Fifth Time's the Charm/Patience Rewarded.

Submitted into Contest #73 in response to: Write about someone who gets proposed to five times on Christmas Eve.... view prompt


Romance Fantasy

Join me, the horrific, fractured voice of the demon Regaelyon moaned in the back of her mind. Your body harbors potential beyond anything this world has ever seen. Power and life eternal can be yours! All you must do is renounce your false deities, accept the demonic essence that resides within your blood.

"Fyndralie, sweet goddess of love, I call upon your succor once more," Sarauthedes Silvreign mumbled. Her head was bowed as she knelt in the ray of glorious white light beaming out from the heart of the statue of the Deific Lover. She paid the voice no heed, for his offers meant nothing to her anymore.

Think about what you are doing, foolish wench. You pass up a great opportunity, one that no goddess could ever give you! Sarauthedes smiled to herself, for she knew the demon within her blood was growing afraid. Sarauthedes had performed the Sacrament of Relegation every morning since the day she'd been revived, one year ago. With the culmination of this holy rite, the demon that had plagued her with its taunting voice would be expunged. Sarauthedes would be free of Regaelyon's torment once and for all, able to go on with life as normal. Or at least, as normal as possible for the cambion bastard daughter of a king, she thought brightly. "Use me as a channel for your divine will, and seal this demon, who has wrecked the lives of many couples, away." She lifted a golden ring with a large, pale pink diamond, the same color as an albino's eyes, in two fingers. "And, as a sweet bonus, entrap his power in this wedding ring, a symbol for the unending devotion of your people!" Sarauthedes felt the familiar sensation of warmth as Fyndralie's light built up within her, preparing to break the final chains that Regaelyon, the Albino Ravager, had on her psyche. The cambion cleric winced as a splitting scream tore through her head, nearly shattering her concentration. But she'd come too far to fail here, and the last thing Sarauthedes wanted was to spend another year with the demon's taunting proposals whispering in her mind. With a final push, accompanied by a wordless song of devotion, the monster was sealed. Sarauthedes stood and brushed the dust off of her vestments, smiling with satisfaction. "Good timing too," she said merrily. "For tonight is the Yuletide Fete. I'd have hated to be in a sour mood for that!"

Clutching the ring in one hand, Sarauthedes doused the lanterns and strode briskly from the chapel, ready to join the festivities at last. 

The cold snap of the air shocked the girl into wakefulness. She absolutely loved the Yule season. So many couples set their bonds in stone using rings, not unlike the one she held in her hand around this time. As an Aspect of Fyndralie, Sarauthedes couldn't help feeling optimistic. Once spring comes around, there will be so many weddings to attend and officiate. I'll be so busy celebrating others' love; I might even be able to forget the fact that I don't have it myself. She instantly regretted those thoughts. Fyndralie had promised her that someday, true, eternal love would find her. Sarauthedes had placed her faith in the goddess so many times before, and she'd never once been let down. This time would be no different, if only she had the patience. 

The domiciles where the Luxe Assembly lodged its clerics were eerily silent, devoid of the sounds of talking or praying, as most were already gathering at the grand amphitheater at the compound's center. Only a few stragglers waited behind. Sarauthedes saw one person she recognized and smiled widely, waving her over. "Chamylla, I didn't expect to see you out here! Are you perhaps going to join our jubilee after all?"

The half-elven girl, younger than Sarauthedes by two years, pulled her faded pink cloak tight around her lithe body. "N-no. I won't be partaking. You know that's not my scene. Actually, I was really hoping to catch you before you left to join them all. I had a question I've wanted to ask for some time now, but I've only just prepared myself to confront you."

"Is this about your vision quest again, dear?" Sarauthedes wondered. "I told you before that you'll know when it's time. The gods are often cryptic, but that one crucial step they make blindingly clear."

"N-no, that's not it. You see..." the girl was blushing deeply now, her fair skin nearly reaching the gorgeous crimson hue that Sarauthedes sported. 

Sarauthedes reached over with and lifted the girl's chin patiently. "Chamylla, darling, please, speak clearly. I cannot discern you when your cloak muffles your mouth." 

"I'm sorry," the sweet girl blushed even more profusely, fighting the urge to hide her face, while she looked into the seraphic visage of the woman before her. "What is that ring in your hand?" she asked suddenly, with a strange mixture of hope and dread in her tone. "A gift for someone, perhaps?"

"The only person this ring ought to be gifted to is the Vaultmaster. This holds the essence of a great demon who has plagued me for the two and three-quarter decades I've lived. Since you are here, I was wondering if you might do me the favor of delivering it to him?"

Chamylla bobbed her head profusely. "Anything for you, Sarauthedes!"

The cambion's face split in a thankful grin as she passed the golden band to the younger cleric, causing Chamylla to blush once again. "Is everything all right, Cammie? You seem flustered. Is the cold getting to you perhaps?"

Before the half-elf could answer, another voice broke across the courtyard. "Oi, is tha' Sarauthedes? Oi was worried tha' yer prayers'd keep ye cloistered in tha' chapel all day!" A dwarf with weatherbeaten features and wild hair blacker than coal, the complete opposite of Sarauthedes's neatly trimmed snow-white tresses, came charging across the yard, frosted grass crunching beneath his fur-lined boots. "Oi've got summat big, an' I figured ye'd be th' one t' ask about it! We can talk on our way t' th' gala."

"I'd be glad to be of service any way I can, Reinkle. Just one moment." She turned back to Chamylla. "Darling, I know you had a question. Is it something that can wait, perhaps until after the celebration? I'd rather be somewhere warm if it's an explanation you're searching for, and you know how dwarves get when you leave them waiting for too long."

"Oh, no, that's fine," Chamylla said dispiritedly. "Have fun at your party. I am rather cold anyhow." She buried her face in her cloak to hide the tears welling in her eyes. As Sarauthedes turned and walked away with the dwarf, the young woman collapsed to the ground. "I'll always be cold without you," she muttered, too quiet for the departing cambion to hear. Chamylla knew what was slated to happen at the Yuletide Fete, she'd listened to the whispers going around camp whenever Sarauthedes wasn't around, but she was hopeless to stop it or intervene. Propping herself up on one knee, Chamylla tearfully lined the demon-touched ring up between the wings of the retreating back of the woman she'd loved and admired these past few years. "I love you, Sarauthedes Silvreign. I want you to fill all of my days with bliss." But it was too late, for Sarauthedes was gone. Chamylla had been too quiet to win her beloved's heart.

"So, good Reinkle, what does a dwarf of your station need from a common cleric such as myself?"

The wild-haired dwarf gave a wide, crooked smile. "Common my hairy arse! It's no secret t' either th' gods o' Light Collective, or yer friends in th' Luxe Assembly tha' ye're foreign royalty. #ven without tha' lofty title t' support ye, th' skill ye possess at healin' and th' slaying o' monstrous fiends make ye far more than 'common!' Stop bein' so durned humble, girl. Ye've got talents and beauty, and ye oughta flaunt 'em!" The dwarf shook his head, spittle flying out of his jowly cheeks. "Bah, but tha's only a portion o' why Oi came t' speak t' ye specifically. Oi've got this wedding comin' up, and I'm in need o' someone t' officiate it."

Sarauthedes crinkled her smooth brow. "Why not officiate it yourself? You know all of the intricacies and proper rites."

"Oi don't think it'd be a good idea t' try directing me own wedding, girl," The dwarf replied with a mischievous grin. 

Sarauthedes's silver eyes lit up with glee. "You're getting married, Reinkle? To whom?"

"Th' head priestess o' me clan is me blushin' bride. And t' get t' the point. Me an' Gerinda want ye t' be our priestess, callin' Fyndralie's blessin' down upon our union. And, no, girl, we don't care that until ye came t' Celebriant five years ago, ye didn't know a damned thing about dwarves. We got folks who can teach ye anything ye could dream o' knowin' and some things you couldn't. So, tha's me proposition, from a 'common' dwarven prince to his cleric o' choice. Ye'd make me fiance real happy. What say ye?"

If it hadn't been for the crimson hue of her skin, the dwarf would have seen Sarauthedes blush with an intensity to rival the flames of hell. "That is a proposal I'd gladly accept. I'm honored that you'd so much as consider me, Prince Reinkle."

"Bah, durned humble clerics o' th' love goddess. Never would Oi've guessed that'd be an issue. Glad ye accepted, at least. Now, get yerself into th' hall. Oi hear there's summat special goin' on tonight and methinks ye won't want t' miss it."

The girl cocked her head, but the dwarven prince didn't seem like he planned to explain any further. Her face still warm; Sarauthedes nearly skipped into the huge crystal-domed building, topped with ten giant, glowing crystal stars to represent the Light Collective's ten deities. 

 The celebration was just as wonderful as Sarauthedes had hoped, made all the more exciting by her success against Regaelyon. She talked with her fellow clerics, extolled the glory of the gods, drank toasts of sweet wine to the achievements of the past year, and tossed back rueful honors to those who had been lost. She chatted with her dearest friends, including Michrath Yiirbaene, her half-elven best friend, who had introduced her to the order of clerics she now so proudly represented.

As the sun danced its way towards afternoon and then spun away into nighttime, Sarauthedes began to grow more curious about what Prince Reinkle had been talking about. What special event, save the Yuletide Fete itself, could be so crucial for her to attend?

Finally, at half-past eight, the last song ended, and the crowd began to mill about restlessly. Sarauthedes was growing rather tired herself, and her wings were sore from flying up several times to exchange and relight the candles around the upper layers of the domed building. She tried to push her way through, but no matter which side of the throng she attempted to pierce, the cambion cleric found herself barred. "What's going on here?" she demanded tiredly. It was only then that she noticed the other clerics had spread out to form a perfect circle, in which only two figures stood, herself and Michrath. "Micah, what's the meaning of this?"

The handsome half-elf didn't reply with words, but rather, he drew the blessed hand-harp, a symbol of Bantorae, the god of music, from his back. "My beloved Sarauthedes," he sang, "How glorious your countenance is to behold! It is you whose touch I'd love to know, whose hand I wish to hold. The warmth of your heart can clear any man of strife. Oh, beloved, won't you please be my wife?" Sarauthedes watched in stunned amazement as her best friend produced a ring that glowed in a sudden beam of pale, golden light from on high.

The cambion cleric stood there for several long moments in shock before finally chuckling. "You are quite hilarious, Micah. Please stand up before I think you're being serious."

Michrath looked at her with a pained expression. "Sarauthedes, I am quite serious. I don't understand. Have we not been friends for so very long? It can't be so hard to believe that I might fall for someone so wonderful as you. Please, don't tell me that all of my planning has been for naught. I have looked forward to this night for so very long!"

Sarauthedes crossed the width of the circle in a matter of moments. She peered into Micah's soft brown eyes. Given his chosen deity, the man was quite a skilled actor, but he had no secrets from his best friend in the world. Sarauthedes knew all his tells. And despite the rigid mask of painful devastation and the little spark of hope in his eyes, in the face of his friend's shrewd observations, Micah's ruse held no water. "I might have believed you, my dear friend, had we not signed a blood pact claiming that we'd never pursue each other romantically, lest we have to deal with the awkward relationships that are borne of close friendships turned to something more. Besides," she plucked the ring from its box, "upon closer inspection, this ring is just as phony as your proposal! You clever, clever man, made of fool's gold and everything, with a piece of magically enchanted quartz to appear like a diamond at a distance." She ruffled her friend's hair with one of her soft hands and kissed Micah on the forehead. "Now, would you like to answer my question? What is the meaning of this?"

"I knew you'd see right through me like the wafer-thin jester I am, but I'd hoped it would take you longer than that. I honestly forgot about the contract. I just remembered that neither of us has ever pursued each other since we were friends, not on-again, off-again lovers." He looked past Sarauthedes's shoulder and nodded to himself. "As for the meaning. Well, that's a question you might want to ask him." Micah swept his hands towards the crowd, and a section parted, revealing the sunken dais, with stairs leading down into the pit. And kneeling on the platform was a man Sarauthedes hadn't seen in over three months. His platinum blonde hair, with the flaming blue halo nestled amidst its brush, and the noticeable lack of wings made him unmistakable. This was Prince Priam Lightborne of Mornhailo, the cleric's lover these past two years, and there was a real golden ring in his outstretched hand. "All jokes aside, Princess Sarauthedes Silvreign," he intoned in his lovely tenor voice. "Will you marry me?"

December 25, 2020 19:21

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