After having danced for decidedly too long a time, I take a freezing cold shower (the water supply for the school's showers is taken from the surrounding mountain rivers) and consider what I'll be doing with the rest of my day.
My first stop is the library where I hope to find Ezra to resolve our... quarrel, but the room is surprisingly empty for an afternoon at Hearthstone and I can't even find him in his usual nook at the far end of it.

academia, books, and brown image couple, tessa gray, and cassandra clare image

For a second I think about staying and studying for a while, but the unfamiliar silence is freaking me out and I know I wouldn't be able to focus. I feel a prick of conscience remembering Ezra's accusation that I only ever learn what I'm interested in and don't study anything else despite the massive privilege that going to Hearthstone represents.
Nevertheless, I can feel that I won't be doing much in the ways of studying right now and postpone it to tonight.
Instead, I decide, I'll go looking for Juliette. She had ditched me inexplicably a few days ago, after we had hit it off really well, or so I thought, when I gave her a tour of the school on her first day.
Since then I hadn't seen her and so she hadn't given me an explanation and much less an apology for skipping out on me. I probably shouldn't be so damn offended by it, after all we'd really only talked once for a few hours and yet... I had felt such an instant closeness to her, had even shown her my secret refuge: the attic, the only place that used to be only mine and no one else's.

Maybe she's up there, I think, but deem it highly unlikely since I didn't see any signs of someone else entering the past week and I doubt she suddenly remembered to do so.
I walk down to the secretary's office to find out where she's housed in order to visit her and confront her about it.
The secretary is reluctant at first, aware of my trouble maker reputation (she was the one who caught Victoria, the stray cat I used to keep up in the attic and let out over the roof tops), but after a few minutes of polite chatter and my sweetest smile she's swayed.

alone, background, and beautiful image bookcase, brown, and camera image

I skitter down the steep hills of Catachan to get to her before the sun sets so that we might go on a walk in the warm evening glow, that is if she even wants to talk to me – and it is in that same velocity that I run into Juliette leaving her house with a pile of books in her arms and herself in a hurry. Both of us fall back in a cartoonish manner that would have made me laugh, if it weren't for my aching elbow and the scattered books in front of me.
There are four books in total one of which fell open in the process and is now revealing a grotesque mixture of alchemical sketches and a family tree sprawled over several pages as the wind is turning them. It reminds me faintly of something I have seen before, images of dark candle-lit rooms and
late-night rituals that suddenly pass before my eyes.
Juliette recovers quicker than I do and slams the book shut before I can get a better look at it.
I can see recognition followed by remorse flicker in her eyes before those too are shut against my interrogation.

alchemy, dark, and gothic image book, vintage, and old image

“No time. I'm sorry that I stood you up the other day, now please get out of my way.”
“Juliette”, I plead as I get up painstakingly slow and adjust my (already messy before the fall) school uniform, “why don't the two of us take a walk?”
I snatch the book on top of the pile hoping that it would be enough of an incentive to make her follow me.
“As insurance.”, I say when I catch her irritated glance. Apparently she didn't expect my quick thinking or maybe she secretly wants to entrust someone with her findings because she does follow me into the nearby woods.
Any other day the damp moss under my bare feet and the closeness to water would have brought me comfort but today I barely feel it.

adventure, grass, and moss image Image by the girl who sold the world. ♡

The nature of her words is just too unbelievable. But she has the books to prove it. Well, sort of anyways.
She had overhead two of her teachers talking about how the Winters meant trouble and had always meant trouble.
“My family went to Hearthstone. I had no idea and now they're all dead. Look at this.”
She points to a group of names in the family tree like drawing. Some names on it are crossed out neatly. The contrast to the frantic pencil sketches of witchy looking symbols make the neat lines seem even more eerie.

Image by loregalafate book, aesthetic, and magic image

After having overhead that conversation she had gone into the library and asked for the school's register, was denied access to it and subsequently stole it.
At that part of the story I gave her a sympathetic look. I knew the act of larceny for a good cause all too well.
But the book is not only a register of students who attended, it's also a small archive of events or at least that's what we think. What makes the whole thing a teeny bit difficult is the fact that most of it is written in a language none of us know. It's neither Latin nor Old German, both of which Juliette had gotten a dictionary for.
What makes the whole thing even harder is that we don't know whether it's even a language or just code or even a completely new, made-up language.
We keep flipping through the pages, fascinated by the drawings of alchemical processes and weird symbols. All of this evokes a strange feeling of familiarity in me that I can't quite pin down.
At one point, it's almost dark now and we probably sat on that cold stone for two hours by the time, I spot my family's name: Everleigh.
Under some of the names there are notes in that strange archaic sounding language.
“Hey look,”, I draw Jul's attention towards the words under my mother's name, “isn't that the same sequence of words as the one under your family's names?”
She skims back as fast as she can without tearing the pages and finds the Winters again.
“Yes, yes it is.”
We look at each other in astonishment and horror.
Maybe this is all some elaborate joke. A group of friends made up a code and wrote fake entries in a fake book and made it seem more creepy by adding random symbols.
Maybe this is real, and our family members all had roles in some mysterious cult that's slowly dying away.

We can't really do anything about it now though, especially not in the dark woods which suddenly seem a lot darker, so we try to shrug it off and get back to the village. Tomorrow's another day.
I offer to walk Juliette home and she takes the book and promises to hide it in the attic the very next day (as long as nobody else tries to get it from the library, no one should notice its absence) and walk home myself.
The whole way to my too silent house since Mel's departure, I have an acute sense of being watched. Before whatever is watching me can reach me though, I ram my keys into the lock and hurry inside.

Despite the eventful day I don't feel tired at all. I light some candles and try tidying my room, try writing an essay for Mr Samuel's class, try playing a few notes on my cello, try...but don't succeed at focusing on anything. I'm restless after what I found out today. What we found out.
We need to learn more about this place's history.
For some reason, inexplicable to me but somehow tied to that feeling I get when I think about the symbols carved into the pages of that book, this prospect excites me more than it frightens me.
And I know I should be frightened.

considering that this was born out of a writer's block, I'm surprisingly okay with how it turned out, hope you like it too :)

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