Dana awoke in a haze. As she began to stir, she could feel her body aching. Her head felt heavy and her eyes felt like they might burst. As she tried to open her eyes, the world around her was a blur. A light hit her eyes, feeling like a hot iron jabbed in her iris. She let out a soft whimper and shut her eyes as tight as she could. Her ears suddenly began to ring, a soft mumble creating a strange rhythm to the sharp ringing. She ground her teeth and tried to cover her ears, but the effort of moving her arms was both difficult in itself and painful.
She let out another soft whimper as tears began to roll down her cheeks. Through the ringing in her ears, she could just make out familiar voices around her.
“…Almost killed her!” Joe shouted surprising Dana greatly. Joe rarely rose his voice to anyone.
“Mr. Epps, please. I know you’re concerned,” Spoke Dr. Isidore Vlach before Joe cut him off.
“No! You don’t know! You don’t have a damn clue! My daughter almost died ’cause of you.” Joe’s voice shook with anger.
“But she didn’t die,” Spoke Colin calmly. “She’s strong. She’ll recover quickly.”
Dana heard Joe take a deep breath to calm himself. “You should postpone the weddin’,”
“That won’t be necessary.” Colin interrupted. “She will recover enough by tomorrow.”
“You can’t seriously expect,” Joe tried to get a word in.
“I can and I do. Now please excuse me, I must get everything ready.” Dana could hear Colin’s boots as he turned and left the room.
“He’s right Mr. Epps, she will recover very quickly, you have nothing to fear.” Dr. Isidore Vlach tried to reassure Joe in his thick accent. After a moment, she heard Vlach walk out of the room, leaving Joe alone with Dana.
Joe stood stunned for a long moment at the coldness of his adopted daughter’s near demise. Joe had felt the mansion shake when the explosion occurred. No one had been able to fully explain to him what happened. However, when everything around him shook like in an earthquake, he knew something terrible had happened. Joe had ran to the lower levels faster than he had in years. Unfortunately, he arrived only to find himself barred from entering the room where they took Dana.
He could hear the panic behind the door. The chaos was potent, making even the men guarding the doors anxious. When the door finally opened to him, he watched as Dana was being brought out of the dark room on a stretcher. The room itself was destroyed. Men were struggling to put out a fire; the lights from the ceiling were hanging by the cords, sparks falling like scorching snow.
As Dana was carried out of the room, Joe saw how pale she was, so void of color her skin was ashen and gray. He was certain she had died in that awful place. He wasn’t even allowed to follow at first, the guards held him in place while the doctor, Colin, and an older woman with a bad cut on her brow was walking with Dana’s body at a frantic pace. When they were out of sight, the guards finally let Joe go.
He followed as fast as he could, the adrenaline keeping him going when he would normally be exhausted by this much movement in one burst. He followed them all the way to her room where they had placed her in her bed. Joe was relieved to see color return to her face, her breath shallow, but steady as she lay still.
Joe had never lost his temper like he did at that moment, not even when Abigail died. He was so angry but also terrified at the thought of losing his child. The helplessness was the worst of it. He wanted to help her, to protect her. He also wanted to punch the smug smile off the bastard, Colin, who acted as if nothing had gone wrong. He wanted to take Dana home and keep her safe from these monsters.
However, there was nothing he could do.
Joe turned and saw Dana struggling to move in her bed. He ran to her side and grabbed her hand. “Sweet child, don’t move. You need to rest.”
Dana squeezed his hand as hard as she could but was still so weak. “Papa, what happened?” She croaked.
Joe kissed Dana’s hand and wiped the tears from his eyes on his arm. He told her everything he knew after the explosion, but he could not tell her where the explosion came from.
Dana forced her eyes open, still blurry and bloodshot. “It…came from me.” She spoke slowly, trying to swallow. “They did something… Something inside me… Made me stronger… Something dark,” Dana coughed and let out a groan.
Joe stroked her hair -which looked ashier gray now- and kissed her forehead. “Shh, sweet child. You need to rest. That monster expects you to attend the wedding tomorrow without incident. I think we made a mistake bringing you here.”
Dana squeezed Joe’s hand with a little more strength in her grip. “I know.” She let out a long sigh. “We can’t turn back now.”
Joe looked at their hands and nodded, feeling defeated. “I know. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. It was my choice.” Dana forced a smile.
Joe nodded again and stood. “We need to rest. We just have to get through another day. The hard part should be over.”
Dana had mostly recovered by the morning. While she was able to move like normal, she still felt like her head was spinning off-kilter. From time to time she would have to sit down and rest, waiting for the waves of dizziness to pass.
As strangers entered her room to dress her, doing her makeup and hair, she grew weary of the attention bestowed upon her. Her now ash blonde hair was placed in a loose bun at the back of her neck with ringlet curls around her face to frame her oval face shape. Her face was dabbed with a pale powder followed by rouge at her cheeks. A bright red lipstick drew the eye to her soft lips, and a black flare was drawn on the top lid of her eye to make her lashes seem thicker.
She was given pearl earrings and a matching necklace, her veil dotted with smaller pearls to match. A perfect set. The dress was sheer white, with a V-neck line just reaching her cleavage. The tight sleeves reached her hand, where she slipped her middle finger into a small knot at the end, the trim of the sleeve over her hand dotted with tiny pearls.
Dana examined herself in the full-length mirror brought in for her. The shining white of the dress made her look like she was glowing. Her large breasts and wider hips were flattered with the narrow waist pulled taut by a corset. The corset also helped to keep her bosom in place. A stunning accentuation to her already hourglass figure. As she ran her delicate hands over the smooth fabric of the dress, she could not help but smile.
From the reflection of the mirror, Dana smiled at Joe who smiled back, eyes watery and red-rimmed. Dana twirled around like a dancer and grinned. “How do I look, Papa?”
Joe’s gentle voice cracked. “Beautiful, sweet child.”
Dana could feel the warmth, love, and fear coming off Joe like steam. With tears in her eyes, she gracefully moved to Joe’s side and wrapped her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder. Joe wrapped his arms around Dana and squeezed tight.
“I know you’re scared. So am I.” Dana whispered.
“I just wish I could save you from this. You deserve love and kindness.” Joe let the tears roll down his face.
“Maybe there will be, someday. No one can be truly all bad, right?” Dana smiled, trying to reassure Joe, and in a way, herself.
They were only able to offer each other comfort for a short time before a strange woman poked her head into Dana’s room to tell them it was time to head to the grand hall. The walk to the hall seemed to take hours as they walked in silence before coming to a set of rosewood double doors that stood open to a massive hall.
The enormous room had two floors. The first floor was for the guests who consisted of Dana and Joe’s small family filling the first few pews at the head of the huge gathering of people. Largely, the mass of people attending consisted of politicians and the richest men and women of the world. This was a grand and historic event, and no one was willing to miss the spectacle. The first floor was filled with pews and not a seat was empty.
Statues and taxidermy beasts watched on from the walls of the first floor. Sculptures of high-ranking men from the days of the Great War of the Mystics, generals, scientists, war heroes, and even one of Colin in his stone-carved dragon scale armor and massive spiked mace at his side.
Between each statue stood a beautifully preserved creature, looking so lifelike, even in their infinite stillness. A black-feathered griffin lashed out at the air in a frozen rage, its long talons shining like obsidian daggers. A naga warrior posed upright with a long spear in her very human-looking hand, the spear’s head made of simple stone. Her oxidized copper armor covered her upper body and arms. Her scales were a shimmering orange and black in the faint light. Her serpent face was still and serene, forever vigil.
Smaller beasts like wyverns and owlcats were perched on carved wooden stands, snarling at the crowd. A white warg stood beside a black wolf, showing the true size difference in the animals. If not for the size, one would easily mistake one for the other, until you saw the paws on the warg. Its toes looked like long human fingers with long black claws. Even its tail was shorter than the wolf at its side. Dana felt a strange chill at the back of her neck as she noticed how humanlike the purple glass eyes of the warg looked compared to the golden eyes of the wolf.
At the furthest end of the hall was the display of a massive dragon skull placed high on the wall like an idol of worship. The light and hollow bone was polished to a brilliant ivory white; its horns the only color remaining of a rough textured dirty clay red that curled like ram horns. The stained glass windows at either side were shaped like the dragon’s mighty wings, the webbing in colors of red, rose gold, and creamy white. Dana could not help but wonder at the brilliance of the poor creature in its living body. She could almost feel its hot breath in the air and smell the smoke swirling from its nostrils.
Dana glanced up at the balcony of the second floor. The area was reserved for the media, mostly local radio and newspapers were allowed to cover the wedding. Dana carefully searched the crowd above until she spotted Amelia standing in a tight black pinstripe dress, her dark hair curled beautifully, falling over her shoulders like a silky scarf. While she watched the crowd, her expression grim, she held a pen and pad in her hands, writing franticly as she scanned the crowd below.
At Amelia’s side was a man in a plain gray suit, he wore a simple cap of matching gray wool, his eyes hidden by a heavy metal handheld camera with three glittering lenses. Very few people on the upper level had a film camera, so in a way, it made him stand out more. When Dana noticed the red hair of the man’s short-cut beard, she realized Amelia had managed to sneak Ed Dillard in with her without alerting the Arcane Order’s guards.
Dana smiled nervously, feeling uncomfortable at the thought of her friends risking their potential freedom or even their lives just to be at the wedding. She knew they only meant to be there for her, but she was still very afraid for their safety.
A sudden strumming melody pulled Dana’s attention back to the task at hand. She looked over at Joe again who forced a smile as he held out his arm to Dana. “It’s time.” He said softly.
Dana nodded. As the melody rolled on, the two entered the hall and walked slowly with the rhythm. While most might find the slow melody calming and beautiful, it instead gave off a foreboding sound to Dana as she moved forward.
At the end of the hall stood Colin, dressed in his war armor. The armor was made of brilliant red dragon scale and steel. The steel shined white with trimmed gold to give his impressive armor airs of higher standing. The dragon scale glistened in the light, each piece chosen specially to fit his form.
Dragon scale was one of the hardest and lightest materials used. That was what made it so prized and lead to the inevitable extinction of the grand beasts. The scales were also hard to mold, so in most cases, a forger would seek scales that could be used to fit over steel armor without having to struggle to cut it to the right shape. To shape dragon scale, you needed a Völva’s magic. The witch would have to carve ruins into the scale and use their ancient knowledge to shape it, and if the legend was to be trusted, make it even stronger.
As Dana drew closer, she made note that she could see no such ruins carved into the red scale. She would have to examine it closer when she was able.
Standing beside Colin was a large man with heavy jowls, his head held high as he looked down on Dana and Joe as they approached. The man was donned in a gown of black with red trim. The strange symbol embroidered in red at his chest looked like a gothic line-drawn tower reaching up to a broken star. The Mystic Tower of Lakoya.
Dana had never followed any religion. In fact, most people she knew did not follow The Mystic Tower of Lakoya, either. The Lakoyans were the head church aligned with the Arcane Order. Their god taking the form of a broken star, representing a god of two natures. Man and woman, good and evil, life and death. Their two faced god was said to be the creator of magic and used magic to mark the pure being of the world, like the Transcendents. However, the Völva were said to be thieves of the god’s magic, making them impure and corrupt. They were the witches of the Wayfarer people.
Thanks to the followers of Lakoya, the Wayfarer people were pushed from their ancient homelands and forced to wander the world. In addition, because the Arcane Order followed the Lakoyan teachings, the Wayfarer people were targeted greatly during the war. Scapegoated for the problems of the world and the end of magic. Dana knew she would not see Sonia Havel in the hall with a Lakoyan priest in the same vicinity.
Reaching the stage, Dana and Joe knelt to one knee before Colin and the Priest. In a gruff tone and an Awican accent, the priest rose his voice for all to hear, silencing any lingering murmurs. “Joe Epps of Wellingstone, father of the presented bride, Dana Massie, you may rise.”
Slowly, Joe got to his feet again. Joe stood as tall as he could muster, holding his hands in front of him, holding his head high. His face looked far too grim for a wedding.
The Priest addressed Joe again, his gruff voice booming in the massive hall. “Joe Epps, do you offer your daughter’s hand willingly to this man?” The Priest waved to Colin, who smiled, looking like a truly happy groom.
Inhaling deeply, Joe nodded. “I do.” Dana could feel the anxiety and instant regret from her loving father.
The Priest waved for Joe to take his seat. He slowly made his way to the first pew where Joseph and the rest of the family sat glumly. After Joe took his seat, the Priest turned his attention to Dana. “Rise, child, and face the one you intend to marry.”
Dana stood and faced Colin who smiled like a schoolboy seeing his first love. She could feel the genuine excitement and joy coming from Colin, and she smiled in return. Perhaps real love between them was not so farfetched. Dana felt a warmth spread in her heart.
The Priest looked to the crowd before speaking again. “We bring these two together as Lakoya once was. A pure unity of man and woman in holy matrimony. Lakoya bless their unity in the eyes of man.”
As the Priest rambled on, Dana would sneak glances at the people in the room. Dana had suddenly noticed a man at the far end of the first pew on Colin’s side wearing a dark military uniform with red trim. He wore several metals and stripes on his chest. A war hero, Dana assumed. The man noticed Dana looking at him and smiled. He winked at her with his hazel eyes, tipping his head and revealing the thinning dark hair on his head. Dana gave the man the slightest of nods to be polite before turning her eyes back to Colin.
“Colin Devlin, Kongur, Hero of the Arcane Order, step forward to your intended bride and take her hands in yours.” The Priest instructed.
Colin stepped forward and stood inches from Dana. He tenderly took Dana’s hands to his, holding them close to his heart, and smiled down at her. Dana could feel her heart race and her breathing shake, as she could smell the man’s cologne, a masculine smell that made her stomach flutter.
“Do you take this woman as part of yourself, to fulfill and make yourself whole as Lakoya sees fit?”
Colin grinned even wider. “I do.”
“Do you also promise to cherish and love her? Keep her safe from all others, in sickness, and in health, till death do you part this realm?”
Nodding, Colin responded with a quick, “I do.”
Satisfied, the Priest turned to Dana. “Dana Massie, do you take this man as part of yourself, to fulfill and make yourself whole as Lakoya sees fit?”
Dana took in a sharp inhale before speaking softly, smiling. “I do.”
“Do you also promise to cherish and love him? Keep him safe from all others, in sickness, and in health, till death do you part this realm?”
The priest held up his arms in triumph. “By the power of God, and by the rule of man, I here buy decree you Husband and Wife. All hail Kongur Colin and Drottning Dana Devlin!”
As the crowd cheered, Colin slipped a ring onto Dana’s left ring finger. Dana looked down seeing a ring of rose gold, the metal shaped like a vine with three rose gold leaves on each side and small diamonds under each. At the center was a large amethyst stone held in place with rose gold flower petals. Dana gasped at the beauty of it. When she looked up, she was met with the softest kiss and gentle hands tenderly holding her face.
Dana had left the wedding in a daze with her arm in Colin’s as he led her from the alter. She had not even paid mind to the people she had spoken with as they slowly parted the hall. Even the faces of her family blurred by her as she drifted through the hall.
As the wedding guests and reporters left to continue the festivities, Colin led his blushing bride to the tower he resided. Dana’s mind was still spinning when she entered the room and walked wordlessly to the balcony. She stood quietly as the wind blew cool on her hot face, pulling her back into the moment.
After taking several calming breaths, she turned back to the room to see Colin carefully taking off his armor and placing it into a large wood chest at the end of the massive king-sized bed. As he did this, Dana slowly looked the room over.
Colin had his own shelf lined with books and trinkets. At the wall beside the bookcase was a beautiful depiction of a golden dragon bowing its head to a maiden in a flowing white gown, the woman reaching out a hand to touch the beast.
At the other end of the wall was a large stone fireplace, a low fire burning within. Above was a taxidermy head of a chimera. The creature had the head of a great lion, black horns curling upward to deadly sharp points. Its roaring mouth opened to reveal massive fangs that would have once held a paralyzing poison. Dana could make out dull copper scales at the nape of its neck just under the golden mane.
“I killed it when I was traveling in Askea, that’s where your father’s people are from.” Colin did not even look up from his task.
“I… didn’t know that.” Dana admitted.
Dana continued to walk around the room, examining the relics, art, and oddities collected over his years in the war. Even some of the furniture was foreign to her. “It’s all so beautiful.” She said with a mystified smile.
Colin set the last piece of armor into the chest and shut the lid. “None as beautiful as you.” He looked at her closely as she turned to him, blushing beautifully. Colin lifted his hand out to her. “Come.” He said in a husky voice.
Shyly, Dana turned and walked to him, placing her hand in his hesitantly. He gently held her hand and eased her closer to him until they were barely brushing against each other. Dana blushed; even her pale freckled shoulders had turned pink. As Colin examined her face, he leaned in and kissed her cheeks near the corners of her eyes. Once. Twice. Thrice.
Dana giggled. “What are you doing?”
Colin smiled and ran his fingers over her cheeks. “You have the lightest freckles, I just noticed them. I want to see where else you have them.” He let his fingers trace her exposed skin, finding new freckles and leaning in to kiss them.
Dana shook, gaping with every touch. Colin smiled at her reaction like a sly fox. “You’ve never had a man touch you like this?”
Dana turned her head away, embarrassed. “No.”
Colin let out a rough chuckle. “So I get to be the first man to taste you.”
His hands moved to the edges of the dress at her shoulders and began to slide it free. The dress slid off with ease off her shoulders. Colin’s lips found her shoulders as his hands reached to her back to untie the corset. His hands were skilled and sure, easily loosening it enough to let it slip over her hips. With her breasts free under the gown, he slid the gown over her torso.
In a panic, Dana rose her hands to cover her chest, nearly shrinking away in embarrassment. Colin took her hands in his and eased them away, exposing her large breasts and pink nipples to him. With a wicked grin, he leaned down and placed his soft mouth over her nipple, teasing her with his tongue.
Dana gasped, her body shaking with pleasure as she leaned herself into him. She felt the heat of her face and a greater heat between her legs. Colin moved his hands to slip off the rest of the dress over her hips, leaving her near-naked, save her soft cream underwear and the dress pooled at her feet.
Colin straightened and looked Dana over, smiling, satisfied. “You are a stunning woman.”
Dana forced herself to not cover her nakedness while Colin stood in a loose white shirt and white boxer shorts. Noticing her looking him over as well, Colin grinned and stripped himself of his shirt. His body was lean and defined beautifully with his rich tan skin. He had very little hair on his chest, save a soft patch at the center of his chest and a small ring of gold hair around his dark nipples. Dana watched as his chest rose and fell heavily.
Dana bit her lips and shifted her weight nervously. Colin laughed softly. “Don’t be afraid, I’ll show you what to do.” He slipped his thumbs under the bands of his boxers and slid them down, exposing himself fully to her.
Dana swallowed hard as she let her eyes travel his body slowly. His stomach was flat and lean, a soft trail of dark gold hair leading to his groin. Dana felt some terror at the sight of his penis, erect and larger than she would have imagined. She had the sudden fear that whatever he was going to do with it might hurt her.
Colin noticed her fear and took her hand. “Come lay on the bed. Don’t be scared, I won’t hurt you, I promise.”
Dana followed his lead and crawled into the bed, covers pulled down to the end of the bed, she lay on her back stiffly. Colin laughed. “You can relax, I’ll lead you.” He moved onto the bed at her side and put a hand on her thigh, gripping it gently.
He moved her leg to one side and moved it so he could crawl between her legs on the soft mattress. As he maneuvered between her legs, he took her ankles and lifted them to his shoulders, kissing her legs tenderly. He leaned forward and took hold of her underwear and, with a tug, pulled them from her hips and up her legs. He tossed them to the floor as he let her legs fall from his shoulder, spread out before him.
Leaning over her naked body, he ran a hand up her thigh as he kissed her stomach, making her stomach shiver with the sensation. Creeping up to her soft mound, he eased two fingers into her, finding she was already wet and eager. Dana gasped at the sensation and let out a soft moan as he slowly moved his fingers inside of her.
Colin let out a soft growl. “See? Your body already knows what to do.” He slipped out his fingers and moved his hips to hers, taking his hand and guiding himself inside of her.
Dana gasped and squirmed under Colin. As he began to slowly thrust himself inside her, she felt a pinch of pain creep through her abdomen. The pain quickly faded as she felt herself moving her hips with his, riding the wave of pain into pleasure. Colin pressed his hand onto her abdomen, holding her as still as he could as he moved faster.
Dana moaned and arched her back, the sensation like nothing she ever imagined. She wrapped her legs around his hips and held him tightly as he moved faster, panting with the effort.
A trembling wave of throbbing pleasure filled Dana, moving like a wave from her groin, up her stomach, into her chest, and finally clouding her mind in bliss as she cried out uncontrollably. Colin thrust himself faster inside of her, reaching his own climax with a deep grunt as he held himself inside of her, filling her with his seed.
After a moment of both just smiling at each other and panting, Colin leaned in and passionately kissed Dana. He pulled back after the long and lingering kiss and looked into Dana’s dark blue eyes. “I love you.” He whispered.
Dana blinked, shocked at his words. Did he really find himself in love with her so quickly? Was this warmth and bliss she felt love? She was not sure. She had never loved like this before. She did not even know if the same sensations she felt from him was what love felt like, but she let the words slip free without fear. “I love you, too.”