Chapter 3 - Engagement
The days passed swiftly and I almost talked myself out of the whole thing at one point. But on the morning of the third day, I ate a hasty breakfast at the inn, then informed the landlady I wasn’t coming back.
When I arrived at the castle, I told the guards the prince had sent for me, and they stood aside to let me in.
Jazer immediately came out to meet me and we went into a private garden for some breakfast.
“I already had breakfast,” I started to say, but when I saw all the mouthwatering food in sight, my eyes widened and I swallowed my words.
We sat down and ate pastries, biscuits, fruit, and all kinds of delicious things. This was better than the simple bread and ham I usually had.
“You look like you’ve never seen food before,” Jazer stared at me, open-mouthed.
“Oh, sorry,” I put down the pastry and stopped myself, sneaking a glance at my overflowing plate. “I’m not used to seeing this much food,” I said.
“No, please, eat as much as you wish,” Jazer said. I attacked my plate of goodness and kept commenting on the delicious food.
“You know, I never got a good look at you in that cemetery, since it was so dark. And goodness knows why you’d want to hang out in a cemetery,” Jazer smiled. “But it’s nice to see you again.”
I had removed my hood and my dark hair cascaded down to my shoulders.
Jazer had a nice smile, light brown hair, and blue eyes. A small blush came onto my cheeks. The whole marriage thing seemed so far away, but I knew it was going to happen later this same day.
“The cemetery makes the perfect mysterious place to meet a mercenary,” I said.
“True,” Jazer said. “You had really freaked me out back there, coming out of the shadows from that mausoleum, just out of nowhere.”
“That’s the idea,” I grinned. We finished our food.
“I was thinking we could go horseback riding. That way we can talk and I can show you the layout of the castle,” Jazer said.
“Sounds good,” I replied. “And when do I get to meet your parents?”
“Actually, my parents passed away some years back. I live with my uncle, King Jordan. He’s the one who raised me,” Jazer said.
“Oh, I’m very sorry,” I said.
As we rode the horses through the forest, I couldn’t help but feel so awkward. Now that I didn’t have food to occupy my thoughts, I was struck by the craziness of this whole marriage idea. I was in the company of a man I barely knew.
“So how did you become a mercenary?” Jazer asked.
“I was poor so I enlisted in the army,” I said. “I learned how to fight and found out I was pretty good at it. I’ve been doing freelance mercenary work ever since.”
“What type of mercenary work do you usually do?” Jazer asked, a question in his eyes.
“I don’t kill anyone, if that’s what you’re thinking,” I looked at him as we rode our horses side-by-side. “I’m not a murderer.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to imply you were,” Jazer’s face went red again. “I just wanted to better know what I’m getting into.”
“Think of me as a babysitter for the community, if that will ease your mind. I mostly steal back what belongs to people and perhaps kidnap a few people that got lost and needed to be found,” I grinned.
“So the people you work with are like bad children who need someone to monitor them?” Jazer laughed.
“Exactly. It feels just like that sometimes,” I grinned. “Babysitter or mercenary...I think mercenary has a better ring to it, doesn’t it?”
“And it’s scarier,” Jazer agreed.
When dinnertime arrived, I finally met Jazer’s uncle, King Jordan. He was an elderly man with gray hair and a mustache.
“Uncle, I’d like you to meet my fiancee. This is Zena,” Jazer said, standing beside me.
“It’s great to meet you,” I said, reaching out a hand to shake. His uncle shook my hand.
“Good to meet you,” he said. “I was surprised when Jazer announced he was getting married, but I’m glad he found someone he loves.”
I looked down. I guess his uncle wasn’t in on the plan. It looked like I was the only one Jazer had confided in.
After dinner, I got ready for the wedding ceremony. Though I had worn my regular clothes at dinner and had refused a fancy gown, I figured I would wear something a bit more special for the wedding. After all, you don’t get married every day.
Jazer took me to his cousin Luisa’s room and allowed me to choose one of her gowns (with her permission, of course).
I chose a light blue gown made out of silk, and Luisa helped me get ready. I tossed aside the veil and refused all the jewelry except for a simple, blue pendant.
“I’m surprised,” said Luisa. “When nobles get married they usually want to wear the most elaborate gown and the most jewelry they can, but you don’t follow those traditions.”
“Well, I want to be able to breathe oxygen and enjoy gulping down the wedding cake,” I smiled. Luisa tried to hide her laughter.
“Well, it looks like everyone’s waiting for us,” she said, glancing out the door. “But you’re really in it for the wedding cake, I presume.”
“Of course! That’s the main reason I’m getting married, ” I joked. “The bride gets to have as much cake as she wants. Maybe I’ll be generous and leave a tiny mouse-sized piece for the groom.”
A knock came to the door.
“It’s Jazer,” Luisa opened the door.
“Hi,” he said. “Just wanted to see if you were ready.”
“Of course,” I said. “Let’s go. And thanks for your help, Luisa.”
“No problem!” Luisa smiled. “I’ll see you in the parlor!” She disappeared down the hall.
“I like your dress,” Jazer said, as we started heading to the parlor. He was wearing a gold tunic and a cloak with fur around the collar.
“Well, I like your furry friend,” I snickered.
“My uncle insisted I wear it,” Jazer grinned.
“Well, we’re about to get gawked at. That’s why they make us wear all this stuff. Let’s just open up a zoo and make ourselves the main exhibit, shall we?” I grinned.
Jazer burst out laughing.