Well, shit, that was easy.
I spent all day yesterday combing the territory between Pubtwon and Pubton for signs of Libby. Yesterday and the day before. I was hungry, and thirsty, and tired, and determined to find my damned wife. I wouldn't let her beat me up and run away with nothing to show for it. I love her.
I found nothing. No footprints, no trails of confused destruction, no signs of my blood, possibly dripping off of Libby's work gloves. I'm not a tracker, granted, but I know how to keep my eyes open. The only thing I DID find was the rock where I'd previously discovered the door to June's hut… and the door wasn't there anymore.
I found it again two days later. Two, maybe three hours ago. It was in the deepest part of the forest near Pubton, not far from Barrel's old den. I'd stumbled down there, teary and exhausted, hoping for shelter from a light rain that'd suddenly sprung up.
Instead, I discovered a door. Set into the grass. I tripped on the doorknob, opened it up by accident, and fucking fell in.
Being whisked in and out of June's hut is disconcerting on the best of days, when the door is nice and upright. Opening it up and falling into it is, by contrast, horrifying. Your entire world twists and reorients itself in seconds, but for those seconds you're caught between push and pull, spinning in place, helpless and wanting to vomit everywhere. I landed safely, my rump a little sore, but it was not a pleasant experience.
I don't know when she did it, but June has stripped her home of its possessions. The books, the scrolls, the jars, the furniture, the food, everything is just… gone. I guess she moved it all into her new home on the outskirts of Pubtwon, since she (apparently) can't leave the circle in the symbol cave. Not without going all old again, anyway.
The only thing still there, burning away, was the fireplace. In front of it, swaddled in blankets, sat my wife and son.
Libby looked physically fine, her arms looped protectively around Grayson, her face nuzzled into his hair, a few flecks of dried blood stuck to her cheeks. Her eyes were closed, for the most part, but whenever they opened glimmers of light shone from her pupils.
Grayson was much worse off. His face, still as ashen as the day before, was as gaunt as an old man's. He trembled and bit his lip over and over, so much so that there were splits in the skin from his teeth. Yet he was conscious, and he looked at me, and when he did those horrid lips smiled.
"A guest. How quaint. Would you like a cup of tea, Mr. Mayor? Some scones? Maybe a werewolf bite? The old woman can probably arrange that, oh yes."
He coughed and shivered. Flecks of blood spattered onto the blanket. Libby cooed and wiped her son's face clean with her sleeve.
Knowing he could send Libby at me at any time, I took a few tentative steps into the hut, careful not to put Grayson on edge. "C'mon, kiddo. I know what you're doing. Kinda. Let your mom go."
Grayson laughed. The sound was hollow and ragged, the whisper of wind through an emptied tree trunk. "I'm not doing anything to her. She just loves me. Right, mom?"
Libby nodded slowly, her head lolling about. She looked like a jester, exaggerating her motions for the amusement of a court of one.
"Right." Grayson lifted his chin and sneered. "We don't need you. Mom will help me get rid of… of… and then I'll be fine. Yeah. Fine. And once we are, we'll kill that bitch -"
"Language," Libby mumbled.
"Sorry, mom, I meant witch," Grayson corrected. "We'll kill her, and we'll kill you, and the lock will be safe. Then the Non. Yes, the Non, we'll kill the Non and everything will be balanced again, the world spinning happily on my fingertip. Balanced. No more exile, no more hiding. Kill the ones who shouldn't exist. Right, mom?"
Libby frowned at her son's words, but she nodded nevertheless.
I took a few more steps. I noticed, as Grayson shifted and a blanket fell away, that the wound on his shoulder was festering under a patch of ill-fitted bandages. Beneath and upon them a dozen or more tiny tendrils, like glow worms, wandered through a small patch of bristling brown hair. Each one seemed to be nibbling at the hair and destroying the strands… though with each piece of hair to fall, two more took its place.
"Gods above," I whispered. "Antonia. Antonia bit you. You're becoming a werewolf."
Grayson's next words came in a surprise bellow, so powerful that a gust of wind knocked me off my feet. "I WILL NEVER BE SOMETHING SO FOUL AS THAT! THEY ARE AN UNPATCHED ABOMINATION! SAY NOTHING TO ME OF WEREWOLVES, YOU MORON!"
Surprised, my head ringing with the force of his scream, remembering the days when Grayson would bawl whenever we didn't go the way he wanted to go, I staggered back to my feet. Two more steps towards him.
Grayson drooped and covered his face. "I could destroy you, you know."
"Yeah, I know." I pointed at Libby. "But you have my wife. C'mon, Gray. Let her go."
The son reached up and caressed his mother's cheek, his fingers quivering. She kissed them. "No."
Another step. My hands tingled. "Let her go."
Grayson's "NO" ended the conversation. It shook the wooden supports of June's empty hut, blowing out the fire in the fireplace, knocking open the door and catapulting me through. The door spat me up and out. I landed in a tangle, back in the forest, back on the wet grass -
- and could only watch, horrified, as the door to June's hut shrank, crumpled in on itself, and disappeared with a loud pop. The grass where it had been set shrivelled and died, leaving a rectangular patch of yellow in a field of green.
And that was it. I don't know what's happened to my Libby. I don't think Grayson will do anything to her, and in that, at least, I can take some comfort…
… but her safety is only assured so long as he can hold back the lycanthropy that must be trying to crush his body. And that, I fear, may prove to be a losing battle.
I'm back in Pubton. I've sent a messenger fox to June, hoping that she can help me locate her hut. She's probably the only one who can help, now. I doubt she will.
Dammit. I… I've lost my wife again… and this time, I have no idea where to start looking. I will - I'll spend every day of the rest of my life on the road, searching for her, if I have to - but… but…