Arrow Branded – Chapter 14

“Vesstan,” Xavier called. Vesstan turned around, surprised.

“Wait, you’re talking to me now?” he asked. He stopped in front of the elven prince and took a second to catch his breath. I stopped beside him and rested against a table.

“Just this once,” he panted. “I need to tell you something about Quota. She’s lying to you. To all of us.”

“That’s one serious accusation against the future queen,” Vesstan said, crossing his arms. Xavier rolled his eyes.

“Seriously, Vesstan. You can’t trust her,” I said. Vesstan turned to me, looking as though he hadn’t even know I was there.

“What would you know, Lake?” he retorted. I was hurt. I thought that night outside of Ianto and Dash’s house meant we were friends, or something like that. We talked about things. He even saw me crying.

“Hey, leave Lake alone!” Xavier demanded, stepping in front of me. He had seemed so cold towards me before. Was he finally coming around?

“Should I? Why do you trust this human so much?” Vesstan asked gesturing aggressively at me. I looked away but I could feel his accusatory glare on me.

“Because I do!” Xavier pushed Vesstan. The elven prince stepped back, nearly tripping over a chair.

“Why don’t you leave? You had no problem doing it three years ago!” It was obvious that Vesstan was walking on thin ice saying that. Xavier’s face contorted in anger, tears forming in his eyes. I realized then that he was the kind of person who cries when they’re angry. I knew a lot of people like that.

“Quota’s the woman from Lake’s dream!” Xavier yelled at him.

“Guys, please–” My voice was lost among their arguing.

“You can’t just come in here with accusations like that against my future wife!” Vesstan’s eyes began to glow green. He was losing control.

“Oh, yeah? I guess you always did defend guilty people!” Xavier stepped closer, forcing Vesstan backwards.

“Vesstan,” I said, tears forming in my eyes. I hated when people fought. “Xavier.” I choked down a sob and sunk down against the wall. I wanted Soleil to jump in and break up the fight. She was the strongest of all of us. I was crying, Vesstan and Xavier were yelling, and Soleil was not there to fix things.

Xavier knocked a vase off a table. It didn’t shatter though; it stopped right before it hit the floor. The vase had a glowing, greenish aura. Vesstan was holding it up using his powers. The vase was slowly turned upright and placed carefully on the floor. A window cracked behind Vesstan. Then another. I could tell that he was really trying to contain the energy, but he was slipping. Xavier shoved him back, and he fell onto the couch. The vase dropped and shattered. He got back up and stared directly into Xavier’s eyes.

“I am marrying her, and that’s final. She will be the queen, regardless of your delusional accusations!” he yelled. A waterfall of tears cascaded down Xavier’s face. He stopped for a second. He stood still, staring at Vesstan. Then he punched him right in the face. Vesstan stumbled, covering his face. He fell to his knees. His eyes stopped glowing, and I could see a tiny bit of green blood trickle down his chin. Xavier stared in shock, as if he was horrified with himself for doing that. He wiped tears from his face. He looked from Vesstan to me, crying on the floor, then turned and ran out of the room. Vesstan stood and wiped blood from his face, only to have more blood run down his face.

“What are you looking at?” he asked me. I quickly stood and ran out of the room. I just let my feet carry me wherever they wanted to go. I ended up in Soleil’s room, where she sat on her bed, reading a book. I immediately collapsed on a couch, sobbing. Soleil ran to my side.

“Oh my god! Lake, what happened?” she asked. I couldn’t answer. Soleil sat beside me and put her arms around me, speaking quietly. ‘What’s wrong? Talk to me.”

After minutes of Soleil just holding me while I cried, I got my voice back. I took a shaky breath and looked up at her.

“Xavier and I went to talk to Vesstan,” I said, my voice cracking. Soleil nodded encouragingly. “They started yelling and Vesstan lost control of his powers and broke some windows. I couldn’t stop them.” Tears began falling again and Soleil enveloped me in a tight embrace.

“I’m sorry you had to be there for that. They usually don’t fight with others around,” she said. “I guess they hadn’t seen each other in so long that they had so many repressed feelings they needed to get out.” The way she stroked my hair was comforting. I pushed her away and breathed deep, trying to clear my thoughts.

“Xavier ran off, but I don’t know where he went,” I said unsteadily. Soleil nodded as if this was normal. It was the second time that he ran off that week, angry and crying.

“Do you want to come with me to look for him, or stay here?” Soleil asked. I thought for a second. I didn’t really want to see Xavier after his outburst. But I wanted to be alone even less.

“I’ll come.” I stood and took Soleil’s hand. We walked out to the garden. The lush greenery loomed around us. We walked up and down the path to the street and came up with nothing. We wandered the garden, calling out to Xavier.

“This garden is so big! How are we supposed to look through all of it?” I asked, throwing myself down on  bench. Soleil sat beside me.

“Don’t lose hope. He does this sometimes, but comes back when he’s cleared his mind,” she replied. I knew that when we did find Xavier, I wouldn’t be able to look him in the eye. But I wanted to find him, for his sister. Soleil got up from the bench and helped me to my feet. We kept walking.

“Xavier!” Soleil called out her brother’s name. We looked where he was the other night, after that meeting with Elyon. He wasn’t there. We wandered the garden, searching every bush and bench. He wasn’t there. I could tell Soleil was concerned.

“He’s not here,” I said. I was almost glad we didn’t find him. I felt bad for feeling that way, I knew Soleil was worried about her brother.

“He’ll be back,” she said, but I could tell she was uncertain. “I could actually sense that he was upset. Arrow Brandeds have a connection, especially twins, and when he’s in pain I can sense it. I just assumed it wasn’t a big deal; he’s bothered by the smallest things”

“Can you sense what he’s feeling now?” I asked. Soleil thought.

“He’s upset and… guilty,” she said, as if struggling to hear something faint. I nodded, looking away. “Hey,It’s okay, he’ll show up. He always does,” Soleil said reassuringly.

But he didn’t. Not that evening, and not the following day. Vesstan’s wedding was scheduled for tomorrow, and Xavier still didn’t come back. The wedding day came.

“Soleil, I’m so sorry. It’s my fault he left,” Vesstan said to a sleep deprived-looking Soleil. She was stressed and it was obvious.

“No, it’s not,” she said.

“Yes! If I hadn’t yelled at him, we wouldn’t have fought and he’d still be here–”

“Seriously, Vesstan, don’t blame yourself. It was his choice and his choice alone,” Soleil interrupted, gripping Vesstan’s hands. She stared deep into his eyes until he nodded, looking away. “Alright, now get ready, groom-to-be.” Soleil smiled and pushed Vesstan towards the arch of flowers in the garden. Vesstan was dressed already, but he still needed to prepare a few more things for the ceremony. He wore a baby pink suit with a gold rose brooch on his lapel. A green blush blossomed on his cheeks and he ran off.

“Do you think he’ll come back?” I asked. Soleil sighed.

“He better,” is all she said. We walked back up to the castle in silence. We had to wait about four hours until the ceremony started and I still needed to put on my fancy outfit. Soleil entered her room and I continued walking to my own quarters. I set my outfit out on the bed and inspected it. A pair of pastel green dress pants and blazer with a white button up shirt. I know that generally the rule is that you’re not supposed to wear white to a wedding, but the groom and bride said that the colour theme for guests will be white and pastel colours. The only colours you’re not allowed to wear is pink and gold; the colours Vesstan and Quota would be wearing. I put on my outfit and sat on my bed. There was still three hours until we needed to be down at the garden.

“Hey,” a voice at my door said. I turned, and there stood Tethys, leaning against the door frame. She wore a strapless, baby blue, tea length dress with a silver chain around her waist. Stalks of lavender were embroidered up the skirt. Her hair was cut to shoulder length and parted to the side. Her beautiful waves here died baby blue and pastel purple to match her dress.

“I love your hair,” I said, standing up. She wore a crown very similar to Vesstan’s and looked stunning.

“Thanks,” Tethys said timidly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I was worried that dying my hair would be too much.”

“No, no. It’s really nice,” I promised. She seemed pleased. She looked me over and furrowed her brow. “What? What wrong?” I asked, suddenly feeling self conscious.

“Nothing’s wrong, it’s just that… your outfit could use something else,” Tethys said thoughtfully. She turned and beckoned for me to follow. We arrived at her room and she sat me down in a wicker chair.

“Tethys, what–”

“Can I put makeup on you?” she asked suddenly. I was too surprised to answer for a second. I paused to consider this.

“I don’t know… I don’t really wear makeup,” I said hesitantly.

“Please? I’ll only do a tiny bit, and if you don’t like it I’ll take it right off,” she begged. I finally agreed and she set to work. The brush felt strange against my face, but it wasn’t bad. When Tethys was done she sat back and smiled at her creation. I was anxious to see what she did and if I would like it. She held up a mirror.

“Oh my gosh!” I said, touching my face. She hadn’t done a lot. Just minor highlighting and a bit of green eyeshadow on my lower lash line. Pastel green to match my outfit. My face spread into a wide grin.

“You like it?” Tethys asked. I nodded, taking the mirror from her hand to inspect further. She beamed at my almost child-like reaction. She took a liquid lipstick and handheld mirror out of her pocket and added a little bit to her lips, just to make sure it wasn’t wearing off. Her own makeup consisted of perfect winged eyeliner and matte, garnet-coloured lipstick.

I thanked her and told her I had to go. I didn’t really, but I wanted to go show Soleil my makeup. I didn’t find Soleil in her room, so I decided to head down to the garden early and check if she was down there. I exited the castle gates. And began to walk through the hedges. I was about one hundred metres from the edge of the wedding when I caught a glimpse of someone in the garden. It was Xavier. He sat in a low tree branch just staring at the ground.

“Xavier,” I said hesitantly. The last time we talked he was screaming at Vesstan and ended up punching him. He looked up, surprised.

“Lake?” he said. I noticed that his eyes seemed to be red and puffy from crying.

“A-are you alright?” I asked. He looked back down at the floor. “Do you want to come to the wedding? I’m sure you’d be allowed; Vesstan feels really bad about yelling at you.”

“No,” Xavier said shakily. “I can’t be there to watch him make the wrong decision.”

“Are you sure?” I asked softly. He smiled at me. It was kind, but sad.

“Yes, I’m sure. You go,” he said. I nodded. Then, after a second, I turned and walked off. I arrived at the ceremony and one of the caterers told me it would be about twenty minutes until it started, but I was welcome to sit at the back and wait. I saw Quota talking to her bridesmaids, Soleil and Vesstan’s two sisters. All three of them wore the same baby blue dress with lavender. Soleil’s makeup was almost the same as Tethys and Alenia’s. The only difference was that she had her lips painted baby blue like her dress.

Vesstan stood on the other side with Elyon and Rumour. I assumed that Xavier was also meant to be one of his groomsmen before he ran off. Vesstan seemed nervous and excited. I pulled Soleil from her little huddle.

“Do you think Vesstan actually loves Quota? Or is he doing this to honor the Faydark family?” I asked. Soleil pondered it briefly.

“To be honest, I don’t really know. But I think he’s doing it for honor, considering the fact that Elyon just told him to choose one,” she responded. I nodded.

“Makes sense,” I said.

“Oh, by the way, you’re the ring bearer,” Soleil said suddenly. I was so surprised I nearly choked on nothing. “You’ll be given the rings when the ceremony starts. Then just walk up there, give them the rings, then sit down in the front row.” I stared at her incredulously. She can’t just spring information like this on me so suddenly. I was about to protest when–

“Ladies and gentlemen, the ceremony is about to begin,” the officiant said. I took my  seat at the back and the bridesmaids and Rumour took their places. Someone handed me a pillow with two rings. It was all getting a bit too real. Vesstan was going to marry the villain in this story and I couldn’t do anything. Quota began walking down the aisle, Elyon guiding her. She wore a long pastel pink gown with golden studs down the sides. She arrived at the front and Elyon went to stand with Rumour. Quota stood under the arch of flowers and took Vesstan’s hands. Then it was my turn to bring the rings up.

As I walked, I passed many faces. Vesstan’s extended family, all super excited for him to have a wife. All clueless about what bad could happen. As I neared, I noticed a dagger in the bow in the side of her dress. The Forebearer’s Blade, concealed just enough to almost look like it wasn’t there. I pushed those thoughts away and only focused on not throwing up. I arrived at the couple. They took the rings and put them on. I took my seat in the front row.

Tears formed in my eyes. Not because I was happy for the soon-to-be newlyweds, but because I was watching the very moment a kingdom, and species, is destroyed. I wanted to stop the wedding and expose Quota for who she really was. But I had no proof. I tried my best to suppress those feelings, but failed miserably. Tears ran down my cheeks. The officiant asked Quota if she took Vesstan as her husband.

“I do,” she said. Despite the fact that she only said two words, those were quite possibly the most sinister words I’d ever heard uttered. The officiant asked Vesstan if he took Quota as his wife. He smiled wide.

“I…” He paused when he locked eyes with me. He could tell those weren’t tears of joy or pride. He looked alarmed at my distress. I glanced away in the direction of Xavier’s spot in the tree, his back was turned to us. Vesstan followed my gaze. I think he saw Xavier because he looked as though he had just seen a ghost. He looked back at me. Tears streamed down my face as I watched the gears in his brain turning. I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand and saw that my green eyeshadow had smudged. I had liked it so much, but I didn’t have time to worry about that then. I hoped and prayed to anyone who would hear that Vesstan would make the connection. I could almost see his thought process.

“Vesstan?” Quota looked perplexed. “Are you alright?” Vesstan looked back at her as if she were asking him life’s unanswerable questions. He almost seemed like the confusion of why I was upset with for no apparent reason was causing him pain.

“Vesstan?” the officiant asked. “Do you taker her?”

“I… I don’t,” he muttered. Quota asked him to repeat himself. “I don’t–I can’t. I’m sorry,” Vesstan said louder. I felt relief flood through me at those words. He finally saw the blade on her side and pulled it out of the ribbon. Quota reached out and snatch it back, pushing I’m away. He backed away in fear.

“Vesstan, I need you. You’re my key,” Quota growled.

“No. Xavier and Lake were right; you’re not just here to be my queen,” Vesstan said. She held up the Forebearer’s Blade, prepared to attack. I saw an arrow engraved into the metal of the blade. Quota lunged at the elven prince, but Vesstan jumped away. He sprinted off in the direction of Xavier’s tree perch. Quota turned to me with a rage that I’d never seen on any face. Her form began to morph and grow. People started screaming and the arch of flowers was set ablaze.

I could tell that she wasn’t planning on that. That was not supposed to happen.