Chapter 38: Marriage Before the Jade Throne
Marriage before the Jade Throne
Late in the afternoon inside the throne room of Shadizar Kahn, an impressive gathering of people stood witnessing the marriage of John Morrison and Arabella Bishop. All of the remaining elders and leaders of Arionath were present along with four hundred of the common folk who had never seen the throne room before. Hannibal and all of his team stood on the dais with Nicodemus, the elders, and leaders of Arionath. Morrison and Arabella stood at the edge of the dais with Nicodemus officiating the wedding. Hannibal stood in as best man and Selina stood in as the top bride’s maid. Everyone was dressed appropriately, even Xavier, Amelia, Kahn, and Carver, who stood with Hannibal’s team surrounding those involved in the ceremony. Corso, Joel, and Liu stayed back near the rear of Hannibal’s team with Seras. Jacob and his family stood in the very front of the crowd at the base of the dais with Naomi, Milo, and Sharon as Nicodemus proceeded with a short ceremony.
He preached for roughly ten minutes on marriage, insisting that the Ancient of Days alone made husbands and wives, and then the vows and rings were exchanged. Nicodemus and the elders graciously provided the rings for the wedding. Once the rings were exchanged, Nicodemus declared, “You may now kiss the bride.”
Morrison looked into Arabella’s eyes and said softly, “I should’ve done this long ago.” At that point, he kissed her gently on the lips and a thunderous cheer rose from the crowd. Arabella melted in the kiss, absolutely astounded and enthralled by his sensitivity.
Hannibal put his hand on Morrison’s shoulder and said, “Very good. The Lord’s pleased with this. Just remember what we talked about the other day.”
Morrison put his arm around his bride and replied to Hannibal, “We remember and will do what you suggested, won’t we, Mrs. Morrison?”
Arabella chuckled and replied, “That’s something that’ll take some getting used to: being called Mrs. Morrison. But yes, there are no arguments there. Things are just a little too crazy to start a family yet.”
“Good to hear it,” Hannibal said with a smile. Then he announced to everyone, “You’re all witness to history today. Remember it well for today is the first time since the Kragonar that people from the surface have been matched by the Lord and married in this land. Now, let’s go to the dining hall for refreshments and some entertainment.” Bowing to the newlyweds, he said, “After you, Mr. And Mrs. Morrison.”
Morrison and Arabella smiled and started down the dais, heading across the throne room to the doors, which were wide open. The people parted, making a ten-foot path from the dais to the door. Hannibal and Selina followed with Nicodemus at his left. Hannibal’s team filed after them, then Xavier, Amelia, Kahn, Carver, Corso, Joel, Liu, Seras, the elders and leaders of Arionath, followed by the crowd. As Morrison, Arabella, Hannibal, and Selina walked through the cheering crowd, Hannibal paused where Jacob, Rebecca, Crystal, Naomi, Milo, and Sharon were standing and held out his hand. “Come,” he said, inviting them into the precession following the newlyweds out of the throne room.
They looked at Nicodemus for confirmation and he nodded, saying, “Come, my friends.” They fell in immediately behind Hannibal, Selina, and Nicodemus, following them out of the throne room.
Ten minutes later, everyone gathered in the dining hall. Refreshments were being distributed and music was playing. The music was indigenous, exclusive to the people of Arionath. Hannibal and Selina found the music strange and compelling. It resembled a combination of classical and old-time gospel music. People danced to it, especially the newlyweds. Hannibal and Selina were on the dance floor, dancing first with each other and then with the newlyweds. The atmosphere was relaxed and somewhat festive, but tended to be rather modest in its displays. There were no vulgar dances or displays of worldly crudeness. The live music wasn’t terribly loud, but soft and pleasant. After about forty-five minutes of dancing, Hannibal and Selina sat down at the table with Nicodemus and had some drinks, talking with him and some of the elders. Xavier, Amelia, Corso, and Joel were sitting there too with some of Hannibal’s team, talking with them. In general, everyone was having a good time and seemed to forget about their troubles for the moment. The crowd that followed to the dining hall was quite a bit smaller than the one in the throne room, just a bit over a hundred people. Hannibal and Nicodemus talked for a while, and then Hannibal told him, “You know, your music is strange to us. I like it. It calls to me to such a point that I feel led to share some of our music with you, if that’s all right.”
Nicodemus smiled and said, “Go right ahead. I’d love to hear some of the music your people listen to.”
Hannibal smiled and tugged on Selina’s elbow. “You feel like sharing a song with our friends?” he asked her.
Selina smiled and said, “Sure.”
Hannibal and Selina rose, heading for the makeshift stage where the band was playing. As they passed by Nathanael, Hannibal paused and asked, “You feel like playing for our hosts?”
Nathanael thought for a brief moment and said, “Absolutely. What did you have in mind?”
“I was thinking some of the old hymns we heard on Brother Paul’s broadcast,” Hannibal returned as Nathanael rose and joined them. They went to the stage and the band stopped playing as they walked on the stage. Hannibal let them know that they wanted to play and they relinquished three of their instruments. Hannibal ended up with an instrument that resembled a strange type of guitar. Selina sat down at a harp and Nathanael sat down at an instrument that was for all practical purposes a piano. There were still six more band members with other string and wind instruments.
Hannibal looked at them and said, “You guys play very well. Listen to what we play and I’m sure you can join in when you get the feel for the music and the beat.” Then to Selina and Nathanael, he said, “Why don’t we start with an old favorite: Amazing Grace. Selina, you sing and I’ll back you up, all right?” She nodded, a bit uncomfortable playing for a group of people she’d never played before. Hannibal sensed it and said, “Relax. You’ll do fine.” Turning to the crowd, he said, “You’ll have to bear with us. It’s been a long time since we’ve played anything for anyone. This goes out to our newlyweds and to our host, Nicodemus. All right, let’s do it. One and a two and a three....” He began to play the strange guitar flawlessly with Selina and Nathanael joining right in once he established the beat he wanted. In seconds, the music for Amazing Grace was echoing through the dining hall. The sounds from the instruments combined into one tremendously powerful and moving melody as they played in perfect resonance with each other. Then Selina began to sing as she played. Her smooth, melodious voice filled the dining hall, combining with the music they played with astounding results. As Hannibal and Nathanael joined in backing her up in the singing, the anointing of the Lord fell on all three of them and the music they were playing. Before they knew it, they were singing it in tongues and everyone there was hearing it in their own native tongue, to everyone’s astonishment. The song moved people to tears and repentance. It wasn’t long before the rest of the band joined in, following their lead, adding to the beauty of the hymns that they played. They went through a dozen or more of the old hymns before stopping forty-five minutes later. Once they were done, Hannibal turned to the leader of the band and said, “Thank you for letting us use your instruments. We really appreciate it.”
“You’re most certainly welcome, great one. It was my pleasure,” the bandleader replied humbly. “I have never seen anyone play with such finesse. It was absolutely beautiful.”
Hannibal smiled and said, “It was the Lord that did that. I know it because I’m not that an accomplished player. I tell you what. You can play that music any time you want.”
“Thanks,” the bandleader replied as Hannibal, Selina, and Nathanael went to step off the stage. As they did, a round of thunderous applause arose from everyone. They linked hand and bowed to the crowd before stepping off the stage. Going back to Nicodemus’ table, Hannibal, Selina, and Nathanael sat down as Nicodemus looked at them with tears in his eyes.
“You’re truly a wonder of wonders, Hannibal Smith,” Nicodemus declared. “Your music touched many here, including me. Truly, the Almighty is with you and your people. That music was so beautiful and perfect. It was like the angels were singing. I’ve never seen music touch people so.”
Amelia, who sat a couple of seats down from Nicodemus, said to Hannibal, “You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you. I’ve never seen music do what you just did with it. It was incredible. Who are you really?”
Hannibal looked her directly in the eye and said humbly, “I’m just clay in the master’s hand, Amelia. Just a man caught up in something bigger than he is. I’m just along for the ride. It’s the Almighty Ancient of Days that does these things and He’s the one who deserves the credit for this. I had no idea I could play like that. I’m frankly just as amazed as you.”
“The Ancient of Days moved profoundly this evening,” Nicodemus commented, looking to his right where Morrison and Arabella were sitting. “He allowed us to be part of a marriage of His choosing, and then he had you minister to us in song to strengthen us in this dark hour. Truly He is great and merciful.”
“Amen to that,” Hannibal agreed. “He’s worthy to be praised.”
As he was speaking, a couple of guards rushed up to the table, attracting the attention of all. Hannibal looked at their expressions and knew something was amiss. “A thousand pardons, Great One, Nicodemus,” one of the guards apologized. “But we have news of the gravest import. A party of twenty Zarukar penetrated the gateway and made it a league into the valley before we were able to deal with them. We managed to kill most of them but three or four escaped back through the gateway. They slaughtered three families before we could stop them and we lost eight of our men in the process.” Everyone looked upon the two guards and knew they had been in a terrible fight because of the blood and wounds they wore.
Hannibal’s expression steeled like flint from his more jovial attitude a few moments before as Nicodemus’ countenance fell. “You were right to bring this to our attention,” Hannibal stated. “Go take a break and tend to your wounds. You’ve earned it from what I can see.”
“Thank you, sir,” the guard returned. He and his companion turned and left.
Hannibal’s countenance darkened as he said grimly, “I think the party’s over. We have work to do. Nicodemus…find Joshua and bring him and his top lieutenants to the throne room. I believe I have a way to slow them down.”
As everyone rose, Nicodemus replied, “All right.”
Before they headed toward the door, Hannibal, restrained Morrison and Arabella, saying, “You stay here and try to enjoy yourselves for a little longer. We can handle this.”
“Are you sure?” Morrison asked.
Hannibal nodded as Selina stood at his elbow. “We can handle it,” Hannibal insisted. “If we need you, we’ll call, all right?”
“Okay,” Morrison replied as Arabella clung to his arm.
“Be careful,” Arabella warned Hannibal. “Don’t do anything foolish.”
Hannibal smiled, lightening his expression and replied, “I’ll try not.” Then turning to the rest of his team, he said, “You guys can stay if you want. I only need Harry, Nathanael, and Selina to deal with this.”
“Hannibal. We’re a team,” Thomas said. “We’re with you.”
A rumble of approval arose from the rest of the team and Hannibal returned, “All right. Follow me.”