Once again, this is a standalone tale – or is it. There’s a subtle link to my ‘Jewel Box‘ story – if you spot it – and some characters may appear again. Plus, the setting is probably Wales or the Borders.
WARNING – there is blood, but be brave…like Mina. Remember, the dragon is red, and so is the beetroot of shame – and some wheelbarrows.
The shooting had been tough.
Yet, Mina was relieved. Her life was changing, although not as planned after her parents died.
Still, she had a few weeks off before Oriole Productions needed her and Dafydd back for dubbing. By then she’d no longer be Mina Westenra, but Mina Glyndwr.
Biting her lips didn’t bury her pre-nuptial nerves as the limousine pulled up outside the grey-stone church.
“You can still call it off, although the family might kill you after all they’ve arranged.”
A shiver washed over her at Victor Frankel’s words. Her director was standing-in for her deceased father. If only her mum hadn’t died of grief or her dad had survived the blood disease.
She swallowed and attempted bravery.
“No more killing – fictional or real. I’m marrying Dafydd. I just wish one parent was here.”
“I can never replace either in there.” Vic pointed at her heart. “They are watching and proud. Dafydd isn’t just a fine actor – perfect for a classic remake. He’s genuine – like the Glyndwrs.”
Their bloodline was as ancient as the yew tree guarding the grounds. Descended, as Dafydd claimed, from the famous Owain Glyndwr, the last true Prince of Wales.
They climbed out of the limo, then walked up the path through the graveyard. She drew strength from the man who had guided her career.
Ahead some late comers dashed out of the rain towards the sanctuary. An elderly man greeted them. He was about seventy from the grey hair, white beard and old-style tweed suit and waistcoat.
Standing outside, he braved the foul weather. So much for a summer wedding with blue sky.
The man smiled at Mina and reached into the basket on his arm.
“A first gift on your bridal day. Our custom, since Dafydd brings us new blood.” He handed her a circlet of lilies, entwined with roses and sprigs of rosemary. “Gwna dda dros ddrwg, uffern ni’th ddwg – or as the English say, Repay evil with good, and hell will not claim you.”
Did he mean to sound so archaic, thought Mina – like the Count in their movie. Her skin prickled and icy fingers crawled across her.
Had anyone noticed?
Vic was chatting with the old man as he took the petals the creepy man removed from a blood-red wheelbarrow.
“You’ll be a needing these. Better than confetti for the ground. Food for the soil so play on, as my friend Will said.”
A poet gardener not a legendary creature. She relaxed and let Vic guide her into the packed church for this best day of her life. Marrying the man, she loved. Witnessed by friends she valued. The family welcoming her.
Petals strewn underfoot, crushed releasing their scent, suppressing all else.
Her glances as she was walked down the aisle showed the old man hadn’t joined them.
Only a gardener.
Except vampires couldn’t step inside a holy place – according to the script.
The vicar banished the misleading thought. The blissful moments grew as the wedding service lifted her and her heart. She made her vows committing her future. Dafydd’s lips sealed the union.
Here before her, hands cupping her face, was the dream guy who was worth putting her BAFTA dreams aside for.
Their identical Welsh gold rings were their eternal bond. Her blood warmed her as they walked out of the church arm in arm – united forever. Into the sunshine which bathed the churchyard, banishing the last vestiges of a dead writer’s imaginings and a scriptwriter’s fantasies.
Petals showered them. Joy and warmth. Heart bursting. Congratulations flowed as their photographer posed them.
On the edge of the graveyard, the abandoned wheelbarrow. And the thought – vampires don’t like churches or sunlight.
She laughed – cracked and shaking.
“The photos are a formality and a memento.” Her husband sounded reassuring but then asked, “Or did something else unnerve you?”
She needed an excuse. “I wondered where the gardener was.”
“The elderly guy who gave me the circlet as we arrived. He wasn’t in the church, so I presumed—”
Dafydd laughed. “You mean Great Uncle Owain. He’s never been inside that church. Old but not the gardener. But he likes plants, and creatures though, bats especially. Creatures of the night and their ilk.”
He laughed again. Her head and heart churned but wedding customs propelled her through cheering people to the limo.
Dafydd kissed her in the back seat.
“Great Uncle Owain will be at the reception – it’s in the garden of his old ancestral home. Well, the house he’s lived in since before the Great War. He’s a true war vet – valiant as a lion, Will said.”
Over one hundred years old. Yet she’d guessed seventy. Age was deceptive.
Great Uncle Owain’s house felt forgotten. Ancient. Nature had overrun it, with ivy and Virginia creeper vying for the prime masonry.
However, the garden was more ordered.
“You asked if Great Uncle was the gardener. Well, this is his creation – over many decades.”
“How many decades? He must be older than he looks.”
“He keeps young. The family trait – passed down the generations. A secret like my love bites – hidden from view.”
Warmth spread across her face at the memory. She laughed, right hand caressing her neck where the marks had been.
Her excuses for the pinpricks where he had drawn blood.
Like the Count.
She suppressed the shivers as they walked into the crowded marquee.
Tables – their white linen surfaces decorated.
Gifts on the wedding table at one side.
Flowers in green and red wheelbarrows.
Laughter. Music. Chatter.
Great Uncle Owain leaning in for a kiss. Breath on her neck. Lips hovering.
He kissed both her cheeks.
His voice – rich and smooth. Relaxing. Hypnotic.
He raised a glass of crimson liquid.
“Welcome to the Glyndwr Dynasty. Don’t let the rumours of my addiction to blood disturb you, my dear Mina. It’s kept me alive for generations. We all get used to its taste. You will too. Try some.”
Word Count 1000: FCA
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