Penelope groaned. She was feeling groggy and didn't want to wake up, but the brightening sky, chirping birds, and her uncomfortable sleeping place wouldn't let her go back to sleep.
She blinked a few times as she struggled to open her eyes and then pushed herself up into a sitting position. Wet strands of grass and damp leaves clung uncomfortably to her skin and clothing. She brushed them away as she stretched her aching back and shoulders.
"Where am I?" she wondered as she slowly took in her surroundings. She was obviously in a wooded area. There were no buildings or signs of civilization within her sight except for a glimpse of the road just beyond the brush and trees in front of her.
She hoped that the road that she saw was the path to Cynara. If it wasn't, then she had no idea where she was. She wasn't even sure how she got here. She tried to think back to the last thing she could remember.
Penelope remembered being in the room at the tavern the night before. She had been with the old woman, sitting by the fire, eating stew, when she suddenly grew tired.
Then she remembered dreaming . . .
of the dark eyes of her attacker and their piercing glare. "Your family is all dead and you should be too."
and of her father's final pleas. "Run, Penelope. Run."
Then she was running through the streets of Amphidelphos on the way to meet her brother to take a boat away from the village.
Before she could get to the docks, the small vessel exploded into flames.
Suddenly she found herself standing on a platform, in front of a booing crowd as she stood below the gallows.
She pushed her way through the crowd and ran and ran as far away as she could.
She ran until her feet gave out underneath her and she tumbled to the ground.
As she pulled herself up, she could feel someone standing over her, grabbing at the bundle she held in her arms. She pulled and tugged, trying to hold on to it. She knew she held something valuable and she couldn't let anyone take it from her. She had to hold on. She wouldn't let go. Yet, the figure hovering over her would not stop pulling.
The next thing she knew, she was back in the room above the tavern, with the old woman standing over her, her face wearing a devious grin.
The old woman was trying to take away the pack that Penelope had been clutching tightly against her chest as she slept. As they both tugged on the pack, the old woman's fingers slipped causing her to lose both her grip and her balance. As she let go, she tumbled backwards, falling to the floor.
Suddenly awake and free from the old woman's grip, Penelope jumped up and quickly gathered the rest of her belongings that were still scattered in front of the fire.
Just as she was about to go to the door, she felt the sharp nails of the elderly woman grasp onto her arm. Penelope pulled away from her quickly and ran out of the tavern and into the night.
Penelope rubbed her sore head and wondered just how much of her memories had been a dream. When she looked down at her arm, she saw four long scratches. She rubbed her fingers tenderly over the dried blood. At least that much of it had been real.
She picked up her belongings that were scattered around her and packed them away in her bag, hoping she hadn't lost too much in her flight. Once everything was packed, she picked herself up off the ground slowly, her body sore from the tumble down the stairs the night before and from spending the night on the hard, uneven ground and took a moment to look around and gather her bearings before walking over to the road. Hoping that the path she was taking was the right one, she walked on in search of Cynara.