The Blessings of Marriage

The Blessings of Marriage

Every time I hit a multiple of ten with these writing prompts, I like to do something special. This time, I decided to re-write a prompt with the same character, in the same world, but at a different point in their timeline. And it just so happened I was struck by inspiration while I was thinking about my old getting dressed prompt. It was one of the ones I was less happy with, and I think I like the new one a lot better. (Plus it gave me an excuse to write about Rose in her cat-form, which I haven’t really done until now.)
. . .

Rose stared at her reflection in the triple paned mirror, allowing the fingers of one hand to slide slowly across the fabric of her dress, careful not to let her claws catch the fabric. When they had agreed that she should wear her natural form for this wedding, she had not imagined how perfectly the royal artisans would match the color of her fur when they made her dress, making it look like some extravagant second skin.

The folds of fabric were actually comprised of three different shades of blue, folded and blended so expertly it was impossible to tell that portions had come from three different bolts of fabric. The glossy silk folded in a crisscross across her chest, hugging her frame just loosely enough that it wouldn’t constrict her breathing. Atop the mottled blue, like the darkening of an evening sky, had been embroidered the most intricate pattern Rose had ever seen.

The leaves started at her neckline, sewn from glittering silver fabric. They crawled from shoulder to shoulder, dipping in a low v neckline and in a shallower swoop across her back. They crawled down her shoulders and across her arms, where the tight blue fabric clung until it reached her elbows. From there, the dress sleeves flared wide, forming a gauzy cascade of navy lace – the color perfectly matched to the rest of the dress – and the embroidered pattern became that of roses, open in full bloom.

As the sparkling silver leaves continued downward from the bodice neckline, tracing the contours of her sides, they looked like climbing ivy. The leaves joined again at her waist line, forming something of a belt where her bodice ended and her skirts began. All along this border, glimmering light blue gemstones had been dotted across the leaves, resembling delicate dew drops clinging to foliage in the early light of dawn.

She moved, watching the deep folds of her skirts swirl around her legs. It would be difficult to walk in this, harder to dance, but she wasn’t about to utter a single complaint. As the ivy pattern descended her skirts, it transformed into a wider, fuller motif, forming the grand canopy of an ancient tree. The leaves were so thick, the navy fabric beneath could only be seen as a tiny smattering of speckles.

When the leaves reached her thighs, the tree’s trunk appeared. Rose wasn’t certain how the dress makers managed to make it look like one tree encircling her entire body, but the way the thick fabric of the skirts folded seemed to accomplish just that. The silver was thinner, allowing hints of the navy beneath to bleed through, creating a bark-like texture across the tree trunk embroidery.

Where her skirt flared across the floor, the trunk became a winding pattern of roots, terminating in delicate tips at the edge of the dress’s trim. This, too, was formed of tiny light blue beads, laid across the root pattern like water running into a stream that flowed along the tree’s base.

Shifting further to the side she could see the dress’s final touch; two long, trailing pieces of lace sewn into the train, forming the outline of the longer, wider pieces in the back. Rather than silver, this lace had been decorated with golden thread, brighter and shinier than the silver embroidery. They were roses, but these were in all stages of blossoming, their intricate petals catching the light depending on how she moved.

“You do look fabulous.”

She started, her eyes darting beyond the reach of the mirrors to find Xe’nera standing in the doorway, a huge grin on her wolfish lips. Her eyes glimmered in the light as if she knew some secret Rose had not yet guessed. She swept into the room, catching Rose’s hand in hers, admiring once more the diamond-encrusted engagement ring on her left hand. “I can hardly believe the day has come already.”

“Feels like it’s been an eternity,” Rose admitted, shaking her head. “And yet… I can’t help wishing I had one day more. My heart is pounding like an earthquake. I didn’t think I’d be this nervous.”

Xe’nera laughed. “Try not to think of it as a royal occasion. It’s your wedding. It’s personal.”

“I think that’s exactly what makes me so nervous.” Rose puffed out her cheeks for a moment, looking distinctly un-princess-like.

“There’s no reason to be nervous.” This voice belonged to her mother and Rose smiled despite her anxieties as the queen crossed the room and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Everything has been triple planed. And I happen to know that the groom is already waiting for you – looking as green as you do.”

A touch of crimson rose in her cheeks at the idea of the empire’s former heir waiting nervously in front of the altar for her arrival. She could just imagine the consternation on his face, the way he would try to school his expression to seem thoughtful and serious while his lips kept turning upward with hopeless mirth. She thought it was adorable, though he tended to call it foolish.

“I suppose I shouldn’t keep him waiting.” She drew herself up and squared her shoulders, taking one last look at herself in the mirror.

Half of her mahogany hair had been gathered into an intricate pattern atop her head, set with silver to form the shape of a crown, all of it ringed by a delicate diamond and silver circlet that sat atop her head. It was from the circlet that her veil flowed, gauzy blue fabric so fine that it was easy to see her face through the double-layered sections. Unlike the dress, her veil was decorated with tiny gold gems and specks of diamonds in the shape of distant stars. The rest of her hair had been left to cascade in a waterfall of curls down her back and across her shoulders. With the patterns on the veil, it almost looked as though stars had fallen from the sky and become lodged in her tresses.

“Are you ready?” her mother asked, her fingers momentarily tightening on her shoulder.

Rose nodded carefully.

“Then let us begin. On this, the day of your wedding, I bestow upon you the blessing of your mother. May it bring you fertility in the days to come.”

Rose had nearly forgotten the ritual performed before most AlphaLauran weddings. Though she had heard and read about it many times, she had never seen a real one take place. She gasped when her mother took a spectacular comb from her pocket and settled it into one side of Rose’s hair crown. It didn’t exactly match the designs on her dress, since the flowers carved into the pin were obviously lilies, but the delicate craftsmanship and golden filigree were at home among the rest. She recognized this as a family heirloom, given to her mother on the day of her wedding, and had to resist the urge to reach up and hand it back. Momentarily overwhelmed, she settled for nodding instead.

Her mother cleared her throat. “Your uncle asked if he should do the next bit but, in light of recent events, I thought it might be better if I did.” She reached into her pocket again and took out a dark stained length of braided leather, from which hung a series of mismatched beads.

“This belonged to your father. Please allow me to bestow upon you your father’s blessing, in his absence.” She wrapped the length of leather around her right wrist twice, fastening it in place with the beads. “May it bring you prosperity in the days to come.”

Rose ran her fingers along the smooth surface of the bracelet, wondering if she should accept anything which belonged to her father. She would much rather have had something from her uncle, even if it wasn’t tradition. But it didn’t take long to decide that the bracelet obviously came from a time before her father’s transformation, when he had been the man her mother fell in love with. It seemed worthwhile to carry that part of him with her. After all, he was half of her, whether she liked it or not.

She let her hand fall to her side and glanced up again.

Xe’nera let out an excited squeal, reaching into her pocket to pull out a small box. “I’m so excited you picked me!” She drew a deep breath to compose herself and said more seriously, “Please allow me to bestow upon you the blessing of friendship.” She opened the box and pulled a fine set of silver earrings from the velvet interior. These were in the form of shooting stars and she clipped them carefully into the holes in Rose’s ears.

Rose flicked her cat ears back and forth, watching as the stars darted and danced. Then she grinned and caught Xe’nera’s hands squeezing them gently. “These have always been my favorite. Thank you for letting me borrow them.”

A grin split Xe’nera’s lips in return. “May they bless your marriage with longevity.”

“And now for the finishing touch,” Rose’s mother announced, tucking a stray lock of hair behind Rose’s shoulder. “The blessing of luck.” She lifted a delicate, shimmering shape in her hand and Rose saw that it was a freshly cut moonflower, the glimmering facets of its petals gleaming like polished gems. Her mother tucked it into her hair on the opposite side from the hair clip, then laid her hand on Rose’s shoulders again.

“And now, my darling, you are ready.”

Throat once again choked with emotion, Rose only nodded and allowed her mother and best friend to lead her from the room.

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