As if things couldn't get any worse, by the time I reached the bottom of the mountain the drizzle had turned into full on pouring rain. I was soaked through and there was no shelter for miles. I didn't even know which direction I should really head in. I didn't want to go back home, but I didn't know where else to turn. Then, in an instant, I headed the opposite direction I had come. I'd reach a town eventually and worry about where I was and what I was going to do then. As for the rain I was moving right into, I was already drenched, so what did it matter?

Sighing, I trudged on. The dirt road was hard and riddled with puddles. A number of times I stumbled into them and found them deeper than expected. After a while pain radiated up from my soles, through my ankles and calves, to my knees. Occasionally it even struck in my lower back. I was miserable, aching, tired, and cold. And lost. I was still on the road so I had to reach somewhere in time, but I had no idea where I'd reach or when. I hoped wherever it was I'd get there soon.

Luck just wasn't on my side though. Night came and I was still tripping along, sneezing, shivering, dripping... and there wasn't a town, a house, or a person in sight. There wasn't even anywhere to hide from the elements. Thus I just continued walking, until around dawn, exhausted, I collapsed on the side of the road (right in a puddle nonetheless) and gave up. If wild animals or bandits didn't kill me and I wasn't sacrificed, pneumonia would most definitely take me. As awful and morbid as it sounded I couldn't help but think that at least the future looked bright now. I really didn't want to die by illness though, I hoped my death would be quick and relatively painless. An illness would make me more miserable before I gained any relief.

I didn't know when it happened, but sometime after I collapsed I drifted into a fitful sleep, or perhaps it was more like a coma. When I awoke I was being prodded by something and opened my eyes to see an old man gently testing if I was alive by pushing me with his foot. When he saw my eyes open he moved away and then stooped down and started helping me up. "Come on now, let's get you on the wagon."

I found myself unable to speak as my throat was sore and constricted. All I managed was a moan as he lifted me up and set me down on the hay in the back of his cart. The rest was a blur of gray sky as he started back on his journey to who knew where. I didn't even know if I was being taken back the way I came, or further away. Eventually I once again drifted in and out of sleep until we reached our destination and the old man helped me inside of some cottage where a woman agreed to look after me until I was well enough to travel. I was allowed to sleep in a warm, dry bed after I was changed, but finally sleep wouldn't claim me. Instead I tossed and turned until the woman came upstairs with hot food.

"I can't sleep," I croaked out. She just gave me a smile that said she already knew that.

"I figured when I heard you tossing about up here. So I brought you food."

"I'm not hungry."

"You should try and eat, it'll give you strength." She set the tray of food down on a bureau and came over to help me sit up before bringing it to me.

"I don't want strength," I murmured to myself, but she heard and gave me a sad look.

"I don't know what you're running from or to, but I know that when things seem bad and we want to give up, things usually get better."

I picked up the spoon for the soup and sipped lazily at the warm broth. It was good, delicious in fact, but I knew I wouldn't be able to eat much of it. There was meat in it and I had lived my life without meat in my diet, eating too much of it now would make me sick to my stomach. The woman watched me quietly from where she sat on the edge of the bed. "Thank you," I said, wondering if that was what she was waiting for. She smiled at me, but didn't move to leave.

"What's you name, darling?" Ah, right.


"Elisia, what a pretty name. Where are you from?" Joy, interrogation.


She cocked her head to the side curiously, "A very long way from home, aren't you?"

"I wouldn't know. I don't know where I am or where home is."

"I see... I'm Dinna and you're in my fair hometown of Keldwith. We're quite far from Aberdyn here, nearly on the sea." The sea... how long had I been traveling? Days? Weeks? Aberdyn was the second northernmost town in the kingdom and the sea was at least a fortnight's journey away. I wanted to be panicked by this news, but I felt nothing but curiosity. Who cared how far from 'home' I was? In fact, when they found out I wasn't sacrificed or that a mistake had been made the further away I was the better. It would take them longer to find me and drag me back to my old life. Perhaps I'd even manage to die before they could find me. Perhaps I could put right the mistake that was made.

Thinking about righting the wrong, I recalled how I had to find out who wanted me as their sacrifice. I could go about that in two ways. A, I could follow my best lead and check out Jesabelle, but I had no idea where she was... or B, I could try and locate Luminaria and ask her to check my destiny again. While Luminaria was a safer choice, I was in the mood to be risky and thus decided with an inward smirk that I would find Jesabelle.

Dinna pat my leg and made like she was going to leave. It shocked me from my thoughts and I caught her skirt as she took a step. "Wait, please."

"Yes, dear?" She asked, turning back at me with concern on her features.

"Um, you wouldn't happen to know where I could find a Jesabelle, would you?"

"Jesabelle, why would you want anything to do with that horrid sorceress?" She spat the name like it was a curse and gave me a weary look.

"I was told she might be looking for me, so I thought I might find her first."

It seemed as if she didn't fully believe me as she surveyed my face and the hesitation didn't leave her. "Why is she looking for you?"

"Well, I'm not sure she is exactly. It's just that... well you see... I was supposed to be sacrificed and everyone in my town thought it was to Elaandril, but he denies it vehemently, but said there might have been a mistake. He said I seem to be more the type for one of Jesabelle's sacrifices."

Dinna gasped and felt my forehead, "You must be really ill if you're looking for whoever wants to sacrifice you! Darling if the Great Warlock changed his mind you should feel relieved and run as far and as fast as you can!"

I sighed and grumbled to myself. How could I explain the extent of my misery back home? How could I explain how much I didn't want to go back to that? I looked down at the tray in my lap and pushed the spoon around in the bowl a moment while I thought. The silence stretched longer than I meant for it to and Dinna spoke up first, breaking it.

"Is it not to your liking?"

"Huh? Oh, no. The food is delicious. I just can't eat much."

"You've been out for a while and you're nothing but skin and bones. I would think you'd be starving."

"I'm used to not eating much, plus meat was not in my diet so too much of this delicious soup will make me ill."

"Oh goodness! I hadn't know, I wish I had. I'll get you something without meat right away. Is there anything else you can't have?" She looked horror striken by my words and I felt bad for telling her. It wasn't her fault, she couldn't have known.

"No no! It's fine, really. Like I said I'm used to not eating much and what I have eaten was just fine. Please, don't worry about it. It's too much effort on my account."

"Nonsense, dear! You need to eat more and put some meat on your own bones. Especially if you want to go find whoever intends to sacrifice you, though I truly believe that's the worst course of action you could take. I think you should just rest up and go home." She removed the tray from my lap with a frown.

"I don't want to go home. Home is a prison," I blurted out before I could catch myself.

There was another long stretch of silence which followed my outburst before Dinna set the tray down on a bureau nearby and took a seat at the edge of my bed. "Is that why you said you didn't want strength before? Is that what you're running from?"

I didn't know how to answer her so instead I simply shrugged in a noncommittal way. She grunted softly and nodded. "I know I can't avoid it. They'll find out and come looking for me eventually."

"But you don't want to go," It was a statement, not a question, and it was my turn to nod.

"I couldn't eat meat, go outside, make friends, or wear pretty dresses... It is a shorter list if I say what I could do than what I could not." Dinna looked away and I dropped my gaze to my hands which rested in my lap, idly fiddling with the worn quilt. "A part of me wants to be normal, but a larger part of me knows that after eighteen years of living as I did, I could never live normally."

"So many people wish to live extraordinary lives and here you are wishing for normal..." She laughed, but it was short and humorless. "So since you feel you could not live normally you want to find whoever intends to sacrifice you and end it entirely?"

"That's correct." The way she said it made me cringe and for a split second I even thought myself crazy for wanting to chase my own death, but then my resolve kicked back in. Sure, it was odd that I would want to end my own life, but I had my reasons and to me they mattered; they were good reasons.

"I don't agree. I feel you should give life a shot, you might adjust better than you think; however, if you really are determined to find this person I will help you. I will tell you where to find Jesabelle and I will prepare you for the journey ahead. I only hope that along the way you'll change your mind." Fat chance of that happening. My gaze, which had for a moment returned to Dinna, once again dropped to my lap. The look on her face was so sad and I wondered who she wore that expression for. Was it for me? She barely knew me, so why look so heartbroken? Before I could think deeper on the subject she spoke again, "Life should be cherished and not thrown away." With those final words she stood and grabbed the tray, heading out of the room and leaving me to think over what she had said.

Life should be cherished and not thrown away... but was it even a life I was losing? Could being basically imprisoned and treated like an object and a means for my parents' selfish survival be considered living at all? I know it was more than for my parents. They were doing it for a whole town, perhaps a whole kingdom, but I wasn't any less bitter about it. Certainly I was chasing death, but that was to escape being imprisoned again, not because I felt it was right to die and save people didn't know. In fact, it baffled me that my parents could send their own child to their death without batting a lash. They didn't know everyone in the town they were saving!

Then again... they didn't really know the child they were murdering either.

Another heavy sigh emitted from my lips and I sank down beneath the covers and curled up to try and go back to sleep, rather than think about the morality of my parents.