The Next Three Dawns
It was over, and somehow we had won. We withdrew to rest, and Cabhan and I pulled away from the larger group to check on each other. It seemed we were both more worried for the other - he knowing that the fight would have stirred up difficult memories, I scared that he might hold an emotional wound he would be reluctant to share. He was horrified at the loss of control over his own body and actions, and angry at his ancestor’s choice to make his legacy one of horror and aggrandizement.

I tried to explain my feelings, how while I was scared - in my nightmares, the other Cabhan never wore an expression other than profane joy at what he was about to do. The real one, in real life - I could see in his eyes that he was as scared as me. I told him that I trusted him not to hurt me, to which he replied that Blackbyrne had made him target me because he knew that it would hurt Cabhan.

His words just strengthened my resolve, and I had a plan for the morning.

-----

As red began to streak across the sky I warned MacKenzie’s men that I would be summoning a fearsome person, and gave them the chance to move back. That done, I activated my ring, now glowing mostly red, and summoned Amyri.

Perhaps she saw the anger in my eyes when I asked her to destroy what was left of the ruins. Or maybe it was my tone when I said “If it were turned to glass and nothing could ever grow here again, that would be the start of what I could want.” But if it was either or both or neither, she agreed and went to work. Sheets of fire fell over the ruins, cracking the very stone, causing the sea itself to boil. And after a quarter of a candlemark or so, she drove her sword down into the promontory sending at least half of it sliding into the water.

Liam MacKenzie offered us the use of his camp, and perhaps a boat to travel back. The rest of the day was spent debating our next actions. Generally, we agreed that we should seek the Gyre and the answer Padhraig was supposed to find there. The largest question was how we were to rejoin the Fenstalker. But there was also the question of what the MacKenzie would do with Cabhan - as the heir of Blackbyrne his life was theoretically forfeit - not that any of us would stand idly by if someone were to try to claim that. Still, the truth of it was in the world now, and we had to at least address the formality.

We sent off missives and waited for our answers, and took some time to catch our breath.

The ‘Stalker had (with all but impossible speed) already crossed the breakwater for Tiranin, and Alice formally requested a consultation before we continued our journey. It seemed we had our answers for where we would reclaim our ship. It would take until the next day, but Kaela would be able to take us all there using her Powers.

That evening I drew Cabhan away from the camp, into the quiet night. I had been rehearsing a speech to myself most of the afternoon, and the words tumbled out in a rush. I told him that I had been scared, in the ruins, scared of losing him. I was scared of losing the dreams we had together, of the future we had talked about. I was scared of the warnings that we had been given, again and again, that what was coming would leave us all forever changed. I told him I wanted to claim what happiness I could, while I could.

And at the end of my speech, I asked him to be my husband, and stand with me in front of the Gods to proclaim our bond.

He was surprised, but not unhappy at the prospect, and we talked late into the night about what our hopes and expectations would be for such a step. We knew we neither of us had the best examples in our upbringing for what a marriage should look like, but together we would negotiate the waters.

Together. My heart was warmer, knowing he would be by my side.

-----

Tired, but ready to get back to the city, we gathered ourselves to be transported by Kaela. In mere moments we were all in the stables of The Three Swords, ready to go from there to our interview with The MacKenzie.

We were ushered in after given a few moments to refresh ourselves, and Alice greeted us warmly. Arlan, she said, was flourishing. But there was not much time for pleasantries before we got into a serious discussion.

They told us of many strange happenings. Red Dragons had saved a distant settlement from an attack of the walking dead. There was a sickness running rampant through Seaside. The dead continued to rise, and the earth itself shook and cracked.

Alice’s mother had looked for help from Elvenholme, and was told that they would not dare send aid without the blessing and the warding of the Blood Oak. Without much hesitation Ser Jarrad agreed to take on the burden of talking to his people about such a thing.

There was a brief moment where we seemed unable to find the next topic of discussion, and I took my chance to force the discussion of what would be done with Cabhan. But The MacKenzie cut straight to the heart of the matter, asking Cabhan if he intended to take on the title. At his denial, the Chief seemed to consider the matter closed and was happy to consider the Blackbyrnes dead.

Alice told us that she had received some ill portents recently - three things in particular. “Cherish the next time you see your friends for you shall see them no more than two handfuls of times,” “Beware the Devouring Sea,” and “Soon Darkness will break the bands of blood.” All of it ominous, and again the discussion stilled.

After a long quiet moment, I cleared my throat.

“With an eye to the portents of darkness, Cabhan and I have decided that - before we leave Tiranin - that we are going to get married.”

The others looked surprised, but no one (including our present Royal) objected, so that hurdle seemed passed.

We had a staggering array of tasks ahead of us, though, if we were hoping to be wed before we left the city and so we excused ourselves.

The temple of the Shining Lady was all too happy to receive us, especially after learning we were Those friends of Magret. More importantly, they were happy to perform our ceremony the next morning.

Rings and clothing were even simpler to obtain, which left just two things on our to-do list as the afternoon began to turn to early evening.

My parents’ home was draped, almost ostentatiously, in mourning. My Lady Mother greeted us first, offering me her hands. She had lost much of her accustomed luster, and the stark black of her mourning dress made her look even paler than usual. A few minutes later Father joined us, sober and with either more grey hair or less effort to conceal it. He was surprised to see me, and did not bother (or lacked the energy) to hide it.

“I’m happy to see you.” he said, stiffly. He did not seem to know how to proceed from there, and I took pity on him, held my hands out to clasp his briefly, restarting the moves of the social dance we all knew in our souls.

But we were there for a reason, and I would not draw it out. “Lady Mother, Lord Father, I won’t belabor the point. Cabhan and I have decided that we will be wed tomorrow at dawn, and we would like you to be there.”

Mother looked shocked at the first part, Father at the second. For a moment it looked like she wanted to say something, but at his hand on her shoulder she - not quite deflated, but it diffused her unspoken argument. “Well that’s wonderful.” She said, trying to sound sincere.

Father expanded on her point “Thank you for telling us - and thank you for including us.”

“I couldn’t see marrying in the city where my parents were and not telling you.” He looked as if he absolutely would believe that I could, but simply responded “The Temple of the Shining Lady I assume? We will be there.”

They looked as if they might want to say something more, but they looked at Cabhan (who stood, even if he didn’t realize it, guarding my off-hand) and whatever they saw there quieted them. He did not give them the chance to regain their tongues as he took my hand, made his apologies that we had other errands to run, and walked out with me. Outside he said “My apologies for speaking ill of them, but I think the less time you spend with them, the better.”

It was time for the last task on our list, and the one I was looking forward to the most. We made our way back to the keep, and found my brother to tell him the news. He was exceptionally excited for us, and happier still that Alice had arranged for him to be able to go to the ceremony himself.

-----

In the wee hours of the morning, all of us, and indeed all of the land had distressing dreams of a vast dark presence reading shields throughout the realms. As it broke them, it released a growing howl of frustration until we finally woke.

-----

It was supposed to be a High Day, but it was instead a Fool’s Day. Privately, I thought it was both funny and appropriate, and I felt honored that my wedding day should be so blessed by the God I followed more than any other. Cabhan and I made our way through the pre-dawn streets to the temple. The others arrived not long after, and the High Priestess began. She spoke of building our family, of propping up each other’s weaknesses, and of acknowledging each other’s strengths. As she spoke the light grew, shining and golden, and as she proclaimed the Blessing of the Shining Lady on us, our bond, and all who witnessed it the temple fairly glowed.

I looked at my husband with joy, and together we left the temple.
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Epic!