The first chapter of the book I am writing this November
Since the Prince had asked her father for her hand only a few months ago, the time had seem to fly by as if it had sprouted wings. Arianna felt almost as if she were peering into a life that was not her own. Nikolai was truly amazing –a perfect gentleman, honest, handsome, and the Crown Prince of the entire kingdom of Snowfall no less.
What she didn’t understand was why, of all the beautiful young women in the kingdom, he had picked her. She was fair at most everything she did, but Arianna knew women who could stitch tapestries that could make you weep from the sight of it, women who could make lovely conversation with complete strangers, who could dance like they were floating on air. Why would he choose her over them?
He said that he loved her, but Arianna wasn’t sure she believed love still existed in Snowfall, where all the marriages were arranged in one way or another. Her own parents had been married to settle a land dispute between two noble families. Even the prince, the man who would rule the kingdom when his parents died, was given a group of suitable women to choose from instead of being able to choose whomever he pleased.
Arianna stared at herself in the mirror, her warm brown curls tumbling down her back. Her wedding dress had been laid out on the bed behind her, the edge of the skirt just barely visible in the corner of the mirror. Her mother had told her to summon the maid when she had finished washing and doing her hair, but for some reason, perhaps one last bit of rebellion toward the stilted life she led, she decided this was one dress she would put on for herself.
Nikolai pulled at the neck of his stiffly collared shirt, sweating both from the warmth of the small church packed with people and from the nervousness that also kept him rooted to his place. He felt like she should have been here by now. All of the guests had already arrived and had been waiting at least thirty minutes for the bride to arrive and walk down the aisle, and he couldn’t help but imagine the bored glances and ill-disguised yawns were a result of their thoughts that the wedding might not happen after all.
This was supposed to be the biggest day of his life, the day he became a man, the master of his own house. But instead, here he stood, worried his bride wouldn’t make the wedding at all. He thought she at least liked him. He thought she enjoyed his company, even if she didn’t love him as he loved her. Though he knew that family honor dictated much of the marriage customs in their kingdom, and he acknowledged it could certainly feel stifling to be told who you were going to marry, he had hoped that his marriage to Arianna could avoid that. Now, as the minutes ticked by, he was not so sure.
“Arianna!” Her mother called through the door, knocking loudly to get her daughter’s attention. “What are you doing in there? You are going to be late for your own wedding!”
Arianna glanced up in surprise at the ancient, towering grandfather clock that stood vigil on one side of the room. Getting into her dress on her own had taken longer than she had thought that it would. Struggling to reach the last button high up on her back, she called loudly “Sorry Mother! I’m almost ready! Just give me one more moment!”
“We really have to leave—“ Teresa said anxiously as she pushed open the door, sweeping into the room in a wave of elegant silk and delicately arranged blonde hair. When she caught sight of her daughter trying to button the top button of her cream lace wedding dress, she stopped in her tracks, a look of appalled horror crossing her face. “Arianna, what are you doing? You do realize that we hired a maid for a reason? You are about to be married to the Crown Prince! You can’t be seen doing these things for yourself like a commoner!”
“Mother—” Arianna began in consternation, opening her mouth to revisit the argument they’d had many times before, but Teresa cut her off with a shake of her head.
“Darling, we don’t have time to argue over these things right now. The wedding has already been put off too many times.” Teresa said with a sigh, putting the final touches on Arianna’s attire.
“You can’t seriously be blaming him for that can you?” Arianna asked with surprise, twisting around to look at her mother. “It’s hardly Nikolai’s fault that he was called off to help a village defend itself from a dragon!”
“I didn’t say it was.” Teresa reassured her. “I’m merely reminding you of how important it is that you are not the one to put off the wedding late this time. Now come, the carriage is waiting for us outside.”
The doors to the church swung open suddenly to reveal Arianna gliding up the steps, her father waiting at the top to take her arm and lead her down the aisle. She was stunning in a long cream lace wedding dress that caressed the floor in front of her feet before lengthening in the back to slide gracefully behind her. The top of her brown hair had been gently pulled back from her face, secured with a cream ribbon and a tiny white rose, the rest of her curls tumbling down behind her back. She was without doubt the most beautiful woman in Snowfall.
Any of the doubts he had felt only moments before now fled at the sight of her. After the agonizing wait as she walked slowly up the aisle, he looked into her eyes and knew that whatever problems they had, whatever difficulties they went through, he would give up everything he had for this woman that stood before him.
But as the clergyman began the ceremony, something huge hit the roof with a heavy, echoing thud. The ceiling groaned eerily above them, the wooden support beams moaning in protest. Then a pair of monstrous claws punched their way through the roof. The entire church was open to the sunlight in an instant, wood pieces falling down to hit the floor as people dove out of the way.
The Royal Guard stood, dumbfounded, hands raising shaking swords in a feeble defense against the dragon that was sticking its head into the church. The building, with its grandiose stained windows and magnificent arches that made the large building seem even bigger, now seemed small in comparison to the head of the monstrous beast. Though such defense seemed pathetic and worthless, Nikolai unsheathed the ceremonial saber on his waist, pushing Arianna behind him.
Even striking with all of their strength as one man, Nikolai did not think they could defeat such a beast on their own. But defeating the beast was not his priority –getting Arianna to safety was. He put his free hand out behind him and felt her slip her petite one in his.
“I need to get you out of here,” he told her, trying to channel as much strength as he could into his voice, while trying to keep his hands steady. “When I say, I want you to run toward the front doors. I’ll keep it occupied. Alright?”
There was a silence behind him for a moment before Arianna answered, “Oh, right. Alright.”
“Good,” he said, carefully watching the dragon as it tried to peer in over its claws that were swiping at the Guardsmen below it. He waited for it to move its attention from them to the opposite side of the room before yelling, “Now run!”
She did, hitching up her long skirt in her hands in order to take longer strides, the delicate lace wilting from her harsh handling. As soon as she moved, the dragon’s focus whipped back over to their side of the room, perhaps seeing Nikolai now standing on his own, or maybe catching sight of the brighter cream of Arianna’s gown dancing in the flickering light.
Without hesitation the dragon’s claw came down on Nikolai, knocking him to the ground as if he did not weigh anything and trapping him beneath the dragon’s scaly palm. He tried to raise his sword arm to stab the sensitive skin on top of him, but one of the tips of the dragon’s claws had caught on the thick, heavy fabric of his shirt sleeve, pinning his arm to the ground. No matter how much he yanked, he couldn’t get himself free before a piercing scream sent chills through his body.
“Arianna!” He yelled, unable to see what was happening.
She screamed again and the dragon began to rise. Nikolai could hear the sound of giant wings beating outside the church, and felt the sharp rush of wind as the wings created an updraft around him. He rolled out from underneath the dragon’s claws as soon as he untangled his sleeve from the claw. Scampering to his feet, Nikolai caught sight of a bit of white cloth rising into the air.
“No,” he breathed in terror. Without thinking he lurched forward, gaining enough momentum to launch himself off of one of the pews into the air, catching hold of the dragon’s claw. His arm nearly wrenched out of socket from the swift jerks every time the dragon flapped its powerful wings, his entire arm feeling like it was on fire from the pain that coursed through it. Just as he thought he wouldn’t be able to hold on any longer, the dragon’s claw curled in on itself and he sat, realizing that he was now in the hands of a gigantic dragon.
Note: None of the pictures were drawn by me. They were done by a friend of mine who is a fantastic artist! 😀