Even with Wilkes right beside him

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As he sat across from his boss, even with Wilkes right beside him, it was the same as usual. Creepy. His eyes followed the flickering candlelight as it cast shadows about the room. It danced across the curtains, making him think of giant ghosts floating toward him. It flickered on the walls and high on the ceiling in scary, moving shapes, just like the phantoms that sometimes haunted his dreams. But most of all, it lit up the caged vulture beside Graven. The bird was enormous, almost as big as a child, only more menacing. It rested inside the large metal cage, its sharp talons wrapped around a twisted branch. The dim shadows wavered around the bird, and whenever its black eyes glinted in the eerie light, Cal thought it was staring at him, whispering the truth about the Thorn girl to its master. The whole thing was distracting for him, and dangerous too. He knew he should be listening. The old man was right there behind the table, twisting his big ring back and forth and talking about something. The plan probably. But Cal couldn’t focus. It was too dark, with too many shadows for things to hide in. And anyway, he didn’t like being this close to the old man. He slouched and fidgeted, wishing the chair had arms. Wishing they could get out of here. Hey Cal, Wilkes said, jabbing him in the arm, want a muffin? Huh? he asked, looking over at his partner. Wilkes was holding a small woven basket out to him. It was draped with a red and white checked cloth and inside were two big muffins. Yeah, thanks, he said, smiling as he reached toward the basket. Don’t be stupid, will ya? Wilkes said, yanking the basket out of his reach. You got a deathwish or somethin’? He covered the muffins with the checked cloth and put the basket on the floor. These are It danced across the curtains, making him think of giant ghosts floating toward him. It flickered on the walls and high on the ceiling in scary, moving shapes, just like the phantoms that sometimes haunted his dreams. But most of all, it lit up the caged vulture beside Graven. The bird was enormous, almost as big as a child, only more menacing. It rested inside the large metal cage, its sharp talons wrapped around a twisted branch. The dim shadows wavered around the bird, and whenever its black eyes glinted in the eerie light, Cal thought it was staring at him, whispering the truth about the Thorn girl to its master. The whole thing was distracting for him, and dangerous too. He knew he should be listening. The old man was right there behind the table, twisting his big ring back and forth and talking about something. The plan probably. But Cal couldn’t focus. It was too dark, with too many shadows for things to hide in. And anyway, he didn’t like being this close to the old man. He slouched and fidgeted read what he said people of Amryn saw what he had done for them, it would happen. No one, not even Ferront, would have a claim as strong as his own. When they realized he had avenged the Neulock boy by putting the villainous fairy to death, that he was the one who had finally put an end to their suffering by punishing the guilty, they would thank him. the ones boss was talkin’ about. The special homemade ones. Oh, Cal said, nodding, though he had no idea what Wilkes was talking about. I don’t care how you do it, Graven said, his silky voice sliding through the room, just finish it. Tonight. The candlelight glinted in his dark eyes, making Cal think he looked just like his ugly bird. As for the other, Graven said, holding his left hand out in front of him as he admired his sigil ring, I’ll take care of that. But boss? Wilkes asked, what about the princesses?

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