THIRTY SEVEN

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HEAVY WAVES OF CONFUSION rippled through Ravenna

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HEAVY WAVES OF CONFUSION rippled through Ravenna. Hesitantly, she reached out and picked up the book. Her fingertips traced over its edges. There was no latch on the side, no magical glue holding each piece of paper together. The book easily fell open in her hands, revealing clear, legible words scribed in dark ink.

The talisman around her neck began to burn. It was a soft burn, a burn that she almost didn't notice. A burn that she quickly forgot.

As she flipped through the pages of the book, her eyes greedily scanned over its contents. Most of the passages were unlocked. There were a few passages that remained locked to her eyes --still visible among the sketches and scribbles, yet blurred to incoherent smudges. A majority of the blocked passages could be found near the front of the book, where the pages had aged the most.

Ravenna paused when she located the paragraph that described the demon. Without second thought, she devoured the words around it, hoping to find more details concerning the demon. The more that she read, the more that her heart sank. There was no mention of the demon, or a creature like it, in the paragraphs around the passage she'd already been exposed to. She couldn't tell whether the book was messing with her, or if that vague description was all that was written about the beast.

With a frustrated sigh, she resigned herself to the rest of the book. She spent the night pouring through each page, consuming the content that was unlocked. When morning came, and beams of sunlight began to stretch across the floor toward her, Ravenna set the book aside. The moment that the book clicked shut, she could hear the lock latch and the talisman cooled against her skin. A headache prickled at the back of her mind, like a small spring shower unfolding into a hurricane.

Rubbing at her temples, Ravenna stood. She bathed and changed into a cleaner dress. Breakfast was a simple affair --an apple paired with a chunk of bread. When she was finished, she emerged from the house, squinting into the sun.

She made her way through the streets, toward the market. Training with Vyses could wait for another day.

The market seemed louder than usual. Screaming children and bellowing vendors seemed to be lost within a desperate fight for dominance. Endless chatter ricocheted against the stone walls of the buildings, each word pelting Ravenna's mind like hail. Annoyed, she weaved through the streams of bustling townsfolk. Elbows nudged, shoulders brushed. She couldn't breathe.

Ducking into the general store, Ravenna's gaze scanned over the front counter. Bella was nowhere to be found. Instead, a scrawny girl with charcoal hair stood with her hands pressed flat against the countertop, her dark eyes focused on Ravenna.

Ravenna's headache began to magnify. She forced a smile at the girl and then ducked in between the shelves, half-heartedly glancing at the products. She made her way toward the back, where the apothecary was.

Relief bristled past Ravenna's lips when she spotted Bella. The redhead stood behind the apothecary counter, carefully measuring a silvery liquid into a glass vial. Her hair was pinned back, away from her face.

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