Marukan Wedding

Tha-thump. Tha-thump. Tha-thump.

Sylvia felt her breath quicken as her heart tried it’s best to pump itself out of her chest. Her cerulean bride dress trailed behind her a few feet, and had been perfectly comfortable when she had it tailored, but now it felt oppressively tight. She could feel her cheeks flushing in her nervous state, and she could swear sweat was making a nice puddle at her feet.

She prided herself at how well she could compose herself in stressful situations in front of people, but now she literally felt like she was falling apart. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked at Hwin. The older woman stared at Sylvia with knowing eyes and squeezed her shoulder. “Nervousness ill suits you Lady Vilirith,” she whispered to Sylvia.

“I can’t help it Hwin. What if he doesn’t show up?” Hwin smiled and shook her head. “Lady Vilirth, how many of these have you presided over? Have you ever seen anyone not show up for their wedding day?” Sylvia looked over at all the people who lived on the Ranch. How many of their weddings had she presided over in her time? A dozen? Three dozen? As the leader of their community it was her responsibility, and she had never seen anyone pull a no-show. She had even stood in Hwin’s place and comforted nervous brides.

“Besides,” the older woman stated. “This is the man whom you rescued from the roadside and freed from a life of slavery. The same man who repaid you for that kindness by staying here on your ranch, despite his discomfort around us. The same man who fought Devran barehanded when you declined his proposition and he refused to back down. The same man who trekked thousands of miles across Creation just so Destiny could let you two find each other. The same man who—"

“I get the idea Hwin.” Sylvia said, smiling despite herself. Everything the other woman said was true, and she had nothing to fear. There was no way Irenicus would not show up for their wedding.

But she was still nervous. “I can’t help it though. I know Irenicus, and I love him too much to think he wouldn’t show up. But I’m still worrying about it. I remember all the other weddings I’ve presided over, and how wonderful they were for them. But today is my turn, and it feels as if my heart is going to burst from my chest!”

Hwin laughed at that. “Lady Vilirith, just look at yourself.” The woman gestured at Sylvia in her cerulean bride dress, silver chained necklace, and cerulean wedding shoes with silver filigree. “You are a vision of Venus herself. If you are nervous that that man might not show up to marry you, can you imagine how nervous he must be?”

Sylvia shook her head, genuinely confused. “How could Irenicus be nervous about marrying me?”

***

Hwin’s laughter echoed across the gathered crowd and into the tent where Irenicus was pacing nervously. Despite how much cooler the Marukan Alliance was from Gem, his blue shirt was starting to stain with sweat, and he used his golden scarf to wipe the sweat off his brow. His head was glistening in sweat, the black hair that had been slowly growing back after years of being shaved off doing nothing to stop it from running down his face. Next to him a man just starting to show graying in his temples shook his head.

“Irenicus, you need to settle down. At this rate you’re going to wear out that suit that Lady Vilirith got you.” The Southerner shook his head violently. “I can’t help it Kquen. She wants to marry me? Me! This can’t be real. I mean look at her.” He lifted the flap at the tent entrance and looked down the blue carpet leading to the podium, transfixed by the vision of beauty that was Sylvia. “Look at her for Gods sake! Venus herself must be staring down in jealously right now!”

Kquen smiled and nodded. “Lady Vilirith really has pulled out all the stops for this. I haven’t seen her looking this ravishing since she was a young girl.” Irenicus let the flap fall closed again. “Exactly! How could a woman like that, a goddess like that, possibly love a man like me?!” He looked down at his clothing. His silk cerulean groom shirt and pants were met in the middle by a golden sash, and around his neck was a golden scarf trimmed with more cerulean.

“I never even imagined I could wear such fine clothing. This is impossible. It can’t be real.” Kquen quirked and eyebrow at Irenicus. “I can assure you this is quite real. There is no reason for you to be so nervous.” Irenicus shot him an almost panicked look. “Of course there is! Look at her! If this is real than this is obviously some trick to humiliate me, because there is no way a Lady like herself could possibly love a slave like me.”

Kquen’s eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. “Let me get this straight. We are talking about the woman who found you lying battered, bloodied, and broken on the side of the road and brought you back to her ranch to treat herself. The same woman who disregarded all our warnings that you might have been a bandit, and would kill her at the slightest opportunity, so she could nurse you back to health. The same woman who, believing without hesitation your story that you were a slave from Gem to house Iblan, promptly used Guild contacts and favors she had gathered over years to buy you from them. The same woman who then set you free from your slavery without any strings or ‘favors owed’ attached. The same woman who has rebuffed advances from men with greater wealth, more refined breeding, even Dragon-blooded lineage, for the past several years because she was certain of her love for you. She has done all this and more, and you think she might be doing all of this to humiliate you?”

Irenicus stared at Kquen for a long, silent moment as he ran everything the man said through his mind. Everything he said was true about her, and even in this pit of doubt he had thrown himself into he could not believe his fear of humiliation. A grin broke out over his lips as he thought that. “Yes that’s her. And no, I don’t think she would. Not really. But I can’t help but be afraid anyways. She’s gorgeous, and the thought that she would really and truly pick me over everyone else is just—”

Kquen grinned. “Impossible?” Irenicus stared at his rival-turned-compatriot and his grin turned into a full-blown smile. “I was going to say ‘unlikely’ but yeah; impossible is a good word too.” He slapped his friend on the shoulder. “Thanks for the talk.” Kquen returned the pat and nodded. “Hey, I love pointing out how stupid you’re being, so don’t mention it. Now grab the bouquet and let’s get this day of impossibility started.”

***

Sylvia held her breath as the priest of Hiparkes finished the hour long prayer of fertility and fortune for the married couple. The morning sun had turned afternoon now, but the sweat rolling down her back still had nothing to do with the heat. She had run this part through her mind over and over again, and it had taken her nearly a month to find just the right words for this.

“And now,” the priest said, “the two shall trade vows of commitment, to prove to our Maiden of Serenity that this union is indeed worthy of her blessing. Lady Vilirith, if you will begin.”

Sylvia turned to look up at Irenicus gulped heavily, her heart pounding impossibly faster. “Irenicus, I won’t lie here in front of all of my friends and Hiparkes and Venus. When I first met you, I had no inkling that this day would come. When I first found you that day, I had no foresight or knowledge that you and I would be standing her today. Indeed, when I first met you I was certain you were a brigand or worse, and those close to me advised me to simply let you be that day.”

A single tear fell down her face as she felt all the emotions building up today begin to flood out in her words. “Despite that though, I couldn’t simply leave you to your fate. And in the two years since then, I have never once regretted that decision. You have proven to be a soul of decency, never once asking for something you did not deserve. You have proven to be a valued member of our home here, and never once did you complain about the differences between our two cultures.”

“You have exceeded all of my hopes and dreams for what I could find in a soul mate. Because above all these things you have proven to be my bastion. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or in need of help, you have always been there. And you never once asked for anything in return. You would listen to me for hours, and not once did you try and excuse yourself. I think now about a life without you in it, and I see it is no life at all. Here, today, I will give into my selfish desires and say this: I need you Irenicus, son of Gem. I need you more than I need air itself. So I hope that today, of all days, you will see how much I need you, and choose to stay by my side.”

Sylvia stared deeply into Irenicus’ purple eyes and her heart soared when he smiled.

***

Irenicus felt a lump threaten to choke him as he listened to Sylvia. As always when she became impassioned as such, her words carried such force that he could not help but be flattened by them. He saw a single tear run down her face, and the lump rose even higher, cutting off his breath as his heart started to follow it. Finally she finished, releasing him from the blissful torment only she could inflict on him and he smiled.

Everyone present seemed similarly moved, and the sound of sniffles filled the air for a few seconds after her words settled in them all. The priest wiped his eyes once, then turned to Irenicus. “And now you m’lord.” Irenicus nodded, and clutched the bouquet of flowers tighter. According to Kquen, Marukan tradition stated he was supposed to give Sylvia the flowers during his vows, a symbol for his love to Sylvia so Venus did not presume his words false and snatch him up for herself.

Irenicus swallowed the lump back down his throat as he ran the words over in his head again, running over the words that he had been told were proper and appropriate. The seconds turned to a minute, and a quite mummer ran through the crowd as he said nothing. When Sylvia’s expression started to look worried though, that shot a jolt through him and he finally decided to hell with tradition or being appropriate.

“I love you.” The mummer in the crowd quickly subsided at that. “Sylvia, I love you more than anything or anyone else ever could. Gods, I cannot even describe to you how much I love you. Had I been blessed with your gift of words, I know I could sweep you off your feet with them, I love you so much.” He looked down at the woman he loved and felt tears of his own start to run down his face.

“But I don’t. So I’ll simply have to let my own simple words and ways suffice.” He lifted the bouquet in sight, and as dramatically as he could he broke the ribbon holding them and split the flowers evenly in his hand. A dead silence fell over the crowd at his actions, and the look of confusion and hope on Sylvia’s face made Irenicus’ heart skip a beat in fear. He handed the flowers in on hand to Sylvia and she took them gently, like they would shatter if she grasped them too tightly.

“I give you half of this bouquet, because it symbolizes my heart. I can no longer hold all of it by myself anymore, and for me to do so would be to deny everything it feels and tells me. But I cannot give it to you fully either. To do so would be to say I entrust my heart, my entire soul and being to you, and you alone.” Another small mummer began to run through the crown, and the fear in Sylvia’s eyes was beginning to tear Irenicus apart. He had to finish this fast.

“Instead I give you half my heart. The part completely devoted to you, you now hold in your hand. I know that you will cherish it with all your being. The other half I hold, not because I do not trust you with it, far from it in fact. I hold onto it, because only when I’m together with you is my heart complete. To give it entirely with you would be to betray the trust you put in me. Here, split in half like this, not only do you have a piece of myself to hold onto, but with me holding this other half I show you that I trust implicitly that you and I will be together forever. And not even Venus herself could make me do otherwise.”

Silence filled the air, and for a brief second Irenicus was afraid he had truly and completely screwed up. And then Sylvia’s face exploded into a grin even as her eyes began to flow with tears. She brought the flowers close to her chest and hugged them tightly as she stared up at him with those intense green eyes. “I do trust you Irenicus. Now and always.”

***

The crowd stared in apt attention as the two of them turned to face the priest, who nodded. “Then may we now seal these proclamations with an oath.”

He turned to Sylvia. “Sylvia Vilirith, daughter of Marukan, will you swear to love this man for all time? To stay by him in darkness and in light, in sickness or health, to cherish him and to protect him from harm until both your souls do pass to their next incarnation?”

Sylvia nodded. “I will.”

The priest turned to Irenicus. “Irenicus, son of Gem, will you swear to love this woman for all time? To stay by her in darkness and in light, in sickness or health, to cherish her and to guard her from danger until both your souls do pass to their next incarnation?”

Irenicus nodded. “I will.”

The priest of Hiparkes showed the first hint of emotion in the smile that spread on his face. “I have never heard such conviction in those words before. It is with great pleasure, indeed with great honor, that I now pronounce you two wife & husband. May Venus bless your union for all time.”

The crowd suddenly stood and began applauding, all of them giddy in delight to see their Lady finally wed. As the two newlyweds embraced and kissed, they exploded into raucous cheering. Breaking their kiss, Sylvia and Irenicus both stood there, absorbing in the other, completely oblivious to the commotion around them.

“I love you Sylvia Vilirith,” Irenicus whispered to her.

“And I you, Irenicus Vilirith.”

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