Chapter 2: The calm before the…

The next morning, I still laid on the cold floor where the sisters had left me the previous night. Next to me laid bandages I had to place on myself, along with a pouch full of coins and a list of errands to run. This was just another part of the punishment, along with no meal for my empty stomach. Struggling to get up, I tried to bandage myself to little efficiency. I had to get moving. If I did not complete all the errands by the end of the day, it would be worse for me. I knew that much.

Struggling in my first few steps, it was not long before I became numb from the pain that radiated throughout my body. From the moment I left the barrier, I had to act like nothing was wrong with me by placing a fake mask, pretending that everything was fine. No one ever cared enough to take a second glance at me.

All the other times this had happened, I would have been able to act like everything was normal. But this time my chest felt heavier than ever before. Was it the kindness that was shown to me in the prior days? Was I spoiled? Collecting the first item on the list was an herb that grew nearby the manor. The coven usually grew all the plants for quality control for their spells. The rest of the items were found by going to the merchants around town. Most of them were animal body parts.

By the time I was on the tenth item, my legs could not keep up with me anymore. The items themselves were not heavy as they were small and in negligible quantities, but the walk along with the whipping made me exhausted. Taking a break by a post, I winced in pain slightly before I heard a familiar voice with the warmth that brought me into the sunlight.

“Hey! We were waiting for you yesterday. What happened?” Fenris came from behind, followed by the others.

My eyes widened, as I did not know what to say to them. Why were they here? I was not near the shop. I had tried to stay away for that same purpose. It did not matter anymore, though. They were here and I could do nothing about it. Could I hide what happened from them? I had to. I could not allow them to know. If the sisters found out I… They… No, never.

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“I am sorry, had to study all day yesterday.” I tried to come up with an excuse, a lie, but it was almost as if Fenris saw right through me.

For a moment, the silver-haired stopped before asking Liam and the others to go get ice cream from the shop. Before grabbing me and pulling me out of their sight. With my back against the wall, I tried to hide the pain that it inflicted on me. A second later he sniffed me, triggering my cheeks to burn red as he did so. He was going to find out. How could I stop him? I could not let him… Before I figured out how to stop him, he spoke.

“Hey, why do you smell like rubbing alcohol? Is that blood too?!?” He questioned.

I pushed him away from me slightly.

“No, I-I… I-I… I just… I… I spilled some on me and… F-Fell and scratched my back a little, that’s all!” I struggled to find the words for my lie.

Not fully believing me, as the scent I had on me was an unnatural one, even if everything I had said happened. If I had spilled a bottle of alcohol on myself, it would not have smelled like I had spilled gallons. The clumsy bandaging I had done did not help. Probably parts of my back were allowing any fresh blood to seep into my dark clothing. At least I was wearing a black dress to hide the stains of blood.

There was no hiding it from Fenris, though. He could smell through my lie. Annoyed by my excuse, he did not hesitate to grab onto the list that I held in my hand. I instinctively reached for it, but the swift movement triggered sharp pain to run down my back. It broke my fake mask for a slight moment when I winced in pain in front of him. Fenris narrowed his eyes and opened the paper to see it had twenty-five items that I had to collect. I had only crossed ten out.

“You have been doing this while feeling like that? Are you crazy? Why did you not just ask for help?” Fenris questioned harshly, not liking what he was seeing.

Remaining silent, I slanted my head once again towards the floor. He pulled me into a hug, noticing I would say nothing back to him. It was the first time anyone had embraced me since my mother died.

“Doesn’t it hurt? Damn it. Lilith, please call out for help when you need it.” Fenris whispered into my ear.

It left me not knowing how to respond to his sudden touch. Why did he care? Why was not he like everyone else who ignored me? Holding my head to his chest, he slowly let me go as Liam and the others came back with ice cream. They had even bought one for me.

Unable to reach out for it, Fenris grabbed it for me. This would be the first thing I ate all day.

“Hey, guys, I think I am going to help her out with these errands. They are too much for one girl to handle. So, continue without me today.” Fenris announced to his friends, much to my surprise.

Noticing the situation, before Ezra could protest, Liam stepped in and dragged him away as Owen followed along, waving at us. Liam was always sharper than the other two. I wondered if he had noticed too. After they were gone, Fenris offered me the ice cream cone. It seemed the reason they were near here was for the ice cream from a famous shop that was nearby.

“You should eat it now before it melts.” He smiled.

I slowly reached for it.

“I’ve never had ice cream before,” I whispered, much to his astonishment.

It looked like he was about to say something. But bit his lip before changing his mind and saying something else.

“Well, eat it then. I will buy you another one if you want more after.” Fenris said.

I took my first bite of the tasty treat. It was so cold, yet creamy and delicious while the flavor itself was something I had never had before. I never had something so good. Neither did I know what my expression was, but it ended with Fenris chuckling happily as I devoured the ice cream.

“That was vanilla ice cream you had there.” He informed before swiftly and with brief hesitation licking the corner of my mouth before licking his lips too.

“Yum,” Fenris added, enjoying the flavor of the ice cream he had stolen from me before realizing what he had done.

Our cheeks turned a new color of pink. I was destined to stare at the floor today, as that was where my sight ended. It was a necessity for trying to control my heart from bursting out of my chest. My whole body felt like it was going to explode. Fenris, unaware of how his actions made me feel, turned around before telling me to use him as a ride. His voice seemed faster than usual, though.

Was he flustered like me? Conflicted, I hesitated only for him to pout enough for me to give in to his demand. I had to complete this list, and he would not let me go alone. Once on his back, he lifted me with little effort. However, the sudden moment caused me to hug him tightly from behind, fearing I would fall.

“Are you okay?” Fenris asked, worried about me.

For a moment, he thought I was hurting myself further by holding on too tightly, but the pain was nothing compared to what it was before he came. The feeling of him being so close to me made me almost forget why he was doing this. The pain was nothing compared to this warmth that radiated into my core. I wanted more.

“I am okay,” I whispered, noticing the back of his neck had turned a light shade of pink.

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The warmth that his body left on mine more was comforting than any blanket I had ever used. For the first time, I was happy to be on a quest to collect items. With his help, I ended up gathering almost all the items on the list much faster than I would have alone. He let me ride his back effortlessly.

Thanks to that, I was in less agony, too. It was almost as if the sisters had failed at punishing me this time. That was something that they could never know. All I did was hold the list and tell him where the shops were located. He did the talking and buying with the coins they gave me while I was on his back.

Given how close I was to him, I could smell a hint of roses on him. If it was a perfume or that they grew roses at his home I did not know, but what I knew was that his scent was lovely. It calmed me in ways I did not know were possible. No matter how long my errand took, he did not flinch or let me down from his back. He was strong and relentless the whole time, making me rely more on him than I wanted to.

On the way to the last item, though, after having stared at his ears for the past hours. I could not resist the urge to touch them anymore. The moment I did, he flinched, tightening his grip on my thigh while slightly growling at me. It surprised me, but he did not seem angry. Instead, he seemed more worried about what could have happened if he had not caught himself at the moment.

“Do you want to fall?” Fenris scolded, surprised by my action.

Fear quickly filled me. I immediately pulled away from his ears, thinking I had done something wrong.

“Sorry… I-I…” I trailed off, fearing he would hate me for what I had done.

He sighed in response to my reaction to his words.

“It is fine you can touch them if you want, just let me know before you do. It tickles and I could have hurt you without wanting to.” Fenris mumbled before letting me off on a bench at the beachfront, just a few meters away from the last shop.

Why worry about hurting me? If it bothered him, he should have dropped me like a bag. The pain would not have been as bad as I have had before. I did not understand this wolf, but he just kept surprising me with each step we took together. To my astonishment, he kneeled before me as I stared at him, not knowing what to do. Strangers’ eyes gathered on us.

His cheeks turned redder than ever before. He ran impatiently with my indecisiveness.

“Do it,” Fenris mumbled, cheeks burning red.

My cheeks turned the same shade as he glanced away from my sight soon after. My hesitation bothered the little silver wolf that was in front of me. Instead of being soft with me, this time he was more assertive by grabbing my hands and placing them on his head. His hair was so smooth. It probably was the softest thing I had ever felt at my fingertips.

“Just do it, Lilith,” Fenris growled, being a bit more demanding, avoiding my gaze.

Slowly I reached towards his ears. Before I knew it, they were in my grip. His soft ears were brushing against my skin, leaving a pleasant feeling. His ears twitched a bit because of the sensation my touch gave him. Even though it made him a bit uncomfortable, he never complained about it. Instead, he just avoided my gaze while I wondered what he felt when I had my hands on his ears. Could it be anything near when my mother used to play with mine?

His ears were like soft clouds on my fingertips, though. I had not noticed before, but the moment I touched the base of his ears it allowed me to feel the silkiness of his hair that I had been admiring from afar for the longest time. Pedestrians threw comments around us.

“Aw, isn’t that cute,” said a human mother to her daughter as they walked past us.

Most of the comments were of this nature until an old Lycan saw us. I had retreated, my hands already embarrassed by the entire event. Fenris tried to recover from the pride he had let die the moment he allowed me to do this in public. The comments had even said we resembled a ‘young love’, which would only happen in a dream, but the old man was having none of the cuteness that others saw. He had to say something demeaning to us.

I was about to see why the sisters hated Lycans so much. His eyes were full of hatred towards me, even though I had never seen this man in my life.

“Oi, stupid boy. Why do you let her do that? Aren’t you scared you will bring a bad name to your family by hanging out with a witch and letting her touch you like that?” The man heckled Fenris’s motives, who seemed startled by the old man’s question.

He was embarrassed by what had happened and from the previous comments. However, this man placed Fenris on edge. He seemed to go on the defensive right away. I knew Lycans for their pride and tempers, especially when dealing with each other. The hierarchy of wolves was like that. Two alphas, rest betas per clan, and Silverant’s clan were the biggest within the Lycan hierarchy. Silverant being the capital of Lyari, the Lycan nation.

“What I do has nothing to do with you, old man,” Fenris growled, standing protectively between me and the man.

I got up from the seat and grabbed onto Fenris’s shirt from behind, tugging it lightly. I did not want to create a scene, let alone a fight with someone much bigger than us. Compared to him, we were little shrimps.

“Please… L-let us go.” I whispered nervously for the man to scream at me to shut up.

It caused me to flinch in response. Fenris growled louder at the man, who stared at me with such scorn. The old man laughed in response to Fenris’s weak aggression. This Lycan was not cute like the boys. Instead, it brought me back to when my mother died by the officers that had brought her rampage to an end. It had been two wolves.

My hands trembled. I felt as powerless as I did the day where I watched her die without being able to do anything to help her. Fenris grabbed onto the hand that held his shirt, giving me a brief glance, almost as if to say it would be okay. The act of kindness seemed to disgust the man, who instead spat on the floor before peering towards us once again.

“You should be ashamed to be seen with a witch. Don’t you know they are vermin that need extermination!” The man pointed out firmly.

Fenris did not back down. Instead, he took a step forward towards the man. The little silver Lycan was fearless. If a fight broke out, then surely Fenris had no chance against him.

“Shut up, old man. She has done nothing wrong! And not all witches are villains like you make them! Most of our herbalists here are witches!” Fenris defended.

The old man laughed in response before taking a better look at the small Lycan boy, who protected the small, dreadful witch.

“It cannot be. Aren’t you from the Silver Fang family? What a disgrace you will be if your father does not set you straight soon.” The man shot back before walking away, not wanting to get into a further altercation with Fenris’s kin.

The Silver Fang family was the clan that led all other packs. Top dogs of the hierarchy of wolves. If each clan had alphas, then they were the ones on top of them. They were also the family who ran Cerberus. The clan was made from many members, but what allowed them to be easily identifiable was their silver hair. However, not every member had that color of hair either, but it was predominant in the alpha line for the males. It had to be how Fenris could smile like there was not a worry in the world.

How he could be fearless. If he came from the alpha for everyone, then it was only a matter of time until he hated me like the rest. After the old man had left, I quickly withdrew from Fenris by clasping my hands against my chest.

“I am sorry… I… I have taken too much of your kindness. I can continue on my own. Sorry for taking so much of your time.” I whispered; sight planted onto the ground, not wanting to get Fenris in any more trouble.

He sighed in response to my apology.

“Do not worry about that. That old man does not speak for most of us, you know. I do not think that way at least.” Fenris simpered, trying to quell my emotions.

That entire experience just slipped right off him. He offered me his hand as I stood there, bewildered by him. The old man’s words did not bother him. He was truly blinding me. Just how could this boy be like this? How? I wanted to know more about him. I wanted to walk beside him, but this was all temporary. I knew that much. Nothing good ever lasted in my life. My blood cursed me to suffer, too.

It would be a matter of time for him to do the same, but that did not stop me from desiring more. Slowly I reached for his hand, for him to grasp it within his own without an ounce of hesitation. He pulled my unsuspecting hand towards his lips before giving it a slight kiss and bowing his head.

“My fair lady, I am Fenris Silver Fang. At your service.” Fenris smirked playfully as tears ran down my cheeks for the first time in years.

It was too much. This boy, I could not keep him out of my heart. Surprised by my tears, Fenris became worried as his expression changed from confidence to uncertainty. His intention for that was not to make me cry, but to make me smile. Yet he did not know that the tears that continued to run down my cheeks were not of pain or sadness, but of happiness. While they still rolled out of my eyes, I smiled at him. This boy, even though he did not realize it, had become my light to this cruel world of mine.

Even though I had stalked, watched, and practically been a complete creeper to him. He had forced me out of the shadows and into the light where he stood instead of shunning me away. If I could see him, even if it were for a minute, then everything would be alright.

“Thank you, Fenris.” I for the first time in years smiled whole heartily, trying to wipe my tears away from my cheeks.

This boy who knew nothing of my life, of what I felt. He had done more than my family cared to do. Not even my mother’s embrace ever made me feel this way. For once I felt safe while in his company, like nothing could hurt me if he were around. Fenris’s cheeks turned bright pink as he quickly glanced away from me, embarrassed. Before slowly leading me towards the steps that led to the sandy beach.

After sitting me down on another bench with a clearer view of the ocean, Fenris ran into the shop where the last item was. I sat there, taking the sun’s warmth into my being. It was almost sunset too. Usually, I would have taken until closing time to get all the ingredients, but it seems I had finished faster than ever before.

Time had passed faster while I was with him, too. Mostly because of the fun I had been having with him, looking for the items on my list. Looking at the scenery in front of me, I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. I did not notice when I placed the hand he kissed earlier close to my lips.

For the first time, I prayed to the gods, any god. I hoped one would hear my plea.

‘If there is a god out there. Any god. Please, I beg you. Do not take him away from me.’ I pleaded with myself, opening my eyes to see the sunset.

Fenris came back to me before sitting beside me. Placing the bag with the full list of items in it onto the bench, he tucked the paper within it too. Before grabbing my right hand and placing a silver bracelet that he had been wearing on his. It was one of a red crescent moon.

For a moment I gazed at it, confused, before shaking my head and touching it with the fingertips of my free hand.

“I can’t accept this,” I whispered, grabbing onto his hand that still held mine captive.

In response, he just smiled and shook his head.

“You can. And you will. With this, I will find you, no matter where you are. It is a magical bracelet, you see.” He responded, giving me a soft smile.

Even though he intended for me to accept it, his words gave me little reason to want it. If he found me while I was with the coven, then I…

“Even more reason for you to take it back.” I continued to worry about what repercussion the bracelet would have if he left it on me.

He sighed in response.

“Listen, I want to give you this, and only to you. You see this one?” Fenris pointed towards his left wrist with his free right hand.

There he had another bracelet on it. This one’s charm was color black and of the moon’s waxing gibbous stage. Turning my right hand with his connected the two together to create a full moon. The color of the black waxing gibbous turned red, like the crescent he had given me once they were together united.

“Together they create a full moon. Neat right? But what is more important is that if you are ever in trouble, my moon works as a compass, pointing towards where you are. So, I can find you and rescue you.” Fenris explained, triggering me to reach for my chest and grab onto my dress with my left hand.

“Rescue me?” I whispered.

Fear gripped my soul. If he ever came near to the house, the sisters would kill him, surely.

“I really cannot accept this,” I repeated once again.

Fenris chuckled, throwing away my concerns like they were nothing.

“Well, it is too late you cannot remove it now. Mom told me to give it to someone I want to keep safe. I choose you. Oh, and do not worry, the bracelet looks like any normal piece of jewelry to anyone but us. Meaning only the wearer can see it glow when activated. And if anyone tries to remove it by force well, let us say it will not be pretty.” Fenris announced, leaving me shocked to my core.

I had never voiced my concerns in the first place, but his assurance made me feel like maybe he could save me from my torment. But why did he want to do this for me? Why would he go this far for me? Why? Why did he care?

“I…” I could not finish.

 He grabbed hold of my right hand with his left hand once again.

“Look, the sun is setting,” Fenris announced.

I sighed in response to his ignorance of the situation he was getting himself into.

He would not give up, and I was not going to either, but it seemed like he was not lying when he said I could not take it off even if I wanted to. If he was this determined to save me, then it was up to me to keep him safe, too. I would never allow my coven sisters to touch my light.

“Thank you,” I whispered, laying my head on his shoulder.

For a moment, he went stiff, but slowly he rested his head on mine as well. We watched the sunset before our eyes. It was not the first time I had seen one, but it felt like it was the first time I had ever seen it in its full splendor. We sat hands intertwined until the sky had turned dark blue and the stars were glowing in the deep blue sky. Before I knew it, a question that had been on my mind left my lips.

“Why are you so kind to me?” I asked, triggering Fenris to grip my hand tighter.

“When I saw you in the alley, your face seemed like the world was about to end. So, I took your hand, and that was it. And it turns out, you are worth it. These past days have been the most fun I had in a while.” Fenris answered, leaving me vulnerable to his words.

I wanted to believe in them. I truly did.

“It always looked like you had fun.” I pointed out, giggling a bit, not realizing Fenris’s own situation.

“Maybe, everyone has monsters in their lives,” Fenris informed, still clenching me.

We sat there for a couple of moments more.

“Are you sure you want to go home? Why not come with me to Cerberus?” He questioned, making me shake my head upon hearing their name.

If I left, my grandmother would just take her fury out on the town. On him. I could not let that happen. For the first time in my life, I wanted to go back if just to keep him safe from them. Lycans were powerful but not immortal.

A blow to his heart or head could end him. He was just a boy while I was just a girl. We both possessed little power to do anything about our current situations. I had never been curious about what the sisters were planning to do to the town, but I had to make sure it was not something to harm where he lived.

“Fenris, can I be brave like you?” I whispered, not wanting to answer his question.

I should have done so, though. Maybe if I had gone with him at this moment everything would have changed, but I…

“Brave? I am not brave, just headstrong.” Fenris chuckled.

I smiled and hummed a bit.

“I’ll try to be headstrong then.” I decided, nodding my head slightly.

He nudged me lightly, making sure not to hurt me.

“You can be brave. Just do not think of what could be and do what you think is right. At least that is what my dad says. And it seems to work for him. He has gotten out of a lot of trouble doing stupid things but ends up being the hero most of the time.” Fenris laughed a bit, encouraging me to be myself.

I did not know what this wolf saw in me. Maybe I was someone to save or someone in need, but it was the first time someone cared about me. I should have never let him get this close.

“I see,” I whispered.

We sat next to each other for what felt like hours. The stars were fully visible as the moon rose to the middle of the sky. Most of the pedestrians had left for their homes when we got up from where we were. And walked towards my home.

Fenris accompanied me all the way to the edge of town, where I told him I would go by myself the rest of the way. I thanked him profusely for the day he spent with me. After bidding farewell, I hid the bracelet under my dress’s sleeve and headed towards the manor where a sister waited for me in the front. Her eyes compared to Fenris were cold, almost dead.

“Did you get the ingredients?” She asked, causing me to nod in response.

Letting me into the house she guided me towards grandmother who grabbed the bag of ingredients checking for quality. Pleased by the goods I had brought, she sent me away towards my room, but before I left the room. I promised her I would not fail another test.

“You better, child. If you know what is good for you.” My grandmother stated, ordering the other sister to take me back to my room.

There I spent the night studying for the retake of the test I had failed the previous day. Of course, as I promised, I passed with flying colors. I could not sneak out for the next few days, thanks to my sore back, but it was not long until I would. Even if it was painful for me to move around. I spent the day with lessons, afternoons with the boys, and nights studying. During the teachings, I tried to eavesdrop on the sisters’ plans, but most of the time I came out unsuccessfully.

It seemed the talk about the ritual had died down. Maybe it had already happened, and I had worried for no reason. Unable to find any more about it, it fell into oblivion. I tried my hardest to keep the bracelet from ever resonating, to prevent getting Fenris into danger.

Weeks passed, and I was happier than ever before. Fenris and his friends had just introduced me to chocolate. One of the most delicious things I had ever had and not only that, but I had also come close to beating Fenris in a serious match. However, the most important thing that plagued my mind was Fenris’s upcoming birthday. He was turning twelve. My birthday was a month later than his when I would turn eleven.

Fenris had said he would bring me a slice of cake from his birthday if I drew him a picture. Somehow, I had let it slip that I could draw while out at the beach with the boys. Instead of playing cards or games, they focused on showing me more of the world.

Of course, though, we would still play some after showing me a few different things that I had never tried. It was embarrassing, but I was determined to realize Fenris’s wish. Sneaking back home, I grabbed one canvas I had laid around and drew how I pictured my hero while we were at the beach.

All I could do was smile, remembering Fenris and his kindness that radiated me with such warmth. However, I was so into it I did not even realize when the door opened and closed. The words that came next would be the beginning of the end for me.

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