TWENTY EIGHT

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Laughter floated through the tavern

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Laughter floated through the tavern. Vyses glanced around, his mischievous smile never faltering, and then snapped his fingers. Ravenna blinked. A familiar, homely looking boy rushed around the counter. He stopped beside Vyses and waited.

"Lyth," Vyses addressed the boy and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "We will be downstairs. Do not disturb us. Please tend to the bar while I am gone."

Lyth nodded and glanced at Ravenna curiously. "Yes, sir."

She watched as the boy approached the bar and began to converse with a patron that sat several stools down. He seemed to easily adopt a friendly, cheerful attitude as he began to pour drinks.

Vyses rounded the counter and held out a hand. "Ready, lass?"

Ravenna turned toward him, her gaze dropping toward his palm. His fingernails seemed longer than a normal human's, and almost claw-like. Hesitantly, she placed her hand in his. His skin was smooth and warm. The moment their palms made contact, a weird feeling trickled through her skin, toward her heart. A calm sensation followed swiftly, and she felt herself relax.

He helped her down from her stool, smiling cheerfully down at her. His hand released her own and moved to her lower back. He gently guided her toward the back of the tavern, toward a door tucked away within its depths. The door opened to reveal an older staircase. Vyses waved a hand in front of them, and Ravenna's eyes widened as she watched a burst of light exploded from his hand. The light was tinted bright red, and stretched along the walls. As it moved, it engulfed several torches with crimson flames.

The reddened hue that shrouded the staircase made Ravenna's skin prickle with gooseflesh. Her lips pressed together into a wrinkled line. "Where are we going?"

"The basement," Vyses answered. His hand remained steady on her lower back. "I promise that it's not as scary as it seems. It's actually a great place to practice magic."

Ravenna allowed him to guide her down the staircase and into the basement. The torches that lined the walls of the basement were already lit and, as they stepped into the main room, seemed to brighten. She could see the cracks within the stones that covered the floor and the abundance of barrels that lined the walls.

"Is this where you keep the alcohol?" she asked. Her fingers brushed against the edge of a nearby barrel.

Vyses nodded and crossed the room. He stopped in front of the wall opposite of the staircase and yanked a curtain aside to reveal yet another doorway. He gestured for her to follow him. "This room is used for storage. We have quite a collection of beer and mead down here, not to mention unused furniture for the bedrooms. This next room here is where we will train. I have spelled it so that any destruction that is done against the walls will not affect the rest of the tavern, nor will any of our guests notice."

Ravenna stepped through the opening and glanced around. The next room was much larger than the storage room. It was almost as big as the tavern's first floor, where the bar was. "Whoa," she muttered under her breath.

Vyses turned toward her and beamed. "Isn't it great? I've worked very hard to make sure that this room is perfect. Some of the townsfolk aren't comfortable with my magic, so I cannot practice it within the forest. At least not without opposition."

She examined the room. It was mostly bare, aside from several bookshelves and weaponry racks that lined the walls. A small desk sat in one corner, with a few books neatly organized on top.

With a hand, Vyses gestured around the room. "This is my safe alternative. Rather than scaring those dimwitted guards out in the forest, I decided to expand the basement and spell it so that no human would notice. This way there will not be any riots."

Ravenna approached one of the weapon racks. A collection of swords hung from it, ranging in all different shapes and sizes. She touched the hilt of a particularly thin sword. "How will our lessons begin?"

"Control," Vyses purred. His voice sounded very close and she whirled around, only to find him standing right behind her. His eyes glimmered with something unnameable. "You must learn to control your powers first."

Her eyes narrowed. Caelan had started his lessons with the same idea. While she understood that the sense of control was important, she feared that Vyses would unknowingly mirror Caelan's teaching style.

Vyses pointed his index finger toward the ceiling and flashed his pearly whites. "I am well aware that the aspect of control is very difficult at first. Even I had a hard time with learning to control my own powers. I assume that you are having issues with this as well?"

"You are correct," she said.

"Then I have something that might help you," he announced. She folded her arms across her chest and watched, curiously, as he walked toward the desk. In one swift movement, a drawer within the desk slid open. He dipped his hand inside and withdrew it, fingers curled around something silver.

He returned to where she stood and opened his palm. A necklace dropped free and dangled just below his palm, its chain curled around his finger. "This is a special ," he told her. "It will help you control your magic, so long as you wear it."

The talisman's charm was a sharply cut crystal, colored a pale red hue. It was attached to its silver chain by a clawed, silver hand. Vyses held it out to her. Ravenna hesitantly took the crystal from him. The moment that her skin touched the silver chain, she noticed the crystal's color become clouded over with icy colored specks. She carefully put the necklace on and allowed it to drop. The crystal dangled between her breasts, dipping just below her collar.

She blinked as a sharp pain raced through her veins. It blistered through her arms, toward her fingertips. Her face contorted with a grimace and she staggered backwards, against the wall behind her. "What is this?" she hissed at Vyses.

His wine-colored eyes locked with hers. Ravenna gasped in pain and slumped against the wall. Immediately, his hands shot out and grabbed her arms. He kept her steady. "Careful now, lass," he said. His voice was low and soothing, ebbing away at the pain. "The pain won't last long. The crystal is just adjusting to your body and magic."

Ravenna squeezed her eyes shut. His voice seemed to echo throughout the room. "It will all be over soon."

Thank you for your continued patience and support! This semester has been absolutely killer

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Thank you for your continued patience and support! This semester has been absolutely killer. But I'm almost done. Almost.

Remember that if you ever get tired of waiting for updates and want to read ahead, the version of this story that is available on Tapas is currently on chapter 63! :D If you don't have the money to splurge on Caelan and Ravenna, there are ways to earn coins on Tapas too. <3

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