Aristide(10)

By: Barbara Devlin


“I understand.” When the impressive stone structure, whither all kings of England were crowned, came into view, Aristide shuddered and swallowed hard. “This is really happening, is it not? I am not dreaming?”

“Prithee, if you are going to be unwell, do not vomit on me.” Arucard heeled the flanks of his horse and steered clear of Aristide. “And if you feel faint, you should stop, dismount, and sit, else you might break your neck if you fall, and I am not carrying you.”

“Have you no compassion for an anxious soul?” Inhaling a deep breath, Aristide blinked and tried to summon calm. “Is chivalry dead?”

“It is whither you are concerned.” Arucard chuckled. “And what is wrong? I thought you had everything figured out, and you were prepared to wed Lady Dionysia, with nary a regret.”

“I may have overstated my confidence just a tad.” Everything seemed to spin out of control, and he wiped his suddenly damp forehead. “A little sympathy would not hurt.”

“Were you not the same one who teased me without mercy on the eve of my nuptials? And what was it you called me? Ah, yes, I remember now.” Arucard snapped his fingers. “You proclaimed me an overgrown teat sucker eternally bound to a skirt.”

In that moment, Aristide cursed himself. “Is it too late to apologize?”

Arucard burst into laughter.

At the entrance to Westminster Abbey, a guard lingered, and as Aristide drew rein near a collective of carriages, and the royal attendants assisted the knights. While everything inside him ached to run away, he repeated his promise, in silence. And the mere thought of another man claiming Dionysia was enough to sustain him.

With his brother at the right, Aristide navigated the cloister walk, the same path he traveled when Arucard and Demetrius took their vows. A brisk December wind cut through his elegant garments, and he shivered. At the Chapter House, a group of nobles gathered, and his knees buckled when he spied Dionysia, bedecked in blue, the traditional color of purity, and wearing her now familiar veil. Today, he would at last glimpse what hid beneath that scarf.

“As the requisite parties are in attendance, let us commence the ceremony.” A light snow fell as, at the top step, Archbishop-elect Reynolds flipped through his book of prayers and cleared his throat. “If Sir Aristide and Lady Dionysia will join hands.”

Aristide nodded once and faced her. “My lady.”

“My lord.” As always, she met his stare without hesitation. “It is a beauteous day, is it not?”

“Indeed, it is a glorious day.” If he ignored the biting chill and grey clouds, which he hoped reflected not on their relationship.

In the ensuing moment in time, which passed in a haze of repetitive dialogue, a mix of embarrassment and confusion when he forgot his name, and a relentless accompaniment of anxiety, Aristide married Dionysia, in obeisance of the King’s command.

Twining her fingers in his, she pledged, “From this day forward you shall not walk alone. My heart will be your shelter, and my arms will be your home.”

“Grant that all married persons who have witnessed these vows may find their lives strengthened and their loyalties confirmed.” Closing his book, the archbishop stretched tall. “And now I pronounce you husband and wife. Sir Aristide, you may kiss your bride.”

Panic rang in his ears, as he turned to Dionysia. Myriad bits of instruction and encouragement assailed his consciousness, as she unfastened her veil, and he scarcely noted a communal gasp from the witnesses. A smattering of freckles dotted her sweet little nose, and lush, full lips beckoned, as he pinned her blue gaze, bent his head, and pressed his mouth to hers.

Then the host of spectators swamped Aristide and Dionysia.

“Congratulations, brother.” Morgan leaned close. “But did you know she was marked? What of the scar?”

Perplexed, Aristide peered over his shoulder at his wife. “She has a scar?”

~

The simple but poignant question left Dionysia searching for her veil, which her new husband held in his grasp, so she bowed her head and pressed her palm to her cheek, which burned with embarrassment. But a lovely, elegantly garbed lady stepped to the fore.