New Stetvon, capital of Brevoy. A busy city at the best of times, with preparations for the royal wedding underway the noise and crowds were almost unbearable to anyone not used to them.
Walking through the crowded streets was a young woman with a small, fluffy black cat on her shoulder, poking its nose from the hood of her cloak. This was perhaps not such a strange sight in this vital city: the woman, although tall, attractive and walking with confidence, did not draw many looks. Even those she stopped and spoke to were hard-pressed to remember much about her afterwards – a half-elf, most agreed, around 20; dark blonde and slender and dressed in some form of cloth armour beneath that billowing cloak, but otherwise not much. She, however, was satisfied with their conversations: it seemed most people with an opinion on the wedding were pleased about it.
The woman continued her way towards the palace, walking past the guards with the same calm confidence that marked her to us on the streets. Once inside, the cat leapt from her shoulder, growing in size until he was as large as a panther, though still fluffier than most Persians. The woman gently stroked the ruby-encrusted ring on her left hand, invoking its power: “I’m here, where are you?” She called telepathically. Within minutes, the King was striding down the corridor to greet her with an embrace.
And with that, the whirlwind of wedding preparation she had thus far been protected from descended on Svetlana.
It started with a trip to the dressmaker – the first of many, her friend Anya promised. She also had to learn to let other people play with her hair (a strange feeling for the half-elf, who had used minor cantrips to control her mane since the age of 6). Malliard, Gregor and Noleski spent time making sure she was at least loosely aware of who all her guests were – and which would be on her side and which to watch out for. Flower and catering questions threatened to overwhelm her, and she felt like she would never learn the steps to the formal dances she would be expected to lead. She knew the short notice of the wedding and her own subsequent week-long absence was partly responsible for the amount of pressure she felt under, but now that she’d agreed to it she was keen to get married as quickly as possible so did her best to thrive on the stress.
Aaron arrived a few days after Svetlana. Despite being average in height and build, he stood out more than the soon-to-be queen with the red tint to his skin and, of course, the tail. There were other tieflings in the city, but none enjoyed such a high rank. He took his self-imposed role as Svetlana’s bodyguard very seriously, only letting her out of his sight when it would be indecorous to remain. For her part, Svetlana had resigned herself to increased security and reduced freedom and only snuck away when she knew no one would miss her, so as not to hurt their feelings. It was hard to elude the sharp-sensed Aaron, in any event.
A few days after Aaron came Keiran. At 6’4”, he was one of few people taller than her fiancé, and with his bouncing blonde curls and shining armour he drew a lot of admiring looks even when not accompanied by Brutus, his griffin-mount. With him joining forces with Aaron, it was impossible for Svetlana to travel anywhere inconspicuously but she knew she was safe under their watch so could relax and enjoy the preparations more.
The current queen and king’s sister Natalya was delighted to see Alexei, the last arrival from the Dawnlands. He, too, seemed to throw himself into the wedding preparations. Svetlana narrowed her eyes at his good humour that seemed out of character, but she had too much to worry about to investigate further. She was relieved when he hid his lack of interest in Natalya by writing a sonnet to an unidentified bridesmaid; Natalya could believe it was a secret love poem to her with no repercussions and Svetlana had to admit it was beautiful.
That evening, Shelyn, goddess of beauty, arts and love, appeared to Alexei. She expressed her surprise and admiration at his talent both in the painting he had done of Natalya and in his new sonnet. Alexei spoke to the goddess about the wedding and asked for her blessing in it. She was more than happy to do so – telling the priest who should have officiated the day that she would take over the role. She spoke also to other deities and it wasn’t long before Cayden Cailean arrived, enjoying the free-flowing booze and party atmosphere. By the day of the wedding itself, several other gods were in attendance.
Svetlana, however, was too wrapped up in the wedding preparation to notice the weirdness and wibble. The morning arrived and with it the teams of serious-faced dressers, hairdressers, make up artists and their assistants to prepare Svetlana and her entourage. Looking in the mirror at the end of several gruelling hours, Svetlana had to admit the effort had not been wasted, and as she turned to her mother she saw her blink back unfamiliar tears.
Her dress was ivory-white silk to compliment her fair skin and was cut in a way that enhanced her naturally graceful frame. The skirt trailed behind her and the bodice was decorated with thick lace in the shape of vines and leaves that carried down her arms to form the sleeves. The veil was a more delicate lace, with an intricate design of flowers and butterflies. Shorter in the front to cover her face, it cascaded down her back and beneath it her hair fell in thick honey-coloured waves. The make-up applied accentuated her best features whilst leaving her face looking almost entirely natural. Her mother and the bridesmaids were dressed in Brevic yellow, and the bouquets were white, yellow and red to match the flag.
Natasha took her daughter’s arm as they prepared to enter the hall. The bridesmaids took their places behind and they stepped forwards as the music began to play. For half a moment, Svetlana felt unusually self-conscious as all eyes turned to her, but as her gaze travelled towards Noleski she saw the antlered stag head of her god, Erastil. His gentle eyes blinked softly at her and as he inclined his head slightly gratitude for his presence flowed over her, filling her with confidence for the moment. She hadn’t, until now, really appreciated the presence of the deities, being too wrapped up in preparations, but now she felt both honoured and humbled.
As she looked along to where Noleski stood, she knew it was only her mother’s touch and Erastil’s presence that was keeping her from running down the aisle to be by his side. He always looked smart; well-dressed and clean-shaven with his brown hair cut shorter than fashionable but in a style that suited him. Taller than most of those around him, with a healthy tan (an inheritance from his Varisian mother) and a natural fighter’s grace and poise, he would have stood out even if he weren’t the ruler. His height in particular was something Svetlana was appreciative of: half-elven, she was comfortably as tall as most Brevic men. As he stood there waiting for her, she felt overwhelmed with respect as well as love for the man she was to bind herself to.
Heart pounding so hard she was sure he would hear, Svetlana reached Noleski’s side. He lifted her veil so they stood, storm-grey eyes staring into vibrant green, and for a moment it was as if there was no one else there. And then Shelyn’s musical voice cut through their isolation and led them through their vows.
The chefs had outdone themselves at the wedding breakfast that followed. Alexei, with his beard and hair washed and brushed to its most gleaming appearance, was alone amongst the noble guests in not partaking of at least a nibble of the many dishes that were brought out, and Svetlana’s friends and family from her humble home ate with great gusto and pleasure. Toasts were made by men and gods and a celebratory atmosphere pervaded the entire city.
Once all had eaten and drunk their fill, Noleski led his wife back to the great hall in order to formally coronate her; introducing her as ‘Queen Svetlana Sertova’, they led the dancing.
The party continued into the early hours next day and if the couple at the centre of it had snuck off a little early no one could blame them.