Daddy set me down at the bottom of the Temple steps, off the back of his old warhorse. “If he's not good to you, Puppyfuzz, I'll kick his ass, champion or no,” he whispered in my ear.
“I love you too, Daddy.” I said out loud. He couldn't see me smile but he'd be able to hear it. He could feel me shaking. I was trying not to shake.
I peered through the layers of veils. I could barely see and desperately needed my attendants to steer me into place on the Temple steps, like a large ship, or a blind horse. I could look down and see my own feet clearly but not much else.
It was hot and confining. Kallijas pulled the top veil off and it was amazing. It brightened up, and became cooler. Oh, please take the next one off.
Even in the shade of the Temple portico it was a relief when the second veil came off. The third, fourth and fifth were all various types of lace so they let me see and breathe at least. Oh my goodness he's so handsome in his wedding armour.
The carpet under my feet was spangled white on dark blue and I remembered playing wedding with my friends, laying cloths out to represent this. I could see Kallijas in his white and green and gold wedding armour, specially made for today. His sword hilt, on his hip, was well polished and worn and his attendants were spread out behind him, all in variations of groom’s green.
Niku, in bride’s attendant silver, was right behind me, next to Sasilla, my over-zealous sister. Sasilla was being good and not publicly holding her nose at having to be next to all my foreign friends, the conquerers. She had enough to think of, things to manage as my bema, and basking in the splashed over honour of becoming a member of the Imperial family by my marriage.
Sas caught me as I managed to stumble on the carpet nap and we traded a secret smile. Sisters.
Niku was whispering me things that made me want to giggle. I could be shocked or I could laugh and laughing was a lot easier, and actually relaxed me. Warrior humour. It did calm me down.
We walked through the pattern and every time we stopped, Kallijas removed another veil. The fifth veil down and I could see clearly. The red and white sixth dress came up over my head more slowly and with more care on Kallijas’s part. I smiled at him and he began to blush as he asked me quietly to raise my arms. The choir sang each dress or veil off at each stopping point in the Temple.
I was nervous even though I shouldn’t be. I’d rehearsed my part half a hundred times and knowing Kallijas he’d probably paced this round more than what was traditionally called for. He’d gone pale now, then blushed again, his beautiful face solemn, except when he looks at me and he has a smile behind his composure. I love you so much.
He stepped onto the groom’s square, with Joras and I onto the bride’s, with Sasilla, and the tiny laefeti rose up, lifting us up way from the rest our attendants, up over the heads of the crowd, half way to the gallery. I held my arms out to either side, under Selinae’s gaze and Kallijas raised his hands as if he were disrobing me of the last public dress and I wiggled my shoulders to raise it up. It took only a little bit of motion on my part to work the dress up my body, as if it were him doing it.
Once the last dress floated down to the reaching hands of the crowd, the laefeti raised us to the wedding gallery and the Fenjitzae who’d come up from the Temple door to the lecterns while we were pacing the Temple floor.
We both stepped onto the gallery and my face was clear. I only had the inner two dresses left, the red with a white edge that was next to last, and the inner dress that was deep red silk. My shoes were dark red silk as was my wedding fan, trimmed with red wedding feathers. His comb was red crystal set with rubies and they clicked together as we turned to face the Fenjitzae.
The Fenjitzae read out the commands to the wedded partners and then Kallijas turned to me, to quote scripture, Muunas’s Song to Selinae. This was the part that made him the most nervous, having to recite these most ancient wedding vows.
They were the most... salacious thing I'd ever heard an Arkan man say out loud to his wife. And I had my part to answer him with. I gulped, hopefully not too obviously.
Behind my fan, I slid my one hand free of my wedding glove, with Sas's help, and she held it for me. Joras didn't have to do that since Kallijas's hand was already bare, except for the Imperial seal on it.
“Muunas: Chapter 10, Verse 10-15,” he said. His voice was clear and I warmed all over, listening to these beautiful, beautiful verses.
“10: My Lady is beautiful. Her breasts are like the young harts leaping upon the hillside, to Her excited breath. Her eyes are like elstralis sky and melt for me. My name is upon Her lips darker than heart’sblood, sweeter than honey.”
He put his hand in the box that Joras held for him.
“11: Her limbs twine about Me, white and pale and strong and Her hair winds around Me holding Us close. I kiss Her sweet lips and white column of neck and She cradles My passion in Her delicate strong hands. We dance and sing together and stars shake and suns quiver.”
I put my hand in the other end of the box and I feel his warm fingers clasp mine. He gasps and, hidden, we twine our hands together.
“12: I shout My passion between Her breasts, holding the elegant cup of all Creation in My hands." He stopped, so red he was almost the colour of my shoes. The Fenjitzas, reading from the scripture prompted him. "The rain upon my fingers is hot and joyous. I eat of the fruit of Her in ecstasy. Her golden apples burst sweetly against My tongue.” He was supposed to be looking at me, but he wasn't, he was looking intently at the box with our hands inside.
I could feel his fingers shaking as he slid the glass ring onto my finger and we held hands. My hands were terribly sweaty. He was blushed so deep a red I was absolutely certain I could feel the heat on the skin of my hand.
“13: Lady of the fruitful moon My other Self, the eye of Light against the Darkness. First steps of humankind upon Her breast led them closer to Me. Cradled upon Her bosom I lay My fiery head in passion and peace and Her Glory reflects and amplifies Me.”
He smiled and squeezed my fingers. “14: Out of darkness Her Glory shines bright. I sing to Her who I will graciously lay My heart upon, who holds all in Her flaming, silvery hair. Good Goddess, My wife, the roses upon Her body more beautiful than the earthsphere’s flowers, shadows of those Divine blushes. All praise to Beauty and Her strength to bear My Inferno and shine back Glory.”
We withdrew our hands and he took my be-ringed hand to raise it for all to see as he spoke the last words. “15: All praise to Her and She reaches forth Her hand to Me. Together. Let Us sing, oh Graceful One, and shine.”