Dearly Departed (by Veshenga’s Player)
Sandpoint was glowing that night with celebration, and the taverns overflowed, much like the tall pints being served. A foamy head would rock back and forth in the mugs, bulge over the rim, crawl down the sides as the floor shook with dancing, and the rafters flooded with laughter.
Far off, Mvashti’s home was instead a series of mystery shadows in the wake of fluttering candlelight. These shadows were cast by whatchamcallits, widgets, thingamajigs, all a chaotic nest of whosits only Mvashti could identify, navigate. The smell of tea was unchanged, probably the only constant in her ever changing museum, though the blend was off. Smelled like Mvashti was working her way through a new batch of some unknown concoction.
Veshenga stood in front of a dusty mirror. Her reflection turned experimentally, watching how the white dress’s skirt flowed around her ankles, how the overall fit was surprisingly snug and attractive. The dress was old, smelled like an attic, or the backstage of some old theatre. Still, the lacing and pearls along the hem were charming, even in the face of their own antiquity. The fabric was comfortable, and amused Veshenga to no end when she would pat the skirt and watch a few plumes of dust curl into the air. There was a red scarf draped over her head. Had her mother worn it this way when the weather was too cool, or the wind unfriendly? The garment framed an exotic face masked in thought. Down turned dark blue eyes sank a deep thread of musing into the cracks of the floor, her smile slowly faded over the hour.
Her wandering retrospective turned her thoughts on her mother, and limped to her father standing in the morning fog only a few weeks ago. A small fire crackled close by, red and orange flakes were shed by the conflagration into the misty morning surrounding them. He told her everything, and her heart sank, seemingly stumbled into her stomach and bubbled away with the acids. There was so much love and pain and anger in him at the moment, but all this churned beneath the calm waters of his voice, the kind of peace only a parent could speak, even when describing something as terrible as the Purge.
As her mother’s seduction, and such a bloody murder.
As the mysterious Hellknight.
As the months spent running, and running…
Mvashti led the way to the cemetery once preparations were all in order. A lantern swung back and forth in her bony hand. Shadows stretched around this constantly shifting perimeter of light, they swayed and danced, a tiny troupe that followed and then grew as the two passed among the headstones.
They were met with Varisian witnesses, those Veshenga had seen in the village, even had a drink with from time to time when she was not off fighting Sandpoint Devils, playing matchmaker, or solving murder mysteries.
The ceremony was short. Her braids were undone, and her dark hair fell in wavy ribbons around her shaking shoulders. It was not the process that bothered her. She and Mvashti had already discussed the parameters of it all, but she could not get her mother out of her head. Her father’s story had finally picked its way through. She had managed to not think about it all too much, thanks to the minor excursion taken to the edges of the Storval Plateau. The weddings had been formidable distractions as well. In the quiet of the graveyard, however, it all struck home, and she wept freely.
She told Mvashti everything once the ceremony was complete. How she wondered if her mother knew how much her father – Danel – loved her, if she was waiting for him. How unfair it was. How she knew it was childish to say that, but that she didn’t care. It was the truth! What had her mother – her people! – ever done but dance and entertain? Tessa had not died in childbirth…
Desna, she saw me. She held me, she saw me. She lost me. She watched me ride away…
The rest was lost, Veshenga had dropped to her knees, wept into Mvashti’s dress.
Oaths, Fire, Tattoos, and Cake (by Balekh’s Player)
Balehk swore to her. “My life, yours to take or spare. My power, yours to use or let rest. Till the mountains grind to sand, my blood for you.” Balehk drew his blade, razor sharp and gleaming in the afternoon sun, across his palm. Shayliss wasn’t entirely happy with this part of their ritual, a collision of Shoanti tribalism and Chelish customs. They had agreed on a beach wedding. They had no problems with the guest list or the slightly unusual vows. They had agreed on the bonfire, and the menu, and the after-party. But Shay was not thrilled to see Balehk spill blood, whatever the cause. Balehk had insisted, though. They would be bound by both the laws of her people and his.
A few of the older people in the audience looked a little uncomfortable at the sight of his blood dripping into the sand, but they remained silent. Father Zantus, who had been warned of this little alteration in the script ahead of time, continued with his blessings over the couple, in the name of all the major gods and goddesses of the land, as well as Nethys thrown in for good measure.
Balehk wrapped a red cloth around the hand quietly as the proceedings wound down. He would pack it with ash from the bonfire later to seal the oath, but for the moment his attention was all on Shayliss. Her father had offered the use of her mothers white-and-blue wedding dress, and, with a little work from the seamstress, Shayliss looked like a ice-draped dream. His own outfit—simple black robes with a single falcon’s feather sown into the shoulder—was muted enough to allow all the focus to be on his new bride. His heart pounded, but not with fear.
Haggor had already gotten the bonfire blazing by the time the everyone started to party, and the scent of the roast boar being carved led to cheers from the crowd. Ameiko Kaijitsu had set up a small bar at one of the spare tables, and the Avertin girls had brought a huge cake in from Sandpoint Savouries. The whole party cost the young couple a healthy chunk of the money they had saved up, but they both loved a good festival. It was coin well spent.
Shayliss and Balehk waited until everyone else was stuffed, drunk, and a little tired before they sneaked off for the other part of the Shoanti ritual that Balehk had insisted on. This part Shay had agreed to readily, which didn’t really surprise Balehk. She was an adventurous woman, and it was something he’d always suspected she would want to try, at least once. They met with Risa Magravi, proprietor of Risa’s Place, at a stone near the beach, a few hundred yards from the revelers. They had asked around, and had been directed to the old blind sorceress as THE woman to speak to about getting a good tattoo in town. Balehk asked for a candle flame on the inside of his right arm. Shaliss wanted the wind symbol of the Tamiir-Quah just beneath her collar-bone. The tattooing was a Shoanti practice that Balehk should have begun after he finished his rite of manhood, but being banished prevented that from ever taking place. He would instead start what should have been his life anew. Here, now, with this woman, his wife, Shayliss.