Author’s Note: This is all my original work and belongs to me, Melissa Snyder. I do not know if I will continue posting updates after this but, again, I would appreciate first impressions/comments/constructive critiques. Thank you!
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They call her blessed, fortunate, prized among women. They touch her with gentle hands, whisper prayers of blessing, and utter yips of approval. She is set above the salt; she is raised high.
She is to be a bride in blue.
A bride in blue is special, set apart, set above. She might not be the first wife, the last wife, or even officially a wife. A bride in blue is something completely different. She is not the lady of the family or the head of the household. She could bear children but, often, precautions are taken to prevent the marring of her form. If she does give birth, they will be placed in the nursery and taken to breast and mother by another, that blessed name never reserved for her. She is the height of the social court. When her lord or duke, warden or councillor will give great feasts or celebrations, bedecked and glittering for their distinguished guests, it is his blue bride who will appear at his side, the shining star on his arm. She will reign supreme, the celestial gem seated enthroned in his court for that night. She is the one about whom the minstrels will sing, the poets will write, and to whom men will swear chivalric fealty and their bravery’s blood.
They call her blessed, fortunate, prized among women. They touch her with gentle hands, whisper prayers of blessing, and utter yips of approval as they brush her locks until they gleam, paint her lips an ember red, and drape the sapphire gossamer over her head.
Today, she will be a bride. She will be no wife. She will be no mother. Forever, she will be a bride in blue.
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They call her blessed, fortunate, prized among women. All she knows is that, today, her fate will be forever decided for her. She will have no long-born legacy as a bride in blue. She will have no children. She will have no husband. She may even be virginal forever. With a few words, a blue price, and the intoning of a godsman, her destiny will be obliterated, swallowed up in others’ desires for prestige.
They breathe prayers of blessing and utter yips of approval as they drape the sapphire blue veil, embroidered with golden gods notes, over her head and paint her mouth red, the color of cunning.
She lets them dress her, veil her, bless her. She lets them lead her to the fane, all without a word. Nothing for their blessings, nothing for her mother’s tears, nothing for her sister’s jealous glances, and nothing for her father’s puffed-out pride. If she could slap his hand away, she would. But she cannot, not here, or risk the standing of her family, little as it might be on its face. So, silent as a grave, she lets him lead her into the fane, through a world blurred blue and gold, to the fate that awaits her.
“The King himself is said to have a blue bride,” her father whispers, “They say she is so esteemed that she sits on his left hand and the Queen on his right. You should be proud to be in her company.”
Proud? How? Why so? What is there to be proud of? A woman with no place but what her “husband” affords her. And if he tires of her? What then? The gods’ house? To be locked away in obscurity? She can never regain herself, her maidenhood. She will never be free to remarry, have a family of her own. Once a bride in blue, so blue until the sky falls.
‘And the gods with it,’ she thinks bitterly as they process slowly through the fane.
“We are your family, Delva. Hate us if you wish, but do not shame us,” come her father’s words, disguised as a tender whisper dropped into her ear. With that, he leaves her at the front of the fane, at the altar.
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Few of the people gathered ever make the pilgrimage to the fane in the godswood. Many of them have shrines in their homes. However, only the gods can oversee life and death, so marriages and funerals are held in fanes throughout the kingdom. Births are done in women’s chambers, watched over by the Mother and Midwife. Sometimes, the Weaver arrives with her sharp shears, though all actively and fervently pray against it.
Mother, Father, Midwife, Healer, Weaver, Shrouder, Monster, Child. The gods oversee life in all its facets. Every person here has seen their hands at work. Children born and dead, fields and herds flourishing and barren, snows, fires, floods, life, and death. Mother, Father, Midwife, Healer, Weaver, Shrouder, Monster, Child. The gods are at the heart of it all.
Or say they say. So they teach the children in their cradles.
He stands at the front of the fane, a dignified smile upon his lips. If he notices his bride’s icy silence, he makes no gesture of awareness. Either he is blissfully oblivious or has simply decided that her feelings make not a whit of difference. He is young, though not inexperienced by any stretch of the imagination. A young baron lately come into his seat and title, he has apparently set out to make a quite a memorable first impression upon the kingdom. His father, gods rest him, had a well-known reputation and this son of his learned faithfully at his knee. Now Cyrio must forge a reputation of his own outside of the late Baron Drake’s monolithic shadow. What better way than claiming the beautiful eldest daughter of a landed gentry’s family for a blue bride? Thus, he leaves himself still the chance of an advantageous marriage, yet shedding the disadvantageous titles of bachelor and, worse, virgin. Damn his father’s piety and closely-watching eye. That shall now be corrected and Cyrio on his way.
The ceremony is over, the vows recited, the flowers representing Delva’s maiden life crushed, releasing their heady scent, and she is now a bride in blue for the remainder of her days. As they process through the fane, Delva’s hand is cold in her groom’s grasp, though not stiff, elegant fingers curled softly around his. Her other hand gracefully lifts the folds of her dress as they move down the steps of the fane to the waiting crowd, ready to throw their flower petals. Pausing at the bottom stair, Cyrio reaches into his doublet and drew out eight coins, one for each of the gods. Four of the coins he hands over to Delva and, together, they stretch out their hands, the coins cradled in their palms. The crowd bursts into cheering and applause, lobbing apple blossoms and blessings at them. As this goes on, one by one, eight people break away from the crowd of celebrators to accept those coins from the newly-wedded’s outstretched hands. Offerings, gifts, reminders that they had not forgotten the gods. Everyone in the crowd pretends not to take notice as they cheer and applaud; you must let the gods do their work unhindered and, often, unseen. No one knows when they will be chosen to represent the gods in this tradition, nor will they say a word of it beforehand or afterward. Cyrio and Delva keep their eyes straight forward on the crowd, smiling and accepting their blessings. They do not meet the eyes of the Acceptors; you are not supposed to. What if a god is residing there? Who has met the eyes of their gods and lived?
The last, the Child, a little boy with night-blackened hair and deep blue eyes, steps up to take the final coin from Delva’s hand. As his fingertips brush her palm, tracing her lifeline, her gaze flickers, lowers, and meets his. His cerulean stare catches hers and holds it for a second that feels like an hour. She has known this boy all his life, a little runabout named Brion. But here, in his gaze, something frightens her. Something more. His blue eyes seem brighter, deeper, like churned water. He says nothing as his fingers move the coin from her palm to his.
‘Don’t!’ her heart cries and she tears her gaze away to look over the crowd again. When she again lets her glance flicker downward, he is gone, vanished once more into the crowd. The otherworldly chill remains at the base of her spine, however.
‘You shouldn’t have looked. When you see Them, They see you.’