Chapter 29

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For even the frozen heart of the wicked may melt if granted the power of love

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For even the frozen heart of the wicked may melt if granted the power of love.

Psalm of Peace

"I appreciate," Deran croaked out, "you putting in a good word for me with Lord Hedric

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"I appreciate," Deran croaked out, "you putting in a good word for me with Lord Hedric. But," he hesitated even as he and Cassandra moved at a hurried pace down the corridors in the bowels of the palace.

"You'll do fine," Cassandra encouraged him with a smile.

"But Commodore of an attack fleet?" He pulled at the collar of his shirt. "I mean, I know about all the tactics and theories, but -"

"It's not that hard," the Sub-general admonished him in the lightest tone she could manage. "Trust me. You think I'm the sharpest sword in the rack?"

"I don't think I'm ready for command," he continued to doubt.

Cassandra rolled her eyes. "Look, I can teach you all the stuff you don't already know. We've got a lot of time. These ships aren't going to be ready overnight; you know."

"Yeah," Ensign Herstone reiterated, "looking at about eight months. Won't be able to launch until next spring. You think that we're going to get what we need from that curt Lord Hedric keeps holed up down here? Because I'll be honest with you, the rigging and the sails just aren't going to work. And I don't want to be on our Lord's bad side."

Stopping at a closed door of notably thicker than normal construction, Cassandra raised her hand to knock. "It'll be fine."

Before her hand could move, everything shook with what sounded like an explosion from the other side. Even the floor felt as if it shifted, and Cassandra stumbled back against the far wall, keeping her balance only with its assistance.

Deran wasn't so lucky. He found himself sprawled on his posterior on the floor as thick smoke began to billow out from the gap at the bottom of the door. It engulfed the hallway in a choking, sulfurous stench, that forced both he and Cassandra to cover their mouths as the smell threatened to make them retch.

Recovering with shaky steps, Cassandra kicked at the door, trying to get inside, but it didn't budge. She started pounding on the solid barrier. "Cabbat!" she called out, followed by more pounding. "Cabbat! Open this door!"

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