The wagon was rolling along as smoothly as could be expected until they turned into a section known as Old Town. There, things began to grow wrong. Trad, who’d so far proved a steady driver, was sorely taxed by the narrow, garbage-strewn streets. The horses shied away from one pile and Mirella knew why. Even through the downpour, she could smell blood and the moonlight revealed a severed dog’s head, stiff with rigor. Every ten feet or so, lightening lit up the sky, revealing a violent path.
Whose anger, Mirella wondered, pulsed in the air?
Then, it happened. A bolt as powerful as the one that rocked the castle rocked Old Town and the horses reared. Trad pulled back hard, shouting in his strange language “Hold”, but the opposite happened. The horses fought their bits and suddenly the wagon was careening wildly, dangerously, down the street.
Mirella knew it was a matter of time before she was bumped out and so she moved the basket to her lap and hovered over it, gripping the handle with both hands. It didn’t take long for another crack of lightening to part the sky and when the cart tipped, Mirella flew through the air.
She landed on her bottom in what had once been a puddle but was now a small lake, her soggy clothing absorbing most of the jolt. Had she not seen the horses barreling down the street and heard Trad making guttural noises to stop them, she would have believed that a giant hand had picked her up, put her down in an unlikely spot (hard) and left. The baby hadn’t stirred.
Mirella wasn’t so much upset as at a temporary loss. She knew Trad would come back, the only question was when. At this point, she wasn’t sure if he even realized he’d lost his cargo. She rose and walked out of the water, setting the basket down on the cobbles, and tried to wring water out of her gown. More would soak in, but right now the fabric was so heavy she could hardly walk.
She was wringing out the backside of her hem when she heard the the wagon coming toward her at a fast clip. She hadn’t realized the weight of worry until she felt the relief. She picked up the basket, waving her arms. Trad saw her, nodded his head, and slowed the horses.
But something was wrong.
Lightening came again, thin as web weavings and quick as winks, but it was enough for her to see that the driver was a stranger, a thin man bundled from head to toe in a black coat with a ridiculous turban on his head. Presently, the turban was lopsided. Over his left eye was a patch, and as he got closer, Mirella saw that his right eye was darting wildly.
She took a step back, then two more. The man hopped out of the carriage and came toward her at a stepping pace. He was old, but spry.
“Don’t be shy of Faw Shandy ” he told her. ” Faw Shandy will do you good. A pretty girl like you needs a home.”