Growing up amongst the green leaves in her homeland of Presia, Cassandra was always a strange girl. She followed Presian theology well, always being in the upper third of her classes at the local church in her town of Rethold. She was a pleasant girl to be around, not a rambunctious rule breaker, and her family was proud to report at the age of 12 that she’d make a good mother, though she was a little slow in growing out of kid’s games.
Her mother and father were devout students of the Church’s teachings, her mother even having written a small article on the nature of faith once. Cassandra was very close to her, and had appeared to inherit her adroitness at handling religious doctrine. Fond memories were made as the elder brushed the girl’s hair gently, clamping down tightly near her scalp to tug through the knots without hurting her.
Her father often used to let her wrestle him to the ground and pin him, tickling him mercilessly. Her mother would sometimes allege that his lax enforcement of the rules was enticing Cassandra’s less pleasant behavior, yet he denied it and promised that his daughter’s youthful actions would fade with time.
It was bad enough that while playing “Run from the Witch” Cassandra seemed to enjoy the role of Witch more than other children; preferring to play the “witch” role out by doing spells rather than running after another child to tag her.
Equally disturbing was that she was still “talking to invisible friends” in public at the age of 9, when most had taken it as a private function. She led her friends in the near-heretical talk of the younger ones who talked about aspiring to do better then Sheng-Li, the patron saint of the Church of Presia. No mortal could, after all, outstrip Sheng-Li’s glorious ways!
By the age of 14, however, the games had just gone too far. She spoke not to an invisible compatriot named “Bart” but to the very wind itself, and she told her now-disbelieving friends of the waves which flowed from each of their bodies - of how she could see the “lights” sparkling from them. They dismissed it as politely as they could, but it was in church that she was first suspected.
She was still near the top of her class at doctrine, but she was asking more than the usual questions. The greatest question came when she asked how Lord Sheng-Li had performed His miracles.
“Did He not use sorcery,” she asked in that pubescent voice one day, the mouths of half her class dropping halfway to the floor, “when He walked into the air? Why did He want to ban the Arcane power He’d used himself?”
The Priest immediately asked her parents where she’d gotten this idea - Naturally, he suspected her parents of heresy. It was a shock indeed when her parents turned and asked the very simple question:
“Where did my daughter get the incredulous idea that Lord Sheng-Li was a damned Arcanic witch?!”
This predicament only served to further the town’s suspicion of the girl. Within a week, the fourteen year old’s questions had grown even more daring, even heretical. The parents of the town quickly forbade their children from speaking to the “disturbed girl,” and the colorful world grew cold to her.
Time seemed to be slow for this girl, and though she continued to challenge the Priest’s ideas on the world, she was continually unsupported without cause. Even though other students occasionally discussed such things, even when Cassandra’s ideas were the exact same as their own, the moment she engaged in conversation she was swatted away like a fly, if not outright insulted or beaten upon.
When she turned sixteen, she had not changed. The Priest had not given up on her, but had also put her on a small watch list of possible Heretics. He had not condemned her, but he had never given her such a stern warning as the one he gave on her seventeenth birthday.
“Cassandra, you’re almost eighteen. We’ve been patient, very patient,” he spoke before the gathering of her peers. She seemed to ignore their glares and frowns and she looked non-confrontationally toward the Priest. “We do not believe you are really aware of what you’re talking about, this Magic and the fantasies you have. Your soul is in grave, grave danger, and we have to protect it.”
“I should trust,” she responded cooly, trying to keep that passive exterior despite the emotions boiling within, “that my being a good person is all that is required for Lord Sheng-Li’s consideration.”
The Priest quickly turned red. It was, after all, the first teaching that all men should be good toward one another, and that was the highest shield against sin. “Yes,” he stated, “you are correct that Sheng-Li will consider you, but when He weighs all the insults you have levied against Him in opposition to your heretical ways, He will be unpleased, and will consign you to torture for a very long time.”
“Priest, is it also not Lord Sheng-Li’s way to allow people their own choice? Is that not why the Patriarchs agreed to peace with Ralase, with Coaslund, with Emor?” She spoke of the past rationale behind ending wars in that same calm voice, and the Priest could not hide his frustration.
“Listen, Cassandra, this is no time for jeopardizing your soul. You know the world is ending sooner than later, sooner then ever, and you will be judged, Cassandra! And if you continue to speak of Magic, it will be just the same as doing it.”
Cassandra could no longer hide her own agitation, and she finally closed her eyes. “Priest, you are nervous, suspicious, I can see it. I could see it when I was twelve - You’re afraid.”
“I...” He looked as if an arrow had flown right through the window of the church and struck him in the chest.
“You are afraid I am right.” Flatly stated.
The gasps all came at once, it seemed, and the Priest quickly regained his assuredness. If this had been the truth, he was determined not to let it show.
“Cassandra, we’ve tried being nice. You are condemned as a Heretic, ordered to twenty lashes a week until you have seen the error of your ways.”
Cassandra’s eyes widened with fear. Twenty lashes? The most anyone had ever gotten before was fifteen, and that was for stealing bread from a poor man!
“Priest, how can heresy which harms none attract more punishment than theft from the helpless?! How could you allow that?!” She asked with anger rising to cover her fear, “How can you even punish me for thinking so long and hard on Sheng-Li’s scripture?!”
The statement was ignored, and it was her very classmates, the ones she used to talk excitedly with just five years ago, who grabbed her by the shoulders, tearing her clothing, and eventually tying her hands behind her back.
She awoke in a dark cell, arms tied above her head to the ceiling by a slightly taut chain. She could feel her relatively nice clothing replaced with little more than prison rags. The room was dimly lit by a torch outside of it, and she could at least explore her surroundings. She knew Rethold had a small prison, but she’d seen it before - this room was not known to her.
She wished she could wipe her brown hair from her sweat-covered face, while her brown eyes studied the room and her physical condition. Aside from scattered fingernail scratches, her flesh was unmarred. Her breasts were unsupported, a rather uncomfortable experience, and she felt blood trickling down her back from one particularly bad gouge on her left shoulder.
It wasn’t long before the door opened, and the Priest walked through followed by two tall, muscular men wearing black robes. She only could tell they were muscular because their broad shoulders were visible through the robes.
“Its time.” The Priest said as the two men unshackled her. She didn’t bother to fight back - she knew she was beaten if she did, and knew it would be worse.
“How could you, Priest?” She asked in a soft voice, her only response, her eyes directing not hatred but sorrow to the older man.
“It is for the good of your soul,” he replied, “how could I not?”
The two inquisitors - at least, that’s what she assumed they were - carried her by grasping her under the arms. She was carried outside to a wooden post and rather swiftly tied to the pole, arms folded around it as if she were hugging it, and they were bound at the wrist. Looking up, she could see the Mark of Sheng-Li upon the top of the spire. It was metallic, which meant that it was made for punishment, not burning.
The crowd which had gathered was fairly large, considering Rethold was a small village. Two, perhaps even three hundred people had gathered. In the front row, however, she saw two figures she recognized instantly - her parents. They looked on with eyes teary, their mouths silently spelling a plea for her to repent and spare herself the pain.
The entire crowd started cheering as something started happening behind her. The sound and vibration of something soft touching the ground underneath her, when suddenly silence swept the crowd. There was no warning for the searing pain in her back that came next, accompanied by the loud crack of a whip.
The first blow was bad, but the second came after a quartet of seconds - Enough time to fully recognize the pain, but not enough for it to be countered in her mind.
Another blow, and another. Then two in succession. Her mind was racing, her breathing ragged, and the blood she felt running down her back had been tripled in volume already. Six out of twenty...Fourteen more....
One, two...Then another pair. Ten out of twenty, ten more, but the pain was just so great that she was hardly standing against that pillar. She saw her parents again, looked at them with tears in her eyes and saw her mother looking away, curled against her father’s body and enfolded in his loving arms.
She saw the crowd burst into cheers as there was a momentary pause in the administration. What for? She couldn’t look behind her, out of both disgust and fear. She looked up to the crowd, looked straight into her parents’ eyes, and they too were cheering the words with moisture covering their faces.
The chant rose loudly. “Repent, repent.”
She shook her head, feeling someone stepping up behind her. How did she feel it? Vibrations? No...No, it was almost like a whisper in her mind. Who was it?
The voice was instantly identified as the Priest’s. “Repent, Cassandra. You were wrong, they know it, nobody supports you, so repent. You will be forgiven and released.”
“It...” her voice was weak, strained from the pain running unchecked through her body. The chorus of chastisement demanding her resignation surrounded her, threatening to break her determination “It isn’t them I have to prove myself to.”
The Priest stepped backwards and another blow was delivered. Then the twelfth...The thirteenth? It fell, but she didn’t feel it through burning, reddened skin.
The fourteenth fell and upon impact the most remarkable thing occurred - The whip caught flame. A loud gasp rose from the crowd as the second thing which caught aflame was the rope binding Cassandra’s hands. She felt the flames lick her wrists, but do no damage.
The crowd’s cries for repentance changed to cries of “Sorcery, Witchcraft!” and screams of terror as she limply pressed against the pole, managing to stand herself up straight. She turned to the Priest, who’s eyes were wide with unbridled fear, and closed her eyes.
“Wh...What is happening?” She asked nobody in particular, almost as if expecting an answer to come from the ground itself. No such response came, and Cassandra felt even more near that mysterious yet always certain point of fainting. She looked around the crowd, terror in the face of every person she knew; even her parents didn’t seem to recognize her for the flames that defended their daughter.
“Devil!” The Priest cried, raising his hands to hide his face from her eyes, fearful that she may cause him to ignite with a stern glare.
“I...I...” she began, her legs finally giving out and her knees slamming into the hard stone beneath her. She groaned loudly and her eyes seemed to waver for a moment, then they re-focused. “Help...” She whispered over the cries of fear, for salvation, and...Though they were few, those for her death.
“Devil! Get back!” The Priest shouted as he stepped backwards. Cassandra studied the fear in the elder’s eyes and fell back to her rump, pushing herself away from him. Her panicking mind was unable to recognize that the hysteria around her was her own causing, and the high tide of terror in the area was slamming against her thought processes too quickly for her to keep pace with.
She felt tired, as if she had gone a week without sleep. Her muscles were fatigued to the point that the pain of her previous whipping was forgotten, and the pitter-patter of her heart was easily audible in her ears. The large man on the right, the one holding the remnants of the burned whip, stepped forward, and hell broke loose.
She screamed and lunged backwards into the thick steel pole, not only creating a resonating “bang” but denting the metal. Flames, with tongues licking up from the stone below her, flung up not to attack the approaching adult but to create a barrier between the two. A loud gasp echoed from the crowd and they quickly lost their nerve, running toward their houses and the small shrines within to pray. If a quick end was what they prayed for, they’d have it before they got into their houses.
Only moments after the flames rose up did Cassandra’s body completely give way and her mind slip into unconsciousness.
The dream was a vague one. She heard words, her name, and even had moments where she could hear full conversations - Just for seconds, however. Some of the voices she thought she knew - Even possibly her parents.
“Cassandra’s a...” and not long after, or so it felt, “demonic.”
“Burned.” - this one was common. But she had no way of putting it into a context. Finally, there was one phrase which kept repeating, though she could never have decided why. This was a voice she’d never heard before; male, vibrant and strong.
“Soon.” The repetition drove into her subconscious, almost conjuring an image of a knight in shining armor. At the same time, however, she dreaded what came soon - And this fear conjured the various images of grotesquery she’d seen through her life as well as those she hadn’t. The answer would only come one way.
She awoke in the same cell she had previously been in, but thankfully unchained to the ceiling. She felt clothing, and knew she was laying down on a bed of hay. The door was metallic, and she instantly realized that whatever power of flame she might have obtained - if any, if it hadn’t all been one pain induced dream - was as effective as a snowball would be to quench an inferno.
She realized two things very quickly as she began to move around: First, her hands were cuffed behind her back, and second was the exact nature of her clothing - The Rags of Condemnation. She instantly recognized the designs on them from the Book of Sheng-Li, the designs of those who, for crimes against holiness, were sentenced to death. She shook her head, trying to recover what she could of her memories, and she realized all too quickly that she was “soon” going to be “burned.” The only fault with that logic was that the voice never declared “soon” in the same tone as those speaking of her being burned. She dismissed this as mere circumstance and bit her bottom lip, a tear coming to her eye. At that moment, she knew she would soon die.
The door was not closed for long, and it swung open to reveal the Priest and twice the muscle backing him. They said nothing, but one man came from each side and grasped her shoulders roughly. She was pulled forward, and was taken from the small prison building relatively quickly.
The crowds around her jeered, even threw vegetables at her. In front of the Church, a small platform was erected with a wooden version of the steel pole she had earlier been strapped to. Underneath the wooden platform she would stand upon was hay and larger wooden planks. She knew she was likely to be burned there soon, however this agrarian image was almost awe-inspiring.
A small, reserved corner of her mind smirked at the situation. Food thrown while starving, and she noticed quickly that six times the population of Rethold had turned out. News spread fast when “suspected” witches were burned - when those who could ignite air were to be burned, apparently a local holiday was declared.
She was swiftly, wordlessly taken to the wooden stake and held before it. She knew from experience she would be tied the same way as last to the pole - Facing it, facing that “holy redemption” the fire would bring. She thought for a moment she might be able to shimmy upward, but the Symbol of Sheng-Li atop the burning pole would hold her in place. She had no idea how she might escape, but part of her realized she never had a chance at it.
The “ceremony” opened with a small prayer for the souls of the community as well as that of the sinner. The forgiveness asked by others for her was repeated by everyone, those who knew her and those who did not. Once again, her parents were easily seen in the front of the throng - Crying, but praying. She could not see their lips, did not know what they wished for.
The Priest walked up to her and grasped her as roughly as his old man hands could, pulling her to the center of the stage. “Who wishes to hear the sins this witch speaks?!” He screamed, raising his free hand. She bit her bottom lip softly as a rising wave of positive responses came to her ears.
Pushed to the end of the stage, the Priest stepped back simply whispering the statement “do not think of harming anyone.” She never noticed that two of the men behind her had crossbows in case she tried anything. She stood there, commanding for the first time in her expected-to-be-short life an entire crowd of people not just from one town, but from an entire countryside.
“I...” she hesitantly began, then shook her head as courage came over her. If this would be her last chance to speak, so be it. “I am just like you, a believer of Sheng-Li!” She exclaimed. This was not the right choice of words, as a chorus of boos rose to meet her. Her father was silent, engrossed in his prayers yet his mother had joined the rest of the populace in their jeers.
“I simply believe differently than you all!” She went on, and the crowd seemed to quiet. She never noticed one of the executioners waving to the crowd for that said silence. “I believe that Sheng-Li, while mortal, used the same Arcanic power you accuse me of. I believe burning people is wrong, I believe that the rule of this entire country is wrong, that the Church doesn’t belong in charge!” Where this idea came from, she hadn’t a clue. Regardless of scattered mumbles, she was relieved to find the crowd still silent.
“I feel that the Magic which people are given is God-given, and he wants us to use this power, not burn those who do!” She said, her anger rising at her fate in what could be seen as a mouse’s attempt to claw the nose of a cat on its way down. “I also cannot imagine why you are all gathered here as if this is a celebration! You are about to watch a human being get burned! You starve, yet you throw food at me!! You cannot provide housing for your family, yet you celebrate the death of another town’s child! If this is humanity, I’m glad to be leaving it!!” Her resolution never faded, and part of her mind hoped that one day in the future she would be remembered for this speech. The crowd bustled slightly as more and more people packed inward, ready to watch the demise of the heretic. She saw her father looking on at her, impotent sorrow behind his eyes; her mother cheered for her death at the same rate of the crowd, her eyes filled with tears of regret and shame - Shame she gave birth to a demon.
The two men put their crossbows away and grasped her shoulders, moving her to the wooden post. First they placed cuffs around her ankles, ready to secure her should she try to run. The next phase was the removal of her handcuffs, and each man grasped a wrist and stepped behind the pole. She now hugged the pole, the object of her demise, ready to stare into the wood as its flame took her to meet Sheng-Li and, if the crowd’s prayers were granted, ready to burn her sin away.
She saw the crowd give one final prayer, saw men lighting torches, and saw a small number of armored soldiers giving a salute. Some men wore robes - other Priests from other towns - and one even wore black robes. Ironic, that a Cardinal should watch this burning. The robed man was her one chance at salvation, and he hadn’t done more than give the same prayers of peaceful death; only he might have risen up to prevent the flame, but instead he bowed his head as he saw the Priest approaching, hands making a gesture of blessing.
She smelled it before feeling any of it. The torches thrown under the dais quickly caught the hay, and she found herself bracing for her demise. How...Silly was the only word she had for it...That the one who questioned the doctrine and sought to grow it was the one cursed with Arcane, sentenced to burn?
The smoke grew in density and she could feel the heat rising, seeking to eat through the wooden floor beneath her. It wouldn’t be too long, she realized, as the smoke was chewing away at her ability to stay awake. She frantically began to think of how to use her Arcane power, if she really had any, if it hadn’t all been a dream, to defeat these flames. All she got in return for her wishes, mental pushing, and even prayer was more smoke in her face,and the first signs of flame devouring through the widening cracks in the ground below her.
Then something...Unexpected happened. That Cardinal she’d seen earlier moved toward the Dais and stepped upon a nearby barrel. He balanced himself perfectly, and the crowd gave him space, clapping all the while. He asked by gesture for more, hands parting toward her. The crowd followed. Then the hammer truly fell, as a cold wind grew and slammed itself forcefully into her. Could this wind, fanning the flames, be God’s wrath descended upon her? Cassandra gave hope up.
The smell of smoke increased, but after a few seconds the heat of the flames died down tremendously. What once promised to be a conflagration now was burned out, and the people stared agape at that Cardinal. She looked up, squinting from the unusual feel of soot near those brown eyes, and she saw that the Cardinal bore the mark of Emor upon his robes over his heart. Also, the mark of a black lion, outlined in silver, was visible upon the right side of the garment. She’d heard of this sort of insignia , but only seen a few Knights who all wore Presian standards. The wolf was...Ralasian? No, Gataminian? Perhaps. But if this man was no Cardinal, who was he?
“Silence!” Exclaimed the strong, familiar male voice. She only needed a moment before piecing together the tone of this male as the same voice whispering “soon” to her in her dreams. How could this be?
The crowd reacted predictably when a vigorous voice was outstretched upon them - They shut up.
“Priest of Rethold...” The man said in a rather scornful voice, the hood of his robe hiding all but his black hair and the outlines of his chin and lips from view. He seemed to be in rather good physical shape, standing up straight and strong. “I do believe it is against Emorian code to burn those endowed with the Arcane, let alone anyone, is it not?”
The crowd cried loudly, and the Priest’s muscle-men waved silence toward them. After initial failure, the measure quieted them down to whispers.
“Your insignia says you are from Gatamene...” Point for Cassandra, “And you bear the silver mark of Emor in the design of a Council member. Who are you?”
“I don’t care for names, but I am known simply as Shade.” Even in the boondocks of Rethold, that name - the name of the Man who could Fly - drew a gasp. Whispers died over the second he stated this, and he drew back his hood.
Shade was reputed to be nearly one hundred years old, yet he looked a quarter of that. The handsome man had long black hair, almost comparable to her chestnut, and the face of a living Adonis. He had purple - not dark blue, not some crazy shade of green, but purple - eyes, and his strong fingers were flexed almost...Boredly.
“She is a witch! She nearly burned one of my men. She practices the dark arts, Lord Shade.” The Priest had a lip on him, for someone so outclassed. If the tales Cassandra heard of this man were even close to blown out of proportion, let alone based on reality, this man could tear Rethold apart with a whim. “I do believe the terms of execution for attempted murderers is still in our jurisdiction?”
Shade scoffed and shook his head. “Perhaps within the civil autho...” He began with a rather senseless statement, and he quickly corrected himself. “I’m sorry, the civil and religious authority in Presia are the same. I do believe, however, you are instructed to turn all Arcanics over to us for a fair trial, and as the Head Councilor of Arcane, especially when dealing with a beauty such as this, I think I should have heard of her return to your custody.” He’d deftly exited his own word-trap. Clever, or stupid?
“She is a Witch, and she will suffer God’s wrath! Sheng-Li demands it!!” The Priest stated, motioning to the burned pile of hay. One of the executioners moved and began to clear out the old hay, making way for a new pile.
“If God demands her death, Cleric, what would he demand of me?” Shade asked in a patient, calm voice.
“God hates witchcraft, Sheng-Li will descend and reclaim the world from its filth! He hates all witches!” The Priest’s cries brought a loud cheer, the sort heard on a battlefield as the foe retreats, from the crowd. The roar died as soft sounds rose from the slender figure, classical laughter rising from his lips.
“God hates me?” He asked through his soft chuckling.
“Yes! God hates you, and He will smite you!” The old clergyman made the Sign of Sheng-Li across his body. Shade laughed in that brazen way that seemed to suit him, that fearless mirth that only the truly fearless might undertake, as dramatic as it seemed.
“I see,” he said with a pause, looking over toward the church. His eyes lost focus for just a moment, the purple orbs glazing over before they snapped back to reality. “I will send God a message, then. A message I hope you Priests, Cardinals, and the rest hear. If He hates me, then He will strike me down - And prevent this!”
Shade made something of a gesture, two fingers held straight while his thumb, ring and pinky fingers shifted slightly inward. A ball of flame formed instantly between them, and he pressed that palm forward as a ball of flame - the same element which once sought Cassandra’s death - into the Church.
She watched as the stained glass windows exploded. The small sphere of flame was deceptively strong, the decompression causing small bits of red and blue glass to land on her over two hundred feet away. Her eyes widened in terror as she watched the red ball streak passed her, but her fear was nothing compared to the scream coming from the crowd.
“Watch in awe, watch in awe, as God proves his lesson!” Shouted the Arcanic, right hand crossing from left hip to above his right shoulder in a gesture meant to attract attention to the sphere of light forming over his head. The crowd stared between the magic user and the Priest, Cassandra watching her parents look with rage at her savior.
“Look! Look at his weakness!” The Priest shouted as sweat dripped from his brow. The Church, his home, was consumed in flame yet he chastised the Arcanic. “Despite flames searing the wood, despite papers being burned, he cannot bring our building down! The stone cannot melt! Here is a hero of men, ineffective before God, before Sheng-Li!”
The Arcanic seemed to chuckle, his head lowering as he hesitated, pausing almost for effect, then brought his raised hand down. The ball of light seemed to break like glass, the shards of which flew into the building and instantly silenced the roaring inferno. In that same instant, the stone was sucked violently inward and the Priest could only watch in awe as his building was swallowed by what could only appear to be its own pews.
“If you do not touch this place, you will see in a mere decade how God will reclaim this rubble, Father.” He said to the Priest, stepping down from the barrel and walking over to the Priest. The old man was sobbing now, shaking his head.
“How could God fail? How did you do it, demon? How did you defeat God?”
The Arcanic looked upward, looked around, then looked toward the man. “I did not defeat God. God gave me, and this beautiful woman here, a force to control. A force called Arcane - Surely you recall Sheng-Li’s teaching that everything which exists is nature? That Magic is a natural force. Taking it from the lifeblood of others is a perversity of that nature, but manipulating one’s own strength is not. Sheng-Li was a truly inspired man, though I never met him, and He was one to tolerate the practice of Magic.”
“But...It is an attempt...To make Gods out of men! You destroyed our Church, the center of our community!” The Priest cried. Shade shook his head, peering downward at the man as the cleric fell to his knees, pity filling his eyes.
“Is it? Do you really believe that the building is what makes the people worship?” Shade said with sorrow heavy in his voice. “Look around you, Priest - Look at them pray.”
The man’s old eyes swept the town square. Despite the colored glass and broken stones, the people were kneeling and praying. They were, to the old man and Cassandra’s mutual amazement, at better peace listening to Shade talk then watching a young girl burn.
“This is God’s lesson, Father. Tolerate questions, let those who wish to leave, and never forget that the church’s walls are not the haven, but the belief and love held between its members.” He could have stayed around for words of thanks, praise for giving enlightenment he felt certain he’d recieve, however he strode over to Cassandra and looked at the handcuffs.
“Hold still.” He whispered, fingertips grazing the metal as it began to dissolve. Cassandra feared her wrists may melt next, but they did not - Instead they merely itched. The metal on her ankles was touched and removed in kind, and he wiped her face clean of the darkened ash still on it.
“What is your name, little one?” The man whispered to the young girl. He waved his hand, a stableman bringing two horses over. One was a midnight black, young and strong, while the other was a light shade of grey and not so young.
“Cassandra. Thanks.” She said, then canted her head. “I heard your voice, you know.” She looked over toward her parents, both of them sobbing and in one another’s arms. She knew there was no way she could remain home, and her father looked to her with a slight smile. Her mother only looked bereaved, as if the demonic child she’d borne had somehow overcome her.
Shade offered the approaching man some money, likely payment for the grey horse, and leaped upon the black one after delivering it a pat on the nose. He looked to the girl and smiled.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, Sir...” She replied, leaping atop the grey horse and looking to her savior.
“Well, I heard yours. You just don’t realize you had one. You will sooner than you think, however...I will guarantee it.”
On that day Cassandra left Rethold forever. Did she know her future? Shade explained it simply - She was gifted enough that he heard her cries for help - Arcane ones - from farthings away. It took him the better part of a day to reach her - a long ride indeed. She couldn’t help but feel embarrassed that he, a living legend, had called her beautiful more than once. She could not find words, but she felt the same toward him.