Unknown to me, my wedding was planned to take place during the harvest festival, which was six weeks after Durmas’ death. I spent the time mostly in a funk. I couldn’t concentrate; I’d find myself staring off into space with my mind totally blank. Oskan did his best to help me with my teleporting. I could do it now with some confidence, but if I thought about it for more than two or three seconds, my stomach would do its best to show me my last meal.
Larak slept on. When I expressed my concern about Larak’s continued sleep and his lack of nourishment, Oskan explained, “That’s why he sleeps beneath the orb. His magic will sustain him until he reaches a balance, then he will wake.”
Oskan took Haines and me to the village for the festival leaving Larak behind. I was still struggling with the change. I used to have four teachers, four great men who sought to pour their knowledge into me, and now, suddenly, two of them were dead and another lie sleeping for who knows how long.
I was thinking those thoughts, and others like them, when Lloyd Hanley singled me out shortly after we arrived at the village. “You’ve proven yourself to be a good protector even though you haven’t made a place for her,” he said critically, and gave me a look up and down that said he still had his doubts. “I guess you’re worthy.” He took my arm and led me through the crowd to where his wife was standing with Patricia firmly under her control. She looked me over with a scathing expression. “I think he’s suitable enough,” said Lloyd.
Lorena scowled. “I don’t know. He’s made no home for her. He has no solid occupation. Are you sure her children will not starve or be without shelter?”
“You must consider that he is a Master. I don’t think such concerns will ever be a problem, not while he lives anyway,” replied Lloyd.
She harrumphed critically and then turned to Oskan. “Do you stand for Master Durmas?”
“I do,” he replied simply.
“Then it falls to you to decide if you think our ward is prepared enough for this joining.” She indicated a large trunk behind them standing beside a table covered with an assortment of other things I hadn’t identified yet.
It finally occurred to me what might be happening. I snagged Oscan’s arm before he went to look at what was displayed. “What’s going on here?”
“This may be your joining,” he said as if it were obvious to everyone.
I was speechless. I hadn’t expected this, not without some warning at least. When I hesitated, Oskan asked with some concern in his voice. “You do want me to go ahead, don’t you?”
“Oskan, if you find some fault with what she has there causing our wedding to be delayed, I promise you’ll regret it.”
He just smiled and went forward to examine the contents of the trunk and the table.
While Oskan was going through the things Patricia had prepared and questioning her about each item, someone touched my elbow.
I turned to see who sought my attention and found a man dressed in a smart white uniform. Several things struck me immediately. First, he was another human, and second, his uniform strongly resembled the uniform of the emperor’s guard if it weren’t the wrong color.
“Liam McTavish?” he asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“I’m here to inform you that I represent the emperor. His ship is at your disposal.”
“His ship?” Why was the emperor’s ship here? Why was it at my disposal?
“Yes sir, the emperor received a message that you might wish to leave after the festival and he sent his ship.”
That message had to have been sent months ago. Who would send it? Who would know? “Thank you,” I said. The man bowed and backed away. I watched him as he chose a spot on the edge of the square to watch. He obviously didn’t know anything about festival.
I was about to go and tell him he ought to make himself comfortable, but I was distracted by Carm. The farmer Finnian was leading him over to another display similar to Patricia’s. I smiled; I thought there might be something starting between the farmer’s pretty daughter and my friend. I glanced back at the man in white; I wished my friend a long and happy life with his new bride. After this, I didn’t expect to see him again.
I looked back, Oskan was going through the trunk now and Patricia was continuing to explain something about its contents. I watched him hold up a shirt and shake his head, then he turned around and held the shirt up to my shoulders.
“Well, I suppose it’s all right. It looked too small,” he said. I glowered at him and he grinned back at me with an ornery glint in his eye.
Finally, he turned to Lorena and announced, “I find your ward sufficiently prepared for this joining.” He stepped back beside me while Patricia carefully packed everything into the trunk. I was amazed that it all fit.
When she was finished, Lloyd picked up the thing and approached me.
“It’ll be heavy,” whispered Oskan in my ear.
I was glad for the warning because apparently Lloyd expected me to accept the thing as if it were some sort of Christmas present. For him it was just an over large suitcase, but I had trouble reaching from one corner to the other. I supported it on a cushion of air. Without magic, I’m not too sure I could have moved it across the ground let alone lift and carry it.
“My wife and I have found you a worthy mate for our ward and Master Oskan has found our Patricia worthy of you. May you have a long life together and have many healthy children.”
Oskan guided Patricia to my side and she hooked her small hand around my elbow. She was finally mine, but I still couldn’t touch her or even kiss her, my hands were full of this massive trunk and I was fairly certain giving it a toss was out of the question; what else could they think of?
She tugged at my arm and guided me toward the man in white. Along the way, I noticed other men with trunks. A few were young men with young women at their side and a few were fathers shooing their tearful daughters back to their house. I didn’t think there would be any festival for those young ladies, or the disappointed young suitors either, for that matter. Carm shot a grin at me. He had his prize clinging to his arm while he hefted her trunk. It looked like they were heading back to the farm where he had grown up. I remembered the little brother. I wondered what his arrangement would be when he was handed a girl’s trunk. Then again, Carm had his own property on the other side of the mountains where he and his family had been moved.
“Put it down,” Patricia whispered in my ear. We had reached the man in white. I set the massive trunk down at his feet.
“Watch this for us, will you,” I said.
Patricia giggled softly at the man’s confusion, but he nodded and we turned back to the rest of the festivities.