Chapter 6: Episode 23- "A Mother's Love"
“We’ll be late. Come on already, mama!” The little girl tugged at the sleeve of Cora’s lace top. The youngling was dressed in pink from the tiara on her head to the slippers on her feet, her rosy cheeks were warm with the glow of excitement as she urged her mother to follow in her little footsteps. The soft, padded footfalls of the two-year-old made barely sound on the rickety stone patio overlooking the lake, where her mother had been silently daydreaming: enjoying the view and the peace and quiet.
Coras smiled at her youngest daughter with a laughter playing at the corners of her mouth. The simplicity and joyfulness of youth would never get old to Cora, nor would seeing the smile on her little girls face.
“Kaylie, hold on one sec. Mommy needs to put her shoes back on first.” Cora scolded in a playful way, Kaylie giggled in reply.
“Those aren’t shoes mama. Those are sandals.” The young one said through spurts of giggles, raising her hands to her mouth to hide her smile behind them embarrassed of the few teeth that were missing. Cora loved this little girl. She was a light in an otherwise abysmally dark world.
“Okay. You win. Let me get my sandals on first, alright?” Cora pulled back her arm to keep from toppling over as the little one nearly drug her out of the patio and back into the palace where a tea party was waiting for the two of them.
“It’s getting coooold.” Kaylie remarked, trying to speed her mother up and giving an extra tug or two on her sleeve. Insisting that everyone was waiting on them to start.
“Alright, alright, I’m going as fast as I can, you little monster bug.” Cora said, jabbing at Kaylie stomach with her free arm. The little girl chuckled and stepped back but didn’t let go of her hold on Cora’s shirt sleeve. “Mmmkay, let’s go.”
Kaylie didn’t pause for a second and led her mother by the shirt sleeve back into the palace, through her mother’s bedroom and down the hall to Kaylie’s room where, as promised, a tea party awaited. The guest were all there, every stuffed animal toy Kaylie owned sat patiently in tiny wooden chairs around a tiny wooden table in the corner of the room near the door, illuminated by the sunlight through an open window on the western side of the house.
The sun was setting, its orange light bathed the room in a soft flood of color. Kaylie had set the party up that morning as a surprise for her mother, but Cora was called off by the army on business that morning, which was not uncommon for a general. Kaylie had been waiting eagerly all day for her mother’s return, in fact she had done very little else. The young girl often got lonely around the palace with no-one but disinterested servants to keep her company. Her mother was all that she had, and when a little girl is confined to a palace with no one with which to play, they develop a rather vivid imagination.
Kaylie’s imagination was bigger than most. She had once tried to convince a servant that her mother, a famed general of the Imperial Dynasty, was actually a magical creature. Such things were not uncommon to come out of the child’s mouth, but were reasoned away as the products of an overdeveloped imagination.
“Easy on the arm, KayKay.” Cora chided as the raven haired girl put her enthusiasm behind each pull on her mother’s shirt to get her where she was supposed to go. “Okay, little girl. How about some tea?” Cora smiled as Kaylie released her shirt sleeve and went to pull out her mother’s seat at the table for her. Cora straightened her shoulders back to stretch, free of the tugging of her daughter. The little girl had prepared everything and everything was perfect, the stuffed toys somehow looked as though they were holding their play wooden teacups.
“Lookie look, mommie! I made this special just for you!” Kaylie exclaimed, holding the hem of her dress and twisting shyly as she shared her secret surprise with her mother. Cora gasped as if it was the most beautiful, breathtaking view she had ever seen in her life.
“This is perfect! I love it so much!” Cora gave Kaylie a big hug and kissed her cheek before sitting in the chair her little one had prepared for her. Cora’s daughter’s eyes lit up and she smiled brightly, instantly shaking off the shyness and suddenly finding a million things to talk about. The two spent a lovely evening together talking and playing tea party, watching the sun set into the Western sky.
Suddenly there came a soft knock on the door, immediately followed by footsteps as a servant let themselves into the room and bowed before addressing Cora. “General, there is a guest waiting for you at the gate.”
Cora and Kaylie both turned their attention to the messenger. Kaylie looked put out that someone would interrupt her special time with her mother, but also understanding the situation was bound to happen: it always happened. Her mother was an important woman and Kaylie, even at the tender age of two-years-old that though she was the most important thing in the world to her mother, she was not the only one who needed her mother’s time.
Cora looked at the man with a little dismay, knowing it was not his fault that she suddenly had more things to do in an already busy and frustrating day, but still not overly thrilled with thought of being social this late in the evening. With a sigh, she dismissed the messenger who left the room as silently as he had entered it. Cora looked at Kaylie.
“I’m s-” She began to apologize but Kaylie cut her off.
“I know mommy. You’ve got work ta do…” Kaylie wasn’t overly thrilled that work was taking her mother from her again today, and her face said as much.
Cora touched a hand to her daughter’s cheek to console her. “I’ll take care of this as quickly as I can and be right back. Mmmkay?”
Kaylie nodded. Cora wasn’t convinced that her daughter was fine with this outcome of events, but didn’t press the issue. Things were already more strained between her and the two-year-old than she liked for them to be, there was no need in pushing it any farther. Kaylie was disappointed. Cora didn’t want to make things worse for the little one by dragging this out. She stood up and walked to the door, then turned back for a moment.
“I’ll be right back.”Cora confirmed, then closed the door behind her and sighed again. She hated to leave, but work somehow found its way to the top of her priority list: always. The gate was complete across the palace from where Cora and Kaylie’s living quarters were near the mountain range. The palace spanned for nearly a league with many corridors and connections on its grounds as it wound its way around mountain slopes. The palace itself was built into the Uma Lin mountain range, high in the hills of Kodia. And unlike Jong Kabur, the capital city, Lillithin was a peaceful city far removed from the bustle and confusion of the hub of Kodia’s civilization.
Cora made her way down hallways, winding paths and open courts through the palace. The familiar path she’d walked a thousand times from him to work within the confines of the palace walls. In some ways, Cora missed the war, the travel, the adventure, the space. She felt confined in the walls of the palace, stuck in the spacious, but stiflingly small grounds.
It took a few minutes before Cora reached the gate, but when she had arrived at the gate of the palace, a shadowy figure waited beyond the portcullis. A figure she knew she knew but couldn’t recognize in the dark. The figure wore a long cloak intended to shroud every detail about them from their figure to their face. This person, or was it even a person, clearly desired anonymity, which for a war general was an instant caution. This person was not to be trusted. This person was a potential threat. This person was….. someone she knew?
That feeling. That gnawing feeling of remembrance or recollection from the recesses of her mind was the most frightening part. How and why, from where did she know this person? What brought the feelings of remembrance from somewhere in her? Did she know this person…? Cora peered through the portcullis bars from a distance trying to make out a face in the dark, but all she could see were shadows.
Then the voice came from the other side of the bars, a voice she had not thought she would ever hear again.