Chapter 2

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The sun was already near its peak as Ellie jogged along the side of the cobblestone street headed into the city. Lillian trailed behind as she struggled to keep up with her sister. Just ahead, Ellie could see the large public carriage and kept her gaze fixated on it as she waited for her little sister to catch up. When Lillian was still lagging behind, Ellie glanced back and called out.

"Hurry up! I don't wanna have to wait for the next one!"

"I'm hurrying!" Lillian whined.

Ellie took her sister's hand and dashed toward the public carriage. It was several times larger than a normal carriage and was drawn by several large oxen. The carriage had open sides with short, wooden partitions to help prevent passengers from falling off. None of the seats were available, so Ellie and Lillian grabbed onto the wooden poles that were put in place to help standing passengers keep their balance. They adjusted themselves when the carriage shook as it started toward the city.

The carriage swayed gently as it moved along the cobblestone streets. Ellie reached into the front pocket of her plain, green dress and pulled out the shopping list that her mother had given her before they left. She mentally mapped every item she read, plotting the most efficient and time-saving route through the market, occasionally using the list to fan herself. Ellie could practically see the heat radiating from the cobblestone. If she had a few less tosses and turns in her sleep last night, they could have avoided this altogether.

"Ellie!" Lillian nudged her sister to get her attention. She pointed out a cart passing by that was carrying lumber and other supplies.

"Looks like they're getting ready to set up for the festival," she smiled.

"I can't wait!" Lillian bounced on her toes as best she could on a moving carriage. "I've been saving every single coin from my allowance since the year started. You won't believe how many foods I'm gonna try!"

"Lillian, you should at least save a few coins for a souvenir."

"I guess." She bobbed her head in reluctant agreement. "Are you coming with us this year?"

Ellie gave Lillian a confused glance. "I go every year. Why would this one be any different?"

"I dunno. I wasn't sure how soon your apprenticeship would start."

"Oh goodness, no, not until this upcoming school year. So don't worry, I'll be free all summer." Besides, that was assuming she was even going to take the apprenticeship. She wanted to, but every time she thought of it, she could hear her mother's voice as her mind reenacted the conversation from the previous day.

Ellie resumed browsing over the list as Lillian looked out over the people riding with them. The sisters were quiet for a time before Lillian noticed the book that was sticking out of Ellie's bag.

"Is that book any good?" she asked.

"This one?" Ellie placed her fingers on the spine that was peeking out from under the flap. "I'm surprised you'd ask."

"I don't hate books, even if a certain someone would say otherwise." Lillian seemed only moderately offended by her sister's comment. "I just rarely find ones I like."

"I think you'd like this one." Ellie pulled the book out and held it in her free hand. "It's an interesting story, but it's a lot darker than what I usually read, so it has me a bit unsettled. It's why I slept so poorly last night." She withheld the part about seeing a silhouette at the edge of the woods, either out of embarrassment over how she reacted or not to worry her sister. "In some ways, it's sorta exhilarating, too. But I'm not too worried, because it's not like werewolves exist anyway."

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