SEVENTY NINE

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IT TOOK ABOUT eight days to reach Zeporia

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IT TOOK ABOUT eight days to reach Zeporia.

Days that Ravenna spent mulling over her interaction with the Blood Knights. Their descriptions of her soldiers haunted her. The idea that her soldiers were going against her will, abusing the townsfolk, made her stomach churn with uneasiness. The only solace had been the outlandish descriptions that the knights provided. Even with Vyses's additional armor and spells, the descriptions were too insane to be truthful.

The whole ordeal made Ravenna nervous.

"This city won't be as easy to take over," Vyses remarked quietly as they approached the outskirts of Zeporia. He glanced over at Ravenna and pursed his lips. "Do you think you will be able to create more soldiers faster?"

"I'll manage," Ravenna responded. She glanced around. Zeporia was unlike anything she'd ever seen. The street that they traveled on was constructed of smooth cobblestones. Bushes of wildflowers grew on either side, weeded and perfectly maintained. Fenced in fields filled with greenery stretched out beyond the bushes, toward the horizon. In the distance, Ravenna could see a massive stone wall. Several watchtowers were built into the front of the wall, complete with colorful flags on the rooftops, fluttering in the wind. As they approached, Ravenna could see spikes adorning the top of the wall. Her stomach heaved. Human heads were attached to the spikes, in various stages of decomposition.

A handful of guards patrolled the wall. Even more lingered on the ground, stationed in front of the massive iron doors of the entrance gate. Said gate seemed to remain open, allowing a glance inside the wall.

"Is there another wall behind this one?" Ravenna whispered to Vyses as she peered through the open gate.

Vyses nodded. "There is only one way into this city and one way out. It's heavily guarded. The outer wall is more for show, though. It's meant to scare intruders or attackers away. It would be hard to get through, even with our soldiers, but the inner wall would be completely impenetrable. The inner wall was created with magic. It exists purely to protect of the citizens. We need to lay low until we've made it through both walls. Then we can decide how to proceed."

"We will be unable to use magic inside the city," Lyth announced. "Magic is forbidden, as in the Capitol."

"We will have to leave our horses out here," Vyses added. "The spells that I put on them are too powerful and will be instantly detected."

Ravenna frowned. She dismounted her horse and moved closer to Vyses. "Will they be able to detect magical items? Or the spells that we've used to disguise ourselves?"

Vyses pressed his lips together. "Possibly. They haven't been able to in the past, as I've snuck in plenty of times. But with all of the gossip and fear floating around, it's possible that they've increased security. We are just going to have to play it by ear and see how far we can get. Removing our disguises will get us instantly killed."

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