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Candles in the Snow

Chapter Text

At the daye appointed for Solemnizacion of Matrimonie, the persones to be maried shal come into the bodie of ye churche, with theyr frendes and neighbours.

Katherine Somerville (known as Kate to all her neighbors and friends, of which she had many), after much travail and sorrow on both their parts, married Adam Blacklock, late of St Marys, on St Brigid’s Eve at the end of winter, with as many of those friends in attendance, witness, celebration and support as could possibly be managed.

It had been a snowy season, and the end of January proved no different than December, layering the ground with purfles and counterpanes of white even as the nights shrank and days crept longer, reaching for the light. Kuzum had chosen the day, when consulted by his elders, because he liked beginnings; it was auspicious for light, for brides and hearth fires and music expressed in song. Even the collect of the day was in the spirit of joy:

Lord our God, help us to love you with all our hearts and to love all men as you love them.

That it was a Sunday merely made arrangements with the priest at Hexham Abbey all the easier.

DEERELY beloved frendes, we are gathered together here in the syght of God, and in the face of his congregacion, to joyne together this man and this woman in holy matrimonie

Francis, (deerely beloved frende indeed) through some alchemy or other means had manifested in her hall an extravagant quantity of really good candles for the proceedings, presenting them fait accompli, not to be refused. Not that Kate would refuse such a thing from him. (Once upon a time it would have looked like magic, but Kate knew better, and the actual answer likely had to do with Archie. And candles: candles were a hopeful thing, a beautiful thing, practical and extraordinary at once. Such a gift was to be reveled in.)

Kate would never stop loving Francis, but that was not a place one lived, that close to fire and ice, alt and abyss, edges and choices and endurance of pain. It was Phillippa who matched and met that need in him, not her (and while she was both glad and a little terrified for her daughter, she knew that Phillippa was well equal to stand - even thrive - in that place, and allowed herself to be a little glad as well that she had not had to try.) Adam was not so fire-eaten, not so brittle-sharp. Adam understood the exigency of art, could be dangerously, efficiently effective, but he also lived in the now and here, and would let her bustle about with poultices and possets when his leg was bad - though she had yet to convince him to tell her when it began to pain him. In that he was very like Francis indeed, one of the hazards, it seemed, of long orbit in the exhalation of his star. Of a piece with the barbed tongue and ironic detachment when it served. Or perhaps it was that Francis accreted, collected like persons about him and catalyzed those qualities.

Nor would Adam ever not love Francis, and she would never ask him to; although should he chose to speak of that, or of France or Russia or anywhere or anywhen that had shaped him, she would most surely listen. Besides, who else would understand the joke? The sheer improbable absurdity of where they had all come to at last?

Thirdelye for the mutuall societie, helpe, and coumfort, that the one oughte to have of thother, both in prosperitie and adversitie. Into the whiche holy estate these two persones present: come nowe to be joyned.

Kate watched from her solar as Adam walked with Francis in the snowy garden, dark head and bright. The cold stole color from Adam’s face, leaving the whip-scar stark. They took a turn around her knot-garden, following the path that wound between the beds where the herbs slept. Two straight backs, clothed and cloaked; but under the linen both bore marks. Her shoulders moved under her own clean linen. Not all scars were on the skin, and they all three had those. There was no one in all Flaw Valleys entirely unscathed. One offered balm, accepted ease, refused to let an artifact of hurt prevent the future.

Phillippa joined Kate at the window, warm and smiling as she looked out through the chill glass. Francis reached the corner, Adam said something that made Francis laugh, and they both looked up toward where Kate and Phillippa were, happiness shining in their faces. Suddenly they both were no longer symbols of past pain, but present men, beautiful and loved. The women caught up their skirts to run downstairs to join them, feet like snowflakes, hearts like stars.

Then shal the prieste joyne theyr ryght handes together, and say.
Those whome god hath joyned together: let no man put a sundre.

At the feast after the ceremony the boards did not precisely groan, but Kate enjoyed feeding people; seeing her friends and loved ones rest replete was a joy to her. Among the delicacies and sotelties that followed the great courses were pies: strawberry pie, and daryoles, bilberry pie and sambucade, plum and apple and blackberry. The strawberries were for Adam, the blackberries for Lymond. It did not matter in the least that only she knew there was any symbolism there in the first place. (Or that her preserves-closet would be scant until the summer.) Hearts would be fed as well as bodies, just as the musicians in the gallery above the hall where the boards were laid would feed the spirit as well as aide digestion.

… and also live together so long in godlye love and honestie, that they may see their childers children, unto the thirde and fourth generacion

Laid like a garland on the marriage-bed (snowy purfle there as well, but feather-warm and new, candles set about the room making all a glow of white and gold, the shadows gleaming red from firelight, and all clean and crisp and comfortable, no hard elegance of edges, but the softer spindle-whorls of wood and roundel-glass) a single sheet of paper, writ in a hand they both knew well: a gift of words, new as the marriage-linens, distilled from a happiness not yet a season old:

With candles in the snow light Brigid’s fire
Drape the pillared hall in gold and white -
Where Winter once held cold now flames desire
The altar, forge and hearth-fire set alight
O greet the Bride with music, heart inspired
No clockwork stars bring day forth out of night
But earth’s own spin that sees the dark retired
And Time unlock what prisoned heart’s delight.
With boughs of evergreen the Groom conspires
To sweep away the shadows, giving flight
To cold constraint. This bond requires
No blessing from your children, whole or part;
But here you have it, given from the heart.

Then shall the prieste blesse the man and the woman, saiyng
ALMIGHTY god, which at the beginnyng did create oure firste parentes Adam and Eve, and dyd sanctifte and joyne them together in mariage: Powre upon you the rychesse of his grace, sanctifie and blisse you, that ye may please him bothe in bodye and soule; and live together in holy love unto your lives ende. Amen.

And thus is was that Kate and Adam married, with the light of countless candles burning in the snow to see them home.