This story is by S.F. Henne and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
There are do’s and don’t for weddings, even I knew that. DO eat cake. DON’T fall in love with the groom. DON’T eat the guests. DON’T murder the bride.
My mother always said, “Your wedding day will be the happiest day of your life.” And like most of the utter nonsense that tumbled from her lips, I strongly disagreed. I never wanted to get married, yet here I was. “It will be the most memorable day.” Forced to lug around half my body weight in fabric. My organs squished and rearranged by the damned corset. That was a feeling I wouldn’t soon forget. So she had me there.
Anticipation fluttered in my stomach as I walked down the aisle, but not for the man who was waiting at the altar. I trained, schemed and fought to reach this point. This day would determine the rest of my life. If I made it out alive.
A sea of faces undulated out of the corner of my eyes, their stares devouring me, searching for a fault, a flaw. My skin crawled, their gaze branded my flesh. I don’t know how the princess coped with this feeling. Every eye stripping her down to nothing until she was naked before them.
I always controlled every move and expression, schooled so that none would look too close. No eye would linger. I longed for the shadows, to go unseen. How could you feel so utterly alone in a room brimming with people? As if we lived in two separate worlds, close but never touching.
I wondered who was the traitor, and why they would betray their kingdom? Regardless, I wouldn’t let them succeed.
My eyes narrowed as I reached the groom, his features distorted by my veil. I swore there was a flash in his eyes, but I was likely being paranoid – it came with the job – yet something about him unsettled me. Escorting me up the stairs, I stilled as the groom’s gaze dragged over my body, then fixed on my face, scrutinizing every inch.
Interesting, amusement pulled at the corner of my mouth. There was only one person rumored to have such a critical eye that they could see hidden truths. And that person was not my intended groom. I had done everything to avoid him during the negotiations, fearing he would see through my facade. My breath caught as I waited for the moment he saw what I truly was… and yet there was a thrill to be seen, just once. His body stiffened as we kneeled, the only sign he spied my truth. The priest’s purple robes billowing as he lifted his hands above his head.
“May God bless this day as we come together to join Arch-Commander Nythan and Princess Brinnia.”
“Giselle.” The ‘groom’ ground out.
“Tyrus.” I muttered, unable to hide my smirk as he bristled. “That illusion must have cost a fortune.”
“Didn’t fool you.” He said under his breath as the priest droned on, something about endless love and other nonsense. I quirked an eyebrow as he assessed me. “I thought the princess better than ordering her groom assassinated.”
My shoulders shook as I tried to silence the laugh threatening to escape, earning a cutting glare from Tyrus and a distressed look from the priest.
“First, you’re not the groom. Second, after all those tedious hours of negotiation, you think we’d wait until now? If anything, we’d kill him after the marriage was confirmed.” Did I just say that aloud? “Third, I’m not here to kill anyone.”
Should have led with that, idiot. My heart stilled. Tyrus’s shoulders convulsed. It took me a long moment to realize it was with amusement, not rage.
“Point taken. Guess two decoys are better than one.”
A tentative truce. This union would secure a better future for our people and fortify our kingdom. Now we just needed to get through this wedding.
“I object!” The shout cut through the air. I suppressed a sigh. Every head swiveled to take in the pompous noble, but movement in the empty balconies snagged my attention. I’d argued to make it off limits. Too many vantage points. As I readied the miniature crossbow hidden under my sleeves, Tyrus gripped my arm.
“You can’t shoot him.”
A whistle sliced through the air, my words forgotten as Tyrus tackled me to the ground, knocking the breath from my lungs as the crowd gasped. Angry words clogged my throat, the only weapon I could wield right now. But they died before reaching my lips as I spied the still form of the priest, an arrow lodged in his heart. Tyrus had protected me? No, he was protecting the ‘princess’. Who would try to save the life of an assassin?
A keening howl rend the air, the noble who had objected shaking as the unworldly noise ripped from his chest, chilling me to the core. Only to be joined by another, and another, rising up in a chorus.
A curse hissed from my lip as the blood drained from my face. Almost twenty guests howled to the sky while the others shrank away. As the cacophony faded, they clawed at their faces, savagely ripping chunks of flesh away to reveal the mottled grey skin and wicked fangs hidden underneath.
“Demons.” Tyrus spat. I admit, I was impressed. I had not even considered the priest’s blood a threat, but the smell could whip demons into a frenzy.
I might be prepared to die for my princess, but I refused to be demon fodder. Ripping the veil from my hair, I palmed my hidden blade and sliced away my train. Tyrus blinked at me as the Royal Guard surrounded us.
A roar pierced the air, shaking the ground. Shards of glass rained down as I tried to block out the horrendous sound.
“This isn’t an assassination. It’s going to be a massacre.” Tyrus warned as more demons flooded through the shattered windows. Clawing down the holy walls, they began to feast on the guests, which seemed a faux pas at a wedding. “We need to retreat.”
“If I run, I fail my mission and expose what I am. Death is preferable.” My whole life had led to this moment, to prove myself worthy of being the princess’ blade.
“We can still save this union and your identity. If the princess isn’t here the Guard can protect the people.” I hated when logic was used against me. He offered a hand, “I’ll protect you.”
The truth of his words shone in his eyes, calling to a part of me I thought had withered and died long ago. I managed a nod as I took aim at a demon about to pounce.
Unceremoniously throwing me over a shoulder, Tyrus bolted. “Just keep shooting.”
“Easier said than done.” I shouted as every bone in my body rattled with each jarring stride. Thankfully, no one saw how terrible my aim was.
“To what?” The screech of demons drowned out my voice as we flew out the shattered window. For one horrible moment, we sailed through the air. Until I remembered what was below and my scream joined in as we plunged off the cliff.
Slamming into the water it pulled me down into its depths. I frantically clawed, no idea what was up or down. Two hands surged towards me, heaving me towards the surface. Coughing and spluttering, my once immaculate hair now plastered to my face as my dress attempted to tangle my legs, but the firm grip dragged me to the bank.
“Stupid dress.” I hissed. A deep rumbling caught my attention. I swiped my hair from my eyes and I instantly regretted it. While I looked like a drowned rat, the water that clung to Tyrus appeared to glisten in the golden sunshine as he unsuccessfully tried not to laugh at my bedraggled appearance.
“Ass!” I spat as I attempted to stand, only to be thwarted by the heavy fabric.
“We need to move.” The only warning given before he hoisted me up into his arms. Opening my mouth to protest, he cut me off. “It’s this or you lose the dress.”
He was already moving before I could choose, much to my annoyance.
“As you wish, husband.” I said sweetly. His glowering expression brought a smile to my face, then the shock hit me. My eyes widening in horror and I felt him stumble at my expression.
“What?” He growled, picking up speed.
“I didn’t even get any cake!”
I could not help the laugh that bubbled up as he cursed my name. A glowing warmth nestled in my chest, foreign yet intoxicating. Was this what true happiness felt like?
Taking the plunge wasn’t so bad after all. Turned out my ‘wedding day’ was one of the most memorable in our history, breaking all the rules. But it was worth it, as I now had my ‘husband’ at my side. Till death do us part.
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