Chapter Eight

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Chapter Eight

I close the book and lean back in the chair. I know most of Tharros's life story from history lessons I had to sit through when I was younger, but I've never heard about the griffin symbol or the snake that killed Tharros's father. I pull the disc out of my pocket and trace my fingers across the pattern. This is a symbol of the most dangerous halfling our world has ever known. How on earth did Angelica end up with it? Could she possibly be related to him? Half of his family tree would be human, after all.

I stand and return the book to its shelf. I run both hands through my hair, then lean on the desk. Perhaps it's a bad idea to go looking for Angelica. If some Underground faerie—okay, so I'm not a hundred percent sure, but Zell seems like the Underground type—is after her, she's probably mixed up in something dangerous.

"Vi?" I look up to see Raven standing in the doorway. I didn't even hear the door open. "Vi, honey," she says warily, as though talking to a dangerous animal. "What are you doing in here? We were getting worried about you."

"Um, I just . . ." Crap. I just what? "I . . . I started getting upset. About the suspension. And I needed a few moments to gather myself." Gather myself? Who says that?

"Okay, well, are you sufficiently gathered? Because dinner's ready."

"Yes. Coming." I slip the disc back into my pocket. I point a finger at the glass ball suspended from the ceiling, but instead of simply extinguishing the flame within it, I manage to explode the whole thing.

"Um . . . oops?" I say.

"Okay, let's not tell Tora about that," says Raven, pulling me out of the room before I can cause any more damage. "I'll fix it later."

I follow her to the table where Tora and Flint are waiting. I sit down and look at my plate. There are many things Tora is good at; sadly, preparing food is not one of them. Fortunately, I'm too preoccupied with what I've just discovered about the disc to really notice the charred flavor of the food.

I make it all the way to dessert—which, thankfully, is a mound of recognizable fruit—before Tora drags me into the conversation. "So, Vi. Flint shared an interesting piece of information with me earlier." I stare blankly at her. "An interesting piece of information involving a certain human boy," she adds.

My barely civil conversation with Ryn comes flooding to the forefront of my mind. "You're not the only one Flint shared that information with," I grumble. Flint looks up and meets my glare. "Since when do you gossip with Ryn?" I ask.

Flint chews and swallows. "Ryn? That boy you've been feuding with forever?"

"It's not a feud, Flint. It's a mutual dislike." I separate the blood red segments of a citrullamyn. "A very intense mutual dislike."

Raven turns to her husband. "And you told this boy that Vi kissed her assignment?" she demands.

"Of course not," says Flint. Raven crosses her arms, and he adds, "I swear!"

"Ryn must have overheard," says Tora. "I remember him coming out of Bran's office while you and I were talking."

"Great. Thanks a lot, guys." I stab a segment with my knife. "Ryn's never going to let me live this down."

"I think it's sweet, actually," says Raven. "The kiss, not the gossip. Was it your first, Vi?"

"I don't think it counts when you're six years old, so yes."

Raven sighs and puts a hand to her chest. "How tragic that you had to make him forget."

"Did Flint not tell you the part where I shoved him halfway across the garden?" I ask, trying to force down the guilt that rises like bile in my throat.

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