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Lexa waited, watching Garret stoop over the scattered contents of his desk. He looked up as though noticing the quiet. Running a hand over his chin, he paused and scratched at the week’s worth of growth shadowing his face. A frown tipped the corners of his mouth. He glanced at the shadows curling in the corners and across the ceiling.

“Lexa?”

She stepped from the mist. The shadows parted from her skin and clothes until she appeared solid. Faint firelight gleamed in her brown eyes and cast amber streaks of flame across her dark hair.

Garret leaned back in his seat with a smile. “I only know I’m dreaming when you’re around.”

“Sorry to break the illusion,” she said with a rueful smile. Her gaze roved over the ceiling-high bookshelves and worn tapestries depicting forests and hunting expeditions. “I would have expected something a little more exciting. Why were you thinking of home?”

“I wish I was here more than anything right now.”

“Where are you?”

“On the edge of the Elda Mountains. We’re preparing to engage the Teltans in the morning.”

Lexa whipped her head up. “I didn’t think war had broken out so soon.” She had heard of the growing tension between Artasia and its neighboring country, Teltania, but a tenuous peace had maintained balance. Or so she thought. Living in the mountains did isolate her from most of the goings-on in the country. It’s why she had moved out there.

“War has been brewing for a while.” Garret ran a hand through his hair. It was getting long, longer than Lexa knew he preferred. “The king of Teltania is ill and his advisor is ruling in his stead. Two weeks ago a traders’ caravan was ambushed and murdered near the border and Teltania is blaming us. Last week one of our ships was sunk in the south sea and we’re blaming Teltania.” He shook his head. “There’s plenty of hate and accusations to go around. No proof, mind you.”

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