She smiled at him from across the table. “I get why she would choose you,” she said quietly.

He frowned, his confusion growing by the second.

She leaned back into her chair and inhaled deeply. “You’re special. So very special. I understand her now.”

Eliphas Victor looked at the woman seated before him. She arrived at their home just as the night has fallen. He was on his way inside from securing the barn. The chill in the air signals that the cold season is coming. He saw her standing by the road as if she appeared out of thin air. She was looking around possibly checking whether she arrived at the right place. That piqued his curiosity. Their home was located on the fringe of the forest and it was very seldom someone passes through there, especially on foot. He remembered their earlier exchange.

“Good evening, ma’am. You seem to be lost,” he said as he stepped out of their gates.

“I’m afraid so. I am looking for a Missus Esther Victor.”

She was still looking around but their nearest neighbor was at least a mile away. The name caught his attention. It’s his mother’s name.

“If you don’t mind my asking, why are you looking for her?”

“My mother was an old friend of hers and had sent me with a message.”

Eliphas frowned. He didn’t know that his mother had any friends. For as long as he could remember, she kept to herself and preferred their home away from town. Their vegetable patch and the wildlife in the forest were enough sources of food.

She must have noticed his hesitation because she said, “Mother had specific instructions that I speak to Missus Victor. She said your mother would understand why.”

He was wary of her, as he usually was of new people, but he also knew how mothers like talking in riddles. His own mother would often speak of things he could not comprehend. Things she said he would figure out on his own when the time comes. The woman before him might have been sent on an errand she didn’t understand either. With a sigh, he invited her in.

He guided her inside their humble home. Inside, she took off the dark green cloak she was wearing. As the hood fell behind her, Eliphas was greeted with a heart-shaped face framed with long blonde hair that cascaded behind her like a golden waterfall. Her long lashes brushed her high cheekbones while her full lips were pressed together in a hard line. Beneath the cloak was a yellow dress with a neckline that accentuated her graceful neck and gorgeous collarbones.

He informed his mother of their visitor, returning with water and biscuits. They were seated across each other while waiting for his mother to come out from the kitchen. He observed her while she stared, her hazel eyes unnerving him. They were of a color that made them look like cat’s eyes. Her gaze held wisdom and power that both drew him in and made him uncomfortable.

She, on the other hand, was mesmerized by the handsome man before her. He was tall and broad, so unlike the usual wizards she met. His hair reached his shoulders, a dusting of growing beard made his strong jawline more prominent. Of all his features, the one that captured her the most were his eyes. They were as blue as the clear, cloudless sky with gray rings and dark pupils. They were like a wolf’s eyes. That’s when she had felt it and had blurted out the words, calling him special.

“I apologize for the wait,” his mother came out of the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron.

“M-madam Hesta?!” The woman stood abruptly, moisture suddenly forming in her eyes. When the older woman left twenty years ago, she thought they will never meet again.

Esther Victor looked at the woman before her, trying to remember where she has seen her. When their eyes met, recognition came to her. They were the same hazel as her Tiana, her good friend.

“Arwen!” She gathered her in her arms. “Oh my! Look how much you’ve grown!”

She looked around as if looking for someone and noticed her son looking at them in confusion.

“Come, let’s sit. Eli, this is Arwen White. Arwen, my son Eliphas. Did you travel alone?” Arwen nodded. “What brought you here?”

Arwen looked at Eliphas and Esther looked at her son, then she gasped. It had only been a few days since he had returned from working in town. When he arrived, she noticed something different but passed it off as him being tired. If Arwen is here, it meant something more troubling.

“Eli, what was the last job you had, again?” Esther held her son’s face in her hands, looking into his eyes. Eliphas looked back, confusion swirling in his icy blue eyes that looked so much like his mother’s.

“Umm… Mister Fadington needed hands to build a home for his new wife. He gathered some men from town, myself included.”

She kissed his forehead and let go of his face. She sat beside him and asked, “Did something unusual happen while you were building the house?”

He frowned, thinking back on the job he had just completed.

Eliphas was out in town to gather some supplies for home. As he was loading the cart with his purchases, a coach stopped at the central plaza. One of the coachmen read an announcement. Alastair Fadington, one of the wealthiest man in Freypost, was looking for workers to build a home for his new wife. The man had lost his wife and only son a mere season’s past, yet he had now acquired himself another wife. The talk around town was that she’s very beautiful and quite young.

Work in Freypost was few and far between. Even though the produce they get from their vegetable patch was enough for their food, they still needed money for other necessities like clothes. Eliphas would accept work here and there in order to earn a few dimes. From what he’d heard, the pay the Fadingtons offered would be enough to cover their expenses for a few months.

For as long as he could remember, there had only been the two of them. He couldn’t bring himself to leave her especially if it would be months before he could return. Still, the thought of earning enough to last them through winter made him consider taking the job.

As he secured his cart and left for home, the thoughts of working for Mr. Fadington swirled in his head. Over dinner, he discussed his plans with his mother.

“Mother, Mister Fadington was looking for hands to build a house for his new wife,” he said.

“Ah, he’s found a new wife then?” Eliphas nodded as he ate. “Good for him. He’s a good man. I worked for his first wife, such a nice lady. Too bad, the accident happened to take his heir with her.”

“Yes, that was sad news. Do you reckon I could work for him too?”

“In building the new house?” He nodded. “Where would it be?”

“Just a ways away from the town.”

“Well, you’re old enough to make decisions on your own.”

“But what about you?”

“Me?” Esther laughed. “I am not that old to not get by on my own. Just be sure to remember and visit.”

“Oh, Mother. I will return as soon as the work was done.”

There were plenty of workers that helped get the work done faster. With workers coming from different places, he thought he could make friends. Unfortunately, those who came from Freypost must have recognized him and gave him a wide berth. It didn’t take long before the other workers followed suit.

Growing up, he thought it was not unusual to talk to wolves or any other canines since he grew up near the forest. He thought working around their small farm made him stronger than other kids. Lighting the lantern or the furnace with just a thought was something he thought normal. He was able to do that since he was young. Things he found normal and therefore, never told his mother about. He only realized he was different when he started going to school. When kids started to mock him, he stopped going to school.

To avoid unusual incidents, he put his tent far away from the group. Except during dinner or when lifting was needed, he kept to himself and worked a little farther away from the others. He worked alone but usually found Mr. Fadington’s wife looking at him.

It only took a few months to finish the house and he was supposed to return home. On their last night, he was summoned by Madam Lilura, the new wife.

She stood from the chaise she was sitting on when he entered the parlor. Her dress flowed around her as she approached him.

“Alastair would be leaving for a few weeks to handle some business in another city,” she went straight to the point. “You will stay behind, along with some other men, to guard the house.”

“I’m afraid I cannot stay. I left my mother alone in our cottage,” he reasoned. “Surely, there are other men who are better suited for the job.”

Madam Lilura’s face turned red and he was suddenly afraid that he had offended her. Working for the Fadington might bring in a lot of money but he must return home as he had promised his mother. Mr. Fadington took that moment to enter the room and saw his fuming wife.

“Is there a matter?”

Eliphas turned to him with a bow.

“Good evening Mister Fadington. I apologize for turning down the offer to be Madam Lilura’s bodyguard. I need to get home to my mother.”

“Eliphas Victor, right?” He nodded. “I remember your mother. You’re a fine young man to think of your mother well. We’ll ask one of the men if they would like the position.”

He bowed his head to the couple and left the room.

He turned to his mother. “The only unusual thing I can think of was the dream I had on our last night there.”

“What was the dream about?” It was Arwen who asked the question.

“I dreamt about a woman standing in the middle of a star and a circle. I can’t see her face because she’s wearing a cloak, similar to what you were wearing. Only hers were black. She was chanting something I cannot understand. After her chant, she looked at me. Well, I felt her eyes on me even though I can’t see her face. Then she said, ‘Live through the hundredth, powers stripped, bound to the land you cannot leave.’ After that there was smoke and I woke up.”

Arwen gasped. “That was what cracked the seal!” she exclaimed.

He stood up, letting his hand fall heavily on the table. His glare on Arwen made his eyes look like blue flames. “Will you cease with all these riddles?! You have been saying a lot of things I cannot comprehend. Can someone please explain what is happening?!”

His small outburst caused the lantern to burn brighter and lit the fireplace. Things that went unnoticed by Eliphas who was running his fingers through his hair. Esther and Arwen exchanged another look.

“Eli, calm down son.” Esther rubbed his arm to pacify him. “I have told you about your father, right?”

“Not a lot but you told me that he had to send us away for our safety.”

“Yes, that’s right. I will tell you what happened but you would need to keep your questions until later. Understood?” Eliphas nodded. “I was pregnant with you at the time when war broke out among the covens. It was a power struggle as to who should be favored by the Goddess. At that time, no one knew that your father and I were together. No one knew that I was pregnant with you. Except for your father, of course, and Arwen’s mother, Tiana. Your existence would make you the target of the power struggle which could cause a lot of lives. So I convinced your father to let me leave and it would be best if he didn’t know where I would be.”

He frowned, more confused than before.

“You left him and he just let you? What of these covens, the Goddess and wars?”

Esther shook her head.

“He had a duty to his coven and there was no choice but to stay. Arwen would do a better job explaining those other things to you.”

“You are not part of this… coven?”

“No, because I’m different and so are you.”

“Are you saying that I’m not human?” Eliphas chuckled, not quite believing what his mother was talking about. Yet, the thought would finally make sense of why he was different.

“You’re human, you silly boy. Human, yes, a special one.”

“Because of that… because you’re special, that woman wanted you. When you refused, she cursed you,” Arwen said.

“Who is this woman? Cursed me? How?”

“That dream you had. It meant that she performed a curse on you. When you reached your 100th birthday, your powers will vanish. Until then, you are bound here in Freypost.

“As for the woman, we don’t know who she is. Only from what coven she belongs.”

“Everything is still so confusing.” He pinched the bridge of his nose. None of the things these women were saying were making any sense. “Can you just get straight to the point?”

Arwen sat up straighter, making him look up at her. She took a deep breath before speaking.

“Your father, Atherton Barkridge, came from a very long line of powerful wizards. Which means that you have a wizard’s blood in you.”

“I can wield magic?”

“Not fully but you could once the seal was removed.”

“Seal?”

It was Esther who spoke. “Before I left your father, he placed a seal on your powers. Doing so would prevent witches from other covens from finding you. Once the seal was removed, your powers will manifest and you need to learn how to use them.”

“All this information is overwhelming.”

“I understand,” Arwen said. “You’ll get used to it later on. The woman in your dreams might have sensed your power. Unfortunately, placing a curse on you caused the seal to crack. As soon as it did, your father sensed you and knew where you are. He sent me so that I can train you.”

Eliphas raised his eyebrow. She looked too young to be someone who can train him if he indeed had magic. Then a thought came to him.

“If Mother is aware of all these magic stuff, why can’t she be the one to train me?”

“That is because I am not a witch. I am a shifter. The same way your father transferred his powers to you, you are also a part shifter.”

“Shifter… meaning I can change?”

“Yes. We’ll know what you will shift into once the seal is removed.” Esther looked outside. “It’s getting late. Let’s have supper and we’ll talk more about it in the morning.”

Later that night, at the stroke of midnight, Arwen got up and took out a scroll from her robe. It was a scroll that her mother had given her before she left. Tiana White was a seer and her visions were written on scrolls and stored in the coven’s library, except one. It was a vision she had on the night the pregnant Hesta left the Waning Moon Coven.

A wolf bay at the moon

Announcing its rule

To the land, he was once bound.

His other half was found.

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