“There, you look absolutely stunning!” Sybil announced after fastening my hair into a braided bun. She finished it off with the hairpin that Dem had given me, and I turned my head just slightly to get a better look at it.
The dress was a light blue ball gown with tiny pearls that gave it a silver glow. When I practiced spinning, the multiple layers fluttered upward like the petals of a flower. My favorite feature was the teardrop shaped rhinestone that rested on the neckline. It sparkled like a tiny star, as if Sybil had plucked it right out of the sky.
“Thank you so much,” I told Sybil. I couldn’t help but spin around once more, it was easy to move around in. I could dance in it all day if not for my feet that still ached from yesterday.
“Do you suppose I could wear slippers during the dance?” I asked.
“I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for you to do that,” Sybil said
I frowned, realizing that it was best to stick to tradition in a house of royals.
I sighed. “Never mind.”
“May I say something?” Sybil asked.
“Certainly, there’s no need to ask,” I said with some surprise.
Sybil first looked around in case anyone was listening and then leaned towards my ear. “If I was the one getting married, I would make sure that heels weren’t allowed. We would all dance barefoot.”
“That would be fun,” I commented. “However, I worry about stepping on something sharp.”
“Oh, right. . .” Sybil twisted her mouth but changed that to smile. “We’ll wear slippers then.”
I smiled too, I could already tell that her wedding would be much better than Lady Faye’s.
Candelabras lined both sides of the aisle and rose petals were scattered across the floor. The chamber was able to hold all five hundred guests who all wore fancy robes and dresses that secured them from the cold. An orchestra was performing on the upper level of the chamber, allowing the lighthearted sounds of oboes, harps and violas to swept the room. Following the orchestra, a choir sung sweet harmonies that rung with passion. When it was time for the ceremony to start, everyone stood up and bowed when King Simon entered.
He wore deep burgundy and gold robes lined with ermine, and wore a crown with a cardinal sitting on top of the centermost pearl. King Simon carried a book under his arm, and a lit candle in the other. He climbed up the stairs of the altar, and replaced one of the vases with the candle.
Prince Adrian arrived next, wearing similar robes but with medals and badges pinned to his chest, as well as a smaller version of the cardinal crown. In one hand, he carried an unlit candle, and in the other carried a silver tiara. Prince Adrian stood on the right side of the altar and set the candle down next to the vase closest to him.
King Simon took his son’s shoulder and exchanged a warm smile. Prince Adrian smiled back, although it was much fainter, as if he was struggling to emit his emotions.
The music climbed to a crescendo and all eyes were back to the aisle. Lady Faye had appeared and she wore a stunning dress embellished with what could be described as a forest of golden branches and leaves sweeping across a white sky. Two handmaidens carried the exceptionally long train that was lined with tiny gems, and when she came to the altar, the handmaidens allowed the train to trail over the aisle. Lady Faye also held an unlit candle, as well as a golden necklace with an owl carved in the center. She stood on the left side of the altar and placed the candle down.
King Simon raised a hand and the music ceased. He opened the book, coughed in his sleeve and spoke: “Gather and rejoice, for this time is a fruitful time where two families unite to become one. Let us begin the ceremony by igniting the candles with the birth of everlasting life.” King Simon lit the candles and continued, “Two lights shine powerfully upon the two families and the two people who are to be wed. Let us rejoice as their lives have now started anew.”
Prince Adrian and Lady Faye picked up the lit candles and passed them to each other.
“May the light shine eternally upon the families and never go out. May love triumph over the inevitable troubles ahead, for no life is perfect. Do remember, however, that even on the coldest of nights, there are always stars to brighten the sky. Do not lose sight of the light, for light is protected by love, trust and everything good that bonds everything together. You are now one, holding each other’s life. Holding each other’s light. Now, it is time to exchange the gifts.”
Prince Adrian first reached over to place the tiara on Lady Faye’s head.
King Simon gestured a hand to Lady Faye and said, “The tiara that once belong to my dearly beloved, Queen Kyra, now rests upon your head. Wear it proudly and cherish it forevermore.”
Lady Faye bowed her head and draped the necklace around Prince Adrian’s neck.
“The necklace that once belong to my dear friend, Lord Caius, now rests upon your breast. Wear it proudly and cherish it forevermore.”
King Simon opened the book again. “You now hold a priceless heirloom upon your body, wear it proudly, cherish it, and be bonded by the ties of family forevermore.” King Simon bowed his head to the couple and continued on, “Be grateful for now you are one with each other, be grateful for now you two share an everlasting bond that shall not break. Cherish your time together for you are now in each other’s company—forevermore.”
King Simon paused to cough into his sleeve and continued, “It is time to culminate the ceremony with a prayer, let us pray for these two, and pray that our families shall continue to live in harmony.”
There was a moment of silence until music started playing again, followed by the same choir. As they sung, the handmaidens returned to pick up Lady Faye’s train and followed her and Prince Adrian around the altar. They circled around a couple of times before stopping at the foot of the altar and exchanging a simple kiss.
The choir continued to sing as the couple now descended the stairs and walked down the aisle. We all stood up and watched them go, and when they had left, the choir died down and so did the orchestra.
The reception was in the ballroom where we were all seated at a table that circled the chamber. I sat near the back with Dem next to me. He was also wearing blue which was a sheer coincidence, but the color was darker with hints of green. A pendant with a cardinal was draped around his neck, and his hair was pulled back in a long braid with beads tangled in the threads holding the hair together.
The newlyweds sat a couple of seats from us. Lady Faye had this smug look that practically ruined the beauty of the tiara sitting on her head. I wondered how Dem’s mother would’ve felt knowing who the new owner of her tiara was. On that thought, I wondered what kind of mother she was? King Simon never mentioned her, he always mentioned my grandmother.
“Thank you all for joining us for this lovely event,” Lady Faye stated, rising to her feet. “I am privileged that you could all be here on this special day. Let us celebrate with a dance arranged by yours truly.” Lady Faye placed a hand over her heart and smiled proudly. Prince Adrian kept up appearances as he smiled as well and the two came to the center of the ballroom. The orchestra played the couple a slow waltz as they spun about. Soon, several of the immediate family members—including Dem and I—walked onto the floor and joined in.
“Are your feet still hurting?” Dem asked me as we got into position.
“A little, but I’ll manage,” I said.
“I see,” Dem said, “well keep in mind that dinner is right afterwards.”
“I look forward to that.”
Dem smiled and together and we danced alongside everyone else. During the dance, I caught a glimpse of King Simon leaving the room with the aid of a servant. After a few minutes, the servant came back, but King Simon didn’t. The servant eyed Prince Adrian and it was evident he wanted to talk to him, but couldn’t as we were still in the middle of the dance. Dem had also watched what happened and frowned slightly.
“Do you suppose something’s wrong?” I asked.
“Father must’ve needed a break, Dem said. “If it was serious, Adrian would’ve been notified immediately.”
“Oh. . .”
When the dance was over and I tried to ignore the aching of my feet, we returned to our seats. King Simon still didn’t return.
The servant finally made his way to Prince Adrian’s side and whispered something in his ear. Prince Adrian nodded with a look of understanding and stood up, clinking his glass to get everyone’s attention.
“My sincere apologizes, I’ve just gotten word that my father retired to his chambers for tonight. He wanted me to let you all know and to not be alarmed due to his absence. He also wishes for you all to enjoy the rest of the evening.”
I sighed and turned to Dem who brought up a small smile in relief. Though, it was ashamed that the king couldn’t be in our company for the rest of the evening. At least he took part in the ceremony, that’s probably what he wanted the most.
“Are you enjoying the wedding?” Dem asked me, cutting me from my thoughts.
“Yes, it’s very lovely,” I said, “I’m grateful that my feet didn’t break off during the dance.”
“I’m grateful too.”
“Are you enjoying the wedding?” I asked.
“It’s alright,” Dem said bluntly. “To be honest I don’t favor huge, glamorous parties all too much. They’re too noisy and there’s too much commotion going on. I prefer smaller gatherings with the closest people you know rather than inviting the whole world.”
“I guess that means you don’t want a wedding of your own,” I joked.
“No, I’d like a wedding,” Dem said, “but it’ll be more private. Fortunately, I’m not the crown prince so I don’t have to worry about putting on a huge show for everyone.” Dem smirked towards Prince Adrian’s direction and his brother caught the smirk but gave him a questionable expression. Prince Adrian decided to ignore it and focused on the food that was now being served to us.
“I suppose a private wedding would be nice,” I said with thought, but it was too early to think of that. Although, it didn’t hurt to have thoughts about the future every once in a while.
Dinner came and went and it was time for dessert. A servant rolled in the cake and Prince Adrian and Lady Faye stood up to cut the cake. A chill ran up my spine when Lady Faye picked up the knife.
“You cut first, dear,” Lady Faye insisted in an oddly sweet tone, handing the knife to her new husband.
Prince Adrian cut the first slice and handed the knife back to Lady Faye. I didn’t like the way she handled it, she gripped it offensively and sliced off a perfect sliver that slid flawlessly onto a plate. I know I shouldn’t have been so ridged about Lady Faye cutting a cake of all things, but I was worried she was going to do something more with the knife.
Lady Faye took the first bite of the cake and smiled. “Delicious! Here, dear,” She gave Prince Adrian a piece and he smiled slightly.
“Yes, it’s good,” Prince Adrian agreed.
“I’m so happy it turned out so perfectly,” his wife commented.
The two then sat down and the servants finished cutting the cake into dozens and dozens of pieces before handing them out. While enjoying my own slice, I spotted Lady Faye and Prince Adrian talking amongst themselves. I couldn’t hear what they were saying through all the commotion and chewing from the guests, but Lady Faye rose from her seat, kissed Prince Adrian’s cheek and left the ballroom.
I frowned slightly. Where was she going?
“Is something wrong?” Dem asked.
“It’s nothing,” I said bluntly, she’s probably going to the restroom.
“Mmm.” Dem faced the center of the ballroom where the younger cousins were chasing one another and the orchestra played along to their frolicking.
“It’s getting nosier here,” Dem noted. “Would you like to go somewhere quieter?”
“Sorry I can’t hear you, it’s too loud,” I joked.
“I’d like to go somewhere a little quieter,” Dem repeated, gesturing to the door. “Would you care to join me?”
“Certainly,” I said and followed him out of the ballroom.
We wandered down an empty hallway and the sounds of the ballroom vanished as we walked further and further away. Dem took me up a spiral staircases and into a spacious room with a domed ceiling. Bookshelves lined every inch of the walls and maps were piled up on top of a writing desk. The floor was dressed in carpet and in the center was a star shaped object floating above a pedestal.
“This is the astronomy tower,” Dem said. “I usually go up here to study the stars. And this—” Dem approached the object, “—is what’s used to see them.”
Dem touched the object and it started to spin rapidly. While it spun, the dome split open, revealing hundreds upon hundreds of stars sweeping the evening sky in a great ocean of crystals. A shooting star soared overhead and I stood there in wonder, not wanting to look away as I became lost in the incredible sight before me.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Dem asked.
“Yes,” I breathed, though I finally became aware of the cold and shivered, but then I felt a sudden warmth when Dem draped his robe around my shoulders.
“I’m sorry, we won’t be up here long,” Dem said.
“Aren’t you cold too?”
“I’m used to it,” Dem said with a shrug. He sat on the floor, resting his arms over his knees and gestured for me to sit with him. I did so and together we watched shooting stars passing by. I huddled the robe close to my body, and since Dem was taller than me, the robe was much too big, like a giant wool blanket.
“Are you comfortable?” Dem asked.
“Yes, thank you.”
“I’m sorry if this is sudden,” Dem said, “bringing you up here. . .I felt like you would like it.”
“I do like it, greatly so,” I remarked. “To be honest, I wanted to take a break from the commotion. I love parties, but some fresh air was much needed.”
“I’m glad to hear,” Dem said. “Ah, we should’ve brought some tea and warm biscuits up here.”
“That would be nice.”
“Would you like to sneak back to the ballroom and take some snacks up here?” Dem suggested with a smirk.
“I suppose. . .” I mused, “but wouldn’t Lady Faye be displeased if she catches us?”
“Eh, what would she do?” Dem asked. “Throw the prince and his friend in the dungeon for taking some snacks?” Dem let out a laugh while I let out a nervous one. I turned back to the stars. I didn’t really want to think about Lady Faye or anything else right now, I only wanted to sit here and enjoy the view.
“Why don’t we stay here for a little while longer?” I suggested. “I don’t want to go back down, not yet.”
“Of course,” Dem agreed, “Next time we decide to come here, we’ll bring snacks beforehand so we don’t have to go back and forth.”
“Alright.” I smiled and lay back on the carpeted floor with the robe comfortably wrapped around me. Dem decided to lay down as well with his arms resting on his stomach and fingers tangled together. I couldn’t help but catch a glimpse of his hazel eyes that stared up at the starry night. Some stars got trapped in his gaze and his face remained motionless, making me wonder what he could be thinking about. I was curious to find out, but decided to turn away before he caught me staring at him.
This was nice. . . laying here beneath the stars. . .if Sophie was here, she wouldn’t have been still, she would frolic about and talk nonstop about how wondrous it all was. It truly was wonderful.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Dem asked.
“Hmm? Oh.” I became aware that tears were trailing down my cheeks without my knowledge and I quickly wiped them off. “I was thinking about Sophie. . .she would love being here—being in this world. She would love it.”
“I’m sure she would.”
We exchanged smiles and continued to watch the stars, however, it was short lived.
“I had a feeling you two would be up here.” Prince Adrian stood behind us with crossed arms and displeasure apparent in his stature. “You do realize that it’s rude to leave a party prematurely unless you have a good reason, especially when you consider that it’s my wedding.”
“Please, like you really care,” Dem said as he stood up. “Suzette and I were simply tired of the noise and needed a break, that’s all. Besides, your bride left early too, did she not?”
“She went to the restroom.”
“And is she back?”
“No, and it’s none of your business if she had or hadn’t,” Prince Adrian said firmly. “With that said, I advise that you two get back down to the ballroom. Now.”
“Alright.” Dem held up his hands defensively and started for the door.
“Oh, Dem.” I handed him back his robe. “Thank you again.”
“No problem,” Dem said with another one of his warm smiles.
“Let’s go, love birds,” Prince Adrian prompted, but before we took another step, there was a sharp crackling sound and a flash of light rushed to us in the blink of an eye. When we looked up, clouds had obscured the sky, extinguishing all traces of the stars. A crackle of light flashed across the looming clouds and rain showered into the dome. Dem pulled me aside to the doorway while Prince Adrian hurried to touch the star object and shut the ceiling.
“This isn’t good,” Prince Adrian muttered and made his way out the door and down the spiral staircase.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, following the princes down the stairs but they were just as confused and worried as I was. We paced down a hallway decorated with suits of armor while the thunder continued to crackle. Rain beat at the windows like a collision of drums and the windows shook from the impact.
“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” Prince Adrian cursed, he turned a corner and headed up another flight of stairs that lead to the bedchambers. We finally stopped at a door that was guarded by two suits of armor. They carried swords in their folded hands and their faceless helmets stared down at us.
“Father?” Prince Adrian asked. He reached for the door, but the doorknob turned and was opened fully, revealing the partially shadowed figure of Lady Faye. The candlelight in the halls caught onto her powdered face and rouge cheeks, and fell onto her ruby lips that twisted to a pout.
“It’s rude to wake up your father, he’s extraordinarily tired.” Lady Faye remarked. She had her hands behind her back and she leaned away from us as if she was hiding something.
“What the hell were you doing in there?” Prince Adrian demanded.
“I simply wanted to check in on my father-in-law, is that bad?” Lady Faye inquired, tilting her head in an innocent way. Prince Adrian disregarded the sweet tone of his bride and snatched her hidden wrist, lifting it towards the candlelight.
King Simon’s ring was perched on her middle finger, but it wasn’t the icy blue as it usually was. Instead, it was gray and hazy like a densely thick fog was trapped inside. I had never seen so much fear and anger scorching in someone’s eyes before.
“I’m simply borrowing it!” Lady Faye exclaimed, pulling her hand from Prince Adrian’s hold. “It’s my wedding, I can do whatever I please.”
“You don’t have the right to carry the ring, give it back,” Prince Adrian snapped.
“It’ll only be a few minutes,” Lady Faye cooed, still trying to be innocent. “Please, my darling—”
“If you care about our wedding so much then you would be worried about the storm outside!” Prince Adrian threw a finger at the window where the rain prolonged its battering upon the glass.
Lady Faye frowned. “We’re not outside, dear. Come now, let’s get back to the ballroom and enjoy the party.” But Lady Faye couldn’t take one step forward as Prince Adrian took her wrist again.
“Do you think this is a joke?” Prince Adrian asked.
“Dear, I really don’t want to have our first argument on our wedding night,” Lady Faye excused.
“Take off the ring and we won’t have an argument.”
Lady Faye groaned but breathed in to calm her nerves. She reached to take off the ring and just as she was sliding it off, there was a loud crash!
Glass exploded from the window and showered upon us. I shielded my head and we darted down the hall but the windows were breaking at every corner and we were left with scratches and cuts. When we came to the landing, Prince Adrian snatched Lady Faye’s hand again, but stared at it in horror when the ring wasn’t there.
Dem’s mouth also dropped in disbelief. “Wh—where’s the ring?”
“I—I must’ve dropped it,” Lady Faye said.
“Dropped it!?” Prince Adrian exclaimed, and at that outburst, screaming winds burst through the broken windows and extinguished the candles, drenching us in darkness saved for the quick flashes of lightening.
“Damn it!” Prince Adrian cursed. “Demetri, take Faye and Suzette back to the ballroom. I’m going to find the ring. Don’t let anyone leave.”
“Right.” Dem suddenly took my hand and led Lady Faye and I in the opposite direction. We allowed the quick flashes of lightning to be our guide as we hurried.
“We’re almost there!” Dem exclaimed but his voice trembled with fear. The rain continued to pour and thunder crackled louder and louder and for a few moments, I couldn’t see anything. It was pitch black and suddenly, I was ripped away from Dem’s touch. I couldn’t call out and I heard a sharp thud!
“Dem?” I finally mustered.
Another flash of lightning illuminated the hall and for that brief second I saw a glint of silver coming in my direction. I moved to the side and got myself backed into a wall. Once more, a flash of lightning struck and the silver glint flashed before me. I slid to my right and heard something strike the wall merely a few inches from me. There was another flash, and my eyes swerved over to see a dagger hinged into the wall.
“I only wanted a nice wedding without any interferences,” Lady Faye’s voice rattled with anger. Her shadowed hand ripped the dagger from the wall. “I warned you, princess. I clearly warned you not to get in my way!”
I unconsciously held up my hand and there was another flash of light, but it wasn’t from the lightning. Instead, a gold spark erupted from the darkness and knocked Lady Faye away. The spark materialized into my sword that glowed in the dark. The light streamed onto Lady Faye who hastily fixed up her hair. She stood by a suit of armor and right behind was a window where the endless strands of rain slid down.
“I don’t know what the hell happened,” Lady Faye said in a huff, catching her breath. “But if you think that you can fight me, you’re gravely mistaken.” Lady Faye snatched the sword that the armor once possessed and aimed it at my direction.
“Milady, we don’t have to do this,” I begged. “Please, I’ve never meant to anger you, but you shouldn’t have taken the ring. Don’t you care about the wellbeing of your family? They might get hurt because of what you’ve done.”
“I’ve done nothing!” Lady Faye dashed forward and I blocked the attack. I nearly lost balance from the impact and it didn’t help that my feet were straining from the heels. She kept throwing attacks while I was miraculously able to dodge and block, but my feet felt like they were on fire. I couldn’t move well and when she prepared for another blow, I jumped back but almost fell. I caught a pedestal for support but then knocked it over between us, giving me time to dash off.
As I ran I was able to slip out of my heels and left them abandoned. My bare feet ached against the carpet but I kept running and running before turning into a piano room, but I had entered a dead end. Behind me were windows that gave view of the pure darkness outside. The room glowed a deep reddish-orange from the rustic chandelier hanging over the piano, and I watched quietly as Lady Faye entered. The rain continued to pour and beat against the glass.
Lady Faye wasted no more time for exchanges and came running in my direction again. I countered the attack and we fought around the piano. Lady Faye kept striking first at an incredible speed and I could only keep blocking, barely given any time to counter back. Soon my arms were aching and I had the impulse to drop the sword but my hands were attached to it as if the sword was an extension of myself.
After dodging another hit, I somehow found the strength to strike the sword pass Lady Faye’s and slashed her cheek, leaving a deep cut where blood immediately fell. For just a second, a moment of triumph ignited, but then fear washed over me when Lady Faye’s dark green eyes widened with fury and she knocked me back into the piano. I slid to the floor but used the piano’s bench as a support.
Lady Faye touched her cheek and examined the blood on her fingertips. “That’s the first time anyone has ever injured me, and for this to occur on my wedding day. . .unbelievable.”
I rose to my feet but my knees were shaking beneath me. “If you don’t want this to happen, we should end this.”
Lady Faye flicked the blood off and scoffed. “I’ll end it alright—with you out of the way.” She charged again, but wasn’t able to strike because something spiraled quickly between us and struck the wall. It was an arrow.
“Stop right there!”
Sir Jarrick stood at the doorway wielding a crossbow. Behind him was Dem who staggered in, holding an injured arm. I wanted to run to him but Lady Faye had her sword right at my neck.
“What the hell is the meaning of this, Lady Faye?” Sir Jarrick barked.
Lady Faye grimaced. “This is a personal matter, my good sir. As your future queen, I command you to lay down your weapon.”
“I don’t take orders from anyone who threatens to spill blood in my Lord’s halls,” Sir Jarrick stated firmly, “not even the future queen.” Sir Jarrick loaded up another bow and aimed it at Lady Faye. “Step away from Lady Suzette and no one will get hurt.”
The bride straightened her back and inhaled sharply. “I don’t like it when people get in my way!”
The next thing I knew, a sharp pressure swelled into my abdomen, followed by an unwanted warmth that seeped through. I could only let out a hitched gasp as all other sounds had escaped me entirely. It was only when I saw blood, the pressure burst into a scorching pain, like fire eating away at my skin.
I heard Dem shout, but it sounded distant and I was more focused on the window where I heard glass clash within the mixture of yells. Lady Faye’s silhouette disappeared into the night, along with the rain. Stars peeked from the clouds, flickering one by one until the sky was filled with them. It was so beautiful, I wanted to see them more but the ceiling was flying past me as I fell, but I didn’t hit the ground. Instead, I was met with Dem’s shocked, hazel eyes.
He said what I imagined were assuring words to me, but I could barely register them. I could only stare into those clear pools of blues and greens. Combined with the dimmed lighting in the room, his eyes reminded me of dawn. It made me wonder when morning would arrive and if I would be able to see it again. But more importantly, would I be able to see Sophie and grandma again? I felt Dem curl his hand around mine. It was so warm compared to my own. I attempted to squeeze his hand for comfort but all strength had left me.