SEVENTY SIX

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THE NEXT TOWN seemed to be on edge as they approached

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THE NEXT TOWN seemed to be on edge as they approached. Guards were posted on either side of the main road, with swords and massive shields in their hands. Said swords were lifted, aimed toward them. The buildings behind them were dark, as if everyone in town had retired for the night. Ravenna glanced to Vyses, somewhat worried.

"Be on guard," he murmured to her under his breath. "They might be expecting us."

Ravenna sucked in a sharp breath and squared her shoulders, mentally preparing herself for an attack. It was highly unlikely that the guards knew their actual identity, however. During every attack, every use of magic, Ravenna made sure to keep her hood up, concealing her features. At this point, the guards were probably just wary of all travelers.

"State your business," one of the guards demanded as their horses slowed to a stop in front of them.

"We are just passing through," Vyses told them, lifting his hands in a cautious gesture. "We had hoped to find an inn for the night. We have been traveling for several days now."

"We mean no harm," Ravenna added.

The guards shared an uneasy glance. Slowly, they lowered their weapons and stepped back. "Alright," the guard said. "We permit you entry. But if you cause any trouble, you will be executed on the spot. Understood?"

Ravenna's eyes grew wider than the moon. She glanced toward Vyses, her mouth opening slightly. "That is quite a drastic punishment," she remarked. "Not that we intend to cause trouble. Is there reasoning behind your hostility?"

She knew the answer, but she really wanted to hear their own version of it.

The guards all shared another hesitant look. Another guard spoke this time. He stood closer to the back of the group, his face obscured beneath a helmet of iron. "A pair of travelers have gone from town to town, murdering all of the guards. We have to be on the lookout for them."

"Oh my," Ravenna feigned surprise. "That is very scary. Are you sure that they will arrive here soon?"

One of the guards flashed her a warm smile. "Fear not, my lady," he said. "You will be safe here. Though I do suggest that you remain indoors for the night, just to be safe."

"We will keep that in mind," Vyses responded. He sounded mildly cross, which made Ravenna snicker. "Would you mind directing us toward the nearest inn?"

Ravenna took that opportunity to tune them out. She glanced over the guards again, zeroing in on their features. None of them looked familiar, but she felt as though she'd seen some of them before.

As they dismounted their horses and walked into town, Ravenna asked, "Where are we, exactly?"

"I don't remember the name of this town," Vyses answered. "It won't matter anyways once morning hits."

Ravenna hummed in response. She glanced around at the buildings that surrounded them. One stood out amongst the rest --a large wooden structure with an elaborate sign hanging in front of a pair of doors. Ravenna's eyes widened. On the sign, a glass of frothy ale was etched into the wood. A memory appeared in the forefront of her mind, a memory of smelly men and dancing women.

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