FIFTY SEVEN

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RAVENNA SPENT THE night in tears

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RAVENNA SPENT THE night in tears.

It was a quiet release of emotion, one that went unnoticed by her companions. While they slept soundly, she sat at the base of a tree, her knees against her chest and arms folded atop them. Her chin rested atop her knees. It hurt. The tears hurt. Everything inside of her hurt. A lump prickled at the back of her throat, making each muffled sob hard to swallow. Her eyes burned, hot tears streaming down her cheeks, into her sleeves. The heart inside of her chest shriveled up, transforming into a withered knot of fiery heartache.

She wanted Caelan.

Caelan's death physically hurt to think about. It was even more painful to entertain the idea that he might still be alive. She replayed the scene over and over again in her head, analyzing every second of it. Something had happened to her. One moment, she was an emotion wreck, attempting to cope with the fact that she'd just murdered someone. The next, her anger was uncontrollable. Her ice was uncontrollable. It was as if someone had lit a match inside of her mind, burning every ounce of positivity to dust. It was just like when she had attacked Henry and Bella. Her actions, her words --none of it were her own. She'd been fueled by an unfamiliar anger.

The more she thought about it, about what happened to Caelan, the more she hated herself for it. For not being in control. He was right. She was stupid. She needed to be more observant, more in control of what happened around her.

When sunlight breached the thick canopy of branches above their heads, Ravenna rubbed at her face with sleeve-covered hands, determined to rid herself of the evidence. As she lowered her hands and slumped back against the tree trunk behind her, she found herself grateful that Vyses had brought a new dress for her. It was similar to her last, with a tight bodice and billowing sleeves, only colored muted green. It was meant to help her blend in with other villagers. She was simply grateful it was blood-free.

It wasn't long before Vyses began to stir. She returned her chin to her knees and watched through half-lidded eyes as he slowly sat upward. A yawn tugged at his lips and he looked around, wine-colored eyes surveying the world around him. When his gaze landed on Ravenna, his brows furrowed. "You didn't sleep?"

"Couldn't."

He frowned at her and climbed to his feet. He quickly woke Lyth and, within minutes, both were ready to leave. The camp was cleaned. The logs that Vyses had summoned disappeared and, with a simple spell, the remnants of the fire had been destroyed. To the naked eye, the area looked just as it had before they'd happened upon it.

Before they left, however, Vyses pulled Ravenna aside.

"I'm going to teach you a new spell, lass," he told her. His gaze seemed focused on her forehead, where her crown of ice pressed against her skin. "I fear that if we happen across travelers, or even some random guards, that your crown might cause some questioning or concern. Your crown and your hair color."

She felt resigned. "Both are a dead giveaway to my identity now."

Vyses nodded. "I have to admit, lass. I've never seen a crown like that. Are you able to remove it?"

"Not really," she admitted with a slight grimace. "It's the product of a spell."

His hand lifted, fingertips brushing against the crown. "Ah. It might wear off soon then. For now, I'll teach you a simple concealing spell. Under the spell, the crown will be invisible, both to the eyes and to the touch. But you will have to perform the spell every three days, otherwise it will fade and the crown will be visible again. With that spell, we can also change your hair color."

A strand of blonde was immediately captured within her fingers. She fiddled with it nervously. Before she gained her powers, her hair had been darker --a waterfall of chocolate brown. Yet the blonde had grown on her. It was the color of starlight.

"It will be temporary," Vyses assured her, sensing her apprehension. "At least until we can get farther away and the gossip dies down. As I said last night, it won't take long before all the stories get warped and twisted."

She forced herself to exhale. "Alright. Let's get this over with."

Vyses nodded. "The spell is fairly simple. Is there a specific color that you want your hair to be?"

Blonde, she thought, shaking her head.

He smiled and reached out. His fingers combed through a strand of her hair. "I think you would look very pretty with dark hair. The color of a raven's wing. What do you say, lass?"

"Make it happen."

He taught her the spell quickly. It was a fairly simple spell. The hair portion of the spell was very similar to the summoning spell, she just had to imagine her hair a dark, inky color. The crown portion wound up being a bit harder. She had to press her fingertips against the crown and forcefully will it to vanish, all while sternly saying, "Let this crown begone, vanished to all. So mote it be."

Once the crown was hidden, Ravenna heaved a sigh and ran her hands through her hair. The strands that curled around her fingers were foreign. When the sunlight hit the strands just right, her hair appeared almost navy in color.

It was necessary, however. She knew that her ice-blonde was too startling, too eye catching and understood that, if they were to remain uncaught, their appearances needed to be inconspicuous. Even Vyses's stark white hair was spelled darker, into a color that almost matched his eyes.

The trio mounted their stolen horses and began to ride. Ravenna clutched on tight to her horse and squeezed her eyes shut, allowing the spell to guide her horse. Unshed tears burned at the corners of her eyes, only this time, she forced them back. Her heart still hurt. The image of that road, Calean's wounded eyes, all of it haunted her.

And even though she was certain that she'd killed him, there was still a sliver of hope embedded within the depths of her being, despite how much she tried to squash it. Maybe, just maybe, he was still alive.

Either way, she knew one thing. She had to take the reins of her own destiny, starting now. She had to start living up to Caelan's expectations.

She had to make him proud.

And it wasn't going to be easy.

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