FIFTY FIVE

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VYSES AND RAVENNA sprinted through the forest

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VYSES AND RAVENNA sprinted through the forest. Sunlight glimmered through the canopy of branches that covered their heads, highlighting a maze of twigs and foliage. Soon the trees began to clear, revealing the stone-walled buildings within the town.

As they approached Caelan's backyard, Vyses waved a hand. A cloud of red magic erupted from his palm. It swallowed a massive section of the back fence --allowing them easy access to Caelan's backyard. Ravenna hesitated when the back door swung open.

Lyth stood in the doorway. "The guards heard her screaming," he informed them. His expression remained cold. "There's no one inside at the moment. But it won't take long for them to come back."

"We need to hurry," Vyses announced as Lyth closed the door behind them.

Ravenna bolted up the staircase, toward her bedroom. The moment her hand curled around the door handle to her bedroom, her heart stopped. It hit her that this would be the last time she'd step foot inside her own bedroom. Inside Caelan's house. She forced out a ragged breath and opened the door.

The bedroom was just as she'd left it. Her gaze darted around. The sheets were smoothed over the mattress, all neat and organized. There wasn't really anything inside the dresser that she'd need. A sigh bristled past her lips as she turned toward her chair.

"I tried to warn you," the ghost girl said. Her expression was soft. Pitiful. Definitely not threatening.

Ravenna approached her, resigned to her fate. "You did," she said. The sadness in her heart tainted her expression.

The ghost girl shook her head. A sigh escaped her and, as soon as the sound punctured the air, her little body seemed to evaporate into thin air.

Alone in her bedroom, Ravenna straightened her shoulders and closed her eyes. Caelan should be dead, she told herself. His dried blood still stained her skin. But his body had vanished and she wasn't sure what to make of that. Dead bodies didn't just disappear like that. Not like the ghost-girl did.

She sucked in a deep breath. The talisman burned against her chest, pushing any thoughts of Caelan into the depths of her mind. Resignation washed through her once more and her eyes snapped open.

"Miss Ravenna?"

She snatched the old spell book from its spot on the table and turned toward the door. Lyth stood in the doorframe, his head quirked to the side. "Master requests your help in the study," he announced.

She blinked and nodded. Lyth stepped aside and then followed her down the stairs. As she entered the study, her stomach twisted. The room was a wreck. Books and scrolls littered the floor, strewn this way and that. Broken vials and jars decorated floor, surrounded by pools of liquid ingredients and shards of glass. Vyses stood in front of one of the shelves. His hands moved quick, rummaging through the leather-bound books and scrolls that sat atop it. Several scrolls rolled from the shelf, onto the floor.

"You've destroyed this place," Ravenna remarked. Her voice was ice cold. She reached down and picked up a discarded scroll. Inscribed on it was a simple cloning spell.

"I've already set aside the important spells," Vyses told her. He pointed toward the window seat, where a neat pile of books and scrolls sat atop the pillows. "But I'm missing one. The most important one."

Ravenna hesitated. Her gaze flickered toward Caelan's desk. "What spell is that?"

Vyses turned around to face her. "Years ago, when I was still a student, Caelan shared a very powerful spell that he'd created. He was still in the beginning stages with it. And I'm not sure how much it's progressed with his cautious approach to magic. But it's very powerful. It has the ability to create living magical creatures, or servants, as he liked to call them. He wanted them to be mere servants around the house, cleaning and cooking so he could focus on magic."

Ravenna's jaw clenched. Her gaze locked with Vyses's. "I think I might know where it is," she whispered. Her lips wrinkled. Her hand lifted, fingers curling around her scalding hot pendant.

Vyses blinked. "It was one of Caelan's proudest accomplishments," he said, his voice soft. "I would hate to see it fall into the wrong hands."

She approached the desk, cautious, and bumped her hip against it. There was a small click. Her fingertips traced the underside of the desk, until it found that familiar ledge. She squatted down and reached for the lever. In one swift movement, she pulled it and the secret compartment opened on the surface of the desk. She stood and reached her hand inside it, before Vyses could see anything.

"Master," she heard Lyth say. "The guards have almost arrived."

When Vyses' gaze flickered toward Lyth, Ravenna focused. Her pendant burned as the magic flowed through her fingertips. As she withdrew one hand, she reached in with the other, pulling out a small spell book. "I believe it's in here," she told Vyses, holding the book up.

Caelan's small spellbook remained hidden within her sleeve.

Vyses walked toward her. He took the book and rummaged through it. His lips twitched. "The spell is still unfinished. But this will definitely help us in the long-run, lass."

She lowered her arms to her side. Caelan's spellbook fell forward. She caught it in her hand and held on tight.

"Master," Lyth said. A sense of urgency lingered in the air.

Vyses glanced toward him again. "Distract them. We will meet you later on."

Lyth paused.

Something unspoken seemed to pass between them. Ravenna worked quick. While the two were distracted once again, she hid Caelan's spellbook away, tucking it into the bodice of her dress.

The sounds of chaos, of anger, of chanting began to seep through the walls of Caelan's house. "We need to get out of here," Ravenna announced.

Vyses nodded to Lyth. The small boy vanished from the doorway and Vyses moved to the window seat. He waved a glowing red hand over the pile of scrolls and books. The spells seemed to shrink into tiny versions of themselves. With a snap, the scrolls and books lifted into the air and floated into a small satchel around Vyses's waist.

Then he turned toward Ravenna. "Do you have all that you need, lass?" he asked.

She nodded.

"Good," he said, breathing a small sigh of relief. "Then let's get out of here."

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