Wolfsbane: Part Five
By the next week, you had fallen into a routine.
The dog shelter kept you more busy than you had ever been in your entire life, it seemed. The dogs were in constant need of feeding, getting their water changed, to be played with, brushed, given baths, and all the fun things that came with owning a dog. Only this time it was tenfold. Elizabeta and you worked hard every day to ensure the dogs were happy and content, and occasionally there was a visitor looking for a new pet.
During your stay with the pack, you had met the rest of the Shifters. Gilbert was the obvious Alpha, even though he was such an egotistical idiot. He did have his sweet moments, though. Ludwig, of course, was his Beta wolf. You couldn't help but laugh whenever Gilbert annoyed his younger brother. Elizabeta was an old friend of the two brothers, and she didn't Shift into her wolf form very often. She stated it was because she preferred having opposable thumbs so she could use her trusty skillet as a weapon to combat Gilbert's arrogance.
Then there was the rest of the pack.
Vash and Lily Zwingli were siblings from Switzerland. They were blonde and both had eyes different shades of evergreen. Vash was quite frugal and tended to preach to everyone about various things—he had quite the temper as well, and you often stumbled upon him and Gilbert having a spat. Vash also had a bit of a thing for firearms. Lily, however, was a sweet young girl who was always kind and willing to be helpful. You could tell Vash doted on his younger sister like no other, despite his outer rough appearance.
The next member of the pack was a stuffy Austrian named Roderich Edelstein. He had violet eyes covered with glasses and somewhat wavy brown hair, with a wild kink sticking up, and always wore noble-like clothes. He was possibly the best piano player you had ever come across, and though he could be a bit of a socially awkward jerk, deep down he was generally good mannered. Vash and Roderich tended to get into fights a lot, as well as Gilbert. Elizabeta normally stopped them with her skillet.
The last pack member was a Romanian native by the name of Vladimir. He was a bit mysterious, having never told anyone his last name, but he was friendly and cheerful to you always. He was also a tad bit eccentric, always telling stories of fairy tales. He had strawberry blonde hair and light red eyes, and tended to tease Elizabeta to no end.
You couldn't help but notice that the poor Hungarian wolf had to keep the males of the pack in line about ninety percent of the time.
All in all, however, you quite liked your new life. Yes, it was a bit strange at first to be living in a house full of Shifters—not werewolves, as Gilbert had so vehemently stated when you had brought it up. Werewolves were supernatural beings who were cursed to transform into a wolf every full moon. Shifters were beings gifted with the powers to change into whatever creature they wished, whenever and wherever. Gilbert's pack just happened to have chosen the wolf as their animal.
And yes, it was odd to think that you would be the one to help Gilbert break his curse. You really were just a normal human girl; but according to the albino, that was what made you so important in this. For the past week, on top of helping around the dog shelter, you had been doing various research on curses and whatnot in hopes of finding some manner to fix Gilbert as soon as possible.
So far, you had only found a small little chapter about the relationship between Casters—what that Natalia woman was apparently—and Shifters in a very old book hidden amongst Ludwig's many novels and whatnot.
"Casters and Shifters have always had a strained relationship. Legends say it is because when the world was new, the ancient gods and goddesses treated the animals as children, rather than humans. One day, however, the goddess of the moon, whose name, as well as the other names of the gods, has been lost throughout the ages, took a handful of humans and gave them her powers as an act of pity—the powers of magic. Thus, the first Casters were born.
The other deities grew angry at the moon goddess's actions. They each took an animal—wolf, feline, fox, eagle, horse, bear—and morphed a human with the animal, creating the first Shifters. The moon goddess was chased to the ends of the earth for her ineptitude and hasty actions, and stripped of her powers. The other gods and goddesses banished her to live on the moon forever, and her children, the Casters, were forever shunned by the Shifters, who were treated like demigods by the humans who had not been gifted by the gods.
To this day, there is still much anger and bitterness between Casters and Shifters. Once every century, on the day known as the Day of the Gods, Shifters and Casters alike celebrate the day back in ancient times when they were gifted with their talents. That is the only day where they agree to a truce, and treat one another like brothers and sisters."
And that was it.
Nothing about curses, or how to cure them.
Although…you did admit that the supposed history behind the two groups of supernatural beings was very interesting. Ancient gods and goddesses? Primeval grudges? Magic? It was fascinating to you. And to think that Gilbert and the rest of them lived such an existence every day…
And here you were, just a broke human girl whose greatest accomplishment in life was actually making it to Germany. But when you thought about all the problems you had after your arrival, well…it wasn't exactly much of an accomplishment as it was another problem now, was it?
You sighed, sprawling out on the bed and closing your eyes. The old, musty book was at your side. Your head hurt a bit as you tried to think of how you were going to help Gilbert. Really, all you had done was take care of the actual dogs and mooch off their food and whatnot. You felt a bit useless, to tell the truth.
"(Name)? (Name), can you come help me, please?" Elizabeta suddenly called, poking her head into your room. You opened your eyes, giving her a tired look, but nodded and slowly got up. She gazed at you worriedly, feeling your forehead. "You look beat, (name). What's wrong?"
You sighed, shoulders slumping. "It's just…how am I supposed to help Gilbert when I don't even know what I'm supposed to do? I mean, Gilbert and Ludwig and Roderich and Vash and Vladimir have all been going out trying to find more clues, but with no luck…and I've just been here, taking care of dogs and sleeping and eating and doing NOTHING to help him! I feel so useless!" You narrowed your (e/c) eyes at the floor. "Gil said the curse would be cured with my blood and tears, right? Can't I just cut my arm, cry, and then pour it on him or something?"
Liz bit her lip. "…if only it were that simple," She murmured, like she knew something else you didn't. You felt a bit of suspension flare up in you. Raising her voice, Liz said, "Well, (name), Natalia Braginski is one of the most powerful Casters in the world. A curse by someone like her will be very difficult to break. And yes, she might have told Gilbert the three—I-I mean two—component to breaking it, but…it's going to be much more complicated than just drenching him in your blood and crying on him."
You groaned in frustration, feeling like ripping your (h/c) hair out. "But I don't KNOW what else to do! I've been trying to do research in all those old books Ludwig has lying around, but nothing is giving me a clue! I just found out that stuff like magic exists a week ago—how the hell am I supposed to know how to fix Gilbert?!"
Liz sighed and placed a calm hand on your shoulder, green eyes looking into your (e/c) ones. "…listen, (name). I know this is all really stressful, and a bit strange. But…can I be honest? I know you can help Gilbert. He…really does like you, you know." You blinked rapidly, feeling your face heat up a bit. "Normally, we stay away from humans, to avoid problems. But really…I think if Gilbert had met you without this curse, he would have loved to be your friend." …oh. Just a friend, then. Why did you feel…so saddened by that? "He's actually told the pack to protect you at all costs. Not only are you our only chance of returning Gilbert back to normal, but you're becoming a dear friend to us all. So…"
Elizabeta clasped your hands in hers, giving you a kind smile. "Please don't feel down on yourself. We'll figure the curse out. I know it. And if it helps, the dogs really like you. And Lily and I—we adore you, (name)! There aren't many girls around her, you know. We're drowning in testosterone. So we're happy that you're here. And you can stay with us as long as you want, even after the curse gets sorted out. How does that sound?"
You couldn't deny that you really did enjoy the company of the pack. Throughout all the fighting, endless teasing, and wolfish shenanigans…you felt at home here. Like you belonged to the pack yourself. So, you returned her smile shakily, nodding. "…that sounds great, Liz. Thank you. You're a good friend too. And after all, I can't let you stay alone with the plethora of idiotic men now, can I? You and Lily need another female around!" You let out a small laugh, and Elizabeta's smile widened even more, pulling you into a tight hug.
"Oh, thank you, (name)! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" The Hungarian woman practically squealed in joy. "I promise you won't regret it! And hey, your own personal skillet should be coming in the mail any day now—you can help me knock some sense into Gilbert finally when it does come!"
You both laughed at that, but suddenly Liz froze, eyes wide. In an instant she was in her sleek, elegant chocolate-brown wolf body, loping down the hallway and out to the backyard where the other dogs were being kept. Worried, you followed in a sprint, calling out, "Liz! Elizebeta! What's wrong?!"
When you got out to the backyard, you saw what was wrong.
All of the dogs were silent, crouched down on the lawn and watching the forest with glittering eyes. From out of the trees came a shaggy, blonde wolf, running straight for Liz. It was Vash. A smaller blonde wolf emerged from the back door, running over to the two of them—Lily. Vash barked a bit, and then two more wolves raced out from the trees. One had reddish-brown fur; Vladimir. The other had dark brown, almost black, fur; Roderich. All five wolves crowded around one another, whining and nuzzling one another worriedly.
You didn't know why, but something inside you was saying something was wrong. Very wrong.
Your suspicions were confirmed when Ludwig—in his human form—stumbled out of the trees, holding a large white shaggy something in his arms. From across the lawn his ice blue eyes met your (e/c) ones, and you instantly knew who it was.
Before you knew it, you were sprinting across the grass to Ludwig, panting and face drawn in worry. Ludwig didn't say anything as he crouched down a bit, giving you a better look at Gilbert. His eyes were drawn shut tightly, and his breathing was ragged. When you looked at his shoulder more closely, you almost felt your lunch come up.
Gilbert's beautiful white coat was stained with dark crimson blood, dried in some parts so that it was sticking the fur into clumps. His muzzle was coated with drops of the scarlet liquid, some fresh still hanging on the small hairs around his jaw. You swallowed thickly, looking up at Ludwig with wide eyes that welled up with tears.
"What…w-what happened…?" You whispered, feeling your heart constrict painfully. It…HURT. Seeing Gilbert like this. All you wanted to do was yank him from Ludwig's arms and run into the house with him, curl up on the bed, and hold him. You wanted to bury your face in his furry neck and breathe in his doggy scent, kiss his head, and scratch his ears.
Ludwig's voice came out as a croak. "…we were ambushed during a territory patrol."
"Ambushed?! By who?!" You snapped, voice high pitched with anxiety as you stroked Gilbert's silken head gently. He stirred slightly, eyes fluttering beneath his eyelids, but that was the only response he gave. Other than that, he lay limp in his brother's arms.
"By…cloaked figures…" Ludwig said slowly, arms trembling slightly. For a moment you wondered if it was because Gilbert was too heavy, but then you remembered that the younger of the two brothers was practically a body builder on top of being a wolf Shifter. And when you looked up at his face, you were shocked to see tears shining in the corners of his eyes.
"Cloaked…figures…?" You repeated slowly, not being able to exactly comprehend.
"Ja…" Ludwig nodded miserably, still trembling. "And when Bruder demanded to know who they were…they attacked without warning…und their powers…they must be some of the strongest Casters I have ever seen…and Bruder didn't stand a chance. He made us leave to go back home to protect you, because…" He paused. "…(name)…"
"What…?" You whispered, the urge to up and run with Gilbert in your own arms coursing through your veins still. Ludwig's tone and his words just added to the sensation, as well as even more anxiety.
Ludwig's next words made you want to throw up once again.
"They said that the reason that they were here…was because they were looking for a human girl by the name of (first name) (last name)."