The Kingdom of Aziria prepares for the Princess' wedding
The sun was rising over the stone courtyard wall as Addie closed her left eye to focus on the target. Her left arm stretched straight as she pushed the wood forward with the palm of her hand, careful not to grip the stick so her muscles would not tense. She held the string pulled tight with her right hand, anchoring her first finger under her chin. She let out a deep breath before sliding back her right elbow. Bull's-eye. She did not even need to look. She felt it on the way her fingers released the string and the bow flung forward on her hand.
"Well look at that brother," Enas said to Maritzio who stood there staring at the target. Addie's arrow hung straight inside the middle circle. "I think she's finally going to do it. I think she's finally going to defeat the self-proclaimed best archer in Arizia," he joked. Addie had missed the way his dark brown eyes squinted when his cheeks rose in a smile. His long blonde hair waved in the wind over the top of his white tunic, which draped over a pair of white linen pants, his brown sandals covered in mud.
Maritzio shifted his body with a nervous laugh. "I never said I was the best shooter in Arizia, alright," he replied. Even with that worried look in his brown eyes Maritzio still stood tall and strong in his brown leather pants and white blouse. His short brown hair barely blown back by the morning breeze. He was by far the strongest of Addie's brothers, though not yet as tall as Darien.
"True, but you said best under the age of sixteen. And unless you shoot a perfect arrow, I'm afraid it seems our little sister will have made a liar out of you," Enas laughed.
"Well, you know I could never lie to a Patre of the Faith," Maritzio smirked back as he set his feet on either side of the line carved in the mud.
"Come on Ritzio, you know I'm not yet a Patre. One mustn't joke about such things," Enas replied in a serious tone. There was a time when Enas and Maritzio could joke about everything, before Enas left for Sargoza two years ago. Sadly, his religious studies have slowly been taking the boy out of him. Or perhaps Ritzio grew wilder. He's certainly been venturing out of the palace walls a lot recently. Addie's handmaidens had told her there was only one reason for a man to willingly venture out of the palace walls in times of peace, though she hated thinking of her brother in such places.
"Alright, alright," Maritzio replied as he loaded the arrow on the bow. "I was just teasing Eni, you know how much I admire your dedication to the Faith. Now be quiet and let me concentrate." He raised his bow and pulled back the string.
Suddenly, Addie felt as if time had stopped. She realized this would be the last morning she'd spend in this courtyard shooting arrows with her brothers. The last time she would wear these dirty old leather pants and vest while she stood in her leather boots on this muddy ground with the dirty smell. The last time she would stare out from the stop of the stone stairs, which descended from the royal armory. Perhaps even the last time she would ever get to shoot an arrow at all. Ladies were not supposed to shoot arrows or know how to swing swords, but much to her mother's dismay, Addie knew both. Maritzio had taught her in case anything ever happened where she would need to defend herself. Though Addie could never imagine how she'd end up in such a situation when she was so well guarded. Still, Addie enjoyed learning as much as she could about everything, not just bows and swords, but books and languages too.
Whoosh. The sound of Ritzio's arrow flying through the air interrupter Addie's thoughts. "Unbelievable," Enas laughed as he raised his hand to his head, running his fingers through his hair. "You've just been beaten by a girl."
"Why must you say that Eni?" Addie said as she let out a deep sigh. "Why is me beating him any different that you or Darien beating him? Neither of you have been able to anyway. I've finally done it and now it feels as though you've taken that from me." Addie hated when her brothers treated her differently.
"Oh come on, Addie. I didn't mean anything by it." Enas placed his hand on her shoulder. "You know how proud I am of you and how much I love you."
"Besides, it's not like you even won by that much," Ritzio pointed to the arrow just outside the brown center circle. He was the only one who never treated her differently. "The arrow must have just been pick--"
"Addie what are you doing here?" Darien's voice sighed from behind, startling all three of them. He was standing atop the limestone stairs; the long sleeves of his white blouse covered his hands as they rested heavily on the stone. His brown hair was slicked back as he looked directly at her, his green eyes shinning with the morning light. "Mother has been looking for you all morning. You must go get ready."
It had been three years since her father had promised her to Lord Borelis De Vielli, and their wedding day had finally come. It could have been worse. She had been told she would have to marry Lord Borelis when she was thirteen years old, but the city had taken longer than expected. And though she'd only met him the night before, Lord Borelis seemed like a nice enough man. Save the tobacco smell, which like a shadow, seemed to follow him everywhere he went. Addie imagined that's why his black hair had streaks of white, making him look at least ten years older than his thirty-four years. But there was a kindness in the Lord's dark eyes, which helped calm her mind.
"Oh come on, Darien," Maritzio replied with a smug grin. "Ease up ya? It's our sister's wedding day, there is no need for such a tone," he joked as he spread his arms open to the air.
"How we all wish we could go through life without care like you, brother," Darien replied in superiority. He'd grown so much recently. His tone, the way he stood above them, and the fire in his eyes made him nearly unrecognizable. He seemed much older than his eighteen years.
"I seem to remember you being pretty wild yourself not too long ago," Ritzio quipped. "Say brother, why don't you accompany me to Talla's just outside the palace walls before Addie's wedding like old times? Perhaps we'll even run into uncle Lucien again," he finished as he grinned from ear to ear looking at Enas.
"It's rumors like those which ruin a man's reputation and harm the Faith, Maritzio," Enas replied without even granting Maritzio a glance.
"Oh they're not rumors, I can assur--"
"Enough," Darien interrupted in a tone reserved for a king. "Addie, go to your chamber at once. Mother waits for you, and she will be furious when she hears where you've been. You know she hates it when you come out here."
Addie didn't want to go, but she knew she had no choice. She must do her duty and marry the Chancellor. "Alright Dari, I'll go," Adelainne Dellaroise sighed as she walked up the stone steps into the armory.
The Princess walked past the wooden racks of swords on either sides of the room before making it to the other side. She handed her bow and quiver to the arm's keeper and watched as he hung them on the wall to the right of the old wooden door. Her bow looked so small compared to the others. Ritzio had the fletcher make it special for her, and the arrows as well.
When the arm's keeper pushed open the wooden door she walked out onto the limestone tiles of the courtyard, blinded by the sun. Addie had been so focused on her competition with Maritzio she hadn't realized how late it had gotten. Mother will be furious. She quickly made her way through the courtyard, passing by the stone fountain carved in her father's image, which decorated its center. She ran as fast as she could, but it was nearly half the length of the palace to the Princess' quarters.
The hallway connecting her quarters was filled with ladies of the court scrambling from one room to another and shrieking in excitement. "Ah! I've found her, Your Grace," Matre Fioren screamed into Addie's bath chamber as she walked towards the Princess of Roses. Her hair was covered by the silk wrapped around her head, and her grey eyes were the only feature that stuck out of her wrinkled face as she glided through the red carpet of the hall. "Princess dear, we have been looking everywhere for you. What in this good world are you wearing, child? And ugh, that smell," she continued as she waved her hands in the air, her tunic, blue as the sky, matching her every move. "Come now, girl. Your bath is ready," Matre Fioren pulled her by the arm into the bath chamber.
Addie felt the water growing colder as her handmaidens Jarla, Ronica, and Yura continued to scrub the dirt off her hair and skin. "Honestly Adelainne, how many times have I told you not to go to the armory. You're a Princess, not a soldier, and on your wedding day of all days. Look how much time we've wasted cleaning the dirt off your body," Queen Letitzia sighed as Addie's handmaidens helped her out of the bath in the center of the room.
The limestone walls of her bath chamber were adorned with paintings from hundreds of royal sponsored artists. The marble tub was the only object in the room, which opened to a small hanging balcony. The room felt so large as Addie stood with water droplets hanging off her naked body, until Jarla finally came with the cloth; warm from the time it spent on the balcony under the sun. Then Ronica and Yura dressed her in the thin, soft silk underdress and walked her through the wide hallway to her lounging chamber. The limestone floor was covered with various rugs of red and gold, and the sitting area was adorned with white roses for the festivities. Ronica and Yura walked her to a chair on the balcony, which ran the entire length of the room while overlooking the Marble Courtyard.
It was midday by the time Addie was fully dressed in the ornate turquoise gown with red linings, the Dellaroise house colors. The entire length of the gown was decorated with rubies, emeralds and golden rose patterns. When Jarla brought forth the reflecting glass Addie scarcely recognized herself. Her hair was held loosely in place atop her head, with curls of light brown hair hanging to her shoulders.
"You look very beautiful, Princess. The shine of your gown truly shows the blue of your eyes," Jarla smiled.
"Thank you, Jarla," Addie smiled back. Jarla always knew exactly what Addie needed to hear. "I've finished with the reflecting glass. Fetch me some water, please."
Addie walked out to the balcony to oversee the Marble Courtyard, resting her hands lightly on the stone, watching the people underneath her running from one end of the courtyard to the other. No matter where she looked everyone seemed more excited for her wedding than Addie was herself. She didn't know if it was the dress or her mind, but her chest grew tight, interrupting her breathing. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of warm air. Maybe it won't be so bad. Addie wondered if Jarla too was worried about leaving Arizia for the New Lands. Even though Jarla had left her family to come to court it could not compare to crossing the Palarie Ocean. She would probably never again see her family. Then again neither would Addie. Her mother and father would stay here to rule, and her brothers would all take their respective roles throughout Arizia and Sargoza. Addie felt tears creeping into her eyes.
"Pardon me. Princess," Jarla interrupted, her brown eyes warm like the summer air, which blew back her golden hair. She handed Addie a silver cup filled halfway with water. "Lord Tolus Solientell is here to see you. Should I usher him in?"
"Yes, of course. And fetch my tiara as well, I believe it's nearly time."
"As you wish, Princess," Jarla bowed as she disappeared into the room.
Addie turned back to the courtyard and closed her eyes to the slight breeze coming from the east. Summers in Borris were warm., so the cold blows were a welcomed feel. She turned back to the room once she heard the soft footsteps of the Prime Master.
"Princess," Tolus smiled as he crossed an arm through his body and bent at the hip, the black tunic of his trade hanging to the ground.
Addie let out a soft laugh. Tolus had been just as much a father to her as the King had been, so formalities like these humored Addie, though she never forgot her courtesies. "You may rise."
A warm smile grew on the Prime Master's face. "Dare I say? You've never looked more beautiful than you do this very moment, sweet child."
Addie felt her cheeks grow warm at the comment. "Thank you, Tolus. You are much too kind. Do you... do you think the Lord Chancellor will like it?"
"Not even a blind man could deny your beauty, Princess."
Jarla walked around the Prime Master carrying a red pillow with both hands, which carried the silver tiara. A rose made out of rubies and emeralds at the tiara's center, lost in an ocean of sapphires. It was Addie's favorite, even more than the Queen's golden crown, though she only wore it on special occasions. "Here, allow me," Tolus commanded as he grabbed the tiara by its sides with firm hands. He walked towards Addie, barely having to lift his arms to hold the tiara above her head; every move he made was slow and delicate. He slid the tiara down Addie's light brow hair with ease.
"There," he whispered. "Now you're ready."
Addie frowned at Tolus' words, which he must have notices, because he lowered his soft hands to her shoulders and locked his blue eyes on hers. "Borelis is a good man, Princess. And I will continue to help him take good care of the city. You must trust in me, child." The softness in his voice matched the kindness in his eyes, but it was not enough to ease Addie's mind.
She turned from him, back to the courtyard and took a sip of water before holding the cup to her chest with both her hands. "I do trust you, Tolus. In truth I don't know why I'm so troubled." She looked down at the water in her cup, fighting back the tears that grew in her eyes. "I've known my fate for some time now, and I had accepted it long ago as well... But now that it's here I just..." She could not seem to find the words to describe her feelings. "Perhaps, I've just now realized how much I'll miss my family. My mother, my father, hard as he may be, and my brothers. I... I don't know life without them."
"You've been blessed by The God with wonderful brothers who love and care for you deeply. Not everyone is so lucky, Princess," Tolus walked to her left and placed his hands, light as feathers, on the stone railing. "But at some time or another you all must part. Enas has already spent time in Sargoza and he is returning there on the morrow. Maritzio is already a Captain and soon he will join the Kingsmen and will have little time for games. And Darien, well, he's nearly groomed for king already. I'm afraid life with your brothers will soon end regardless, Princess."
Addie knew Tolus was right, but it did not make it any easier. "I suppose you're right," she faked a soft smile.
Tolus shifted his weight and looked down at Addie. "Do you know why the city is called Zaphirose?"
"Because of the blue roses found where the palace is now built, is it not?"
He let out a soft laugh. "The Sapphire Rose, yes. You've grown wiser since we last spoke, Princess. And your knowledge of the ancient Lucian language has certainly improved."
"Sometimes father lets me read letters about the city so that I can know the land I'm to rule."
"Your father is very wise, child. And he's given you a great gift in this colony. You mustn't resent it."
A great gift? He's sending me a world away with a strange old man. "Yes, Tolus. I'm very grateful for this opportunity, truly." A lady must never seem ungrateful, her mother always said.
"You are wise, Princess, but a poor liar," Tolus quipped with a smile. "You're not grateful yet, and that's alright. I'm sure all this seems terribly unfair to you, as it should. But you will be grateful once you grow fully into the power you've been given. I drafted the marriage papers myself, Princess. The moment you marry Borelis De Vielli you will become the wealthiest and most powerful woman in the known world, this I swear to you."
"Perhaps, but I never asked for such things, and--"
"Addie dear, I'm afraid it's time." Her mother appeared suddenly in an elegant gown, green as an emerald. A golden crown on top of her golden locks, which were held back from her face behind her head and hung on her back. Addie could not be sure, but it seemed she had sadness in her green eyes.
"I'll go at once, then," Tolus said to no one in particular as he bowed separately to the Queen and the Princess. "I must assure everything is in order for the ceremony."
The columns on the inside of the Grand Shrine of Arizia were wrapped with vines of white roses. Red roses and green and purple grape vines hung off the benches on the main floor. The blues, greens and reds of the tiles on the ground complimented the rows of stained glass windows on either side of the Grand Shrine. Addie's uncle, Patre Lucien, stood behind the stone altar under the center stain glass window, three times the size of the others, and depicting The Eye of The God.
Though Addie's back was turned to the audience she could feel all their eyes on her and Lord Borelis. Her family sat on the front row to her right, and from time to time she could hear her father's whispers. Addie snuck a glance at her soon to be husband. His black, graying hair was brushed back, and his eyes, dark as night, hung on every word that came out of Lucien's lips. There was nothing impressive about his shape. He wasn't a slender man, but also not a fat man like Addie had pictured before she met him, and though not as tall as her father, Lord Borelis still towered over the Princess.
He actually looks quite handsome in his wedding suit. His black leather boots reached nearly to his knees, and his purple velvet coat matched the color of his wool breeches. A golden cloak hung over his shoulders and was held together at the front with a purple broach in the shape of grapes. Purple and gold, the house colors of the once wine makers of House De Vielli. Addie wondered if the Lord was as nervous as she was, though if he was he certainly didn't show it.
"Brothers and sisters, it is now time for the exchange of words and emblems which will unite the great noble house of De Vielli with the holy royal house of Dellaroise."
Patre Lucien picked up the red pillow, which sat on the altar and walked to where Addie and Lord Borelis stood, side by side. The pillow held two emblems, each hanging on a golden chain. One was a red rose, each petal made of rubies with a green stem made of emeralds. The other, was a vine of grapes, cut from musgravites with green leaves made of thin cut emeralds. The contents on the pillow could probably feed all the peasants in Arizia for years.
Patre Lucien held the pillow as Lord Borelis grabbed the grape vine necklace, each stone sparkling in the light that shone from The Eye of The God. "Now Lord Borelis De Vielli, take the Princess Adelainne Dellaroise under your house. Here, under witness from the great Kingdom of Arizia and under the watchful Eye of The God."
Addie turned to her left, matching Lord Borelis' movements until they were face to face. Lord Borelis stopped for a moment and gave Addie a warm smile so discreet she barely saw his yellowing teeth.
"I, Borelis of house De Vielli, take Adelainne of House Dellaroise, first of her name and Princess of Arizia, under my noble house starting with this breath, and until the end of my breaths." He leaned forward slightly and raised his hands above Addie's head. The Lord widened the chain and, with the delicacy of mother, lowered the emblem to hang on Addie's neck.
For a moment Addie felt a smile on her lips. The intimacy of this moment, the beautiful decorations of the Shrine, and Borelis' soft smile had been enough to forget all her troubles. And when it came turn for her to speak she found the words came to her with ease.
"I, Adelainne Dellaroise, Princess of Arizia, take Borelis of house De Vielli, third of his name, under my royal house starting with this breath and until the end of my breaths." She took a step forward as Borelis bent slightly at the hip and lowered his head. Addie stood on her toes and slowly lowered the chain holding the shining rose to Borelis' neck.
"By the God and the blessed people of Arizia, the houses of De Vielli and Dellaroise are now united under the two who stand before me, from this breath and until the end of their breaths," Lucien said to the audience as he spread his arms to the skies. Then he lowered his right and left had to Addie and Borelis' shoulders in perfect synchronization.
"May The Eye of the God watch over this most Holy union."