Fire? No! Bethany was shocked. She was looking outside at the empty shop next to her father's, of which she was on the top floor... There was little left. The wan light of morning was just seeping into the air, revealing the wreckage of the building.
Only a few minutes later, she was outside the empty shop in a plain but warm woolen gown. The strong stone blocks had survived, but every piece of wood had burnt to a cinder. Many other people had gathered 'round.
She heard the whispers between the gossiping wives that stood around.
"Dead? The Devil-"
"Nonesense! Say what-"
"Yes! 'Twas dead, sure and certain!"
Bethany slipped quietly closer to the ruined building. A brown, ash- and dirt-covered rectangle caught her eye. She quickly picked it up, and rushed back to her father's shop.
Her father was a widower, Bethany's mother having died years ago. Bethany had been very little, and she didn't even remember. She had been four... twelve years ago.
Before stepping through the door, she paused, and looked at what she was carrying. A book, with a soft leather cover carved with an image of a coiled snake, it's head leaning over an intricate, blossoming vine that climbed around the edge of the book.
"No..." she whispered. "It can't be!"