This is our last NEW au for this hiatus, our Corpse Bride au~ Slight description of death but nothing graphic yall~ ENJOY~!
Once upon a time, there was a lonely older gentleman who fell in love with a cruel young woman. With promises of devotion, with kisses and caresses, she won his heart. He promised to provide for her, to marry her and run away to a city where they could have a new life together. He even brought his mother’s old wedding ring, hidden in his jacket. It was meant to be a surprise…
But when he came to meet her in the old oak grove on the darkest night of the year – his entire fortune in a horse-drawn wagon – she slit his throat, stole his gold, and left him to die with his broken heart.
That was almost thirty years ago now.
The tale was passed on through the decades, becoming nothing more than a ghostly fable, meant to scare children away from the dangerous woods.
One young man, just turned sixteen years old and of marrying age, had always been drawn to such tales, especially the one about the cursed oak grove… but he no longer had time for such fantastical stories. For in one measly year his childhood was ripped away from him, and he was thrust into the cruel adult world. He had just lost his elder sister that year to smallpox, and his best friend, his pup Cujo, died of old age not long after. His family was suffering financially – with no way to recover – and now that he was of age, he was taken from his home and forced to travel to a town near heart of old London, right on the edge of the woods. This was where high society thrived, where the wealthy and influential lived…
Where his unknown, and greatly undesired, future bride waited…
“Daniel! Come now, get out of the carriage!”
Mrs. Madeline Fenton tapped at the door of their carriage and looked up at her husband in distress. “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing here, Jack?”
The tall, fat man sighed. “We don’t really have a choice, dear…” he replied, rapping on the door. “Come on now, son! Don’t dawdle!”
The year was 1850, and it was a rainy morning in London. The sky almost seemed to be crying, dirty water flowing into the gutters of the great Manson Manor. Before Jasmine’s death, most of the family’s money had come in from her therapist business; it was how Jack and Madeline could spend their days inventing and selling the occasional machine to a rare enthusiast. Daniel had been studying to become an astronomer, but now…
“I’m c-coming…” a soft voice stuttered out, and slowly a small, slight young man stepped out of the carriage.
Daniel had big baby blue eyes framed by long, raven black hair he kept in a low ponytail at the base of his neck, tied with a dark blue bow. His skin was porcelain pale and he was a lovely boy, anyone could see that despite his sad expression. He was dressed in his best suit, a dark blue three piece that fit him snugly, but his dad’s big coat nearly dwarfed him. His sister had gotten this suit for him to wear when he graduated. He would be lucky to even get a chance to go back to school once he was married…
Oh gods, he didn’t want to marry. He was still young and he had NEVER liked girls. His sister had always told Daniel he didn’t have to marry if he didn’t want too, that she didn’t view him as a freak for not liking the fairer sex. But now his silent support was gone and he had no choice but do the one thing he dreaded…
He looked up at his parents, smiling shakily as he trembled with nerves. “O-okay… I’m r-ready…”
Madeline straightened his tie and cupped his face. “Don’t worry, Daniel. You look so handsome!” she smiled encouragingly. “It’s just a wedding rehearsal. You’ll do fine.”
Jack gave him a gruff look. “Just try to keep the stuttering to a minimum, okay?”
His wife frowned at him. “Jack.”
“It’s okay, m-mom… He m-means well…” Daniel gave his dad a small, understanding smile. “I’ll d-do my b-b-best. I’m just…. n-nervous.”
“It’s okay, kid! It’s just marriage!” Jack laughed. “I got lucky that your mom was so perfect for me! Maybe you’ll get lucky too with this Manson girl!”
“I don’t think you’re making him feel better!”
“Hey, just trying to be realistic.”
Daniel, or Danny as his sister used to call him, just kept his head down as he followed his squibbling parents up the steps to the large manor. A tall, crow-like butler showed them in, looking down at the boy past his large nose and making him feel even more inadequate. He wasn’t made for high bred life and he knew it wouldn’t be long till he messed up.
But this wasn’t about his happiness, this was about his family’s livelihood, and he had to do what was best by them. Even if it wasn’t what was best for him…
The crow-like butler cleared his throat. “Lord and Lady Manson,” he announced.
Jack, Madeline, and Danny all looked up to the top of the stairs. There stood a regal couple dressed in the highest city fashions, the husband blonde and the wife redheaded; Jeremy and Pamela Manson. It was common knowledge that despite their appearance and massive house, they were struggling to maintain it. The Fentons were an option to such an upper-class family because they could claim to be downsizing because of their new in-laws, at the same time upgrading the Fentons. It was beneficial for both families, although unspoken.
Jeremy and Pamela walked down the stairs, chortling elegantly. “Oh, Jack! Madeline! How nice~”
Daniel shivered slightly from the couple’s too-cheery tone, not really feeling this day caused for much cheer. He winced at his own thoughts, ducking his head. There he went again, only thinking about himself. How selfish…
He followed his parents’ examples and wordlessly gave the Mansons a courteous greeting, bowing politely. He even kissed the back of Lady Manson’s hand, making the woman laugh and tell his mother she had a ‘charming young man for a son, how polite’…
He felt sick…
“So, young man, what is your name?” Jeremy grinned.
The boy swallowed thickly, clearing his throat. “Daniel…” he answered softly, hoping to seem simply polite and demure, rather than the fact he was trying his hardest not to stutter.
“Oh, how adorable~” Pamela cooed, pinching his cheek with her bony, gloved fingers. “He’s so quiet~! Has he always been like that?”
Madeline scowled at the way her son was being handled. “No. He is getting over the loss of his sister and his dog. We all are,” she replied harshly.
“Oh dear! How dreadful!” the older lady gasped, putting a hand over her mouth.
Jeremy shrugged, grinning toothily. “Oh well! Terrible things tend to happen!” he smiled, looking at his wife. “Right, sweetie? You just can’t let it get you down~!”
The woman grinned back, laughing. “That’s right~!”
Jack and Madeline’s faces both twisted. Daniel could tell he wasn’t the only one feeling sick now.
“Well, why don’t we show you the room where we are doing the wedding rehearsal!” the blonde man proclaimed cheerily. Pamela led them into the next room; Daniel made a move to follow, only to find a hand planted on his chest. “Why don’t you stay here, young man? Samantha should be down in a moment! You two can do a little meet and greet and get cozy~!”
Before Daniel could reply, Jeremy had sauntered after his wife and the Fentons. The doors closed with an echoing slam.
He found himself all alone in the massive foyer. Even the butler hadn’t stuck around.
He glanced down at his hands, finding they had curled into fists in an attempt to curb his terrible shaking and nerves. He sighed, finally relaxing his hands and curling them to his chest, soothing the knuckles. His breath came out in hushed pants and he just couldn’t stop the wild beating of his heart. What was he doing? There was no way he could get married to a woman he had never met, he just couldn’t possibly–!
“O-oh…” Danny breathed, leaning against a nearby wall. “I… I c-can’t do this…”
Suddenly, the sound of a door slamming shut echoed from the second floor and he turned around quickly towards the stairs. Clicking heels against marble stone filled his ears before finally, a dark haired young woman appeared at the top of the stairs. He sucked in a rattling breath and quickly lowered his eyes, slowly approaching the stairs so that he could greet her at the base, even though all he really wanted to do was run away…
The girl’s heels clicked authoritatively down the steps. They stopped right under Danny’s eyes; he saw they were heeled women’s boots, dark and shiny, under a simple, black muslin skirt.
“…So you’re supposed to be my fiance, I guess?” muttered an unsatisfied-sounding female voice.
Daniel flinched, then nodded politely. “Y-yes. I’m Daniel, it’s a p-pleasure to meet you, Miss M-Manson…”
He politely took her hand and kissed it, helping her down the last of the steps like he was taught to do, before letting go of her hand and bowing again, demonstrating that he DID see her as an able-bodied young woman and he would not push her to accept him as a leading man past their courteous meeting. His sister always told him that girls should be treated like equals, not as weaker, pretty things, and he fully agreed.
It seemed this girl did too, because when she spoke again, she sounded a bit more amiable. “Well, you can call me Samantha, since you’re so polite. Are you not going to look at me the whole time?”
Daniel swallowed, then finally looked up to meet her eyes. She was a pretty girl, with shoulder length straight black hair and dark amethyst eyes. She held herself proudly, back straight and head held high and Daniel already found himself intimidated by her. Mainly so, because he wished to BE her…
A shy flush dusted his cheeks and he smiled softly. “S-sorry… I’m a little nervous… P-please, call me Daniel, S-Samantha…”
Samantha gave him a little half-smile. “Okay, Daniel.”
“Young lady, get in here!” came a muffled yell.
The sixteen-year-old girl scowled in the direction of the piano room, then sighed and looked at her supposed fiance. “We should go,” she said, making a motion like she was offering him her arm. “We should probably, like–”
“O-oh, right!” Daniel agreed, taking her arm gently. “Of c-course.”
They walked into the piano room together, Daniel making a point to keep his stride even with Samantha’s and not lead her in, but simply walk in as equals. He politely walked with her to the front of the room where her parents were, released her arm and nodded politely to the Lord and Lady again. He kept his mouth shut and his eyes down, but he tried his best to keep his back as straight as Samantha’s while standing by her side.
He could do this… he could do this…
God, he hoped he could do this…
The large, imposing priest looked down his long nose at the two – appraising them – as the Mansons and the Fentons sat behind the young couple. Jeremy and Pamela grinned, faux and doll-like, at the back of their daughter’s head. Jack and Maddie looked like they had tasted something foul.
The priest opened his book. “I trust you two have made your preparations,” he declared regally.
Samantha frowned, but nodded. Daniel mimicked her actions, white as a sheet. Both of them reached for the wine glasses placed before them, and turned to hold them to each other. Daniel swallowed, glancing towards the priest as he lifelessly went through the motions of their supposed ‘wedding’.
“Now, the vows?”
Daniel, took a deep breath, then met Samantha’s encouraging gaze. “With this h-hand… I w-will lift your… your…”
He winced, desperately trying to tune out the disapproving priest’s muttering. “I will l-lift your s-s-sorrows… your cup… your cup will n-never… never…–”
“What’s wrong with the boy?” Daniel heard Lady Pamela whisper to her husband.
“He isn’t retarded, is he?” Lord Jeremy whispered back.
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, cheeks pink as he gritted his teeth. “Your c-cup will never e-e-empty… F-for I will be… be your w-w-wine…”
He reached for the wine with shaky hands, and managed to pour a small amount into Samantha’s glass without spilling it… barely. He winced when he noticed her mildly sympathetic look, keeping his eyes down as she went through her own vows. Finally, they exchanged a sip from the wine glasses, Daniel’s hands only shaking marginally.
But then, he had to pick up the candle, and he couldn’t hide his trembling hands then. He grimaced as he held the candle, knuckles turning white. “W-with this c-candle… I… I will–”
“He has some kind of sickness, goodness gracious…”
“Can’t even hold the candle! Look how it’s shaking!” came another whisper.
Jack’s fist curled tightly on his leg. Maddie looked twice as furious, still she held her ground. Samantha looked at him sadly, hesitating, but remained silent.
Daniel desperately held in a whimper. “I will… w-will…”
Suddenly, a deep gong swept in from the foyer.
The priest scowled disapprovingly. The Mansons waved at their butler, who went to get the door. “Don’t mind the door. Continue!”
“I will l-light…” Daniel kept his sight firmly on the ground, feeling a hot prickle of tears begin to well up in the back of his eyes. He swallowed thickly, feeling ashamed. “Light y-your w-w-way…”
“Through darkness!” the priest barked.
The butler came back in, handing a small card to Lord Jeremy. “Lady Penelope Spectra here to see you, sir,” he said, nose in the air.
The blonde man nodded, looking overjoyed to have a distraction from Daniel’s stuttering. “Ahh, yes, the splendid woman who lives in the manor on 5th? Excellent, send her in!”
Madeline glared at them. “It’s a wedding rehearsal! It should only be friends and family!”
Pamela waved her aside. “When you live in a world run by the socialites, the rich ARE your family!” she replied with a very fake smile. “You should know that by now!”
The butler bowed and showed in a tall, coldly beautiful woman. She had flaming red hair swept back over her shoulder and dark, smouldering green eyes. Her skin was a golden tan, and her voluptuous body was wrapped up in a dark red dress that hugged her curves in all the right places. It was hard to tell what age she truly was, for she carried herself like an elder, highbred woman, but dressed like a bachelorette of London.
Daniel found himself paling even further under her cold, vulturous stare, voice fading completely as she seemed to zero in on him…
Spectra smiled slowly at the sight of the pretty young boy.
Then, she sat, crossing her legs and never taking her eyes off Daniel. “Good morning, Lord and Lady Manson. Ghastly weather, isn’t it?”
“No SMALL TALK!”
The priest smacked his cane against the floor, then glared at Daniel. “You! Continue where you left off!”
Daniel nodded, shaking in fright. He was pale as a sheet now and he was so overwhelmed. He didn’t want to be there. He wanted to run, run and just keep running!
“I w-w-will light your w-way through… th-through d-d-d-darkness…”
“Lord Almighty, STOP!”
The priest shut his book and squinted at Daniel. “Clearly, this young man has yet to learn his vows,” he announced. “I assume we shall resume when he has properly PREPARED. Good day, lords and ladies.”
Without looking up, Daniel rushed from the room, refusing to meet what he was so sure was his parent’s disapproving gaze.
Ruined, ruined, everything was ruined!!
Tears gathered at his lashes as he dashed out of the manor and onto the London streets, running and running as tears spilled down his face. Get away, he had to get away! From the pitying looks and the snide remarks and the laughter!
He ran and ran, blindly crossed the little cobblestone bridge and into the dangerous woods, no thought for his safety in mind at all. He stumbled over loose stones and roots, bare tree limbs scratching at his arms and face and hands, before he finally collapsed in a small, moonlit clearing. There, he let the first sob break past his throat, tears streaming down his face as he wept.
“It’s n-n-not fair! Wh-why m-me? Why did y-you leave m-me all a-a-alone, Jazz? Why…”
He put his head in his hands, continuing to weep until he had nothing left in him. He was cold, absolutely soaking wet, and miserable. After a long while – the rain had stopped, and the moon had ascended into the night sky as he cried – the poor boy sighed in exhaustion, and pulled out the ring he had in his pocket. It was a simple thing, a thick silver band with a single, small diamond set into the metal. It wasn’t fair or dainty, in fact, it had belonged to his late grandfather… but it was all he had, and he valued its worth to his family. He looked down at it mournfully.
“I know m-my vows… I just… I just couldn’t…”
He shakily stood up, leaning back against a old, towering oak tree. “W-with this h-hand… with th-this h-h-hand…”
It was then that a cool wind caressed Daniel’s face… like the fingers of a ghost…
A faraway whisper met his ears, coming from both everywhere and nowhere.
“With this hand…” it murmured, faintly. “I will lift your sorrows…”
Daniel startled, looking around himself with wide blue eyes. He heard a voice, he KNEW he heard a voice. But there was no one there…
He blinked, eyes widening even further in a mix of anxiousness and curiosity. Was this… the curse of the old oak grove? Was it real?
“With this h-hand…” he softly repeated, surprising himself a little. “I will l-lift your s-sorrows…”
A soft coo answered him… Now, Daniel could hear the ghostly voice.
It was deep. Masculine…
“Your cup will never be empty…” the spirit murmured, voice growing in strength. Daniel felt cold, invisible fingers twine gently around his wrists. They were big hands, but soft for a man’s…
“For I will be your wine…”
Daniel shivered, willingly allowing this spirit to pull him away from the shelter of the tree, and closer to the center of the grove where the moon shone the brightest. He stumbled a little, but righted himself quickly and almost eagerly stepped forward. This voice… it was so soothing, it made Daniel feel safe, feel WANTED…
He hadn’t felt like that in a long, long time…
“Your c-cup will never e-empty…” he breathed, clutched the ring to his chest. “For I w-will be your w-wine…”
There was a pause… almost as if his invisible company was surprised by his compliance.
Then, there emerged a soft white glow before Daniel. Radiant scarlet eyes shone out from the face of a handsome older gentleman – in his thirties or early forties, with a strong jaw and cheekbones that could cut – gazing out from under pale lashes. Long white hair flowed around broad shoulders, in a wind Daniel could not feel. He wore high-end fashions from decades before, with a high collar and a bright red ribbon tied delicately above his ruff…
A ghost of a candle manifested between them, its flickering blue flame dancing almost hypnotizingly before Daniel’s eyes. “With this candle…” the ghost murmured, leaning in closer. “I will light your way…”
Another flame appeared beside the human boy. “…Through darkness…”
Daniel’s eyes widened in awe, shining bright as he gazed at the blue wisps of flame floating before him. Then, his gaze settled on the beautiful male specter, breath stuck in his throat. The ghost had to be the most handsome man he had ever seen. His hair looked like spun silver and his eyes like glittering garnets. Daniel couldn’t help but turn his hand inside the larger one, intertwining his fingers with the cold, barely there digits he could feel against his skin.
Slowly, he pulled back his hand, and cupped the bright blue flame in his palms. “With th-this candle, I will l-light your way…”
He pressed his flame closer to the spectors, until they merged into one large candle, glowing bright and merry. Daniel smiled softly. “Th-through darkness…”
A stunned look came over the ghost’s face.
Then… its red eyes glittered, and he smiled softly.
Taking Daniel’s hand, the specter gently reached inside his glowing white jacket and pulled out a beautiful, slender gold band forged to look like intertwining vines. Delicate tendrils of gold curled around the biggest diamond the boy had ever seen. Daniel stared at the ring in amazement, a small sound of wonder slipping past his lips at what seemed, to him, to be a very real object in this ghost’s hand.
“With this ring…”
The specter’s voice was the realest, the closest that Daniel had heard it, as he slid the warm weight of the ring onto the boy’s slender finger. It fit perfectly, heavy with gold and diamonds.
Daniel felt his eyes close in a mix of bliss and… something else. Something heavy and deep, settling in his gut as this ring slid onto his finger. For the first time, Daniel actually began to feel the weight of the vows he was exchanging with this being, and he found he strangely didn’t regret them.
“I ask you to be mine.”
Glowing scarlet eyes gazed expectantly, hopefully, down at Daniel’s soft face.
Slowly, almost like he was in a hypnotic state, he held up his grandfather’s ring. It was still curled within his fingers as he presented it to the specter, shyly hoping it pleased the beautiful being, even though it was far simpler then the ring Daniel had received. “W-with this ring…”
The specter smiled at him, making Daniel’s heart flutter, and held up his hand to him. The boy slid the ring onto his finger, fitting snugly just above the third knuckle, like it had always belonged there. A soft sigh left his plump lips, eyelids suddenly drooping.
“I ask you… to be mine…”
And then those pretty blue eyes rolled back in his skull, knees giving out under his body… and everything went black…