The music stopped. Around us, voices hushed. The crowd parted, making a path for someone. Lord Irvaine strode toward me. A gold edged tunic of emerald emblazoned with the figure of a hart covered his chest. His dark hair, now dry, curled to his head. He had finally washed his face. He stopped at the edge of the open circle that hastily formed around Loren and myself.
“My lord.” Quaren bowed his head.
I remained standing, meeting his inky-eyed scrutiny. “My lord.”
He lifted his right hand, extending it palm up toward me. “It is time. Are you ready?”
I felt Loren’s gaze on my face, but I didn’t lower my own to meet it. Kurios, give me strength, I prayed. Stepping forward, I lay my hand in his.
Together we walked toward the dais outlined in the glow of ten flaring torches. My hand trembled when I realized we would be standing on it before the village and his men. The officiate, the man with a twisted back from before, stood at the dais edge dressed in a heavily embroidered grey robe. The few hairs on his head danced in the breeze.
Irvaine squeezed my fingers. “I would prefer something more intimate, but the king decreed a public speaking of vows. He intends there should be no mistaking the validity of our marriage.”
“A public bedding then.” I faltered at the thought.
His fingers tightened around mine. “Leave that to me. I will not see you humiliated.”
I opened my mouth to ask how he intended to accomplish it, but our arrival at the dais interrupted. We climbed the single step together and faced each other before the company. The old man wrapped our joined hands with a length of white silk. Beneath the fabric, Irvaine’s fingers cradled mine, warm and strong.
“Speak your vows after me. Make sure they are loud enough for all to hear.” The old man faced Lord Irvaine first.
“I am Tomas Nirren Dyrease, Earl of Irvaine.” Irvaine’s rich voice caught me off guard. I frowned up at him in surprise. The officiate had not spoken yet. “I do willingly speak these vows to Brielle Solarius.” His eyes locked with mine, an emotion I couldn’t name grabbed my attention. “I pledge my sword to your protection, my hands to your comfort, my shoulders to your provision, my children to your body, my heart to your heart.” With each phrase, he squeezed my fingers. My stomach tightened. His gaze, black in the torchlight, never wavered from my face. “I take you as my wife.” A shiver shot through me. He meant every word.
“Repeat after me.” The officiate lead me through my vows.
“I am Brielle Solarius, daughter of Tyranen Solarius, Lord of Wistern. I do willingly speak these vows to Tomas Nirren Dyrease.” His name came surprisingly easy to my tongue. “I pledge my hands to your comfort, my body to your children, my loyalty to your cause, my means into your control.”
My gaze snapped to his face. I was handing my future to this man. Cold gripped my core as I realized the full implications of my words. I could not speak against him or deny him anything he desired of me. Everything I possessed belonged to him. My hands shook as my thoughts filled with visions of our children. He now held their lives in his hands as well.
“Brielle?” Irvaine’s suddenly painful grip on my hands brought my gaze up to meet his. Worry bracketed his eyes in wrinkles. His dark brows lowered, but concern, not anger shone in his eyes. “Breathe slowly and focus. One sentence more.”
“I take you as my husband,” the officiate prompted.
I only whispered the words, but it was enough for the officiate. “Bring forth the gifts!” He waved dramatically.
My middle ached and darkness edged my vision. I blinked. Perhaps I should have eaten something.
“Brielle?” Irvaine’s voice came from far away.
My knees gave out. Someone caught me as I fell, but oblivion took over before I figured out whose arms held me.
So, what did you think of the vows?
Rachel Rossano's romances are available on Amazon and Smashwords.
|(a historical romantic short story)|
|(a fantasy/historical romance novella)|
|(a fantasy/historical romantic novella)|