6. Altar

I wanted Matt to walk me down the aisle. He’d been the closest thing I had to a real parent for most of my life, but the other Trylle officials would have had a field day if he did. Marksinna Laurent would probably get me overthrown on the grounds of insanity.

But at least Marksinna Laurent and the other Trylle had no control over whom I allowed in my dressing room. Duncan had been waiting outside my bedroom all morning, shooing anybody away that wasn’t Willa or Matt. Everybody else could wait to see me until I was in the ballroom, with Willa’s father Garrett giving me away.

I’d been ready for hours. After my fight with Finn, I hadn’t really been able to sleep, and the sun hadn’t even risen by the time I got up and started getting ready. Willa had come over early to help me, but I’d learned how to do my hair and makeup on my own. She really only helped button up my wedding gown, and she tried to comfort me, but that was all I needed.

“You’re so pale,” Willa said, almost sadly. “You’re almost as white as your wedding dress.”

She sat next to me on the chest at the foot of my bed. The long satin train of my gown swirled around us, and Willa continuously rearranged it to make sure it wouldn’t get wrinkled or dirty. Her dress was lovely too, but it should be since she picked it out. It was dark emerald with black embellishments.

“Stop fussing over her,” Matt said when Willa once again tried to smooth out my dress. He’d been pacing my room, fiddling with the cufflinks of his suit or pulling at the collar of his shirt.

“I’m not fussing.” Willa gave him the evil eye but left my dress alone. “This is her wedding day. I want her to look perfect.”

“You’re making her nervous.” Matt gestured to me, since I’d been staring off into space.

“If anyone’s making her nervous, it’s you,” she countered. “You’ve been pacing around this room all morning.”

“Sorry.” He stopped moving but didn’t look any less agitated. “My kid sister’s getting married. And it’s a lot sooner than I expected.”  He ruffled his short blond hair again and sighed. “You don’t have to do this, Wendy. You know that, right? If you don’t want to marry him, you don’t have to. I mean, you shouldn’t. You’re too young to make a life decision like this anyway.”

“Matt, she knows,” Willa said. “You’ve only told her that exact same thing a thousand times today.”

“Sorry,” Matt repeated.

“Princess?” Duncan cautiously opened the door and poked his head inside the room. “You asked me to get you at a quarter to one, and it’s a quarter to one now.”

“Thank you, Duncan,” I said.

“Well?” Willa looked at me, smiling. “Are you ready?”

“I think I’m going to throw up,” I told her honestly.

“You won’t throw up. It’s just nerves, and you’ll do fine,” Willa said.

“Maybe it’s not nerves,” Matt said. “Maybe she doesn’t want to go through with this.”

“Matt!” Willa snapped, and she looked back at me. Her brown eyes were warm and concerned. “Wendy, do you want to do this?”

“Yes,” I said firmly and nodded once. “I want to do this.”

“Okay.” She stood up. Smiling, she held her hand out to me. “Let’s get you married then.”

I took her hand, and she squeezed it reassuringly when I got up. Duncan stood by the door, waiting for us, and when I started walking, he came over to gather the train so it wouldn’t drag on the ground.

“Wait,” Matt said. “This is the last moment I’ll have to talk to you before this, so um, I just wanted to say…” He fumbled for a minute and pulled at his sleeve. “There’s so much I wanted to say actually. I’ve watched you grow up so much, Wendy. And you were a brat.” He laughed nervously at that, and I smiled.

“And you’ve blossomed right in front of me,” he said. “You’re strong and smart and compassionate and beautiful. I couldn’t be more proud of the woman you’ve become.”

“Matt.” I wiped quickly at my eyes.

“Matt, don’t make her cry,” Willa said, and she sniffled a little.

“I’m sorry,” Matt said. “I didn’t mean to make you cry, and I know you’ve got to get down there. But I wanted to say that no matter what happens, today, tomorrow, whenever, you’ll always be my little sister, and I’ll always be on your side. I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said and I hugged him.

“That was really sweet,” Willa said when he let me go. She gave him a quick kiss on the lips before ushering me out of the room. “But I wish you’d said that sometime in the past hour when we were doing nothing. Now we really have to book.”

Fortunately, we never wore shoes, so it made it easier to jog down to the ballroom. Before we even reached it, I could hear the music playing. Aurora had a live orchestra playing “Moonlight Sonata,” and I heard the murmurs of the guests accompanying it.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen were lined up outside the doors, waiting to enter until I arrived. Garrett smiled when he saw me. He’d always been kind to me, so I chose him to walk me down the aisle.

“Be gentle with her, Dad,” Willa said as she handed me off to him. “She’s nervous.”

“Don’t worry,” Garrett grinned, looping his arm through mine. “I promise I won’t let you fall or stumble all the way down the aisle.”

“Thank you.” I forced a smiled at him.

One of my bridesmaids had my bouquet of lilies and handed it to me. I felt a bit better gripping onto something, as if it kept me anchored.

As the wedding party walked down to the aisle, I kept swallowing, trying desperately to fight back the overwhelming nerves in my stomach. It was only Tove. There was nothing to be afraid of. He was one of the few people in the world I actually trusted. I could do this. I could marry him.

Willa gave me a small wave before she turned down the aisle. Duncan was behind me, straightening my train out the best he could, but the music hit the crescendo, and it was my turn to go. Duncan stepped back from my dress, and he and Matt gave me encouraging smiles. They didn’t want to sneak into the service now, so they’d have to wait outside the ballroom, watching from the back.

I stepped on the green velvet carpet running down the aisle, littered with white rose petals from a flower girl, and I thought I might faint. It didn’t help that the carpet seemed to go on for miles. The ballroom was packed with people, and they all stood and turned to face me when I entered.

Rhys and Rhiannon were in the very back row, and Rhiannon waved madly when she saw me. I knew many of the people from my work running the palace, but I had so few friends here. Tove stood at the altar, looking almost as nervous as I felt, and that made me feel better somehow. We were both scared, but we were in this together.

Elora sat near the front, the only person in attendance not standing, but she was probably too weak to stand. I was just happy that she’d been able to make it here, and she smiled at me as I walked past. It was a genuine smile, and it pulled at my heart.

I walked the two steps up the altar, away from Garrett, and Tove took my hand. He squeezed it and offered me a subtle smile as I stood next to him. Willa moved around behind me, smoothing out my dress again.

“Hey,” Tove said.

“Hey,” I said.

“You may be seated,” Markis Bain said. On top of being in charge of changeling placement, he was certified to perform Trylle weddings. He stood in front of us, dressed in a white suit, smiling nervously.

The congregation sat down behind us, but I tried not to think of them. I tried not to think about how I had scanned the crowd, but I’d been unable to see Finn in their numbers. His father was here, standing guard near the door, but Finn had probably left again. He had work to do, and I ended things with him.

“Dearly beloved,” Markis Bain said, interrupting my thoughts. “We are gathered here to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony, which is commended to be honorable among all men. Therefore it is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly – but reverently, discreetly, and solemnly.”

He opened his mouth to say more, but a loud banging sound shook the palace. I jumped and looked back at the door, the same way everyone did. Matt was standing just outside the open doors, but Duncan had run down the hall.

“What was that?” Willa asked, echoing the thoughts of everybody in the room.

“Princess!” Duncan yelled, and he appeared in the doorway. “They’re coming for you.”

“What?” I asked.

I tossed my bouquet aside, gathered my skirt, and raced from the altar. Willa called my name, but I ignored her. I’d only made it halfway down the aisle when I heard the gravelly boom of Oren’s voice.

“We’re not coming for anyone,” Oren said. “If this were dirty work, I wouldn’t be here.”

I stopped in the aisle, unsure of what to do next, and Oren stepped into view. Duncan and Matt rushed at him, but the two Vittra guards Oren had with him grabbed them both. As soon as the guards touched Matt, I raised my hand, and using my abilities, I sent them flying backwards. They slammed into the back wall, and I kept my hand up, holding them in place. 

“Impressive, Princess,” Oren smiled.

He clapped his hands at that, the sound muffled by his black leather gloves. His long, dark hair shimmered the way Elora’s once had, but his eyes were black as coal.

I hadn’t meant to leave him standing. I’d wanted to send him falling back, so he could feel the force of what I could do, but he hadn’t. The Vittra were stronger than the Trylle, Oren especially, and Tove had told me that my abilities might be useless on him.

Matt and Duncan stood up, both a bit dazed by the immediacy of my response. Sara, Oren’s wife, stood a bit to his side and behind him. She lowered her eyes and kept still. Both she and Oren wore all black, which was a bit of an odd choice for a wedding.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“What do I want?” Oren laughed and held his arms out to the side. “It’s my only daughter’s wedding.” He took a step forward, and I let the guards go, so they fell to the ground. I wanted to be able to focus all my energy on Oren if need be.

“Stop,” I commanded, holding my hand palm out to him. “If you take another a step, I will send you soaring through the ceiling.”

The ceiling of the ballroom was made entirely of glass, so that wasn’t as remarkable as it sounded, especially since I wasn’t even sure I could do it. I could feel Tove standing a few feet behind me though, and that gave me more confidence.

“Now, Princess.” Oren made a tsk sound. “Is that any way to greet your father?”

“Considering you’ve kidnapped me and tried to kill me, yes, I think this is the only appropriate greeting,” I said.

I never did anything.” Oren put his hands to chest. “But look at me now. I’ve come without an army. Just my wife and two guards to help me travel. Nothing else. I assure you, Princess, I plan to hold to our treaty as long as you do. I will not attack you or any of your people on the Förening grounds. Provided, of course, that you do the same.”

His eyes sparkled at that. He was taunting me. He wanted me to launch an attack, to hurt him, so they could fight back. If I did this, I would start an all-out war between the Vittra and Trylle, and we weren’t ready.

I might be able to defend myself and a few of the people, but all our guards and trackers were gone. If Oren had any other Vittra waiting in the wings outside of Förening, the Trylle would be slaughtered. My wedding would turn into a bloodbath.

“In standing by our treaty, I ask that you leave the grounds,” I said. “This is a private affair, and you were not invited.”

“But I came to give you away,” Oren said, pretending to be hurt. “I travelled all this way just for you.”

“You’re too late,” I said. “And I was never yours in the first place, so you have no right to give me away.”

“So who here has possessed you so much that they have a right to give you away?” Oren asked.

“Oren!” Elora shouted, and everyone in the room turned to look at her. “Leave her alone.” She stood at the other end of the aisle, near the altar, and Garrett stood behind her. I’m sure it was to catch her in case she collapsed, but it looked like he was merely being supportive.

“Ah, my Queen,” Oren smiled wickedly at her. “There you are.”

“You’ve had your fun,” Elora said. “Now be on your way. We’ve tolerated you enough.”

“Look at you,” he chuckled to himself. “You really let yourself go, didn’t you? Now you look like the old hag I always knew you were.”

“Enough!” I snapped at him. “I’ve asked you kindly to leave. I will not ask you again.”

He eyed me up, gauging my sincerity, and I kept my expression as hard as I could. Finally, he shrugged, as if it were nothing to him.

“Suit yourself, Princess,” he said. “But by the looks of your mother, it won’t be much longer until you’re Queen. So I will be seeing you soon.”

He turned to leave, and I lowered my hand, then he stopped.

“One more thing, Princess.” Oren looked back at me. “I believe a piece of my trash has washed up here. He’s been a horrible pain, but he does belong to me, so I would like him returned.”

“I’m certain I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, knowing that I would never turn Loki over to him. I’d seen what he’d done to Loki, and I wouldn’t let that happen again.

“If he should turn up,” Oren said, and I couldn’t tell if he believed me or not, “send him my way.”

“Of course,” I lied.

Oren turned and stalked out, not even waiting for Sara. She gave me an ashamed smile before chasing after him. His guards finally picked themselves up off the floor and hurried to catch up. I heard him say something as they disappeared, but I couldn’t understand him.

Duncan stayed in the doorway, and using my mindspeak I told him to make sure that Oren and Sara were really gone.

Everyone else was looking to me, waiting to see my reaction. I wanted to wilt, to let out a sigh of relief, but I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t let them know how rattled I was, that I’d been terrified that my father would kill us, and I would be unable to do anything to stop him. 

“Sorry about the interruption,” I said, my voice astonishingly even, and I gave all my guests my most polite smile. “But with that over, I believe we have a wedding to get on with.” I turned to Tove, still smiling. “Assuming you’ll still have me.”

“Of course,” he returned my smile.

He held out his arm, and I took it. As we walked back down the aisle, the orchestra began playing “Moonlight Sonata” again.

“How are you holding up?” Tove asked quietly when we climbed the altar stairs.

“Good,” I whispered. “Getting married doesn’t seem all that scary anymore.”

We stood in front of Markis Bain, and I glanced back over my shoulder. Duncan stood in the doorway, and he mouthed the words all clear. I smiled appreciatively at him and turned back to the Markis.

“Shall we start with the vows then?” Markis Bain asked. “Princess, Markis, turn and face each other.”

I turned to Tove, forcing a smile to cover up the pounding of my heart. With a few simple words and exchange of rings, I vowed to take him as my husband until death. We sealed it with a quick kiss, and the guests erupted in applause.