My name is Briar Leafsong, and I am 17 years old. I have three sisters and two brothers and we live with our father. I am the youngest in my family and we live in a small house in a small city. Nevertheless, I would never ask for anything to be different, except to change siblings.
“Briar! Time for chores!” I heard my oldest brother Jake call out.
I got up and got dressed for the day. I did a small stretch to wake myself up and to dodge the flying cup of water. Every morning I got used to it as my siblings try to throw objects at me. I ran down the stairs to make breakfast for everyone, and I stopped to look out the window. There was a dark forest that blocked us from reaching any of the western towns because of the stories of a cursed castle.
I shook my head and continued down my way. I set up the coffee machine and started to warm up the pan for the bacon and pancakes. I counted the shuffles and then finished when I heard the sixth chair moved.
“Morning!” I said in a chipper voice.
Everyone just grumbled at me until I gave them their coffee and breakfast. I counted up to ten as they all started to wake up. I sat down after refilling their cups a second time.
“Oh! I have to go to the capital later for a few days to turn in our recent earnings. Is there anything you all want?”
“A new dress!” The eldest, Sara asked.
“The newest video game!” The second eldest, Samuel begged.
“A puppy!” The third eldest, Lily said.
“A new motorbike!” The third youngest, Kate asked.
“More snacks!” The second youngest, Jake said.
“Some books?” I asked quietly.
My siblings started to laugh at me and I felt my ears burn. I liked reading because I can dream that I am in the world within the books. My favorites are the fairytales because they always have a hidden lesson.
“Do you want me to make sure if the car is working?” I asked so I can get out of the room.
“Sure Briar, let me know how it is running.”
I nodded my head and went outside. Every few months, my father has to go west to the capital to show what we earned during each period. I work over in the nearby bookstore, Sara works at the retail store nearby, Samuel is a video game programmer, Lily is a chef in a five-star restaurant, Kate is a motorbike racer, and Jake is a video game tester. Our father works at the mayor’s office as an accountant. Only Jake is in school even though I am younger than him and I have to do all the housework.
I went over to my workbench and grabbed my tool belt before going under the car. I did not want the car to break down in the middle of the forest and for us to lose Father. After I was done, I put my tools away, started to walk out, and bumped into Sara.
“Hey loser, I’m just grabbing something out of the car.”
“Don’t call me loser.”
“Okay then, baby.”
I rolled my eyes before going back to the kitchen to eat.
“The car’s running fine!”
“Thank you for checking.”
I just nodded my head before eating.
Father left while I was in the middle of cleaning the house before I had to get ready for my job. Everyone had a chance to wave him off but I waited until he drove passed my window before waving him good-bye. As soon as I was done, I changed clothes and ran out of the house.
“Ah! Briar! You are here! There is a new shipment that just came in this morning! You know the drill.” My boss told me behind the counter.
Unpack, scan into the system, stock them up, and keep any of the books that are in a bad condition was the drill I remember from my first day working there.
I walked to the back to get started on the unpacking the items. Due to the new transport units, there are not as many books that I could take home like I used to. Nevertheless, I still like the smell of books around me, there is nothing like the smell of old leather and ink to make me think of happy memories. Sirens blared as they passed by the building and I felt a shiver down my spine for some reason. I was working on my final box when I heard the phone ring.
“Briar! It’s for you!”
I ran to the office and grabbed the phone.
“Hello! This is Briar Leafsong speaking!”
“Hello, this is Captain Lightfeather, we found your father’s car crashed in the western forest and his body is currently missing.”
I zoned out at most of the words after the shock hit. I thanked him before hanging up and I stared at the phone as if I was hiding the answers I was looking for.
“Hey, you were almost done when he called, right?” I nodded my head. “Then go home and comfort your siblings.”
“Thank you sir.” I told him before running out the door.
Flashes of the underside of the car kept on popping in my head as I tried to figure out what might have caused him to crash in the forest, but nothing came to mind.
‘It might have been just an animal that caused him to serve off the road. But, it could also be the monster that is said to live in the forest.’ The final thought sent a shiver down my spine.
I pulled out my key and unlocked the door. Thankfully, I had good reflexes because as soon as I opened the door, I had five glasses of water thrown at me.
“It’s your entire fault we lost Father!” The girls shrieked at me while I was covered in water and broken glass.
“If you believe that, then let me borrow a vehicle to go find him.”
I knew after all these years to stop denying anything they said because then my brothers would beat me up. Kate threw her motorbike keys to me and I caught them.
“I expect him back here by tomorrow night.” Samuel told me. “You might be able to come back or you might stay away for your own good.”
I ignored him as I went up to my room to clean up before leaving. Luckily, none of the cuts was deep but there were quite a few on my face. I sighed after fixing my face and shoving a few items in a knapsack. Then I ran down to pull Kate’s motorbike out of the garage, it started effortlessly before I drove off. The bike ran flawlessly as I turned with ease to the forest and continued on.
‘Why is the forest so freaking dark?’ I wondered as I remembered that I left in the early afternoon on a sunny day.
I turned on the headlights to see five feet in front of me until I saw the crash site. The police moved the car, but I could still see the damage that it did to the tree. It looked like that it damaged the car but Father would still be okay to walk. I continued down the road as it started to get rough as I got closer to the castle. I stopped when I slowly started to lose control and I did not want to crash. I heard the howl too late as a wolf pounced on me as I turned. The force of me hitting the ground knocked me out.
I opened my eyes and I noticed that I was in a place that I have never seen before. I started to sit up but I felt stiff, so I looked down and saw the bandages on me. There was hardly a part of me that was not covered.
“I see that you are awake now.” I heard a voice nearby me.
A tall man walked out of the shadows with dark hair, pale skin, black wings, horns, and a tail. My eyes widen at the sight of the demonic features.
“I am Dmitri, the lord of this castle and I found you after one of the forest wolves tried to use you as a chew toy.”
“Thank you sir.”
He walked closer to me and grabbed my chin with his claws.
“You look a little like the man that I found this morning.”
My eyes widened at his words.
“You found my father! Thank you! May I see him?”
I felt the claws dig deeper into my chin.
“First, tell me your name then I might show him to you.”
“Briar, Briar Leafsong.”
He smiled, showing his fangs, before letting go of my chin.
“I’ll show you my prisoner then, Briar.”
I could not stop myself from grabbing his arm after the news.
“Please, I have five siblings; I’ll become your prisoner if you set my father free.”
The way his smile grew made me wonder if he baited me into saying those words. He leaned down and wrapped his arms around me to lift me up. The movement surprised me and I wrapped my arms around his shoulders.
“I will show you your father before setting him free and I expect you to keep your promise.”
He took me to the dungeons and set me on the ground in front of the only closed door. I reached out and opened the small flap that was normally used to give prisoners food.
“Father are you there?” I asked while dreading the worse.
“Briar? Is that you? You must run away before the lord finds you here!”
“I have already found him and he has traded his life for yours.” Dmitri said behind me as he snapped his fingers.
Small imp servants appeared and started to open the cell door.
“Briar, my dear son, why would you do that?”
I gave him the keys to Kate’s motorbike as the servants helped him out.
“Good bye father.”
I had to cover my ears to hide the screams of my father begging Dmitri to stop the trade. I grabbed the wall, as soon as it was over, to pull myself up. He was not kidding about the chew toy part, it was hard for me to get up, and Dimitri started walking away from me.
“Since I’m your prisoner, is there anything I’m supposed to do?”
“No. You’re broken.”
I tried to ignore those words as he walked away faster.
‘I guess I should explore around this place since I’m stuck here.’ I thought as he walked out of my view.
The first room I found was a giant library, then the kitchen, dining room, a workshop, and finally a room that just had a glass rose. Something caused me to walk into the room because the whole area felt depressed to me. I walked over to the rose and reached out to touch it.
“So mournfully beautiful.” I heard myself whisper before loud crashes started to come closer.
I backed away from the rose as Dimitri came storming in.
“HOW DARE YOU!”
He grabbed my wrist and I could feel the claws digging into me.
“Let me go! I am not some girl you can just boss around!” I told him while trying to pull out of his grip.
He lifted me off of the ground and threw me out of the room. All of my breath came out with the force of me hitting the wall.
“Never go in there again.” I heard him say as I started to see spots. “You are small like a girl.”
Those last words echoed in my head as the darkness took me. As I started to wake up, something in my gut told me to keep my eyes closed.
“Sir, you need to be more careful with your temper. He is a human, and humans can break in many ways.” I heard a growl next to my head. “What did I just tell you about your temper? How was he supposed to know not to touch the rose? Did you tell him?” The growls stopped. “I thought so.”
I heard footsteps leaving the room and I opened my eyes. There was a man, which looked about the age of my father, with wings and a tail standing at the edge of the bed.
“I see that you are awake! I was worried that my master might have killed you. What is your name young one?”
“Briar, could you tell me why he almost killed me?” I asked the butler.
I saw a flash of sadness in his eyes as I sat up.
“Please don’t judge my master for what happened to you. The rose is very important to him because it is part of his curse, and if it breaks, he dies. So, please don’t touch it ever again.” I nodded my head at the words. “Dinner will be ready in a half hour. Is there anything I can get you?”
“Could you point me to the workshop? I saw one earlier.”
“Sure, let me help you up first.”
I heard laughter by the doorway. Dimitri was leaning on the doorway with his hand covering his mouth.
“Aw, does the little girl need help?”
I got so mad at him calling me a girl, that I threw the nearest object at him, which happens to be the bedside table. He avoided the flying projectile while running away laughing. I noticed that the butler was trying to hide his laughter. After he stopped, he helped me to the workshop.
“I will come by later to let you know when dinner is ready.”
“Thank you.” I told him as he walked out.
I saw a wood block and some wood carving tools. I started zoning out as I remembered the years of when I was younger. Before father got the accounting job, he used to spend time with all of us and I remember when I used to watch him work on beautiful woodcarvings.
‘I wonder if I will ever get to see him again.’
I felt a tear slip down the side of my face as I worked. A hand reached out in the corner of my vision and wiped the tear away. I quickly moved away from the hand, and I saw that it was Dmitri that did it.
“What are you doing?!”
I watched as his tail twitched while he licked my tear off of his finger.
“You were crying, why?”
“Because I was thinking of my father.”
I saw his right eyebrow raise up and it looked like it almost touched his horn.
“If you were thinking of your father, then why did you make that?”
He pointed at my woodcarving and I was astonished by it. It was a statue of Dmitri with his wings out as if he was angry, but the eyes looked so sad. I was not paying attention to what I was making but it surprised me with all the details I put into it.
“I didn’t even think about what I was making until now.”
‘I swear one of these days, I’m going to smack that smirk off his face.’
“So, part of you was thinking of me.”
I picked up a piece of unused wood and threw it at him. He was caught by surprise and I got him right between the eyes. After he was still looking shocked, I got worried about his temper and I thought he was going to hit me. He started to smile and laugh after a few seconds.
“You have a good arm! I thought you had aim like a girl!”
“I am not a girl!”
“Briar! Dinner is ready!” The butler said before walking into the room. “My Lord! I did not expect to see you here! Please follow me to the dining room.” He bowed before walking away.
The whole month of living with the demons was rough with his temper but there were also times where he was sweet. Later, I found out the butler’s name was Francis and he could hide the demon features to go out to the nearby cities. I learned that fact after I got in trouble for Dimitri yelling at me when I kept on poking his cheek while saying I was bored. Francis came back from getting food with two small packages; inside them were two game systems so we can play games against each other.
I was trying to sleep, but the light from the full moon kept on shining in my face. Out of nowhere, I heard strange howling nearby my room. I got up and grabbed a candle to see with. I like using candles when I read in bed because it felt more natural and the bulbs hurt my eyes after a while. I carefully opened the door and followed the sounds of the howls down the hall, to the room with the rose.
‘Curiosity killed the cat.’ The reasonable part of my brain whispered to me as I reached for the doorknob.
I opened the door to a frightful sight.