Baby Steps - Sam and Cady

   
Baby Steps - Sam and Cady

Sam had stayed until the end of the party and long after. Journey never showed. Begrudgingly, she let Shelton drag her back to camp and let sleep take her.

…not again... Sam sighed and trudged slowly through the fog toward her goal. He was waiting out there, and she could sense him though she couldn’t see him. He was waiting expectantly on a rock he couldn’t leave if he wanted to.

Sam’s stomach tightened as the silhouette solidified until Tobias stood clearly in front of her, arms wide. She stopped several feet away, he lowered his arms, and they stared at each other uncomfortably. Finally, she shook her head, “I don’t want to do this today.”

The smile fell off of Tobias’ face; he looked absolutely crushed.

No. Not today. She waved her hand and the entire dream dissolved into light.

Samantha woke feeling less rested than normal. She buried her face in her folded-up cloak which served as a pillow, tried and failed to get back to sleep. It wasn’t long before she went out into the darkness for a late night/early morning swim. The water was cold and the morning air colder, but there was no telling when she’d have the chance again, so she did her best to enjoy it. Hours later she dragged herself wearily up onto the beach, exhausted but relaxed.

The other Helmenites slept late. Sam quietly packed her gear and went to sit on the beach, waiting to see if her sister would actually find her. Her hair was still wet, and a book rested in her lap unread. She watched the waves pensively, opened a pieced of paper, read it, and then folded the paper back up and slipped it back into the book. The process repeated again and again as she pondered what she’d say if Cady did show up.

It was after breakfast by the time Cady left the house she'd been guesting in. The encampment wasn't difficult to find and a few minutes outside of town, her boots carried her there. The other Helmenites were still asleep, so the sorceress skirted the camp so as to not disturb their rest and headed for the beach. Then she saw Sam.

Brushing a lock of hair off her forehead - the wind seemed to insist that it belonged there - and squaring her shoulders, Cady made her way down the beach. "Morning," she offered up a greeting to the paladin.

She should have heard Cady coming – the morning was quiet and the sand made a fwish fwish sound under anyone's feet – but brooding had Sam distracted. She appeared a little startled as she folded up the paper hastily, slipped it into the book, and placed that into her pack which she swung over her shoulders. "Hi there." She only smiled slightly.

Something in Cady's posture told Sam that she was expecting the worst, or perhaps she was only projecting her own feelings. No matter. She loved her sister but she wasn't going to have the conversation any differently just because it was difficult. If she could face down dragons, she could do this. The paladin stepped up to the princess and hugged her tightly. There was always a chance that any embrace could be the last, but it felt more real in that moment, and Sam hung on a little longer than usual. "I wasn't sure you'd come."

Cady squeezed back after a moment, a little surprised at the hug but welcoming it nonetheless. A small smile touched her lips. "I said I would, didn't I?" She let Sam end the hug then nodded along the beach. "Wanna take a walk while we chat?"

Sam started to stroll down the beach, away from town. "You could have just been being polite. Yesterday, you seemed uncomfortable with the idea of talking today, and then after you had your husband come over to rescue you... Well, there is a part of me that was expecting to get some message relaying that you had to leave unexpectedly. Anything is possible of course."

Cady stiffened slightly, but tried to cover it by clasping her hands behind her back and nodding slowly. Braiden's rescue, over the top as it was, could be explained easily enough. "I wasn't prepared to hear a piece of court gossip come out of your mouth."

A small, wry grin touched the corner of her mouth as she glanced over at the paladin. "I told you yesterday how I try to avoid the gossips. That doesn't mean I don't catch wind of whatever little rumors are flying around. One of them is more or less what you said yesterday: the new princess is just passing her time by playing with children." She left off the part about not having any of her own and pushed on. "Braiden reminded me that there are much worse rumors flying about and I should worry about any of them. It just shows me how much more I have to learn about being a public figure."

The sorceress took a breath and let it out slowly, pushing what Braiden had told her out of her mind and focusing on the conversation at hand. "And as for me being uncomfortable, I figured we'd be talking about a somewhat difficult and rather uncomfortable topic." Cady raised an eyebrow and her tiny grin became something sad. "Was I wrong?"

"No, you're not wrong." Sam kept walking slowly but steadily. "I tried to write it for the letter I sent you, but it always comes out wrong. Some things simply have to be said in person, so I've waited. It isn't something that I want to say, but I have to." She shook her head. "Before I go and risk driving you away with that, I would like to say something about the other subject."

"Rumors are nothing. They don't matter and in a year or two they'll matter even less. What does matter is what you do...like last night. I love you. You know that and yet you," Sam couldn't find a better word for it, "you ran away. I know you don't want to hear this or contemplate it in the slightest, but Braiden may not always be there to jump to your aid."

"This respite has been nice, but the end of the age is fast approaching and it is going to be ugly. The people have seen now that you care for them and they'll look to you, but you can't lead a people without infrastructure, which in your case is the court. I'm afraid that you'll end up in a room full of them having to face down those rumors and have nobody to stand on your side when people who actually know something about Katar and royalty hit you with the criticisms closest to your own fears." She swallowed back the personal experience and instead summed the whole experience up with, "It's a terrible place to be and Braiden's not doing you any favors by carrying you away and telling you that there are worse things out there. Teaching you how to respond would be a good start. Giving you responsibilities that they'll respect would be better."

Samantha sighed. "I hope I'm wrong....about everything. I hope everything I've said is just the paranoid rantings of some ignorant Roughlander who doesn't get it. I just worry that you're ignoring what's heading right at you."

Cady nodded a bit until the word "respect" passed Sam's lips. Quickly smothering a flash of indignation, she looked out over the waves. She let the silence hang for a few moments before responding. "I know Braiden won't be there to deflect everything. So far it's been about taking gradual steps to acclimate myself to such a political climate. It was either that or getting tossed directly into the bear pit without a way to defend myself. Not only did Braiden and I think that was a bad idea, his father and sister agreed.

"As far as doing something the nobility respects,"
her words took on something of a chill, "that will never happen. Not unless I completely conform to what they believe I should be, which would mean I'd need to be a mish-mash of twelve different things to make everyone happy." The edge disappeared from Cady's voice as she echoed her husband's words from the day before: "When you worry about being everything for everyone, you wind up being nothing. The nobles will never respect me as one of their own because I’m not." There was no bitterness now, and she was almost proud of that. "I can learn to live with that."

Shaking herself a little, Cady continued. "Whatever the nobility feels for me, the common folk can see I care and that is what I'm focusing on. I haven't forgotten the age is ending. The recovery efforts from the battle might as well be preparations for the end. I saw a need I could fill, so I did." There wasn't a need to rehash her reasons for her 'hobbies', so she shrugged lightly. "People will think what they want about me and my activities, and likely nothing I say will change their minds."

Sam frowned and shook her head thinking that Cady really had missed the point. "There's a lot of middle ground between running away from your sister and being eaten by bears." She broke and chuckled because that was only half true, but that didn't last very long and she continued seriously. "The analogy breaks down in there somewhere, but you don't have to get slaughtered by a pack of angry bears to learn how to handle the situation.

"I wasn't trying to belittle what you're doing. You did that on your own by making it sound so unimportant compared with what Braiden does. So, let's call what you did yesterday a tactical retreat. That's fine when you're dealing with someone who loves you and won't think less of you for it, but do that when it's a court gossip and you only validate them. This isn't an attack Cady. I really am trying to help."

The sea was soothing. The constant movement of the waves, the sight of them crashing together, even the salt breeze was refreshing. Cady focused on that. “I know you are,” she said softly. The thing was, a person couldn’t help unless they understood the situation, and seeing as the sorceress was still trying to get it herself, she wouldn’t be able to help her sister do so.

“I’m sorry you were hurt when Braiden decided he needed to step in and I did nothing to discourage him,” Cady hooked a stray strand of hair behind her ear as she looked at Sam. “I am.” She shook her head a little. “But we’re doing an awful lot of talking about me and I want to hear more about you. You said that Cold Harbor is green and warm, and that the sheriff gave you back you badge. That can’t be everything that’s happened to you in six months.”




 

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