When I was into my deep thought, I heard Elliott shout.
“Oh, look!” He almost jumped excitedly. He looked over my shoulder and then walked past me. “It’s a spring!”
I caught up with his steps. From the distance, I could see a small waterfall above a pool of spring, glistening under the moonlight. The sound of the water was serene and soothing. The stones were reflecting the luminescence of the moon. It reminded me of this one spring in the middle of the woods in Grassmere, but this spring was wider and deeper. The waterfall just made it more exquisite.
I had gone around these woods before, but I never realized that there was a beautiful spring here.
“Do you remember when we were kids, there was this tale about Moon Goddess descended to the Earth on the night of the brightest Full Moon?” Elliott asked, almost with a whisper because he didn’t want to ruin the nature’s sound.
Mom used to read it to me as a bedtime story. It was said that Moon Goddess would appear at a spring. Those who were lucky enough to witness it would be given a vision about their destined partner of life. The tale was popular around kids and teenagers that they would bring anything to any spring they could find for a chance to know their mates.
“Sure, I do,” I replied. “Why? I thought you didn’t believe it.”
“Yeah, but I think it’s just nice to know who we will end up with in the future, right?” He chuckled. “But, I never really care about that. If I ever meet her, I would just ask for a wish.”
“She’s a Goddess, not a genie,” I sneered.
Not hearing anything I said, he continued, “Do you think this could be a perfect place for the gathering?”
My eyes inspected the area. There was enough space for a whole tribe here. They could sit around the spring and the clearing was vast enough to make a circle. “I don’t know. It’s big enough and you can see the moon clearly, which is perfect, but it’s kind of far from everywhere.”
“Isn’t that the point? Seclusion?”
“Yeah, but… after the incident six years ago, I’m not sure my dad would agree,” I sighed.
“Still with the hunters story?” Elliott smirked.
I clung both my eyebrows together. “What do you mean ‘still’? It was a hunter who hurt me! Who would’ve brought a silver arrow in the middle of the woods at night?”
“No, I mean… Maybe there was only one hunter, or maybe a few more—but we still win in numbers,” he said.
I actually couldn’t believe this was coming out of Elliott Calloway’s mouth, the well-behaved kid who did everything he was told to that our kindergarten teacher always gave him stars. I was about to respond harshly, but I remembered that this Elliott changed a lot from then-Elliott.
“Did Nathan tell you that?” I folded both of my arms on my chest. “That there were no hunters, that I got hurt by my own clumsiness?”
“Hey, I didn’t say that!” He objected.
“Nathan must’ve said something to you and the others when we were moving, right? I know he would say anything to downplay that incident because he just had to be the one in control!”
Elliott held my arms firmly, not allowing me to move an inch, and then stared deeply into my eyes. “Yes. Nathan said something about his sister being overreacting, but I swear, it sounded ridiculous to my ten years old ears.”
I clenched my jaw. If I got too emotional, I might have to tear up. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t go back to my ‘Little Thea’ era again, no matter how much I despised Nathan and his pack. I had to prove to them that I could be strong despite being a late bloomer.
“Still, you’re underestimating the hunters,” I said, releasing myself from his grip and sat on one of the stones. “We might never see them, but they exist, Elliott.”
“I know, but the pact that the supernaturals made hundred years ago reduced the hunters’ chance to find us,” he informed. “If we learn to stay in our business, I believe humans will do the same.”
I nodded, agreeing, even though I knew there were one or two rebelling werewolves around the world who couldn’t stay still if they didn’t attack humans. That was why we had tribes, to supervise and give advice to new werewolves so that they wouldn’t let their wolf counterpart completely take over their consciousness.
The cold breeze blew over us, sending chills all over my body. Unlike Grassmere, Ashborne had a pretty cold September already. Entering October, trees would usually start turning into red and brown leaves. It was my favorite time of the year, which coincided with the anniversary of my first transformation.
Leaves then rustled, despite not having many winds around. We realized that it came from one direction, where we also saw a beam of light shining through the woods, followed by the sound of crushed dry leaves.
I got onto my feet. Someone was coming.
Instinctively, Elliott and I dashed and hid behind the trees to see who was approaching the spring. Their talking voices were louder with each steps, and finally, they walked out of the dark woods.
There were two men—one holding a rifle with a flashlight attached on the body, and the other had it strapped on his back. Elliott and I were glancing at each other and having the same thought: are they hunters?
“Who in the right mind would go hunting at night, Rick?” asked the man who didn’t hold any rifle.
“It’s the time when they least expect us,” the other man, aiming his rifle away from the waterfall, whispered. His exposed arm showed a tattoo of a raven spreading its wings. “Didn’t you learn something in the last 30 years?”
“Well, the problem is this is not a hunting ground.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised.”
Just as the rifle man said that, something deep in the woods moved. He quickly aimed the long barrel at the direction and pulled the trigger. Elliott and I gasped. He just opened a fire to the empty woods, not even knowing what he aimed at.
A painful shriek was heard moments later. According to my wolf sense, it was an animal. Elliott seemed to feel the same. The hunter hit it precisely even though it was very dark.
“Check that out, Sam,” Rick said, putting the safety pin back on his rifle, “I just got you a deer.”
“Damn. That was good, I admit it. You shouldn’t have wasted any of those bullets, though,” Sam chuckled.
The two men then strolled back into the woods, going after the deer they just knocked down. After they disappeared from our sight, I glanced at Elliott.
“You still want to have the gathering here?” I asked.
Elliott shook his head stiffly. “But, they’re not werewolf hunters like you’ve been worrying about.”
“Were you sleeping just now?” I widened my eyes in disbelief. “They shot into darkness, Elliott! They had a rifle, shot at anything that moved!”
“Alright,” he sighed. “Safety first, I guess.”
I really hated the way we ended our search that night. I was convinced that Nathan brainwashed his pack to be immune to fear, to come at anything that threatened their lives before it came to them. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if silvers or Wolfsbane wouldn’t hurt them.
Dad wasn’t amused hearing my story about how some people were hunting deer at night in the woods that wasn’t even a hunting ground. Elliott, who joined the dinner, backed up my story. “The place was perfect for gathering, but we don’t think it’s safe,” he said. I really thought he would hold on to his ‘hunters-don’t-exist’ view in front of Nathan, but fortunately, he went with what I suggested. “It’s forbidden to hunt outside the hunting ground,” Dad said. “I should report this to the Sheriff.” “And tell him what?” Nathan chimed in, with his mouth still full of mashed potato. “That two teenagers—one happened to be your daughter—snuck into the woods at night and witnessed the shooting?” Here we go again. Nathan gaslighting someone on the dinner table wasn’t really a new thing. “Yes, that’s exactly what he should say,” I insisted, ignoring how the wording could put Dad into shame for having a teenage daughter going into the dark woods wi
The decoration for the homecoming night was already 80% finished, making it a forbidden room for any students other than the committees. It was decorated with black, gold, and silver color. Sparkling star decorations were hung on each corner, the paper lanterns were arranged as an arch in the entrance, and gold draperies was put as a background for the photo booth. The high ceiling was covered with black cloth, which would be luminated by light projector, making it look like a sky full of stars. Olive was raving about it this morning, but she couldn’t help after school because she had to take her mother to the clinic. So, she listed all the stuffs that needed to be done today and sent it to me. A little advice for those who bore missions from Olive Hartwell: do it right or have her knock on your door at night just because you put the wrong size of cups on the table. At the same time, Mom also sent me the list of groceries I had to purchase for the Full Moon.
The stories about hunters had been circling around werewolf tribes for long, as the history of supernatural beings was shaped partly because of them. There were two kinds of hunters—the ordinary one, humans who just liked to hunt wild animals; and the ones who hunted the supernaturals. The latter was what we always feared of, although many werewolves just fended it off because there had not been many cases about our kinds dying because of them. Nathan was definitely one of the skeptical ones. He thought being hit with a silver arrow was just a coincidence, or just Little Thea craving for attention. He couldn’t prove me wrong back then, but he still stayed with his principle: hunters were real, but they were not a threat to us as long as we stayed hidden. Mom’s explanations just struck me like a lightning bolt. If Nathan was right, both kind of hunters didn’t just threaten wild animals out there, but also humans. I heard from my parents once that hunters would
Nathan looked around the empty garage which was turned into a small music studio. From the radiance in his eyes, he actually admired the view. I wasn’t wrong about him being a guitar player, but he did it just for fun because he didn’t seem to care much about music that time. “You had friends over?” He glanced at me. “These are their stuffs?” “Yes,” I answered lazily. I truly didn’t want to deal with Nathan tonight after Dad gave me a cold shoulder about the garage being used by my human friends. Besides, Nathan didn’t even discuss about what he found last night over dinner. If he really did want to change like Mom said, he would let me know that a human was hurt and I witnessed it. “Are they performing for the homecoming tomorrow?” He asked again as his hand snatched an apple on the table. “No,” I replied, still focusing on my homework. “Too bad. I would like to see them perform,” he said and then bit the apple. “Mom, is my suit for the homec
The cancelled Full Moon celebration obviously made Elliott curious. Dad had talked to the Elders about the cancellation with a client’s death as a reason. While it was true, he didn’t say anything about hunters and such. Elliott called me when I was busy at school. I had to go out of the gymnasium to take his call and it only just full of him trying to dig deeper into the ‘reason’ that apparently didn’t satisfy him. He wasn’t this nosy when he was a kid, but it really wasn’t a surprise for me. “Is it because those hunters?” He asked after I refused to give him a clear answer. “Come on. I don’t think Elder Whitlock is that paranoid. He’s one of the strongest wolves I’ve ever met.” “He’s not an Elder anymore and he’s not paranoid,” I sighed. “He just feels like it’s not the right time to celebrate when he’s mourning.” Another thing I didn’t tell Elliott was Dad’s client who died was one of the hunters we saw back then. I would trust 10-year-old Elliott
Two hours before the homecoming night, the preparation was finally complete. Mrs. Keener let us come home to dress up. Even though it seemed like she would let us to have fun, she also expected us to be ready whenever a decoration fell down or the food ran out. I was resting my body on the bed when Mom knocked my door. She walked in and her jaw dropped at the sight of me lying down. “Thea, why aren’t you dressed yet?” Mom went into a sudden panic. She grabbed the maroon dress that I hung in front of my closet and gave it to me. “Calm down, Mom, it’s still two hours away,” I drawled. I really needed to close my eyes even for just five minutes, but Mom wouldn’t let me as she pulled me out of my bed. “At least, let’s do your hair first,” she urged. After forcing me to sit in front of my make-up table, she undid the hair tie that bound my hair into a bun. “Selene can do the rest.” “Selene?” I almost forgot that my brother would go to the homecomin
I was waiting for Olive to come when Dad arrived from the Sheriff’s office. He was holding a brown paper bag with a frown across his face. “Are there any news?” Mom who was just came back from the laundry room to take my jacket looked worried. Before he replied, he looked around. “Where’s Nathan?” “He already left with Selene,” I replied. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he would leave me alone even though Olive and I could fit into his car and we could go to the school together. “The Sheriff confirmed that the bullets in Rick’s rifle were indeed silver,” Dad notified. “The good news is he didn’t seem to have any idea what were they for. He just thought that Rick liked to experiment on hunting.” “There’s nothing good comes out of this,” I whined. “Dad, he was a hunter—a werewolf hunter. It can only mean that the man who was with him was a hunter as well. God knows how many more of them out there.” “Yes. It was probably Sam Johnson,
When Burn to Ashes finished their second song on the stage, I was already on my 14th ‘I told you so’ to Olive. I wouldn’t stop until she finally admitted how good they were. “You win, Thea, so please stop saying that,” Olive gave up. “Yes, they’re good and Mrs. Keener looks happy. Are you satisfied?” I still didn’t wipe the smile off my face. “Very,” I said. “This unreasonable bad blood between you and Jim needs to stop, to be honest.” “Sorry, I don’t take any more of your non-sense requests,” Olive scoffed as she folded her hands. Her eyes went elsewhere and she grumbled again. “Ronny’s finally here. I’m going to smack him for troubling everyone this afternoon.” I blocked her way with my body. “Give him a break, Olive,” I said. “That’s what team is for, remember? You cover for someone, being a reliable back-up.” “You’re starting to sound like my dad before the big game,” she sneered. “Yo, team! One for all and all for one!” I giggled