Chapter 8

Elitha embraced her daughter with watering eyes, holding her close, feeling her warmth. She could only think of the times so many years ago she had held the same girl in her arms. Once so small, a bundle against her chest; a little face of light and laughter, full of a youthful wonder with the world. Now she stood before her - a woman, a Queen-to-be.

Cassandra pulled back slightly, looking into her mother's face, so full of affection, incredible sadness, an agony she could only minutely understand. She couldn't help more tears. Though unknowing that this would be the last glimpse of her beloved mother, her heart felt pain, fear. She was a baby bird leaping from the security, the certainties, of the nest, from the protection of her mother's wing. Elitha saw her fright, the wide child's eyes in a woman's face, a beautiful, mature face, and took her own hand, placing it gently on the side of Cassandra's head. I have much to regret in my life. Do not be like me, she thought to herself, hoping, praying, but not speaking.

It was not long before time forced them to separate, and both swallowed their tears as Cassandra moved before her Father, who bowed formally, stiffly, before her. She gave a graceful curtsy herself, meeting his cold eyes, his unforgiving expression. He nodded, a glimmer of approval, of pride, but not of feeling.

Cassandra continued down the line of people awaiting her formal, final, farewells.  There was an obvious hole where her governess would stand, but the distinguished Lady Edwina would be there to receive her in Navarn, a familiar, friendly face, and had already departed.

After all was done, she stepped away, looking at her parents before her. Her mother was crying again and Cassandra couldn't stop herself from embracing the Queen once more. Elitha gave a quick burst of a sob, before stifling it, her hands shaking as the two finally pulled apart for a second time. Her heart was ripping.

The Princess smiled through her turbulence of emotion, acknowledging her father once more before before she turned her back to the palace steps, the towers, her family, her past, and to the waiting carriage, her future. She swallowed a big gulp of air, as if preparing to dive into an icy pool of water, and stepped forward, grabbing the grand, ceremonious gown around her as she was handed gracefully into her chariot.

The coachman slowly closed the door. Cassandra looked through the thin glass pane - her mother was hidden away in a hankerchief, her facade completely shattered, while her father stood, statuesque, and offered a surprisingly warm arm to wrap around his weeping wife.

With a lash of the horses, the carriage jerked forward, turning down the sweeping lane. As they passed by the stables, she caught sight of a figure atop the wide roof, waving wildly.

Cassandra laughed through her tears, waving back, hoping to be seen. It could only be Sam.

Good-bye Sam, farewell Mother, Father...farewell Home, everything I have known. My path winds forwards, leads elsewhere.

The End

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