Chapter 16


It so happened that the time of Cassandra's stay had came and went, and it was now time for her own departure. Lord Nather had little time to speak with the Princess on such private matters as his own suspicons, her grandfather so obsessive about keeping his granddaughter at his side at any possible moment. Any other time the Princess was available, Nather was terribly busy with his own affairs.

And yet, as the day of Cassandra's leaving arrived, Nather walked to the King's chambers and requested forcefully if he may be granted to accompany the Princess and her entourage, claiming business with a man of the Navarn government as his reason. While the reason was mainly truth, King Lander himself did not like allowing Nather away to Navarn, after his show of foolishness only nights before. But he permitted the venture anyway, convincing himself it would be honorable to send a Gherion representative to accompany Cassandra and to be present during the grand show of her arrival in Navarn's court.

Cassandra was pleasantly suprised, and offered Nather a seat in her own carriage in stead of riding separately in his own. She was happy for the company and conversation of another, and the Lord was glad for his chance to dig deeper into his theory.

Yet it was soon proved to Nather that Cassandra knew little, not much more than he himself knew about the marriage, the groom, and its reasonings. Perhaps, then, she was simply a playing piece in King Alezander's wild game. Or, maybe Nather was going wild himself.

If anything, Cassandra found his intelligent conversation and amusing antics entertaining during the drag of the journey. He was eager to point out little things here and there just beyond the window, explaining their various histories and such. The carriage's route took them through the most beautiful of landscapes, handsome of villages, and interesting of landmarks - and with Nather as her guide, it was as if she was taking a grand sight-seeing tour.




"Welcome to Navarn, Princess," murmured Nather as he gazed beyond the glass pane, the carriage jogging briskly by the passing landscape. "Your new home."

Cassandra followed his eyes to the window, to the approaching town. She sighed, shoulders slumped in the stiff satin of her gown.

"My new home."

Nather frowned as he watched her. Still her face was turned, the profile of her expression alight with the rustic late afternoon glow. Her pretty features were weary with accepting misery, her youth weighted by solemn, grave thoughts.

In the silence, he reached over and gently clasped her graceful hand, her delicate fingers. She turned abruptly, taken aback for an awkward moment.

Relaxing, Cassandra smiled sadly.

"Thank you, Nather."

He withdrew and looked out the window again.

"My new home," she repeated again, her voice a faint whisper.




Cassandra gently dismissed the handmaid, shrugging her silken robe closer around her. Now alone, she sighed and went to the wide window to look at the city beyond.




El'burin was a neat, expansive capital, its quiet outline smoky against the sunset's orange glow. Tomorrow would be the day of her presentation - likely the most important day of her life. Excluding the wedding itself, perhaps. But tomorrow would be her intoduction to Navarn, the prelude to the rest of her days thereafter.

The Princess and her small entourage had inconspicuously slipped into Lord Ian's Evermore Hall this last night in preparation of her official arrival into El'burin the next morning. Here she could sleep undisturbed, and dress for the grand event of her arrival the following morning.

She unlatched the window and softly pushed them open, allowing for the mingling aroma of Evermore's garden below and El'burin, its towers feeling a finger's breath from her reach, off in the near distance.

As the impending darkness closed in on her, she yawned, shivering in a cool evening breeze. She should go to sleep.

Relocking the window, Cassandra peeled off her robe and climbed beneath the cover's safety. She easily drifted away into her mind's shadow, although her slumber was punctuated by the restless dreams of bubbling anxiety.


The End

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