It’s rare that a deer makes it this far into town. There’s more than enough vegetation in the interior, and the risk of predators hardly makes it worth it. But apparently Dominic’s tomatoes are enticing enough for this bold deer.
Dominic’s anger is intense when he discovers the stark remains of his garden. He spent years--years--cultivating the perfect tomato, and then some goddamn deer had to gobble it up in, like, two fucking chews because those worthless animals developed the evolutionary adaptation to just fuck shit up.
Even worse, the damn thing trampled his wolfsbane, leaving nothing more than torn and flattened flowers. It’s a full moon, and Dominic had plans for those flowers.
Deep breaths--it isn’t worth turning into his father over this. There’s a solution. There always is.
Driving in particular has always been able to calm him down. It’s wasteful for sure, especially in his antique, gas guzzling truck. But at least today he has a destination in mind.
Maeve’s Magic Box is a new business in the center of town. Dominic had seen it on his way to and from the grocery store. Initially, he regarded the store with annoyance: these type of tourist-y, new age stores are somehow both insulting and laughable. But he’s noticed a small garden of wolfsbane and valerian in front of the store, so right now it seems like a viable option for his nights’ plans.
As soon as he opens the front door, his skepticism washes away: there’s an overwhelming, pulsing aura, a heaviness in the air that belies true magic. The walls are packed with books, and on display is an ancient botanical text.
“Hi there! Welcome to Maeve’s Magic Box,” the cashier chirps, “Your one stop shop for fortunes, love spells, and more. Let me know if there’s anything I can…” she trails off. “Oh, you’re an actual mage,” she laughs. “I guess I don’t need to give you the tourist’s spiel, then.”
“Only a little. I’m Sadie, by the way,” she extends a hand, “Sadie Vines.”
He accepts it. “Dominic Trémaux,” he smiles hesitantly.
“So, Dominic--what can I help you with today?”
“I’m looking for wolfsbane,” he says, “A deer got into my garden this morning and trampled half my plants. I need some whole wolfsbane flowers for--for…” He trails off when he realizes he doesn’t have to justify his purchases to her.
The witch blinks. He clears his throat and shifts nervously.
“Sorry,” she says, “I’m just surprised you managed to cultivate it here. Wolfsbane is suited for more temperate climates.”
“It was a struggle. And it didn’t flower much.”
"Well it wouldn’t. I mean, not if you’re trying to grow Aconitum napellus. That’s what you were growing, right? It’s the most common species so I’m assuming. Anyway, they're a hardy plant, but they can't grow in the subarctic, even in the summer. I mean, maybe if you were in Monte Vista or even Champs Les Sims--"
"You have some outside," Dominic says crossly.
"Yeah, in a planter,” she laughs, “I move them in at night, and they'll stay in my apartment during the winter so they stay nice and toasty. You could try growing Aconitum lycoctonum. It grows in some colder climates. I don't have any though, but I could order it for you. I mean, if you want me to. But I do have some common wolfsbane seeds and flowers." Her words run together, becoming almost indecipherable in the process.
"Um, sure,” Dominic scratches his arm, “but for now I’ll take what you have.”
“I think there’s some under here,” she mutters as she fumbles through a cabinet, “I keep them locked up with all the other poisonous stuff. I can’t have a shoplifter killing themselves, you know.”
“That’s why I planted it outside--my daughters have the tendency to eat whatever they can get their paws on.” Dominic doesn’t know why, but he feels compelled to prove he isn’t a completely hopeless gardener.
“Daughters?” The witch asks brightly as she sets a few seeds and flowers on the counter, “how old?”
“A little over one. They’re twins.” It’s hard to believe that Flora and Fauna are already toddlers. Sometimes Dominic doesn’t even realize it until someone asks their age.
“Twins! Oh, I’d love the have twins someday. I mean, I love babies but twins seem like they’d be especially fun.”
“Fun is one way to describe it, I guess.”
“Well you should bring them by sometime! I’d love to meet them and your wife. I’m so happy there are other mages in town--I was afraid I’d be all alone. I mean, I was kinda counting on it. That was the whole reason I moved here, you know. I just had to get away from my family. They were driving me absolutely insane. At first I was like, I’ll move to Bridgeport, you know? There’s a lot of magical activity there. But all those vampires! I just could not handle it. And then I thought Moonlight Falls, right? Plenty of witches and fairies to balance out the vamps. But owning an elixir store is just my dream and the Krummly family just has a monopoly on that. So I came here. It’s beautiful and there’s that mild interest in paganism, but there’s no competition. You know?”
Dominic blinks. “Oh. Um, my wife isn’t a mage. Only one of my daughters is, in fact.”
“I see,” Sadie raises an eyebrow, “that’s interesting. I mean, your accent--you’re from the mainland, right? I figured you’d be one of those old school, ‘my oath is my word and I’ve been betrothed since I was six’ type of mages.”
“I guess you read me wrong.”
“So are there other mages here?”
“None that I know of, but I haven’t exactly been looking.”
“Hmm. Well there are werewolves, right?”
“What makes you think that?”
“It’s a full moon tonight and you’re buying wolfsbane flowers--their presence can weaken werewolves, you know. So did you piss off a wolf or are you just superstitious? I mean, I guess you could be dabbling in alchemy but, again, you don’t seem the type.”
The back of Dominic’s neck grows hot. He wants to sneeringly inform her that no, he isn’t superstitious. It’s just his stepson is a werewolf and the wolfsbane leaves will help ease the process of shifting back to human. His actual response is rather dry: “Is this how you do business with all your customers?”
“No,” she grins,” just the interesting ones. I get so many mundanes in here asking for fortunes and such. It’s nice to be able to get some scuttlebutt.”
“Right. Well, I’m happy to oblige then.”
Dominic says little for the remaining interaction, opting instead to allow Sadie to chatter as she pleases. She drones on a little more about gardening and the supernatural, but only half the words make it through to Dominic. He leaves with a brown bag stuffed with aconitum and a bad taste in his mouth.
It’s an idyllic family scene: three sisters playing in the waning afternoon light. Karl is impressed by how large Lark’s patchwork family has grown. He wants more children of his own, but his wife Francisca told him--and this is a direct quote--”I am so done with this, Leifsson. You want more, have ‘em yourself.” Unwilling the investigate that possibility, he’s abandoned hope for more than his two daughters.
The redhead twin--Fauna, Karl has gathered--is playing with a well-worn ducky toy. She squeezes its center with her chubby hands, eliciting a squeak.
And then it disappears in a puff a smoke.
Only to return a second later.
No one seems to notice when this happens, except for him. He blinks.
The brunette twin is more content to snuggle up with a good book--and her older sister to read it to her, of course. Raven is more than happy to oblige. She smells different from the other children--more sickly sweet, less human.
There’s a flicker of light around the older girl, and suddenly she has wings.
That’s weird. Karl scratches his head. He’d never seen a fairy before. He’s unsure if she appeared human at first because of some innate, mysterious fairy magic, or something else entirely. BUt he has enough sense to know that it’s supposed to be a secret. That’s fine. He’s good at keeping secrets.
But while he was distracted, the negotiation had started. Karl shifts his focus.
“We’ll have him back by dawn,” Nikolas says.
“Ten,” Lark counters.
“That’s hardly any time,” Karl protests, “he needs to learn how to hunt.”
“No he doesn’t. That’s what grocery stores are for,” Lark sneers.
“Lark,” Dominic’s voice is gentle, “Fen does need to learn who he is, and we agreed this is the best way to do it.”
“I do not want him staying out that late.”
“He’ll be with us,” Karl puffs out his chest, “he’ll be fine. I’ll protect him.”
“Oh right, he’ll be just peachy with Wingus and Dingus in charge,” Lark rolls her eyes.
“Midnight,” Nikolas says, “we’ll bring Fenrir home by midnight."
Lark clenches her jaw and glances at Dom. He looks at her pleadingly in return. “Fine,” she says, “midnight. Any later and--and--”
“I said midnight,” Nikolas scoffs, “he’ll be back at midnight.”
“Are you excited?” Karl asks Fenrir.
“Yeah,” he says shakily, “I’m---excited. Just excited.”
“It’s fun,” Jane--Karl’s oldest daughter--grins, “I can show you how to find rabbits.”
“Rabbits?” Fenrir gulps, “That seems--”
“It might be a lot for a first hunt,” Nikolas says. Karl rolls his eyes but says nothing.
“It’s my first hunt, too,” Anne says quietly. Her blue eyes are cast downward, and her voice is so soft that it’s almost lost in the shuffle.
“Does Fen need a rabies booster before his hunt?” Bjorn wonders out loud.
“Bjorn,” Lark snaps, “don’t be rude.”
“What? What if he’s bit by a rabid squirrel? He’d die because you didn’t get him his rabies booster, mom.”
“Squirrels don’t carry rabies,” Dominic interjects.
“Yes they do,” Bjorn insists, “anyway, I’m just worried about Fen.”
“Keep that worry to yourself, okay?” Lark replies.
With Lark’s half-hearted blessing, the pack departs. Dominic wishes them happy hunting, while Bjorn reminds Fenrir to take his leash--just in case.
The sun sets, throwing the island into darkness.
In a forest clearing, the pack changes. It’s a loud, mournful process. Howls accompany the pain of their contorting bodies.
It’s almost unbearable, but the result is exhilarating: a fire burns through Fenrir, leaving in its wake heightened senses. He can see every bird in the trees, smell every nearby rabbit and deer, feel the shift of the wind as it changes from northeast to pure north. Another howl rumbles from his center and escapes his throat, joining the choir of his packmate’s.
The moon rises with their bays, and the hunt begins.
Despite Karl’s promise to watch Fenrir attentively, the children are left alone with a sole warning: stay within the tree line. Otherwise, they’re free to do as they please.
After all, the older wolves have prey on their mind: it’s been several cycles since they’ve caught anything sizeable. They break off in search of anything that will satisfy the deep hunger in their guts. It doesn’t take long to pick up on the scent of a stag.
It takes even less time to find and corner it. Poor thing doesn’t stand a chance.
The children’s hunt is more benign. Since they’re confined to a limited range, the pups settle in on tag. Anne is chosen as “it,” and quickly settles on Fenrir as her prey.
“You’re so fast,” he pants as a cramp stabs his belly, “how are you so fast?”
“Dad makes us run laps around the block every day,” Anne says as she taps Fenrir on the shoulder, “you’re it.”
Fenrir frowns. “How about we play another game?”
“HIde and go seek!” Anne says brightly, “we can play that. Jane loves to hunt. We can be the rabbits!”
Jane is happy to play. The two younger pups scatter as the eldest counts theatrically loudly.
But Fenrir’s hiding place apparently isn’t secluded enough.
“Found you,” Anne peeks from around the tree trunk.
“How?” Fenrir yelps, “I ran all the way across the forest!”
“You’re hiding behind the only tree that smells different from the rest.”
“That’s why I picked it,” Fenrir mutters.
“C’mon,” Anne holds out her hand, “Jane will find this tree easy peasy. Let’s find somewhere better to hide.”
They settle down behind a giant boulder.
“This is outside the forest,” Fenrir says, “won’t your dad get mad?”
“Only if he finds out,” Anne shrugs, “besides, Jane won’t look over here.”
“Because it’s outside the forest.”
“Got it,” Fenrir nods, “Hey, is this pig thing farting?”
“Shh! Stop blabbing or Jane’ll hear us.”
But they may have underestimated Jane’s senses. It doesn’t take her long to pinpoint their hasty trail.
“What are you doing out here,” she demands, “dad told us to stay in the forest!”
“We’re far away from the road,” Anne shoots back, “so why does it matter?”
“Because dad said! You’re gonna get in trouble!”
“Not unless you snitch!”
“Stop being a brat, Anne.”
“Make me,” Anne snarls. Jane takes a threatening step forward.
But a deep howl interrupts them. Even Fenrir and Anne, with their nigh zero experience, understand it’s a call. The pups bound back into the woods and find their fathers waiting.
“You hunted?” Karl growls.
“We found a rabbit,” Jane lies, “but it got away.”
“We beat Jane and hide and seek,” Anne brags.
“Only ‘cause you cheated,” Jane mutters under her breath. But Karl doesn’t seem to care. Fenrir notices flecks of blood on his shirt and hands. His mouth waters a little, but he swallows it back.
“It’s time to go,” Karl says. He gives a curt nod to Nikolas, then leads the children to his car. Fenrir looks back over his shoulder as his father disappears into the forest.
It’s a quiet ride, until Fenrir breaks the silence.
“Why’d my dad stay behind?”
“He likes to run by himself for awhile,” Karl says, “dunno why.”
The silence returns. Karl delivers Fenrir home, unscathed, by midnight exactly.
Nikolas needs to wash it off--all of it. The blood, the dirt, the forest. He bolts towards the lake. He doesn’t even bother to avoid the main streets. If he moves fast enough, no one will see him anyway.
He rips off his clothes, leaving them in a pile at the shore. Then he dips his feet into the lake. It’s warmer than the air around him, welcoming and relaxing. He sinks into the water.
Every weight is lifted off of him. Something brushes against his leg and he snatches at it--a fish, it seems, though it escapes his grasp.
That’s okay. He’s full anyway.
He paddles to the center of the lake, to the point where it seems like there’s almost as much beneath him as there is above. When he gets there, he breathes in deep. The sulfurous smell of the lake floods his senses, but with it he catches something else. It’s rolling with the wind, carried from halfway across the island: it beckons to him, sickly sweet and seductive. He turns away and makes his way back to land, each stroke faster than the last.
It’s hard to find the trail again once on land. He circles the edge of the lake until he picks it up again. It leads him well into town, through empty streets and past closed businesses.
And then he finds her.
He’s able to get close before she notices. The shock causes her to drop her grocery bag. Cans roll out onto the sidewalk.
He steps forwards and sniffs at her neck. Her scent is almost unbearably strong and sweet.
For a moment, she freezes, rooted to the ground by fear.
But then fight takes over. “Get off,” she grunts as she pushes at his shoulders. He growls in return.
Sadie reaches a shaky hand into her pocket and withdraws a rose quartz wand.
“I’m warning you,” she steels her voice, “back off.”
He snarls and takes another step closer.
“Fine,” Sadie sneers as she points the wand at him, “don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Nikolas’ vision is filled by a blinding white light. Then, nothing.