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THE TAVERN SMELLED of body odor and spices, all mixed with the pungent scent of ale

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THE TAVERN SMELLED of body odor and spices, all mixed with the pungent scent of ale. Ravenna's nose flared and her lips curled in disgust. She hated the smell of alcohol; it never mixed right with humans and brought on awful behavior. She reached up and tugged her hood down over her eyes. The tavern was filled with men that had dirt smeared skin and were missing teeth. Several women danced around the room with pitchers of ale, their tattered dresses swishing with each step. Ravenna clung to the walls, lurking within the shadows. Her hands slipped in and out of pockets with ease.

As she neared the bar-counter itself, a bulky patron stumbled backward, almost knocking her over. "Watch it!" the man slurred as he whirled around to get a look at her. His round cheeks were speckled with red. He lifted a fist threateningly and scowled.

Ravenna glared. The tips of her nails grew cold. The dirt ingrained beneath the tips started to cloud over with ice as her hands balled into fists. The drunken man slunk back toward his seat, slamming his empty metal mug down against the counter. He reached for the leather coin-pouch at his side and, startled to find it empty, let out an outraged cry.

" coins!" He started to shout incoherently. He skewered the room with squinted eyes and then jabbed a finger at another patron. "You stole 'em!"

The scrawny patron held his hands up in defense. "I ain't stole nothin'!"

Ravenna slipped the five gold pieces into her own pouch and smirked. The added jingle was drowned out beneath the continued roars of the drunken ogre. The owner of the tavern slammed a mug against the bar and his screams drowned out the chaos. It wasn't long before the ogre was kicked out onto the streets. A few heartbeats later, and the chatter kicked back up again, flooding the room like a wildfire.

It was the same old scene every time. It was yet another reason she hated alcohol.

As she skimmed through the crowd, a particular bout of whispers caught Ravenna's attention. She paused several feet from the source of the noise: a rounded table, half concealed behind a wooden column. Several patrons were clustered around and had leaned in close. Their mugs overflowed with frothy bubbles in front of them.

"Did you hear the rumors?"

"I heard somethin' to do with the Imperials rushing through the streets earlier. Said that some of the poor saps were frozen solid."

The first man leaned in closer, attempting to whisper. "I heard there was a dragon."

"A dragon?"

"Aye," one of the other men said, his eyes flashing. "It came from the mountains just north o'here and attacked the soldiers near the farms outside Khal. And it breathed ice instead of fire!"

Another of the patrons shook his head. "That's legend speak," he scoffed. "No way in hell that a real dragon exists! It was probably just some unlucky wizard."

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