by Pam Sears
Is it love? Or drama?
|“May the gods give me patience, or I will kill this child!” Jarius exclaimed, hands gripping his head as if it might fall off.
Artfully draped on an altar of logs before him his daughter lay unmoving, eyes closed, flowers tucked about her body as if in offering.
“Get up, Amellis!” He hissed.
Of course she ignored him.
He glanced around, mortified to see people staring avidly as they passed. One child even tugged on her mother’s hand and, pointing at them, loudly questioned her.
“Mamma! What is that lady doing? Is it a play? Did she faint? Is she okay?”
The mother, of course, tried to shush the child as she pulled her away. Jarius wanted to sink through the earth. Only Amellis could do something this ridiculously dramatic and pretend not to notice those around her.
Suddenly there was a cry of anguish. Young Theris, the boy who fancied himself in love with Amellis, stood on the corner and beat his breast.
“Oh, Ammy, my love. My love!!” He cried loudly.
With dramatic precision he threw himself at her feet, kissing them and weeping like a child who’d been denied a favorite treat. Jarius glanced to his other side and saw his captain of the guard, Phileon, watching him with pity in his eyes. *HIS* daughter didn’t do ridiculous things like this. *HIS* daughter was a quiet, well behaved young girl much sought after by wise young men who were looking for a good wife.
Leaning down slightly Jarius hissed into Theris’s ear. “I will have both of you flogged along the streets if this does not stop immediately. Get. Up!” He demanded.
Gulping, eyes the size of cobblestones, Theris backed away, wiping at this face. Jarius caught a whiff of the onion he had clenched in his hand to help cause the tears. He narrowed his eyes in sudden comprehension.
These two fancied themselves in love and Amellis was demanding her father let her marry the twit currently wailing about the loss of his love because Jarius had told her if she married Theris he would be her sole support. Not her father.
Fine. He already looked a fool with an out of control daughter who created this type of drama every time she didn’t get her way. It was time to do something drastic and, perhaps, get in on the act.
Amellis had been spoiled to death by her mother since she was a babe. He glanced around and found what he expected. His wife was currently staggering up the street toward where his daughter lay. She clutched a hand to her heart dramatically as she wailed before sagging to the ground next to Amellis.
“How could you, Jarius? To deny young love like theirs? It was too much for her, my poor innocent lamb. She has succumbed to a broken heart. Oh, that she should go like this! Her own father refusing to let her marry for love! How shall I go on without my darling lamb!?”
The plan that had started forming in Jarius’s head just moments before came to sudden fruition. He’d seen enough of the dramatics of his wife and daughter he felt that he could pull off the same silliness.
Winking at his captain he suddenly clasped his hands over his eyes. “You mean… she’s … she’s really…” he choked, and though it was on laughter, not tears, he managed to hide it. “Gone?” He finished on a gasp.
His wife glanced up at him suspiciously but he managed to look pathetic enough to appease her and she returned to her dramatics, nodding vigorously.
“Yes, husband. It is through your callous lack of regard for true love that this has occurred. She has died. Of a broken heart.” And she put her face in her hands, wailing, hoping no one noticed the lack of real tears.
“No!” Jarius staggered against Phileon who hid a smirk behind his beard as he caught his master in a supporting grip. “No!” he cried again. “Oh, Phileon, what have I done? To my only, my dearest of daughters? Sent her to the grave with a broken heart? How cruel am I?”
Phileon made soothing noises that were somewhat strangled as he tried not to laugh. Those other soldiers with them looked down or around, anywhere but at Jarius as he carried on, trying not to laugh as well.
Jarius noted that a large crowd had begun to gather, including Theris’s mother who appeared to be comforting her son as she shot poisonous glances his way. Staggering forward them placed a comforting hand on Theris’s shoulder.
“Oh, my son! That I should have another chance to make things right. If the gods would but grant me this one request, to return my daughter to me healthy and whole, I would give her all that she deserves and more. Oh, Amellis! Amellis!” He cried loudly.
Turning to Phileon he gestured dramatically at the altar she, and likely her mother, had constructed. “Phileon, get me a torch. I cannot bear to look upon her beloved face any longer. We will send her to meet the gods and burn her poor body here, in token of a love too late discovered in my heart for her.”
“What!?” Shrieked his wife, leaping to her feet, hand over her mouth. “Burn her body?”
“Yes, wife. It is the proper thing to do. We must release her essence to the gods so she may be reborn. Perhaps she will return to this earth sooner than some and will find her true love again.” Jarius managed to keep from laughing at the horror on his wife’s face. Good. She needed a lesson as well.
Phileon handed him a hotly burning torch. “My lord.” He murmured loudly.
“All witness here this day, I give my daughter’s broken-hearted body to the gods. May they either return her to me one day soon or give her happiness in the Fields of the Blessed.”
As he began to lower the torch Amellis stirred slightly.
“Wait!” cried his wife, holding out a hand as if to catch the torch.
“What is it, wife? Do you not see this is a solemn and sad occasion?” He demanded.
“She… I saw her move!”
“Nay, she has died. You have said so yourself and would never lie to your husband?” He began to lower the torch to the wood again.
“She did! She moved.” His wife shrieked. “It is a miracle of the gods! They have returned her to life. Husband, look. Look!”
The desperation on his wife’s face almost broke his resolve not to laugh but he sucked in his cheeks and peered down at Amellis in feigned wonder.
“Daughter!” He gasped at seeing her confused brown eyes gazing up at him. He handed the torch back to Phileon and reached to lift his daughter into his tight embrace.
“Father, what is going on?” She gasped faintly, barely able to breathe from the tightness of his embrace.
“Oh, daughter, I have wronged you. I can see now that there is a great love between you and Theris. I hereby grant him permission to marry you. Come, we will go to the priests directly.” He turned and began dragging her toward the temple.
“Directly?” She repeated, stunned.
“Yes, directly. It’s obvious your love is true and I will not be the one to stand in its way. Come along, my beloved child.” And his voice grew as stern as the look he gave her.
Amellis gulped, glancing at her stunned mother, thinking that maybe, this time, she’d gone too far.
As he passed him her father gripped Theris by the arm and began pulling him along as well. His guards surrounded them, keeping the curious away as they swept toward the nearest temple. Amellis glanced around but her mother was on the outside of the ring of guards and there was no way to stop their procession.
Once in the temple a priest came forward to meet them. “What may we assist you with today, Lord Jarius, Commander of the Kings army?”
“My daughter is to be wed to this man immediately if you please, priest.” Now Jarius was all sternness.
The priest raised his eyebrows and glanced from one young person to the other. “A love match?” His lips twitched.
He hadn’t seen the drama but several of the people had rushed to tell him. Amellis was a known trouble maker for her father.
“Oh, yes, I’m given to understand that it is. I give them my blessing since the gods have seen fit to restore my daughter to me after she had succumbed to a broken heart.” Jarius nodded.
“Ah, father?” Amellis began tentatively.
“Yes, daughter?” He gave her a look that made her swallow in a suddenly dry throat.
“About this abrupt wedding,” She began.
“Oh, I have no objections, daughter. In fact, I think it an excellent idea. It is time and past you have a husband to support you and your own household to manage. And since you have been returned to me from the dead I will no longer deny the will of the gods. You will be married to Theris. Today.” He smiled but the look in his eyes made her shiver.
“And is there a dowry?” Asked the priest.
At this, Amellis perked up. A dowry meant lands or money. Or both. Her father was *very* wealthy. She smiled a bit and glanced at Theris. He looked both stunned and hopeful as he wanted out from under his mother’s thumb and to have money of his own.
“Yes, there is.” Jarius nodded. “The same dowry my wife’s father gave me. There is a house near the South of town that is open. I will purchase it for these two lovebirds and give them enough money for two months. They must prove that they can make it on their own before they will ever get another thing from me.” And he bent a forbidding look on each of them.
“Father…” Amellis began, panicked, only to clamp her mouth shut when he looked at her again, eyes hard.
The priest was nodding. “That sounds quite fair, Lord Jarius. I’m sure the king, himself, would approve. Now, let us stand before the gods and bind these two in marriage.”
Amellis gulped as she found herself following the priest, her father’s grip implacable. This had *not* been part of the plan. Looking again at her father’s face she began working out how to escape her latest predicament.
Before any ideas could fully form her mother ran up to them.
“What are you doing, husband?” She cried.
Jarius turned to her. “Giving her to her new husband, with my blessings and the same dowry your father gave me.” He declared softly. “And pray I do not nullify the contract at this late date in our marriage, wife. Your father has gone to his reward and your mother’s new husband would not be glad to see you.”
Gulping, all parties to the earlier drama decided to quietly follow Jarius’s lead.
Phileon hid a grin and followed. It was about time his master took back control of his household.