SEVENTY FIVE

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THE NEAREST TOWN was a small farming town

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THE NEAREST TOWN was a small farming town. It took about two days to reach and, unlike the previous towns, this one didn't have a grand entrance. It was just a small stretch of buildings and farmlands, patrolled by a handful of guards. As they reached the edge of the town, a guard appeared on the side of the road. He seemed to be patrolling the edges of the farmlands.

Ravenna noticed immediately that he seemed to be on edge. As they approached him, his hand curled around the hilt of his sword. "Who goes there?" he asked.

"Just some weary travelers," Vyses answered calmly. "We have been traveling all day and are in search of an inn. Is there one nearby?"

The guard seemed to hesitate. Word had obviously spread, especially if the guards were suspicious of mere travelers. Even with most of their faces obscured by the hoods of their cloaks, their attire and demeanor were nothing short of average for a traveler. This made Ravenna smile warmly at him, in hopes that her expression will ease his fears. The less he suspected, the easier it would be to get into town.

He met her gaze and relented. "There is one on the other end of town," the guard said. "Just follow this road. It will be the last building on your right. You should be able to find it pretty easily."

"Thank you," Ravenna told him kindly.

The guard seemed to relax. His hand dropped, away from his sword. "You three should be wary while on the road," he said, his expression grave. "We received word this morning that some murderers are on the loose. Two towns already have been targeted."

"That's unfortunate," Vyses said. "Has anyone attempted to intervene and stop them?"

"The King has been made aware," the guard answered. "Though as of now, we have just been told to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. I am certain that if another town falls victim, the Blood Knights will be sent to investigate."

Ravenna pursed her lips. The Blood Knights were already on the prowl, searching for her.

Vyses feigned surprise. "Oh?" he said. "I heard that they'd already been sent out, supposedly on the hunt for some witch."

The guard shrugged slightly. "I haven't heard anything about that," he said.

Vyses glanced toward Ravenna. She met his gaze calmly. "Thank you for telling us this," she told the guard, earnestly. "We will definitely be more cautious while traveling."

"Of course, miss," the guard said. He smiled slightly at her, the corners of his eyes crinkling. "Just doin' my job."

Ravenna's smile didn't falter. Vyses bid the guard goodbye and urged their horses forward. As they approached the heart of the town, he quietly asked, "Are you sure that you still want to do this, lass? It's not too late to turn around. To go hide away."

Her jaw clenched. "One good seed doesn't make a soured apple alright to eat," she said. "And there are more bad guards than good. Something must be done to spark a change."

Vyses didn't respond. She glanced over at him, her eyes narrowed. "Are you with me or not?" she asked him.

His eyes flickered toward her. Something dark, something dangerous swam within them. "Oh, lass, I've been with you from the start. I wouldn't dare leave you now."

She sucked in a deep breath and looked around. The street wasn't that busy, as darkness had begun to plague the edges of the sky. Most of the townsfolk had ventured indoors for the night. A few guards lingered, walking between houses and the few stores that surrounded them.

"Should we spend the night or kill them now?"

"It is up to you," Vyses answered. "It won't take long to reach the next town. Plus, the more that we keep moving, the harder it will be for the Blood Knights to catch up with us."

Ravenna nodded. She lifted her hands, a soft ice blue glow dancing between her fingertips. "Kill them now then. We can rest when we get to the next town."

Vyses sent her a smile. "As you wish, lass."

The moment one of Ravenna's soldiers appeared, shouting filled the air. Guards rushed toward them, weapons drawn. There weren't as many to dispose of in this town, which Ravenna had expected. She glanced around, ignoring the fighting, and noticed eyes watching them from the windows of the houses around them. Her fingers curled into tight fists.

Within seconds, corpses littered the streets. Blood pooled across the ground, staining the earth beneath them. Once the last guard fell, Ravenna's soldiers halted their movements, waiting for their next order. Vyses waved a hand, using magic to erase the bodies and carnage from existence. Then he raised his hands to the heavens.

"Citizens, fear not!" His voice carried through the air, louder than the guards had initially shouted. The doors remained shut, however, and wary eyes watched from the windows.

Ravenna tuned him out. He basically gave the same speech that he'd given to Wai, explaining that the town had been liberated from the King and that Ravenna's soldiers would remain to protect them. By the time his speech had finished, several doors had opened. Some townsfolk stood in the doorways of their homes, their eyes wide. Ravenna smiled at them, making certain that her eyes remained hidden. She didn't expect an eruption of cheers from this town. Not after how kind that guard had been. But that didn't worry her. This town would have felt the abusive nature that most guards harbored sooner or later.

She sucked in a deep breath and stroked her horse's mane absently. The words Vyses had spoken earlier resurfaced within her mind. There was no turning back from this now. Not with all of the death that had been dealt. With the guards in three different towns completely eradicated, it wouldn't be long before the King took action against them. She wasn't scared. Not of the King. She wanted him to take action, to put down the ale and take control of his people. The kingdom needed it.

But she couldn't help but be worried. Worried that Caelan wouldn't be proud of her and the path she'd chosen. He wouldn't approve of all the death she'd caused.

Vyses cleared his throat. Ravenna glanced up, her gaze locking with his. He arched an eyebrow at her. "Shall we move on to the next town, lass?" he asked.

It was too late to turn back now. In the end, when all the death had settled, and the kingdom was happy again, Caelan would be proud of her. She just knew it. 

hey babes! 

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hey babes! 

I'm pretty sure that I missed an update last week. I'm sorry for being so inactive. My senior project is due next week and I'm eating, sleeping, breathing graphic design right now. It's been crazy and I've hardly had time to breathe. I'll do my best to update again at some point this weekend. Just please bear with me a little longer! 

Thank you for your patience and continued support! ❤

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