A handful of days passed, and Salia could almost say she was growing accustomed to this new life. She had steadily gotten used to being surrounded by Spectrobes, and unsettling appearance of Lord Aran, but he rarely spoke with her. She was free to wander throughout the castle as much as she pleased, wherever she pleased. The only off-limmits area to everyone but a handful of servants, was the West Staircase, and whatever lie beyond it.
As much as she wanted to deny it, she was desperate to learn what Aran was trying to hide. Jeena refused to say anything, and Aaron would shrug and say he didn't know. This left her with one option: she would have to find out herself.
Under the cover of night, while Aran was locked up in his study, Salia left her room, walking carefully up the West Staircase. The long, winding hallway was more run-down than most other parts of the castle since most servants weren't allowed, but candles still lit the way.
The hall came to an end, a simple, wooden door serving as an exit down a set of stone steps and into an open courtyard, revealing a seperate building. But there was something about this courtyard that struck her as unusual.
There were no plants, besside a single tree in the center, a small patch of grass surrounding it, and the weeds growing up through spaces in stone pathway. The tree wasn't exceptionally large, like many other trees in the forest. Only around eight feet in length, but its leaves were a hypnotizing shade of green, impossible to ignore.
Salia approached it slowly, boots clicking softly on the stone pathway leading toward it. The tree seemed so unusually inviting- the sort you could sit under and read until you fell asleep. Once she was within two feet, she extended her hand curiously...
"What are you doing here?"
Faster than she thought possible, she turned around, face to face with Lord Aran on the other end of the courtyard. No other sight had made her blood run colder.
"I said." He said these words with unsettling calmness. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?"
"I-I-I was curious." She stated in a feeble attempt to seem brave.
"Haven't you ever heard the term 'curiosity killed the cat?' I said you could visit any part of the castle BUT here." He roared, clearly having lost control of his temper.
A silence that lasted what felt like an eternity hung between them, before Aran came back in, his voice that same unnerving calm. "Get out."
Salia simply stood there, paralyzed.
In a second, she was running past him, flying up the steps, through the hallway and down the staircase. She didn't stop there. Tears obscuring her vision, she fled out of the castle and into the forest.
Eventually she collapsed, breathless and terrified.
That was when she heard the howling.
And it was steadily getting closer.
Completely out of energy from her sprint, she was barely able inch backward when the first wolf revealed itself. Its gray furr held a blue glow under the light of the full moon, its exposed fangs glinting as the animal approached its prey.
A crashing sound came from somewhere behind Salia, as if someone- or something else was running in the same direction. She was both shocked and releaved when Lord Aran appeared, knocking the wolf asside with a quick swipe of his arm.
Soon the whole pack was upon them, and Aran dispatched them as quickly as the first. Some were determined enough to try again after being knocked away, but none went at him more than twice, eventually running off with their tails between their legs.
Once the wolves were gone, he strode over to Salia, quickly hoisting her over his large shoulder before running in the direction he had come, and back toward the castle. Once inside, he set her down, and she noticed some of the scratches and bitemarks across his forearms.
They sat together on the floor of Aran's study, Salia carefully cleaning, and rubbing medicine onto his wounds. The way he refused to even look at her revealed that his pride was injured, but his cringes from the medicine stinging as it did its work signaled he still aknowledged her presence.
The door opened, and Rallen walked right in. "So the Lady knows you secret, eh?" He looked over at the girl, "I'm Rallen, close friend of Aran. I believe you met my fiancee."
She looked over at him curiously. "Jeena? Why would Spectrobes get engaged, let alone get married?"
Aran sighed and looked over at Rallen. "It seems she hasn't put two and two together yet." He cleared his throat and looked over at Salia for the first time since they had entered the room. "You know that legend, about the foolish lord who was cursed to be humanoid Spectrobe until a beautiful human woman fell in love with me? Well, I'm the beast, and you're the beauty."
Salia would have slapped herself across the face for being so stupid. How had she not made the connection sooner? It made her understand why he had wanted to hide the tree from her. It could turn potential love into pity.
"Pity won't save me, you know." Aran stated, as he stood up, and left the room without another word, Rallen following him.
She sat alone, contemplating the last few words he had said. Pity wouldn't save him.
Only the most undefinable emotion known to man.
Long A/N: Okay, in this alternate universe, animals exist with Spectrobes. Spectrobes, being friendlier with humans, are used for things like pulling carts, pets, stuff like that. Animals are mainly used for meat, game, etc. so there's my explanation for the wolves. And since I'm not sure how to incorperate it, Rallen and Jeena got engaged when they were humans, in spite of it being forbidden (her being a maid, and him being wealthy, and the friend of a nobleman) so they kept it hidden and planned to elope. But when the curse came into the picture, they figured that by the time the curse was broken, no one would care if they got married, and announced their engagement.
There WILL be more fluff in the next few chapters, though ;3