Chapter 20 (8th of Vashi in the year 6199)

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They eye of the storm may be calm, but once it passes, wrath and fury will come upon you once more.

Erso Gaili, Wizard

Knuckles white like caps of waves breaking on a beach, Cassandra maintained her death grip on the Sea Dragon's port rails. Six silhouettes slowly diminished towards the horizon and the port of Houlatt.  Leathery wings beat up and down with slow, powerful strokes as the dragons and their riders bore down on their target. As they slogged through the sea, each of the Dragon Ships in the fleet belched a fog of putrid blackness, trailing behind them like tails.

Heart re-hardened, Cassandra tried to maintain her focus on the mission and forget other, more painful things. The young woman resorted to telling herself over and over she needed nothing other than her hate and anger to sustain her. She'd tried opening up. She'd attempted to allow someone to care about her. And all that had brought her was a heart shattered into uncountable pieces. The rage she wanted to soften only became fed by the new pain now twisting her guts into knots and tearing her soul further apart.

As the first of the airborne dragons dove on the rebel-controlled town, Cassandra quirked a smile when the fires of its maw roared forth. One after another, the rest followed suit in a perfected ballet of coming death. The shoreline began to glow with lively, dancing flames.

Cassandra wanted to find some solace in her vision and planning becoming a firm reality. But without the man who had taken her idea from a dream and made it real, such was impossible. Her only consolation was that Fimmirra, and her uncle, would soon face her wrath. He would pay for being in league with those that had ruined her life and taken her family from her. Once she settled that score, Cassandra believed she could regain some satisfaction in what had become a miserable existence for her. At least, she hoped.

Food being evacuated from Cabbat's stomach, over the railing, and into the sea snapped Cassandra from her thoughts. He vomited again, forcing a disgusted sigh from the general and a roll of her eyes. "Get a grip on yourself," she chastised him.

"I'm not a sea dwarf." Unable to lean over the railing, he'd been hanging over it. Cabbat dropped back to the deck. Propping himself up on shaky legs, he used the rails for support. Remnants of food and stomach juices laced Cabbat's beard as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "My people come from the Eastern Hills. We're farmers."

"You expect me to believe that a simple 'farmer' could design what we're sailing on now?"

"Engineers, tinkerers, and inventors too, sweetheart. All us dwarfs are. Some better than others. Farming is hard work. We're always looking for ways to make that work easier. Thank Diur for that too. My knack for inventing things saved my daughter. Right now I should be back in Roatsburg repairing the observatory."

"You're needed here," Cassandra reminded him.

Cabbat's face flushed. Jumping back up onto the rail once more, he heaved again. Once he finished sending more of his lunch into the sea, he coughed and spit the acidic taste from his mouth. "Lady Noranda requested my presence."

"And I told you, I explained the need for you to be on this mission. And she agreed. You can go back to the palace and fix her toy once we've laid waste to Fimmirra."

"If I can fix it. Honestly, I'm not sure who's wrath I fear more at this point. Noranda's, if I can't fix the damn thing, or yours. I feel like I'm between a mountain and a millstone."

Cassandra snarled a response. "Just do your job. Keep these ships in working order, get us to Fimmirra, and you won't have to worry about me."

With a snort, the dwarf challenged that assertion. "Yeah, until the next time you lose that temper of yours, and I'm the next one fed to a dragon."

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