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Daughters of Fate (Chapter 12)

And Descist took the form of the serpent and seduced the angel in the Garden of Earoni. Her soul would be forever his. For once the darkest god is allowed in to one’s heart, one can never escape him.

-Legends 101:20

Chapter 12 (11th of Taru-Des in the year 6198)

“Sub-general Nightwing?” The voice cut through the haze of Cassandra’s thoughts, and she bolted upright in the saddle with a start. The sky was nearly dark.

Cassandra looked about to regain her senses. One of the soldiers in the troop was riding alongside her, and it was his voice that had infringed upon her weariness.

“Are you alright, ma’am?”

The winter winds grew less hospitable as the sky faded from day. A dim light on the roadside ahead caught her attention. “I’m fine,” she grumbled.

“There’s an inn just ahead,” he motioned towards the lamplight. “Should we secure lodging for the night?”

Behind her, Cassandra could hear the sounds of wagons creaking and pulling across the frozen road. “Yes,” was her only response as she tried to relieve a kink in the muscles of her neck.

The soldier galloped off without another word in the direction of the establishment.

Cassandra took the time until she arrived at the inn to sort out the thoughts in her mind. There had not been a sign of trouble while she and her men guarded this caravan of supplies south towards Catersburg. It seemed rather odd to her. Especially since every other attempt had been met with resistance. Or so General Kayzar had claimed.

But she had other business intended with this journey south. This was not simply her deciding to escort an insignificant convoy.

A scout that had been returning from Catersburg had heard only upon returning to the palace about the attempt on Cassandra’s life. Upon hearing that Sub-general Nightwing had thought to have done considerable damage to the left side of the face of one of the men involved, who had escaped, the scout had reported seeing a man wearing a leather patch over his left eye at one of the inns along the road heading south.

The only thing south of any note was the port city of Catersburg.

Although she did not expect anything to come from these rumors, and although she did not get a clear look at the man, she traveled south anyway. Only because of the mention of the patch. She considered it a lead that she wanted to follow.

But, she had to admit, this also gave her a chance to get out of the palace. Which was something she rarely did much anymore. Except for a morning ride or to personally oversee the rounding up of some Hitithe rebels.

Reaching the inn, Cassandra dismounted her black stallion. The soldier who had gone off ahead met her along with an elderly man who could not have been much taller than five feet. Probably Curt blood in him, Cassandra thought. Dwarfs would spread their seed anywhere.

“Greetings, General Nightwing,” the innkeeper spoke delightfully, although visibly shivering as they stood outside the inn. Cassandra didn’t bother to correct the mistaken title he had given her. “It is a pleasure to have you and your men visiting us this evening.”

Cassandra managed a half-hearted smile in response.

The soldier interjected, “There’s only three rooms.”

“I can make more ready,” the innkeeper spoke with quickened words. “I’m sure our current guest would not mind giving up their lodging for-”

Cassandra halted him. “Three will be more than enough. I’ll take one and lieutenant I leave the decision in your capable hands as to who else gets a warm bed. I want triple guards posted.” She moved past the two, through the doors, and into the main hall. “I’ll see that you’re paid whatever rate you normally charge your patrons. I have more than fifty men that need fed. Nothing fancy. Just meat, bread, and potatoes will suffice.”

“I will begin preparing immediately.” He motioned to a young girl hiding in the shadows. “Cynthia,” he called to her, “show the General to her room.”

The hesitant and fearful look on the child’s face bothered Cassandra as she handed her winter cloak to the innkeeper. She could not explain it. But on a deep, subconscious level, she was troubled by the way the child looked at her. As if she was a monster hiding under the girl’s bed.

Cassandra smiled at the girl, not moving towards her. But the expression did not change. She just stood there, unmoving.

“Cynthia!” the innkeeper called again.

This time the girl came over. She looked up and Cassandra.

Cassandra knelt to bring herself down to the child’s level. “Hello,” the Sub-general spoke, trying to get some response other than fear from the child.

“‘ello,” the girl responded.

“Your name’s Cynthia. Right?” The girl nodded. “Don’t be frightened.”

“You in the army?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you kill people?”

Cassandra was taken back. For a second, she did not know how to reply. “Only bad people, Cynthia. Only bad people.”

“Cynthia,” the innkeeper spoke again. The girl looked at him. He motioned with his head for her to take the Sub-general to her room.

Cynthia reached up her small hand. “Come with me. Please?” Cassandra rose to her feet and took the girl’s hand, allowing her to lead the way.

Cassandra looked over the main floor of the inn below, leaning over the railing from where her room had been on the second floor. There was not a soul around other than her soldiers. Most of those at the inn the night before left in quite a hurry once they found out there were Imperial troops staying on the grounds.

Especially when they found out it was Sub-general Nightwing leading them. Her reputation preceded her quite well. Although, she was sure that General Kayzar’s habit of making an example out of people at random for fictitious crimes also played into the now deserted main hall. At least she only made rebels and their sympathizers pay dearly.

Cassandra watched as one of her soldiers paid the innkeeper for the lodging and food. The man seemed a little hesitant to take the money at first. Imperial troops were not often known to actually pay for anything. Especially Kayzar’s. Who she had found out last night frequented this inn since it was on the main road south.

As she readied to go, Cassandra tightened her sword belt and began to walk towards the stairs. A creak in the floorboards caused her to turn and bring one of her weapons to the ready in her right hand.

She braced herself as she faced down a man casually leaning against the wall just outside her door. He did not seem to react to her aggressive posture.

“Who are you?” Cassandra ordered. She noticed that the man’s right hand was balled into a fist and gloved. Also that he wore a long sleeve over his right arm as well. “What do you want?”

“Civn friend,” the thief replied. “It not what Civn want, but what Civn can give ya.” He pushed up from the wall and started to walk towards Cassandra. After two steps, she brought the point of her sword up to his throat to keep him at a safe distance.

Cassandra brought her other sword to her left hand. “What do you mean?”

“Civn knows.” He spoke with what Cassandra could tell was forced sincereness. This was a man who had no love for the Empire – or Lord Hedric.

Just by looking at him, Cassandra could tell he was a scoundrel. But also that he was someone who knew how to get what he wanted.

“Ya look’n fer a rebel. Civn knows where he be.”

“How do you know who I’m looking for?”

“Civn pay guards good. Guards tell Civn. Man wear silver ring. Patch over eye. Civn see it himself. Man book passage on ship. Go to Fimmirra.”

Cassandra eyed him suspiciously. She knew everything about this man by just looking at him. “You’re a thief. Why should I trust you?”

Civn smiled. “Ya get rebel. Ya bring Civn da ship’s capt’n. She a t’ief too. Name’s Reane Matir. She’s got som’tin of Civn’s.”

“I don’t make deals with thieves. And I don’t get involved in wars between them either. I’m not a fool. If I go after this thief for you then the guild comes after me. That’s not something that I want.”

“Reane no member of guild. Guild’s not even care if she live or die.”

Cassandra nodded. “Alright,” she agreed hesitantly. “This ship?”

“De Oracle. Oracle in Catersburg. Ya get de t’ief . Civn get Matir and da ship.”

“I told you, I don’t make deals with thieves.” Civn backed up and Cassandra lowered her weapon. “But if the information you give me is good, I’ll see that you are rewarded.”

“Dat all Civn ask. Dat all he ask.”

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