ELEVEN

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MORNING BIRDS SANG loudly, disrupting the quietness in her room

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MORNING BIRDS SANG loudly, disrupting the quietness in her room. Ravenna squinted and looked up from the scroll in her hand. Sunlight streamed through a crack in the shutters, its brightness exploding across the walls. Morning. That meant the bookstore would be open soon. She glanced back at the scroll in her hand. It was the only scroll that seemed remotely useful. Etched into the aged paper was a generalized self-help spell, which was meant to improve all aspects of the castor's personality. After sleeping for a few hours, she resorted the mountain of spells, slimming down a variety of possibilities until one remained. The rest of the night had been spent studying, in hopes of dissecting the broad spell and narrowing its focus.

Ravenna heaved a sigh and set the scroll down. All of her efforts seemed futile so far. Slimming a spell was not an easy task, especially when the castor hardly knew anything about magic.

A warm, buttery smell wafted throughout the room, making her stomach growl loudly --a sound she hadn't heard in a very long time. Her brows furrowed and she closed her eyes. She never got hungry. The scent washed over her, making her insides feel fuzzy and warm. A memory flashed through her mind –her mother, smiling warmly and cooking pastry filled breakfasts.

The delicious smell took control. Ravenna stood and swiftly dressed into a seemly little peasants dressed, colored a deep emerald. After gathering the scrolls into her knapsack, she gingerly pushed open the door and poked her head out. Sunlight streamed through open windows, illuminating the narrow hallway. Ravenna stepped further into the hallway, closing her door behind her. Beyond the windows, a sprawling landscape sat, overflowing with green treetops and fluffy clouds. She hurried down the staircase and into the tavern. The rowdiness of the night had calmed into a quiet cheeriness. A few of the tables were filled with patrons who chatted amicably amongst themselves and shoveled forkfuls of food into their mouths.

Ravenna found a seat at the bar, rather than take an entire table to herself, and instantly regretted it. The moment her rear touched the stool, a mug was set in front of her, frothy with foam. She looked up and grimaced.

The bartender flashed a sly grin at her. His elbow was propped against the counter, chin resting atop his knuckles. His hair was pulled back into a haphazard bun, free strands streaming down his back in a waterfall of starlight. "What can I get you to eat, lass?"

"The cheapest thing you've got," she responded. Her fingertip lightly brushed the lip of the mug, pushing the foam about. "I don't have much coin to spare."

"Nonsense," the bartender chirped. "Breakfast is always on the house. Especially for such a pretty lass such as yourself."

She rolled her eyes. "So I suppose that if I were missing my teeth and covered in brown spots, I'd actually have to pay for my meal then?"

"Depends."

Her eyebrow arched upward. "On?"

The bartender worked quick behind the counter, hands preparing an unseen meal. His gaze remained focused downward, but his lips were curled with another smile. "How nice that person is. I can handle a few missin' teeth, so long as your sweet words can make up for them."

Ravenna snorted. She curiously lifted the mug to her lips. The ale was surprisingly sweet, almost like a thinned honey. "I guess my appearance makes up for my less than pleasant attitude," she surmised. "I know that I am not a nice person."

"I beg to differ," the bartender purred. "I find you quite pleasant. Both to the eyes and the ears."

She harrumphed. Before anything else could be said, the bartender produced a plate from behind the counter and set it down in front of her. Yellowed eggs, mixed with spices and peppers, toasted bread, and a bundle of freshly washed fruits were clustered together atop the plate. Her heart sank inside her chest. For some odd reason, she'd been expecting the sugary tarts that her mother used to make.

"A spell was used this morning," she noted, "To get us all out of bed and downstairs for breakfast."

The bartender blinked at her. His eyes narrowed slightly, flashing that unsettling crimson red. His coy features reminded her of a fox. "You noticed."

"I wouldn't have left my room otherwise."

The spell was very similar to one she'd seen in the scrolls. It was meant to gather squabbling family members to a meal, as it filled the air with an indescribable smell that flooded its victims heads with warmhearted memories of food. It explained the sudden memory of her mother and the mechanical way Ravenna, who hadn't felt hunger since she'd woken, had deserted her room for food. 

"I figured as much," the bartender admitted. He pushed a loose strand of hair back behind his ear and flashed her another flirtatious smile. "I hope the spell didn't put you off, lass. I just didn't want to miss out on seeing your pretty little face."

Ravenna tsked in annoyance. She poked at the food and then took a small bite. It wasn't her mother's pastries, but it was good. It felt good. The more that she ate, the more she felt like her old self. Her human self. She quickly devoured the remainder of her food and passed it back to the bartender. "It was very good," she assured him as she started to stand. "Thank you for breakfast."

"You're leaving so soon?"

Despite the alarms that tingled down her spine, Ravenna hesitated. Her gaze lifted to meet his. He pouted at her like a child. "I'll be back before dark," she found herself promising him.

"I'm going to hold you to that, lass," he warned.

She started toward the door. A table of men laughed and lifted their mugs high into the air as she passed, already preparing for another rowdy night at the tavern. Shaking her head, Ravenna stepped out onto the street. Most of the town was already awake and its streets were filled with a collection of vendors and various shoppers. She made her way through the commotion, focused on the lonely little bookstore.

As she passed through the street, some of townsfolk made eye contact and greeted her with warm smiles and friendly hellos. She made an effort to smile back, her anxiety slowly fading.

Maybe all humans weren't so bad.

Through my attempts to avoid writing a final paper, I have managed to create a new cover and write several updates for Radish (and some for Wattpad

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Through my attempts to avoid writing a final paper, I have managed to create a new cover and write several updates for Radish (and some for Wattpad. Law readers, look out!). I thought I should update the next chapter for ICE to celebrate. 

Yay!! 

Sorry. It's like three AM and I really, really, REALLY don't want to write this paper.

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