The beginning chimes of the wedding song sent a chill up Estra’s spine. She stood before the closed doors of the church, knowing what waited for her inside. She imagined the faces of everyone she had ever known, everyone who lived in the town. Aunt Lila would be crying no doubt, dabbing at her tears with a handkerchief. Her little sister would skip down the aisle behind her, a basket of daisies in her arms. She would sprinkle the petals on the floor behind her.
Currently, Frindel was standing next to her sister, oo-ing and ahh-ing as she examined the beautiful wedding dress. The evening before, Aunt Lila had said to Frindel that soon, she wouldn’t be the only Aunt in the family. It sickened Estra to even think about children with Raxer. She didn’t want anything to do with him, yet here she was a bouquet of daisies in her arms, about to marry the bastard.
Her knees were shaking and her hands trembled. From the inside, two men opened the doors revealing the bride in all her glory. Praying that she did not stumble and fall, Estra took her first steps into the church. The dove feathers on her dress rustled together as she walked. Some fell from it and floated surreally in the air before landing gently upon the white carpet of the church. Frindel was following her sister, scattering daisies and daisy petals everywhere Estra placed her feet.
Estra could feel her heart throbbing in her chest, trying desperately to escape the prison of her ribcage and fly away from its bondage to Raxer. The swell of the music carried her forward, vibrating through her bones as the organ played. There was an acrid taste on her tongue that increased in intensity the closer she came to the podium. Raxer stood there, dressed in a white suit with a white daisy stuck in his lapel. His smile was plastered on. She could see right through his deception.
Estra paused in the middle of the aisle. Everyone’s eyes were fixed upon her now. Aunt Lila frowned and motioned her forward. She shook her head, dropped the bouquet, hitched up her skirts and ran. A flurry of feathers drifted off of her dress, a white cloud. The bouquet of daisies sat lonely in the middle of the aisle, watching Estra run. She pushed open the doors of the church and stumbled down the steps. Someone had been about to enter the church, standing there at the bottom of the stairs. Unaware of the presence of said person, she ran straight into him. Luckily she wasn’t going too fast and they remained upright.
Estra backed away, shocked to see Kin dressed in his tattered military jacket.
Behind her, the doors to the church burst open. Her aunt, dressed in her Sunday best, and Estra’s fiancée stood there in the doorway staring at Kin.
“She’s consorting with the enemy!” Someone cried. The crowd of people that had gathered behind them peered around one another to get a glimpse of the Nox boy who still stood there beside Estra.
Raxer was momentarily stunned to see Kin alive and well instead of dead and stabbed as he’d assumed. He snapped out of it though so he could point an accusing figure at the bride and cry, “Traitor!”
The crowd behind him grew unruly and pushed him aside, moving as one solid mass towards Kin and Estra. The two exchanged glances, held and hands and ran.
Estra held her skirts up with one hand, holding Kin’s hand with the other. They ran through the empty streets of the village, past the hollow glass houses devoid of life.
“Why are you here Kin?” Estra asked him, watching his face for the sign she hoped to see. He glanced over at her, “Because no one should be forced to marry someone they don’t love,”
A dark figure loomed up in front of them. They broke the connection, letting go of one another’s hands to dive out of the way. The figure was a horse and rider, both as black as ink. Estra had fallen to one side of the street, her dress a white pool around her.
“Stealing brides now are we Kin? For shame – you could have just come home if you wanted to have a bride,” The rider was a girl with long black hair, black eyes and a soul just as dark. A sword gleamed at her side in the morning light, the hilt adorned with ebony gemstones.
“Thyla? What in Lumia’s name are you doing here?” Kin snapped, picking himself up off the street. Estra had never seen him so furious.
In the distance she could hear the sounds of the mob from the church coming closer and closer. She could see them now as they rounded the bend, Raxer and Aunt Lila leading the pack.
“Kin,” Estra whispered hoarsely. He turned and looked in the direction she was looking. His face, if possible, became even paler.
“Oh,” He murmured, looking from the mob, to Thyla and back again.
“Don’t worry love, I’ve got this one,” Thyla told Kin, spurring her horse forward towards the crowd.
“No!” Estra cried as the dark knight surged towards her loved ones. She could see Frindel standing there, her mouth a little round ‘o’. Panic swelled in her heart, the wings beating once more against the cage of her ribs.
“Kin, we can’t let her kill them,” She knew what Thyla was like from Kin’s description of her.
“I know,” Kin replied, offering the fallen bride his hand. She took it and he pulled her to her feet. There was a puddle of white feathers left from where she had been sitting.
The crowd paused in its stampede and began to run the other way, away from the black horse and his rider. Thyla drew her sword from its sheath and held it high above her head, screaming at the top of her lungs, “For Nox!” The mob was no longer a mob, but a panicked herd of humans that stumbled over one another in their rush to get away. Estra was fascinated at their behavior, acting as one body instead of individuals. That is, all but little Frindel. She stood stock still, staring at the horse with its wild eyes rolling back in its head. The basket of daisies slipped from her fingers, spilling its contents onto the dirt road.
“Frindel!” Estra screamed, running towards her.
Thyla lowered the sword, directing her mount so she could lop off the little girl’s head. Then time stood as still as Frindel, everything happening in slow motion. Estra couldn’t run fast enough in the wedding dress. It was tripping her up, swathing her legs in the white feathers. Frindel was going to die and there was nothing she could do to stop it. A second black figure lunged forward, grabbing Frindel out of the way.
“Ari!” Kin and Estra cried as one with joy. The assassin ran to them with a scared little girl in his arms. He deposited Frindel at Kin and Estra’s feet and turned to Thyla who had swiveled her mount around to face him.
“Assassin!” Thyla called, “I claim these people’s blood,”
To the surprise of everyone present, Ari began to laugh.
“I claimed their blood long before you did, Thyla!” He drew his dagger from his belt and walked forward.
The scattered group of people behind the dark rider had completely dispersed. Citizens now watched from the glass buildings around them with growing curiosity. They pressed their faces to the windows and walls, watching wide eyed as the assassin approached the rider. Ari flipped his hood back so that the wind whipped his hair back from his face. Thyla dismounted and walked to meet him, her eyes darting every so often to Estra and Kin. The two very different teenagers huddled together, both afraid to see what happened next, yet they could not look away.
Ari and Thyla now stood almost nose to nose with one another, each with a tight grip on their weapons. The people in the glass buildings crowded closer to the walls, jostling one another as they attempted to get a better view of the two Nox.
Thyla dropped her sort. It landed with a heavy thump to the ground. Ari embraced her and planted his lips on hers. They stood there for what seemed like an eternity, making out.
Women shielded their child’s eyes from the blasphemous sight of two Nox kissing.
Kin began to laugh, a nervous-no-longer, relieved laugh. Estra stared at the two cold blooded killers wrapped in a tender embrace.
Not really saying it for Kin’s benefit, seeing as he was doubled up in a fit of laughter, she murmured to the wind, “I definitely did not see that coming,”