FIFTY SIX

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THEY RAN TOWARD the edge of town, toward the farmlands

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THEY RAN TOWARD the edge of town, toward the farmlands. Houses grew farther and farther apart. The area gave them less coverage, less places to hide should the guards catch up, which made Ravenna nervous.

"Hurry," Vyses panted slightly, sprinting alongside her, "This way."

He darted under a wooden fence post. Ravenna and Lyth followed him across a field of carrots and other small vegetables, toward a barn that was nestled in the far corner of the land. As they approached the barn, Ravenna heard a horse snort, its hooves clopping against the earth.

On the other side of the barn sat another fenced in field. Only, instead of produce, this field houses several horses.

"How did you know they were here?" Ravenna rasped. She slowed to a stop several feet away from the horses and leaned over, her palms on her knees. Her chest burned, as if fire had replaced the air in her lungs.

Vyses moved closer to one of the horses. It eyed him warily and its dark tail flicked against is hind legs. He held up a glowing hand and muttered, "Lucky guess."

The horse's eyes glowed bright red. Vyses moved closer, reaching out to stroke the horse's side. He glanced back at Ravenna. "Here, get on this one."

"It's been a while since I've ridden," she said.

Vyses waved her on. "We don't have time to stand around for a lesson. Hurry up and climb on the horse."

She moved closer to the horse, uneasiness slithering through her stomach. She reached out, allowing her fingers to tangle in the horse's dark mane. Vyses helped her up, onto the horse, and then climbed onto one of his own. Lyth climbed on behind him. Ravenna's jaw clenched tight as the horse started to move.

"Just hold on tight," Vyses warned her. "The horse will do the rest."

She nodded, tightening her grip, and he snapped his fingers. Both horses took off, galloping through the pasture, toward the far end where the forest trees reached out to touch the wooden fence. Ravenna leaned closer to her horse, holding onto it with all of her might. She hadn't ridden horses since she was a little girl --since her father was still living, still working in the mine that sat on the edge of her village. The horses leapt over the wooden fence, their hooves growing bright red.

The moment a canopy of trees covered her head, Ravenna exhaled with relief. It wasn't long after that the angry shouts and heavy stomps of the soldiers faded away. All sounds around them seemed completely drowned out by the thunderstorm of hooves hitting the earth.

The horses moved together, through the woods, until darkness kissed the sky and spread throughout the forest. Once night fell, Vyses snapped his fingers. The sound vibrated through the forest and the horses slowed to a stop. Ravenna cautiously straightened and looked around. The trees that surrounded them were packed tightly together, so close that their branches tangled together in a knot of leaves. Lyth and Vyses dismounted. It took Ravenna a moment to slowly, pitifully slide off the side of her horse and onto the ground below.

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