They were quickly rushed to a balcony that overlooked the castle grounds which could be easily seen by the avenues of Avelen, and when they appeared, a boisterous cry of praise nearly shook the stonework fortress. Aira lifted their hands up and showed off the ribbon tied around their wrists; another round of cheering erupted, but the most noise made by the crowd was when the princess unexpectedly turned to Cole and embraced him with a surprisingly passionate kiss.
The celebrators let go of a myriad of butterflies, and they soared upward into the sky bearing the dreams that are found in young love.
The king's head was spinning, and his vision blurred. The marriage ceremony felt like a foggy memory, and he wondered if he had really been present for it. He was swimming in several different emotions, caught like a tiny vessel battered by a stormy sea. He was feeling very faint, and swayed from side to side.
"My my, dear husband, you are looking rather uneasy. Ah! you must be famished. I bet your nerves caused you to forget about eating a single bite today. Let's start the dinner early; I wish to have more time for dancing."
A meal sounded pleasant enough, so Cole was reluctantly escorted by Aira to the dining chamber, though he had no choice but to follow simply because the ribbon remained bonding them. Like a leashed pet he found himself standing behind his designated chair at the table. A grand buffet of the most exquisite food was presented to the wedding guests, and everyone delighted in the delicacies that the castle afforded them. Of course the ribbon was removed so that the newly wedded couple could eat comfortably.
Sitting near the king was Penelope, and once or twice she attempted to catch Cole's glance and smile at him, but he seemed to be brooding on the concerns confided to her; she knew them more intimately than anyone present in the dining chamber, and she shared in his grief.
Cole was seated next to Malachai and across from Jace. They were discussing their usual affairs, but their conversation was passing through the ears of the king unnoticed.
A guest of Aira's turned to her and asked, "My liege, are you excited now that you are married to the star-born king?"
"With all of my heart. I only hope I can please the king."
"Aye," said the guest in return, "and may you be worthy of all of his affections in return. A husband ought to treat his wife with dignity."
Lady Raylyn was among the guests of the wedding, and overhearing this conversation she interjected, "All of this talk of 'husband,' and 'wife.' It is true that ceremony has finished, but that is mere theatrics. As the fae put it, though translated to that of the king's tongue, 'the real wedding is in the bedding.' Nothing has been consummated yet..."
This caused many guests to chuckle, though Aira rolled her eyes and blushed as if she were embarrassed, and Cole nearly choked on a bite he was swallowing when Lady Raylyn stated her true opinion of the wedding's affairs.
Jace agreed with his queen, "It is all too true. One can never be sure of the legitimacy of the wedding until it is wholly consummated." He delighted in the fact that the marriage, especially the wedding night, would drive a wedge between Cole and Ruby that he could exploit. A coy smile appeared on his lips. "After tonight you will be a different man."
After a time more speeches were given during the dinner, and since the introduction of wine to the guests, their words were spoken more candidly which produced a comedic effect. Laughter and light heartedness were paired with the fanciful feast and contagious bliss of marriage. The magnificent fae choir performed a few pieces of pure harmony, then the dance was to follow.
Everyone quitted the dining chamber and they were reintroduced to the inner garden, which had been freshly rearranged and looked completely different than before. Florescent fixtures hung from the ceiling, and little butterflies fluttered from one to the other. Long glass tubes, cylindrical in design, were fastened in small groups and their apparatuses were glowing with faint lights. Basil and his band had been given time to prepare themselves, and when the wedded couple was presented, they were directed to a spacious opening for a first dance.
Every chord struck was a pain in his heart. The pair moved to the melody, but Aira could feel the coldness of the king's hands. He remained in step, moving like an actor on cue, but he felt much like a shadow dancing by firelight. His thoughts were torturous; he wondered if he could ever love Aira, and if the marriage was really happening. He also dwelled upon Ruby's misfortunes, and imagined terrible things happening to her while he was having a good time. Every minute the music played he danced, but his heart was elsewhere, thus the tune of the band differed from that of the king, and he danced to a sonata of sadness.
Early evening waned and sundown eventually passed. The garden was not the field during the Sans, but the dancing was just as spirited. Cole gave his best efforts to appear as natural and casual as possible, but slowly he was losing the war raging in his mind. At that moment nothing felt right to him; the dream-like world of Avelen, and his adventures in the realm, were now like some nightmare to him.
When there was a brief pause between dances, just as the band switched their instruments for another tune, Cole staggered away from the crowd of dancers.
Malachai waylaid him at the entrance which lead directly to a corridor. "Is everything all right, my king?"
"Yes," Cole replied with as much assurance as he could muster, "everything is fine, Malachai. All of this dancing has me feeling a little hot. I'm stepping out for some fresh air." He perceived the impression that was made by Malachai's expression, so he added, "Don't worry, I'll be fine - my sword is close by, and so are you. I'll be back shortly."
He pressed his way passed the woodsman and darted down the corridor. He knew that escape was impossible, but for now he desired to retreat from ceremony and contemplate how to put off the consummation. He was about to stow himself away in his bedchamber, but he knew that if Aira came searching for him, his room would be the first place she looked, so the young man hatched a better plan, and was determined to hide in the dining chamber, where he knew he would be safe; all of the guests were no longer hungry, and the servants wouldn't come to clean the dishes until after the dance.
Silent as the wind he passed through the castle, unseen by any stray servants or intoxicated guests, and upon entering the dining chamber a very unexpected encounter was awaiting Cole.