FORTY EIGHT

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RAVENNA'S HAND SHOT forward and pulled the door open to reveal Vyses

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RAVENNA'S HAND SHOT forward and pulled the door open to reveal Vyses. He stood on the front porch, a heavy dark cloak wrapped around his shoulders and a concerned expression marring his facial features. She stepped aside, allowing him entry, and closed the door behind him.

"I apologize if I am intruding," he said. His fingers tugged at the clasp that held his cloak around his shoulders, quickly unlatching it and allowing it to fall free. She watched him hang it beside the door. His gaze darted around the inside of the house, overflowing with curiosity. "I overheard something troubling at the tavern today and wanted to make sure that you were alright."

She frowned at him. "What did you hear?"

His gaze hesitantly met hers. "You attacked Henry."

Ravenna shifted around on her feet. She nervously chewed on the inside of her lip as she said, "He was in our garden. He was trying to steal some of our food. I didn't hurt him or anything, just scared him a bit."

Vyses wrinkled his lips. "You still used your magic against him, which most around here don't like. Especially with that monster running around killing folks."

Ravenna's hands curled into tight fists. She could already feel her blood begin to boil. Then Vyses sighed and his gaze softened. "I would be upset if someone tried to steal from me, though. So I can understand your reasonings. He definitely shouldn't have been in the garden."

Ravenna huffed. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I also snapped at the bookkeeper earlier," she admitted. She hesitated with her next words, her stomach twisting into knots. "I don't know what's wrong with me, Vyses."

"Nothing's wrong with you, lass," he assured her. He stepped forward, his hands grasping hers. He squeezed them tight. "With everything that's happened, you have every right to be angry with the world. Today just isn't your day."

A moment of silence passed between them. His thumbs traced soft patterns against the skin of her hands. Finally, she took a deep breath, bracing herself. "Alright. Out with it. What did they say?" she asked him.

His nose crinkled. He glanced around again. "Why don't we sit down?" he said. He squeezed her hands once more and then released them, taking a step back. "Have you had supper yet?"

She shook her head. "I haven't."

He smiled at her. "Show me to the kitchen and I'll make the best chicken you've ever had. I swear by it."

Ravenna pursed her lips. She didn't like that he was avoiding the subject. It made her even more nervous than she already was. But her stomach growled, loud and angry. "Fine. It's this way."

She lead him down the hall, toward the kitchen. The floorboards creaked beneath them with each step. As they entered the kitchen, she watched warily as Vyses moved past her and approached the shelves. His gaze scanned over the various ingredients that Caelan had stocked. Ravenna took a seat at the table and propped her elbow against it, her cheek resting in her palm.

"So what did they say?" she asked after another cloud of silence settled between them.

Vyses hummed and set aside a collection of spices and vegetables. "Don't you want to eat first?"

Ravenna rubbed at her temples. "Vyses, just tell me what they said. I'll go crazy not knowing."

He frowned and held a hand out. A bead of red magic appeared on the counter and slowly began to grow, stretching out until it formed the shape of a plucked chicken. He snapped his fingers and the red flickered out.

Blinking, Ravenna straightened in her chair. She stared hard at the chicken. "How did you do that?"

Vyses grinned at her. "Now, Ravenna, what kind of mage would I be if I couldn't summon such a simple thing as food?"

She scowled. "You know what I meant."

With a chuckle, he waved her over. She abandoned her chair and stepped up beside him. She extended a delicate finger and poked at the chicken. Another chuckle escaped Vyses. "It's not very hard," he told her. "Do you remember that spell that I taught you? The one that allows you to summon weapons?"

She nodded.

He smiled at her. "It's essentially that. Only modified. That's what's so great about that spell. It can be modified to summon anything that you need. In this case, I needed a plucked chicken."

She harrumphed. Folding her arms across her chest, she stepped back away from him. She watched him with narrowed eyes. He was just trying to distract her.

"Vyses?"

He hummed at her.

"Tell me what you heard."

His hands paused, hovering over the chicken. After a moment, another bead of magic appeared. This time it stretched into a knife. As he sliced the chicken into slender strips, a sigh escaped him. "I overheard several off-duty guards," he said finally, smothering the chicken with spices. "They came in and sat at the bar. One seemed troubled. After a few drinks, he spilled the beans to his partner. Henry went to the guards about you --said you'd attacked him unprovoked. Used your magic against him. Tried to hurt him. A few of the guards have already alerted the capitol about you."

He glanced at Ravenna, taking in her reaction, before he continued. "The guards are planning to confront you in the morning. Possibly arrest you and have you tried for the murders."

Ravenna's heart sank, clattering against the top of her stomach. All desire to eat vanished. She took a step backward, grabbing onto the table for support. Her jaw clenched. She shouldn't be surprised. She'd attacked Henry and Eadric believed that she'd killed Bella. It was only a matter of time before the guards came for her.

"I didn't hurt anybody, though," she whispered softly, mostly to herself.

Vyses heard. "I believe you," he said.

She lifted her hands, rubbing small circles against her temples. "What do I do? Vyses, they are going to try to kill me. Again. I hardly escaped the last time. I hardly remember how I even escaped the last time."

He regarded her with an unimpressed look and snapped his fingers. "Well, the first thing you are going to do is try some of this chicken. I worked hard on it."

She blinked at him, surprised. He held out a plate filled with steaming chicken and vegetables. "Vyses," she said, taken aback. "I'm being serious."

"I know," he said. "So am I. This chicken is great."

She glared at him. Tears swelled up in the corners of her eyes. "I'm going to die in the morning and the only thing that you are concerned with is your stupid chicken?"

Vyses cocked his head to the side, the platestill outstretched toward her. "Ravenna, do you honestly believe that I amgoing to let them kill you?"    

fun fact: this chapter is actually one of my favorites that i've ever written

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fun fact: this chapter is actually one of my favorites that i've ever written. purely because of the chicken dialogue. it makes me laugh every time. every. time.

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