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RAVENNA FELT unnerved. She followed Caelan toward the kitchen area. It was a simple room, with a massive wooden table filled with baskets of produce from the garden. Another smaller table sat in the center of the room for food preparation. Shelves lined the walls, filled with various spices and herbs. A fireplace sat in the corner with an oven. Pots and pans surrounded the walls beside them. Fresh chicken and rabbit hung upside down from the mantle.

Caelan started to rummage through a basket of produce. Ravenna leaned against the table, her hip digging into its rugged edge. Her arms remained folded across her chest. Her gaze remained focused on the windows. The storm clouds tumbled across the sky, growing larger and more sinister.

"Does the girl appear often?" Ravenna asked.

"Somewhat," he answered. She watched as he carried several carrots and celery stalks to the table. Three onions floated in the air after him. "Unlike the tavern, however, she is not permitted within these walls. You have no need to worry about her."

Ravenna's lips pinched. Caelan started to chop the vegetables. "Where did this fresh produce come from?" she asked, glancing around again. She inched closer to the produce and poked at a tomato. "The rest of the house seems like it hasn't been touched in years. Did you pick this all yourself?"

Caelan stared at her, unimpressed. "You see, it's actually quite simple. There is this ability where you can perform spells and cast magic. Most non-human creatures have it. It's quite a marvelous thing, really."

"You're right. I forget that you aren't human sometimes," Ravenna huffed at him.

He arched an eyebrow. "Do you?"

She frowned. "You seem much more human now compared to when I first met you. You seem...softer. Not as cold."

He blinked. His expression morphed with surprise. The emotion vanished almost as soon as it appeared, replaced with his familiar apathetic expression. He scooped up a handful of chopped veggies and dumped them into a pot. It soon became clear that Caelan didn't plan on commenting any further. Ravenna moved toward the window and looked out, half expecting to see the ghost girl waiting for her. "How long have you known about this village? You seem to be quite involved with it."

"I watched this town blossom," he responded absently. He stalked toward the hearth and removed a chicken from its spot. "It started as a smaller settlement, built for military resources. It didn't become much, but proved to be a great training camp in its youth. Two hundred years ago, when the current royal family took control, the base was relocated. The families that were left behind turned it into the farming town that it is now."

Ravenna watched as he waved a glowing hand over the chicken. It was instantly defeathered and gutted. "How old are you?" she asked.

"Old enough."

He made quick work of the chicken, chopping it into small chunks and depositing them within the pot. Then he added a jar of chicken broth. The pot was returned to the hearth. She watched quietly as Caelan crouched down in front of the fireplace. He exhaled, long and slow. A small flick of flames blew past his lips and caught in the mixture of straw and wood.

Ravenna watched him with a small ping of jealousy. "Right now, my magic is defense-based. At what point will I be able to perform mundane spells with such ease?"

Amusement flicked across his facial features. "Once you master the skill of observation."

Her cheeks puffed and she crossed her arms over her chest. "Have you ever taught anybody else? Or am I the first, and oh-so-lucky, pupil?"

The dragon didn't respond at first. He stood in front of the hearth and added several spices to the stew. "I've had another student," he answered. His voice was quiet and somber. "He was strong. Almost stronger than I am, even now. That strength made him vulnerable to the darkness within his heart. He didn't turn out well."

Ravenna frowned. "How do you know that I won't turn out like he did?"

Caelan's eyes met hers. "I have high hopes for you," he said with earnest. "Despite your idiotic tendencies, you display a strong sense of resilience and determination. Both are good qualities."

Her cheeks started to burn. She looked down at the floorboards and quietly said, "I'm glad you think so."

It wasn't long before the stew was ready. Caelan prepared the bowls and added a few slices of bread. They moved into the formal dining room, sitting at an extravagant table. Dinner was a quiet affair. Caelan brought a spell book with him, skimming through its pages while he ate. When Ravenna finished, she helped him clean the dishes and then retired to her bedroom.

As she entered her room, her gaze automatically darted toward the various windows. Darkness plagued them all, obscured only by bright flashes of lightning. There was no sign of the ghost girl. She heaved a sigh and started toward the chair.

She picked up the ancient spell book. It wasn't locked. As she flipped it open, her mind traveled back to Vyses and his wounded expression. It bothered her. Her aversion to his attitude had faded. She figured that she would act short if she had to deal with a drunk patron who rambled about seemingly impossible things as well. She decided to visit the tavern once daylight hit, and check up on him.

She blinked at the page in front of her. It took a second for her eyes to focus, the words a scribble of chaos. The words rearranged themselves on the page, filled with unfamiliar letters.

An exasperated huff escaped her. She squeezed her eyes shut and then reopened them, glaring at the page.

The words had stopped moving, and no longer contained letters from another language. A series of legible English words spread across the page like in an ordinary letter. Ravenna's eyes widened with surprise.

"It's unlocked!" she whispered in slight disbelief.

She leaned forward in her seat. Her eyes remained glued to the pages in front of her, devouring the legible words. It was only a short passage, written in elegant script. It described a demon with crimson eyes and powers of persuasion. The passage ended with a vague warning: "Do not listen to his magic." She flipped the page. When she went to read more of the demon, the words rearranged themselves and the book was locked once more.

Her stomach twisted with knots. She closed the book and set it aside. She rubbed at her temples, a headache brewing. The description of the demon seemed familiar.

Thank you guys so much for your patience! Especially for those of you who also read this story on Radish, and know that it hasn't been updated in a week or two

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Thank you guys so much for your patience! Especially for those of you who also read this story on Radish, and know that it hasn't been updated in a week or two. Finals are killing me at the moment. Once I get finished with this magazine, I will be able to sit down and actually write more. I technically have one more week of classes but the magazine is the largest part of my work load. Your continued support is greatly appreciated and your feedback means the world! <3 

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