Breathless, we finally reach the palace, which stands as strong as and even more beautiful than four years ago. Derek pulls me down the familiar corridors, past pages and servants and guards standing in shock.
He stops running at the silver doors to the throne room. “Ready to see her?”
I smile at him. “Derek, I haven’t seen my mother in four years, what do you think?”
He returns my smile and pushes open the silver doors, which glide open soundlessly. Like a wind being pushed from the door, the knowledge of my presence is blown into the room as the doors open.
My mother, sitting on her throne slowly stands. She’s aged in the past four years, and now silver-grey streaks run through her hair like shooting stars, and her skin in stretched tighter than I remember over her face. “Alyessia? Is it really you?”
“Mother…” I start running down the carpet toward her. She runs too, and meets me halfway. I hug her tightly, and find that both our cheeks are wet.
“Alyessia, I have been waiting for you to come back ever since you left. I’ve missed you so much, and so has the kingdom.”
I smile. “I’ve missed you too, and the kingdom. But today I was ready to return.”
Mother releases my and looks me up and down. “You certainly have grown the past four years, my little raven. But I think I can’t get away with calling you ‘little’ anymore.”
“You can call me ‘little raven’ if you want, I haven’t heard it in four years.”
Mother looks up and turns her gaze to Derek. “How did you find Alyessia?”
Derek smiles. “I didn’t find her, she found me. I was dancing with Isa at the parade, and then it suddenly turned into Alyessia.”
Mother’s gaze returns to me. “So you have gotten your gift. What exactly is it, my raven?”
“I can make people think what I want them to, and as long as I concentrate, I can take the form of other people.”
“Let me see,” she says.
I pull out the last memory of when I saw her four years ago and close my eyes. When I reopen my eyes, mother is staring at me with wide eyes.
“See, your majesty? Princess Alyessia can take on any form,” Derek says.
My mother reaches out and touches the hair that looks like hers. I stop concentrating and return to myself, and the blonde-brown-black hair turns back to raven black. “Your gift is incredible, my raven, incredible indeed,” she whispers.
Derek’s eyes haven’t left my face.
“Majesty, might I go and fetch Boss? He would be pleased to know that the princess has returned,” Verlaine says.
Mother nods. “Yes, go get him.” Her voice sounds like she’s in a trance. She shakes her head once to clear it and smiles. “My daughter has returned, and now we can celebrate her birthday! Go and tell the chefs to make everything bigger! Tell them to reach back into their memories and pull out Alyessia’s favorite dishes and make them! Gather all our people and let the news ring, Crown Princess Alyessia has returned!”