Hours before it all happened, Cassandra had been holding the music box given to her by her mother, listening to the melody. When it stopped playing ,she went and held it up to her mother. "Wind, please."
"Not now, darling. Mommy's in a hurry." Her mother had begun to look at her face in the mirror.
"Are you going to see the castle? Can I come?"
"Absolutely not, Cassandra. You know your place is here."
Her mother rolled her eyes. "Oh, stop with the pouting. It's very unbecoming." The woman then knelt down to her eye level. "Now, Mother needs to rush off for just a teensy-tiny moment, but I won't be gone long. And this cottage isn't gonna clean itself, you know." She laughed derisively.
"Mama?" Cassandra help up the music box.
Her mother groaned. "Must I do everything?" She took the box to wind it up before handing it back to her four-year-old daughter.
"Thank you, Mama."
"Yes, dear." And the door closed, leaving Cassandra alone in the house again as it was many times.
"Guess by now I oughta know my place: Do your humble duty with a smile on your face. Mother knows how much I love her. But she's always doing other things...So I'll keep waiting in the wings."
So here she was doing the simple house chores, sweeping and dusting, finding a small wooden heart she'd made ages ago but had ended up between some of the furniture. Yet she still believed with all her caring little heart that all she had to do was keep waiting before her mother showered her with the love she so craved.
It was now nighttime. Cassandra was still waiting for the hoofbeats that would indicate her mother's return. But tonight she heard something else. A sort of clicking and clacking sounds that were getting closer every second. Then came the sound of a woman's scream of pain.
Cassandra clutched the music box tightly and rushed to the door in fear and alarm. "Mama?!" She could swear that it sounded like her mother's voice.
Just then the door was broken down. Cassandra drops her music box as she's snatched up, and it breaks, representing her world being shattered.
She did not see the soldiers hurrying to her house on horseback. Nor did she see any hide or hair of her mother.
"The Garthim are here too!" One of the soldiers shouted.
At that moment, the Captain looked up and spotted Cassandra being held around the waist by a bird of prey in armor. This one had curly black hair and blue-green eyes that glowered back at the humans before quickly following a larger one in blue armor disappearing into a three wheeled carriage.
"There's another kidnapping in progress!" The Captain of the guards shouted.
Little Cassandra was too shocked to say anything, before she knew what was happening she was carried into the carriage. One of the big ugly birds – the bluish one holding a crying baby in his arm, he looked so angry. The bird lady wasn't smiling either, she only pushed the lever forward that made the carriage move.
"Where are we going?" Cassandra asked. She remembered she wasn't supposed to go out alone. Mama will be so mad.
"To the castle." The bird lady said in a rough voice.
They wouldn't take her home. They rode with her and the baby to a different kind of castle but this one was dark and scary. And inside there was more of the big ugly birds that snapped and pushed her around. When she pleaded for her mother, the big mean one yelled in her face that her mother was dead. Then the ones who took her and the baby turned to the scariest looking one dressed in black. He'd shouted at the armored bird lady, but then they talked for a while before he slammed the shiny stick to the ground and giving one final order.
The bird lady in armor then bowed, before a smiling one in red robes took the baby in his arms that gave the mean angry one a nasty smirk. Then the rough bird lady took a hold of Cassandra's hand. "Come, the Emperor says you can stay, but on one condition."
She didn't say anything just yet, not even as the two large birds walked to a bedroom down a hall. Inside there was another one of the bird things, but this was one had red-brown hair tied back and wore a light purple dress who looked a little sad compared to the others. Their arrival seemed to take her by surprise.
"What is this?"
"You still wanted children, yes?" The smiling one said with a whimper. "Here they are." And he passed the squirming baby into her arms.
"What he said." The rough bird lady added and lightly shoving Cassandra forward.
When they left, the sad bird lady gently held the baby, then looked at Cassandra confusedly. Then, placing the baby carefully in one arm, she patted the four year old's head. "It's alright, little one, you're safe now."
Finally Cassandra let her tears flow freely. "I…I want my mama!" She wailed, throwing her arms around the bird lady's robed legs, who could only hold her close in comfort.
She wasn't their mother, but right now she was the closest thing to one that these two little girls have got.