by Jaid Nox
This is just an incomplete draft, and I would just hope for some feedback.
I stepped up to the mirror and straightened the ornately decorated gold necklace that adorned the base of my throat. Blonde hair was braided intricately on top of my head in a formal arrangement and had jeweled gold hoops twinkling through some of the twisted locks. My green eyes were darkly lined with kohl we had brought with us from home and I pinched my cheeks, looked myself once over for the last time and decided it would have to do. I was to be presented to the King's son today. In fact, I needed to hurry. I did not want to be late. Mother would not tolerate it.
Prince Hakavi was handsome and looked to be strongly built. He had dark hair that was a cross between wavy and curly, and intense hazel eyes that popped against the olive tone of his skin, a short, dark and obviously well cared for beard made him seem older than he was but no less handsome. It quite suited him I thought to myself. I watched him from the entrance. He sat on the smallest of three separate gorgeous thrones and was impeccably dressed making it easy to distinguish him from commoners.
I straightened to make myself seem taller. I felt small in the large throne room behind my family, well the ones that had traveled with me anyway, and glanced around to take in my surroundings. The massive hall filled with beautifully designed tapestry and skillfully carved furniture was a lot to take in. It was stunning. Truly. Full of color and magnificence. If I succeeded today, this wouldn't be my first visit to Nakar. My country depended on my success, and to be frank so did my life. I tried to shift the weight on my shoulders and held my head up higher, gazing ahead.
A voice rose, "His Majesty Haikehn Aladorna of the kingdom of Nakar and her majesty Siann." A hush fell over the casual conversation that had filled the air only seconds beforehand. My mother and brother straightened in front of me. It was almost time. I took a deep breath and waited for the King to address his court.
A tall man with a complexion similar to the Prince's made his way from behind the largest of the three thrones followed by a small, beautiful woman with pale skin and striking dark hair. He was not unpleasant to look at either and exuded strength, confidence and an air of grace that filled the room and took control. This was the King.
"Good afternoon." His voice was strong as well. It did not waver. "Today is an important day and we shall not waste it. Come forward and let me see the girl." He gestured to my mother and to my brother who would present me. My heart raced.
I watched my father patiently, trying not to let my anxiety show outwardly. He was right, today was an important day. I was to be betrothed to a former enemy's daughter. The family had long been held in high regard, but they had found themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield for the better half of the last eight years. Despite the warring, my father held onto memories of her father before it all, when they were boys and had been trained together. He said that Orwell, the girl's father, had saved his life in battle many times and that he understood how he had come to be on the other side when this war began. That is what brings us all here today. Turning the war around. When I marry Orwell's daughter, our families will once again be united, and the tide of favor will finally again change in our direction. Both of our families needed this. I was determined not to disappoint my father. I was determined to see peace in my lifetime.
When he called them forward, I strained to see behind a well-aged woman with white hair and a tall blonde man well dressed and strong in appearance.
He spoke again, "Beatha of the Scylivads, and Keane, son of Orwell, present your offering." My mother, who had taken her seat on the second throne on the other side of my father, then rose and swiftly and quietly positioned herself behind him. I suspected it was so she could better inspect my future wife.
The man and woman stepped apart and forward stepped a beautiful woman. She was tall, but femininely so and would probably only rise to my shoulder. Blonde hair was twisted around her head and fell down her back in intricate weavings, it was littered with small gold, jeweled hoops. Her expression was passive but her green eyes burned brightly against the black she had painted onto them. Her skin was pale, blemish free and her cheeks burned red. I was pleased. At least she would be easy to look at. She wore a deep green gown that clung from her strong and defined shoulders and cinched at a petite waist. She looked regal almost. I suppressed a smirk. Her gaze stayed level with my fathers eyes and I admired that she didn't cower from him.
"Come." He gestured for her to step to the base of the short staircase before the thrones. She obeyed, unflinching, and stopped at the first step. My father descended the three short stairs and circled her twice before stopping to stand before her once more. "What is your name, child?"
"I am Kysa, daughter of Orwell and Beatha of the Scylivads, a northern clan once again loyal to the great Kingdom of Nakar." My voice was strong, and my mother nodded at my execution of the title we had rehearsed. The King's eyes looked her up and down, she looked uncomfortable I kept myself still and kept my eyes trained on his face.
My father beckoned me forward to stand behind him with a quick gesture of his hand. "And your purpose here?" He asked sticking to the script. We all knew the reasons for today.
"I am a peace offering, to show gratitude for your mercy, Your Majesty. My father, Orwell Maccus, offers my hand in marriage to your son, Hakavi of Nakar and his troops to assist you in this war, and all the wars to come. He offers me to thank Your Majesty for the support of a comrade and friend and to show loyalty to a forgiving King. His treasons give him shame and he offers my hand and my future to solidify the reunion of our families." She finished, hoping she had remembered everything that was supposed to be said. Her voice had not wavered, and I was grateful. It lied and said that she was not afraid. The King smiled. Even I could not be sure if it was sincere.
"The crown of Nakar accepts this offering. Hakavi, come, behold your new bride."
I rose and went to stand behind him. I had been watching her. She held herself well, an air of confidence floated around her. As a child my parents had promised that I would marry a princess. As the prince of a great nation, it was my duty to solidify an alliance that would strengthen Nakar. Kysa was no princess and I thought I would be more disappointed at the prospect. A fire burned in her green eyes and I circled her once to take her in as a whole. The first daughter of a war clan was a warrior, not supposed to be queen, and yet, my father had decided that this would be the best alliance to strengthen Nakar against Haema, whom we fought against for rights to the new lands.
"Kysa of the Scylivads, I Hakavi Aladorna of Nakar, do also accept your offer of alliance through marriage." It was the formal acceptance. These were all formalities. Tonight, festivities would begin. I thought about Kysa, though adorned beautifully she looked harsh, like the warrior she had been raised to be.
I took a deep breath and sighed relief at his response. It had been decided before today, but a betrothal has to be done correctly so it cannot be challenged. The prince and the king both looked at me approvingly despite the fact that I was raised a warrior, to lead and to fight. The Scylivad clan was a warrior clan and I was the first-born daughter. My brother Keane would take my father's place as King of the Scylivad clan when he passed. We were not recognized as kings or queens by Nakar or any other country for that matter. We had been a nomadic warrior clan since the beginning when we broke away from the Great Countries. With no one place to call Home except our Origin City, and small cities, towns and clans scattered throughout Nakar, Haema and the northern lands. We had been driven from the south without much naval experience. I had participated in more battles than I had dances or balls. I knew that Vilhaar, the capital, would take adjusting to. But my father had warned me that wars take place on more than just battlefields. I knew that my skills would be useful, even if I had to learn more unnecessary skills, I would, because I had to survive. My grandmother's words echoed in my skull.
"Kysa, my dear," she had crooned, "I have glanced your future, and you will change this world. You must keep strong in body and mind but even more so in faith. Such a great destiny for a small girl." She had never elaborated no matter how much I pleaded and begged. "We would run screaming from our destinies if we knew what lie ahead, bliss is a great advantage."
I could see her face and my heart ached. We had been brought to our chambers to prepare for the afternoon feast and the start of ceremonies. I sighed looking in the mirror again, I did not feel like myself. I wanted my breeches, I wanted my shield and I desperately wanted my sword. It had been made for my fourteenth life day. My father had gotten a local blacksmith to update my grandmother's most prized possession and had the intricate silver handle inlaid with emeralds to match my eyes. It was beautiful. Truly a sight to behold and it gave me strength. I could use some of that right now.
"Kysa, come" my mother hurried me to the mirror to rearrange the braids into a bridal style. I sat and watched her in the mirror. "You did well today. Your father will be proud and very pleased. We need this alliance as much as they do." Her voice was hushed even though we appeared to be alone.
"What if my looks are the only thing he likes about me mother?" I asked quietly. I knew that I was pretty. But I was no princess and though our families seemed to need the alliance, I did not see how I was a worthy wife for the prince. I was a warrior. Not a princess. Not a queen.
"Then you should consider yourself lucky because at least there will be something that he likes about you." Her eyes had narrowed at my question and my cheeks burned. She waited, allowing me to shift uncomfortably until she said, again in a low voice, "However I suspect that like everyone else who meets you, he will quickly warm to more than your appearance." A smile crept into the creases at the edge of her eyes.
"At least he is handsome." I sighed and changed out the studded bangles my mother had paired with my introduction dress with an intricately designed gold and emerald arm band on my left bicep and the matching cuff on my right wrist. The dress I had to change into was not quite as deep of a green as the forest colored gown I had worn for the introduction and engagement ceremony. To be honest I thought this one prettier, and I did not get to wear pretty things very often. I decided I would wear this outfit with as much confidence as I did my battle armor. The new dress had been created for this occasion, it was still a deep green, but it had a slight bluish hue to it that made it a different color entirely. The bodice was beaded so skillfully it must have taken weeks to finish. The beads were different colors, a light and dark green, a medium blue, accenting the colors of the gown, and woven in to the sea of colors were specks of black. Gold brooches held the dress in place at my shoulders. I went back to the mirror to assess my face when my mother and our servant finished dressing me and fussing over my appearance. I relined my eyes with the kohl we had stocked up on before our travels. My mother pinched my cheeks this time. When I looked in the mirror again, I could not believe that I was the same Kysa that had killed eight warriors on her fifteenth life day. Two life days later and I stood facing the next battle that my life depended on, only this time my father's words echoed in my mind. "War does not only take place on a battlefield." He had taught me well, and I hoped it was enough.
A bell rang four times, signaling the start of the festivities. I took a deep breath when my mother placed her hand in the small of my back, it was time.
We approached the Great Hall as music poured out from under the doors and through the windows. My heart raced and I straightened. My brother lead while my mother and I walked side by side behind him, he stopped at a guard to give him our names to announce our entrance.
This was it.
The doors opened and life poured out into the night; chattering voices, music playing, plates and silverware clanking, laughter, warmth and the delicious aromas of a feast lingered in the air.
"Of the Scylivads, Keane first son, Beatha, Cheiftress, and Kysa, first daughter and betrothed of Prince Hakavi." For a small man, he had a large and booming voice. I looked at him, perplexed. His hair was gray, and he hunched slightly, and if I am being completely honest, I would have expected a shrill voice from a man with his mouse-like appearance. The sounds only slightly died down at the mention of the Prince, and we entered unnoticed and unscathed.
My family soon dispersed in search of small talk and other alliances and advancements. I sighed and headed towards the table overflowing with food and wine. I grabbed a chalice and took a quick swig. It was sweet. Not like the mead I had been raised on, but I liked it. And as if on cue, the Prince appeared. He seemed taller somehow. I looked up at him.
"Kysa," he nodded as a greeting before glancing at my cup, "Do you like wine?"
"It's sweet." I replied. His laugh caught me off guard.
"It can take some getting used to. But they serve it here with everything so it will not take long to get accustomed to." His eyes were gentle, but I had heard stories about him. I wondered what he had been told of me.
"I think I will have no problem adjusting to its taste." I smiled at him and he returned it warmly. Hope blossomed in my chest. Maybe this would not be so bad after all.
"Prince Hakavi, I imagine I was not what you expected, but I am honored by your kind hospitality." My words were quiet but I knew he was listening. I was glad for the feast because I had hoped that following custom, I would have some time to get to know my future husband. I was raised thinking I would marry the leader of another warrior clan, and I know that Hakavi had been promised a princess. It was nothing less than his station deserved. I was no princess, but still I hoped I was not too disappointing to him.
"No, you most certainly were not what I was expecting, I was supposed to marry a princess. I thought it would disappoint me that you were not, but I think I will like getting to know you." The prince and I had to be about the same age, at most he could be only maybe four life days older than me. He had been betrothed to Princess Sarita, but she had been killed by the last wave of the plague and her family had turned on the kingdom of Nakar. That is what made this alliance so necessary. I had also been betrothed, to the warrior clan leader I had grown with since girlhood. He was strong and clever, but it did him no good when the weakness came. I had cried for days when he died. Sebastian and I were a force together on a battlefield and it was not fair that he did not die a warriors noble death. A sickness in his mind took him quickly.
"And I you, Prince." I bowed. I did not want to appear too eager, but I was getting older and finding a husband was vital. I sighed hoping he would be a good husband. It dawned on me that I would have to be a wife, and to be a good wife, it would mean abandoning customs I had always cherished. I paled. He noticed.
Gesturing at the table overflowing with delicious delicacies from every corner of the earth, "You look a little pale, maybe you should try to eat something. Father prepared well and had cooks brought from all over to create a magnificent feast in our honor." A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. I thought again how much worse this could have gone and sent a silent prayer to the goddesses. I would try. I would make this work. I had to.
So, I looked at him and grinned, ignoring the butterflies raging in my stomach.
She was prettier than I had expected. Warrior is not necessarily synonymous with beauty but her strength gave her definition physically and in the way she carried herself. She was distinguished from everything I had ever known. It was an unsettling feeling to know that I was going to marry her, a stranger that I had only just met, yet somehow felt like I had known all along.
I straightened my shoulders to shake the feeling, but it clung to me like a child it's mother.
She had spirit, and I suspected she also had a mischievous nature and a stubborn mind. They were assumptions, sure, but I felt pretty confident about them.
I had been concerned about having to get to know her quickly, because our customs dictate all interaction prior to our Joining Ceremony be at formal events, and since we did not meet before today it would all be up to the celebratory feasts, dances and challenges that would take place over the next several days.
The usual month-long affair had been accelerated due to the feeling that attacks from Haema or any of those opposing the marriage were imminent.
So, I had a fortnight to get to know the woman that would become wife, and prior to today, that prospect had irritated and terrified me. Tonight, it was not quite as irritating to me. I am glad she at least will not be timid. My father would destroy timid.
"I know this will move quickly and that may be strange for you, but it will be immensely beneficial to both us, our families and the people that we lead. I was not particularly excited about the prospect, but you've given me hope that this will be successful. Not to mention our fathers have sent men on an expedition. A very secretive, very expensive expedition. I will tell you more of that later. Or our fathers will. Either way, I am pleased to have made your acquaintance." Uncle Cessad would have been proud of me, I think. I missed him. For a moment I forgot where I was.
And then there she was, I looked at her, really looked for the first time. And I was intrigued. She did not necessarily look fierce, but you knew that she was when you looked at her. I wondered absently if she had killed more men than I had, and I suspected I did not really want to know the answer. Tattoos covered the skin that she did show, not that it was much. It made him want to see all of her tattoos and ask the meaning of them all. He decided that he wanted to get to know her. Who she was. She was far from anything he had expected, far from Sarita, far from his mother, and anything his parents had intended.
I think that would do it. I felt more comfortable and I hoped she did as well. I knew this had to be hard. The Scylivads were usually a nomadic people apart from their origin city. A lot of rumors swirled about it, but no outsiders really knew for sure what it looked like or what happened there, they were forbidden from entering. Those outsiders related by marriage could only visit once an heir had been born and they were sworn to secrecy with a vow of silence before ever leaving Vilad.
The sound of a herald announcing the entrance of his parents brought him out of his thoughts and back to the present moment. Everyone stood silent while the King entered with his Queen, walking through the crowd and up the dais to the thrones, proud and imposing. He turned to speak. "Good evening, my loyal subjects, we have an exciting announcement to celebrate this night." He pauses. Waiting until the echoes subsided to continue. "My son, your Crown Prince is to be wed. Our family will join with the powerful clan Scylivad. An engagement between the prestigious lady warrior, Kysa Maccas of the Scylivads and my son Hakavi Aladorna of Nakar will be wed at the end of the month after the festivities. Both of our countries are strengthened with this alliance and we hope You will share our joy and celebrate with us this night." His voice boomed and when the echoes stopped, a cheer erupted.
When the crowd's cheers finally died down and the music began, it was time for the next formality. I made my way to the steps in front of the throne and watched Kysa do the same, we met in the middle. "Kysa, my lovely betrothed, would you do me this honor of our first dance?" My voice quivered a little at the end, but she smiled anyway.
"Prince Hakavi, it would be my honor." She bowed. It made me uncomfortable because I sensed it was I that should be bowing. She seemed more regal than I did. I offered out my hand, and gracefully she took it. The song started and we began to dance, it was a slow and traditional dance, one that I had struggled with for weeks. Kysa did not seem to have that problem. She moved effortlessly. Easily moving this way and that, stepping, double stepping, like she had been doing it her entire life. I wanted to ask how. "You are an expert at this dance. Do you have it in your culture as well?" She laughed and I felt my cheeks burn.
"No. Our dances are nothing like this. Not that this is bad, but I have been practicing. It is a bit like swordplay the way you move your feet though. I just wanted to impress your family." I was astounded.
"No doubt you have succeeded in your endeavors. You are a natural, and my family will surely have noticed." The music slowed and she bowed to me once again and once again I felt my cheeks burn. Something about that was not right. It made me so uncomfortable.
Hakavi was a good dancer. Even if these dances were strange and boring compared to what I was used to. I had been practicing many Nakaraan traditions and customs to make my transition to my new life a little easier. I knew I could now retire to my quarters and I fully intended to so I could get out of this gods-forsaken corset. I started for the door and began my exit route. Smiling, waving, sipping my wine.
"Kysa, leaving so soon?" Siann, the Queen stepped into my path. I should have known that I would not escape unscathed.
"It has been a long day, your majesty." I say lowering my eyes as I bow.
"Indeed, it has, I just wanted to know how you were settling in?" She appeared genuine and I relaxed a little. I did not realize that I had been holding my breath.
"I am settling in well. The Prince is quite kind as is everyone else I have met so far. That should make the transition easier, I think. I only fear forgetting my former life." I said honestly as she felt familiar, safe. I then blushed at my brazen words and ducked my head. I do not want her thinking that I cannot change or that I do not want to be here. It was not the case.
"You can never forget who you are Kysa. That life made you who you are and who you are is a blessing to my family. My son needs a wife. Our families need this alliance. You having stepped into that role tells me all that I need to know about you. Do not fret, your past is not over or gone. I have not given up my own past and it has made me a stronger queen. It will do that for you too." Siann paused a moment before adding, "I know that today has been long and grueling, I have had your quarters stocked with sweet wine and mead. Go, rest." She smiled and I curtsied.
"Thank you, your majesty. I am more grateful than you know." It was all I could mutter. I was relieved feeling like I at least had the Queens approval. I continued my escape. Just before reaching the door, I stopped to survey the room one last time. It was ornately decorated for this occasion, flags of the Scylivad Clan and of the Nakaraan Nation, flowers, candles and food. So. Much. Food. Apparently, food from every region as Hakavi had said. I glanced over at the wine table and found my brother talking to a dark-skinned woman with beautiful jet-black hair. I rolled my eyes and continued out the door.
Back in my chambers, a small woman with flawless dark skin, Golden amber eyes and deep black, curly and beautifully unruly hair greeted me. "M'Lady, my name is Nielle, I am to be your companion. Whatever you need help with will become my task." She curtsied before returning to her previous posture. A companion? What even was that? Why did I need one? To be honest, I would need help getting out of this corset though. It might not be so bad to have someone to talk to either.
"It would be an honor to have you as a companion Nielle. I am sure I will need a lot of help not being a complete buffoon. Do you think you could help relieve me of this torturous contraption?" I point to my waist. "These things are unbearable. How is one supposed to move in it?" She laughs and comes around behind me to begin releasing my waist from its cage.
So much better. I can breathe again. I can move again. I feel free. But it is fleeting, replaced by the feeling of longing for my sword, my father, my clan. Nielle has been more than kind. After helping me out of my gown and corset she filled me a bath. I watched as the steam from the water rose over the side of the tub. I needed this. She reached out a hand after adding some fragrant smelling stuff that looked like salt and flowers. I took her hand and let her help me into the tub, the hot water burning my legs was shocking and at the same time it felt like exactly what she needed to wash the day away. I sank further into the tub, sucking in a breath when I finally sat. Nielle handed me a sponge which I took gratefully. I washed myself and Nielle watched, looking the whole while like she wanted to say something. When I started for my hair, she rushed over to assist me. "No, M'Lady, let me help you." She said quickly working some sort of fragrant oil into my hair. Her fingers were deft, and I had to admit that it never felt that good when I washed my own hair.
"Thank you, Nielle. This is wonderful." I murmured. She laughed lightly.
"Is it okay to ask about your tattoos? They are so intricate." Her voice wasn't judgmental, and she genuinely seemed curious. I decided that I would summarize.
"As a Scylivad there are many accomplishments in life, as I am sure there are here. But the tattoos are earned. Each one is for something different." It was the truth. I think she understood that I did not want to go too far into detail.
"But they all flow together, almost like one large tattoo." She almost whispered it.
"Yes, you are correct. They do go together. Everything in life is intertwined. For example each accomplishment leads to being able to accomplish the next thing. It's a process just like life. And each one relies on another. Each one comes with the pride and memory of what earning it felt like. It is power. Respect." I finished speaking and Nielle began to run water through my hair.
"I think that's beautiful." She left the subject at that and I was thankful. She was right though. It was beautiful and I was proud of them.
After helping me from the bath, Nielle helped me dress for bed and poured me a goblet of mead before retiring to her own chambers. Finally, I was alone. A chance to think. To breathe. To feel. I took my cup and walked out onto the balcony. The air was crisp, and I could hear music quietly thrumming from the dance hall. Birds and bugs chirped. Candlelight from what appeared to be hundreds if not thousands of homes lit up the horizon past the wall like a horde of fireflies. It was beautiful. The moon was sinking down just above the sands and looked as though it would crush the houses farthest away. She took in her surroundings completely before drinking what was left of her mead and returning to her chamber. Nielle had also started a fire in the brazier before she left. I pulled up a heavy and intricately carved chair and plopped most unladylike into it throwing a leg over the arm and settling in. Maybe I'll just close my eyes for a moment...
I woke with a slight pounding in my left temple, but I ignored it throwing the covers off of myself I stood and stretched. Today would be another long day. Kysa and I's engagement had been accelerated and condensed from the usual month-long event to a fortnight, and it was the final two days of the official ceremony. It was a sobering thought despite the fact that I found myself quite fond of the small blonde.
I knew this day would come. Where I had to prepare and sacrifice. Where I needed to become the man that I was raised and expected to be. Part of me did not want to give up the life I had been living. Freely. But I knew, at least partially, that more than my happiness depended on this union. I took one last deep breath before ringing the bell for Ravi to come and assist me with preparing for the day.
Not long after, I found myself making my way once again to the great hall in formal attire. An intricately stitched silk robe of deep red and gold wrapped around a gold suit that buttoned at the neck, and Piyale had helped me to shave as was custom on the day of the First Vow. Which is what today was, the ceremony for the First Vow. It required both Kysa and I to recite similar passages from the Books of Gods and then the tying of our futures would take place by a priestess of the Gods. The Hall was full of people. People of our city and people from our court. People from the Scylivad clan, people from other countries. It was overwhelming. Piyale signaled me from the dais and I followed him to the room behind the Hall where my parents waited with their advisors.
"Hakavi" she paused, making her way across the room to me, "My son, I am so proud. This is going well so far." She smiles at me and pats my shoulders before kissing my cheeks. I returned the gesture and looked to my father.
"We all know how important this union is. Son, you are doing something for more than yourself. You are now a man. And we have something for you." He signaled to Piyale who came forward with a beautifully carved wooden box, I looked to my mother who excitedly smiled at me and returned to my father's side. Upon opening the box, my breath left my lungs in a rush.
It was so intricately made. Gold was seemingly woven around a large yellow stone, that was so brilliant it appeared to glow. It had been set into a golden crown and littered with dark green and deep red stones in a starburst pattern surrounding the large yellow gem. It was as though the sun had given a piece of itself to be worn this way. I was stunned. It was the most magnificent thing I had ever seen. I looked up at my father and mother, speechless.
"For your coronation. There is much in the workings right now, my son. When the ceremonies end and you wed Kysa, you will share a coronation. We will explain more as the time nears and things settle into place." My father spoke and it dawned on me. Not only would I be married, a fact I was growing accustomed to more and more quickly due to the time constraints but apparently, I would be coming into an even larger role after that. I hated not knowing what it would be but there seemed to be much I did not know lately. My mother cleared her throat and I noticed that they had closed the box and it had been placed somewhere out of my sight, and that Piyale stood in front of me a new, smaller box replacing the last. I reached and opened this one as well. Again, I was blown away by the craftsmanship.
Piyale led the way back to the Great Hall and I followed inspecting the ring that now resided on my right hand. It was beautiful. My father's favorite jeweler had stunned me again and somehow managed to intertwine in a golden endless knot, more of the deep green gems like those that Kysa seemed to favor and the beautiful yellow ones that appeared to glow. I found myself excited to gift Kysa with the other one. Something in me knew she would appreciate the craftsmanship in it. Once we reached the entrance to the Great Hall, I took a deep breath and made my way in again. Kysa stood waiting in the back as formality dictated. She looked more beautiful each time I saw her. I wondered absently why or how that was possible. Today she stood dressed head to toe in the colors of my family. A brilliant but deep yellow with deep red accents throughout her gown, jewelry and hair. Matching my robes for today perfectly. I did not overlook the emerald accents she hid where she could, and it made me smile. She stood proud and looked more like a Nakaraan Queen than any woman ever could have. I felt my heart race and I questioned myself about why. It had only been days that I had known her and yet, I was excited to share this with her. She intrigued me and I wanted to know more about her. I found myself nervous and sweating slightly. Father would be making an announcement shortly, so I straightened my back and stood at the base of the throne, waiting. When Piyale did announce my father's entrance and I watched him walk in with my mother, my heart sped up and I felt my cheeks begin to burn.
"Welcome once again. Today is a sacred ceremony, today Prince Hakavi and Kysa will complete the First Vow, tying their fates, faiths and futures. I am proud to see this day finally come. Kysa, come, join us." He motioned for her to make her ascent to me, where we would make our way up to the platform so everyone could see us. She walked gracefully and carried herself in such a sure manner. It made me smile, and I reached out my hand.
I took his hand, but I was sweating slightly so I hoped my hand was not too clammy. His hand was warm, comforting. We walked up the three steps to the platform where the thrones sat and turned towards his father and mother. I wanted to look back to my mother and brother and I wished more than anything that my father was here, instead, I gripped Hakavi's hand tighter and took a deep breath all the while staring ahead. Music was faintly playing in the back ground I think, but I could not focus on any single thing for very long. The King spoke again, and a frail looking woman in an intricately stitched hooded dress who had been standing near Piyale walked up to stand near Hakavi and I. I knew she was the Priestess of the Gods who would officiate this portion of the ceremony. She would tie together my future, my faith and my fate together with Prince Hakavi's. More specifically it would ensure that neither of us had to sacrifice beliefs to be married by using both of our religions, and it would ensure that our future and our fate were forever intertwined with one another's no matter what the future held. I kept thinking about the fact that I just met him, I mean I know what is expected of me and it was terrifying, but I was more at peace with it now than I had anticipated being. Before I knew it, the small, mousy woman had begun to speak, her voice ringing out with surprising clarity and volume for a woman of her size.
"Children come." She gestured for us to take one more step towards her, and we did unquestioningly. I could not recall a time on a battlefield where I had ever felt this nervous. My mom had forced me to recite what to say when this time came but I feared I might forget the words. I looked at Hakavi, he looked calm and it gave me a weird sort of calm as well. It felt like a long time before she spoke again. "Today we join two families, we join two faiths, and we join two fates." It felt like the air weighed a thousand pounds, I believed in fate and that mine like everyone's had already been woven but that did not stop me from feeling nervous. Hakavi was supposed to speak first and I was grateful because I was not sure I'd have a voice to speak yet. "Crown Prince, Hakavi Aladorna of Nakar, I bestow on you, the honor of making your first vow to Kysa of the Maccus' and Scylivads. And Kysa Maccus, First Daughter, you will follow him with your first vow to the Prince." She wrapped our hands together with a cloth that had been dyed both the deep red and gold from my house and the emerald color that Kysa and the Orwell clan favored.
"I Hakavi, the first son of Haikehn Aladorna, vow to share with you, Kysa first daughter of the Maccus Clan, my name, any title gained or inherited, my faith and my future. May the Gods strike me should I break this promise I make to you. May my Gods and your Goddess' bless us mercifully for whatever the future may hold." His voice never wavered, and I found myself filling with resolve, I could do this if he could. Sebastian briefly entered my mind, because our wedding would have been so different than this one, and yet I could not find myself disappointed. I looked down at the runes painted on my hands and arms and smiled, most cultures would expect her to leave her Goddesses behind and adopt the religion of her husband to be. Here, in Nakar, they blended religions often, citing that bringing people together was easier when there was less to sacrifice and despite the arguments from those opposed that inviting other cultures into theirs would create chaos and corruption and calamity. It had seemed to have the opposite affect and overall, citizens were happy in coexistence. The runes were part of an ancient union of two tradition that my clan has taken part in for centuries. It was my turn.
"I Kysa, the first daughter of Orwell Maccus, vow to share with you any title I may inherit or gain, I will share with you my faith and my future happily. May your Gods and my Goddess' bless our future and strike me should I break this vow I make to you." I shook slightly as I finished speaking and he squeezed my hand gently. Our vows did not have to be identical, but they were powerful and meaningful, and I knew our fates were tied together. Whether that was a good thing or not remained to be seen. I felt warmth flow between our fingers, and my runes tingled, I knew then that grandmother had been right. All along she had been right. Our connection was now irreversible, something I felt deep inside. Something had changed. I felt calm as I heard the woman speak again.
"The first vow has been made, your lives will be forever intertwined, the Gods and Goddess' have brought your fates together, they have created and now blessed this union. By your own tongue you shall be cursed should you break the vows you have made here today. This ceremony will be followed by a feast in honor of your union. The Final Vows shall be made at sundown in the sacred circle of the East forest, and in the morning your coronations will take place." Her voice carried and I felt my heart race when she mentioned the Final Vow. Thankfully she would have time between the ceremony and the feast to prepare herself mentally for the next step of our union ritual. The Final Vow would include meeting him in the secret circle which we would have to ride to. It was located not long into the woods of the East Forest. There was the obvious circle, a place where long ago his ancestors had deliberately planted the seeds of what they called great fortune trees, trees with large billowing roots and towering trunks that almost seemed to reach the sky if you looked upwards just the right way. Just outside of the circle of trees stood a small stone-made hut, which is where we would be expected to truly unify our bond. We would have to stay until the morning, when we would meet the party waiting for us to take us to our separate chambers for a final time so we could dress for the coronation.
The old woman let go of our hands, but we continued to be tied together until she spoke one last time. "Go forward, be fruitful and be merciful, care for one another as you would care for yourself. Uphold the values that you both hold close to your hearts, make sacrifices where you must, and finally, do not allow outside temptations to lead you from your fate." She untied the fabric that bound our hands together, but he did not let go of my hand. We stepped forward together, towards the crowd and held our hands up in unison. The cheers and clapping nearly drowned out the sound of the music and the band continued to play as we followed the carpeted exit out of the Great Hall. We walked, hand in hand to the quarters where my chamber was located, and he kissed my hand before heading to his own chambers. When the door closed behind Nielle and I, I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. Not because I wanted to be away from him, but just to be alone, or almost alone, I did not mind Nielle's company. I walked towards the changing curtain and Nielle followed behind me, reaching out and releasing my waist from the constricting contraption that was supposed to flatter my figure. I deemed it less flattery and more along the lines of torture. Time to prepare.
I walked towards my chambers still slightly nervous, but also at peace. I had expected to be filled with dread, but instead I found myself hopeful for the future and whatever it held. During the ceremony of the First Vow, I felt warmth flow between us when the knot was tied and wondered if she had as well. It was almost as if it came from her. I could not stop thinking about the markings that covered her hands and arms, I believe Piyale had said they were called runes. I wanted to know more about them. I wanted to know more about her. I hoped she felt the same way. I wanted to be cautious, but I was hopeful and she was beautiful, I was not disappointed about the prospect of building a future with a woman like Kysa. The feast was just a prelude to the march to the edge of the East Forest. Kysa, her maid and Piyale and I would be the only ones permitted to travel there on horseback. Only our companions and a Priestess would accompany us into the woods. I was not sure I would be able to eat. I did not find myself feeling any more sure of myself after I had changed. I was however, looking forward to gifting Kysa with the ring that matched mine. Somehow, I knew that she would appreciate it and that it would mean as much to her as it did to me. Once Piyale was satisfied that my appearance would please my parents we left my chambers and headed towards the feast. It made me think of the last feast he had attended when meeting her. It was when he had realized this might not be so bad after all. Now however, it was real. Very, very real. I was not sure how all of this had happened so quickly. Guards were posted at every entrance in the palace, and each member of the Royal family was designated two guards of their own. Baqir walked in front of me, alongside of Piyale, his skin was olive, like mine, his hair cut short, close to his head and he wore armor that had the talons of the eagle of his family sigil carved into it. He carried a scythe. Vardr followed behind us carrying a long sword slung across his back, and two small daggers in a belt wrapped around his waist. He had fair hair like Kysa's that was long on top but none on the sides, it was usually worn slicked back with some sort of oil made from animal fat. He also had a beard that matched the color of his hair that he had been braiding for as long as I had known him. He was a surprisingly large man. I focused on everything else, on anything else. I was nervous and did not know how to deal with that emotion. It was not one I was accustomed to.
The Great Hall had been converted into an even more magnificent feast than the one that had been thrown for our betrothal. Candles hanging above lit the room to a warm and inviting ambiance. Music played and even that seemed louder. It was like all of my senses were more alive than they had been before. The food smelled amazing, I could distinguish both scents I did not recognize and scents I knew and loved, waves of savory and sweet swirled the room. I searched the room, looking for Kysa but I did not see her yet. I began to make my way around the room, taking in everything and everyone as I did. I usually did not pay so much attention and maybe that is why it all seemed so vivid. There were people everywhere already dancing and some gathered in corners gossiping amongst themselves. I wondered what they were saying, mostly because I wondered what they were thinking. To me, it was unsettling yet exciting. I had too many feelings to even try to sort out. It was still strange to me that I was wed. At least partially. But after tonight, I would be expected to live and have children with this woman. I am expected to rule alongside her someday. I mean I like her, and I look forward to getting to know her better, but what happens if someday I don't? What happens if she doesn't? It wasn't as if marriage didn't come with its own weights and worries. But this? It was all a lot.
The doors opened again signaling Kysa's approach. I turned and my heart raced.