I tapped a smear of tawny-beige face paint over my dark Shifter markings. I had to be sure it was heavily applied so none of the Symoee villagers will notice the circular spot above each brow or sharp stripe across each cheekbone. If this was the only thing I needed to cover, maybe my life wouldn’t be in such danger. But… I flatten my headband and pull it tight over my wolf ears … these are more noticeable.
A rush of light riding the easterly wind streamed through thick black curtains above my bed; a step away from I sat readying myself. Blinded by the sun’s brilliance, I blinked back tears and thrust my hands out to find the wriggling fabric. I tied the curtains down but it was too late, my only candle had gone out.
Abrupt darkness made my heart instantly thud against my ribcage. Only my hearing and sense of smell were heightened due to being a Shifter, my vision, however, was poorly. It didn’t matter that I was not alone and Terri was only a few paces from me. Sweat broke out on my palms. If I had it my way, I would tear the curtains down now, but Terri was worried my human disguise would slip while I slept. With shaking fingers I hurried to rekindle the wick of my candle.
I anticipated the sting of Terri’s hand, which she brandished like a whip. Rem, daft girl, Terri would say, I told you to tie the curtains down last night! Do a proper job or I’ll board them up! But after a few moments, there was still no pain.
I let my eyes adjust to the softer light to find Terri across the room. “Mother?” I called. Terri insisted I call her Mother, though she was not truly mine.
I found her lumpy shadow still tucked under the bed sheets. “Are you awake? Your patients will be arriving soon and Kotah gets so bothersome when you aren’t around to baby him.”
Her silhouette remained eerily still.
Like a corpse. I thought. Something is wrong. She’s always up before me…
I picked up my candle and held it out in front of me. Gooseflesh rippled over me in waves as my feet smacked across the floor. Stone was cold no matter what the warm weather outside. I tapped her shoulder through the heavy, hand-stitched, blanket and whispered Mother again. Still, she did not awaken.
I managed to flip her toward me, but quickly snatched my hands back when I saw her face. It was as though a red paint exploded across her skin. The patches were bumpy and oozing yellow fluid. Chapped white lips drew in ragged breaths and purple rings pulled at her bottom eyelids to make her look old enough to be on her deathbed. I wiped straw-colored strands of hair from her scalding cheek and bent as close as I dared. Her breath smelled like rusty copper nails— I knew what this was. A grin spread across my face like a bear trap opening wide. This was Magic Fever. Just what I had been waiting for.