“Uh –” I mumbled and she lifted a gloved hand.
“Quiet!” she ordered and turned her head away. “The one time she can do something to help her father, help her mother, help her country instead, yet again, my Sjofn creates a nightmare.”
Something was not right. I really needed to read that note.
We swiftly slid through the town or city like place and then came to a bone-jarring stop in front of a big building. I was so wrapped up in what was happening, and the fact that it didn’t seem good, I didn’t pay much attention nor did I have the time to pay much attention. Without delay, Mom threw off the blanket, took my hand and dragged me from the sleigh and then we were out of the cold and in a somewhat warm building lit softly with a huge number of candles everywhere.
I looked around at what appeared to be some kind of vestibule as more women, different ones this time, came hurriedly toward Mom and I and Mom asked sharply, “The Drakkar?”
“He is still here, your grace,” one of the women taking her cloak and gloves mumbled.
Okay, I should have gotten it before, what with the crowns and all, but it appeared my mother might be royalty.
Which would mean I was too.
Two women were divesting me of my gloves and cloak as my mother announced, “I will make haste in taking my seat. He will know we’ve arrived if I do. Prepare her instantly.”
Then she was off.
I blinked at her back.
Then I blinked when a bundle of long, delicate twigs was thrust into my arms and I stared down at them. Most of their length was straight with little knots in the wood but the ends were curved and twirly. That was weird but the bark was weirder. They looked like they’d been sprayed by glitter but on closer inspection they hadn’t.
They glittered naturally.
The ends of the twigs were bound tight with winter white and ice blue ribbons and there was no big bow to finish but the ends were tucked neatly away.
I hadn’t yet processed the bundle in my arms or why it was there when I was pushed gently to stand in front of two double doors and when I was, I looked up and around me.
“Good luck, my Winter Princess,” one of the girls whispered, giving my upper arm a reassuring squeeze then she took off.
What? Winter princess?
Oh my God!
I was royalty and apparently my mother and father were queen and king.
I stood there, alone and stunned at this news when it hit me I was alone and maybe had a second to find out what the fuck was going on.
I held the twigs in the crook of one arm like a beauty pageant contestant and dug the paper out of my cleavage with the other hand. Awkwardly but quickly unfolding it with one hand, I opened it and saw with some shock, and not a little alarm, that not much was written on it.
Then I took the two seconds it took to read it.
Tonight, you marry The Drakkar. In the ancient tongue, this means The Dragon.
I’d been played.
Oh shit! I’d been played!
Before I could freak out or, I didn’t know, maybe turn tail and run, the double doors swung wide and I saw my father was stomping purposefully toward me. At the same time, an orchestra struck up pounding a dramatic swell of music as beyond my father I saw what looked like the enormous sanctuary of a church filled to bursting with people all of whom were standing and turning to me.
Nope, it wasn’t an oh shit moment.
It was an oh fuck moment.
Dad made it to me, snatched the paper out of my hand, crinkled it quickly into a ball and tossed it away. Then he grabbed my hand firmly, tucked it in the crook of his arm at the same time jerking my body close to his side and he tipped his head down to me.
“Pleased you could make it, Sjofn,” he growled.
Then without delay he started to march me down the aisle.
Okay, okay, okay, it appeared I was getting married.
To a man known as “The Dragon”.
Try, at least, to be happy, that girl had said to me.
I didn’t think that boded well.
Enjoy The Drakkar. I think you will and more, I think he will enjoy you, the lady who could jump from a two story building had said.
That didn’t bode much better, as in, at all.
I clutched my father’s arm as we walked down an aisle that seemed to be as long as a football field (but wasn’t but it was still freaking long) and I wished that I could concentrate on being with my Dad for the first time in fifteen years but I couldn’t. There was a sea of people all standing, all smiling at me or watching me with interest in their eyes and happiness on their faces.
I took them in as the music washed over me and my father marched me quickly forward.