Imsdyn 4, 1013
Spring was definitely in the air, and so was all that came with it.
Ravenna smoothed her skirt over her knees, trying not to stare at all the people around her. The last time she had been so surrounded by the nobility, the elite of Albion, must have been … well, it must have been when Jessie and Tom both got married. And now here she was, three years later — not quite to the day — at another wedding. This time one of the brides from the former wedding was sitting next to her, seemed to sense Ravenna’s gaze and shot her a shy, hesitant smile. And the person who had been sitting next to Ravenna at that last wedding?
She was getting married today.
Ravenna leaned back against her chair, glad for the chance — however fleeting it might prove to be — to relax for a bit. What a party there had been the night before! The young women had stayed up laughing, chatting, playing silly games, and yes, drinking half the night. Morgan had kept a watchful eye on Dilys’s, Delyth’s and of course Ravenna’s glasses, seeing to it that they were not filled too high or too often, but the other women had drunk their fill and laughed their hardest. Ravenna shot another sidelong glance at the Crown Princess (who insisted that Ravenna call her Lynn, though Ravenna had decided she’d have to work her way up to that), trying to understand how it was that this demure portrait of a perfect princess had been the one who, only last night, laughed so hard at Lady Leona’s rendition of an angry sea captain that wine had squirted out her nose.
The partygoers weren’t all here, at the wedding, which was more than a little odd. But most of the people who weren’t here had good reasons not to be. Lady Leona was constantly needed at the docks now that spring was here; today was one of Lady Clarice’s clinic days and she didn’t feel comfortable cancelling when she knew people were depending on her; the Wesleyans had their shop to run. But Ravenna wished one of them — the Ferreiras or the Wesleyans especially — had been able to come, because if they had …
It was best not to think about it too closely. Ravenna shook her head. For the Lord’s sake, this was Garnet’s wedding day! She ought to have been focusing on that!
And it wasn’t hard, once she tried. She had never seen Lamorak look happier. She had wondered at first, seeing how Lamorak looked bleary-eyed and green about the gills when he had first taken his place at the arch. But then, when Garnet had advanced down the center aisle on Accolon’s arm, Lamorak had beamed the way few men had ever beamed when they saw a zombie headed right for them. He had taken Garnet’s hand in his and squeezed it after Accolon had handed her off. Ravenna was sure that Accolon wasn’t the only one who had to wipe away “excess moisture” when he or she saw how Lamorak and Garnet looked at each other.
But the absolute best thing of all? There were no monks here, no nuns. Just people who loved the couple, and who the couple loved, here to celebrate.
Ravenna still didn’t know why the couple had chosen this rooftop venue, one that was outside of the church both literally and figuratively. It must have been the couple who had chosen it, since Lord Pellinore, Lady Eilwen, and Sir Mordred would have all doubtless preferred the formality and grandeur of a wedding in the cathedral. Then again … the last Gwynedd-Orkney wedding had taken place in the cathedral. Maybe they were all equally eager to avoid bringing up memories of that fiasco.
Besides, didn’t even the Church admit that it wasn’t the location of the wedding, or even the precise identity of the witness that mattered, so much as the truth of the vows and the love in the Sims’ hearts?
A light breeze played with the rose petals as they came floating down, carrying their sweet scent into the crowd of witnesses. The rose petals had been Morgan’s idea, charmed to fall from the arch when Lamorak said the words, “With this ring I thee wed.” That had been a fiddly bit of spellwork; for a while there they had been afraid they would have to find a way to get Lamorak to say, “Width the sing I the web.” But it had all worked out in the end.
Amazing how things tended to work out in the end, if you let them …
“With my body I thee worship …”
Another shower of petals fell from the trellis. Another snatch of breeze brought the scent to the spectators: forget-me-nots. Aww, Garnet’s favorite flower! Ravenna grinned. How perfect!
Something in it, though, made Lamorak pause. He glanced at Garnet’s face. She smiled hesitantly at him. And then Lamorak grinned fully at her, took a deep breath, and completed the words of the vows: “And with all my wordly goods I thee endow, in the name of the Lord Wright, St. Robert, and the Holy Llamas. Amen.”
And when they finally kissed …
Well, Ravenna was positive she wasn’t the only one who wanted to get up and cheer.
Her father, however, was the first to give in to the temptation. As soon as it seemed polite — and probably beforehand — he brought his fingers to his mouth and let out a low, piercing whistle. Ravenna braced herself when the fingers came out, waiting to hear the inevitable, “Aww, damn it, Morgan, one of ’em came off!”
Thank goodness it didn’t come — or if it did, it was mercifully drowned out by Kay hollering, leaping to his feet, and clapping up a storm. Ravenna had just enough time to see Arthur smack his forehead and start to shake his head before Tommy leaped up, too, taking Princess Lynn’s elbow and helping her up too. Princess Lynn glanced at Ravenna with a grin, waving her up as well.
Ravenna only paused long enough to see that Jessie and Will were up and cheering — Jessie with a bit more obvious enthusiasm than Will, though even stoic Will was grinning ear-to-ear — before hopping to her feet and adding her holler to the rest.
Even the Gwynedds were getting up and cheering! Not that it was any surprise to see that from Delyth, or Dilys in her way. But dour Aglovale, quiet Lady Eilwen, fastidious Lord Pellinore? And silent Lady Dindrane, too? The only person not obviously up was Mordred …
And even he, at the last possible moment before the cheers died away, climbed to his feet and began to put his hands together, clap after slow clap after slow clap.
No sooner did the cheering end than the crowd broke forth, surging in a general mass to congratulate Garnet and Lamorak. Morgan rushed to Garnet, crushing the beaming Garnet to her. Lamorak’s parents came to either side of him, Lord Pellinore shaking his hand with the greatest solemnity and Lady Eilwen kissing his cheek. Ravenna tried to make her way forward, too.
But not everyone was hurrying to get to Lamorak and Garnet.
Ravenna had to duck her head to keep from smiling … well, smiling too hard. Of course Kay would find his way to Dilys as soon as they were allowed out of their seats. Ravenna couldn’t have been the only one to notice the glances they shot, one after the other, during the duller parts of the ceremony, could she? If Dilys wasn’t looking to Kay, Kay was looking to Dilys. And now that he was free, of course Kay was whispering sweet nothings into Dilys’s ear, never mind that Aglovale was glowering at Kay from behind his sister’s head.
Ravenna stood on tip-toe to see who was ahead of her in the receiving line. Ah, the King and Queen were next, of course. Alison was already embracing Garnet, and if Ravenna knew her uncle, he was fixing Lamorak with the same, “Hurt her, and believe me, I’ll hurt you” look he had treated Will too right after their wedding. Well, in Will’s case, it was before the vows were said, but after Arthur gave Jessie away, but it was the same sentiment.
Ravenna glanced over her shoulder, hoping to catch Jessie’s eye and nod her over to her father. Except, as she found, Will and Jessie were a little busy.
It must have been the spring air invigorating everybody. The old wives all insisted that spring was the season for love, for coupling. Couples that began courting in spring were rumored to have good luck in all of their days to come. Ravenna couldn’t be sure of that; she rather thought the very end of winter was the best time to start to court. Besides, didn’t winter make so much more sense as a season for courting and for love-making? After all, it was too cold to go out and enjoy oneself, so one ought by rights to stay in.
But maybe there was something to be said for spring being the season for love, since Will and Jessie weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the quiet time between the receiving of guests and the official start to the party to sneak in a little affection to their beloveds.
If even the old people were getting in on it … well, the old people like Lord Pellinore and Lady Eilwen, the proper, prim old people. If Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere had been here, they would have been … well, embarrassing Will, to start, and after that? Ravenna didn’t even want to think about after that.
She made her way to the front of the line, smiled a little nervously at Lamorak, and hugged Garnet. “Congratulations!”
Garnet hugged her back, tightly. “Thank you, Ravenna.” For the first time in … a very long time, Garnet didn’t feel tense, wound-up, ready to explode at any moment. Garnet pulled back and smiled at Ravenna. “We’re going to have to get together soon, you know that, don’t you? Now that I’m back home and everything’s bound to calm down sooner or later.”
“Aye,” Ravenna agreed. She needed to see Garnet — alone — for she hadn’t —
Lamorak’s jaw fell. “Oh, my.”
“What?” Ravenna asked.
Garnet winced. “Oh, Ravenna, don’t look now …”
Name the Sim who wouldn’t turn around and look when one said that, and, well … Ravenna would show you one unnatural Sim.
“Run, kid!” laughed Lamorak.
Ravenna shot Garnet a pleading look. Garnet chuckled. “Go on — pretend that you don’t know them and you’ve never seen them before in your life. I won’t tell.”
Ravenna flashed Garnet a grateful smile and slipped down the aisle, hurrying so no one could call out to her and make her wait. Her parents … she understood they were finally happy together now, that they had waited a long time to have the life they had now, but …
Really? Really, Mum and Dad?
Maybe it was the spring air. Or maybe it was the fact that Sir Lancelot and Lady Guinevere weren’t here, and somebody had to fill in the void. Or maybe … maybe …
Maybe the only reason why Ravenna wanted to escape — really escape — was that she didn’t have anyone to cuddle close to, no hand to hold, no shoulder to rest her head on.
She missed George.
He had been invited to the wedding, but he hadn’t come. Not after he had broken things off with Delyth only three days before. It had been the first chance he had to see her after they got back from the faerie ring. Needless to say, any invitation he might have had to the wedding was rescinded after that.
And even if he had come, what were the odds that he and Ravenna would have done anything more than bid each other a polite hello and other than that, stay far, far apart? George hadn’t told Delyth why he broke things off with her. And Ravenna? She hadn’t told anyone about George. Not Dilys, not Garnet, not Jessie. Not even her own mother, yet, since the days had been taken up in a flurry of wedding preparations, and since Garnet was going to be living in the same house as Delyth … it just didn’t seem like a good time.
Still, even if Ravenna’s rational mind told her that having George here, but not being able to do anything with him, was worse than not having him here at all, that same rational mind told her that it was only human to be a little jealous.
She would lurk in the library — that would keep the jealous thoughts at bay. Lord Pellinore had the best library in the country for philosophy, natural history, and regular history. She was bound to find something that interested her. And when Dilys and Kay stopped flirting — if they ever did — Dilys would come find her, and they would think of something to do together. It wasn’t like there was a lack of ways to have fun at a wedding.
What Ravenna was not expecting, however, was to find the library already occupied.
“Oh!” She hung back, one hand on the door. “Oh, um …”
Delyth looked up. “Hello.”
“Hi–Hi, Delyth.” Ravenna pushed one sheaf of hair behind her ear, then another. The golden strands of her headdress tinkled against her ear. “Um — I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you …”
Delyth shrugged. “You’re not. Don’t mind me.” She managed what was almost a smile. “Books are over there.”
“Oh … you don’t mind?”
Delyth shook her head. “No. Dindrane will probably be down in a minute, too.”
Ravenna cast another glance at Delyth. “Well … if you’re sure …”
“Aye, of course. The books are there for reading.”
Ravenna took a couple faltering steps to the nearest shelf. Damn — now what was she going to read? How was she going to read, with Delyth sitting so close and so sullen? Wright damn it, this was her fault …
“Mind grabbing me one, too?” Delyth asked. “It doesn’t matter what. Then, if Dindrane comes in, she won’t feel like she has to try to make me talk about it.” A short pause, then she added, “She won’t be fooled. But she can pretend to be if Mum tracks her down and asks her about it.”
Ravenna nodded, her hand going to the bookshelf. She would just take a book down, any book, for herself, and then one for Delyth, and …
Her hand hesitated on the spine of one of the largest, most leathery volumes. She took a deep breath, turned on one heel, and marched to Dilys. “Do — would you like to talk about …”
Delyth raised and eyebrow.
“… Dilys told me about George,” Ravenna murmured. “I’m — I’m sorry about that, Delyth.”
And she was. Delyth didn’t deserve to spend the day of her brother’s wedding moping by herself in the library. She was a social butterfly. She should have been up on the roof, enjoying herself, making everyone else enjoy themselves too. Maybe she and George ought to have waited until after the wedding.
No. No. That would have only been cruel. Delyth deserved a clean break — it was the least George could do for her. And how much fun would the wedding have been for any of the three of them if George had still been pretending to be Delyth’s sweetheart? It wasn’t like Ravenna could stay away. She and George could have given themselves away … or Delyth might have suspected something … it was better this way. It had to be.
She just wished there was a way she and George could have been together without stomping on Delyth in the meantime.
“Did he tell you why?” Delyth asked.
Ravenna blanched. “No-o …” And it wasn’t a lie — not technically. It was just … George hadn’t needed to tell her why …
Delyth sighed and hung her head. “He didn’t tell me why, either. Are all men like that, do you think?”
“I …” Ravenna slowly sank to the bench beside Delyth. “I don’t know. Although — although — I don’t know if George is quite a man, yet.” The fae certainly hadn’t seemed to think so. And he couldn’t have been wrong, could he? “I think — he’s still a boy in some ways. Maybe?”
“Then when do they grow up, Ravenna? Answer me that.” Delyth began to pick at fur trim of her sleeve. “I thought … I don’t know what I thought …”
Ravenna nodded, trying to look as sympathetic as possible without actually saying anything.
“I just wish …” Delyth pushed off the bench, sat up straight, and leaned her head on the wall. “Why the hell couldn’t he have told me why? Huh? Do you think that would have been so hard?” She glanced at Ravenna. “Just a simple why?”
“I … don’t know.” But she could guess. Oh, she could guess. Who wanted to be told that they just weren’t good enough, pretty enough, magical enough … whatever it was that George saw in her? Ravenna’s fist clenched, bunching the delicate silk of her overdress in one hand. After all … it wasn’t as if she hadn’t once sat just where Delyth was sitting.
But George and I never meant to hurt anybody! Christopher and Katherine did!
“What — what did he say?” asked Ravenna. “When — when he told you it was … over?”
“That it wasn’t me — that it was him.” Delyth rolled her eyes. “Of all the lame-ass excuses!”
At least that sounded like Delyth. But really, what else was George supposed to say? Other than the truth, of course. And he couldn’t go around saying that.
Still, Ravenna had to say something. “Maybe … maybe it was true?” Ravenna asked.
“Please! That’s never been the truth, not in the whole history of sweethearts!”
“I don’t believe that,” Ravenna murmured. “I mean — it can’t have always been a lie. That wouldn’t … make sense.”
“All it means,” Delyth sniffed, “is that you did something wrong, or you are something wrong, and the person you’re with just doesn’t have the heart to tell you what it is.”
Well, damn. There was some truth to that. But it wasn’t as if Delyth could help not being Ravenna … it wasn’t as if Ravenna could help being Ravenna …
But she couldn’t let Delyth go on thinking that, not if she wanted to live with herself. And it wasn’t like Delyth had done something wrong. Not really, anyway. “Well … if it makes you feel better … George isn’t shy about telling people what he thinks of them.” She hesitated, then added, “He — he called Sir Elyan an inbred ass, once.”
Delyth’s gaze snapped to Ravenna. “He what? Truly? When was this?”
“A — a long time ago!” Ravenna laughed. “Before he even came to the school … he told me he had to go to the de Ganis chateau, because his father, Mas–Baron Ferreira was there, and it was an emergency. But Elyan got in his way, and …”
“Inbred ass! I love it!” Delyth laughed — then frowned. “Wright damn it! How am I going to hate him forever now?”
“Don’t — don’t hate him forever,” Ravenna protested. Delyth raised one eyebrow. “I mean — hate him for the next few weeks or months or — whatever. But not forever.”
“Why not?” Delyth asked.
“Because — because sometimes it just doesn’t work out between two people. And — and maybe it’s not either of their faults. These things just happen. Aren’t — aren’t you glad, sort of, that he told you before you two went too far?”
“The last time I say things just ‘not work out,'” Delyth replied, “it was between Dindrane and Mordred … and if Dindrane still hates Mordred …”
“Yes, but … George isn’t as bad as Mordred.”
“How do you know?” Delyth snorted, tossing her head.
Because they were sitting here having this conversation; that was why. Because George had the courage and the honor to break things off with the “right” girl before he started things in earnest with the girl whom he really wanted. Because George wouldn’t treat Delyth the way Mordred had treated Dindrane for even a few days, never mind years upon years. And that was before one even thought about Lady Morgause and all the ways she managed to warp everything and everyone she came into contact with.
And she could say that — sort of. “Mordred probably knew that … that things weren’t going to work with your sister long before they got married. But he never told her. He never tried to back out of things while they both still had a chance to be happy. He just … let it be, and hurt her as much as he wanted, because he didn’t care. At least George cared enough about you to set you free.”
Delyth shot Ravenna a wondering glance. “Is that — is that really what you think?”
Ravenna smiled. “It’s what I know.”
And if she didn’t know that much — then what did she know?