Chapter 18 (5th of Vashi in the year 6199)

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We shall learn that those who appear to be our greatest enemies are perhaps only themselves pawns.

Gwendylyn Sevarna year 5405

As Cassandra awoke, the cascading rhythms of waves crashed around the hull of the ship. A mechanical din, courtesy of Cabbat's fuel burning monstrosity in the engine room, rippled through every board and plank, supplementing the ambient sounds of the sea. Sunlight beamed in through a hinged slab of wood held open by a single strut. What passed for a window in her cabin, it allowed her to smell the sweet salt air and see hints of the bright blue sky. She blinked, the suddenness of the light hurt as she took it in.

Rolling over in her bed, seeking Deran's touch, she did not find it. Where he should have been there was only an emptiness.

Cassandra bolted up, pulling the covers tight about her unclothed body. "Deran?" Her eyes fell on him as he finished latching up his belt about his waist and checked the secureness of his commodore's sword. "What are you doing up so early?"

Deran tucked his shirt in his pants with a bit more force than warranted, not answering her question.

Cassandra patted the mattress. "Come back to bed. It's still too soon to be up."

"I've been thinking, Cassandra. Perhaps this isn't such a good idea."

"What?" She pushed pieces of her red hair from her face. "We've been over this. An attack by dragons can't be defended by-"

"Not that," he corrected. "I mean you and me."

A pain tied Cassandra's stomach up into a tangle. "I... I don't understand."

"Everyone thinks I got this command because of you. And you know what? They're right. But I never wanted this. I wanted you, but not this. Not the ridicule. Not the sailors questioning if I know my ass from a knot in a board."

Cassandra blushed. "Forget about what other people believe."

He sighed. "I think... I think it might be a bad idea to have the two most senior officers on this mission sleeping with each other."

"Deran?"

Now fully dressed, he prepared to leave, lingering in the open doorway. "I need some time to think about this, Cassandra."

As he walked out, the closing of the door ran back and forth between Cassandra's ears as if it were a slam a hundred times louder than it was. Suddenly the salt air did not smell quite so sweet or the sky seem so bright...

 Cassandra picked her head up from the papers in front of her at the sound of her name, struggling to bring her thoughts into focus

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... Cassandra picked her head up from the papers in front of her at the sound of her name, struggling to bring her thoughts into focus. Across the table from her in the dimly lit tent, sat her superior officer.

"Excuse me, I... I'm sorry. Sub-General Dremn? I was concentrating on these requisition requests you tasked me to finish reviewing." It was cold for a spring night, but the standard issue cloak she wore helped chase away the chill in the air. Recently assigned to this post, she was still trying to get used to the way they did things in the military.

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