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Orange-Bright

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Tristan of Hed and Lyraluthuin of Herun were married on the threshold of Akren just as harvest season concluded and the leaves began to change, flickering from deep greens to reds and oranges and yellows, a spectacle of color to herald a new beginning.

 

Lyra had arrived several weeks earlier on a ship bearing the Morgol’s colors, the orange bright against a blue sky traced by clouds. When Tristan, sweeping in the main hall of Akren, heard from Cannon that it had been sighted, she dropped her broom and was out the door before he could even react. She arrived at the docks just as the gangplank was being lowered, flushed and breathless, and bounced impatiently on her toes, straining her eyes.

There! Grace of movement, and long, flashing black hair, Lyra walked sedately--if quickly--down the gangplank and grinned at Tristan, who suddenly cursed her disheveled hair and patched work-clothes, even as she smiled back.

And then Lyra was in front of her, kissing her, passionate, and it was all Tristan could do to not collapse.

“I missed you,” said Tristan as they pulled apart.

“I missed you as well,” said Lyra, looking down at her as always, insufferably tall. She reached up, removing one of her arms from around Tristan, and tucked a strand of hair behind Tristan’s ear.

Tristan grinned a little, wry. “I don’t think that’s going to help, Lyra. Just kiss me again, and then let’s go up to Akren and start preparations.”

Lyra complied.

 

Three weeks later, Akren was spotlessly clean and strung with garlands, as festive as it had ever been and more. Tristan had positioned their wedding right over the celebrations at the end of the frantic rush of harvest, the short slump of relief before winter forced them indoors, and she could not have picked better timing, she thought in satisfaction as she surveyed the end results of their preparations.

Eliard walked by, whistling some ballad off-key and carrying the last of the tables to its spot on the grass. They could have seated the whole island with this setup, and they would have to do exactly that and more. Weddings were community events in Hed, and the wedding of the land-heir even moreso--no farmer would stay at home that day, not even if they were nine months pregnant.

She scanned the area once more to make sure that everything was in place, and, satisfied, slipped through the flower-garlanded doorway and headed to her room to make herself ready.

 

She was combing her hair when she heard a tap at the door, which repeated when she didn’t answer instantly.

“Come in,” she said, turning to see who it was.

“Lyra sent me,” said Goh, twirling her hair around a finger and looking around the room curiously. The Morgol and the rest of her guard had arrived the day before, and they were still becoming accustomed to Akren and the customs of Hed, so Tristan couldn’t fault her her inquisitiveness. Morgon had always been far worse when it came to curiosity. “Because you two can’t see each other before the ceremony and all.”

Tristan put down the comb. “Go on.”

“She just said to say good luck, and that she loves you, and then some increasingly sappy things that I can’t repeat without blushing.” Goh dropped her face into her hands, and Tristan imagined the guard’s cheeks heating. She grinned a little.

“Tell her that I say the same back, and that she should really wear that one hairclip Danan Isig made for her because it makes her eyes look gorgeous .”

“I, um, okay,” said Goh, retreating from the room as quickly as she could, though she stopped to shut the door behind her. Tristan went back to brushing and braiding her hair. Amazing, that the woman could be so fearless in battle and so timid when it came to more personal matters.

 

Tristan shifted, standing partially hidden from the gathered crowd and, more importantly, completely hidden from Lyra behind Eliard’s bulk, thoughts flickering rapidly through her mind. Where was Morgon? He hadn’t said that he would be here, but it had seemed a given that he would be. This wasn’t only the wedding of two land-heirs, which she assumed would be of importance to the High One, but also the wedding of his sister and his friend. And yet, she’d been glancing surreptitiously at their guests for the past hour and he wasn’t anywhere to be found. If he missed her wedding, she would dump sour milk on him again, High One or not.

Even Raederle had come--Tristan had spotted her earlier, tucked away on a branch in the form of a crow, and had only by a narrow margin quelled the impulse to run to her in greeting. But Morgon was not here.

“Can we start already?” she muttered under her breath, too low for Eliard to hear. She missed Lyra. They hadn’t seen each other in a whole day, which was nothing compared to the span of time in between visits beforehand, and yet somehow more agonising, because her betrothed was so close . She fingered the rose tucked into her crown of braids. It was one of the very last from her rosebush, and she had had a matching rose delivered to Lyra through Goh, with the hope that she would wear it in the wedding as well.

Eliard took a breath, bringing her out of her thoughts. “It’s time,” he said, and began to walk forward. She followed, sticking close to his unreasonably tall back, and she heard the chatter of the assembled crowd dim a little.

And then a sudden gust of wind tore past her and she reached up instinctively to steady her flower. Someone gave a shout of surprise in the audience as wind whipped through their clothes, and another made a noise of outrage as it scattered accessories, and then suddenly it stopped, and the rush of air resolved into Morgon, looking apologetic.

For a moment, nobody breathed, and then someone said “High One!” and then the whole mass of guests was scrambling to stand up, talking over each other. Many of the farmers of Hed, who had known Morgon since before he was an inquisitive child of three, seemed to radiate confusion as to whether they should bow or not. Tristan, meanwhile, desperately kept her mouth shut. She couldn’t talk until after the ceremony started. Even if she really, really wanted to.

“Please, be seated,” said Morgon, standing so still that in the midst of the bustle he seemed carved of stone. The crowd obeyed, their sudden emotion quelled by Morgon’s implacability. He turned towards the front, towards the entrance to Akren, Tristan tucked away behind Eliard because she had no parents to give her away, and Lyra presumably clustered around by the Morgol and her guard, Lyra’s sisters-in-arms. The Morgol hadn’t even argued when Lyra suggested they join her in the ceremony; they were Lyra’s family just as much as the Morgol, and that was to be honored. All of them were paused, frozen in midstep from the moment of Morgon’s arrival, and it was only upon his gaze that they began to move again.

Finally, Eliard stopped, and Tristan glanced around her brother to ascertain that they had in fact finally come to face with Lyra’s group. Then she made herself stare resolutely at the center of his back to keep herself from trying to look for Lyra. Patience .

Eliard took a deep breath. He wasn’t any good with formality, but he was trying, and Tristan wanted to hug him for that. “I give to your daughter, to your sister, my sister, Tristan of Hed,” he pronounced gravely.

The Morgol, much more practiced with ceremony, answered with matching solemnity. “And I give to your sister my daughter, Lyraluthuin of Herun.”

Eliard bowed his head. “Then let us bestow upon our brides the company of one another.”

He moved out of the way smoothly, retreating to Tristan’s right, but she hardly noticed him, because just then she saw Lyra, and there was no room in her mind for anyone else.

Her bride looked radiant, an emanation of beauty from a story-book in a long lavender dress of layered fabrics and a cream coat, flowing and embroidered in silver, to ward off the autumnal breeze. The rose Tristan had sent, light pink, was pinned to her chest. Her hair was half-bound with the hairclip that Tristan had suggested, the design of silver and inset sapphires flowing like water down a mountainside, half-loose, hanging to her waist in a similar waterfall, though tinted black rather than silver-blue. And her face was indescribable, glorious, proud, touched with joy and wonder and love. Tristan could have lost herself in it for hours, but then the Morgol said, “High One,” and the moment was broken.

“We would be honored if, um,” said Eliard. Tristan looked away from Lyra reluctantly to see her brother coming up to them, holding back a small grin, a little breeze brushing back his hair to show the three stars on his face.

“You would like me to perform the ceremony?” he asked, walking around Tristan to face the crowd, which Tristan realised suddenly was dead silent. Morgon placed his hand on her shoulder for a moment, near to her, almost a hug, and for a moment it was as though she had not yet been orphaned, and their whole family was together again.

“Yes,” said the Morgol.

Morgon nodded his acquiescence, and then looked at Tristan and Lyra in turn. That small fond smile twitched the corner of his lip, escaping his control.

“Tristan of Hed,” he said, the smile retreating suddenly into distance, into inhuman power, and she blinked a little, wary. “Do you love Lyraluthuin of Herun?” This wasn’t her brother, not anymore. This was the High One, and in spite of herself Tristan felt awe spread through her, tempered by a small touch of fear.

“Yes,” she said quickly, almost forgetting to answer. She fixed her gaze on Lyra, on the finely crafted features of her face. “Yes, I do,” she said again, carefully, breathlessly.

“Lyraluthuin of Herun,” said Morgon, said the High One, his voice impassive, “do you love Tristan of Hed?”

“More than life,” said Lyra, without hesitation.

“And will you stand by each other though all your trials, though your names be lost and your sureties crumble?”

“Yes, always,” said Tristan, just as Lyra said “Forever.”

The High One placed a hand on each of their shoulders. “Then by my power as the High One of this Realm, I declare you married. May your lives be blessed with peace and plenty.”

There was silence for a piece of time, the world frozen as though in tribute to this irreplicable moment. Tristan whispered softly, trying not to break the that fragile feeling of perfection, “Now you kiss me.”

Lyra complied with sudden delight, and the crowd, to Tristan’s slight embarrassment, erupted into cheers.

“I see you don’t have a harpist,” she heard the High One say as she pulled away from Lyra, her face hot--no, that was definitely Morgon, his voice pitched to slight amusement in that way he’d been doing since she could remember. “I can only assume that you were expecting me.”

She found herself laughing, and grabbed Lyra in an embrace. The future seemed to stretch on forever, an infinite expanse of joy with her family and her friends there with her to keep it bright.