#Chapter 177: The Witch’s Curse
I let go of Nina’s hand just moments before the portal closed. The last thing I felt was her fingers reluctantly slipping out of mine, and then… I was alone.
Even though I wanted nothing more than to stay in that spot and mourn over having to leave behind Nina, I knew that I needed to act quickly and waste no time. Without spending so much as another second standing there, I turned and began running in the direction of the Alpha King’s mansion.
As I passed through the forest, I eventually came to the spot where I had last seen Luke. I took a few moments to stop there and search for any sign of Luke or Edward, but there was nothing; thankfully, there was no sign that anything sinister had happened to my friend, but on the other hand, I couldn’t exactly be sure if Edward was still out there either. I only hoped that Luke sent Edward limping off with his tail between his legs, never to return- but I knew deep down that that possibility wasn’t very likely.
Still, I had no time to waste. I needed to find my father and get back to Nina as soon as possible, so I had to get moving.
Eventually, by the time night began to fall, I made it to the Alpha King’s mansion. I stopped a little ways away and hid in the forest, watching the mansion from afar; I didn’t know if it was safe for me to just walk right up to the front door, so I needed to observe the guards’ patrol patterns and see if there was any way to get in without being seen. If Selena saw me before anyone else, I was certain that she would get in the way; and if the Alpha King was furious enough to withdraw support in the war on the Crescents over my escape, then I couldn’t be sure that he would exactly listen to me if I just waltzed in there and told him that I knew where his lost daughter was, and that I intended to marry her instead of Selena. No… I had to be careful about this. For now, I just needed to find my father and get out of there. We could deal with Selena and the Alpha King later.
The night began to grow darker. I pulled my hood up and shivered beneath the tree where I hid, feeling the bite of the cold wind against my face. The guards were still patrolling, but I had memorized their pattern by now, and began to prepare to sneak up to the side entrance of the mansion while they changed shifts, which would happen any minute now.
But then, something unexpected happened. The side entrance to the mansion opened. I moved further into the shadows, crouching down behind the bushes as my mind raced with the possibility that someone had seen me. But they hadn’t. It was something else entirely.
Selena stepped out.
She was wearing a black cloak with her hood up to conceal her hair and her face, but I could tell instantly from her scent that it was her. She paused then, sniffing the air. If I could pick up her scent from here, could she pick up mine?
Cursing under my breath, I searched for Fio and urged him to retract his scent, and he did. Selena froze for a moment and stopped sniffing the air, then looked around confusedly before she continued forward. I watched from the shadows as she crouched by the side entrance, watching – just as I had been doing all this time- until the
guards began to change their shifts.
Then, like a wraith in the night, she
bolted toward the treeline with her black cloak billowing out behind her. My heart raced, thinking that she was coming for me, but at the last moment she veered to the left and leaped into the darkness, unseen, just before the new guards came out to their posts.
I cursed under my breath. Selena had just wasted my opportunity to sneak up to the side entrance, and I would have to wait here for another three hours in the cold to get another chance. But, as I stared toward where she had disappeared to, I realized something: maybe she really gave me a golden opportunity after all. She was clearly up to something. Could it be that she was going to see my father?
If it was going to be hours until my next chance, then I decided to take the risk and follow her to see where she was going. I knew that this very well might
have been a trap, and Fio was furious
with me for falling for it, but I didn’t
care. I needed to know where she was
Selena’s scent was getting faint, so I decided to go with my gut and follow her trail before it disappeared. Quietly, but quickly, I made my way through the forest and followed Selena’s scent from a distance, using my night vision to help guide my way.
Eventually, her scent grew stronger and I knew that she was no longer moving. My heart caught in my throat as I tentatively approached, prepared to shift in case this was a trap, but then something came into view: a light.
A dark amber light emanated from the darkness. I approached slowly, squinting against the bright light, until the shape of a small house came into view. I knew instantly what it was.
A witch’s hut.
They were rare, but they could be found scattered around in remote areas like this. They all typically had the same appearance, and could be distinguished by the protection runes painted or carved into the doors. As I came closer, I could see the runes and all doubt was now removed; Selena was seeing a witch. But for what?
As I came closer, the sound of voices began to carry across the air. I pricked my ears, taking a bit of Fio’s energy to enhance my hearing ability, and crouched in the bushes as I listened.
“Is it working?” Selena asked. “Can you see her?”
“Hmm… Yes,” the witch responded in a dreamy voice. “Her wolf is gone.”
“But for how long? For good?” Selena’s voice sounded urgent.
There was a pause before the witch replied. “Until I lift the curse.”
Selena let out an almost evil chuckle. Good,” she said. “Don’t lift the curse. Now… As for my herbs…”
“Yes, of course,” the witch said. There was another pause, then the sound of coins clinking together. It sounded like Selena was purchasing something.” Remember, just like I told you: only use the recommended amount. Too much at once, and you’ll hurt him.”
My brow furrowed. A curse? Someone’s wolf? Were they talking about Nina? They had to be; that would explain why her wolf suddenly disappeared. That was easy enough, though… I could get the witch to lift the curse once I found my father. But I couldn’t help but wonder what sort of herbs Selena was buying. Had she used them on my father somehow, or was she planning to?
Suddenly, the door opened. Light spilled out into the forest, and Selena stepped out.
I was careless. I knew I was too close, and in such deep thought as I angrily wondered what she was up to, my eyes must have been glowing – because she looked right at me.
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