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Daughters of Fate (Chapter 25)

And the whole of Geiha did shake and tremble as the force and power of Earoni’s Tear was released to banish back the dark lord Descist.  The seas boiled and the sky sent forth bolts of lightning with nearly uncontrollable power.  And the priests of Earoni vowed to never again allow the power of the relic to be used for fear that it would destroy the world. 

-Armageddon 4:90 

Chapter 25 (7th of Earonitan in the year 6199)

The forward momentum of the Arthbridge came to an abrupt, crashing halt.   As the deck bucked into the air like a wild mare preparing to toss an unwelcome rider, the wooden hull splintering like toothpicks was the crescendo that emphasized the magnitude of the catastrophe. Standing on the aft deck near the helm, Cassandra’s hands latched to the railing, but she was still tossed and twisted to the lumber that had once been under her feet. She rose and steadied herself as the imperial cutter was dead in the water. 

“Navigator!  What happened?”  Her demand ripped through the chaos that ensued.  

“We followed the path of that ship exactly!” the answer came from the disheveled sailor manning the helm.  He too was busy righting himself.  “There’s no way we could have missed the opening!”  

“Breach in the forward hull!” another sailor called from the main deck.  “Abandon ship!” 

Cassandra raced, still shaken, to the bow.  As she stood there, staring at the diminishing form of the ship they had attempted to follow, she was in awe that it still sailed onward without having been impeded by the reef.  Her attention then turned downward.   She could see the reef, clear as day, fluttering between just inches below the blue water and breaking the surface as gentle waves crested over it.  

“Impossible.”  She checked to either side and could see that the reef extended far off in both directions.  Beyond the ship they had tried to follow, she could see the outlines in the distance of the peaks from the volcanic islands of Fimmirra. 

“Sub-general Nightwing!” the helmsman shouted, “the Arthbridge isn’t going to stay afloat for very long with the amount of water we’re taking on!”  

“This is impossible!” she called back, returning to the rear of the ship as the deck started to list.  Pushing through panicked sailors trying to recover from the calamity, she wanted answers.  “How did that merchant ship get past?  The reef couldn’t just open and close up!”  

“I’m inclined to say that it did,” The helmsman replied.  “The captain told you, before you had him tossed overboard for insubordination, this is what happens every time we’ve tried to pass, and why we don’t try anymore.  We follow a ship in, sometimes staying only about thirty yards back, and still we can’t get through.  Sub-general, please, gather up your effects and get to one of the long boats and another ship.”  

Cassandra took a last look at the other ship as it diminished on the horizon.  “I’m transferring command to the Creedence,” she said sharply.  “How long before the ship goes under?”  

“Couple of minutes maybe, it’s hard to say.”  

Cassandra nodded.  “Very well, have your men salvage everything they can and get to one of the other ships.  Make sure you get the scrying orbs we brought along.  I’ve got a plan.”  

“I’ll see that it’s done, Sub-general Nightwing.”  

Considering the scattered drawings before her and pulling the wire-rimmed spectacles from her face, Cassandra rubbed her brow.  The movement of the Creedence as it cut through the water and caught every wave headed back to the mainland gave her the most terrible headache.  

She placed down her glasses on a stack of books and sat behind the desk.  It formerly belonged to the captain of the second ship she had called home since leaving for the Fimmirrian Reef.  He’d been smarter than the late captain of the Arthbridge, choosing not to argue with her about assuming command.  

Cassandra pulled a heavy pewter box in front of her and opened it, revealing the two marble sized bluish purple scrying orbs inside.  She reached in and plucked out the cold spheres, allowing them to rest in the palm of her hand.  

Taking a deep breath, she placed them in a shallow, flat-bottomed tin of fresh water brought earlier at her request.  As the orbs touched the water and her hand retreated, they began to move slowly in unison around and around in a clockwise circuit about the tin, stirring the water slowly at first.  The motion quickly accelerated until the water swirled and the orbs started to glow and awaited her command.  

In order to connect these stones to the set she wanted, Cassandra only needed to now speak the word that would bind them together.  The word Lady Noranda herself had spoken when she had cast the stones from both magic and earth.  “Damcel,” she spoke, realizing only that the word must have meant something in some language that she didn’t speak.  

For a time, Cassandra waited, understanding that the other set of stones she was attempting to contact would vibrate and glow as a signal that someone was trying to establish a link.  They would need to be placed in a similar tray on the other end before that link would be complete.  She knew it wouldn’t be long.  General Marshall always had his orbs close at hand.  

After some minutes passed, a cloudy image started to form in the water.  It then spoke to her, “Ah, greetings, Sub-general Nightwing.”  The rippling but mostly clear façade beamed at her, no doubt seeing her the same way she saw him.  

“General Marshall,” she replied.  

With greetings completed, he asked, “How may I assist you?”  

“I am returning aboard the Creedence,” she informed him. “I request that you send a dragon to the port of Seahome to meet me.  I must return to the palace as quickly as possible.”  

“The Creedence?” he asked.  “I thought you were using the Arthbridge as your flagship?”  

“The Arthbridge ran into,” she paused, “unforeseen difficulties and ran aground on the reef.”  

“Oh dear, Lord Hedric will not be at all pleased to hear that news that he has lost a ship.”  

“Leave Lord Hedric to me,” she told him.  “Just see that the dragon is waiting for me when we make landfall.  I have an idea that I need to discuss with him and get his blessing.”  

“The dragon will be dispatched immediately to meet you,” General Marshall informed her.  “Would you like me to send word to Lady Noranda on your behalf that you will be returning?”  

“No, I will contact her personally,” Cassandra insisted.  “And I do thank you for your discretion and assistance in this matter.”  

“For you, my dear,” the general smiled, “always.”  

Cassandra waved her hand over the tin and allowed the connection to be broken.  The orbs quickly began to slow in their pace until they fell still.  She had no knowledge of exactly how the device worked, nor did she care to know, pushing the tray aside.  

As she did so, with impeccable timing a knocking came at her door.  “Come in,” she ordered, and the captain of the Creedence did.  

He was an older man, his hair not totally white with age.  A dirty old sea dog, having looked like he had spent most of his years at sea.  But even with all he had seen and done, in his eyes, Cassandra could see the fear he had of her.  

“You summoned me, Sub-general?” he asked of her.  

“Yes.”  She motioned for him to approach and slid a series of hasty sketches towards him.  “The way I see it, the only way to bring Fimmirra down is to strike it from the air.”  

“I assume you mean dragons?” the captain asked.  “I’m not a very smart man, Sub-general Nightwing, but even I know that dragons can’t fly that far out to sea.”  

“That’s the problem to be solved.”  She pointed to the papers.  “And one I’ve been working on for a couple weeks.”  

The captain took a second to look and then shook his head.  “You want to build ships to carry dragons?  To build ships like these, would be difficult.  The ships would have to be so big just to carry the weight, and pretty much have an open deck to allow for their wingspan. It would not leave much room for masts and sails.  Putting three on here, as you show,” he pointed, “in such tight quarters?  I’d dare say that’s impossible.”  

“I’m no expert on shipbuilding, Captain,” Cassandra emphasized the obvious.  “I want you to adjust these specifications and diagrams so that I can present them to Lord Hedric.”  

The captain shook his head.  “They’d have to be built to exact specifications.  Dragons aren’t light you know, nor are they small.  At least not the blacks and the reds at the Empire’s disposal.”  

“That’s your responsibility to find out how to get it done,” Cassandra told him.  “I don’t care how.  Just do it.”  Cassandra leaned back in her seat and kicked her feet up onto the desk.  “If you do a good job, maybe – just maybe I can convince Lord Hedric to promote you.  There is a sudden shortage of Generals after all.”  

The Captain laughed.  “I don’t have any want nor desire for higher command, Sub-general Nightwing.  And I’m no expert in building ships either.  Just in sailing them.  I know just enough to know that these plans need a lot of work.  But I do know someone that might be able to help you.  Ensign Herstone, my nephew.  He used to work with General Norga, before his unfortunate circumstances.  He designed the brand-new Interceptor Class ships that will be rolling off the line this fall.”  

“Suit yourself, Captain,” Cassandra replied.  “If you think he can handle this, then I want him to meet me at the Palace in Roatsburg.  I’ll have General Marshall send a dragon for him as well, if you tell me where he is stationed.”  

“He’s already working from the palace.  At least, last I heard,” the captain informed her.  “So that won’t be necessary.  I am sure though he won’t disappoint you.”  

“For both your sakes?” Cassandra threatened.  “I hope that he won’t.” 

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