THIRTY ONE

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The next morning, Caelan refused to make eye contact

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The next morning, Caelan refused to make eye contact. He sat across from Ravenna at the table with a plate of food and a spell book open in front of him. As he flipped through the book, he munched on a piece of bread and dunked it in a bowl of creamy oats.

Ravenna chewed on an apple, watching him eat, still somewhat smug about her revelation the night before. When she finished, she stood and said, "I am going to spend some time at the tavern today. It's been a while since I've talked to Vyses."

Caelan looked up at that. His expression remained calm and stoic, but a sourness seemed to plague his eyes. "Vyses is not the best person to befriend," he said.

"He's been nothing but kind to me since I came to this town," she said and started toward the door. "He even allowed me to stay in his tavern before you came. Besides, I can befriend whomever I want."

The sourness in his eyes spread throughout his face. "As you wish. Don't say that I didn't warn you."

She paused in the doorway and glanced back at him from over her shoulder. Caelan seemed withdrawn now, focused intently on his spell book. Something wasn't right. He had made his distaste for Vyses very clear to her and would have normally fought her about it. Another wall seemed to be building between them.

A sigh escaped her, but she left it at that. Ravenna made her way out of the house and started toward the tavern. As she walked along the street, she fiddled with the talisman around her neck, tracing her fingers along its smooth surface. The sunlight glistened against the dew-covered grass around her and the town still seemed half asleep. She reveled in the silence, glad to be alone with her thoughts.

As she neared the tavern, Ravenna saw a guard strolling through the streets in front of her. She watched him from the corner of her eye, curious to see if he was one of the ones she'd ran into the night before. He didn't seem familiar.

The guard turned down another path and seemed to notice her for the first time. His entire body stiffened and his pace quickened. It didn't take long before he vanished behind another house.

Ravenna frowned. Even though she hadn't recognized him, the guard obviously knew of her. It was common, and somewhat expected, that the guards would approach a travelling woman, just to make sure that she reached her desired location safely. Ravenna had never been an exception to that. Until now.

Which meant that the guards from last night remembered her, and the spell that she'd used against them. Someone must have spread the word about her.

Anxiety reared its ugly head, and Ravenna clutched tighter at the talisman. The last time several guards believed that she practiced black magic, she'd gotten killed.

Ducking her head, Ravenna climbed the steps to the tavern's entrance. She hastily stepped inside and shut the door behind her. The tavern's musky, loud atmosphere immediately enveloped her. A sense of safeness washed through her veins and her anxiety vanished. Her eyes darted toward the bar.

Vyses leaned against it, watching her with a warm grin. As she approached, his head tilted, and his eyes shimmered with an unnamable emotion. "I take it you are ready for another lesson?"

She nodded.

Lyth seemed to appear from the shadows, maneuvering behind the bar and greeting the already seated patrons. Ravenna glanced around the tavern. It was almost empty, probably because it was early in the morning and most of the town was still asleep.

Vyses placed a hand on the small of her back and lead her down to the training room. Excitement swirled through Ravenna's veins as she entered the room. "What are we learning today?" she asked.

"More basic attacks," Vyses answered cheerfully. "I want to teach you various spells that will easily disable your enemies and help you defeat them in battle. Later on, once you have mastered that, we will focus on basic self-defense and blocking spells."

Ravenna nodded. Caelan started with self-defense spells, which would protect her against an assault. But it would be nice to have several different attacks of her own hidden under her sleeves.

She watched Vyses approach a rack of weapons. He plucked a slender sword from the rack and then grabbed a metal shield. As he tightened the shield's straps around his forearm, he said, "I am going to teach you a simple attack first. Then once you feel ready, I want you to attack me."

They both moved to the center of the room and faced each other. Vyses lifted a glowing hand and, in one swift moment, swept it across the air in front of him. As his hand moved, three solid red daggers appeared beneath it. The moment his hand stopped moving, the daggers shot forward. Each one zoomed past Ravenna and shattered against the stone wall behind her.

If she had blinked, she would have missed the attack entirely.

She shifted around uncertainly on her feet. "So, you just wave your hand?"

"And visualize a dagger," he said. "Or two. The more the merrier. You will also want to focus your vision on your target. For example, if you look at the wall behind me and perform the spell, your daggers will do as mine did. If you stare directly at me, however, your daggers will attempt to hit me instead."

Ravenna shifted her gaze toward the ground. The mental image of an imperial dagger appeared in her mind. She swept her hand across the air in front of her. The moment that her hand stopped, an icy blue dagger cracked against the ground.

"I did it," she whispered.

"You did. Good job," Vyses chirped. He balanced his sword in the palm of his hand and smiled at her. A mischievous glint shimmered within his eyes. "Do you think that you are ready to attack me?"

"I think so," Ravenna said. She stepped backward and stared hard at Vyses. Five imperial daggers appeared within her mind, poised and ready to strike. She crouched down slightly and lifted her arms.

Vyses smirked at her and didn't move a muscle.

Her hand moved. Five icy daggers burst into existence and zoomed through the air toward Vyses's head. Before she could even blink, Vyses had lifted his shield and swatted them away like bugs. The daggers splintered against the floor.

"Again," Vyses said. His smirk grew. "Faster. Use both hands this time."

Ravenna pursed her lips. Fueled with determination, she moved faster. One hand and then another. Wave after wave of ice daggers shot forward. Vyses moved in a blur, easily deflecting them all with his shield.

"Faster, Ravenna" he shouted at her. "I want you to actually try to kill me."

Thank you all for your continued patience and support! <3 Remember that if you ever want to read ahead, then be sure to check out the version of ICE that is available on Tapas

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Thank you all for your continued patience and support! <3 Remember that if you ever want to read ahead, then be sure to check out the version of ICE that is available on Tapas. I believe it's on like chapter 60-something? 

Also, this story is currently #87 in Fantasy. Can you believe it? It makes me so happy to see this story climbing the ranks x)


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