SEVENTEEN

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THE DRAGON, OR CAELAN, lead her through a  patch of houses, toward the outskirts of town again

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THE DRAGON, OR CAELAN, lead her through a patch of houses, toward the outskirts of town again. Most of the houses seemed to be similar in construction, built with the same stone walls and dark wooden roofs. Each had a garden surrounding it, filled with various plants and animals. Chickens reigned supreme, roaming the roads as they pleased.

Ravenna didn't like the chickens. And the chickens didn't like Ravenna either.

"Are we almost there?" she grumbled under her breath, walking briskly away from a particularly feisty chicken. Its feathers ruffled as it sunk back down against the earth, glowering at her.

Caelan seemed mildly amused. "Almost."

She scowled. The houses around them started to thin out, replaced with larger, more expansive areas of farmland. A few houses spotted the land. These houses were larger than the ones she'd seen previously, and more elaborate. "Who lives in these?"

Caelan turned down another path. He gestured with a hand toward a nearby house. "A majority of these homes are second homes, or vacation homes, for the lords of nearby cities."

"They look expensive," Ravenna remarked.

"They are," he said. He pointed toward a house that sat farther down on the path, half concealed behind a forest of bluebird berries. "That is mine. We will stay there for now."

Her eyes widened. She observed the house as they approached it. It was larger than the others, yet consisted of the same smooth stones and darkened wooden trimmings. The differences were very subtle in nature; a simple crooked window, a half-broken step, and a patch of vines crawling toward the side of the house. It was those differences that made the house seem more approachable, more homey to her.

The dragon easily stepped over the broken step and slowed to a stop, glancing back over his shoulder. He held out a hand to Ravenna. She took it, surprised by the action, and he helped her step over the jagged wood. Without a word, Caelan stepped onto the porch area, slowing to a stop in front of the front door. He waved a hand. The doorknob began to jingle. The door unlocked and swung open, to reveal the dark innards of the house.

She followed him inside, her arms folded across her chest. Her gaze flickered around. "This is nice," she said. The inside was fairly plain compared to what she had expected. The entrance consisted of a foyer, which was broken by a massive wooden staircase. Twisted iron rails decorated the sides of the staircase and an elaborate sword was fastened to the wall just beside the door. An archway to their immediate right lead to another room. It housed a hearth and a massive wooden table. Plants spotted the table and the various shelves that lined the room.

"You can explore later," Caelan told her. He stood at the base of the staircase. "We both must rest. I apologize however. The rooms have not been cleaned in a while. I was forced to fire the maid a while ago."

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