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THE NEXT FEW days were spent refining the spell and avoiding the few questions that Vyses sent her way

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THE NEXT FEW days were spent refining the spell and avoiding the few questions that Vyses sent her way. Ravenna didn't want to tell him about the spell or about her success –not yet, at least. Not until she'd completely perfected her servants and turned them into skilled warriors. It wasn't too hard to avoid Vyses, however. Like Caelan, the moment that Vyses started to fiddle with the possibilities of a new spell, his entire mind seemed engulfed by it. Even Lyth was too busy helping Vyses test out various herbs and spells to really focus on what Ravenna was doing.

She performed her tests concealed within the clouds of dense fog that covered the ocean. Ravenna focused on creating more of her vessels. She tried to mold different body shapes for them, to test out different forms. Her experiments resulted in taller, sturdier vessels. Something that would make even the most formidable knight feel small and weak. Once she perfected their shape, she performed a secondary spell to give them a full set of armor. The armor itself was made completely of a light blue ice, the same sort of magical ice that they themselves were comprised of. It seemed to splinter at the edges, creating a jagged and sharp appearance for the vessels.

When she felt that they looked terrifying enough, she turned her focus to their combat skills. It was not the easiest feat, as Ravenna tended to keep her distance in fights, allowing her ice to fight for her. Her own skill in combat was lacking. However, one of the spells that she remembered reading in Vyses's tavern dealt with hand-to-hand combat, which made it easier for her servants to learn.

Ravenna started with a pair, setting them up on a sturdy block of ice. Then she summoned a sword for each and ordered them to fight. It was interesting to watch –to observe how the creatures adapted to the fight courtesy of the fighting spell placed upon them. At first, when one landed a hit, the ice shattered beneath the blow and the entire vessel collapsed, creating a small pile of shards. Whenever that happened, Ravenna summoned another to continue the fight immediately, giving the successful fighter hardly any time to adjust. The more creatures that she summoned, the harder it became for either to land a hit. Eventually, she added another spell that allowed the creature to rebuild itself, should any hit actually land.

The moment that she grew bored watching the vessels fight, she realized that her soldiers were ready. And that it was time to reveal them to Vyses.

As she made her way back to the beach, she made sure that her magical servants melted back into the ocean behind her. Walking through town with them at her sides would bring about some questions that Ravenna didn't quite want to answer yet. Once all trace of them had vanished, she stepped ashore, allowing her feet to sink into the warm sand. Daylight clawed its way across the sky and she raced it back to the inn. As she entered their room, Vyses didn't even glance up from the small cauldron-like pot he'd set up in the corner of the room.

"How is your spell going?" she asked casually as she quietly shut the door behind her.

Vyses heaved a sigh. A deep maroon-colored liquid sizzled within the pot in front of him. "Not well," he stated as Lyth handed him a small glass jar filled with herbs. "Nothing that I've created so far has proven to be non-lethal."

"You're not testing that potion on the humans, right?" Ravenna asked.

He seemed to hesitate at first. "Of course not, lass," he assured her. His voice was calming, gentle. "I respect that you don't wish to harm the humans and want to prolong any harm as much as possible."

Ravenna sucked in a deep breath. She didn't necessarily believe him but, at this point, all that mattered was that his experiments were about to end. "That's good news," she told him, "Because we won't need your spell anymore."

His gaze still seemed focused on the strange, fizzy concoction in front of him. "Is that so?"

"Do you remember that big spell that Caelan was working on before he died?"

That made Vyses look up. His eyes flickered toward her and narrowed. "I do," he said.

"I found it," Ravenna told him. She lifted a hand and summoned one of her soldiers. It pieced itself into existence at her side. "I found it and I perfected it."

The shock that rippled through Vyses was tangible. His jaw slackened, causing his mouth to hang open slightly. Ravenna didn't really give him time to respond. She summoned another and added, "As you can see, I can create a lot of them. All of them are practically indestructible too. I spent hours watching them fight, adjusting the spells that I cast on them, perfecting it all. None of them have developed a conscious mind either. Each soldier exists purely to do my bidding and, if needed, fight for me."

Even Lyth seemed unable to find the right words to speak. Both he and Vyses stood, rooted to the wooden floorboards, their eyes wider than she'd ever seen them.

Ravenna pursed her lips and then gestured toward her soldiers. "We don't need to turn the townsfolk into soldiers," she said. "I have my own now."

"So, this is what you've spent all hours of the night doing," Vyses observed. "How long have you been working on this?"

"Since we got here," she answered him honestly. "That's why I didn't quite have an answer when you started to ask about my plan."

Vyses's eyes narrowed. "How did you get access to Caelan's spell?"

"I only remembered the spell a few nights ago. Caelan showed me bits and pieces of it during one of our training sessions," she lied through her teeth. "I have a pretty strong memory. I used some of the spells that I studied in your tavern to create their armor and increase their combat skill."

His gaze flickered over her soldiers once more. He seemed to accept that. "Alright, lass," he said. He crossed his arms over his chest. "How to you plan to proceed now?"

Ravenna squeezed her eyes shut and sucked in another sharp breath. "This is how I plan to save the kingdom," she started.

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