Chapter 5

"Good morning, Cassie. Please sit," offered her mother, extending a delicate, graceful hand. Gold sunlight fell from the nearby window unto her face, catching her hair and bringing bright life into her cheeks. Yet, the light contrasted against the dark shadow of the Queen's eye, emotion withdrawn and far away.

Cassandra gently placed herself in her mother's parlor chair, looking her over. She was supposed to be so youthful, a lively beauty, but it looked as if those days had long past, and despite being far younger than her king, Queen Elitha appeared as old if not older than him.

She did not get the opportunity to inquire over her mother's health, as Elitha saw the questioning eyes, the soft, concerned expression, and turned the conversation onto her daughter. "You leave very soon. Too soon. Are you ready?" Queen Elitha smiled weakly as her daughter offered a nod. "You are to pass through the Gherion capital, yes? My old home?"

"I believe so," Cassandra answered hesitantly, not sure where her mother was taking this exchange.  Her mother nodded slowly, her eyes drifting off as if she was lost in thought. The Princess continued cautiously, "Why have you never gone back? Why....have we never heard from your father, why has  he never visited us?"

They were questions that the young girl had asked often in her childhood, and often her mother would reply vaguely. How Elitha once loved her father with the most dear affection, held him closest to her heart. And then he had sent her away. The Queen swallowed, appearing pained as she shifted in her stiff chair, "He has never been in the best of health, as have I as of late, and....our last encounter was not a pleasurable one."

Cassandra looked at her mother thoughtfully, a thousand more questions gathering in her mind. Elitha could also see them, and continued speaking before her daughter could open her mouth. "Dear, it is far more complex than I ever could explain it. Seeing him would only further the complication of things."

Why had her parents behaving so curiously as of late? Though, still, she said nothing, simply nodding her head.

"You received his invitation?" the Queen turned weary eyes toward her daughter.

"Yes. He offered me to stop and stay at least a week as I pass through," Cassandra answered simply, quietly.

Elitha nodded slowly, turning her eyes away."My father will be very pleased to see you," she murmured absent-mindedly, as if no longer present, stolen away by memories of long ago.

"Mother?" Cassandra tugged her mother back to reality after a moment of pondering silence. "How is your health?"

Elitha smiled slightly, looking over her sweet daughter with an expression of exhaustion. "Cassie, dear, I suffer from the inevitible disease called age. It is the one illness no one can avoid."

The End

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