THIRTY NINE

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VYSES TOOK A deep breath. His fingers rubbed at his temples now, his eyes far away. The tension seemed to lock within his shoulders. "I trained under Caelan for about a year. He was working on a big spell. I don't remember what it was supposed to do, as it was a long time ago. He was always working on a project. It got so infuriating sometimes because I always felt that he never had time to actually train me. I was essentially left to read through his collection of spells, and figure them out for myself."

There was a pause. And then another deep inhale. "So how was I supposed to know?" he asked softly.

Ravenna didn't answer. She didn't even know how to answer.

"The whole apprenticeship was spent figuring things out for myself," Vyses said. He straightened in his seat, his back ramrod straight, and met Ravenna's gaze. "I didn't know that there were certain spells that would be incomplete. I didn't know that there were prototypes. And I didn't know how to tell the difference between complete spells and prototypes."

"So you brought a prototype home to Ellie," Ravenna surmised.

Vyses nodded. "I did. My parents owned the tavern at the time. This used to be housing for soldiers, and my parents were slowly converting it to the tavern that it is today. We went upstairs, into one of the bedrooms, where we usually played."

"I was so excited to show her this spell," he said. A small laugh escaped him, and he shook his head. "It was supposed to turn a human into a faerie, giving them wings and powers. Ellie loved faeries. They were her favorite things in the world. She was always pretending to be one, with fabric wings that her mother made for her. I was so excited to show her this spell. She was such a sweet girl, so kindhearted. She deserved the world. I knew it was going to make her so happy."

Ravenna's stomach began to twist. She sunk a little further into her seat, her lips pursed. She wasn't ready for what she knew he was about to say.

And she wasn't ready for the pained expression that captured his face, or the tears that slipped down his cheeks.

"Obviously, it didn't turn her into a faerie." His voice cracked.

"I'm sorry," Ravenna whispered. Her heart hurt. Her head hurt. She wasn't expecting this. She was expecting Vyses to try and hide it again. She was expecting to be mad at Vyses, to hate him. He murdered a young child.

Yet, all she could feel was sadness.

It had been an accident. Something that, after hundreds of years, still greatly disturbed and afflicted him. It was still his fault, though she felt that she couldn't pin all the blame on him. She could relate to Vyses's frustrations. Like he said, Caelan was always working on a project and hardly taught anything. The first few weeks that she apprenticed under him, she spent in the tavern, looking through spells all on her own. Out of the entire ordeal, he'd really only taught her one spell.

"Once the deed was done," Vyses said softly, "And I realized that something was wrong, I tried to get help. I tried to get her help. There were only a few healers in town, and none of them could help with magic. Word spread quickly. Even Caelan couldn't help her. She was gone. Twisted. The spell didn't kill her outright --it turned her into something evil, something demonic. Caelan and I spent months trying to fix her. He even took her to other mages, other wizards. She was too far gone."

His watery eyes focused on hers. "It wasn't long before she began to kill. She started to hunt others, murdering other townsfolk. I was blamed. Everyone was upset. Caelan was extremely disappointed. And she kept killing. We locked her away, spelled everything. We did our best to protect everybody. She didn't stop. She couldn't. And, after her sixth victim was found, the town revolted. She had to be stopped."

"She was killed in the spring," Vyses said. "I still remember the day. I still remember the flowers, the cloudless sky. I still remember each face that stood in that crowd, waiting for her to be killed. It was a public execution. She was hung. It was horrible. I couldn't watch, but I couldn't look away either. I still feel queasy about it."

Ravenna frowned. "I thought that you killed her, though," she said. "That's what Ellie told me."

The pain that appeared in Vyses's eyes made her regret every words. Her stomach rolled, twisting into violent knots.

"I did kill her," Vyses said. "Not with my bare hands. I didn't forcibly rip the life from her. But I did kill her. It was my fault that she was executed. It was my fault that she was turned into such a demonic monster."

"It was Caelan's too," Ravenna said softly.

Vyses snarked out a laugh. "Caelan's fault. Ha. Don't get me wrong, I do agree with you, Ravenna. It's his fault as much as it is mine. The bastard would just never own up to it. It was never his fault. He was too busy working on his spells. There was just no way that it could be his fault."

Ravenna lifted her hand, fiddling with a piece of her hair. While Caelan was the one to assure her that Ellie did indeed exist, he still didn't tell her much about her origins. She thought she remembered him feeling remorse, or guilty about Ellie. It was hard to be certain though. Her memory seemed muddy now.

"That's why I hate him," Vyses said. "I despise him with all my soul, or what's left of it, anyways. I would pay to see that man rot. He doesn't deserve the love of this town, or the ability to use magic at all."

Ravenna didn't know what to say. She remained silent, watching Vyses with cautious eyes. After a few moments of silence, she said, "I'm sorry for bring up such painful memories. I heard a rumor, and it made me angry. I wanted to get to the bottom of it."

"Let me guess," Vyses snickered bitterly. "You heard that I murdered a little girl. Trapped her in my tavern and tortured her?"

She kept her lips pressed tightly together.

"That's the story that was passed down, anyways," Vyses said. His expression darkened. "History tends to forget many aspects of the truth. This town has, mostly, forgotten the tale. I still had to change my name in order to live here again."

"I'm sorry," Ravenna said softly, unable to think of anything else.

Vyses pinned her with an unreadable look. "Enough about my deep, dark past," he said. "How about we train for a bit? I have a new spell that I can teach you."

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