The Lightning Bride - Chapter 1
Part 4 of 4
The Rosecoat poured the sea water onto her brother, and Behn stood composed longer than their mother had, but coughed, reaching for his neck to hide forming gills. While his skin didn’t grow scales, it took on a grey hue. His fingers webbed, fins grew on his forearms, and though his feet were hidden in his boots, Maylie knew his toes were webbed too if the seawater leaked in.
The crowd hushed, the only noise was Behn’s struggle to breathe.
Lord Brackley stared with wide eyes and an open mouth. He quickly cleared his throat. “Behnjamen Shadow, we have exposed…your mother’s sin, passed to you, and revealed you are…guilty.”
The crowd whispered and Emilia released another anguished cry.
Maylie thought quickly. “He doesn’t need a claim! He can’t be put to death.”
The Viceroy slowly nodded. “That is correct…but he cannot claim Emilia.” He faced the crowd and held out his arm. “Will a man claim this creature?”
The crowd murmured, and Maylie looked to Lucian again, begging with her eyes for him to claim her mother. Emilia was to be his mother-in-law, after all. Maylie couldn’t see his expression from the distance, but he remained silent.
Surely Uncle James would claim his own sister! Maylie turned to him, but he shook his head with a pained mien. He couldn’t claim his sister when he had a wife.
“If no one can lay claim,” Lord Brackley said, “by the laws of Port Camdon, which I am Viceroy, Proyale, and the Northern Kingdom, I hereby sentence you—”
The crowd murmured as a voice grew in volume.
“Please move. Who is up there? Out of my way!”
Maylie saw her father. Praise the Divine! He reached the front of the crowd, his face blanching when he saw the three water stains on the wood.
“Stop!” he yelled, running up the stairs onto the platform. Rosecoats tried to apprehend him, but he shoved his way through. “I claim Emilia! I am her husband.”
Lord Brackley opened his mouth, but before he could speak a voice shouted, “Subject him to the Trial!”
Maylie looked for who called out, but it was impossible in the incited crowd.
“Yes, his son was a creature! He could be one too!”
“Prepare another cask!”
“If Madeaus is one, he has no claim!”
“I’m human. Look,” Maylie’s father said frustrated. He grabbed a cask, pouring the last drops on his hand. He showed Lord Brackley, then the crowd.
“It’s not webbed,” Brackley explained for those who couldn’t see.
“How?” a person shouted.
“My wife was turned by accident after our daughter was born,” Madeaus said. “Then bore our son. She has rebuked being a mermaid, choosing to live as a human on land.”
“She’s still a danger to our children,” the first voice yelled again.
“Yes! How do we know she won’t turn our daughters?” a woman cried out.
“Or bite our sons!” a man finished.
Lord Brackley held out his hand, but the crowd continued to protest. “Enough. I said enough! Silence!” he bellowed. The crowd hushed.
He sighed. “Maydeline is free to go since she is innocent. Emilia has been claimed, so she will also be set free. With precautions,” he said quickly, raising his hand to placate the crowd, “which I will discuss with Madeaus and Behnjamen Shadow.”
He turned to the Rosecoats. “Escort them to their home. And for the Divine’s sake, give them each a towel. This Trial is over.”
Maylie didn’t take her eyes off her father as he and Behn walked away with Lord Brackley, her uncle joining. She rubbed her wrists once the shackles were off and felt something draped around her shoulders. Holding the towel, she watched a Rosecoat unchain her mother and another threw a towel. Her mother lifted her chin and joined Maylie as they were led off the platform.
Taking one last look at the crowd, Maylie searched for Lucian, only to find him gone. Her eyes fell upon a figure not leaving with the crowd. She couldn’t get a good look before she descended the stairs, but he appeared to be smirking under his hood.