Author's Note: Thank you to the few readers who have given me outstanding reviews and support :) And sorry for the long time it took to write this chapter, I will try to update as much as possible but anyone who enjoys this story stay tuned for more story ideas on the way (:
Cheddar and Graham: Thank you for the reviews! Hope you stay tuned for more chapters to come :)
Hickory. The smell that was emanating from his mouth was overpowering. The Guild Master stopped, inches away from Cassandra's face, and he took a deep breath. She knew this man, she was sure of it.
"Spent half my life searching for you, and now the cat's taken your tongue, hm?" He joked lightheartedly, though his eyes narrowed like a serpent waiting to strike. Cassandra took one more look at the Guild Master, and memories began flashing through her mind like wind whipping into a sail.
The fires that had burned throughout the Rat Narrows, flames climbing high into the night sky. The black smoke that had choked her lungs as she crawled desperately for freedom. The tiny sewer grate that she had squeezed herself through to escape an untimely demise. And her family, crying for help, for somebody to save them from the inferno that had engulfed her childhood home.
Tears rolled down Cassandra's cheeks as she struggled to contain her mix of emotions. She blinked the salty liquid out of her eyes, taking a step back from the man who she remembered as a boy.
"Y-y-you followed me here, Roger?" She squeaked out, her throat closing with anxiety. She had thought that she had finally escaped these memories, that she would never again have to think of that dark day.
This was the monster who had condemned her family to death, and here he was with a sickening smile plastered on his lips.
"You've certainly looked better, Cass. Though the last I remember of you was fire-singed hair and black soot smeared over your face. Just a young girl back then, but I don't suppose one easily forgets the smell of burning flesh, no?" Roger grinned wickedly at her, his yellow teeth flashing briefly at the thought of his own twisted humour.
Cassandra took another step back, her breath coming in shallow gasps as she remembered everything that happened that night. It was too much for her, he was too much for her. You just couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? Roger opened his mouth to speak again, but the words fell on deaf ears.
Looking at the face of the man who had left her life covered in ashes, Cassandra squinted, having difficulty focusing on the Guild Master. A searing pain roared from the back of her mind, and then everything went dark.
Cassandra woke to the sounds of a woman shrieking from the street below. It was cold, and she drew the blankets closer to shake the chill off. Despite the scream that tore her from her sleep, Cassandra noted that it was remarkably silent for a night in the Rat Narrows.
She rolled over, searching for the partner she had hoped to find sleeping soundly beside her. She found it empty, with little more then a cold crease to signify he had ever climbed into bed with her. Cassandra sat up in the bed, looking to the door across the room, but there was no light seeping in from under the door, and his clothing was no where to be seen.
I had hope Roger would choose to spend more then one night beside me... Cassandra thought to herself, a little annoyed that Roger had chosen to leave her side again. She'd get him back for it later, she knew.
"Fire! Somebody, quick, fire! In the South Croft!" A woman cried, the sound a shrill shriek drifting in through Cassandra's window. South Croft? She stood from her bed. Cassandra could see the bodies of her family clearly, peacefully burning to ash.
Looking out into the distance, Cassandra was able to see smoke billowing high into the sky, a mere few blocks away. The night was illuminated by the fire that was quickly spreading across the district. She hurried to the small wardrobe in the corner of the room, and she grabbed a much-too-large tunic to wear over her riding breeches. After sliding into her knee-high leather boots, Cassandra ran back to the window to assess the situation once more. The flames had spread to a large warehouse building that she knew sat in the center square of South Croft. My house is in that square.
She climbed out of the window, knowing that she had no time to waste. Hooking her hands into a loose stone, she shimmied a familiar path to reach the cobblestones below. Brick by brick, it felt like a century before her feet touched solid ground, but no sooner were her boots planted firmly on the ground that she broke into a sprint, south towards her family.
A sharp left, taking a shortcut through Miller's Alleyway, hopping over sacks of grain and already milled flour as she tried desperately to shave a few minutes off of her run. Another left, then a right, and another left, she could hear the screams mingled with the light crackling of the blaze she knew that she was fast approaching. A final right into a small collection of houses that were rented out to vagrants and wanderers (she could feel their eyes boring into her as she cut through their yard) and the crackle of the roaring flames reached her ears, even if Cassandra couldn't see them.
"Water, bring me water damnit or we're losing the Narrows tonight!" Cassandra heard a distinct voice ring out over the shrill shrieks of a wailing babe. She came near to a small group that was discussing a plan of action to fight the fires, and as she slowed her run to a walk, she caught the eye of a face she recognized from out of the group. Grimacing, the short and stocky man that she had known for most of her life walked quickly over to brief her on the events that had rapidly unfolded throughout the night.
"Wish we had time for small talk, Cassandra, but this fire is the worst we've seen here in the Narrows since I was a boy", her uncle Edgar spoke to her rapidly. "If you can carry a bucket, head over to Wexton's Arms Emporium, his warehouse just caught fire a few minutes ago and he could use the help. Good luck", and with that small command Cassandra's uncle turned his back to begin shouting orders to the other fire fighting crews that had just arrived to help from other districts.
She sprinted to Wexton's, and she could feel the heat emanating out from the fire before she saw the blaze that was fast engulfing the square. There were a few dozen men and women filling buckets from three separate water carts in an attempt to fight the flames, but Cassandra knew it was too late for her to make a difference for the warehouse; Wexton's was completely engulfed in an inferno that reached for the clouds.
Instead, she circled to the left of the large building, weaving in and out of the crowd of brave fire fighters as she searched for her family's house. Cassandra was too late. She wiped the sweat off her brow as she rounded the bend, and saw that the second floor had already caught fire, and half of the roof had caved in. Two charred corpses lay on the cobblestones in front of the house, and judging by their length Cassandra had a safe bet in her mind that they were her parents.
Tears welled in her eyes. Their lives weren't supposed to end like this. She wiped her face vigorously, her despair turning into rage then to determination. Her sister's body was nowhere in sight, and to Cassandra that could only mean she was still inside. She steeled her mind and raced for the front door, bursting through into the foyer with a well-placed kick.
Flames licked the sides of the walls, eating at the wood with eager abandon. A faint trail of blood led through the only entryway not engulfed in the inferno, so Cassandra shielded her face and walked in between the archway of fire, taking care not to let any embers leap on to her exposed skin.
There was smoke everywhere, and Cassandra found it hard to breathe, though she knew there was no turning back. She had to find her sister, no matter what. She entered the kitchen, and though the fire was threatening to enter the room, the only danger (yet) was the haze of smoke that obscured her vision.
Cassandra heard a faint coughing, and knew she was near her sister. "Chantelle! I'm here, Chantelle, it's your sister!" She cried out across the room, and pushed through the smoke.
"Chantelle is a little preoccupied, lovey", a familiar voice spoke softly from the other side of the wall of smoke.
" R-Roger? You came here to help?" Cassandra questioned. She continued to walk through the smoke, tentatively now.
"In a fashion", Roger whispered with a chuckle.
Cassandra's vision cleared, and she could now see Roger holding on to her sister in the center of a ring of smoke. He held a knife to her throat, with an evil smile on his lips.
"Welcome to the party, Cass", Roger drew the knife across Chantelle's throat, and a thin red line began to spill blood across the front of her shift.
"Why?" A roaring filled her ears, and the room began to spin around Cassandra as she screamed out for her sister. Roger laughed, dropping Chantelle and the knife to the ground, and walked out to the yard through a side door. Cassandra's lungs continued to fill with smoke, her vision began to blur, and she dropped to her knees in front of her sister.
Tears were streaming down her face, pouring freely in rivulets as they dripped off her chin to the ashen floor of her kitchen. Her world was collapsing around her, burning down with the building she had lived in her whole life. She could hear someone yelling faintly in the distance, and the roof began to ache and groan above her. A hand grabbed her by the arm, pulling tightly, just as her mind shut down.