Catalina oversaw the last of her trunks packed into the many wagons, all decked out with blue and white flags of Wilderose. They were getting ready to move along on the last leg of their journey, a week’s long trip into the capital by road. She would be travelling in a litter, with her ladies-in-waiting riding alongside and a bevy of guards surrounding them. The rest of her household and possession would follow suit, and the heavily manned wagon that bore her dowry. Along with sacks of gold, she also brought bejewelled dishes and statues to pay for her acceptance into the Norwyn royal family. As the last horse was brought out of the stable to be strapped into a wagon, a party of travellers arrived at the gate to the Princess’s temporary house.
“Good morning, madam,” said the young Duke from that first night, bowing his head in apology, “We are extremely sorry for the delay. Is there any last minute thing our men could assist with?”
“No, it is quite all right,” she replied graciously, secretly grinning inside at the sight of Adele’s lit-up face, “I heard that I am to be honoured with the Prince’s presence for the entity of the journey...”
“Yes, of course. Prince James will be arriving shortly. He had sent me along before him to reassure you of his presence. The King had appointed me the Prince’s chaperone, and I would be honoured to be of service to you and your household in this most exciting time.”
“Thank you so much,” she said, her mind already brewing with ideas, “Perhaps I could ask for your help with the wardrobe wagon; Adele seems to be in need of some serious assistance.”
“I’m glad to be of service to you and the lovely Lady Adele,” he kissed her hand before hurrying off to the wardrobe wagon, seemingly as eager as Adele to be grouped together.
It wasn’t long before he returned though, having caught the sight of the second half of his travelling party coming through the gate. Taking the rein of a docile grey mare into his hands, he walked it towards Catalina and bowed low.
“Princess, may I present His Royal Highness Prince James, Duke of Estervale, Count of Belcliff,” he said, gesturing to the child sitting astride upon his mare.
“I can present myself, thank you very much,” pouted the prince, looking every inch the child of six summers that he was, “I’m James, but everybody calls me Jamie. You are very pretty, and I’m very glad to meet you, Princess!”
“I’m glad to meet you too, Jamie,” she said, smiling, “And please call me Catalina.”
“Catalina, that’s a really nice name. But can I call you sister? Since you are going to be my sister soon enough,” he asked brightly.
“Yes, if you want, brother,” she replied, and was rewarded with a big smile. This journey was going to be a good one.
“Now, since we are going to be together for the whole of this week, I shall introduce myself,” he told her, looking excited at the prospect of a whole week with his new sister-in-law, “ I’m Prince James, or Jamie, as you already know. I like horses, and my favourite thing in the world is to watch the jousts that Father holds. When I grow up, I want to be just as good as...”
“Prince Jamie, please slow down,” said the young Duke, his eyes twinkling with amusement, “You are scaring the poor Princess.”
“Oh, was I? I’m sorry, sister,” Jamie said, looking abashed, “But I really do like horses! How about you tell me about yourself? Do you like riding?”
“No, I was enjoying listening to you,” Catalina grinned at her little brother-in-law, “Please continue. You said that when you grow up, you wanted to be...?”
“I’ll tell you all about it,” the little prince said, fairly bouncing with excitement, “You can ride next to me and Harry here for the entire journey!”
“That’s Duke Henry of Bolenurm for you, Prince James of Norwyn,” said the young Duke, “But Princess Catalina will be travelling in her litter for the journey to church, so I’m afraid you’ll have to save your story for another time.”
“That’s not fair!” exploded the prince, “You want to ride next to me, don’t you sister? Tell them you do!”
“I’m sorry brother, but the Duke of Bolenurm is right,” she told her new little friend, “But you could always ride next to my litter and tell me everything.”
“Yes, that’s perfect!” shouted Jamie, fairly falling off his horse, “Let us go now!”
Laughing softly, Catalina stepped into her litter and arranged the fur rugs around her. If the Crown Prince was anything like his brother, they would never lack things to say even if they lived for a hundred years. She gave the signal to start the long expedition towards her marriage altar, and pinned back the litter’s curtains. The pale sunshine and chilling breeze of a Norwyn winter greeted her, along with the face of one very eager prince riding alongside her. Catalina smiled as her soon-to-be brother-in-law launched into another long conversation, and her lips curved up even more at the sight of Adele talking to the Duke of Bolenurm. Whatever happened afterwards, this one gem of a week will be filled with joy and laughter.