"Desperate times call for desperate measures," another knight responded. He leaned back in his chair, his arms folded across his chest. "With the alarming number of towns that have been attacked so far, his Majesty has taken great measures to counteract and protect his people. The strongest guards in each town were granted the title of Blood Knight."

"That is a high honor," Ravenna remarked. She flashed them a sly smile and took another swig of her drink. "Your wives must be so proud of you."

The men laughed and shared a look. Ravenna giggled, arching an eyebrow. "What? No wives?"

"We don't have a lot of time for wives," one of them responded, running his hand through a shock of inky hair. Another snickered and lifted his mug toward his lips, adding, "We have plenty of time for lovers though."

Another round of laughter ensued. Ravenna grinned and took another sip of her drink. Heat prickled across her cheeks. "I'm sure that you all are very experienced."

"Would you care to find out for yourself?" one of the knights leaned in close to her.

Ravenna's lips tugged back into another small smile. A seed of anxiety rooted itself within her chest and blossomed, constricting around her heart. For a moment, all she could think about was that night, so long ago, and that guard pressing himself against her, forcing her. It took all of her strength not to react to the memory, to remain focused on her mission.

"So tell me," she said. "If the rumors are true then, what has become of the towns that have already been attacked? Have all the villagers killed?" She tilted her head to the side, her eyebrows furrowed with concern.

The knight closest to her leaned back. His lips pressed into a wrinkled line. She watched him lift his drink and take a massive swig of the ale within. Another knight heaved a small sigh. "We haven't quite reclaimed those towns yet," he admitted. A flush of redness coated his cheeks. "Though most of the townsfolk have survived."

"From what we've heard, though, I'm sure that they wish they hadn't," another knight said, his voice low and grim.

Ravenna skewered him with a confused look. "What do you mean?"

"Those who have interacted with the victims tell horrendous stories," the knight responded. He frowned at Ravenna and reached out, his fingers touching her hair. "The towns have been overrun with soldiers made of ice, soldiers who viciously beat and abuse the citizens."

Ravenna's heart stopped. "Ice soldiers?" she heard herself asked quietly, though two very different words pierced her mind. Beat and abuse. Her soldiers beat and abused the poor humans that they'd left behind.

One of the knights nodded. As he leaned forward, Ravenna could tell how much ale he'd drowned. He pointed a finger at her and said, "I've heard that they are taller than mountains. Armor made of dragon scales and poison. You can't go near 'em without dying a vicious death from the poison."

Ravenna blinked.

"I've heard that the soldiers have eyes as black as death and daggers for teeth," another knight remarked.

Slowly, Ravenna's heart began to beat again. She glanced around the table, quietly listening to the outlandish descriptions that each knight offered. The more that they talked, the more that the knights began to slur, to show obvious signs of drunkenness. Ravenna took another sip of her own drink and allowed herself to relax. The rumors of abuse and beatings were probably just that --skewed whispers with no solid truth behind them. It was more likely that her soldiers actually had daggers for teeth.

Someone cleared their throat.

She glanced back over her shoulder. Vyses stood behind her with his arms crossed over his chest. He arched an eyebrow at her, his expression unamused. "It's midday," he remarked. She smiled at him and lifted her glass, closing one eye in a wink. "I guess it's time then," she responded.

He stepped back as she climbed to her feet. The knights objected to her sudden movement, shouting for her to return to the table, until they noticed the glowing blue light that danced between her fingertips.

 The knights objected to her sudden movement, shouting for her to return to the table, until they noticed the glowing blue light that danced between her fingertips

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hey guys! 

Thank you so much for your continued patience and support. I know that waiting for updates is never fun. This last weekend was one of the craziest weekends of my life. Not only did I graduate college, but I moved back home to Florida as well. Things are still a little crazy, but I do feel that I have the time now to actually write and be more active. 

So expect regular updates again starting this week!

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