That evening, many of the Tribe gathered to eat and sing and tell stories. The camp was lit only by a few fires, the sky hidden by thick clouds.
Kane and Raven sat beside one another, her children asleep in her tent. Lianna and Torin stood at one of the fires, speaking softly to one another as Tallin slept away the night. Torin’s young wolf sat beside him, his tail wagging happily. He reached down and scratched the top of his head. Overall, it was a lovely evening.
It was strange, however, that Stella wasn't there. She was still in Avestitia. She never seemed to find her rightful place, and for that, Torin felt badly for her. She was beginning to fit in, he thought. Even if only it was him who thought so.
Finally, as things calmed a bit and everyone’s stomachs were filled, Kane stood with broad arms, calling in all to hear his words. Torin glanced back at him and held an arm out for Lianna to hold onto as they walked to their leader.
Kane had a rather large smile, which seemed misplaced, for Kane rarely shown any sort of happiness--not since Torin had ever met him.
The large man continued to wave people in and once the people gathered--those who were not yet asleep--he spoke. “I do not enjoy keeping information from you.” He continued on a short speech of dedication and how a lack of trust could rupture his respect for himself. Everyone watched him with worried expressions.
Lianna tightened her hands on Torin and--keeping his eyes on Kane—he leaned down to hear her. “What do you think he has been hiding?” Torin pointed with his chin to Raven who sat beside him, sipping on her drink in a somewhat nervous manner. Lianna gasped, “No! Really?” He smiled, his eyes flickering to her and she replied, “Well, I’ll be...”
Finally, Kane said, “I present to you my future wife and love of all: Raven--”
Everyone gasped and looked at her as she flushed, though her expression was still unaltered. She didn't attempt to hide the redness across her face, acting as if it weren't there. That just seemed to add to the charming, new view of her.
A few people spoke in hushed tones, never expecting their relationship to be anymore than a fling. Others were simply relieved to hear that Kane’s news wasn’t something perilous.
“We already have a feast!” one of the older women shouted, “Why not have the marriage tonight!”
“It sounds ideal,” Kane cut Raven off. She shot him the most evil glare anyone could muster, making Torin laugh loudly. Voices raised in song as a few people danced about. Torin glanced to Lianna who continued to stare at Raven in shock.
“However,” Kane’s voice boomed over the celebration. Everyone stopped and faced him. “However, tonight is not good. Everyone is asleep and we have things in which we must focus on. Our weddings are long and take all of our attention. I couldn’t do that as we travel, and I certainly can’t shirk the wedding, for Raven deserves the most beautiful ceremony.”
Raven stood with him and the crowd hushed instantly. It was true they respected Kane well enough, but Raven was obviously the woman leading behind the man. It was much clearer once their proposal was public.
Dusting off her pants, she glanced to the people, dipped her head and walked away, disappearing in the dark as she headed toward her tent. Many people began singing again and congratulated Kane.
"This gets me to thinking..." Lianna began, drawing Torin's attention to her, "about our wedding."
"Ah, yes," he hummed, thinking back on it. How nervous he had felt. The anxieties which rose in him. The beautiful glow of his bride's smile.
"And...I also came to the realization," her hands slid from his arm, "that you aren't wearing your feather."
"Oh," he frowned. His eyes met hers, finding a strange mix of worry and doubt in her eyes. "You may not realize this, but keeping a feather on a necklace while battling and running and hunting is next to impossible," he stated.
She stared at him, as if to think his need to explain was proof enough of guilt. "Though it's been missing for weeks, you still haven't replaced it," she replied.
A flash of annoyance built up in him as he sighed sharply. "I understand what it represents, but we have bigger things to worry about--"
"Bigger things?" she gasped angrily. "Bigger things than our marriage? This is--"
"Lianna," he bit quietly as not to draw others' attention. She squared her jaw at him, her glare turning desperate. "What has gotten into you?" he hissed lowly.
"Nothing," she snapped. With that, she turned and left.
Torin watched her go, anger swelling up from his chest. Raking a hand through his hair, he shook his head and turned away.
Raven awoke to a sudden removal of her blankets. She shot up, with an evil look and began to rip apart the assailant with her words, saying, “What do you think you are doing?”
Nellie, one of the old women shook her finger at Raven and tossed the blanket aside. “Up, my dear, this will only take a moment.”
It was still rather dark, the sun not in the sky though a few birds were singing. “What hour is it?”
“An hour before dawn,” she answered. “Now, up, Raven.” She stood and the woman yanked her gown off and tossed it aside. She shoved a dress into Raven’s hands and said, “Quickly, you slow-moving girl. Put the dress on, I shall lace it for you.”
Raven fumbled with the dress and pulled it on. The skirt fell clear to her feet, the sleeves stopping about a quarter of the way down her forearms. The sleeves were covered in the finest lace to match the sash across her thin waist. The dress was a creamy white, however, was accented with fabrics of the brightest colors. For Raven, it was mostly deep blues and accents of ruby-red.
Nellie worked her fingers up the lace from the small of Raven’s back all the way up to the top which was just beneath her shoulder blades, the tattoo of her sword sticking out the top.
“Nellie, what are you doing?” Raven faced her. The woman’s brows lowered, her face wrinkled and dark. “You are going to wake my children...” As she finished her sentence, she turned to see that they were already gone. “Where are my children?”
“You sleep like a log, you do,” she replied as she ushered Raven to sit on her cot. She began to pick through Raven’s hair with a carved comb. “They are out getting ready with Lianna and the others.”
“We are not doing this,” she retorted.
“It is too late. I’ve put my foot down.”
“Simply because you are Fargo’s cousin does not imply that you have say over Kane,” Raven spat.
“No, but I know what I must do,” she shrugged. The stout, little woman stood before her, her eyes narrowing at Raven’s hairline. Then, she began braiding and said, “I hate to postpone your marriage, and I understand that Kane wishes for you to have the best marriage you could have. However! We will have your vows and you will promise one another your love and fealty. That is really what the ceremony is for. Later is when we will have the true ceremony...Come now, Miss Raven, it will be good for morale. People will be much more pleased with something to celebrate. You’ll keep people happy for the remainder of the journey.”
“If you insist, though I do it reluctantly,” she sighed sharply.
“Oh, nonsense,” she laughed, patting Raven’s shoulder with a small, cupped hand. “If you were truly reluctant you would have swatted me away like a fly. You want this as much as he does.” She looked up at her as she lowered her head. “Marrying the leader, eh? That is impressive to catch his eye.”
She shrugged, then slouched to allow Nellie to finish her hair.
The next hour was filled with visitors from across the camp, each bringing her beads to wear and even a nice pelt of some sort of animal that Raven didn’t care to acknowledge. After so long, she sat on her cot, sighing into her hands.
The flaps opened and she barked, “NO more...please.” Looking up, she found her children to be hesitantly stepping inside. “My children...are you alright with this?”
The boy was too young to know exactly what was going on, so he nodded and went to search his things. Tonna smiled and bounced to her, saying, “I think...you love Kane. And I think that he loves you. So it is fine with me.”
“Are you sure?” she whispered.
“I miss Father, but Kane is as good as any,” she shrugged. She paused, looking at Raven and said, “You look lovely, Mama.”
“Thank you,” she kissed her on the head and stood. “Go and play, children.”
After several slow minutes, someone stood outside her tent. His silhouette against the morning light was massive, and she knew who it was. Walking to the entrance, she pulled the flap back, but not for long, for Nellie had instantly shut it.
With a scolding voice, she said, “Kane, you should not see her yet. Her beauty will remain unmolested before the marriage. Then, you shall see her during the exchanging of promises.”
“Let me speak to her, woman,” he replied flatly. After a moment, the old woman trotted off. He hesitated, not wishing to break tradition. However, he pulled the flap aside and gazed at her. “Raven,” he lowered his head, his lips curling. “I am sorry...I couldn’t stop that old woman no matter how hard I tried.”
“You have big hands, Kane,” she retorted. “You certainly could have stopped her.”
“Not without killing her,” he laughed. “I find that bad for morale.”
“Perhaps,” she admitted with a smile. She stepped to him and held her hands together, looking to her interlocking fingers. “I do not mind...”
“Good,” he replied. He leaned in and said, “I won’t wait any longer.”
“A few more hours, Kane, and our vows will be said and we will...consummate our marriage.”
“This caravan will not set forth an inch until that is fulfilled,” he replied.
“And I am sure if you had your way, we’d not set forth at all,” she grinned.
He pulled her close and said, “You know me well.”
She allowed one kiss on her neck before she shrugged out of his grip. “Go, you big idiot,” she laughed. “We need to hurry so we can get these people to the north. You know, Kiaran would have your head for--”
“Yes,” she shook her head.
Soon enough, everyone gathered on the edge of the camp where the grass was tall, green, and thick. Trees surrounded them, swaying sweetly in the breeze.
Nellie stood before everyone, explaining the reasons for the promises between the man and woman. There were many ceremonial things that were skipped as to make the promises--Though no one argued it. They simply wanted a happy leader, and hence forth, a happy journey.
Torin stood in the back with Lianna, his eyes on the sea of people, his muscles tightening. “What?” Lianna asked softly as she leaned over to keep Tallin from smacking Mornan as he lied in the grass before her. The wolf yawned lazily, ignoring the babe.
Torin looked to his wife and she asked, “What is wrong?”
He exhaled slowly through his nostrils as he ran a hand through his hair. “Nothing,” he forced a smile.
He was simply worried about that group of soldiers they had found days ago. However, they were heading eastward, away from them. They were in the clear as far as they knew.
She didn’t believe him, but didn’t wish to push the subject. Slowly, she faced forward as she stood back up. Torin ran a hand across her back, then pulled her against his side. His gaze caught Raven’s momentarily, and he knew she felt the same as he did. He nodded once and released his wife.
Kissing her and the babe on their foreheads, he said, "I have a few things to look into."
"What?" Lianna scoffed. "Like what? The ceremony is about to start."
"Lianna, please," he nearly groaned. "It's important."
She rolled her eyes, still in a mood from the previous night. He huffed as he trotted off. With a quick whistle, his wolf followed along after him with a lazily swishing tail.
Lianna shook her head, her glare moving to the groom and bride. Finally, they spoke for several minutes and made their promises to one another. They were not repeated and quoted like the vows in the city. The two faced one another and silence fell over them for a moment.
Kane was first to speak. “Raven, the woman of black haired beauty and a glare that could scare off the strongest of warriors...I must admit, I’d fallen for you long ago, though I was too afraid to tell you.” People chuckled, but hushed so he could continue. “However, those feelings are stronger now than they were then. And as I promised myself the first day I saw you, I will promise you today: I’ll not look at another woman in the same way. I’ll not speak to her with the same tone or intent. I’ll not put anything before my love for you. I understand, as leader of the Zeil, my duty lies with them. However, I swear you will be my first line of duty, and in turn so will the Zeil. We are all family, and you will be the head with me.”
Raven swallowed, keeping quiet as if she were afraid to speak. Finally, she breathed in calmly and said, “Kane, leader of the Zeil, at first glance I thought you were a knucklehead as most other men.” That sparked a laughter in most of the women.
Lianna glared on, feeling a sturdy wall being built between herself and her husband. How much more pain could her chest harbor in that dying heart of hers? Torin was never hers to keep--she should have known that.
“You were strong, smart, and held the most pride. And I was reluctant to see it. I was reluctant to see you.” Raven faltered, her eyes darting aside for a short second before returning to him. Her stomach twisted as her insides quaked. She could swear all the eyes on her could see her shake. It seemed she had just recently done this. It felt wrong--her husband had died only two years prior. Clearing her throat, she said, “I promise I’ll not take you for granted. Your strength, wisdom, or love. I will lavish it on you just as you will me.”
Soon, after a few more words, they were united as one and they kissed before the people. Nellie pulled them aside and said, “We’ve readied a tent for you and will leave you a horse. Spend all the time you need to fulfill your ceremony. Torin and Ark have agreed to lead the people further north. We will give you your space.” With a wink, she pointed with her little chin toward the hidden tent in the woods nearby where a gray horse grazed. With that, she walked away, ushering people away to ready for departure.
"Torin is going to check our surroundings," Raven said lowly as she faced their tent. "Just to be safe."
"Still worried about that army?" he questioned.
She nodded once. "A bit."
She grasped Kane’s hand and led him to the tent. They were hidden away from the others as they finished packing the rest of their things in their carts. Before they stepped inside, Kane pulled on her hand to face him. He didn’t have a smile or any other look of joy or happiness. He watched her with dark eyes and a frown.
“What?” she asked lowly.
He pulled the ribbon from her hair, most of it falling to the side in braids, swiping across her forehead. Looking at the ribbon, he said, “You faltered...”
“Must you point out my issues? I find it difficult to bear my heart in front of others.”
“No,” he said flatly. “It wasn’t that...Are you certain you wanted this?” She opened her mouth but no words came out. Shaking his head, he placed the ribbon in her hand and walked a few paces away.
“Kane...” she muttered. He didn’t turn to her so she stalked to him. Grabbing him by the arm, she pulled him to face her. “I am...scared,” she said sternly. He narrowed his eyes slightly and she frowned. “I had recently lost my husband. He was a respectable man.” Kane’s eyes moved away and she said, “It was odd to do those vows again, I apologize. But I have a special place for you in my heart. A place that even Marin did not have.”
“Marin was a good man,” he muttered, now feeling like a betrayer.
“Do not hold this against me, for if you lost your wife more recently, you would feel the same.”
“You are right,” he relaxed his muscles that--until then--he didn’t realize he was flexing. Running his hand down her head and to the back of her neck, he pulled her into a heated kiss. “Are you alright with this still?”
“More so than I ever thought possible,” she admitted. He smiled as he kissed her jaw.
“Good,” she hardly whispered. “Good,” she repeated as she kissed his chest.