God painted the day. Lush were the grasses of the churchyard set against a field of golden wheat, swaying in spring’s gentle breeze. The sky was alive with a full, emboldened sun, which made short work of drying the world of the dawn’s dew by mid-morning. Few clouds hung amongst the azure sky, but those that did floated slowly, suspended white puffs of cotton suspended amongst the clear blue of the deepest, purest of pools. The oaks were dotted with lush, green leaves. The church’s white stone face shone with the glory of the artistic god who borne this day in his mind to gift to this lovely bride and groom. Even the air seemed to blow from the east, across the blooming rose gardens of the castle, their scents mingling with the grass and wheat, to bring life and peace to the wedding guests with each deep, cleansing breath.
The service was short, yet done in the traditional way of the Catholics. Mass was concluded with all its usual fare, with Michael raising up from bent knee, crossing himself as was the custom, and watching with heavy gaze as the bride and groom passed from the alter to exit the church ahead of its parishioners. While the faces of most in audience were filled with joy and blessing at the mornings events thus far, and optimism for the planned festivities to conclude the day, Michael’s gaze was not so. Many eyes met with his only to be turned away in uncomfortableness, having found nothing in the man but an ill-humor, stemming from impatience for these proceedings to be completed, and the natural seriousness of the man’s gaze. As did all, Michael stood as the bride groom passed his isle, making an imposing figure dressed in black tunic embroidered in silver threads at the breast, and shoulders, as well as down the buttoned union that followed down the center of the man. Black pants, tucked into long, turned down boots, and a light brown belt bearing the sheathed long sword at his side were the only other things that adorned the man at the moment, aside from the heavy ring sitting upon his right hand.
The church emptied in the typical fashion, with individuals sliding from the pews into the main isles, trailing behind one another to break out from the dim light into the brightness of the sun, leaving behind the odors of polished wood and olive oil, to spill into the freshness of day. The warm light was no stranger to Michael, and even as his eyes were forced to adjust to the changing light levels between the outside and the church, his feet carried him sure through the courtyard, following slowly behind the procession that left the church, leading towards the family home of the groom, the city’s castle alive with a festive aire. How Michael abhorred these small country castles. Often times, the money spent reminding everyone of their wealth robs them of it. The auspices are often insincere, and often times the game of houses is played, in which the political maneuvering is so heavily pressed that to simply set foot inside one is to invite conspiracy or intrigue. Far too often, he has found himself, in the past, having to weave scandal with lies in order to simply take foot out of the door.
The crowd passes within, leaving Michael standing outside the open maw of the great room. Inside the hall is filled with the orange light of burning oil lamps and candles, giving a warm, inviting glow that Michael found reminded him more of a road side inn or tavern, less of a lord’s great hall. How he longed for the conclusion of his business here, so he could be away from this place, and travel abroad to the King’s court. At least there the burdens of society offered rewards of power and riches. At least there, he hadn’t already out grown the rewards. Here…
“You do look the image of an angry shade,” the voice came from behind him, turning Michael around to the figure standing in the doorway to the hall. The Lord Aswell, whose home this is, and whose son’s union they do celebrate, stood a large, imposing figure, filling the great threshold of double doors that led into the hall. He as a broad man, of muscle, with arms of trees that spoke of his years. Yet his gaze was light, and the merriment of the evening took hold much more than the anger at seeing one of his guests in such open defiance of the days celebration.
“Forgiveness,” Michael spoke, half heartedly, out of respect and tradition rather than true concern for his behavior, “I have much weighing on my mind.”
“Perhaps, young master, you would do well to come inside. Put such things as those that keep you here on hold for the evening, and come within. My cousin has arrived from the east, and he did bring his daughter. I would like to introduce you,” Lord Aswell spoke, turning aside to allow room for the younger d’Aguillon to pass.
Obediently Michael did as requested. As much as he may see himself above these people, Lord Aswell and his father had long been friends, and thought in rank of politics, Lord Aswell could do little for him, there were still binds of respect that tied. The same tie that pulled him to attendance pulled him inside, and he followed the older Lord. The hall was as he figured it to be. A large gathering of nobles and their ‘luggage’, dancing to the melodies of a live venue of harp, violin, and other stringed instruments while others feast on an offering of roasted beast (pork, deer, and cow by the smell of it), vegetables, and some kind of broth based soup that smelled as acrid as he was sure it tasted. The only saving grace to the entire event was the spice wine, which he managed to pick a tankard of up as he passed one of the serving tables. Michael followed Lord Aswell like some kind of lap dog, half heartedly listening to the older man’s offerings while subtly trailing his eyes from bust to lips of the ladies that managed to cross his path. Perhaps another saving grace of the night…