SEVENTY TWO

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ONCE THE BUILDINGS that lined the edges of the beach had shrunk into small dots on the horizon, Ravenna decided to stop walking. The ocean moved softly beneath her feet, a constant flow of currents rocking her back and forth. She grinned, somewhat proud of herself. Even if her attempts at the spell failed miserably, all evidence of it would be swallowed by the sea.

She fished Caelan's spellbook free from her dress and flipped it open. Her eyes quickly scanned the spell again. It technically required a bunch of different herbs to work correctly –herbs that she didn't have access to, at least not at the moment. She wasn't necessarily worried about that aspect, however. She had a sinking feeling that the herbs Caelan had tested weren't necessarily the issue with the spell, nor were they required. According to Caelan's notes, the herbs were mostly meant to aid in creating a sturdy body for the magical servants. If she could provide an alternative substance for those herbs, something that would act as a body, she felt that the spell might work. And that's where her ice came into play.

She visualized a solid block of ice around her feet, something that could keep her above the water and still allow her to concentrate on the spell. Gathering her skirts, she sat down atop the block of ice, her legs crossed in front of her. The ice managed to stay afloat, swaying slightly atop the water. She sat the spellbook down in her lap.

With a deep breath, she focused a considerable amount of magic within both hands. "Alright," she muttered to herself, her hands glowing light blue. "All I have to do is form the body."

Ravenna leaned forward, touching her palms to the surface of the water in front of her. The glowing light spread through the water around her. She slowly lifted her hands, pulling a portion of the glowing water upward. It turned into something malleable, like fresh dough in her hands.

Her hands worked quick. She rolled the light blue magic between her hands until it formed a head-like shape. She didn't give it any distinguishing features –it turned into something that was too creepy, too human like whenever she tried to give it a nose. It wasn't long before the magic began to harden, infused with her ice.

She reached out, releasing the head into the air in front of her. It hovered above the water, as if waiting patiently for her to finish its body. Then she pressed her palms against the water again, creating another batch of magic dough.

It wasn't long before the magic began to take shape. She stretched it and molded it into a slender body, a basic shape that most children would draw in the sand. It wasn't spectacular but, for the moment, it would do.

She situated the body so that it stood atop the water in front of her. It didn't seem to sink below the surface, assumedly due to its magical properties. Once the body was ready, she reached out and grabbed the head, pressing it into the top of the body's neck. It was a mildly tedious process. The head was slightly too big, too weighted. It would start to slump over to the side the moment that Ravenna removed her hands. After some tweaking, however, the vessel seemed complete.

Ravenna pursed her lips and admired her work for a moment. The body was small, smaller than a child, and too thin. Not at all the fearsome warrior that she'd imagined. She supposed, however, that after a few armor spells, the servant might appeal more to her.

Her gaze returned to the spellbook, quickly locating the required words for the spell. She sucked in a deep breath and then waved a hand over the vessel.

"I anoint this vessel with the flame of life,

I charge this vessel with the power of spirits.

A servant of my own desire,

created to carry out my bidding.

I grant this vessel with the spark of a soul.

So mote it be."

The glowing body shuddered. Its fingerless hands swayed slightly at its sides and Ravenna watched, curiously, as its smooth face seemed to scrunch up. A pair of darker, almost navy spheres appeared within the center of what she believed to be its face. The spheres vanished and then reappeared –a small blink.

Ravenna's mouth dropped open as the body tilted its head slightly, peering at her, waiting for her to speak.

"Did it actually work?" Her words came out breathless, a mere whisper in the wind. Her disbelief was palpable.

The creature tilted its head at her again, as if trying to understand her. Ravenna pursed her lips and peered closer at it. It took all her strength not to allow her hopes to lift. There was still a good chance that the spell hadn't worked correctly or would go sour soon. According to his notes, Caelan had been mildly successful in his attempts to create a vessel –he had just failed at creating one that allowed the creature to move about and do things. The real test was yet to come for Ravenna's little creature.

Though, she had to admit, it was blinking and moving its head –movements of its own accord, which meant that her creature had already surpassed anything that Caelan had made in the past.

"Can you jump for me?" she asked it. Her excitement bubbled within her voice.

The small body seemed to hesitate. Ravenna bit her lip, watching with bated breath as the creature started to react to her words. It bent its slender arms and crouched downward. Then, in one swift movement, jumped upward, its little hands reaching toward the sky above their heads.

A giant grin tugged at Ravenna's lips. "Can you walk around for me?"

The creature blinked at her. Then it seemed to shift its gaze onto the ocean beneath them. Its small feet lifted, one after the other, until it was walking in circles around her block of ice.

Ravenna's hands covered her mouth. Tears burned at the corners of her eyes. She glanced back down at Caelan's spellbook. There was just one more test. All the creature had to do was sustain itself for more than an hour. If it could still move, still exist on its own, then her modifications would have perfected Caelan's spell.

She reached into the water again and created another batch of magic dough. After rolling a small piece of it within her hands, she held out her hand to the creature.

It peered at the small glowing bubble in her palm and blinked at it.

Slowly, she lowered it to the surface and rolled it, like a ball. It danced across the water, following the waves. "Go get it," she gently encouraged the vessel.

It immediately scurried after the ball, its arms outstretched toward it. It was like watching a small child chase after a toy. When the small body finally caught the magic sphere, it ran back toward Ravenna and dropped it into her open palm. Beaming, she repeated the steps, creating a small game of fetch with the vessel.

As the game continued, Ravenna made sure to roll the magical sphere forward in all sorts of directions and at various speeds. The vessel remained determined to complete its task. It chased after the sphere the moment it left her palm, immediately attempting to return it to Ravenna.

It was just as she wished.

A seed of excitement rooted itself within her chest. While she played with the vessel, she made sure to keep a watchful eye on the moon. Time seemed to move slower, as the moon sluggishly crawled across the sky. Once it was apparent that several hours had passed, she allowed herself to succumb to the excitement building inside of her.

"I did it," she whispered both to the small vessel and to herself. "I actually did it. I perfected the spell."

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