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Ayrie's necklace.png

Above, Ayrie's necklace he's wearing in the wedding. If you'd like to see an Orc, a picture has been added to the previous chapter. 

It's difficult for me to gauge how many are actually reading here. For those of you who are, can you give me an idea of how you think it's going? I am bound to have to go back and make changes--that's just the way of it, particularly since this is fantasy and a little more complicated. Are there certain aspects you enjoy or think I should consider changing? Elements you look forward to or perhaps don't understand and would like clarification on? (Which would mean I should clarify it in the story.) Supportive thoughts and suggestions are welcome. In this scene, I am trying to describe the wedding and having a difficult time of it. If you have any constructive suggestions or thoughts, or have thoughts on the questions above, please leave them in the comments. Otherwise, just letting me know you are here would be great. This is really just an experiment to use reader feedback in my writing process. It might not be worth doing as there is quite a bit of extra work that goes to putting this up.

Chapter Six: Lauden

Wedding Day

Lauden was up before dawn seeing to details of the wedding. His mother was taking care of beautifying the great hall and the foyer through which the guests would arrive, but Lauden had to make sure the courtyard was cleaned, the outside of the palace festooned with banners and greenery, accommodations had been made in the stables for the guests' horses, that the guards knew their places during the ceremony, and a dozen other tasks.

The marriage of a Vampire and a Fae was in itself unprecedented. Add the that it was prophesied to unify the light and the dark realms, and it was the event of the millennia. No one knew what to expect, and everyone wanted to be there, even if it was only to cheer from afar. Although the dim sun was just rising, Marona's servants were already carrying long garlands of flowers and greenery into the castle, the palace chefs were at work creating a feast, and dredges were scrubbing every visible speck of stone and hanging recently cleaned tapestries from the balconies.

Inside the palace, for the past two hours Lauden's father had been shouting curses from his bed that were audible seven floors above in the Great Hall.

"For the sake of the gods!" Marona finally snapped as she swept by Lauden, a train of dredges carrying vases of white lilies trailing behind her, "We can't have the guests hearing that!"

"The music should cover it, my lady," the head servant said with a quick bow.

"And what if it doesn't? Lauden, see if Gugla has a potion that will knock Haver out for the day."

"Yes, Mother." It was a good idea—one Lauden wished he'd thought of himself. He found the mage in his laboratory, looking like a giant black bird bent over his potions.

"Gugla. Father seems to be…agitated." A roar of curses went up from one floor above. "Is there something you can mix that will knock him—er, allow him to sleep peacefully until the festivities are over?" he inquired.

"Yes, my liege," Gugla said with a bow. "I will prepare a potion and administer it to your father with his lunch."

An hour later, as Lauden entered is mother's empty suite, the yelling and cursing below abruptly stopped like a candle that had been snuffed out. Heaving a sigh of relief, he walked to the window and looked out at the flurry of last-minute activity in the courtyard.

Lauden didn't allow himself to wonder what his husband-to-be was doing at that moment. He didn't want to think of the Fae because when he did, he felt…something.

He is a man, he reminded himself. A man!

Lauden took a deep breath and let it out, but the voice in his head wouldn't let up.

I am to lie with a man this night. I am to put my…

"My prince."

Lauden turned to find Seraphina standing in the doorway, already dressed for the wedding in a long, light gray gown. Her dark hair was coiled into a thick bun held in place at the back of her head with ruby-studded combs, and the décolletage of her dress displayed the long, pale column of her neck as well as a good deal of her bosom.

"What is it, Seraphina?" he asked curtly.

"I thought perhaps you would like to feed before your…wedding." She said the last word with difficulty as she delicately ran her fingers down the length of her neck, drawing Lauden's attention to the veins beneath the alabaster skin. Lauden should tell her to go. He really didn't have the time, and he had fed from her only two days ago. But he was tempted. A hit of warm blood would soothe his agitated state, and he needed that.

Flashing his sharp canines, Lauden advanced on Seraphina, enjoying the way she trembled and fell back against the door. Eyes never leaving his prey, he struck like a serpent, biting into the delicate skin and taking great pulls of warm blood, swallowing them greedily.

The taste of blood brought a high like nothing else could to a vampire. The act also frequently made him hard. Seraphina had always been more than happy to help him in that quarter. He had lost his virginity to her directly upon reaching manhood. But he didn't want her at that moment. He didn't even want the feeling of euphoria that her blood gave him. He was after the serene calm that came after, hoping it would help him get through the wedding and coronation.

Lauden soon lost himself in the feeding haze and didn't snap out of it until the first strains of the orchestra tuning their instruments drifted from down the hall. Disengaging his fangs from Seraphina's neck, he stepped back, watching the twin trails of blood trickle down her skin to puddle between her breasts.

"My prince?" she asked, pulling herself up from where she'd sagged against the wall. "I could quickly…"


"That won't be necessary," Lauden said.

Then he turned and strode down the corridor toward his future.

The draught had done as he'd hoped, settling the tension that had steadily mounted since he'd opened his eyes that morning to the realization that this was the day everything would change. He would be crowned king…after he wed the Fae prince.

It's just a wedding, he told himself. A contract. The fact that he would have to fuck Ayrie, perhaps more than once, was just a part of that contract. He could do it. He could. He told himself that over and over on his way to his suite of rooms.

Caspian and Jarvin immediately took charge of the prince, undressing him and bathing him in water scented with rare spices and herbs, washing his hair, and then summoning the tailors—members of the Araneae and, therefore, expert weavers—to bring in the wedding attire. The black bespoke suit with an indigo and green cape fit Lauden perfectly. He wore his blond hair down rather than tied back to symbolize his unmarried state for the ceremony. Later, after he was crowned and before the feast, he would tie it back. Jarvin slipped the tie into the front pocket of Lauden's suit.

As Caspian brushed Lauden's hair to fall in a cascade of gold over the prince's shoulders, Lauden's thoughts went to the recent infiltration of the Orcs. They'd claimed no one had been on watch to stop them when they'd crossed onto the palace property—said they'd been preoccupied with their pursuit of the glowing luminari and hadn't noticed where they were. It was a believable story, since Orcs tended to go savage when in pursuit of prey, losing all rational thought. But the palace guards should have stopped them. Where had they been? The arrival of the Fae and the impending wedding had given Lauden little time to look into the matter, but it would be the first thing he did on the morrow.

"You look magnificent, Master," Caspian said. Jarvin nodded. The trio of tailors, each with multiple sets of eyes, scanned over him, looking for any out-of-place detail or need for alteration.

Once satisfied that all was perfect, the tallest tailor bowed. "You are ready, my liege."

"You did well," Lauden told them and handed each of them a bag of gold coins that Caspian had passed to him. "You may go."

At the prince's dismissal, the three tailors scattered, picking up their sewing kits that they hadn't needed and scampering out of the door.

This is it, Lauden thought as he made his way up his private stairway that led to the upper floor and the door of the Great Hall.

Opening it, he paused and took a deep breath. Even though Lauden was aware that an emissary from every city in the Umbral had been invited to see him marry the Fae prince, he was shocked at the amount of people present. Every inch of space in the large room was taken, and, at that moment, every eye was fixed upon him. Raising his chin, he nodded to the conductor of the orchestra in the balcony. When it began playing a slow march, he slowly strode down the long center aisle to the front of the room where his mother, his lead guard, and his advisor had just positioned themselves. The air was redolent with the scent of the flowers that hung from every ceiling beam, the banisters of the stairs and balcony, and the large arch at the front of the room where he and Ayrie would say their vows, and Lauden knew that every time he smelled a white rose, lily, or gladiola, he would think of this moment.

When Lauden reached his destination and bent to kiss his mother's cheek, the enormity of what was happening crashed over him like a tidal wave. Not only was he about to tie his life to another for eternity, but he was also setting the gears in motion to enter a new era: the Continuum. Would the dark and the light realms truly be able to coexist? It seemed impossible. Up until that moment, Lauden had been concentrating so hard on usurping his father and fulfilling the Prophecy, he hadn't fully considered what life would be like from then on, although his mother had tried to get him to. He was glad for the feeding he'd had from Seraphina, for without its calming effect he would certainly be a wreck now that he was the focus of everyone in the room.

Carefully schooling his features, Lauden turned to face the crowd, A door to his right quietly opened, and the druid who would perform the ceremony walked out, wearing a purple hooded robe, and took their place beside Lauden. The ancient dryad—one of several spirits of the forest—sedately dropped the hood of their cloak, revealing a face darkened by the sun and withered by time. Their eyes were large and luminous, a myriad of the colors found in nature and brimming with life and wisdom. Instead of hair, leafy vines grew from their head, falling well past their shoulders, although Lauden couldn't see how far due to the robe.

Overhead, the orchestra finished playing and the flautist stepped forward. Placing the instrument to her lips, she began to play an ethereal tune that Lauden didn't recognize. In a loud rustle of movement, all eyes turned expectantly to the long staircase. When Lauden followed suit, he saw Ayrie standing at the top, ready descend Before he did, he tilted his head slightly, listening to the music, and from the look on his face, Lauden could see that he was moved by it. Lauden realized then that the tune the flautist was playing must be Fae in origin and that his mother must have chosen it in deference and respect to Ayrie. Not having had the same courtesy paid to her at her wedding or any other time in her marriage, she had made certain that her son-in-law would not suffer the same disrespect.

Slowly, Ayrie began descending the staircase, his guard and his friend following behind him. Arrested by the sight, Lauden's heart beat loudly in his ears, drowning out the melodious strains of the flute. He had been in Ayrie's presence exactly twice, and each time he'd felt as though he never wanted to take his eyes off the man. How someone could be so impossibly beautiful was beyond Lauden's comprehension. Glancing around the room, he saw Ayrie had much the same effect on the crowd.

Dressed entirely in white, in the light of the many candelabras around the room and the huge chandelier over the audience's heads, Ayrie's fine-boned features and fair skin appeared to shimmer with dewy freshness. His pink and inviting mouth with its generous lower lip held a slight smile, and his thick black hair was braided and interwoven with pearls and diamonds that sparkled in the candlelight every time he turned his head. Then there were those delicately curved ears with the slightly pointed tips that gave the Fae prince such a mischievous air and somehow managed to wipe all thought from Lauden's head. All these attributes combined into the most beguiling whole that made Lauden feel off kilter. He knew of no woman who compared to this man in looks, and that just didn't make sense. Lauden's gaze went to Ayrie's amazingly blue eyes and shivered when he found them trained on him.

Cheeks hot, Lauden blinked and adjusted his gaze to the gold necklace hanging around Ayrie's neck. It had a pendant that Lauden realized, as Ayrie reached the floor and walked toward him with regal grace, was an emblazoned sun. Wearing satin pants and a long tunic split from the bottom to just below the crotch, Ayrie cut a slender, androgynous figure, his beauty and magnetism commanding the room as he turned to face the audience, Ote and Lyles moving to the side.

He is breathtaking. The thought was quickly followed by another. He must be using Fae magic to have this effect on me. That must be it.

A frown tugged at his mouth.

"Join hands," the druid instructed. It was said that dryad's could hypnotize with their voices, and at that moment, Lauden believed it. Although he did not like to lose control in any way, he was grateful for the gentle influence the druid's voice had on his frayed nerves.

Clasping hands, Lauden and Ayrie moved so that they were facing the druid.

It felt surreal to be standing there holding another man's hand.

"We gather here in the palace of the royal Belladonna family to unite their prince—soon to be king—in eternal mateship with the prince of the Fae. In so doing, the Great Prophecy shall come to pass. When the realm of the dark meets the realm of the light, the Fae prince and the Vampire prince will join their lives and bodies and create life to herald in a new day, a Continuation of Being, hereto called the Continuum."

As was traditional in a royal wedding of powerful creatures, locks of Lauden's hair and Ayrie's hair, respectively, had been cut and braided with silk from each of their royal banners. They exchanged them now, tying them on each other's wrists as they said their vows.

"I, Prince Lauden, of the Vampire house of Belladonna, take thee, Prince Ayrie, of the Fae house of Zambesi, in mateship for eternity, promising to respect and to care for you until my last breath of life."

Lauden noticed that Ayrie's hands were shaking slightly as he tied the bracelet of his hair around Lauden's wrist. Meeting Lauden's eyes, he repeated his vow.

"I, Prince Ayrie, of the Fae house of Zambesi, take thee, Prince Lauden, of the Vampire house of Belladonna, in mateship for eternity, promising to respect and to care for you until my last breath of life."

Lauden gazed down into Ayrie's eyes as the druid completed the ceremony.

"I now pronounce thee mates, husbands, and the manifestation of the Prophecy that will bring peace and harmony by uniting the Umbral and Ephemeral realms." The druid made a complicated symbol in the air with his hands. "So, it is done."

"So it is done," everyone in the room repeated.

A trumpet blast from the balcony above startled Ayrie, and Lauden couldn't resist wrapping his hand around his mate's again, offering him a brief, reassuring smile before, together, they walked down the aisle and took an immediate left to climb the stairs to the balcony. Only Aswold, Marona, Ote and Lyles, and two men from Lauden's guards followed, as the area was small.

When Lauden and Ayrie stepped out onto the balcony, the druid repeated the pronouncement he'd made in the Great Hall, and a tremendous cheer went up from the crowd waiting below. As the guests who had witnessed the ceremony filed out of the palace and into the courtyard, Aswold handed the druid the royal crown.

A trumpet blasted from out of sight.

Lauden knelt on one knee, and the druid placed the gold crown on his head. "I hereby pronounce thee King Lauden Belladonna, King of the Umbral realm. Long live the king!"

The chant went up in the crowd as people threw their hats in the air along with confetti and flowers. When Lauden glanced at his husband, the Royal Consort, he saw the same two words reflected in Ayrie's eyes that Lauden heard in his own head.

What now?





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