Fantasy, Home

Wedding Bells

Serena marches, much like a soldier, her heels echoing against the stone. She marches like she already has the power this union would grant her. Head held high, eyes sharp and bright, her veiled gaze locked on her soon-to-be husbands back. Her eyes sweep over the assembled, both her kin and his, all gathered for this grand celebration she and her partner had planned.

Serena smiles, a thrum of joy swirling in her breast, pulse rising and falling to the tune of the music that echoed throughout hall. Nothing could ruin this day, this wonderful day she cared not had been brought to life by desperate calls for peace. The Kind of Shade’s marrying a representative of his enemies race, a symbol of unity and peace between two kingdoms that had been at war for nearly four centuries.

Not that any of that mattered to Serena in this moment. She could be marrying a broken peasant and not care, all that mattered was him. This soul she had fallen in love with.

Then Serena saw them. Knights she had trained with, watched over and loved, their hands curled around blades, held in scabbards, uniform. A threat in plain sight. She saw the Assassins she had not too long ago watched from afar in awe, meekly studying their sharp, swift forms, wanting so badly to dance as they did in battle, hidden. Her most dangerous and murderous kin crept close, just barely hidden within the shadows above.

She should have expected it really, her beloved’s people certainly appeared like monsters and villains; mouths full of predators teeth, claws and pointed ears, thick hard skin, large with sharp features, spiked tails, horns. The fact that they called their race Shade’s probably didn’t help. Serena should, and had in fact, expected some resistance to the union, to the promise of peaceful unification. Not the victory she knew plenty desired. Genocide or subjugation of a race long tainted by horror stories and so many centuries of hate was all they craved.

No. Serena thinks, crimson lips curling, a snarl building in her throat. Her gloved fingers curl, nearly crushing the stems of her bouquet. Not on her wedding day. Not when she was so close to lasting peace, to having the happiness she had only ever tasted for the briefest of moments in her youth. Except it would be real this time. It would be permanent.

Serena marches up the steps slowly, her skirt dragging gently behind her, hidden eyes tracking familiar movements. She tries to smooth her face, hidden as it is, as she approaches King Nocturne. He turns to greet her; skin as black as obsidian, eyes a piercing red swimming with gold, his dark crown sharp and heavy upon his brow.

And all that intimidation meant nothing to Serena, to anyone who cared to notice the softening of his edges, the warmth and love in his gaze, the gentleness of his sheathed claws as he swept back her veil. Fangs flash he smiles down at her, a few inches closer than he needs to be.

The soon-to-be queen returns the look easily back, swallowing back her simmering feelings, she passes her bouquet to her sister Talia, standing teary-eyed and beaming with blinding brilliance. If only they could all be as compassionate as Talia, the war would have been over before it had even started.

Serena takes Nocturnes hands, reveling in the warmth, in the gentleness of hands she knew could easily tear her in two, hands she had seen drenched in blood. Serena’s smile widens, recalling the nights she washed that red from him. The taste of his lips the first time he’d kissed her. The taste of his tears as he apologized for a beastly nature he had been born with.

Half- listening to the priest, Serena’s attunes her pointed ears to the background. Serena waits, holding tight to her beloved. After a moment, assured of the Assassins’ hesitance, Serena listens to Nocturnes vows, spoken both in his own rumbling language and her kin’s musical one, and she nearly joins the soft cries falling from many of the assembled. She falls in love with him again, heart near bursting with so much joy.

Forgetting the threat in her moment, Serena takes a breath to begin her own vows, only for her ear to twitch as one Shade guard falls. Screams rise in the air as Nocturne pulls Serena close, shielding her as assassins fall from above, encircling them.

Nocturne growls, flames flickering across his outstretched hand. Those assembled throughout the hall freezes, each side waiting for the other to move.

“Return our Lady, you beast. The Kingdom of Wood will never surrender. And neither will we allow you to defile one of us. Regardless of her own sacrifice.” The assassin leader boasts, stepping towards the couple. Serena blinks, ears dropping as she recognizes the voice.

“Nadia?” Serena whispers, shifting forward, staying her beloved’s hand with a gesture. The assassin rips her mask off, revealing an elder elven woman with dark greying hair.

“Worry not, Serena. You will not have to stay another moment with this monster.” Nadia snarls; an arrow aimed at the King’s chest. The hall holds it’s breath, and Serena feels her chest tighten at the sight.

“Nadia,” Serena breathes, shaking her head, stepping forward, one hand still held firmly in Nocturne’s. “What are you doing? This will jeopardize the peace we’ve long sought after.” Again, Serena shakes her head. “You can’t do this. Stand down, before you make a grave mistake.” She begs.

“But we can, dear. You don’t have to do this, marry this creature for us. We can kill him here, stop this madness. You can come home, and we can present this monsters head to our weak King and Queen in true victory.” With that, Nadia rushes forward, tossing aside her bow she takes up her blade and swings down with a cry.

Clang.

Nadia lands at the bottom of the steps with a gasp. Several of her group rushing to her side as she raises her head, and meets the dark gaze of Serena, Nocturne’s blade shining in her hand.

“What madness is this? Why would you do this?! We can achieve peace without this ridiculous union!” Nadia shouts, reaching out a hand to Serena, staying her assassins.

“You misunderstand.” Serena hisses, stepping away from Nocturne, spinning the blade, once, twice, before raising it’s tip towards Nadia. “I want this peace. I want to marry Nocturne. You will stand down, this is my wedding day, and I will be wed to the man I love!” Serena screams, her voice echoing throughout the hall in the ensuing silence. Chest heaving from her declaration, Serena jerks as a hand curls around her shoulder. She looks over and meets the King’s gaze.

“…You love me? Truly?” Breathes Nocturne, eyes burning into hers.

“Yes.” Serena returns, offering a smile.

Nadia screams, and Serena turns just in time to block the blow of Nadia’s sword. As if that was the signal, fighting breaks out between the elves and Shade’s. But the beasts of Nocturne’s guard are stronger, and without the element of surprise, easily overpower the knights. They never make it to the assassins, the leather-clad elves having fallen like ashes beneath the King’s fiery magic and claws.

For her part, Serena fights with grace, spinning and leaping, she dances with death as she fights back against her former teacher, a woman she had not too long ago trusted with her life, with her sister’s life. A woman who would kill her beloved if she faltered. Serena cries out, rising from her knees and pushing back with a strength and fury she hadn’t known she possessed. And she forgot an important rule in combat; never get angry. Anger makes you sloppy.

In an instant, Nadia sweeps the blade from Serena’s hand, casting it across the stone. Backed against a column, Serena heaves for breath, Nadia’s blade at her throat. They stare each other down, Nadia’s gaze begging Serena to surrender, to take back what she’d said, but Serena’s eyes, dark with fury and horror, offer no apology.

Still, Nadia hesitates, and in that moment, the two notice the silence. Before Nadia can turn, a blade bursts through her chest. The King’s blade, glowing orange and red with his magic. Nadia collapses at Serena’s feet, crimson spilling across the stone. Serena raises her head and finds her beloved’s eyes, burning with fury. Serena leaps over the body and into his arms, taking comfort in the thump of his heart beneath her ear. She sobs, wrapped in Nocturne’s warmth. The scent of smoke nearly washing away the taste of copper in her mouth, the metallic scent creeping across her nose.

“I love you. I love you. I love you –” A hysterical mantra spills from her mouth into his chest as Nocturne carries Serena back to the, somehow still intact, alter. Serena is set gently on her feet, kept aloft by Talia’s hands at her back. Serena sweeps her gaze across the church floor, and weeps anew at the sight of so many fallen forms, both of elf and of Shade.

Hazy with loss and horror, Serena turns to her soon-to-be husband, and takes his massive hands in her own. Talia hovers behind, the rest of the hall silent as a grave. Those who had not fled stand tall, their gazes locked on the two standing at the alter, including the Shade officiant.

“I swear to love you, through the worst and the best moments of our lives. I swear to protect you, to aid you, and to treat you as my equal in all things.” Serena spoke, her small voice loud and certain, even as her form trembled. “I swear to be yours as long as you are mine. To be loyal, to be truthful, and to be that which you can lean upon for support. I will be the best I can be for you and our kin. To stand at your side, to be there for you, and to be loved in return. For that is all that I will ever desire.”

Serena stares into Nocturnes eyes as the officiant takes a silken cloth and ties their hands together. Binding them to one another. The hall rings with silence as the officiant proclaims them wed till death do they part, and names Serena Queen of the Shade.

With the cloth binding them, Serena tugs down her new husband and kisses Nocturne. The remaining members of the hall erupt in cheers, shouting congratulations and praises as Serena losses herself in the heat and smoke of her husband, trying in vain to ignore the iron staining her tongue.

There would be trouble after this, so many tribulations to face before Serena is actually crowned. So many kin to bury, officials to question, but Serena refuses to worry about that now. She forces herself to focus on Nocturne, on the vision of a future they would share — happy and peaceful and filled with burning eyes and clawed hands that would treat her like a treasure.

Serena would have that future, even if she had to carve it out herself, and damned be anyone who threated what is hers.

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