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I snapped awake and grabbed the hand descending on my mouth. I pushed my assailant’s wrist as far as it would go and a little further. I kicked back the sheets, forced the attacker to the ground and planted my knee in their back. I dug my knife out from under the pillow. My attacker tried to throw me off. I shifted more of my weight onto their back. The point of my knife rested against their spine.
“Who are you? what are you doing here, and why shouldn’t I call for a guard?”
“Percy, it’s me. It’s William.”
I removed my knee and levered my attacker into an armbar. I shifted my knife to their throat and whispered the arcane word for light. William shielded his eyes with his free hand.
“Put that out, someone could notice.”
I let go of William’s wrist and snuffed the charm on my knife. “What are you doing here?”
“My father hasn’t told you the full truth.” William got to his feet and adjusted his shirt. “Get dressed. There is something I need to show you.”
“Why are you going against your father’s will?”
“I know you heard our argument. Which means you know I don’t agree with his lordship’s methods. Hurry up the others are waiting downstairs.”
William waited by the door while I pulled on my trousers and a shirt. We tiptoed through the dark house and stopped at a set of double doors. The doors opened into a dome-roofed room. Shelves crammed with books and artefacts lined the walls. A balcony circled the entirety of the room. Candles flickered in the centre of the room. William showed me to a set of iron stairs that spiraled to the floor below.
Plush rugs ran between the shelves on the main floor. The soft glow of the candles guided us through the labyrinthine network of books. Wyanet, Olivia, Phebes and Bucephalus waited around a large table at the end of the maze.
“Why did you bring us here in the middle of the night, brother?” Olivia tapped the end of a cane against the stone floor.
“Calm down and I’ll get to that, sister.” William circled around me. “You can fill Benjamin in too when he feels up to it.”
“Can I take the same option?” Phebes laid her head on the table. “I’d rather be asleep.”
“Unfortunately, no. Time is essential and in short supply.” William stopped beside the bust of a sour-looking old man.
“Get to it.” Bucephalus pulled a flask from his pocket and took a swig.
“Lord Tiarna has only given you -us- half-truths. Only he, Benjamin and now me know the full extent of his lies.”
“Of course you,” Olivia snapped. “He’s always favoured you and Benjamin over me, even more after mother left.”
“You don’t know the half of it, big sister.” William twisted the head of the bust. “Let’s head into the vault. You’ll believe me down there.” William plucked a candle from a sconce and pulled on it. The floor around the table dropped away and shifted themselves into a staircase.
“What is this?” Olivia’s gasped, “I’ve never seen this before. It isn’t even on any of the old building plans.”
“That’s because our great-grandfather wanted it kept hidden. He and grandfather built the vault in secret with the help of a few other lords.”
“Great,” Bucephalus drained his flask. “More dark narrow tunnels.”
“I will never understand why your leaders keep so many secrets,” Wyanet shook her head.
William handed a candle to Bucephalus. “It’s not bad down there. There has never been any undead in this house.”
Bucephalus took the candle. “Let’s get this over with.”
The stairs ended in a spacious room with a low ceiling. Candles flickered to life as we entered. Large portraits hung above various weapons cases. A tapestry depicting a pack of wolves running through a forest dangled from the front wall.
Phebes toyed with the lock on a weapon case. “What is this place?”
“This is the Tiarna family vault. This room contains the massed wealth,” William pointed to a stack of seven identical strong boxes stacked in the corner. “Our most powerful magic heirlooms and our true family history.” He stepped back from a pedestal supporting a large leather book.
“Why did you bring us down here?” Wyanet asked.”
“Because we’ve been keeping secrets for too long. With your help, I think we can finish what my great-grandfather set out to do. Great-grandfather cursed himself and his future bloodline for one purpose.”
“What do you know?” Olivia Limped towards the book. “Great-grandfather didn’t know what he was doing.”
“That’s what we tell each other, but it isn’t entirely true.”
I moved in front of Bucephalus. “Your whole family are werewolves?”
“Yes,” William nodded.
“No,” Olivia contradicted.
“Come on, Olivia.” William rolled his eyes. “She’s close to puberty, that’s when our wolves surfaced.”
“She hasn’t shown any signs of either transformation.” Olivia puffed out her chest.
“You’re in denial. You know as well as I do it’s a matter of time. She won’t be a little girl forever.”
“She might not have the trait. Father is insistent that it is based on our bloodline. The curse could have skipped her.”
“Since when do you listen to the old man?” William shrugged, “It doesn’t matter anyway. Father turned mom before Benjamin was born. He wanted to be sure all of us were the same as him.”
I stepped closer to the bickering siblings. “Are you talking about Ophilia?”
William and Olivia glared at me.
“She said something about her wolf this morning.”
“Can we return to why you brought us down here?” Wyanet insisted.
“I agree.” Bucephalus’s horns scraped the bronze ceiling. “As fun as it is to listen to you argue, I’d rather get a drink or two and go back to sleep.”
“Right,” William replied. “Olivia, you can read the book later, but I’ll tell you the important parts now.”
The story will continue, June 25th, 2020.
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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)
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