FIFTY NINE

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RAVENNA ALMOST LOST her footing. Her heart thumped inside her chest. She rushed across the water's surface, the hem of her skirt dipping into the water. The horses began to make more nervous sounds, their hooves stomping against the earth. She jumped out of the water and ran to where Vyses's laid. She crouched down and shook his shoulder. "Wake up, Vyses. Wake up!"

He groaned and rolled away from her. She persisted, shaking his shoulder even harder. His eyes fluttered open. "What? What's going on, lass? What's wrong?"

"There is someone coming this way," she hissed at him. "I just heard the sound of hooves and several dogs howling. We need to get out of here before they find us."

A moment of silence passed between them as Vyses blinked, her words registering. Then that silence shattered, broken by an angry growl.

Vyses shot upward and grabbed Ravenna's arm. In one swift movement, he yanked her behind him, shielding her as two dogs burst between the trees. Before she could blink, four horses joined the dogs, carrying four guards.

Ravenna's lungs stopped working. The dogs sniffed around the campsite, searching for something. She glanced around Vyses's arm, watching one of the guards dismount. Vyses sternly asked, "What is the meaning of this?"

"I apologize for interrupting your night," the guard said. He didn't seem mad or like he was about to attack them. "We are searching for a murderous witch that is wanted by the Capitol."

The guard reached for his horse. He opened a small satchel pinned to the saddle and pulled out a scroll. Ravenna tensed as the guard unrolled the scroll, half expecting a spell of some sort.

Instead, a strange image was printed on it. A woman's face stared back at her on the scroll, somewhat crudely drawn. She had sad eyes and uncolored, straw-like hair. Her nose was long --too long, and covered with bumps. Crooked. The woman looked like a witch from one of those old fairy tales.

"Have you seen this woman?" the guard asked.

Vyses shook his head and relaxed. "She does not look familiar," he told the guard. He turned toward Ravenna and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "My wife and I haven't seen anybody who looks like her in our travels."

Ravenna tried not to look suspicious. The guards seemed to glance her over, unconcerned. She couldn't help but notice that their gazes lingered on the bodice of her dress. Slightly annoyed, she crossed her arms over her chest and shifted closer to Vyses.

A growl sounded behind her. She jumped and whipped around. Both dogs slunk toward her, their lips curled back sharpened teeth.

"Call off your dogs," Vyses told the guard, his voice cold. "Our son is sleeping and we shouldn't wake him."

Lyth seemed to stir a bit, though Ravenna didn't quite believe that he was actually asleep. She played along with Vyses, though. "He's just a boy. Knowing that a murderous witch was on the loose would frighten him."

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