Catharine woke as Anna, Edrea, and Katie entered her room. It was dawn, and Catharine was lying on her bed, on the covers. “It’s your wedding day,” Anna squealed, as she sat on the edge of Catharine’s bed. Catharine sat up, and shifting back so Edrea and Katie could sit on the bed as well, she smiled broadly and said, “I know! I’m feeling so nervous right now – gods, I’ve been waiting for this day so long. And now it’s here!” Edrea hugged her sister, and said, “Oooh, I can’t believe it.” Sitting back, she added, “Come on – time for you, to get ready.” Catharine smiled, and standing, she went to her bathroom. When she returned, Alendra and Yiseka had appeared in the mortal plane of existence with her dress to help her get ready. Keleya entered as Alendra was tying the sleeves across Catharine’s back, and Catharine, seeing her mother in the mirror, turned and smiled. “You look like a true princess,” Keleya said, smiling as she approached her daughter. Catharine smiled faintly, and pressing her hand gently to her stomach, she said, “I feel like there are butterflies in my stomach.” Keleya smiled and said, “Today is your day, but it’s alright to be nervous.” Yiseka said, “Sit down, Catharine. We need to do your hair before you’re completely ready for your wedding.” Keleya turned to Anna, Edrea and Katie said, “You should go and prepare yourselves, especially you, Anna. This wedding cannot go ahead if a witness is not ready, let alone the couple.”
Anna nodded once, and the three of them left. Keleya, looking at Catharine, said, “I must go and oversee the final preparations. When we are ready for you, I’ll come and find you again. Edward has agreed to walk you into the ceremony, and he will be with me when we are ready for you.” Catharine nodded, and as Keleya left, she turned back to Alendra and Yiseka, and sat, her eyes downcast and her head slightly bowed. Yiseka stood behind Catharine, and leaning forwards, she put her hands on Catharine’s shoulders and said, “you’ll be fine, Catharine. You love him, and he loves you and that’s all that matters today.” Catharine nodded once, and then smiling broadly, she nodded again and held still as together, the two immortals began working on her hair. When they had finished, Catharine looked at the mirror balanced on her desk, and couldn’t help but gasp. Her hair was now in a simple bun, though the end of her hair came out to curl at the base of her neck, revealing a pair of diamond earrings that hung down in twists from her ears. Some kind of diamond dust sparkled throughout her hair as she moved her head, and Alendra, bending forwards, said, “and now for the final piece” as she placed Peksander’s ruby necklace around Catharine’s neck.
As Keleya and Edward entered, Alendra put her hands on Catharine’s upper arms and said softly, “like an angel – you look beautiful”. Catharine smiled, and Edward said, “I agree.” Catharine, looking at her future marriage father, smiled again. Standing, she approached her mother. Edward, who was dressed in brown trousers, black boots, with a white shirt threaded with silver under a navy blue jacket, extended his arm to Catharine, and said, “Come. He’s waiting for you.” Catharine, slipping her hand around his arm, stepped with him out into the corridor, and they began walking slowly towards the main hall. Servants who were hurrying through the corridors to get various items to different destinations curtsied or bowed, and offered their best wishes. Catharine accepted all of them with a smile and a small bob of her head. “You are very quiet,” Edward commented. “I am just slightly nervous, that’s all,” Catharine replied, a red flush faintly colouring her cheeks. “You’re not the only one. Alexander was pretty much bouncing around his room from nerves and excitement,” Edward said, and Catharine laughed. Edward smiled broadly, and said, “There you go. That feels better, doesn’t it?” Catharine, turning to her marriage father as they arrived outside the main hall, considered him for a second and then nodding, she replied, “a little bit, yes. Thank you.” Edward replied, “No, thank you. My son wouldn’t be the man he is today without you to help him. Thank you.” Catharine smiled, and as the door to the main hall opened, Edward pressed his lips to her forehead before leading her into the hall.
Alexander looked around as the doors opened, and he stared at Catharine as she stepped into the room with his father. He wore the same as his father, only the trousers were black, the boots were brown, his shirt was white with golden threads under a navy blue jacket. As they approached the dais where Alexander stood with his sister and Xikluen, Catharine looked up at him, and smiled. Soon she stood in front of him and they looked at each other briefly before turning to face Xikluen. Xikluen smiled warmly to the both of them, and asked, “Who will act as the witness for Catharine, princess of Serckrea?” Anna, stepping forwards, answered, “I, Anna, princess of Eladreaya, will act as Catharine’s witness.” Xikluen asked, “And who will act as the witness for Alexander, prince of Eladreaya?” Thomas stepped forwards and replied, “I, Thomas, son of Matthias of Eladreaya, will act as Alexander's witness.” Xikluen nodded at both of them, and said, “People of Serckrea and of Eladreaya. Today is to be a memorable day for Catharine and Alexander. They have been granted perhaps the rarest, but most certainly the truest love that any two people can feel for each other, and today, they stand here with their witnesses to promise themselves to each other for the remaining decades of their lives.” There was the sound of footsteps behind them, and a young girl of about five or six began walking up the aisle, carrying a small, white cushion, on which rested two rings.
Catharine smiled, and the young girl stopped facing Xikluen, though her eyes were firmly on the floor. Alexander looked at Xikluen, who nodded to Keleya. She stepped forwards with a silver bowl on a stand. The bowl had a small fire in it, and as Catharine held her hand over it, Alexander slipped his hand gently under hers. There was a brief murmur of surprise amongst the guests– according to tradition, the woman should hold her hand under her husbands, thus showing her obedience to him. Catharine looked from their hands to Alexander's face, and he smiled at her reassuringly. Catharine smiled back, and Xikluen took her wrist in his hand. He turned her hand so her palm faced Alexander's and said, “Do you both feel the flames of love burning in your hearts?” Alexander replied, “I do.” Catharine, looking at Alexander, answered softly, “I do”; they lowered their hands slowly to just over the flames. They stood like this in silence until Xikluen motioned for the young girl to approach him with the rings. She moved behind Alexander to stand at Xikluen’s side, and Xikluen handed Alexander a ring as he and Catharine raised their hands from the bowl of fire. Their hands were not burned in any way; Alexander took the ring, which was a simple band of silver, with diamonds studded on the outside. Taking Catharine’s left hand, he slipped the wedding ring onto the appropriate finger, and holding her hand in both hands, he said, “I promise here, in front of my witness and in front of all the gods, that I will love you and only you until my dying day.
“I promise to support you when you are sad, or hurt; I promise to do all in my power to make you smile and laugh. I promise to be there for you whether you are ill or healthy, and I promise to be faithful and honest and true to you and only you until the end of my life. All this I promise to you until the day I no longer breathe.” Catharine answered, “I accept all your promises that you have made in front of your witness and the gods.” Xikluen handed her the remaining ring, a simple band of gold, and sliding it onto Alexander's finger, Catharine said, “I promise to be loyal, honest and true to you and only you. I promise to love you for the rest of my life until I die. I promise to support you in all that you do, whether in sickness or health, to bear only your children and to be faithful to you alone. I promise to stand by your side through any and all battles you should face, and I promise to fight with you should you so wish. All this I promise to you in front of my witness and in front of all the gods until my dying day.” Alexander said, “I accept all your promises that you have made in front of your witness and the gods.” There was a brief silence, and then Alexander and Catharine looked at Xikluen.
He smiled broadly and resting his hands on their foreheads, he said, “and I now give you all the blessings and best wishes of The Five Gods, and I gladly pronounce you as man and wife. Alexander, you may now kiss your wife.” Alexander looked at Catharine as Xikluen lowered his hands, and pulling her close to him, he kissed her passionately. Catharine’s hand came up to curve around Alexander's neck as she returned the kiss, as Alexander's arms slid comfortingly around her waist; they kissed over and over, seemingly oblivious to the applause resounding through the main hall. When the kiss ended, Catharine looked deep in Alexander's eyes, and the tip of her finger traced the lip of Alexander's mouth. She looked around as Anna approached her, and they hugged, Catharine laughing. Xikluen, smiling as Catharine turned back to her husband, said, “Would the married couple please take their positions for the marriage dance.” Catharine, smiling at Alexander, her new husband, and he extended his hand to her. Still smiling, she put her hand in his and taking her down from the dais, Alexander led her to the centre of the hall, where the guests had cleared a large area for them to dance. Catharine turned into Alexander's arms, and Xikluen motioned to the musicians. They began a slow piece, and the newly married couple began to dance. As Alexander raised Catharine, his hands firmly holding her waist, the guests applauded; all of them were touched by the sincerity and the emotion that Catharine and Alexander showed throughout the dance.
Catharine was dipped yet held secure in Alexander's arms; when the final, almost eerie note of the flute had died out, there was silence throughout the main hall. Then, as Alexander lifted Catharine gently to her feet, there were soft murmurs of delight that rippled throughout the hall. Sophia, Laura, Lucy, Edrea and Katie stepped forwards, and Catharine, turning to face them, smiled, and wiped a small tear from the edge of her eye. There then followed a flurry of hugs and congratulations, and then Keleya, stepping forwards, said, “The people of Seleucia are waiting to see the married couple.” Catharine and Alexander, nodding in unison, turned, and left the main hall together. Outside, in the street outside the palace gate and in the courtyard, the people of Seleucia had gathered expectantly, and at a sudden movement in the palace, silence fell like a cloud over them. There was no movement for a moment, and then Catharine and Alexander stepped out of the palace, along with Edward, Keleya, Anna and Edrea. Turning to face him, Catharine smiled as his hand cupped her cheek and they kissed deeply. The crowds burst into cheers, whoops and applause, and did not calm down until Keleya had stepped forwards and held her hands up.
When the people had finally calmed down, Keleya said in a magically amplified voice, “people of Seleucia. Now that my daughter is happily married, I hereby authorise a week’s worth of festivities to celebrate their happy marriage, beginning today and now.” The crowds cheered once more, and then they all began crowding out into the street again. Catharine and Alexander, not having moved since they had kissed in front of the people of Seleucia, took each others hands, and Alexander, turning, offered his arm. Slipping her hand around his arm, Catharine, smiled and together they returned to the main hall. Tables were quickly being set up, as the objects used in the ceremony were removed to a side room. Alexander and Catharine sat in the centre of the table on the dais, with Alexander's family next to Catharine and vice versa. Also on this table were The Five Gods, Thomas, Katie, and Matthias, Thomas’s father. Just before the meal began, Edward stood with his wine glass in his hand and silence slowly fell. Edward said, “thank you. Today is one of the happiest days of my life; I’ve seen my son marry a woman who I know will make him happy for the rest of his life. But, when I first met Catharine, I would never have guessed that she would end up my marriage daughter, let alone that she was a princess in disguise, because when I first met her, I believed her to be a working class girl working for Alex, my son.” Edward began walking behind the table, glass in hand towards the space in the centre of the hall, and continued, “But since that day, I have had the pleasure of working with her to organise an espionage trip to Doleatraya.
Of welcoming her as a guest to a ball before that, and of fighting next to her and the Keleysanel, and, much as my son would not want me to admit this, I have had the great pleasure of watching them both fall very much in love with each other. I have even had the greatest pleasure a man, let alone a king, can have, and that is see my grandson, Lukas.” At this, Lukas, who was in the comforting hands of Leana, who had been invited last minute, burbled slightly, and then cried out, causing ripples of laughter from all the guests present; Edward, smiling, turned to his son and his marriage daughter, and said, “but, like I said, this will be my happiest memory of them together”, and raising his wine glass, he toasted, “to the bride and groom.” The guests, Keleya, Edrea, Thomas, Katie, Anna, Sophia, Laura, Matthias, and Lucy all toasted to them, while Alexander and Catharine toasted to each other. With that, the wedding festivities began: the meal, the dancing, songs sung from various well known Serckrean singers, and freshly written poems on Alexander and Catharine by the best Serckrean poets. They both blushed at several of them, and Keleya smiled broadly. Soon, it was time for Alexander's speech.
Standing, he could not help but feel a flutter of nerves as the guests, the friends and families fell silent, eager to hear what the groom had to say. Then he saw Catharine, smiling up at him, holding Lukas, and he began to speak after a moment’s hesitation. “If you had told me a year and a half ago I would have fallen in love, gotten married and had a son in the space of a year and a half, I would have simply laughed and said you were queer,” he began. “But now... now, I can’t imagine life any other way. Today has been, and always will be, the happiest day of my life as a husband, and as a man. I guess... I guess it was fate that brought Cathy and I together, and I’m grateful for it. If I hadn’t met Cathy, I would still be in Eladreaya, wasting my time on women I didn’t really feel any true emotions for. And knowing that I’ll be able to wake up by your side every morning is better than having the ability to live for an eternity.” Catharine smiled, and looked down as Anna took Catharine’s hand in hers, blushing slightly. Alexander went on, “and I’m sure that my father and sister would agree that I’ve become a completely different man to the man I was a year and a half ago. For all that, I can only thank Cathy, my wife.” As he sat down again, Catharine reached to him, saying, “That was an amazing speech”, and she pressed her lips to his tenderly. Alexander replied, “I’m glad you liked it.” Lukas wriggled, gurgling, and Catharine looked down at him, smiling. Leana approached, asking to hold Lukas again, and Catharine readily obliged. Soon, it was early evening; The Five faded from existence. Catharine returned to her room with Keleya, Edrea and Anna, who soon left again.
Catharine, dressed in a plain, cream white silk bathrobe, stepped out onto her balcony, tying the ties in a simple bow. She didn’t hear Alexander come in, didn’t know he was there until his hands slipped around her waist and his lips pressed, reverently to the base of her neck; she gasped as his lips pressed against her neck. The next morning, Catharine woke at dawn. The sun was rising in a brilliant display of golden reds, oranges and pink. Alexander was awake as well, and had been watching her sleep. “Morning, love,” he whispered softly. Catharine stretched luxuriously and replied, “good morning.” Her hand came up to rest on his chest as she sighed and said, “Gods, I’m glad that we’re now married.” Pressing two fingers under Catharine’s chin, Alexander replied, “so am I, love” before kissing her tenderly. There came a timid knock on the door and a servant entered. His eyes firmly centred on the wall a foot or so above Catharine and Alexander, the servant said, “The carriage for your honeymoon will be ready in ten minutes, sir and lady.” The servant left, and Catharine sat up. Pressing her lips to Alexander's she said, “come on, Alex. We don't want to keep our honeymoon waiting.” Reaching for her bathrobe, on the floor, Catharine smiled as Alexander swung his arm over her waist and replied, “as long as I’m with you, I don’t honestly care”, and he pressed his lips seductively to her neck.
Catharine smiled, and then sitting up again, she said, “come on, Alex. We have a honeymoon to go on.” Reluctantly, Alexander dressed, and together they left the room. The carriage pulled up at the base of the courtyard steps just as Catharine and Alexander stepped out of the palace. Edrea, Anna, Keleya, Edward, Katie and Thomas, Sophia, Laura and Lucy were all there to say goodbye. Standing in front of Laura, Catharine said, “Well, he took your advice, Laura. But thank you for giving it to him.” Laura grinned and replied, “It wasn’t a problem, Cathy. Have fun wherever you’re spending your honeymoon – I’m sure it’s a nice place.” Catharine smiled, and after all the goodbyes had been said, Catharine and Alexander entered the carriage and went on their way. Their honeymoon was two glorious months in a country cottage in the heart of the Serckrean country side. Nights of hot, electric passion were followed by whispered secrets at dawn and in long lie-ins. Picnics at midday under the summer sun were followed by evening walks barefoot along the sandy beach of a river, watching the sun set in gloriously flaming colours and romantic meals for two. About a month and a half in, Catharine became unusually quiet. “Cathy, is everything alright?” Alexander asked one morning while they lay in each others arms. Catharine replied, “Of course, my love. I...” her voice trailed off, and then smiling, she sat up and continued, “Alex... Alex, I’m with child again.” Alexander sat up quickly next to her, and asked, “Are you sure?”
Catharine replied, laughing slightly, “yes, I’m sure, Alex. I’m just as sure it’s a girl this time around.” Alexander pressed his lips passionately to Catharine’s lips; they parted willingly, her hand sliding up through Alexander's hair. Catharine smiled broadly as she lay next to him, in his arms an hour later. She didn’t care that the world was casually passing them by outside. She didn’t care that it was midmorning. She had found the man of her dreams, and she was deeply in love.