The Cursed Wolf (Chapter 16)

Chapter 16

Nancy Holliday stared down at the two boys asleep on her couch. She shook her head and smiled. They found a loophole, like all teenagers eventually will. She told them they couldn’t sleep in the same bedroom, so instead, they slept on the couch. At least they were both still dressed! Nancy used the remote to turn on the tv. The two boys jumped and nearly fell off the couch.

Brad ran a hand through his strawberry blonde locks and yawned as he reached for his glasses. “Did you have to turn that on so loud, mom?”

“If you were sleeping in your own bed, you wouldn’t have heard it.” Nancy arched one eyebrow.

Brad grinned but blushed at his mother’s words. “We did not break your rule.”

“I know you didn’t. I didn’t raise a dummy.”

“Wait! Shh! Shh! The sheriff is on tv!” Nate yelled.

Nancy and the two boys listened in horror as Sheriff Hanson reported the fourth death in the park. It was a teenager, another friend of Brad’s. His name was Justin Thomas. “I’ll make a quick breakfast before I go to the park and talk to the sheriff. I’m afraid to ask what you boys will be up to today.”

Brad looked up from his phone. “I can happily confirm that David and Skylar were not in the park last night, which adds to my certainty that David isn’t responsible for any of the deaths.”

“That’s good news, but we have to find the responsible person. You boys keep doing whatever you’re doing, and I will track the crime scenes like I do for any other murders. You track the wolf; I’ll track the man.”

“That’s brilliant, mom. Sheriff Hanson is doing the same thing. Maybe one of us will get lucky.” Just then, there was a knock on the door. “Who’s here this early?” Brad asked as he jumped up and raced to the door.

Brad walked back into the living room with Terrie Hanson. “Add one more for breakfast, mom,” Brad said.

Terrie grinned at Nate. “I was going to say that you got here even earlier than I did. But now I notice that the couch quilt is pulled down, you’re wearing the same clothes as yesterday, and you have an exceptional case of bed hair! You stayed the night.”

“By the time we got here last night, it was close to curfew. It only made sense to sleep here.” Nate shrugged.

“Anyway,” Brad laughed. “What brings you here this early, Terrie? I thought we were all meeting at the warehouse. Did something else happen?”

“You could say that.” Terrie nodded toward the kitchen. “How much does your mom know?”

Brad sighed. “As of last night, everything. She’s digging into the deaths, and she’s good at what she does. I thought it best to tell her, plus I hate lying to my mom.”

“I’m glad she knows,” Terrie said. “Let’s join her in the kitchen. I’ll tell all three of you my news.”

Nancy slid a plate of waffles and cut up strawberries to each of the three teenagers sitting around her table. “Ok, give it to me. What else do I need to know before I go to the park?”

Terrie took a deep breath and told the other three everything she discovered about Lilly Monroe, the witch hunters, and her mom. After she finished, she looked at Brad. “Lilly gave me a book about the history of witch hunters and how to become one. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Obviously, I couldn’t hunt Matt or any of our friends. Now that I know that I can use the same ritual to become a witch protector, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to be just like my mother.”

Nate leaned forward. “What can we do to help? Can we assist with research?”

“For now, I don’t need anything. If I read anything in this book that needs further research, I’ll text you first, Nate.”

Nancy collected the empty breakfast dishes. “I’m heading to the park. Do you need me to relay anything to your dad, Terrie?’

“No. We talked before I came here. Thanks, Mrs. Holliday. I’ll clean up the kitchen while waiting for the boys to shower and change. Be safe out there.”

Brad grinned at Nate. “Should we shower together to save time?”

Nate laughed. “That would not save time. I’ll shower first. You let everyone know that we’ll be on our way soon. Maybe we can have a plan of action before we get there.”

“Good idea,” Brad said as he took his phone out of his pocket, and Nate ran up the stairs.

Sky yawned and stretched, trying to wake up. His whole body ached, but he thought that might be normal after his transformation last night. Sky’s memory was fuzzy, but he remembered the change’s intense pain. He started to turn over and felt himself press against the warmth of another body. Sky blinked his eyes open and found himself wrapped in David’s arms.

David woke up, and the first thing he saw was Skylar. He smiled. “Good morning, beautiful.”

“Good morning. Such a nice way to wake up.” Sky pulled David’s arms tighter around his body, and David kissed the side of Sky’s neck. Then they heard voices and the sound of someone clearing their throat.

“I’m glad you two are so comfy but don’t forget that you’re naked and still in the cage.” Matt laughed. “I’ve unlocked the gate and set your backpacks inside whenever you’re ready.” Matt tossed a couple of blankets to David. “Just cover yourselves. We’ve seen enough. Too much, actually!”

“Hell yeah! Way too much! Horny devils!” Devon laughed.

David caught the blankets and handed one to Sky. “Do you remember last night? I remember them putting you in the cage and then waking up with you in my arms.” David frowned.

“I remember images and emotions. But, more and more memories are coming back as I focus.” Sky said.

“What do you remember? Did we…?” David blushed.

“Yes!” Matt, Devon, and Elias yelled in unison.

“It was like nature documentary porn!” Devon groaned.

Sky blushed. “I remember now.”

“Elias has a video,” Matt said.

“What?! Why?!” David said, eyes wide.

“In case you two couldn’t remember. I thought you might want to see.” Eli shrugged.

David stroked the side of Sky’s face. “Ignore them, babe. What do you remember?”

“Let’s get out of this cage.” Sky said. He stood and wrapped the blanket around himself. Sky picked up his backpack on his way out of the cage and sat at the table where the other boys had played gin rummy all night long. He looked from face to face and then focused on David. “It was strange. I felt like me, only different. I was stronger, more primal, but I knew that I was still me. I was a wolf, but I was still Skylar.” He held tight to David’s hands. “When they first put me in the cage, your wolf was angry. All he wanted was to get out of the cage and hunt. I’m not sure how I knew, but I knew he was angry and hungry and wanted to get out of the cage and run free.”

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” David asked.

“No. Absolutely not. When I looked into the wolf’s eyes, I knew that I was looking into your eyes. Somehow, I could sense that the wolf was in charge, but you were in there fighting for control. Once I was sure it was you, I knew what I needed to do to calm you.”

“What did you do?” David asked.

“I submitted myself to you, both as a member of your pack and as your mate. Wolves mate for life, by the way. You’re stuck with me now.” Sky grinned and blushed at David.

“I wish I could remember!” David’s head spun toward Elias. “Why can he remember, but I can’t?”

“I have some theories that align exactly with how Sky describes things. My theory is that when you bit Sky, you passed the werewolf gene on to him, but not the curse. All the stories about werewolves in the witch’s journals have led me to believe that the wolf and the man maintain a symbiotic relationship. The curse is what put your wolf in control, David. It makes you more primal, more instinctual. That would explain the wolf’s focus on freedom and hunger.”

“Does that also explain why I can’t remember, but Skylar can?”

Eli shrugged. “It makes sense. The wolf is the dominant personality for you, so you can’t remember. For Sky, he is in control or, at the very least, a co-equal partnership. Therefore, Sky retains the memories.”

“We really need to cure me of this curse,” David grumbled.

“We need a three-pronged focus today. One group working on potions and spells for your cure, one group collecting the supplies I need for the werewolf trap, and the final group searching for the wolf in human form.” Elias said.

“Do you think there’s anything else different about me?” Sky asked.

“There are stories of wolves changing in daylight. Other stories about partial changes, and we know that the wolf that bit David changes completely into a wolf. The two of you changed into what resembled horror movie werewolves. We may not know what you are capable of until you do it, Sky.”

Skylar sighed. “I guess I hoped you had an instruction manual.” He laughed.

“Not at all, but I will help you as much as possible.” Elias looked from Sky to David and back. “I will not abandon either of you no matter what.”

The two boys each put a hand on one of Eli’s shoulders and said in unison. “Thank you, Elias, that means a lot.”

Devon leaned forward. “So, who does what for these three tasks?”

“We’ll decide that at my house. Brad, Nate, and Terrie are meeting us there. While David and Sky get dressed, we’ll pack up everything else, and then we’ll meet the others at my house.”

The two groups of friends arrived at Eli’s house at nearly the same time. They all went into the house and gathered in the living room, just like last night. Terrie sat on the ottoman right in front of Elias, and she took his hands in hers.

Terrie took a deep breath. “Elias, I am starting to think that we were all fated to find each other. We have deeper connections than we ever knew.”

“What do you mean? What else have you discovered?” Eli asked.

“Lilly was at my house yesterday. She took me to her home. Lilly’s intent was to convince me how dangerous the supernatural is. My intent was to gather information to help you guys. What we discovered surprised us both. Lilly has a secret sub-basement full of tools to fight all manner of creatures. Witch hunters, I guess, is a generic label. Hunters fight all of the supernatural. Prime example, there was a case full of wooden stakes. Vampires are real. Who knew?” Terrie shrugged.

“I wonder what else is out there,” Eli said, his eyes full of wonder.

“Well, there were also shelves full of books in the basement. When I approached one of the shelves, I felt a tingly sensation all over my body.”

“Are you ok? What was it?” Matt interjected.

“I’m fine. It was a spell designed to only let those with witch hunter blood approach the bookshelf.”

Eli’s eyebrows scrunched together in concentration. “Does that mean that you are descended from hunters?” The room went silent.

“It does, but there’s a catch. My mom had hunter blood. Her ancestors, going back generations, were all hunters. My mother became best friends with someone she later discovered was a witch. She knew that woman to be a good person. My mom cast a spell when she found out that the hunters were going after her friend. She bonded herself to the witch as the first witch protector in a thousand years. Elias, the witch that my mom bonded herself to was your mother, Marie Carrier. My dad told me that my mother didn’t die in a car accident, as I was told. She was killed by the hunters. She died trying to protect the same coven you and Matt are now rebuilding.”

“I’m not even sure what to say to that. I’ve read about protectors, but only in the oldest journals. My mother’s journal said nothing, though it ends rather abruptly, probably with her death. Her spirit has never mentioned it either, but all of our conversations have been about witchcraft and werewolves.” Eli said.

The air shimmered behind Elias, and Marie Carrier’s ghost appeared. The spirit stared at Terrie before it turned to Eli and spoke. “What she says is true. Her mother fought for the coven, and she died a hero. The coven and this house would have been destroyed seventeen years ago if not for Julia Hanson.” Marie’s eyes darted to Matt. “When I sensed that you loved another besides my son, I did not know it was the daughter of the most powerful witch protector in a thousand years. The hand of fate is upon you, Matthew Montana. You and you alone have drawn this band together. It may seem that events center on the wolves or my son. They do not. You are the thread that connects them all. Without you, it all falls apart. Stay strong, Matthew.”

“Well, that’s not too much pressure!” Matt huffed out a laugh as the ghost disappeared.

Hands reached out from seemingly everywhere, patting Matt on the back or knee. David reached over and ruffled his brother’s hair. “We all have your back, Matt. We will find the grey wolf and the hunter, and we will deal with them. We can do this!”

Elias took Matt’s hand and laced their fingers together. He kissed the back of Matt’s hand. “I was pulled into your orbit before we ever met, and I am not even a little bit sorry. David is right. We can do this. With you by my side, nothing is impossible.”

Everyone in the room gave similar statements of support to Matt. He leaned against Eli’s shoulder with tears dripping from his eyes. “I feel the same way about each of you,” He looked around at everyone, then focused on Elias. “What do we need to do first?”

Terrie held up the journal she had gotten from Lilly. “I have my own task.” She looked at Eli. “I may need your help with something, but first, I need more details from this journal.”

Elias nodded. “Understood. I will be right here. Matt and I will be researching spells and gathering ingredients. I need to refine the curse breaker spell, and I need a werewolf charm spell.” Elias looked around the room. “Brad and Nate, take the wolfsbane map. Find as much as you can, but make sure it is tightly sealed before bringing it back here. The scent alone could make our two wolves sick, and speaking of our werewolf friends,” Elias smiled at David and Sky. “You two get to hunt.”

Sky smirked. “Fitting, but we may need more instruction than that.”

“I’m referring to the wolf, for now. We’ll deal with the hunter if we must. I’ve marked a map with all known or suspected locations where the grey wolf has been. I’ve marked your aunt’s house, and all four kill sites in red. Brad, Nate, and Devon found a lot of reports of large animal sightings and unexplained livestock deaths. I used their research to mark all those on the map in blue. As you will see, they are surprisingly close together. It should give you guys a strong starting point.”

“We’ll do what we can except knock on doors and ask if any werewolves live there.” David laughed.

“We’ll do some sniffing around.” Sky smirked. “My senses are enhanced even in human form. I’m not sure exactly what we’re looking for, but maybe we’ll know it when we see it or smell it.”

David, Sky, Brad, and Nate all left the house and went about their tasks. Terrie settled in on the couch with the hunter’s journal, and Matt sat next to her with his own pile of books to research charm spells. Eli wandered into the kitchen to gather supplies for the curse breaker spell.

Sky and David sat in the file room of the Roxbury Falls town hall, looking at deed after deed. It wasn’t the search they expected, but after they had walked around the park for an hour without a clear plan, David called Aunt Nancy. He explained to her that they wanted to narrow down who might be the werewolf, but all they had to go on was a map of the kill sites. Nancy suggested that they check the homeowners in their search area, then narrow that down by who lived there the longest. Once they had fewer houses to check, they should start with the ones in the center of the search area and work their way out.

Now, three hours later, they had a list of eight names. Five were married couples with children. Three homeowners were single males, so they had three possible suspects or three wild goose chases. David sighed. “I don’t know how Aunt Nancy does this kind of stuff all the time. It’s mind-numbing! Plus, we don’t even know if one of these guys is our guy or if we’ve wasted the entire day!”

“It’s still early. Let’s swing by all three houses and see if anything sticks out as weird.” Sky shrugged. “It couldn’t hurt.”

“I was thinking the same thing. If we can get a name and address, it will help when Elias sets up the traps.”

“First step, 96 Mitchell Lane.” Sky said as they left the town hall.

Brad snapped the lid shut on the Tupperware container, and he looked over at Nate. “Do you think this is enough, or should we go to the last field on our map?”

Nate took out his phone and snapped a pic of the three containers of wolfsbane that they had collected so far and texted it to Elias. A reply came back in seconds. Nate looked up and grinned. “We’re done. Eli said he could kill five hundred werewolves with what we have. But if there were five hundred werewolves, Eli would leave town without stopping to make potions.”

Brad rolled his eyes and laughed. “That sounds like Eli. Let’s get this stuff back to the house. Maybe we’ll have time to finally eat unless he has anything else for us to do.”

“I like that plan.” Nate grinned.

Brad and Nate walked into the kitchen and set the containers of wolfsbane on the counter. Brad leaned against the counter next to Matt and nodded toward Elias and Terrie. “That sounds like an intense conversation.”

“Yep. I’m staying over here until those two decide what to do. I am not getting in the middle of Eli and Terrie.” Matt said as Nate joined them. The three boys stood back and listened to their friends talk.

“Come on, Elias! We have to at least try!” Terrie said.

“If you knew how many defensive spells she has set up or where they all are, I would be more inclined to say yes. If I miss just one, we could alert her to our presence, or worse, it could be dangerous to someone like me. Hunters would likely have anti-witch barriers in place.”

“There’s so much in that basement that we could use. I saw a sword made of pure silver.”

Eli sighed. “There is a spell that I found that could make other spells visible. I’m not saying yes, but if we go, you do not question my judgment if we encounter a spell that I can’t nullify. We stop and return here. Do you accept that as a condition?”

“If that’s the closest thing I’m going to get to a yes, then I accept. Can we go now? I can call my dad and make sure she’s still at the station.” Terrie said.

Matt interjected. “No. Hold on. If the two of you are rushing off into danger, I have my own condition.”

“You are NOT coming with us,” Elias said forcefully.

“I one hundred percent agree with Eli. There is no reason for you to put yourself in danger, Matt.” Terrie said.

“While I struggle to not be offended by that, can I say what I actually intended to say now? Is this what life with the two of you will be like? A life of unfinished sentences?” Matt smirked.

“You may continue, my love.” Elias and Terrie said in unison, then blushed at each other.

Matt looked at Terrie. “I don’t trust either of you to call for help. I want to know that you are safe. You said you found the spell you were looking for. Bond us. Become the protector of the Roxbury Falls coven just like your mom was. Do this before the two of you run off into danger. If I can sense you through the bond like I can Eli, I will feel better about letting you do this.”

Terrie looked at Elias. “Do you think the changed wording for the first spell will work?”

“Yes, and I have an idea for the second one. I’m prepared if you’re both sure this is what you want.”

“I’m ready,” Terrie said.

“What do I need to do?” Matt asked.

“For now, sit there and look pretty,” Elias smirked. “Then, when we start the second spell, it will be nearly identical to when we bonded.”

“Should me and Brad leave?” Nate asked.

“Not necessary. Just don’t touch any of us. I’m not sure what would happen.” Eli said.

“Got it. No touching.” Brad huffed out a laugh.

Terrie and Eli started setting up the circle where the spells would be performed. First, they set out the herbs and lit the incense for Terrie’s witch protector spell. Once they were ready, Terrie stepped inside the circle and inhaled deeply, filling her lungs with the incense smoke.

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