The day of the wedding came. Navaria rejoiced in welcoming their new queen. Francesca absorbed their adulation. She had never felt stronger. Her companion, Annabelle, had never felt more helpless. Annabelle had never intended for any of it to happen. Francesca just couldn’t be stopped. When she set her mind to something there was no one who could change it and nothing could be done. The blood on her hands would prove that. Now she sank her teeth into the kingdom of Navaria.
The king’s vision of the blind boy had worried her briefly but her arrogance and self assuredness caused her to push it aside, so sure of her own power she was. The little girl had warned Francesca of the curse that would follow her for what she had done but Francesca laughed at the thought. ‘They’ had found her though and it would be Annabelle who would pay a heavy price.
It was a bright afternoon. The sun shone it’s glory upon the kingdom. Only Annabelle seemed to sense the weight of it. Roman seemed anxious. He stared at the empty seat in the front. Annabelle wondered if he was thinking of Natalya. The distance in his eyes disappeared the moment Francesca was by his side. She was radiant in an ivory gown that trailed far along the deep red carpet. Her long black tresses were curled and twisted into a style which highlighted the ethereal beauty of her face.
“She is beautiful,” Roman had muttered to Vasinov.
“One of the most beautiful women I have ever seen,” the king’s cousin agreed. The Count’s eyes rested then on Annabelle who met his gaze with a smile.
Francesca stood before her betrothed. He took her hands in his. Her cold skin matched his warm touch to create a perfect temperature.
“You have given me a life I never would have thought possible,” she told him.
The ceremony was but a show of normality for Francesca. She didn’t believe in any Lords or Ladies above herself but it meant a great deal to Roman and for him she would have given it all.
Roman looked adoringly at his bride but for a moment it wasn’t Francesca looking back at him. It was a monster he had seen in his nightmares with blazing eyes and a mouth full of sharp teeth. He shook it off.
“Are you feeling well enough, Majesty?” The minister interrupted.
Roman gathered himself. “I’m fine,” he insisted. “Please continue.”
The minister obeyed the king’s command and carried on with the vows the royal couple were to make before each other, before their people and before the Lords and Ladies above.
Another vision came to Roman like a hot iron through his skull. He saw the monster again. This time she was seated upon a white horse with red eyes, larger and stronger than any horse he had ever seen. She reared the steed with joy as the village behind her burned. Skulls of men, women and children littered around her feet.
When Roman came to he had Vasinov’s hands on his shoulders to steady him. Annabelle and Francesca were sharing a look of concern.
“I’m fine. It’s just a little headache,” Roman dismissed.
Vasinov stepped back. The minister hesitated for a few moments but when he saw the king had appeared to have recovered himself he carried on.
At the conclusion of the ceremony when Francesca was confirmed as Roman’s wife and Queen of Navaria the visions attacked once more. This time the pain was so severe Roman fell to the ground. Members of the guard, led by Drenisov, surrounded him before either Annabelle or Francesca could help.
Roman’s body convulsed but it had become separated from the mind.
The monster was now accompanied by another. Whilst the one he had seen before was still upon her mighty horse her companion was on foot.
The hair of the companion flamed red. There was a woman on the ground before them, begging for her life. She clutched two babies in her arms. One hadn’t yet seen it’s first month of life. The second, clutched to her mother’s arm and buried her face into her mother’s breast. The companion pulled the youngest child away from the woman. The woman screamed a shrill cry for mercy. The monster on the horse only smiled, baring her sharp teeth in a gaping black hole of a mouth. The woman tried to pull the child back but with a flick of her wrist the she-demon on the horse had thrown her aside with an invisible force.
The companion dropped the baby on the ground. The monster raised her horse and it’s great hoofs came crashing down on the tiny skull. The final cry merged with the echoing screams of the mother.
The companion snatched the other child into her arms. The child was reaching out and calling for her mother. Her words were silent but her fear was deafening. A long finger was brought to the girl’s throat. The nail on the end was razor sharp. The child’s throat was opened. Her crimson life force spilled down the front of her white lace dress.
“It’s better this way.”
The image of the she-demon and her companion blurred. When vision sharpened again Roman could feel an ice cold compress on his forehead. Francesca and Annabelle watched him closely but it was the doctor who attended to him.
In the corner of the room stood the blind boy. The same malevolent smile fixed on his face. Roman learned he was never going to go away so he stopped speaking about him. He stopped trying to convince others of his existence. He accepted the blind boy would be a forever looming presence.
“You had us worried,” Francesca said kissing Roman’s lips which were no longer soft and warm.
“Just a fever, Majesty,” assured the doctor.
But it was more than a fever that plagued the king. He had sealed his marriage to a witch and in doing so sealed the fate of his kingdom.