The road back to Nicu was in bad enough condition already, but with the help of the rain that had begun to drizzle, the condition was even worse. Several times, Cassandra's rather skittish mount nearly fell. That's what happens when I borrow a poor man's horse, Cassandra thought. I shouldn't have gone at all.
Brushing strands of hair from her face, Cassandra shuddered at how hot her skin had become. The rain certainly wasn't helping to make her feel better. Everything about her journey had been a mistake.
And the journey would last for several hours. No, Cassandra had had no business in leaving her tenement. And what would she be greeted by when she returned? Customers aplenty, not knowing that she still wasn't feeling well.
Cassandra's head throbbed a little harder. Grimacing, she clenched her jaw, trying somehow to ward off the pain.
The pain wasn't about to be warded off.
Feeling fainter than she had before, Cassandra massaged her temple with one hand and held the reins with the other. She found herself swerving and nearly falling off her horse several times. What, oh, what, had she been thinking in going to the celebration? Moaning, Cassandra reined in her mount and sat for several minutes, trying to gather the gumption to continue.
Stupid girl! Cassandra berated herself. How could you be so foolish? Now, you're sick, and you're in the rain, and you've still around two more hours! Or was it three? Or was it only several minutes? Cassandra was quickly losing consciousness of the time. She glanced around, recognizing some of her surroundings. She still had awhile to travel. There was simply no time to lollygag.
Urging her horse forward, Cassandra's feverish eyes were mesmerized by the way the trees tossed and turned in the rain, their branches swaying back and forth and back and forth and back and...
And then, she was falling from the saddle.
Crying out, Cassandra tumbled to the rocky ground and watched helplessly as her traitorous horse hesitated, then fled the scene. Now, she had no way of getting back. Unaware of the tears that rolled down her face, Cassandra shouted for help and tried to stand, but one of her ankles hurt so badly that she wondered if she'd broken it. Sitting up, Cassandra reached down and rubbed her swollen ankle. It wasn't broken - probably not even sprained. Only twisted. Still, Cassandra found herself unable to gather the strength to rise.
A wave of nausea overcame Cassandra, and she doubled over, groaning. "Help," she called again, but her voice was lost in the emptiness around her. It was then that she saw a man walking toward her, a man that looked very familiar...