Chapter 1: The Ceremony
“YOU ARE LOOKING GORGEOUS, HONEY.”
I wish I was blind, oblivious to the world.
Then I didn’t have to see this. Looking up, I was met with a girl who has lost the fire in her eyes. She was familiar yet farther from the girl I have always known. Someone was dressing her in a black satin floor length wedding gown. Ironic, considering indeed it was more of a sacrifice rather than a wedding. I didn’t even notice my mother started to murmur again when my eyes turned away from the mirror in front of me to my mother who was crouching beside me. The distant sound of the rain was a soothing feeling in my heart, which gave me the decision to bargain my fate again.
“I am not ready, mother. And I don’t think I am ever going to be.”
Her brow furrowed hearing my whisper. Taking my hands in hers, she made me look at her eyes. “Look at me, hun. I know you’re ready, you can do this. This is your fate, Keira. No one can change fate. Just wait until midnight, you’ll see what I’m talking about. You are going to be the perfect bride this clan has ever seen, OK?” Giving me a weak smile, she handed me some flowers which I had yet to notice in her hands.
My favorite flower.
But now it feels like poison as they look as dark as I feel.
“If being sacrificed called OK then yes. I’m OK! Why? Why me? Why I’ve to marry a man, oh no wait, a dead man who has been lying in a grave for God knows how many years!? A Darkness!” My facade broke as I threw the black lilies from my hand, making all people in the room gasp. I loved white lilies, not black, which reminds me of death.
Unconsciously my eyes turned to the mirror again to see the fire in my eyes has come back. My brown hair was shoulder length which was now in a tight bun with flowers, my brown eyes were coated with black eyeliner and my lips painted red. But my soul is not ready for this bridal sacrifice.
“You have a pure soul. Think it as a gift. You are helping us. No one can find this kind of soul. You are the last one. And for your groom...you know only he can give us the power.” My mother explained smiling tightly. She did not need to tell me how important I was. Ever since I was born, everyone wanted my soul but not me.
“This is why you people gave me shelter? Am I only a stepdaughter for you, who you don’t care about at all? Is that it?" I asked getting up from my seat. I could feel the anger burn my entire being as I glared at my mother’s cold eyes. The clan will always come first for her, not me. Not anyone else. I wanted to scream in frustration.
Why am I the only unfortunate one left?
For a second she hesitated before starting, “Your father did, not me. I love you as my own. I care about you as I would if you were my blood. But, even I can’t save you. It’s a matter of our clan’s safety. And the clan always comes first.”
Huh, like I didn’t know that.
Shaking my shoulder, a tear rolled down her checks while continuing what she was saying before. “We can’t protect ourselves from the other clans if we don’t have the power Darkness has. And as the prophecy says, without your pure soul, Darkness cannot give us his powers. And if the clan does not get the power of immortality and the teachings that have been destroyed...they will kill you anyway. You do know that, right?”
I looked away from her tearful eyes to my own reflection. It is only a matter of time before I will be gone too.
“Then I die.” I finished. My chest tightened to the point that I could hardly see all the chaos and laughter around me. So, this is it for me. That’s how I will take my last breath.
By getting sacrificed.
“Bring her. It’s time.” My father’s voice echoed through the cold haunted cemetery and immediately a chill went through my bones. Thank goodness, that my whole body was supported by my mother as I could feel my knees buckled under my legs at any moment. She took my shaking hands in hers and we all stopped near to a grave.
“It’s time to break her pledge from us, from the Red clan, from our God.” My father spoke taking a knife in his hand. He made a cut on his hand and waited for my confirmation. I was going to die anyway so they wanted to break the connection I had with the clan so that no one will feel hurt by the fact that I was gone. I knew it was a cruel tradition but before our old members died, we always broke their connection so we didn’t have to feel every member’s pain and the cold feeling in our heart.
“Do you, Keira, the daughter of the clan leader, agree to break this pledge to the clan willingly?” Asked my mother, taking a place beside my father.
“Y-Yes,” I answered shuttering.
Nodding my father held the knife up and handed it to me. I wrapped the knife in my hand and made a small cut on my palm. Mixing my blood with my father’s I broke the pledge by chanting the vow.
“In birth, in life, and in death. Now I, Keira, willingly break the pledge to honor and be loyal to my afterlife.”
Just then I could feel emptiness engulfing me meaning the deed was done. After everyone nodded, confirming that the pledge was really broken, my father started in a commanding voice, “Now the prayers. The wedding will be starting soon. Priest, start.”
A man who I knew as the High Priest, came closer to me with a heavy book in his hands. I’ve seen him numerous times in my nineteen years of life, healing our members when they were sick. But today he was going to kill a soul just for some power they thought they all deserved. An unwanted laugh left my lips thinking back to the memories.
Everyone here was hypocrites.
When they talk about protecting each other, they also kill their own for power.
“Do you the clan’s leader’s daughter Keira, take this grave’s owner the strongest, the darkest soul, Darkness, for your lawfully wedded husband?” The priest asked me with a voice which had no emotions. No regret whatsoever. Outside I looked still strong doing whatever they threw at me but inside I was scared to death thinking what will happen when I give them my consent. Looking up to the sky, I was met with the silver rays of the full moon. Taking as much breath as I can, I looked at the scenery in front of me cherishing it and said,
They all cheered.
“Now do you, Darkness, the master of the Night, take Keira to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
Then a low hum followed as everyone started chanting. Even if I knew it was a sacrifice, I did not know how a dead man was supposed to say his wedding vows. Then it clicked. The knife in my father’s hand shone in the night as everything came crushing back.
I remembered the rumors they used to spread about how the pure soul would be handed over to the Darkness. Only this time it wasn’t a rumor but reality. They said that they needed to cut the pure soul’s throat and if her blood mixed into the grave that means his consent of giving his powers.
By that time, I will lose so much blood leading me to the brink of death that it’ll be a miracle if I survived. And not to mention, if they start taking power from my soul, which they will, my survival chance will come down to 1 or 2%. A shiver went through me as they started walking to my side.
“Shh...Just relax and let the process happen.” My father said calmly but his voice was nothing like fatherly, more like a power hungry warlock. He positioned me until I was standing so close to the grave that one small push was enough to make me stumble into the grave. Taking the offended knife, he slowly brought it to my neck. Closing my eyes, I waited for the intense pain to come.
But it never did.
Just when I was about to open my eyes in confusion, a loud buzz filled my ears. Thick red blood drops started making their way to my dress but still, there was no pain. What’s happening?
My confusion didn’t linger much longer as the pain exploded in me, making me scream at the intense pain. My breath came in shallow as I tried to inhale and exhale. Loud chanting filled the air around me making it worse. God, why isn’t it stopping? Like a rain, the blood kept soaking me to the point, my sight blurred, my head heavy like someone threw a heavy weight on my head.
The painful realization that you can no longer breathe was something I did not want to feel. The winds went violent along with the sound of the chanting clan members. In my hazy eyes, I noticed that the entire cemetery has gone dark.
Suddenly I could hear a loud animistic snarl which startled me, making me push whoever was holding me. Immediately someone cried out near me. I didn’t know what happened after that. Several cries filled the airs making me cry out in my pain and theirs. I might not be still connected to them but I could feel the pain and agony in their voices.
It was dreadful like death crawling into your body slowly wishing you were already dead.
I might have dropped on the ground in the middle of the massacre as I felt someone trying to stand me up. From my blurred vision, I saw my mother holding me and saying something. But due to the buzz in my ears, all I heard were whispers.
“Run Keira, run.” This time I heard it in my head.
Just then, I forced my feet to start running. My black satin wedding dress was torn in the process but I did not stop. But after a while, I could feel my energy leaving me, making my eyes close against my will.
Oh, how I wish I was just a human...