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Frightfully Dull (of crop growth patterns and commercial property disputes)

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It’s all very well and good, her brother popping in and out of Whitestone at his convenience, Cassandra thinks irritably to herself, but he could at very least take care of some of the paperwork while he was here!

And perhaps that is a bit disingenuous, considering he’s off trying to Save The World, but it’s hard to put things in context cooped up in a frigid office at midnight surrounded by unending piles of paper. Reports on the repair of Whitestone, reports on projected population growth, reports on refugee status- there are probably reports on the progress of reporting that she hasn’t got to yet. And she hasn’t even begun to look at the petitions, the waivers, or the proposed edicts. How on earth is one supposed to think about so many things at once?

Cass sighs and drops her head into her hands, elbows propped up on the desk that likely saw her father in much the same circumstance. She rubs her eyes tiredly, mentally calculating how much of the waiting workload can be put off for another day.

Not enough to afford you any sleep tonight, she tells herself with a grimace.

She shuffles in her seat, rolling her shoulders back to relieve the tension of a hard night of writing, then pulls a document from the top of the stack in front of her with another sigh.

Somewhere in the middle of the unbelievably dull section on projected crop growth, she realises she has read the same sentence at least 3 times and is still no closer to taking in any actual information. With a groan of frustration she lowers her head none-too-gently onto the desk.

“Lady Cassandra?”

Cassandra shoots back up, suddenly ramrod straight in her seat, resisting the urge to rub her throbbing forehead. Peeking somewhat tentatively through the doorway is one of the last people Cassandra expects- Empress Salda.

She stands immediately, sure there must be some matter of great importance to be discussed at this hour.

“I don’t mean to disturb you,” the soft spoken woman continues, pulling a richly embroidered shawl tighter around her shoulders, “I was just taking a walk, I sometimes do at night, when sleep is elusive.”

She smiles in a way that belies her tired eyes; a smile that makes Cassandra feel at ease despite herself.

“I see you’ve fallen prey to one of the more thankless aspects of being a ruler,” she comments with a nod to the stacks of paper.

Unsure of the nature of the conversation, but lulled by the woman’s easy manner, Cassandra nods her head with a wry smile.

 

“Uriel was much the same,” the Empress continues. “It never quite ends, does it?” she laughs softly, more to herself than anything, an almost hidden drop of melancholy in her voice.

“No, though one can surely dream,” Cassandra replies, matching the older woman’s polite warmth. “Is there something you need, Empress?”

Salda smiles again but shakes her head. “No,” she says simply, “nothing I have not already asked the gods for many a time.”

A moment passes between the two women, acknowledgement and grief left unspoken.

Salda breaks the quiet melancholy before it settles into the chill of the room. “Those reports will still be there in the morning, Lady Cassandra,” she cues goodnaturedly, clearly a prompt she’s had to use before.

“Ah, and so will the council members wanting my opinion,” says Cassandra with yet another sigh, but she smiles at Salda all the same. Salda’s lips quirk up in response and she takes a first few tentative steps into the room.

“I’m rather adept at summarising, if you’d like a hand?” she offers.

Despite the warmth flooding her chest at the offer, Cassandra immediately deflects. “It’s nothing but crop growth patterns and commercial property disputes. Frightfully dull,” she adds, giving the other woman a clear out.

Salda’s smile becomes a knowing grin. “I know a thing or two about crop growth patterns,” she replies, reminding Cassandra in the kindest possible way of Salda’s considerable experience in a position of power.

“Of course, Empress,” Cassandra concedes immediately, biting down on her chagrin.

“Salda, please,” the other woman admonishes tenderly, moving further into the room. “How about I make a start on that pile, while you finish up with those?”

Cassandra pauses for a moment, torn, as Salda waits for her acquiescence. On one hand it feels… unscrupulous to allow the Empress to aid her in this way, not to mention discourteous when she is a guest in the castle. But on the other hand, she’s tired, and lonely, and would it really be so very bad to have some company?

“That would be nice,” she replies eventually, “thank you.”

Cassandra pulls a second chair over to the desk and stokes the dying embers in the fireplace, thinking that perhaps the night will not be so entirely awful after all.