She inched her way over to the wall of the cave and, with its support, she slowly pushed herself into a sitting position. Every little movement caused her shoulder to burn with pain. She sat there for a while, trying to catch her breath and to decide what to do next.
Suddenly, a dark shadow blocked the light. She was startled and shrank back against the wall. She saw one of the horsemen. Was it the mean one? No, it didn’t look like him. There was enough light now that she could see the man more clearly.
He was dressed entirely in black and wore black armor like the man on the bridge had been wearing. But this man had a gold band on his shoulder, not silver. A mask completely covered his face, except for his brown eyes, and a close-fitting hood covered the rest of his head. There was no color anywhere on him, except for a thin strip of vivid crimson that had been tied around his arm, just above the elbow. Other colors had been woven into the fabric, some blue and a little green. The colors made an unusual pattern.
For a long moment, he stared down at her. Maybe she looked as foreign to him as he looked to her. Her pale green gown was now dirty, torn and stained with blood. Of course, she must look ridiculous, but she had never hidden her face.
“Thank you for helping me,” she said. She wanted to thank him, even if he couldn’t understand. He stared silently back at her for a moment, then he walked to the other side of the cave and returned with a cup and a piece of some kind of bread. She drank the water gratefully and took the bread as he held it out to her. It smelled good and she nibbled a corner. It tasted as good as it smelled and she ate a few bites, but she wasn’t really hungry. Her stomach wasn’t feeling very well.
When she was done, he gestured that she should stand. She shook her head. That was definitely a bad idea. He pointed to the cave opening. So, they were leaving. He offered a black-gloved hand to help her. She hesitated for a moment, then took it. With much support, she got to her feet.
Once upright, a wave of lightheadedness came over her and her vision went dark. She felt his arms catch her as she collapsed, keeping her from hitting the floor. “Thank you,” she murmured. Falling to the ground would have hurt so much more.
Gradually, her vision cleared. She could see his black-masked face above her as he carried her. He had put her good shoulder against his armor. She blinked as they left the dim cave and came out into the bright sunlight. Shalyrie saw another of the horsemen standing beside a black horse. The horse looked just as big as it had yesterday. Though it was standing quietly now, she worried it might run at any moment.
He was walking toward the horse. “No! I don’t want to ride it, I can’t,” she gasped. He ignored her.
The other man helped him lift her, and she found herself high on the horse’s back. The rocky ground looked a long way down. “You have to put me down!” He didn’t.
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