A Tale of Crowns and Stars

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Bryllupet og Oksen Pt. 1

Cyra’s sleep — not entirely unaided, thanks to her mother’s visit after Hal’s departure — was dreamless but peaceful. Mirabel entered her room just before the sun’s rising, attempting to prevent Cyra from waking but failing. The Princess sat up in bed slowly, letting the covers fall off of her as Mirabel shifted around in her drawers silently.

“Good morning, Cyra. How do you feel?” The two women had never been in this position before, and the cautions Mirabel and Cyra felt were not wholly unfounded.

“I feel rested.” The silence around the palace felt unusual as the women moved about their morning routine. Normally, Cyra would awake and hear a plethora of noises around the hallways and in the foyer below. But even the birds seemed eerily silent in the daybreak.

“What fragrance would you like to wear today?” The question seemed a little silly, considering the only fragrances Cyra owned were jasmine, eucalyptus, and lavender. Without speaking, she plucked the vial of jasmine oil from the dresser and walked into the bathroom, deriving in one swift movement. Mirabel ran the water in the bath, then straightened up slowly as the tub filled. “I have some goings-on to report.”

Fear struck Cyra in her stomach like a blade of iron. “Please tell me it’s good.”

“I’m afraid it is not good news.” Cyra leaned back on the sink counter, crossing her arms against her chest. The lady in waiting took this as a sign to speak, so she did. “Lynna’s lady-in-waiting says the Queen regrets assenting to Halewijn’s request for the holmgang." Shock crossed Cyra’s features momentarily.

“But the vote has already been taken—”

“Apparently, if a High Council member wants to retract their vote, they can ask for a re-vote on the matter. We just don’t know if she will or not.”

“But then that would mean that Omar would still have the upper hand, and we would be in even more danger than before. He could accuse us of treason!” The news did not sit well with Cyra, who clutched at her stomach in despair. “We could be killed. Doesn’t she know that?”

“I’m sure she has acknowledged all consequences of her potential choices.” Cyra pursed her lips, frowning deeply.

“Does Hal know about this?”

“I told Wyndemere, but I’m not sure if he shared any of that information with him yet.” Pushing off the sink, Cyra grabbed Mirabel’s wrist in earnest.

“Do not let Wyndemere tell Halewijn; we will leave this issue alone until we need to address it.”

After her bath, the dressmaker returned to help her put on the dress. The older woman wore gold fabric wrapped around her portly figure with a beautiful array of shimmering jewels around her neck. Cyra noted that it was the dressmaker’s time to shine as well, and she would be doing so quite literally. Mirabel handed over the gown with care, and the dressmaker smiled her thanks at the lady-in-waiting, who disappeared to change into her own dress.

“We will do it just like we did before; no fuss, no rush.” The dressmaker slipped her into her wedding gown with ease, adjusting the sleeves and the lace accordingly before smoothing the train of the dress down. The bleached fabric now felt like an entrapment, like a prison made of softness and lace chaining her to Omar’s will. Sweat dotted across Cyra’s brow, which the dressmaker quickly noticed.

“You needn’t be afraid, Princess. Everything is as it should be." The echo of the composer’s words startled Cyra, and her eyes locked with the dressmaker’s. Something unspoken passed between them, and a realization dawned in Cyra’s mind. Like the threads of a tapestry, the bigger picture began to take shape, and she wondered why the epiphany hadn’t come sooner. How many people had said those words to her in the last two weeks?

“Thank you for your work.” Cyra reached out to hug the dressmaker with one hand, holding her close for a moment. She fully expected the dressmaker to whisper something that would reveal the meaning of the phrase in her ear, but the event never happened, so Cyra reluctantly let go. The woman waddled out of the room without saying anything else, leaving Mirabel to finish her hair.

“Your mother should be up with the slippers she bought for you shortly. Do you want your hair up or down?”

“Up.” As Mirabel fiddled with her curls, the dressmaker’s words ruminated in her mind. Was it a secret code of some sort, or was it just serendipitous that she and the composer would all give her the same advice?

Her question would go unanswered, of course, but her mother’s arrival put those things in the back of her mind. Mirabel folded and draped the veil over her head, tucking it into the High Princess’s crown so she could still see without obscured vision.

“You look so beautiful!” Bilka beamed as she strode in, wearing a baby blue gown that swept the floor. “Oh…” The tears. Cyra almost forgot how much her mother was prone to crying during times like this and instinctively extended a hand for her mother to come closer, hoping it would soothe her nerves instead of bringing her nostalgia.

“Don’t cry, mother.”

“How could I not cry? I am just so… overwhelmed with emotion because… you’ve grown so much!” The Queen wiped away her tears with one hand, stretching her other hand out to present the beaded slippers Mirabel spoke of earlier. “It’s not much, but I thought these slippers were gorgeous, and they would look perfect on your little feet.”

Cyra took them gratefully, slipping them on her bare feet with care. The shoes’ insides didn’t pinch her feet — which surprised her — and when she wiggled her toes around, it felt like the slippers were lined with a softer material than her other fancy shoes.

“Where did you find these? They’re so comfortable.” Bilka smiled saucily, putting a hand on her hip as a statement. Suddenly, the tears seemed to be gone, replaced by a look that held a tale of hard-won prizes and best kept secrets.

“That’s for me to know and for you to wonder about. Even so, I’m delighted you like the shoes; I know how picky you tend to be about your shoes.” Cyra wiggled her toes around again, marveling at the wondrous discovery while Mirabel placed a few pins in her hair.

Once the lady was finished, Cyra stood and embraced her mother fully.

“Just think, if we hadn’t let Halewijn stay the few months he did, we might be here, but not for a wedding.” The two women let out a few chuckles, but even the laughter acknowledged the truth. When Bilka let go of Cyra, she took one long look at her dress and hair, then sighed. “I couldn’t have wished for a more perfect person for you to marry.”

Cyra smiled wryly, thinking about Gunnar and how he had been the perfect person to marry, not Halewijn. The memory of Gunnar suddenly reminded her of two things she needed to do.

“Can I have a few moments alone?” She asked the other women in the room, who happily obliged. When they exited, Cyra first faced the rising sun, kneeling down at the window sill with her fingers laced together in prayer. “Dhotlo, god of the Underworld, I hope you can hear me,” she began with trepidation. “Please, if you could… send my love to Gunnar. Let him know he is not forgotten on this day and that I would give a thousand lifetimes to hold him one last time.” In rapid succession, she touched her third-eye space, her bottom lip, then both of her earlobes as she ended her prayer. “From my mind to my lips, and into your ears. Let the gods’ will be done.” Slowly rising from her kneeling position, she walked over to the bed and lifted up the mattress.

Chaossong glinted in the sunlight as she lifted the blade and eyed it carefully, watching the light glance off the edges of the dagger with a sickening feeling growing in her stomach. The thigh holster sat in an unopened drawer, patiently waiting for the moment it would be of use. Cyra shucked off her right shoe and slid the halter under her dress before sheathing Chaossong into the leather pocket. It felt silly to bring a dagger to her own wedding, but she would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. If anyone had to die today, she would happily do it for the sake of her husband and country.

Her mother rapped on the door in haste, peeking her head through the crack in the door. The thought of killing and death vanished as Cyra looked into her mother’s eager eyes. “Are you ready?” Bilka called out, and Cyra nodded, coming into her line of sight.

“I’m ready.”

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