(123-09-11) A Wedding in the Shambles
A Wedding in the Shambles
Summary: Sometimes smallfolk tie the knot, too.
Date: 10/09/2016 (couldn't do it on the day because scheduling)
Related: None.

The sept which serves the faithful of the Shambles and environs looks from the outside like nothing more than a hole in a wall. The narrow doors are propped permanently open, welcoming at all hours. The statues inside are nothing more than seven carved wooden figures in seven niches, wholly lacking in the grandeur of those to be found in the Starry Sept and its ilk, their paint beginning to peel and their feet surrounded by the humblest of offerings. Everything's a bit shabby, the legacy of generations of local septons who chose feeding the poor over aggrandising the gods: everything's tremendously clean, the legacy of generations of local women who've taken pride in chipping in with their dusters and their scrubbing-brushes. One of those women is coming here today to be married — and don't think the rest haven't been gossipping… Its plain (but clean, very clean) stone walls rarely see the kind of marriage which requires written contracts, but a rickety table has been found and set up off to one side, for the laying-out of the paperwork and the writing things.

The time is perhaps two hours past noon and the sept is almost empty, for this is also the kind of marriage which takes place privately, discreetly, when the rest of the congregation has been and gone, replaced by only a pair of veritable strangers to the neighbourhood, the groom and his friend. The septon is a young man in his twenties, in his first posting after taking holy orders and keen as mustard. He wasn't there when Flox and Camillo arrived — he'd had to pop out for a minute — this he explains apologetically, while greeting them effusively, disentangling the folds of his grey robes from a door handle they've got caught on in passing, and otherwise giving an impression of eagerness and good cheer lightly seasoned by youthful awkwardness. He's rather pretty — and his smile and his dark blonde curls shine like the sun.

A minute or two before the hour, though later than she'd intended, Esme arrives on her son's arm, shadowed by the plainer of the two girls who work in her shop. The young people are in their seventh day best; Esme is wearing a new dress which, for a wonder, fits her slightly better than her usual garb. She has a waist: who knew? The colour of it is a strong, clear blue; if it's almost exactly the hue of another dress she owned and liked a long time ago, who's to know? She's bare-headed — her grey hair seems unusually voluminous, put up with blue cloisonne-tipped pins, interspersed with a number of very small, very fresh white flowers, in concession to the occasion. Her dress's neckline is cut to show off her necklace of sapphires and silver dolphins, and the single firegem glowing in the hollow of her throat. Such an adornment this plain little sept has never seen, on anyone but her. She's also wearing a small smile.

Flox is in his nicest teal tunic and grey socks and hose. The socks are particularly nice and elaborately knitted. He is wearing a long gray cloak with orange and cornflower knotwork trim designed to look like a thorn thicket, with a round bronze cloak pin in the shape of two dolphins. The material of the cloak is good, sturdy and waxed against rain, but plain. It is only the trim that has anything of the fancy about it.

It seems Flox is human after all as he fidgets and keeps looking to the door in anticipation of the bride. When she does arrive, he gazes on her with such wonder and obvious appreciation of her appearance that one might think her a great beauty such as the Flower of Oldtown or the Princess Visenya herself, and not a rather plain woman old enough to be his mother, and he a man of middle years with greying hair. His smile could light candles.

Camillo has put on the clothes he was given by Ser Daevon, as they are fine and hardly worn. Yet they are not so fine as to outdo the betrothed couple. He is, as expected, unobtrusive, reverent of the humble sept and the gods that reside there. He doesn't have his usual bag on, but he does have a small pouch in one hand. He gives Flox a look meant to comfort when he notices the man's movements. But he doesn't speak.

The sept is so familiar to Esme that, stepping inside, she only looks to the Father's statue in its niche and the man standing just before it. She looks him over with something not unlike possessive pride, her eyes narrowing as they follow his cloak's embroidered border and reckon up the quantity of the stitching, its cost, and what a hurry its wearer was in to meet her here. Then her gaze lifts to his smiling face and the corners of her own mouth twitch as though resisting only with great difficulty a compulsion to broaden.

Her son beside her gives Flox a friendly little wave and exclaims, "We're here, Uncle Flox! You look very nice."

Esme gives his arm a pat and then lets go of it. "Good afternoon," she says quietly to Flox, and then she looks to Camillo and nods to him as well. "Master Camillo." The septon too comes in for a respectful inclination of her head: "Septon Tadd. You're lookin' well," she observes. She takes a step nearer the table upon which the copies of the contract she and Flox agreed upon have been laid out with a meticulous neatness she recognises. "Well, shall we?" she asks the men lightly, already casting a glance over the first page.

Flox gives the big lad a friendly wave, "You all look very fine yourselves." He looks very much as if he'd rather be kissing the bride, but he takes up his pen gamely enough and after a skim to make sure each paper contains what it's expected to contain, begins to sign.

Camillo gives Esme a deep nod. "Mistress Esme," he returns softly, as though he does not wish to disturb at all the atmosphere of the place and the special event it is about to host, even if Esme seems so light about it. He folds both hands around the pouch and stands quite still.

In her own inspection of these crucial sheets of parchment Esme is rather more thorough — not that she's expecting any last-minute skulduggery, but there might have been an honest mistake, mightn't there? — and then her signature follows Flox's, twice. She stands back next to him with her arms folded over her chest to watch the witnesses taking their turns with quill and ink. Edmyn and Talia first, his careful 'X' just above her surprisingly elaborate and ladylike signature, and as Talia steps away from the table she offers the quill to Camillo along with a shy smile and a nod for this frequent customer.

Esme is watching Flox out of the corner of her eye.

Flox's signature is surprisingly artistic He has a slow fist, but an elegant one. Who knew? Flox is watching Esme as if she were the sun and he a sunflower, always wanting to turn his face to hers.

Camillo nods to Talia and accepts the quill from her, neatly dipping it in ink and scraping off the excess before he puts the tip of it to the parchment and writes his own name, in a hand not so refined as Talia's, but clearly legible.

Next to the rest Esme's signature appears plain and serviceable, no more; it takes up only a small portion of the sheet of parchment, very close to Flox's name. The last to sign is the septon himself, an unimpeachable witness, beaming his goodwill upon parishioners and strangers alike as he sets down the quill. He begins to make vague and hopeful efforts at ushering the bride and groom and their witnesses toward the relevant altars, and at beginning his part of the ceremony — that is, if it's all right with everyone…? He seems anxious that it should be all right. That nobody should feel hurried.

Esme straightens her son's tunic and leans up on her tip-toes to murmur a reminder of his part in all this, and then she tucks her hand through his arm again and lets him lead her to the statue of the Mother. If she's nervous, she certainly isn't showing it — Edmyn is, though. Easily enough for two.

Flox is easily ushered. He is not a sept going man, or even a believer, and is eager enough to get to "man and wife." He seems confident enough, despite the end of the last wedding he attended in Oldtown. His earlier fidgets calmed the moment his intended arrived.

The service begins with the traditional prayers, the conjuring of the blessings of Seven gods upon the couple to be wed, and instruction in the duties each will henceforth owe to the other. These words are time-honoured and unvarying, though as with most things the nobility often add their own embroidery. For smallfolk it's shorter and simpler, the heart of it and no more.

When he approaches the bit about being fruitful and multiplying Septon Tadd slows down, spinning out his words with caution, playing for time whilst he tries to think of a way round it. Esme, eyeing him and guessing at once what's troubling that girlish visage of his, gives his grey-robed arm a friendly pat and mouths, 'it's all right'. Not all matters of religious doctrine are to be taken too literally. And besides, they're getting a windowbox.

Septon Tadd offers the bride an appreciative look, re-adopts his previous moderate speed and deliberate dignity, and soon enough is inviting the groom to bestow that handsome waterproof grey cloak where it belongs.

Flox's grin at the 'fruitful and multiply' bit is positively roguish, and respectable or otherwise, he is not much help here. He does spot his cue and his hands barely tremble as he unpins the dolphin fibula and drapes what is an ankle length cloak on the diminutive Esme over her shoulders and pins it there firmly.

Esme half-turns, offering Flox her back and what considering his dainty footwork earlier to keep her face in sight might well be his first glimpse of the entirely unprecedented flowers in her hair. Then, cloaked, formally under his protection though he of all men knows she has no need of it, she turns again and gives him the ghost of a smile. Well done, that man.

The young septon beams approvingly. "… We stand here," he explains, "in the sight of gods and men," he gives the witnesses an amiable nod, "to witness the union of man and wife. One flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever." He pats his pockets and manages to fish out a length of blue silk ribbon.

Meanwhile Esme's right hand seeks Flox's left, a moment ahead of the requirements of the ceremony. Well, he's never done this before, has he? And he's not a septgoing man, is he? He might need that cue, too.

Flox gives her back the ghost of a relieved smile. He wasn't sure how she'd feel about being cloaked given the care they have taken to keep things like finances separate. His fingers twine with hers eagerly enough and he is watching her eyes, not the young septon's fumbling with the ribbon.

Septon Tadd has been practicing with the ribbon. He binds together those two small, callused, work-worn hands with a minimum of difficulty, whilst intoning: "Let it be known that Flox and Esme are one flesh, one heart, one soul. Cursed be he who would seek to tear them asunder."

The pressure of Esme's fingers tightens till she's squeezing Flox's hand in her own. She looks up into his eyes with a silent intensity at odds with her casual manner earlier on; the septon speaks another prayer and calls for their vows, and she speaks the traditional words clearly and without hesitation, her Shambles accent by way of Flea Bottom turning them homely and plain.

Flox raises his eyebrows at 'cursed' but manages not to smile given her expression. He may seem to wear it lightly, but it is the lightness of a man delighted in his chosen partner who is relieved that nothing has intervened to snatch her away at the last minute. He squeezes her hand back and is solemn enough when it comes to speak his memorized words, made fresh by the passion behind them.

When the true knot between them has been tied the septon announces their married state to the small gathering beneath the sept's plain dome of stone. He unties the ribbon: he seems not quite sure what to do with it, or where amongst his voluminous robes to find the pocket it came from, and Esme's other hand rises to take charge and tuck it away in her own pocket. It's her ribbon, after all, and she has a vested interest in seeing this ceremony go smoothly.

Flox takes both her hands in his and leans to kiss her, murmuring something for her ears alone. This is no chaste Dhraegonish kiss, but a passionate thing on his part, a kiss that might be a bit alarming to a very young septon new at this marrying thing. Still kissing her, he holds out a hand for Camillo.

Their four hands tangle together in another knot; Esme's head tilts, listening to that whisper as her lips curve into a tiny, rather smug smile. And then she's hardly reluctant. Her eyes remain open and fixed upon her husband's, and for as long as it pleases him to kiss her she kisses him, too.

Septon Tadd shifts from one foot to the other, blushing.

Camillo isn't one to watch anybody kiss, so his gaze wanders and he is a little late in noticing Flox's gesture. But once he does, he slips his fingers into the pouch he carries and produces two rings, which he places carefully into that upturned hand.

Edmyn is watching all this with his head tilted and his mouth half-open in honest bewilderment — at least until Talia, who has been standing next to him and keeping an eye on him throughout the ceremony, distracts him with a different kind of whisper.

Flox finally does pull away. In his palm are two gold rings with knotwork thorns, just like the cloak trim. They are small, their own fingers being small. They match, except his is slightly larger. He lifts her left hand to his lips to give a much more chaste kiss to her knuckles, then slips the ring on her finger, offering her the larger and his left hand.

Esme unconsciously nibbles her lower lip as she watches Flox place that gleaming golden ring upon her unresisting finger. She takes careful charge of the second, fractionally larger ring and glances once more up into his eyes, and then completes the ritual by kissing his hand before slipping the ring onto the third finger of it. She chooses his right hand rather than his left: he's left-handed, as she well knows, and this atypical arrangement will keep it safely out of the way as befits such a treasured possession.

Camillo slips that pouch into a pocket now that its usefulness is at an end for today. He watches with solemnity, but also gently-restrained pleasure.

Flox's eyes are on her, intense as she kisses his hand, lips turning up as he realises she cleverly picked his off hand. It is so perfectly, delightfully like her. He leans to kiss her again, in a less alarming sort of way. With a tone of astonishment, he exclaims, "Married!" He does not faint as his prince once did. Instead he remembers his manners. "Thank you Septon Tadd. Camillo. Edmyn and Talia. Thank you all for coming." He seems a little dazed, to be honest.

His exclamation draws back Edmyn's attention from whatever Talia was saying to him; the lad's eyes widen, and he claps his hands as though this were a moment to be applauded. Well, perhaps it is. Esme gives her son a fond look over her shoulder, even as Septon Tadd is echoing Flox's pronouncement in more formal phrasing, and offering beaming, heartfelt congratulations to one and all.

Esme hasn't released Flox's hand, nor does she as she thanks the septon, thanks Camillo for his sterling service as master of the rings, thanks her son just on general principles and Talia for having the goodness to come too. She's cheerful but calm nonetheless, her demeanour suggesting that, while weddings are quite pleasant things, they're nothin' to get worked up about.

Camillo bobs his head in Flox's direction, then Esme's. "It was my pleasure to see the two of you brought together under the eyes of the Seven," he says quite sincerely.

Flox is not letting her go any time soon, though Edmyn's applause wins a smile and a head bob from him. To Camillo he says, "It was good to have a friend here with me.”

"And ours to have you here with us," says Esme firmly to Camillo. She goes on in the same vein, taking charge of the gathering, an oddly authoritative little figure in her richly embroidered new cloak. "Well, let's not keep Septon Tadd standin' round here all day, shall we?" she suggests to the others. Talia has meanwhile stepped away to make sure the ink has dried on the contracts and roll them up: Esme produces the blue ribbon from her pocket to tie around them, offering it to Talia with a, "Bless you, dearie. You remember the way? Good, good. I know I can rely on you," she affirms. And she takes her son's hand (still holding Flox's, of course) and reminds him of the exciting adventure ahead of him (this boat-mad young man is spending the night On A Real Ship) and how she'll have his breakfast ready when he comes home in the morning.

Flox gently thumps Camillo's shoulder and wishes out loud that he hopes his friend will be as happy someday, and then he is quietly encouraging the boat talk.

The married couple and their friends take leave of the septon and make their way out in a small but cheerful and chattering throng, which soon separates into three smaller parties. Camillo of course is going back to the tower: where else? Talia has been engaged to deliver Edmyn into the custody of an old friend of the family who exults in the dignity of captaincy. And Esme and Flox, well, they’re strolling home together for the first time, on a sunny afternoon.

When they arrive, there is a Hightower cart waiting with crates. Too many crates.

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