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"I think I got the job,"

Cassandra chanted to herself as she unlocked the door of a plain stone building. The sky was darkening rapidly; the wind whipped her long, curly hair around the tailored shoulders of her only blazer.

"I think I got it. I know I'm qualified. I know I am. Dad!"

Her voice echoed down the shadowed staircase leading underground. A network of tunnels and cavernous rooms lay beneath the abandoned city of Drommende.

Cassandra belonged to this renegade population.

"Dad!"

A far-away growling answered her call.

"Dad," she groaned.

The echo of trickling water followed her steps as she hurried down the steps, her black portfolio dangling from one shoulder. From her matching handbag she withdrew an incongruous key, ornately wrought of pure silver, on which a dark pink velvet ribbon was tied.

Cassandra opened a large, heavy door with it at the bottom of the stairs and as quickly as its size and weight allowed, closed it behind her and bolted it.

The growling no longer sounded far away.

Cassandra hurried through the corridor, making several turns through the labyrinth-like structure. She crossed an antechamber more slowly, attempting to catch her breath. The silver key dangling from the ribbon at her wrist caught in the glow of firelight from her father's throne room.

The low growl turned to a whine. Cassandra sank to her knees, her bearing no longer triumphant, as a massive beast lumbered toward her. Its fur was curly brown-black, its eyes the same storm blue color as her own.

"Dad," she whispered. "It's okay." The animal whined again and she lifted a hand to its head. "I think I got the job, Dad." The animal's paw moved over her hand, dwarfing it in size.

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