Cassandra watched as the King's expression changed. Shrinking back, she studied the look on the stranger's face - the one who had found Cassandra with the King. She ducked her head in shame. That man has every right to be angry. I have no right to be here.
"Who's this?" the man - Marcos, Cassandra believed his name was - asked in a less-than-friendly manner.
The King stood. "Marcos," he said, voice low, "you have no right to speak to me like that."
Marcos glared at Cassandra. "My apologies." But it was clear from the way he spoke the words that he really wasn't apologizing. Cassandra felt her heart drop a little more. "You shouldn't be hiding away here."
The King raised his eyebrows. "You would rebuke your King?"
The words apparently brought some sense of guilt on Marcos, for he remained silent for a moment or two before nodding. "I'm sorry, Your Highness."
"Marcos, I'd like for you to meet Cassandra," the King said. He reached down to help Cassandra up.
Not wanting to get up and meet Marcos, Cassandra was half tempted to remain crouched on the ground, but she knew that doing so would not endear her to the King's friend. Sighing, she scrambled to her feet - without the help of the King - and performed a perfunctory curtsy. "Pleasure to meet you," she murmured, quite frightened.
Marcos didn't stretch out his hand in greeting, a fact that was not lost on Cassandra. Instead, he offered a cursory nod before turning to the King. "Her?"
Clearly still frustrated, Marcos nodded at Cassandra one more time before turning and walking back toward the gathering room. Cassandra fixed her gaze on the floor, not daring to meet the King's eyes.
"I'm sorry for his behavior, Cassandra," the King said softly. "He doesn't know you."
"He knows of me. He knows what I am," Cassandra replied. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't have come. I'll be on my way now." She lifted her skirts slightly and began to walk away.
"Cassandra, wait," the King called, but Cassandra couldn't will herself to turn around. "You don't have to leave!"
Finally whirling around to face the one who was so inexplicably captivated by her, Cassandra shook her head. "You don't understand, Your Highness. I don't belong here. I was a fool for coming. Now please, let me be on my way."
"Cassandra - "
Cassandra stamped her foot. "Let me be!" she cried out, her voice breaking.
"But you're not even feeling well!" the King pointed out. "Your face is still red with fever, and your eyes are still bright. You don't belong on the roads in this condition."
"It didn't stop me from coming here," Cassandra called. She shrugged. "Thank-you for everything," she said. "It was a delightful evening."
And she left the castle, mounted her horse, and began her travel home. If she had turned around for but one moment, however, she would have known that the King had watched her until she disappeared into the horizon.