Catalina nodded, smoothing down her dress for the last time and then offered her hand to the young Prince. He took it in a grand and formal manner, leading her towards the door and down the winding staircase to her royal carriage. The Duke of Bolenurm bowed to the three ladies-in-waiting as they filed out, making Adele’s rouged cheeks turn even rosier. When Catalina was comfortably settled on her pillowed seats, her entourage mounted and together they began her last journey as a maiden.
It seemed as though every single citizen of Espanta, Norwyn’s capital, had flocked out to see the greatest royal marriage of the century. Women called out blessings to the beautiful foreign princess who would soon become their own. Many hoisted up their children to look at the veiled bride, with some even daring to push their little ones towards the princess so they could be blessed by her. Catalina waved from the inside of the carriage, offering little smiles here and there to her people. The little Prince was quite popular with the Espantians too, with many of the men bowing low to him as he passed by. He was, of course, extremely thrilled by all the attention. His sunny smile had extended almost to his ears, and he was waving at a hundred miles an hour.
“I want to go on like this forever,” he told Catalina as he turned his horse to be closer to her carriage, “This is the best day of my life!”
“All good things come to an end though, my dear,” she told him, then as she saw his face fall she hastily added, “But that’s only so better things can come our way.”
Consoled, the young Prince continued with his waving. His charms had an endearing effect on all those he rode by, and Catalina thought that once he was grown, this little Prince would wield a lot of influence on his people. The crowd thinned as they neared the cathedral, with erect and proud soldiers lining the path instead. The Duke of Bolenurm helped Catalina off her carriage, much to the annoyance of Prince James. He protested that he was meant to escort and help her, but Catalina gently pointed out that he was too small to reach her from the ground. Sulking slightly, the Prince followed Duke Henry of Bolenurm inside the cathedral to take up their position with the royal family.
Left with her three ladies, Catalina busied herself with her veil so that they couldn’t guess her stomach was filled to the brim with butterflies. She was about to leave behind the self she had known for the past fifteen years after all. When she leave this cathedral, she would no longer be Princess Catalina of Wilderose, but instead Crown Princess Catalina of Norwyn.
Adele, Isobel and Maria straightened her train for the last time as the herald bowed to her and indicated the cathedral door. She inclined her head stiffly to her ladies-in-waiting, and they curtseyed back before slipping through a side door to enter St Prisca’s. Stepping up to the great oak doors, she motioned to the herald to swing it open. The wooden slabs swung back on their hinges as the herald announced her presence to the full cathedral. Catalina glided in to face the hundreds of noblemen and –women who had come to see her wed, her eyes blind to all but the boy waiting for her at the altar.