Chapter 18.2

‘Your majesties,’ the priest began, inclining his head towards Rowena’s father and stepmother.  ‘My lords, ladies and gentlemen, I humbly welcome you today to this most wonderful occasion, the uniting, not just of two people, but of two cultures.  For many years the countries of Fersere and Madrimar have fought, but now we may see them joined together through the marriage of Crown Princess Rowena of Fersere, and Prince Felipe of Madrimar.’

Rowena switched off as the priest continued the long speech about the sanctity of marriage she had heard at her father’s wedding to her stepmother.  Instead she just allowed her brain to switch off and think of nothing.

When it came to the giving of the rings, Rowena turned to Felipe holding out her hand for him to take, allowing him to slip the gold band onto her finger.

‘Your highness, repeat after me,’ the priest said to Rowena.  ‘Felipe, with this ring I unite our hearts in tenderness and devotion.’

‘Felipe, with this ring I unite our hearts in tenderness and devotion.’

‘I will protect, support, and encourage you through life's joys and sorrows as we create a loving future.

‘I will protect, support, and encourage you through life's joys and sorrows as we create a loving future.

‘From this day forward our lives will be intertwined forever, blessed in faith, filled with compassion, understanding and love.’

‘From this day forward our lives will be intertwined forever, blessed in faith, filled with compassion, understanding and love,’ Rowena echoed, her voice quiet and a little shaky.  Felipe smiled reassuringly at her, telling her she was doing well.   She felt a sudden release of pressure as the priest turned away from her and looked at Felipe.

‘Felipe, do you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife?  In sickness and in health for as long as you both shall live?’

‘I do,’ the Prince replied, his voice strong and confident.

‘Rowena, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?  In sickness and in health for as long as you both shall live?’

This is it, Rowena thought.  There is no going back after I say those two little words.

‘I-’ A crash outside sent everyone’s heads turning towards the back of the cathedral.  There was a lot of shouting and the clash of metal on metal as the guards fought to keep the would-be intruder at bay.

‘Your highness?’  The priest asked, trying to draw the focus back to the wedding.  ‘Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?’

‘Rowena stop!’  The doors crashed open and the congregation turned to see Vincent standing in the archway, his chest heaving up and down.  ‘Everyone, just stop!’  The cathedral, which a few moments ago had been alive with whispered conjectures about what was going on, fell silent.

‘What on earth are you doing Vincent?’  Rowena hissed as he made his way up the aisle towards the couple.  ‘I said you could come to my wedding, but I didn’t give you permission to ruin it.’

‘I’m so sorry my lady,’ he said earnestly, ‘but I think there is something you need to see first, before you say the words that will make you Felipe’s husband.’  He took her hand, leading her back down the aisle.  Felipe, stunned, followed them.

‘What’s going on Rowena?’

‘I have no idea,’ she said, equally bewildered.  ‘This had better be good Vincent or I’ll-‘ Her voice trailed off as she noticed two figures standing outside who she hadn’t noticed before.  They were half cast in shadow from the doorway, but she could clearly see one large figure, standing strong beside a tall, leaner looking figure.  ‘Vincent, what is this?’

‘I couldn’t let you marry Felipe without knowing what really happened.  I wasn’t sure what to do so I helped them get in.  He wanted to see you-‘

‘Vincent, shut up,’ Rowena said, looking ahead to the figure who was emerging from the shadows.  Breath caught in Rowena’s throat and her knees felt like they were about to collapse.  ‘Is this some sort of cruel joke?’  She asked turning first to Vincent then to Felipe.  ‘Did he tell you?’  She asked Felipe.  She looked back at the figure in front of her, disheveled looking, his shirt torn, his hair now hanging down in front of his eyes and his chin covered in hair, but still recognisable.  ‘You can’t be here,’ she breathed.  ‘You’re dead.’

‘I’m sorry for disappointing you,’ the familiar sarcastic voice said, sending shivers down Rowena’s spine.  ‘But if I remember rightly, it was you who ran when all hope seemed lost, which meant you never saw the end of the battle.’

‘I only ran because you told me to,’ Rowena retorted, regaining some of her fire and composure after the shock.  ‘And you didn’t exactly come after me did you?  I could have been dead for all you knew and you did nothing about it.’

‘I tried,’ he insisted.  ‘You have no idea how hard I tried to find you but there was no trace of you anywhere.’  There was utter silence as the pair looked at each other.  ‘I believe I have something that belongs to you,’ he said, gesturing to Hans to give him something.  He handed over a bag, which his master then gave to Rowena.  She took it, looking inside and almost crying with joy when she saw it’s contents.

‘You kept it.’  She reached into the bag, pulling out first her diary, then her mother’s necklace.  ‘You didn’t sell it?’

‘I couldn’t,’ he confessed.  ‘It was something that belonged to you, something that meant a lot.  I would never sell anything like that.’

‘Rowena?’  Felipe said, desperately trying to gain a foot back in the conversation.  ‘Who is this?’

‘I might ask the same of you,’ the intruder replied, pulling himself up to his full height.

‘I am Prince Felipe, and this is my wedding you are disturbing.  I would appreciate it if you could leave and have this conversation with my wife after the ceremony.’  He reached out to take Rowena’s hand and lead her back up to the altar.  ‘Come on Rowena.’

‘I am not your wife yet,’ Rowena said, giving Felipe a deathly stare.  ‘And I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t speak to me like that.’  She turned away from him.

‘I think I have the right to know the name of the man who has ruined what was supposed to be the most perfect day or our lives.’

‘Artem Novak,’ the King of Thieves said, extending his hand cordially towards the Prince.  ‘Very pleased to meet you.’

The End

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