Radiant Raiment was certainly convenient to the city’s main gates. Looking from Anders to Wyll, Katja took their arms and the three of them stepped off jauntily toward the shop. All of the anxieties and concerns of the past few weeks had fallen from her shoulders, and joy was bubbling in her soul. This was it! They would be united in the sight of gods and men, and in a few months when they had found their land and built their home, their new life would really begin.
They entered the shop and found Taarie at the front counter. Her rather stern, naturally cold-looking face lit with welcome, improving her looks immensely. “You’re right on time.”
Katja beamed at her. Turning to Anders, she said “You and Wyll are going to be on your own for a while. If you like, you can wait here for me while I get into my dress.” She turned to Taarie. “How long do you think it will take?...”
Taarie considered. The design Katja had presented her with was complex, and it would take a while to get it to hang just right. “I think perhaps 20 minutes should be sufficient,” she said.
“Time enough for an ale, then,” Katja said. “Why don’t you go across the street to the Skeever?” The two perked up. Few trials are harder for a man to bear than a long wait in a dress shop while the missus tries on clothing. Who could not love this woman? As the two made to leave she reminded them, “Don’t be late getting back, please. I plan to dazzle you…”
Anders and Wyll made their retreat to the inn across the road and sat enjoying a couple of room-temperature ales while talking a bit nervously. They’d memorized the vows they’d written, but both were still experiencing a touch of stage fright. Kill a few dozen marauding bandits or a dragon, no problem. Stand up in front of an audience and tell the world how much you love your sweetheart? Something else entirely.
Taarie surveyed Katja critically. “I like the hair,” she said in a moment. “Who did it for you?”
“It was an Elf woman, one of the employees at my inn,” Katja replied. Taarie nodded in satisfaction. Only the mer were truly possessed of refinement and good taste, in her opinion. They stepped on through to the back, and Katja removed her clothing.
“The underwear too,” the Altmer woman commanded. Katja obediently continued stripping until she was naked from head to toe. She’d made sure to have her toenails neatly trimmed and polished, in anticipation of the revealing high-heeled sandals.
“Such lovely feet,” Taarie murmured approvingly as she positioned Katja in the center of the floor. Then, with her colored drawing to hand, she began plucking lengths of colored silk from a series of pegs that had been hammered into a board and hung on the wall. “I can’t imagine how you’re going to store this,” she remarked, as she began draping the tongues of rainbow-hued fabric around Katja’s body
Some strips were longer, and wrapped about her in long swaths, covering a considerable stretch of her skin. These went on first, to be followed by smaller strips that covered some of the gaps while revealing small sections of skin in other areas. By the time Taarie was finished, Katja resembled an exotic bird of some kind. Her curves were still visible, but her overall shape was sometimes hidden, sometimes revealed as the cloth strips moved while she walked.
Taarie produced the outrageously sexy shoes and Katja sat, carefully, to put them on her feet. She got the full effect in the mirror, then strutted to the front of the shop. As she’d hoped, her bridegrooms had returned from their ale break just moments before. She smiled alluringly at them, eyes shining. “Well,” she said, spinning around so the strips of fabric whirled out around her before falling down again to drape against her body. “What do you think?”
Wyll and Anders gaped at her. They’d expected their darling to be a vision of loveliness. To them, she was lovely wearing stained armor, her hair a mess, face dirty. But this dress was so… indescribable. And those shoes! Each of them was glad that their formal wedding garb was not particularly snug-fitting, as Kat in this outfit forged a path from the eyes straight to the crotch.
They seemed awfully inarticulate, these loves of hers. But the look on their faces was all Katja could have hoped for. “I feel pretty!” she trilled facetiously. Then added, “But I’m afraid these shoes are going to have to come off for the walk up to the Temple.” It was close to a quarter of a mile from here, up a fairly steep hill paved with stone.
The men recovered their presence of mind enough to focus on what she was saying, and looked a little disappointed. But they had to admit, they couldn’t imagine wearing anything like those shoes and being able to stand up, let alone walk or spin around in circles. Dimpling at them, Katja retreated to the back room and emerged in another minute wearing her soft shoes, the high-heeled sandals in a bag Taarie had provided. Thanking Taarie and paying her the rest of the money due, Katja then exited the shop, flanked by her grooms.
The clouds were already breaking up into puffy white cumulonimbus, and it looked as though the day would be fine. They walked down the main street of Solitude toward the Temple of the Divines, drawing stares from all who beheld them. Who was this beautiful, outlandishly-dressed woman, accompanied by two tall and handsome men in formal garb?
They entered the temple and met with Freir, Rorlund’s priestess wife. “Welcome, Dragonborn,” she said softly. “You will find my husband in the courtyard.” She led them out through a door to the open-air space, which could have accommodated a hundred guests with ease. Their own little party would be dwarfed, but Katja didn’t care. That they were having a real ceremony with a real priest and some important guests, however few, was so much more than she’d initially hoped for that she didn’t really mind.
Rorlund was strolling down the aisle as Freir ushered them out to the courtyard. He smiled at them. “My lady, you look stunning,” he said. “And these are your bridegrooms?” As happy and excited as she was, Katja’s mind couldn’t resist inserting a snarky comment. No, she thought, I ran into these guys on the way over here and thought they looked nice, so I just scooped them up and brought them along. She smiled at him.
Rorlund was oblivious. “Now,” he was saying, leading them back down the aisle toward the altar, “When the guests are all seated and the hour is at hand, you three will walk together down the aisle. Not too fast, I think, you’ll want to look dignified.” He pulled the piece of paper from his pocket, the one they’d given him some weeks ago on their last visit to the city. “I’ll read the ceremony as you requested, and you’ll deliver your responses. Am I right, you want to hold the rings until they are presented?”
The three exchanged glances. The unspoken subject had come up at last, and at this late date there didn’t seem to be any point in keeping it a secret any more. “I have a ring for each of them,” Katja said.
“And Wyll and I each have a ring that joins with its other half to become one,” Anders added. “I’ll be presenting mine first.” Katja eyed him. Had Wyll and Anders hit on the same symbolism she’d had in mind in designing the rings she was giving to them?
“Very well, then,” Rorlund said, “since you’ll be presenting your ring first, we’ll have you say your vows first. Then Katja, you’ll say yours to him – Anders, is it? Then Wyll will say his, Katja will say hers to Wyll, and then the rest of the ceremony. I think it’ll all work out fine.” He looked around, trying to recall if there was anything he’d forgotten. They didn’t do that many weddings here, usually only fancy state weddings or those of the wealthy – or special cases like this one, thanks to the intervention of “Dudestia.”
Rorlund slapped his forehead. “Oh!” he said, “one more thing – how do you want the flowers placed?”
Katja looked at him blankly. “Flowers?”
“Yes, there was a cartload of them delivered to the Temple just a few minutes before you arrived. I assumed you had arranged for them.” Huh, Katja thought. A secret benefactor?
“Would it be all right to put them on either side of the altar?” she asked.
“Certainly,” Rorlund replied. “And then perhaps we could hang a bouquet on the aisle side of each row of benches. There’s one particular bouquet that I think is intended for you to carry as you walk down the aisle. I can take it for you when we get to the vows, if you need both hands for the rings…”
Katja smiled at him. “Thank you, that would be lovely. Do you need us to help with the set-up?”
“Not at all,” he replied. “My wife and I can handle everything. In the meantime, would you like to come inside and take some refreshment?” She considered. They might as well have a bite to eat and something cool to drink while they were waiting to “go on.” And she could slip into her outrageous shoes, too.
Rorlund led them back into the temple and down to the modest living quarters, where he seated them at a small table and offered them some bread and cheese, along with cool water to drink. Anders and Wyll had had some ale to drink earlier, but Katja was feeling parched and eagerly downed a tankard of the water. It was probably from some underground spring, judging from the temperature and flavor.
They sat talking quietly together and enjoying their snack for the better part of an hour, tension simmering beneath the surface of their banter. Finally Freir came to tell them, “It’s time to get ready for your walk down the aisle, now.” Katja had put the shoes on, leaving her other shoes and a bag with the clothes she’d worn from the Suite on the table. They would come back for this before returning home. Now she stood, the men astounded at the added height, and stalked gracefully up the stairs. She was glad she’d had Taarie make the dress a little shorter.
Freir directed them to the door leading out into the courtyard at the entrance to the aisle, handing a large bouquet as multi-colored as her gown to Katja, and they stepped outside. By the Divines, where had all these people come from? It seemed as though Elisif and Balgruuf must have invited half their courts to come along as attendants. And it appeared that Igmund and Raerek had more people than just Tullius and Rikke with them. They hadn’t filled the courtyard, by any means, but it was a respectable crowd gathered here to see them wed.
Katja’s heart skipped a beat, and a lump rose in her throat. She looked from Wyll to Anders, smiled slightly, and said very quietly “Let’s do this.” They smiled back at her nervously and the three of them stepped in unison down the long aisle toward the altar. It certainly did look festive, with large vases of the same multi-hued flowers standing on either side of the altar and smaller bouquets hung from each row of benches. It was almost, Katja thought, as though the sender of the flowers had known what her dress looked like.
After an endless, slow journey between the rows of benches, with many of those benches’ occupants smiling encouragingly at them, Katja, Anders, and Wyll at last stood at the altar before Rorlund. He’d changed clothes since last they saw him and was looking positively resplendent. He smiled on the three of them, then began the revised ceremony they’d written.
“It was Mara that first gave birth to all of creation and pledged to watch over us as her children. It is from her love of us that we first learned to love one another. It is from this love that we learn that a life lived alone is no life at all. We gather here today, under Mara’s loving gaze, and with the blessing of all the Divines, to bear witness to the joining of Katja, Anders, and Wyll. These three will walk as one through their lives to come, and they have asked that each be allowed to pledge their love in their own words. Anders, please begin.”
Anders stepped forward and turned, so that he was facing Katja and the assembled audience. He stood so tall, so proud, that Katja’s heart melted at the sight of him and tears were shimmering in her eyes. “Katja,” he said. He and Wyll had both taken to calling her “Kat” since very early in their relationship, partly in token of the fact that they and nobody else in Skyrim knew that her name was really Katrine. But this was a formal, public occasion.
He continued, “You are my love and the joy of my life. Your beauty and your courage are my inspiration. I am bound to you in love, now and forever.” He slipped the ring he held onto the third finger of her left hand. “This ring is a token of our joining, and it in turn will be joined.”
Anders stepped back and Katja now stepped forward to face him. This was going to be quite the dance before they had finished, but they’d agreed that those who’d come to do them honor at their wedding deserved to see their faces as they spoke their vows. She spoke clearly and firmly, head held high (as indeed was necessary, were she to look into the eyes of her beloved instead of gazing at his chin).
“Anders, you are my love and my bastion. Your kind heart and your wise head are my inspiration. I am bound to you in love, now and forever.” Gazing into his melting brown eyes, which were shining with joy, she placed his ring on his finger. This one, she turned so that the bronze-colored gold was nearest to his hand. “This ring,” she said, “represents the three of us united as one. We each are individuals, but together we make a whole – and a family.”
Katja now returned to her place, and Wyll stepped forward turning around. His inborn warmth was blazing like the sun, delight seeming to radiate from his summer blue eyes as he spoke. “Katja, you are my love and my creative spark. Your warmth and your beautiful mind are my inspiration. I am bound to you in love, now and forever.” He pulled forth his half of the dual ring, which sparkled in the sunlight with its bright gold and gems. Placing it on her finger, he pressed gently but firmly, turning it slightly until it clicked together with its mate. “As the two halves of the ring are joined together, so Anders and I are joined together with you.”
He stepped back to his place, and his fire-haired beloved turned to face him, a brilliant smile on her face. “Wyll, you are my love and the wellspring of my joy in life. Your strength and your gift for happiness are my inspiration. I am bound to you in love, now and forever.” This time the ring was turned the other way, so that the yellow gold band was at the bottom, pressed up against Wyll’s massive hand. She repeated the words she had said to Anders: “This ring represents the three of us united as one. We each are individuals, but together we make a whole – and a family.”
Now came the final and most controversial part of the ceremony they had crafted for themselves. Anders and Wyll turned now to face, not Katja or Rorlund or the audience, but each other. “Wyll,” Anders said firmly. “We are now brothers. We are bound to each other in love, now and forever, even as we are bound to Katja.”
Wyll smiled into Anders’ eyes. “Anders,” he rumbled, “we are now brothers. We are bound to each other in love, now and forever – even as we are bound to Katja. They clasped hands firmly – not the right hand, as in the ancient gesture that said “I’m not armed,” but with the hands on which they each bore a ring Katja had given them. The rings touched, and Katja would have liked to imagine that a spark of some supernatural power flowed through the connection. But it was probably just the sun, glinting off the polished gold.
Katja returned now to stand between her husbands, facing the priest. “These three are now bound together as one,” he told them and the assembled guests. “May they journey forth together in this life and the next, in prosperity and poverty, in joy and in hardship. In the sight of gods and men, I declare that you three are now wed.”
It was done! Tears of joy were streaming down Katja’s cheeks now, unnoticed. Her heart felt so full of happiness it might burst. The three of them joined in a fierce group hug, then Wyll stepped back and let Anders get first crack at kissing their bride. Next, Anders moved aside to let Wyll do the same. Tongues were involved, and Katja’s bliss turned a little pink around the edges.
They shook hands with Rorlund and thanked him. A purse of gold would be passed to Freir when they collected the items they’d left inside. Then they turned around and walked down the aisle a little way, whereupon they were surrounded with smiling faces, wishing them well. Some of these people they hardly knew, others were old friends; though for the most part, because of the logistics, most of the people they truly regarded as close friends had not attended the ceremony. They’d be at the party, though!
Jarl Balgruuf, once again dressed in splendid clothing and looking very pleased with himself, approached to offer them congratulations. He took Anders’ hand, and Wyll’s, and then squeezed Katja’s in a somewhat avuncular fashion. After which he drew himself up, produced a piece of parchment from inside his robe, and said in ringing tones, “I have an announcement to make.”
“Inasmuch as Thane Katja, known to all in Skyrim as The Dragonborn, has provided great service to everyone on Nirn by defeating the World-Eater – and with the aid of these two fine men who are now her husbands, I might add – the Hold of Whiterun owes her a great debt. She and hers have chosen to make my Hold their permanent home, and I believe that this new family deserves to have a family name. Therefore, I am presenting you with this patent establishing Clan Dragonspring in the Hold of Whiterun’s list of House names. Long may you and your descendants wear it with pride.”
Anders and Wyll were as surprised as Katja, but all were pleased. The three of them were sundered from the families that gave them birth, and had no great sentimental attachment to their current surnames. Though Katja had done her parents the courtesy, in absentia, of admitting the Bouchard name when she signed up with Rorlund for the wedding, this scheme of Balgruuf’s seemed like a wonderful solution. Now all three of them and their children to come would be Dragonsprings, not Bouchard-Lanya-Jarskarvirs or some such. So much tidier!
Spontaneously, Katja jumped up and hugged Balgruuf around the neck, planting a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Jarl Balgruuf! This is such an honor!” The dignified old man seemed a little flustered, but not entirely displeased. “I trust you and your husbands, and your children to follow, will bring still more honor on the name of Dragonspring,” he said, his ears looking pink.
They were milling about in the courtyard, accepting congratulations and thanking people for coming, for the better part of an hour. If you invite the powerful and wealthy to attend your nuptials, it won’t do to be rude to them and run off too soon – no matter how eager you are for the next part of the day. Finally they broke away, telling many of those assembled that they’d see them tomorrow at the party. Elisif had been prevailed upon to use her magic map to carry Balgruuf and his entourage as well as her own – and a small contingent from Castle Dour, including Igmund and Raerek – to and from Whiterun for the festivities. Fortunately, they were all going to be put up at Dragonsreach.
Bidding them all farewell, Katja and her husbands went back inside the temple to collect the things they’d left behind. Katja asked Freir to keep the flowers for the temple (she never had learned who had provided them, but suspected Elisif), and gave her a large honorarium for Rorlund’s services and the use of the courtyard. She sat down and was about to change back into her more sensible shoes, when Wyll stopped her with a hand on her arm. “Why don’t you leave those on for a little while longer, dear?” he murmured. “Yes,” Anders chimed in. “We think you might want them in a few minutes.”
Still seated, Katja put both feet on the floor and sat looking at her men questioningly. What were they up to now? Anders bent closer to kiss her neck. “These, uh, pennants… look like they’re intended to come off?” He reached to the attachment for one and removed it, exposing a small amount of cleavage. “Perfect,” he said, and in moments had tied the strip of fabric around her head as a blindfold. Katja began to get the feeling she was in for a delicious surprise of some sort.
Anders was holding the map, as there was nowhere Katja could carry it about her person dressed as she was. Lifting her to a standing position with an arm beneath her elbow, he and Wyll guided her out through the Temple to one of its side doors. When they had reached the street, now bathed in mid-afternoon sunshine, he wished them away from Solitude. But not to the Suite.