TITLE: The Apprentice
| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |
AUTHOR: Jos Mous
DISCLAIMER: I own none of these characters, I'm not making any profit, blahblahblah.
PAIRING: Sam/Nicole (EVENTUALLY)
NOTE: Remember: I need feedback. Bad.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, a decision has been made concerning this fic. Instead of littering the past parts throughout the story Katharine Kerr-style, I've decided to put them way at the front. Sort of as a prologue, if you will.
I truly apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. Especially to my loyal archiver. And yes, I know that this is a prime of example of Poor Planning. But, as you all probably know by now, Random Ideas are my forte, not Proper Planning.
Anyway, with this new and exciting ordering of things, here's a quick run-down of the what's what. First and foremost, the story set in 1340's featuring Maria the werewolf is now part 1. Most of it is, of course, a re-post, but now the conclusion has been added to it as well. Part 2 will consist of a sparkling new piece in the past about which I'm not going to say anything, except that it's probably going to be way shorter than part 1. Part 3 will a re-post of all "present" parts up until now. Part 4 and onwards will only be present and new.
Finally, for those of you wondering what the Hell those past parts are for, I would just like to remind you of those things people say about history, cycles and third times.
That is all. Thank you for your patience.
Prussia - 1346
Maria ran. She didn't know exactly where she was headed and, as such, had also no idea how she could get there. What she did know was that there were people behind her. Or, to be more precise, a mob. And they were looking for her. Maria tried to orient herself, but to her every tree looked exactly the same. She had never been in the forest before. Had never needed to. And besides, there were stories about the forest. Stories that she rather not think about right now. She looked behind her. She was relieved to see that she couldn't see anyone, although she saw enough torchlight to know that they hadn't given up the chase.
Maria's frantic run halted abruptly as a woman stepped in her path. She had never seen her before. But then, there were a lot of people she had never seen before. And some of them were chasing her right now. Maria backed up, away from the woman, looking around for another escape route.
"I won't hurt you," said the woman.
Maria looked at her, then back at the trees. She should have stayed off the path, she realised.
"Whatever it is you've done, I'm sure it's not your fault."
Maria looked back at the woman strangely. Was she blind or something?
"Please, come with me. I promise I won't hurt you."
Maria weighed her options. If she dashed off to the left, further into the forest, would she be getting closer to the village or further away from it?
"That mob will get you," said the woman. "They'll burn you at the stake. Please come with me. I swear by the Lord Almighty that I shall do everything I can to protect you."
Maria once again looked at the woman and knew that she was right about at least one thing. The mob would surely get her. She wasn't very good at being hunted down. She was pretty good at being discovered, though.
"Will you come with me?"
Reluctantly, Maria nodded.
"Good. Follow me."
The woman headed off into the forest. Maria quickly ran after her. If the woman was lying, she would burn. But burn she would anyway even if she didn't go with her. If the woman was speaking the truth, however, she might have a chance.
After a run of several minutes, Maria arrived at a small cottage. She had heard stories of a witch living somewhere in the woods. Maybe this was her cottage. Maybe the woman was the witch. Maybe being burned at the stake wasn't such a bad fate after all.
The woman went to the front door and opened it.
"Please, come inside."
Maria quickly went in. She heard the door being closed behind her and the woman walking past her. The interior of the cottage was very simple. It contained a few basic necessities and nothing more.
"You can stay here for the night," the woman said. "But I fear we will have to leave first thing tomorrow." The woman walked over to a closet, opened it and took out a few clothes. "You can wear these," she said. "I think they'll fit. Though I'm not sure of course," she added with a smile.
Maria nodded gratefully and decided to put the clothes on tomorrow. After all, it was a little difficult to put them on right now since the full moon was still shining outside.
The county of Holland - 1347
Maria was sitting on a small bench outside her new home. The bench was little more than a log sown in half and her new home was little more than a cabin. She had arrived here with her saviour, Johanna, a few months ago and had, basically, set up shop. Maria was now convinced that Johanna was a witch, but, since she herself was a werewolf after all, she was going to Hell anyway so she might as well stay here with her benefactor. As it turned out, witchcraft consisted mostly out of knowing stuff that other people didn't. The people in the area, mostly peasants and townsfolk, often stopped by to make use of Johanna's services. Even though everyone was a little distrustful of her, they didn't go to the local priests or bishop simply because Johanna knew enough about plants and herbs to cure most diseases.
Which was probably the only reason why they were both still alive.
Maria looked up when she heard people approaching. Not very long later a small column of about twelve people entered the grass field in front of the cabin. One of them sat on a horse. The others were all injured. The man on the horse dismounted and walked towards Maria.
"Not very far from here, my men have battled the Cods and are in need of medical assistance," he said. "Since there doesn't seem to be a proper surgeon living in these parts and because the population around here speak most highly of your mistress, we have come here seeking her help. So, if you would be so kind as to call her, hmm?"
Maria looked at the man. If he had "battled the Cods" that meant that he was a Hook, which in turn meant that he was a supporter of Margaretha. And that meant that he was probably of noble blood.
Maria instantly disliked him. She shook her head.
"I beg your pardon?" the man said. "I demand that you call her this instant."
Maria rolled her eyes, pointed at the hut, then shook her head again.
"The insolence!" the man fumed. "If you don't do as I say, then…"
The nobleman was cut off when one of his soldiers walked up to him and whispered something in his ear.
"Ah… yes," said the nobleman slowly. "I take it then that you are the mute?" he asked, turning back to Maria.
Maria nodded. She wasn't a mute. She just pretended to be so that people wouldn't notice she wasn't from around here.
"I see," said the man. "Now then, would you please go inside, yes? And fetch the doctor. Can you do that?" he spoke slowly and deliberately.
Maria rolled her eyes again. When people thought you were a mute, they also thought you were stupid. It occurred to her that, generally speaking, people weren't very bright. She pointed at the hut again and shook her head.
"I don't think she's home," said one of the soldiers.
"I see," said the nobleman. "Well then, we shall wait here."
Maria shrugged and stopped paying attention to him. That was probably one of the perks of being considered a mute. People didn't expect you to pay them the proper courtesies.
"Are you the healer?"
Maria looked up and smiled. Johanna was walking between the injured soldiers.
"I am," Johanna answered. "I take it you want me to take care of your men."
"Naturally," said the nobleman.
Johanna nodded absentmindedly as she knelt down next to one of the soldiers. Feeling a little curious, Maria walked up to her and sat down next to her. The soldier really couldn't be called a soldier. He was just a boy, barely older than Maria. He was sweating severely. There was something very wrong with his leg, and not just the fact that it was covered in blood. It simply seemed mangled.
"Maria, go inside and fetch me some clean bandages, will you? And start boiling some water."
Maria nodded, stood up and walked towards the hut. She could hear the nobleman arguing with Johanna.
"Bandages won't do this man any good," he said. "I know enough about medicine to know that that leg needs to be amputated."
"Not if I can help it," Johanna answered.
"Any _proper_ surgeon would know that you can't just leave it like that. The blood will become poisoned. The leg has to go."
"No, it doesn't. We just need to treat the wound first."
"Hah! I warn you woman, if you ignore my advice he will die. And his death will fall on your head!"
Maria sighed and shook her head. People were just so ignorant.
Maria sat lazily on her chair at the table and watched her hand become a paw, then change back into a hand. She wondered which one of the two was the better one. Sure, paws lacked opposable thumbs, but they had also never picked up a sword, unlike all too many hands nowadays.
Johanna was watching her with concerned interest.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah," Maria said, watching her hand grow fur again.
"Then why are you giving me a headache by leaping to and from wolf all the time?"
Maria smiled. "You know, I always used to think of my… well… my werewolf-ism as a curse, so to speak. But now I see it more as a blessing."
"Anything wrong with that?"
"No," Johanna said. "Just don't take it too far."
"What do you mean?"
"Just do me a favour, all right?"
"Be a wolf or be a human. Don't keep dancing in between, will you?"
"I can't," Maria said. "I'm not a wolf and I'm not a human. I'm a werewolf."
Johanna nodded. "All right. Choose one shape and stick with it for now. As long as you stop fidgeting. You're making me nervous."
"Fine, fine," Maria said. She held up her hand. "There. Happy?"
"Yes. Thank you."
There was a knock on the door. Johanna stood up, walked over to it and opened it. On the other side of the door opening stood the Hook nobleman who had been here a few weeks ago.
"Can I help you?" Johanna asked.
"Err… I came to tell you that the soldier… you know… the one with the leg… recovered."
"That's what I suspected. Anything else? More wounded for me to take care of?"
"Not right now," said the nobleman, missing the sarcasm. "Although, I would appreciate it if I could make use of your services at any time."
"Naturally," said Johanna. "You know where to find me after all."
"Yes I do," said the nobleman. "In my regiments."
Johanna's stance stiffened. Maria stood up from her chair and backed away towards the door to her small room.
"I'm staying here," Johanna said decidedly.
The nobleman put a hand on the hilt of his sword. "I fear I must insist."
Johanna tried to close the door. The nobleman stopped her.
"You seem to have taken it upon yourself to help the injured. I'm just giving you a chance to do so," he said.
"I won't get involved in your war!" Johanna yelled.
"Too late," said the nobleman. "Don't worry, we'll take good care of you. And as for your mute… well… I'm sure we can arrange something."
At that point Maria stepped into her room and undressed. When she stepped out into the living room again she could see Johanna's left hand behind her back, drawing symbols in the air as she argued with the nobleman.
The nobleman looked up. And started to look a little pale.
"Tell that beast to stay back," the nobleman said, his voice becoming almost a squeak.
"I'm afraid she has a mind of her own," Johanna said, stepping back.
The nobleman quickly reached out and latched onto Johanna's wrist with one hand while drawing his sword with the other.
"Tell it to stay back!"
"You know, now would be a very good time to leave," Johanna said calmly.
"If you come with me now," the nobleman said, casting a nervous glance at Maria, "I promise I won't kill your dog." His threat didn't even convince himself.
Maria jumped, hitting the nobleman full in the chest, knocking him over and onto the floor. The Hook lost his hold on his sword and was now staring at two rows of very sharp teeth.
"I suggest you leave," Johanna said.
"I will!" the nobleman squeaked. "As soon as that beast gets off me."
"Maria, let him go."
Maria ignored her. She kept staring at the cowering nobleman beneath. If she would let this man go he would order his men to go out and die in an attempt to kill other people. However, if she would just make one well-placed bite, he wouldn't be in a position to do so any more.
"Maria," Johanna said sharply.
Maria looked up at her. Even in black and white, she looked impressive.
"Let him go," she said calmly.
Maria turned her head back to the nobleman. Growling, she slowly stepped off him. The Hook quickly scrambled to his feet and ran outside.
"I'll be back!" he yelped. "And I won't be alone!"
Maria took a few paces forward and barked. The nobleman yelped again, turned and ran.
Smiling, Johanna took the fallen sword.
"Look, he forgot this," she said.
Maria glared at her, not at all happy with the way things turned out.
"Listen, we don't go around killing people."
Maria could have replied to that. But for that, she would need a human mouth. And right now, she really wasn't in the mood for one. Instead, she sprinted outside and towards the tree line.
Johanna sighed. This was not going well.
"Will he recover?"
Johanna looked at the worried couple in front of her. She had just visited their son, lying in the small bedroom next to this one. They were farmers. They were superstitious, but also had enough practical sense to know that their son's fever wouldn't be going down anytime soon and that Johanna might be able to help. Nevertheless, the farmer's wife was nervously fingering a rosary, silently making a prayer for each bead.
Johanna nodded. "He'll be fine in a week or so. Until then, he is to stay in bed, understand?"
The farmer nodded gratefully. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it," said Johanna. "Now, as for my payment…"
The farmer's look of relief turned into one of worry again. "We don't have a lot of money," he said hesitantly.
"Actually, I could do with a loaf of bread right now," Johanna said smiling.
The farmer smiled in relief. "We have that. Truus, go fetch some bread for her."
The farmer's wife nodded and, uncertain how to treat Johanna, bowed for her before leaving the room.
"She'll be back shortly, don't you worry."
"Hmm," said Johanna, her mind already drifting to other places.
Maria was starting to become… problematic. She spent most of her time in wolf form and on those rare occasions that she looked human, she seemed to make it a point to show to the world that she really didn't like it. What made matters worse was the fact that the fighting between the Hooks and the Cods had been drawing closer to this area. As a result, Johanna's business started to boom since many injured soldiers were brought to her front door.
And each visit increased Maria's dislike of humanity in general. A dislike that started to collapse into pure hatred.
Johanna knew that she had to do something, but had no idea how to go about doing it.
She pondered the problem as she walked through the small village, on her way home. Her thoughts were interrupted, however, when she noticed someone trying to get her attention. It was a young girl, with black hair and brown eyes. She looked rather frightened. Which wasn't very surprising, since people often looked a little frightened around Johanna.
"Can I help you?" Johanna asked.
"You… err… you're the herb lady, right?" the girl asked.
"Well, you see, people say you're a witch and, well…" she chuckled, in a vain attempt to laugh it off. "But you obviously aren't since you help people instead of hurting them and you come to Church, so you don't worship Lucifer and I'll just be quiet now."
"Why did you ask that?"
The girl bit her bottom lip worriedly. "Promise you keep this secret?"
"Promise you won't run to Father Harold?"
Johanna sighed. "I swear by the Lord Almighty that I'll keep your secret."
This didn't really seem to alleviate the girl's distress. She looked around several times, wanting to make sure there was just the two of them. She then raised her right hand in the air and drew signs and symbols in it only she and Johanna could see. A few seconds later, the girl's hand caught fire.
"See what I mean?" the girl said, not showing in any way that she was in pain.
"Can I touch it?" Johanna asked, reaching out with her hand.
"Better not," said the girl. "It doesn't hurt me, but it would hurt you."
The girl muttered a single word and the fire went out, leaving no sign that it had even existed in the first place.
"How many people know you can do this?" Johanna asked.
"No-one," said the girl hurriedly. "No-one knows, except you. It just… I… I can just… do stuff like this. I don't know why, I don't know how. It just… happens sometimes. Do you know what's wrong with me?" she asked, despair edging her voice.
"Nothing's wrong with you," said Johanna. "It's simply that you are just like me. Only better, by the looks of it."
"Can you help me?" the girl asked. "Can you make it go away?"
Johanna shook her head. "I can help you. Make sure you never accidentally do something. I can help you control it, so that it'll never show up ever again. But I can't make it go away. The only way I could do that is to completely change the very heart of what you are. And only God can do that."
The girl sighed. "I suppose it's better than nothing," she said. "So you'll help me?"
Johanna was about to answer the affirmative when a horrible thought struck her.
Maria was not going to like this.
Not at all.
On the other hand, if she wasn't going to help this girl, she would surely be branded a witch sooner or later and be burnt. And that was not something Johanna was willing to let happen.
"Yes, I'll help you."
The girl sighed with relief. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
"We'll just go to your parents first, all right? Tell them that I'm going to train you as the new "herb woman" in the area. Which isn't a complete lie, of course."
"Thank you," the girl said again.
"Don't mention it," Johanna said. "What's your name, by the way?"
"Isabella. But people call me Isa."
"Well Isa, consider yourself my apprentice."
Johanna was very surprised to find Maria in her human form when she got home. Isa, upon seeing the werewolf blushed and turned around. Maria was naked. She always was recently. She found that dressing and undressing all the time between changes was just a complete waste of time and had given up on clothes entirely.
"Maria, put some clothes on. We have company."
"Don't worry," Maria said, standing up from her chair. "I'll just go to my room and I won't come out until you've treated your patient."
"Isa is not a patient," Johanna said.
"Then why is she here?" Maria asked.
"She's a witch. And I'm going to train her."
"Are you saying she's going to be living with us for now?" Maria asked, her voice becoming very calm.
"Have you gone insane?"
"She's human," Maria said. "She can't stay here."
"I think you're forgetting that I'm just as human as she is," Johanna said.
Maria smiled wryly. "You've been elevated to honorary werewolf. She, on the other hand, is just another human."
"You don't know her. Therefore, you can't judge her."
"I know humans," said Maria. "I grew up amongst them, remember? And when I found out what I really was, I was terrified. As I'm sure Isa over there must be just as terrified right now. Because we all know what humans would do to us if they found out we were different."
"We're not all like that," Johanna said.
"No. Only the ones who are at risk of being burned at the stake by their fellow man are not like that. Face it Johanna, you humans are the worst thing that ever happened to this planet."
"What? Are you saying it's not true? Are you saying that all humans are basically good? That they really are God's Chosen People? Please. I was born with human parents. And the only reason for that was because God couldn't find a proper werewolf mother for me. And do you know why He couldn't? Because you humans tried to exterminate every last one of us! That's why! And when the werewolves and the witches and the whatevers became in such short supply and started to hide so incredibly well that the humans couldn't find them any more, the humans turned on each other. Humans will kill each other over land or power or simply because they feel like it. And then they have the audacity to say that they rule this planet in God's name," Maria shook her head. "No, I'm through with humanity. And I'm pretty sure they'll burn in Hell too."
"And I suppose you're going to give God a hand in getting them there quicker?" Johanna said.
Maria shook her head. "No. I'm just going to go away." She nodded to herself. "Yeah, that seems to be the right thing to do. Go find a place where I don't have to look at steel-clad idiots who hack each other to pieces and morons in robes who say that the hacking is approved of by the Lord Himself."
Johanna sighed, realising that she had lost Maria, whether she had brought Isa with her or not. "I'll miss you," she said.
"I think I'll miss you too," Maria said. "Don't get me wrong, I appreciate you rescuing and taking care of me, but I can't stay here any longer." Then she turned to Isa. "Look, I'm sure you're a pretty decent being deep down and that we would've gotten along great in different circumstances and all, but… well…"
Having nothing more to say, Maria changed and ran out the door, never to return.
"So, what do you think will happen to her now?" Isa asked. "You think people're going to catch her."
"No," said Johanna sadly. "She'll be safe."
"But I think, in less than year from now, she'll just be another wolf."
The diocese of Utrecht - 1568
It was a cheerful afternoon, meteorologically speaking. The sun was shining brightly, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and there were even a few birds who had got it into their heads to sing today. If it wasn't for the fact that Danni and Tricia were Protestants, they would have quite enjoyed this afternoon. As it was, however, the two young girls hurried home after making a few groceries as fast as they could, trying to draw as little attention as possible to themselves.
"Tricia?" asked Danni, the youngest of the two.
"People say that Egmond and Hoorne were de… decapa…"
"Decapitated," Tricia supplied. "And yes, they were."
"What does that mean?"
Tricia looked around, simply to make sure there were no soldiers around. "It means Alva ordered their heads to be chopped off."
"Oh," said Danni. "Why? Because they're Protestants too?"
"Sssh!" Tricia hushed her. "No. They're Catholics. Well, were Catholics."
"Because they don't like all those Spanish soldiers here. That's why."
"But… nobody likes the soldiers," Danni stated, frowning.
"Danni, shut up! Do you _want_ them to arrest us?"
"Sorry," Danni said meekly.
Tricia smiled a little. "Nah, it's my fault. I'm just being a little edgy lately. Sorry."
The two girls walked silently until they reached the Cathedral that had been smashed up and then set on fire two years ago. There, they stopped for a while, just to look at the people rebuilding it. A few Spanish guards were watching the proceedings with little interest.
"I liked that building," said Danni.
"Why did people smash it up?"
Tricia shrugged. "Because they thought it was too pretty."
Tricia looked over at the guards. Most Spaniards couldn't understand them, but she wasn't planning to take a lot of risks. "Let's just say it's a religious thing and leave it at that, OK?"
"OK," Danni said, knowing her sister well enough when not to press the issue.
"Come on," Tricia said after a while. "Let's go home. The Church'll still be ruined tomorrow."
Danni smiled. "And when it's rebuilt, people won't visit it," she said. "Because it's too pretty."
Tricia glanced over at the soldiers. "Let's hope so," she muttered.
The girls were almost home when Danni decided to speak up.
"Those Spaniards aren't very nice people, are they?"
"I'm sure most of them are very nice," Tricia said, quickly looking around to see if there weren't any Spaniards around.
"Only if everyone around them are as Catholic as they are," Danni said.
Tricia frowned. That sounded a little too mature for Danni's ten years of age.
"It's only because the king is so devout," Tricia said. "Alva's just following orders."
"Did the king order Alva to set up the blood counsel?"
Tricia shrugged. "I don't know. He _might_ have."
"Why is Philips still king?" Danni asked. "I mean, why do people put up with that?"
"Because people don't want to end up in front of the blood counsel, I guess."
"Oh," said Danni. Then, "What are we?"
"We're part of Spain, but we talk about the Spaniards as if they're another people. So… what does that make us?"
"I don't know…" said Tricia. "Utrechters I guess."
"And people in Gelre?"
"They're… Gelren or something. Why do you ask all that?"
Danni shrugged. "Dunno. Just curious."
"Well, it may be best if you got curious about other things," Tricia said. "I don't want to see my sister end up in front of the blood counsel."
"All right. I'll just be curious about the weather then. Tell me, why is the sky blue?"
Tricia laughed. "Because God thought blue would make a very pretty colour for the sky."
"The Protestant God or the Catholic God?"
"Both of them," Tricia said. "But please don't tell anyone I said that."
"Don't worry," Danni said with mock seriousness. "I don't want to see my big sister end up in front of the blood counsel."
Tricia chuckled. "Yeah. Well, you just watch carefully over me, all right?"
"Only if you take care of me."
Four years later - 1572
When Alva and his forces marched into the low countries five years ago, many citizens fled. Some to Germany, some to France, some to sea. Those who fled to sea lived off piracy, looting Spanish vessels and selling the loot in the English harbours. In 1572, however, Queen Elizabeth of England, fearing war with Spain, refused to harbour these so-called Water-Beggars any longer. The Water-Beggars set sail from England and, almost by accident, captured the small port town of Den Briel. This started a rebellion in the low countries. Many cities threw out the Spanish forces and declared their loyalty to Willem of Orange, who had made a failed attempt to drive Alva out of the low countries four years ago. With the Water-Beggars scouring the coasts and sinking Spanish ships and with Willem returning from Germany with his armed forces, things did not look good for the Spaniards. Alva, of course, did not take this lying down and his troops lay siege to the newly independent cities, while making sure that cities still under his control did not suddenly start thinking about independence as well.
Four years ago, Tricia and Danni had been allowed to go outside if they were a little careful.
Now, they weren't allowed to go outside period.
Tricia, by now seventeen years old, disliked that particular part of the situation, but managed to deal with it. Danni had a much harder time. She was always jumpy, always on edge and only when she was with Tricia did she become just a little less nervous.
It was night and Tricia was sleeping peacefully until she vaguely felt movement. Half waking up, she noticed someone had crawled into her bed.
"Danni?" she whispered urgently. "What are you doing here?"
"Pain," Danni muttered.
"So much pain," Danni sobbed. "Make it stop. Please."
Tricia pulled her sister into a hug. "Hey come on, you're frightening me. What's wrong?"
"Don't know," Danni muttered. "Just… I just…"
"Sssh," Tricia said soothingly. "It's OK. I'm here."
"I know," said Tricia. "Where exactly does it hurt?"
"Everywhere!" Danni wailed. "I'm… I'm…"
The sentence ended in a scream. Danni curled up into a ball, clutching her stomach, screaming her lungs out until the pain became so overwhelming she could only sob pitifully.
All Tricia could do was watch. And she hated herself for it.
And then it happened.
It was dark, so Tricia couldn't see the process clearly. She would later be very thankful for that. Then, after a few eternities, Tricia could see that a small wolf was now lying in the spot her sister occupied not all that long ago. Tricia's head whipped round to look at the window, then looked back at the small ball of fur.
"Werewolf," she muttered. "My sister is a werewolf."
When the gravity of that realisation sunk in completely, Tricia got out of her bed as fast as she could. She berated herself for the fact that she had jumped out of the wrong end of the bed. Lying between her and the door was the bed. And on the bed was a wolf.
A wolf who used to be her sister.
The small wolf crawled to the edge of the bed and whimpered slightly.
Tricia looked it and didn't see the fierce demon she had always believed she would see when faced with a werewolf.
Instead she just saw a small wolf. Frightened, and with Danni's eyes.
Hesitantly, Tricia reached out. The wolf inched forward and gave it an affectionate lick. Despite herself, Tricia smiled.
"You're still Danni, aren't you?" she asked.
The wolf nodded.
"And I take it you didn't know either. I mean, up until now."
The wolf shook its head.
"So, this is the first time this has happened, right?"
Again, the wolf nodded.
Tricia leaned forward and stroked the fur on Danni-wolf's head. Danni-wolf rolled over like a dog in a silent plea for Tricia to rub her belly. Tricia did so.
"Well," she said slowly. "I did promise to take care of you, didn't I? And this only happens during full moon anyway, so don't you worry about anything. I'll take care of you for…"
For one short instant, Tricia froze. Not wanting to making Danni suspicious or worried, she quickly managed to defrost. But in her mind, something had clicked that caused Tricia to feel icily cold. Because now, finally, Tricia understood.
She loved Danni.
Loved her a little too much.
Danni was happy. She was happy simply because she was who she was. Or, to be more precise, what she was. For some reason she _liked_ being a werewolf. She had absolutely no clue as to the why of this. Normal people would be horrified when they found out that they were a werewolf. But then, normal people were humans, right?
Danni frowned. She noticed that she started thinking stuff like that pretty regularly lately. Considering herself to be not human. That was pretty odd, wasn't it?
Ah well, it didn't really matter. Sure, the first change had been as painful as Hell, but she no longer felt any anxiety. She realised that her earlier anxiety had not been caused by being cooped up in the house (even though that wasn't the most ideal situation), but simply because she could, on some level, feel her first change approaching. And, as it turned out, she simply couldn't wait for it to happen.
Well, now it happened.
And it was good.
And what was even better was the fact that her sister didn't mind. So, as long she made sure that her parents didn't find out, things were good.
Feeling pretty cheerful, Danni bounded into the kitchen where she stopped being cheerful.
Tricia was lying on the ground, in her own blood, a knife lying next to her.
Danni ran over to her and knelt down next to her.
"Tricia… what happened?"
"I… cut myself."
"Stay here, I'll… I'll get something to bandage you with."
"No!" Tricia said firmly, grabbing a hold on Danni's arm, covering her sleeve in blood. "Don't."
"But… you're dying," Danni said, tears starting to fall.
"I know," said Tricia. "And I'm going to Hell, Danni."
"Don't say that. You'll live. You hear me, you'll live!"
"If there's any justice in the world, then I'll die," Tricia said. She cupped Danni's face with her hand. Blood intermingled with tears. "I love you Danni. So much. And for that I'm going to Hell. So I'm going now, so I won't drag you down with me."
"Yes," Tricia said. "Can't you see I'm evil for feeling like this? You deserve an angel, not me."
"I don't care!" Danni yelled. "You can't leave me!"
And that was it. Tricia's hand slid down and on the ground. Her eyes stopped seeing. Her body stopped living. Furious, Danni hammered on her sister's chest, demanding that she come back from the afterlife. When she slowly realised that her sister was never going to come back, she started crying. She buried her head in her sister's chest and cried for minutes, maybe even hours. And then the tears stopped, simply because there weren't any left.
Danni looked up and saw the knife.
The United States of America - 2002
Sam rang the doorbell and waited. Being short on patience, she quickly rang again. She waited a little longer this time and frowned. She wasn't early. She was never early, in fact. Right now, she was right on time. Which was pretty rare all on its own. Leaning a little, Sam tried to look through the front window. She could vaguely make out the room within. It looked empty. Sam hesitated a moment and rang the doorbell again.
"Ringing that bell isn't going to help you very much."
Sam turned around and smiled. A young woman in her mid-twenties was walking up the short garden path towards the front door. She had brown eyes, long black hair and a figure that was not, by any standards, beautiful. She wasn't ugly either. She was simply common and nothing more.
"Hi Jess," Sam greeted.
"Step aside, will you," Jessica said. "I have to reach the door to unlock it, you know."
Smiling a bit sheepishly, Sam stepped aside.
"Done a bit of shopping I see," Sam said.
"Yes. I didn't expect you to be here for at least another ten minutes."
"Hey, I was here on time," Sam said.
"That's my point," said Jessica.
"Great. We're not even inside yet and already you've pointed out another flaw in my personality."
"That's what friends are for," said Jessica cheerfully.
The woman unlocked the door, opened it and stepped inside. She didn't motion for Sam to follow her or in any way indicated that she could come in. Sam followed her into the small living room. Like Jessica herself, it was pretty ordinary. There were two couches, one lonely chair, a small coffee table, a radio and a television. Separated from the living room by borders that were solely there because Jessica had at one point decided they were there was a kitchen. Jessica walked over to the table, deposited her bags on the table and started taking her groceries out of it.
"Can I help?" Sam asked.
"Unless you know where everything goes," Jessica answered. "So better not, hmm. Just sit down somewhere, I'll only be a second."
Sam shrugged and sat down on one of the couches. A small black dog that consisted out of so many races that not even the best expert could determine what race it really was any more walked up to Sam and sniffed at her hand for a moment.
"Hey Isis," Sam said.
The dog looked at her, then turned around and padded off to the kitchen where it lay down in its basket.
"So, how are you?" Jessica asked, sitting down next to Sam.
"Fine," Sam answered.
"Everything OK at home?"
"Pretty much. Mac said her first word a few days ago."
"Yes. Really. It was "Brooke". Which doesn't really surprise me, to be honest."
"Because it's always Brooke?" Jessica asked.
"Mock me all you want. It doesn't change the fact that Brooke seems to be the centre of the universe sometimes."
"Well, you know what they say," Jessica said. "It's the quiet ones that change the universe, but it's the loud ones that take all the credit."
Sam frowned. "I wouldn't exactly call Brooke loud. It's just that whenever she enters a room, everything else just becomes background, you know."
"Some people are like that," Jessica admitted. "Just be glad you're not one of them."
"I'm not really sure if I can."
"Oh you should. People in the foreground never stay there forever. And when the time comes for them to exit the stage, it is not at all easy for them."
"Being in the background isn't that much fun either," Sam said.
"Whoever said you're in the background?" Jessica said. "Girls like us don't stand on stage at all. We're behind the scenes."
"If you say so," Sam said, sighing.
"Oh, I know so," Jessica said. "Now then, do you remember where we left off last time?"
Sam tried to study. She had difficulty doing so since a party seemed to be held next door. She was in college now, sharing a dorm room with Brooke. However, she had the misfortune of being in a dorm building filled with people who preferred partying over studying. The fact that the book she needed to be learning from was very boring didn't help to improve matters. She chuckled briefly, humoured by something that wasn't very funny. When she just started her journalism course not all that long ago she was as enthusiastic as can be. Even the fact that Miss Glass had somehow managed to become a university teacher couldn't dampen her mood.
And then she met Jessica.
With a frustrated sigh, Sam stood up from her chair and let herself fall onto her bed. It was all so damn unfair. Sure, fine, she was blessed with the talent or the gift or whatever. That didn't have to mean that everything else started to seem pointless.
But it did.
And that was the whole problem.
The door opened and not long after Sam felt a second person fall down on her bed.
"Hey Brooke," Sam greeted, staring at the ceiling.
"Hi Sam," Brooke said cheerfully.
"Thought you were planning to go out with Nicole and Mary Cherry," Sam said.
"Changed my mind," Brooke said. "I just wanted to spend some time with my favourite stepsister."
"Uh-huh," Sam said sceptically.
"OK, and because Nicole didn't really feel like going out tonight."
"So come on, tell me, what were you doing?"
"OK, once more with even less enthusiasm."
"I didn't say I liked what I was doing."
"But you like studying," Brooke pointed out.
"Yeah, but I just…" Sam shrugged. "Never mind."
"Boy, you're in a weird mood tonight," Brooke said.
"Yeah, I guess."
Brooke rolled off the bed and walked towards the window. "It probably has to do something with the full moon. People start acting weird around full moon."
"What?" Sam asked. "What has full moon got to do with anything?"
"Oh come on, Sam. It's not just a romantic symbol. Full moon _means_ something deep down."
"Not for me it doesn't," Sam said. "And besides, the whole meaning of full moon is just made up by Hollywood and associates."
Brooke turned away from the window and looked at Sam. "You have no romance in your soul."
"What, just because I don't believe in the significance of full moon?"
"You're weird, Brooke."
"I'm the weirdo?" Brooke said, plopping back down on the bed. "I'm not the one who couldn't wait for college to get started and now spends most of her time moping."
"I just got some stuff to work through," Sam said.
"What kind of stuff?"
"None of your business."
Brooke sighed. "Yeah. It's never my business, is it?"
"Look, it's not that I'm shutting you out or something…" Sam paused while she thought about that sentence. "OK, I _am_ shutting you out right now. It's just… this is really, really personal stuff, OK? And you, as much as I like having you for a stepsister, are not the person to talk to about it."
"And who is the right person to talk to?" Brooke asked a little angrily. "That Jessica you've been seeing so often lately?"
Sam chuckled. "She's the last person I should talk to. She wouldn't even be able to comprehend what's bothering me."
"Is there someone you can talk to about… whatever it is."
"No," Sam answered. "I don't think that person exists."
"Well, that was a depressing chat," Brooke said, standing up from the bed. "How about we get a tub of ice-cream and try to forget our woes with that?"
Sam smiled. "Sounds like a plan."
"Great," Brooke said.
"Do you _have_ a tub of ice-cream?"
"No. But I know Carmen does. And I bet I can persuade her to give it to me. Or else, sell it to me."
"Well, go knock yourself out then and hurry back as soon as possible."
It took some time, some bargaining and a lot of pleading, but Brooke finally managed to get her hands on Carmen's ice-cream. Walking back to her dorm room, she wondered how surprised Sam would look. It would be a sight worth seeing, that's for sure. And then they would settle down, eat and talk about stuff that didn't really matter. Boys or something. Maybe a list of the ten most hated teachers. Stuff like that. And anyway, what they would be talking about wouldn't matter as long as Sam finally managed to pull herself out of the funk she was in. Maybe she would even open up a little. Which, of course, was the ultimate goal here.
Brooke opened the door to her and Sam's room and was disappointed.
It was empty. A small note was lying on Sam's nightstand. Brooke put the ice-cream on her bed, and read it. It was, of course, from Sam, telling her that she went to the library to study in peace. Brooke's forehead creased into a frown as she looked over to Sam's table. Sam's books were still lying there. Sighing, Brooke put the note down and went in search of a spoon.
Outside, something howled.
Miss Glass droned on and on about the great wonder that is journalism. Sam barely paid attention to it. She looked to the front and had her face in a suitably interested expression. In reality, however, she was simply very bored. While her eyes were fixed to the front and her mind wandered to faraway places, the hand holding her pen had decided to doodle something in her notebook. When the doodle was finished, her mind returned from wherever it had been and dragged her eyes down to look at it. She didn't exactly know what she saw. That is to say, she didn't know what the meaning was of what she saw. What she saw was simply a spiral, with lots of curly bits attached to it. Or at least, that's what her conscious was saying.
Sam started getting these things lately. She didn't pay attention for a moment and wham, she had drawn or doodled something that she knew was important, but never knew _why_ it was important.
Feeling rather miffed, she was about to tear the page out of her notebook when a thought occurred to her. Where exactly it came from, she didn't know. Nor did it really interest her a whole lot at that particular point in time.
Not really knowing why, Sam stuck her middle finger in the air in front of her and drew a spiral. Responding to orders Sam didn't realise she was giving, her other fingers started to draw the curly bits around it. Under her breath, the brunette muttered a few words she had never even heard.
When Sam was finished, nothing happened.
That is to say, nothing happened in what most people like to call "physical reality".
Inside Sam, however, something clicked.
Brooke had decided that she needed to talk to her friends. Sort of. What she really needed was to talk to herself. But, since people think you're crazy if you talk to yourself, she had decided that she wanted other people around whilst talking to herself.
"You think she's depressed?" Brooke asked herself.
"Ah would surely take that in consideraytion," Mary Cherry said. "Ah'd be depressed too if Ah'd dress lahk that."
"Maybe I should casually suggest a therapist to her," said Brooke, who had only heard Mary Cherry with her ears.
"Much good that'd do her," Nicole said. She yawned. "Anyway, can't we talk about something interesting?"
"This is important to me, Nic," Brooke said. "And could you quit yawning please?"
"Sorry," Nicole mumbled. "Long night."
"But… we didn't do anything last night," Brooke said. "Have you been studying or something?"
There were a few laughs and chuckles.
"Oh yes, hon," Nicole said. "Studying. Yes. The male anatomy, to be precise."
"Thought so," Brooke said. "If you keep this up there won't be anyone left before the year ends."
"We can but try," Nicole said.
"Straitjacket," Mary Cherry said decidedly.
"Pardon?" Brooke asked.
"Weeell, if our Spammy is truly struck with black despair, she maight be a danger to harself."
"That's not enough reason to put her in straitjacket Mary Cherry," Brooke said. "And besides, Sam's not suicidal."
"How do you know that?" Nicole asked. "Did she tell you?"
"What? "Don't worry I'm not suicidal" perhaps? People never say stuff like that."
"Not to you, anyway."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Brooke huffed.
"Nothing, really," Nicole said. "But let's face it, you're not Spam's ideal conversation partner."
"That's what she told me last night," Brooke said.
"Thought so," Nicole said. "You see, the problem with you is…" Nicole halted, vaguely waving a hand in the air, trying to form a coherent sentence. "You're too normal."
"And you're saying Sam isn't normal?" Brooke asked, her voice getting a rather sharp edge to it.
"Not by… well… normal standards," Nicole said, ignoring the implied threat. "You see there's, say, 99 percent of the entire human race who behave in a certain way. And since 99 percent is a vast majority, their behaviour has been labelled as "normal". Sam falls outside those 99 percent. That doesn't mean that she's crazy or something, it just means that she doesn't quite fit in."
"That still doesn't mean that she can't talk to me," Brooke said, clinging on to her original complaint.
"Brookie, hon, don't take this the wrong way, but you're practically the pinnacle of normality. Not in looks, obviously, but in… behaviour, thought patterns, stuff like that. Sam needs to talk to someone who also doesn't quite fit in."
"And would you know a person like that?" Brooke asked nastily.
"No," Nicole lied.
Sam rang the doorbell. When the door opened, she angrily strode past the person opening it, marched into the living room and slammed a small piece of paper on the table. A few seconds later Jessica entered the living room as well.
"I see you're troubled by something," she said.
"What is that?" Sam asked, pointing at the paper.
Jessica walked over to the table and studied it. Then she smiled.
"Ah, the spiral with the curly bits. I have to say, you took your time."
"What is it?" Sam asked.
Jessica shrugged. "I honestly wouldn't know. When I first drew it, I just thought it was, well, a spiral with curly bits."
The woman sat down and motioned for Sam to do the same. She did.
"You know, I used the exact same words to describe that thing," Sam said.
"Did you?" Jessica said. Then she nodded. "Well, I suppose it shouldn't surprise me."
"So, if you don't know what it is, do you know what it means?"
"More or less," Jessica said. "It means that, officially, you can no longer turn back."
"I thought I was way past the point of no return for a while now."
"That's why it surprised me that it took you so long."
"So, drawing this thing is, what? An initiation?"
"You could call it that," said Jessica. "It mostly means that all your mental barriers are now gone, that you've accepted your role in life, embraced your destiny and so on and so forth."
"Great," said Sam. "Now what?"
"Now we wait," Jessica said.
"For your senses to adjust to reality."
Jessica vaguely waved her hand towards the window. "They, you know, normal people, make sure they do not see a lot of things. Don't know why, but then, I guess I've been me for too long now," she said smiling. "Anyway, between now and, oh, twenty-four hours at the most, things will start looking a little differently."
"Not very differently," Jessica said. "Just different enough to make it all interesting."
"You're not going to give me a straight answer, are you?"
"Because that would spoil the surprise, of course."
"I know," Jessica replied. "And you wouldn't believe how much fun that is."
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