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RAVENNA SPENT THE rest of the day in their room

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RAVENNA SPENT THE rest of the day in their room. She paced the length of the room, the ancient spellbook in her hands, unable to escape the mental image of that guard hurting that child. As she walked, she skimmed through the unlocked spells, searching for something that would help her.

It was just as Vyses said. The guards were corrupt and unchecked. The king didn't care what they did, as long as he had his mead. And the guards were everywhere. As the first line of defense, the guards flooded each town within the kingdom, like a bad batch of weeds.

She couldn't escape the idea that so many other people were treated badly. So many thousands of people across the kingdom, all subjected to beatings, fake taxes, and attempted rapes -it was awful just to think about. In the few towns that she'd visited throughout her life, she'd experienced a lot of it herself.

Her biggest issue, however, was that she needed to remain undiscovered. A massive spell would be noticeable, if done incorrectly. The last thing she needed was for the guards to decide that a witch was in town and start snooping around. According to Vyses, even the Blood Knights had no idea that their witch was in town. The knights were supposed to leave before nightfall.

As the sun began to dip behind the horizon, Vyses broke the silence that had encompassed the room. "You are going to break the floorboards, lass," he told her. "Especially if you keep walking like that."

Ravenna shot him a swift glare. She was still somewhat angry with him for pulling her away from the market. He sighed at her. He laid on his stomach, sprawled out across his bed, with his elbows digging into the mattress. His cheeks rested in his hands. "What if I taught you a new spell? Would that make you feel better?"

"Unless it has the ability to change the attitude of every single guard in the kingdom, I think I will pass," Ravenna remarked. She stared intently at her spellbook. So far, it had proved fairly useless to her overall mission. The first third of the pages were filled with smaller spells, all meant to better the person performing the spell. A lot of them were meant to make the person more powerful and stronger. All she wanted was a spell that could change someone's attitude, or make them more obedient to her wishes. And she needed something that would be widespread.

She still had hope though. There was a lot of the spellbook still left to be read.

Vyses sighed a little louder. "Ravenna, a spell that widespread would definitely attract attention. Not to mention, it wouldn't solve the problem."

She paused and glanced at him. "What do you mean?"

"The guards weren't always corrupt," he explained. "So changing the mindset of one generation of guards won't do much for the overall picture. It won't be long before another generation of guards take over, and they'll be just as bad. If you want to actually do something about it, you'd have to attack the source of the problem."

"The king," she muttered. "If the king changed, the guards would change too."

"Don't even think about it," Vyses said. His eyes darkened. "Magic is outlawed around the castle. The Blood Knights have special ways to detect magic and find its source. A small spell or two out here won't get you caught. But a spell within the castle is a death sentence. Not to mention, you won't be able to perform a spell on the king from so far away."

"We need to do something," Ravenna told him.

"You're right," Vyses told her. He climbed to his feet. "We need to do something right now. And that's dinner. Let's go, before it gets cold."

She huffed.

"The Blood Knights should be gone by now," Lyth said. "Probably on to their next city. It's already dark out."

Ravenna closed the spellbook and surrendered it to Vyses. He hid the spellbook back in its original spot, within their luggage scrolls. Then he smiled and threw an arm around her shoulder. "Once dinner is finished, I'll show you a few new spells. Does that sound alright?"

"Only after we discuss how we are going to put a spell on the king," Ravenna said.

He sighed. "Whatever makes you happy, lass."

As they descended the staircase, an awful smell graced Ravenna's nose. She grimaced and looked around. "What is that?"

"Dinner," a nearby maid chirped. "A roasted pig smothered in spices and stuffed with a mixture of chopped vegetables."

Vyses and Lyth started to drool. Ravenna's lips pursed. Apparently, the ungodly stench of dinner didn't faze them in the slightest. Both started toward the table, their eyes lit with excitement as a plate was lowered in front of them. Ravenna followed them but didn't sit down. The longer she stood in the room, breathing in the smell, the more her stomach started to churn.

Just as Vyses began to inhale his food, she tapped his shoulder. "I'm going to go for a walk," she told him. "I can't handle this smell. It's awful. I'll be sick if I stay for much longer."

His eyebrows furrowed in concern. "Don't pick any fights with the guards," he warned her.

She rolled her eyes and turned away from him. The guards would be safe from her wrath, at least until she found a good spell to use against them. Her main concern was escaping the horrid smell.

The moment she stepped out of the inn, and inhaled some fresh air, she felt much better. Her arms crossed in front of her chest, fingers lightly touching the coin pouch that was now tied to her wrist. Since the kid had attempted to pick her pockets that afternoon, she'd moved her coin pouch to her wrist. The last thing that she wanted was to lose her new riches.

At night, the marketplace was much different. The stands had been cleared of their wares and locked up for the night. There weren't as many people roaming the streets, mainly the homeless and the guards. Ravenna's heart wept for the former, for their huddled bodies hidden within the shadows of the buildings that surrounded her. In the night, she could hear the soft cries of babies, of hungry children and the soothing voices of tired mothers.

And then, neared an alleyway, she heard a different cry. A pained, muffled scream. Her eyes narrowed. Summoning a witchlight in her palm, she started down the alley, determined to find the source of the scream.

It didn't take long to reach it.

As the witchlight illuminated the darkness of the alley, two figures were revealed. A man covered in armor crouched over a woman, her skirts pulled aside, a small dagger pressed against her throat.

Ravenna's blood burned and a swarm of daggers appeared within the air around her.

"Release her at once," she snarled.

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