Chapter 2 (2nd of Iecanaon in the year 6199)

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Prepare your hearts, my children

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Prepare your hearts, my children. For there will be darkness before there is light; suffering before salvation. As there is invariably night before the dawn. A cycle never-ending and always repeating until the end of days.

Book of Earoni 20:37

Book of Earoni 20:37

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The Present

Two days of hard riding had given Cassandra a chance to get into the proper mindset for battle. By the time she reached the village of Tuske late yesterday with reinforcements, her blood was already pumping with anticipation of confronting the rebels held up there.

Although it tore at her to leave Gurra, and also Deran, she couldn't bring herself to sit around a moment longer doing nothing more than supervising the construction of the Dragon Ships. They had made so much progress that she believed her administration of the project was no longer required. Both Deran's modifications and Cabbat's design and addition of the steam-driven paddle wheels were well ahead of schedule.

Her nights with Deran made what she would have otherwise seen as a mind-numbing waste of time worth it. His kiss and his touch granted her such relief from so many troubles that regularly kept her mind racing. Still, she felt that she needed a break from such things, no matter how pleasant and soothing. While she enjoyed the distraction, Cassandra also sensed she was losing a part of herself because of it. A part she desperately didn't want to give up.

A sense of duty and mission hardened her resolve to at least take a respite from their time together. Cassandra fervently believed she needed to reclaim that which she now considered missing from her very being. But the tug of war within her only intensified after returning to Roatsburg. She missed Deran more than her desire to continue on with what she had decided was her obligation to the eradication of the Hitithe Rebels. So, when the word came that insurgent forces were holding off Imperial troops in this small hamlet, and doing so successfully for the past week, Cassandra leapt at the opportunity to lead the reinforcements herself and engage in a distraction to her internal conflict.

She'd barely slept a wink since she had torn out of the garrison to head north with her men, renewed intent and purpose filling her. Once she had arrived with the additional soldiers just before nightfall and assumed command, the isolated conglomeration of scarcely three dozen buildings had fallen within hours.

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