Chapter 21

"...so, how much longer do you plan to stay, Aedri?"

"At least until Legorn returns home. I do not like staying in the big house all by myself," Aedrianna glanced briefly at Lara.

The Queen sipped at her glass, "When does he expect to get back?"

"Who knows what sort of business could contain him in Gherion. I would expect in a month or so," shrugged the eldest Princess.

A brief pause fell over the room, the only sound the cackle of the fire. Elitha twisted in her seat slightly, looking about. "Where has your father gotten too? He is never here," she muttered. For a moment, she appeared sadly thoughtful, only shaking it off when she noticed Cassandra observing her.

"Cassandra," Aedrianna then addressed her. The youngest princess, despite their shared parentage, did not share that familial, sisterly bond. Aedrianna was so much older, they hardly knew one another, and only recently exchanged short, curt conversation. Also, she married and moved away when Cassandra was so young. There was something, some harshness, some certain strict edge that reminded Cassandra of a governess, about Aedrianna that she did not like. She disliked her husband, the Count Legorn, for similar reasons of the way he feeled to her.  They were to never have children--the way Cassandra understood it, as her mother had told her, that when they were first married, Aedrianna was to have a baby, but the pregnancy failed terribly and something happened so that she could not longer bear children. It was a great blow to everyone, Elitha had said, since all were expecting a boy-heir from the eldest daughter of the King to be the next to wear the crown. "How long is it now before you travel to Navarn?"

Cassandra shifted in her chair, lowering her eyes. There was something awkward about talking about the subject of her marriage. "Less then two years, I believe," she muttered, adjusting her hands around her cup of tea.

"Her marriage is so far away!" cried Heira, looking up from the pieces of cloth and various other objects across her lap, samples for choices of her wedding she had been mulling over for the longest time. "Mine is so near! I haven't the least idea of what to do, the decor, the dress--oh, Gods, the dress!" She ran her hand through her hair, anxiety knotting her face. Heira was always so dramatic, always looking to be the highlight, the star, of every party, to be so perfect all the time. She could irritate Cassandra sometimes.

"Oh, my dear. Do not fret over it tonight!" smiled Aedrianna warmly to her closest sister. They were the closest in age, and had been the greatest of companions. When the elder had moved to her new home, Heira had often taken holidays from the palace at her sister's house and remain there for quite a while. "We have plenty of time--you and I shall spend time going over everything and making sure it will be the best of days."

Put at ease by her sister, Heira set aside her things and lay back her chair, slightly deflating with relaxation.  

Marie Diana moved from her chair to set herself on the sofa right beside Lara, the two murmuing in soft, unmistakable blabber. Cassandra could not help feeling a twinge of lonliness as Aedrianna and Heira continued their conversation and Lara and Marie shared secrets. No, she probably didn't want to talk about what they were talking about, but...there was a dose of envy at their intimacy...her mind wandered to all her lighthearted conversations with Giddeon...he was very interesting to speak to...

"Cass," muttered the Queen, jerking her from drifting off in her thoughts with a slight gesture. Cassandra rose from her seat and sat beside her mother as she was bid. Elitha put her arm around her daughter, making her smile slightly. "Is your dress prepared for the ball tomorrow, Sweet?" 

"Yes," Cassandra nodded.

"Is it pretty?"

"I believe it turned out nice."

Elitha chuckled mildly, "I am sure it will make you appear beautiful."

Cassandra smiled once more, resting her head against her mother, content. Looking about the room, she thought, What a strange sort of family we are.

The End

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