SEVENTY

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"HAVE YOU FIGURED out how you plan to rally together an army?" Vyses asked

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"HAVE YOU FIGURED out how you plan to rally together an army?" Vyses asked. He sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes narrowed at Ravenna. "It is going to be quite hard to campaign amongst the townsfolk unnoticed."

Ravenna pursed her lips. "I haven't gotten that far yet," she admitted. The idea was still fresh in her mind. She wanted a solid plan before she went through with anything or made any promises. "The main concern that I have is that I want to minimize casualties as much as possible. I don't want innocent people to get hurt, if I can help it. They have suffered enough at the hands of the guards."

Vyses made a face at that. "I'm not sure how that would be possible," he said. "Rallying together an army against the king is essentially a rebellion. It would cause a massive fight. There are going to be casualties. And unless you've discovered a way to make your soldiers immortal, there are a lot that probably won't make it."

"An immortal army? Is that even possible?"

Vyses shook his head. "Not that I am aware of. I know that some have dabbled in immortality spells, but I don't believe there has been any success with them."

That made Ravenna frown. Vyses was right. With an army of townsfolk, even of soldiers willing to fight against the king, death would be impossible to avoid. She turned away from Vyses, focusing on the window behind her. Part of her wondered whether the ancient spellbook had a spell that could help her. Something that would create an army, or help make humans stronger. But since she'd put on the talisman, the spellbook had remained unlocked for her. She'd already read through the spells available within it and didn't remember seeing anything that might could help her. The only spell that even remotely might help her was the one that Caelan had been working on, before his death. It was meant to create servants out of pure magic, servants with complete devotion to their creator. If she made enough servants, and found a way to arm them, she might be able to avoid using humans as her soldiers completely.

The issue, however, was that the spell was incomplete. Even Caelan couldn't get it to work.

Her arms crossed over her chest, her fingertips brushing the spellbook hidden within her dress. She hesitated to take the book out in front of Vyses, as he still assumed that the one he'd gotten his hands on earlier was real. It also was a last connection that she had to Caelan, a journal of filled with his scribbles, spells, and innermost thoughts.

"Until you have a better plan for your army, I say that we should just continue to lay low and travel around. The guards are going to be on the lookout for you. And I'm not sure that we should get into the habit of slaughtering them all just to escape," Vyses announced. He climbed from the bed and glanced toward Lyth. "I can already smell dinner. Shall we go downstairs?"

Ravenna saw her chance. "I think I'll stay up here," she told him. She turned around and gave him a small smile. "I don't really have an appetite right now."

"That's not a surprise," Vyses muttered under his breath. "You did just murder a bunch of people."

"You're hardly innocent yourself," Ravenna shot back at him. "You killed those guards that discovered us in the forest."

Vyses heaved a sigh. "You're right, lass. I'm far from innocent when it comes to murder. I guess I'm just a bit tired from our travels. I apologize."

"Go get some food," Ravenna told him. "It's been a long day."

Vyses just nodded. The moment the door shut behind them, Ravenna pulled out Caelan's spellbook. She sat on the bed, her legs crossed in front of her, and started to skim through each page. She focused mainly on the small notes that Caelan had left within the margins. None of the pages were dated. She knew that he'd been working on it when he found her, and later when he'd joined her in town. All she had to do is look for some slight mention of her arrival. Maybe of his annoyance with her. The moment she found that, she'd know to look for the latest drafts he'd created of the spell. She felt that if she looked back through his failed attempts, and his notes on them, that she might have a chance at solving it.

Her heart jumped when she found a small passage with her name in it. It was short and to the point; a single sentence that read, "The beautiful girl's name is Ravenna."

It brought fresh tears to her eyes and a small smile to her lips. She carefully set the spellbook down in her lap and rubbed at her eyes. "Deep breaths," she told herself. "You're on a mission."

The next few pages were completely devoid of her name and didn't mention the servant spell at all. It made her a bit nervous. It wasn't long until she found what she was looking for, however. Small scribbles about Ravenna flooded the margins --detailing her training, his plans for her, and how much faith he had in her. He'd wanted her to start small, to learn the most basic spells on her own. According to his notes, he had purposefully driven her to seek out the bookkeeper in search of a spell that could make her more observant. A spell that he knew did not exist. It was his way to get her to read through all the small spells he'd donated to the bookkeeper over the years, spells that weren't entirely necessary to know but could be useful in making life easier for her. He believed that she wouldn't have read through all of them if he'd simply asked her to.

Which, she had to admit, would probably be true. She remembered pouring through all those scrolls in search of a spell that could help her. She'd memorized most them. The spells were pretty boring and took a while to read through. If he'd forced her to sit down and read them, she probably would have just skimmed through them enough to pass his tests for her. By choosing to read through them on her own, she actually took the time needed to learn them.

According to his notes, after the smaller spells, Ravenna was meant to learn self defense. Caelan wanted her to be able to protect herself from harm if needed. It was sweet to read about how much her safety meant to him. It made her heart ache stronger.

Sucking in a sharp breath, she forced her attention to focus on the other notes scribbled across the pages --notes that pertained to the spell she'd been searching for. It wasn't long before she stumbled upon a complete draft of his servant spell.

At first glance, the spell didn't seem complicated.

Essentially, all that she had to do was focus her magic within her hands, and mold it into the shape of a human body. Then, with the right herbs and words, it would gain something that resembled a soul, allowing the servant to move about and do things on its own.

The issue seemed to lie within the herbs. Caelan had the right words to his spell and enough magic to create the body correctly. However, every time that the spell was performed, the created being either couldn't move on its own or would turn to slush over the course of a few hours. It seemed as though all that was missing was a specific herb, an ingredient that would allow the creature to maintain its shape overtime.

She laid the spellbook down in her lap and leaned back, her palms pressing into the straw mattress beneath her. According to Caelan's notes, he'd hoped that a specific herb found near the Capitol would be the answer to his problem.

Ravenna wasn't quite convinced though. Did the creatures really need a special herb? Or did they just need to be made of something other than pure magic?

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