while. It felt like my cheeks were about to fall off my face, though. I smiled in return for the first time in a while. Hesitantly, I reached for his open invitation before simpering happily back at him. Maybe this could be the escape that I had been wishing for.
“Thank you.” I simpered, leaving Fenris and the other boys silent.
They became flustered for an unknown reason. Fenris’s response to recovery was to challenge Liam, who stuttered to say yes before continuing the matches. Spending the entire day with them made me feel liberated from what awaited me back home to the coven. Luckily, they were out until night, so I did not have to worry about when they would be home. When the sunset, everyone packed their decks.
Liam came towards me and handed me a bag.
“This is for you,” He announced.
I grabbed the bag, bewildered by it. Tilting my head, I could not understand why I was being given this. That was when Fenris informed me they had bought me a deck. For when I joined them the next time I was around.
“I can come again?” I asked, utterly lost by their intentions, when they all said yes.
It even included a remark by Ezra that it was fun to be with me for being a baby witch. The other boys stared at him like he had said something wrong. But that was the second-best compliment I had ever had. First Fenris called my name pretty. I was good, even though I was a witch. That was when I first laughed since we met. Again, they found themselves flustered by my expression. Clearing his throat, Fenris spoke once again.
“Should we walk you home?” Fenris offered, snapping me back to reality because of it.
Fear swelled within me as I took a few steps away from them before shaking my head. We were in two different worlds. If the sisters ever saw them with me, it would not end well.
“No, I am fine. Thank you for today.” I continued with my gratitude.
Fenris frowned a bit.
“Ah, okay. So, see you tomorrow?” Fenris asked, leaving me scrambling for an answer.
These opportunities came and went, but I never knew when exactly I could get away from the coven.
“I don’t...” I whispered, unable to finish, not knowing what to say without sounding suspicious.
“I hope you can.” Fenris seemed to read my mind and with a smile, they all bid farewell.
I bolted back home before the sisters could notice my absence. Our coven was located outside of the town, hidden by a magical barrier in the forest. It was not unknown to Cerberus. They routinely checked what we were up to. But what happened within its walls most of it was hostile towards every other race. Even if they were at their best behavior during the day at night and off sight it was...
Luckily that day I could make it home before grandmother found out I had not been in my room. She was busy dealing with a ritual that they were getting ready to cast. It had been years in the making, and they were so finishing it finally. Maybe then everything would cool down a bit.
Once in my room, I covered the hole I had made on the wooden wall with one of the many paintings I had done. No one ever cleaned my room. So, they would never find the hole unless I left it uncovered. Luckily, they only came in the morning and at night. So, if I were back by the time they came to check on me, then everything would be fine. Releasing a sigh of relief, I sat on my bed before pouring the bag the boys had gotten me onto my bed. It was a bunch of booster packs and a deck, along with some sleeves and somewhere to store them.
The feeling Lycan boys left within me radiated once again as I did not even know what I felt. With a smile planted on my face, I opened the box and read the instructions that came with it. I spent hours reading every card, trying to learn the game. Only stopped when I needed to hide the items from witches who were bringing me food for the night. It was a simple piece of bread, but for some reason, it tasted amazing that night. All I could think was about Fenris and his friends while pondering ways that I could try to beat them at the game.
The next morning, after reading yet another grimoire, I waited for them to bid farewell to me for the day before sneaking out once again. I could not stop myself from going to them, even though the witches were at home today. The desire to meet them and try my strategies against them won. I wanted to have fun and laugh with them. After I reached the same alley, though, fear swelled as negative thoughts tried to consume me, but much to my surprise.
Fenris came to meet me once he noticed me in the distance. Before grabbing me by my hand and pulling me along once again into the sunlight. A week went by like this, sneaking out to be with them. I slowly smiled more when I felt comfortable with them. Ezra slowly opened up to me as well. In his eyes, I went from being a simple witch to being something else. It probably was the biggest accomplishment I had received by then, other than finally winning my first match against Owen.
Slowly and steadily, I opened, talked, and laughed more. The wolf boys brought color into my cold, grey-covered world. They were nothing like the sister said they would be. At least these four were different. Even though Ezra started cold, he looked at me like Fenris, Liam and Owen did. It was the calm before the storm, though. Little did I know I would erase those smiles from their faces with one simple act. It was not long until the coven noticed something was going on with me, too.
One week and a half after officially meeting the boys. I failed to recite an incantation word for word. It was a stupid mistake. One that I should have studied more for, but all I wanted to do was try different strategies, with different cards, to see what I could do to beat Fenris. He seemed unbeatable when serious. I could finally see why Ezra made fun of Fenris whenever he could. Those moments were rare.
When I failed the exam, I pleaded with the examiner to not tell grandmother fearing her response, but all I got was a slap in the face for being disrespectful. She was notified either way. Sadly, it meant that day would have been impossible to see the boys who waited for me to come, to laugh with them. Grandmother dragged me into a stone-cold room in the basement of our wooden home and stripped me naked. She lashed my back with a whip repeatedly until they left it raw.
This was not the first time I had experienced this. It was not even the second time; I had lost count of how many times she had done this to me, but I remembered when it all started. When my mother died two years ago. It filled my grandmothers’ heart with pure hate as I became the outlet for her rage. It had been a while since I had received this treatment, but I knew it would only get worse if I let out a scream or showed any emotions. My mind wandered to two years ago, when my life changed, with the raid led by Cerberus.
Before my mother died, I lived a completely different life. It was not full of colors, but she was my light. She had always treated me lovingly. The opposite of how I had been treated for the past two years. She was out of her mind, though.
Father had left us when I was born, not wanting the stigma of being with a witch and her child anymore. From what grandmother told me, he never wanted me, neither did she. My mother was the only one who wanted me to live, even though she did not take my father’s abandonment well.
Father leaving us caused my mother to lose her mind slowly, which strained my grandmother’s relationship with me, as her daughter was her light. Although grandmother never hurt me while mother was alive, she never cared for me. All I was a reminder of the reason her daughter had lost her mind.
Then when the Cerberus raided that faithful day with false information about a spell being cast with intent to harm the town. My mother lost it and attacked them when they came into our room. It ended in her death, along with a few members of Cerberus and other sisters who came to her defense.
At that moment, the covens’ and my grandmothers’ heart was left with pure hatred towards Cerberus and those who oppressed us. She tried her hardest to make me hate the world. But all it did was make me hate living instead. I held in the pain I endured. Everything she did to me, hoping for an escape.
After she finished lashing me raw, she drenched me with alcohol, leaving the liquid to sting my skin. They dragged me back into my cursed room once again. They left me on the cold floor, naked. For now, they did not suspect me of having sneaked out.
The sisters thought I was being lazy and was not reading as much as I should have. But learning fifty complex spells a day was something difficult, especially when I had to know each of them by heart. Most witches would just write them in their grimoire, but for me they wanted me to know them from the top of my head. Grandmother held me to an unsustainable standard. Usually, after the whipping when I was alone, I would cry my heart out, but I could not this time.
No tears ran down my cheeks. All I wanted was to go to them, but that would be impossible in my state. My body could not take a single movement anymore. Before I lost consciousness, the only thing that was in my mind was Fenris and his radiant smile.
Would... I ever see it again?