FORTY FIVE

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RAVENNA STARTED TO search around for another candle, only to realize that she wouldn't need it. Already, the sun had begun to rise. Clouds of purples and oranges reached upward, clutching at the sky, just above the tree-filled horizon line. With a small huff, she lifted her hands toward her face. As her fingertips drifted upward, she could feel the rough edges of the ice that covered her forehead. She was somewhat surprised that the crown still remained. Part of her had expected it to melt against the heat of the spell, or at least vanish once the spell was complete.

Her stomach twisted. "Does that mean it didn't work?" she couldn't help but whisper aloud to herself.

Morning sunlight slowly crept into the study, illuminating the room. She looked around, eyebrows furrowed. The world around her hadn't changed. She couldn't tell whether or not the spell had actually worked. Annoyance surged through her. Slowly, she began to clean the floor around her, putting the various ingredients back into their rightful spots. The last thing that she needed now was to have to explain a potentially failed spell to Caelan. He'd nag her into the next century for performing the spell without the listed ingredients.

As she made her way toward the kitchen, lavender and cooled candle in hand, a knock sounded against the front door. Ravenna jumped, startled, and the candle slipped from her fingers. It cracked against the floor, exploding into small pieces of mushy wax. A small curse slipped past her lips. She stepped around the candle fragments and made her way toward the door. Hesitantly, she opened it.

A guard stood on the front porch. He blinked when he saw Ravenna, his eyebrows furrowed with confusion. Then a small flash of recognition entered his eyes. "Good morning," he greeted. "You're the new witch in town, aren't you?"

"Can I help you?"

The guard shifted around on his feet. A sword hung from his side, pointed haphazardly at the ground. "I apologize for disrupting your morning" the guard told her. "I was sent to speak with you about the murder of a local resident. May I come inside?"

Ravenna stiffened. She gingerly folded her arms across her chest and frowned at the guard. "Am I being accused of anything?"

"No, but there has been some accusations made against you," the guard told her. She frowned at the honesty that shimmered within his eyes. "I need to talk with you about where you were the night that the victim died. I'm not here to make any arrests. Just to discuss what happened with you."

Ravenna pursed her lips. "Let's discuss it in the garden then," she said. She didn't feel comfortable with letting the guard inside the house. Not without Caelan there. "I need to get breakfast started."

The guard followed her around the house, into the garden. His boots clunked loudly against the ground, disturbing the morning peacefulness. Already somewhat annoyed, Ravenna snatched a bucket from beside the house and began to pluck carrots from the ground. The guard stood awkwardly by the fence, watching her. His eyes seemed glued to the ice on her forehead.

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