Chapter 33: WEDDINGS
Four wagons loaded and guided by Armad and Parry lead the caravan that wound its way down from the bridges. Shortly after setting up their tents on the plains and letting out their draft horses, traders from all directions began to arrive. Shar and Grimley brought a handful of their people from the forests. They had wood, spices and medicines that could be found no other place. Garrett and his Princess arrived with Parry Trader and another several wagon loads of trade items, some of which in turn came from the bird people.
Last to arrive were the plainsmen. Somehow, they knew when and where to show up. They traveled all the year, taking months sometimes to reach a destination, yet here they were, on time for what was the biggest trade festival to date. To the corral, they added their horses and their many colored wagons formed a row of trading stops with living quarters behind them.
It took only two days, but in that short time, what had been open grass fields a small town sprang to life. Always before, it had been a few tents and a single day of trading. This time it would be nearly a tenday before all parties had come and gone.
“Sir, I had no idea that this would be such a big trade.”
“Parry, I had no idea either. I have already made enough on my crops and other trades to set me up for the year. How have you done?”
“I’ve made so many contacts that I can’t keep them straight. I have done as you asked and kept a large portion of my stock for the wedding.”
Speaking of the wedding, it is almost time for you to bring your materials to market.”
“Pardon me sir; I thought I was going to get married.”
“Yes, you will, but you will be getting married in the style to which few others have been honored.”
“Patience is a virtue. Wait.”
They guided the full wagon to the trading area. Arrayed in front of them were all of their friends and the people that they traded with. A slow drumbeat began as they approached. Lona appeared with her mother. They both wore new dresses and looked their best. To Parry, their best was quite acceptable.
As they reached the center area, a short thin, aged man stepped forward. “I am Master here. Do you come to trade?”
Parry looked back. His father in law to be; gave him a nod and a light push with his hand. “I come to trade.” He indicated the materials in his wagon.
“You have sufficient trade to purchase a horse. Will this fine horse be sufficient?” The animal that was brought to him was far better than he would have been able to afford, had he not brought the best of his stocks. As it was, the trade might be a good one, possibly a good trade for both parties.
“The animal looks to be of sufficient quality if it is sound.”
“Check him!” The man demanded.
Parry knew animals well enough to care for them, but he was no horse trader that could spot the flaw that would make an animal worthless. He checked the horse as best he could and said so.
“Do you think he is sound?”
“To the best of my abilities, he is. I consider him a worthy trade.”
“Do you consider your trade materials worthy of him?”
“They are perhaps worth a bit more to me, but I will accept the trade if you are willing.”
“Fair trade!” The man declared. “We have one more piece of business at hand.”
From the back, an old matriarch brought Lona and her mother forward. They were joined by her father. “This woman, Lona, wishes for you to join her family. She has seen that you can trade fairly. She also asks if you can produce friends or acquaintances to vouch for your character outside the trading circle.”
Before he could get more than a grunt out of his mouth, seven stepped forward: The two Princes, Barrett and Garrett, two Princesses, Karina and Serena, Armad, Cappy and to his great surprise, Melnor so rarely did the wizard travel.
The old man’s eyes opened wide. Apparently he hadn’t expected such quality representation. “M’Lady will expect you to live up to the expectations of your friends. We expect you to give ‘fair trade’; she will expect you to be honest with yourself. Can you promise to do the same with her?”
“Parry nodded and said, “I can and I will.”
To Lona, the man asked, “Is he worthy of your attention and will you accept him for what he is worth?”
Lona stepped forth and inspected him like a horse. She even had him open his mouth to check his breath and teeth. “I find him acceptable and like what I see. Father, may I take him into our family?”
“I accept your decision.”
Lona stood at his side and linked her right arm possessively into his left. I accept!”
All through the land, bells began to ring. Locally, the bells in decorations rang for longer than a man could hold his breath. Everyone stood still and waited, for what they did not know. When the bells stopped ringing, all but a few found out what they were waiting for; M’Lady spoke to all that she had ‘spoken’ to before.
“A Path has been laid. The future is not clear, but it begins to render itself possible.”
The party that followed was much like any other. Treats came out and were shared, drinks poured and discussions that would later get many into trouble later began. As the sun set, many went to bed and some began the long trip home. Back in one of the wagons, the old man sat in focus. He called to M’Lady.
“M’Lady, what did you mean when you said that we are on the path?”
She spoke to him and to several others that were asking the same question. “The future of this world is not certain. I can see many futures, some not so pleasant and others quite terrible but there are some futures that lead to much happier times for me and for the people of this world. We are not alone in our skies; there are others that will visit us, but not soon. What we are, when we meet them will determine not only how we will be treated then, but our future with them. I choose the paths that will give us the most. On some of these paths, I am destroyed or worse. I choose first to steer clear of those. On some paths, you all become slaves. Those paths too, I avoid. Today, two Princes and their Princesses are important. They will rule this land. Melnor is important today and tomorrow. I don’t know why, but Armad the builder and sailor is very important, although he will build very little more any time soon other than his ships. Running a store will be important. Parry and Lona have a part to play and there are others, but these few are important today. The plains-folk’s tribes are important and eventually will travel the stars as families. Be well.” M’Lady withdrew.
Parry Cooper and his new wife joined the Princes, Melnor and Armand to return to King Roth’s land. When they arrived, a Royal wedding was held for Garrett and Serena after which, they all departed for Garrett’s home. King Roth could not go, but sent his daughters and a strong representation in the form of Parry Trader to make the bonds of friendship between Kingdoms. One day, brothers and sisters would rule the two kingdoms, but distance and communication would long prevent them from becoming one kingdom. The time of Nations was far in the future and none here would live to see it.
Riding into Oman, the people were amazed to see the variety of strangers that their Princes brought with them. The younger Prince had a bride on his arm and with one of the traders, a lady of the Wood-kind stood tall in her saddle. They had plenty of friends with them and had only been gone a few seasons. Few of the common folk ever traveled far from home and as such, had little appreciation for the distances and changes that had occurred in this short time. Soon, both of their Princes would be married and a new time of the Kingdoms would be seen.
Arrival in the King’s court was formal and well announced, with discussions well into the night. The bonds made in this time were not to be broken in their lifetimes or their grandchildren’s time.