Hiya! i'm Sam and i'll be your author today! ;) anywho, it might be a little slow at first but there's a reason! all the little tidbits in these chapters will help set the tone and all. Their loves do come along, scouts honor! ::giggles::

Chapter One:

"Just what do you think yer doin?"

The question startled Cassandra out of her daydreaming and she hit her head on the counter above where she was scrubbing the floor. She bit her lip to keep from crying out and giving Beatrice the satisfaction of knowing she caused her pain. From Cassandra's current position she couldn't see Beatrice's face, but could imagine the look of smugness that graced it. Cassie placed her palms on the stone floor and got up from her knees. Slowly she stood o her full height and looked down at Beatrice.

"I'm cleaning the floor like you told me to." Cassandra carefully kept her voice submissive. She brushed the skirt of her rough, brown dress and focused on not giving in to the urge to hit the snobby blond across the face.

Beatrice slammed her palm into the counter top, making Cassandra jump, and traced her finger around in circles. She brought her fingertip to her face and peered at it. "I told ye to clean the floors and the counter tops, but ye have done neither!"

Cassandra opened her mouth to tell her that she had clearly made a mistake when said girl cocked her head causing her fashionably blond hair to spill about her shoulders..

"Ye know what Daddy will do if ye sass me." Beatrice warned. Uncle Gil was a very formidable man.

Cassandra sighed and looked at her bare feet. Would this torture never end? "I will clean them before we sup, miss." She muttered softly. Cassandra glanced up at Beatrice who gave her a sly smile full of unhid jealousy.

"Ye just be lucky we didn't throw ye and yer sister out in the cold after yer parents deserted ye." Beatrice tossed her hair back off her shoulders.

The pain from the insult was achingly familiar and Cassandra knew it wouldn't be the last time she heard it. Beatrice spun on her heel and stalked through the doors in the directions of the family rooms. Cassie and her twin slept in the attic heaped up there like old items.

Visibly Cassie relaxed and placed the rag on the counter. Tears spilled from her eyes at the unjustness of her life as she retied the kerchief over her hair. She knelt back down on bruised knees and cursed the fate given her. There had to be more to life than this, she just knew it. Cassie sighed and shook her head when she remembered that she'd left the rag on the counter. Life couldn't get any worse. Cassie and her twin would always be slaves. Though not the term Uncle Gil would use it was still the way they were treated.

She stood up again and grabbed the counter top to stabilize herself. As she reached for the rag she tripped over the bucket spilling its contents. Luckily Cassandra caught herself before she fell. The dirty water spread over the floor, seeping into the cracks.

"Oh my." Cassie whispered as she brought a hand to her mouth. She sighed in frustration and walked across the tavern area to the family hall in search of something to soak up the water. She walked down the dimly lit hallway to the very end which harbored the cellar. She bent over and opened the latch before heaving the hatch open. She slowly climbed down into the musky, dark room. Her hands fumbled for the match and hen they found its she quickly lit the lantern.

She squealed as her eyes spied the rats scurrying all over the floor. Cassie took a deep breath and cautiously picked her way around the rats to the other side of the room. Her steps faltered as the wind moaned through the cracks in the floorboard above. She shivered.

I just have to reach the old blankets and then I can go. That thought pushed her forward.

When she reached the blankets she grabbed one off the shelf. She immediately sneezed as dust floated off in thick layers. She laid it over her arm and very quickly made her way to the ladder. She blew out the torch, hefted the blanket over a shoulder and climbed up. She stepped into the hallway and tiptoed back to the tavern area, not wanting to alert the others to her mess. Cassandra didn't realize how badly she was shaking until she reached for the splintered doorknob.

She rushed to the pool of water and laid the blanket on top of the ground and prayed it wouldn't leave water spots. Uncle Gil, the old brute, would have her whipped if she messed up something again. It seemed Cassie would forever be the clumsy twin, while Victoria could be graceful in the old brown dresses they were forced to wear. Well, no use in being jealous when you were meant one way, she thought, and not another.

Cassandra stamped and brushed it with her feet until all the water was soaked up. She threw the towel into the waste basket and surveyed the plain room. All the water was up and thankfully there were no water traces. She fisted her hands and set them on her hips. Today would be an exhausting day if everything kept going the way it was so far. All she had left to do in the main room was finish the tables and chairs.

She glanced down at the now empty water pail and rolled her eyes expressively. She really didn't quite understand why she was so clumsy. And when she tried to be graceful it just made it worse. She shook her head and grabbed the handle of the pail. At least as she walked to the main water fountain she could feel the sun on her face. During the week she was stuck inside either cooking or handing out food to drunken patrons. She was happy to be outside if only for a few moments. Today was the only day of the eight days of the week that the tavern wasn't open. It closed I honor of the Goddess, something everyone in the Empire practiced.

Cassandra continued on with a lighter step. Today was also the day she and Victoria, after the chores were done, were allowed to visit Mamma Cora, the village seer.

The streets were busy as Cassie made her way amongst the horses, carts, and venders. Uncle Gil's tavern was in the west sector of the market so she was used to dodging the many things that got in her way. Her progress was slowed, much to her delight, when she entered the heart of the market. This is where the best finery was. That meant many people milled about and she had an excuse to walk leisurely.

She tilted her face to the sun and let it bathe her skin. A bird squawked and Cassie glanced in its direction. A black raven sat on a nearby window sill. It's beady eyes stared at her as it cocked its head. She stood transfixed until she felt a chill travel up her spine. She turned away and picked up her pace a bit. Out of curiosity she turned around and saw that the bird had taken flight and left.

Cassie turned around and practically ran to the fountain . Her breath came in quick painful gasps as she sat on the fountain wall. As soon as her breathing pacified she twisted around to stare at her reflection in the water. She glanced at her waist length ebony hair that framed her deep green eyes. The dirt and grime hid any beauty that might catch the eye of a suitor.

I am so different from what I could be, she thought as a tear slipped down her face and dropped into the water. As the ripples fanned out a face not her own appeared. It was a male with dirty blond hair and stormy fray eyes. His face made a feeling stir in her and Cassie dipped a hand in the water making the face disappear. If the visions brought her sadness she didn't want to have them anymore!

"Squaww!" Cassie jumped and swiveled around to find the raven sitting the edge of a venders canopy. It pranced for a few seconds and then opened its beak. A deep throaty laugh emitted from its throat. Her eyes widened as it flew straight for her. It swooped down, barely missing her face, shot up into the sky and disappeared from sight.

"Cassie!" a feminine voice called out to her. She turned to see her cousin, Bridget, heading in her direction. Bridget stumbled a little over the hem of her green woolen dress. She shot Cassie a smile as she straightened and hugged the basket of supplies to her chest. "Wait!"

While she was waiting Cassie filled up her bucket of water.

"Cassie, what are you doing here?" Bridget asked. She sat down on the stone wall next to Cassie.

"Fetching water. I knocked it over after and incident with Beatrice."

Bridget faced her cousin with a sympathetic look. "I am so sorry. You and Victoria are family and should be treated as such." Bridget's face turned from sympathetic to anguished. "I would help you but…"

Cassie shuddered at the memory at the memory Bridget's word evoked. No doubt Bridget's scars, emotional and physical, would not heal for a long time. "It is okay, Bridget." The corners of Cassie's mouth curved upward into a reassuring smile. When Bridget's smile did not care to be present Cassie tried a change of subject. "I was glad to get out in the sunshine."

Victoria focused on scrubbing the pots and not Uncle Gil's presence on the other side of the room. His eyes bored into her back as she moved to try the now clean pots.

His footsteps neared her and stopped only when he was a hairsbreadth from her. She could feel him breathing down her neck, literally. Her body tensed involuntarily as he swept back her hair and touched his lips to the nape of her neck. She felt as if she would vomit at any moment. Slowly, her uncle's callused hands turned her around so that she faced him. Victoria held her breath in disgust as his head descended. His lips captured hers in a crude kiss, his teeth biting into her lips. She refused to open her mouth to him though.

Just as she knew it would the blow came. The hit was so hard that she sank to her knees, crying out.

Just as Gil stepped forward a raven landed on the window sill and let out a little peep. To her surprise he stepped slowly away from her.

Victoria wondered at the sudden change in her uncle. Did the bird have anything to do with it? He turned his back to her and poured himself a cup of Myrris.

"You and yer sister have my permission to go to the seer." He kept his back to her.

Victoria quickly exited the room in hopes that Uncle Gil would not abruptly change his mind.