That it rained that morning came as a surprise to absolutely no one; it would be just their luck. The rain didn’t even have the decency to be one of those mild, gentle summer rains that leave you feeling refreshed, no, it came with a darkened sky and threats of thunder. It poured from an uncaring sky, beating against the window panes hard enough to make them rattle.
“Just our luck” Eliot muttered as he stared out the stained glass window, absently scratching his bare stomach. “Why am I not surprised.”
“El” was slurred somewhere behind him, “come back to bed.”
“Can’t” he said apologetically. “I can’t even be here. There will be hell to pay if I’m caught.”
Quentin slowly appeared from under the pile of blankets, glaring blearily at him.
“I said, come back to bed.”
“And I already said I can’t. Traditions.”
Quentin thought it over, which seemed to be a bit difficult for his muddled brain. Finally, he said with a petulant frown;
“You can at least come and kiss me.”
Eliot laughed, turned away from the window, and admired the man before him. Well, what little he could see. Even in the dim grey light of a rainy morning, and swaddled up under several thick blankets, Quentin was beautiful. His fair hair was messy, showing proof of both dragging against the pillows and harsh tugging, his lips swollen and red from kisses. A bruise was blooming on his pale neck. In short, he looked thoroughly debauched and it was with a great sense of character Eliot resisted crawling back into that bed and do some more debauching.
He really ought to be going, the sooner the better. If the courtiers caught the high king in his fiancee's bed the morn of their wedding, the entire country was going to be in an uproar. It simply wasn’t done. But Quentin was pulling off the blankets now and oh, acres and acres of soft, inviting skin was becoming bared to Eliot’s suddenly ravenous gaze and his self-control seemed to be vanishing out into the storm.
“Eliot” Quentin was smirking, now, fully aware of what he was doing. The effect was, after all, rather obvious due to Eliot not having bothered to put on any clothes before checking the weather. “Come to bed.”
And he went, willingly.
“Honestly, I can’t believe you.” Margo rolled her eye in exasperation. “You couldn’t stay away for one night?”
“Clearly not.” Eliot made a face. “And stop stabbing me with that thing!”
She rolled her eye again. Not a good look.
“It’s a needle. Not my fault you need last-minute alterations. Now hold still so I can finish this seam.”
Eliot reluctantly fell still. He felt like an idiot, standing on this table with his arms and legs spread like a bad imitation of the Vitruvian man, but at least he looked nice. The trousers were sinfully tight clinging in all the right places. They were made from deep dark leather that accentuated every muscle and made his legs look impossibly long. The doublet wasn’t bad either, a deep royal purple with strategic slashes to show the crisp white shirt underneath. He could have done without the massive amounts of gold embroidery, but you can’t have everything. Besides, the color was just right to make his skin glow as if made from gold. The heavy crown in his hair made him look both rakish and stunning, a king in every sense of the word. The light of the candles that filled the room made the jewels glow, and the gold embroidery sparkle. As Eliot looked at himself in the large ornate mirror, he had to admit that he looked amazing. But the best bit, he thought, was the boots. Knee high, made from the softest leather he had ever felt, they had just enough of a heel to keep him slightly of balance but not enough to make him struggle to walk. Instead, they made his body move in a way that he felt confident would have every single person staring at his arse. They, too, were covered in gold stitching; a dragon with an open mouth on each side.
Next to him, Margo was an angel in blue. The dress seemed to be made from water, as it rippled and twisted around her body in a way that no fabric could. The sheets of water met and crested together over one shoulder, clasped with a brooch in the shape of a dragon, but the other was bare. The color of the dress was impossible to describe, as it changed from the bright turquoise of a tropical lagoon to the darkness of a stormy sea in moments and then took on all the colors in between. Her hair fell loose and free, held back from her face only by a slim, elegant circlet that Eliot had not even known she possessed. A single blue gemstone hung from it, resting just above her brows, and she made him think of a elven princess, stepped straight out of one of Tolkien’s novels. A princess dressed in an ocean. As she turned to face him, the filigree decorating the eye patch glittered like morning dew.
She took a step back, eyeing him critically. Then, she grabbed a small pot from a high pedestal that held various items, including a sewing kit.
“Oh no,” Eliot took a hurried step back. “You are not putting that goop in my hair!”
“Just a little” she insisted, removing the lid. He took another step back.
“Oh come on! I just want to style it a little, you look like you just got laid.”
“I did just get laid.” he pointed out unnecessarily.
“Yes, but people are going to think you got laid by me. ” And by people, they both knew she meant Quentin. Eliot could imagine the look on his beloved’s face far, far too well. It made his stomach clench as bile rose in his throat. He swallowed hard.
“Fine” he eventually grumbled, “but only a little.”
To say that the hall was full of people was understating the obvious; it was so crammed that Eliot wondered, where he stood on the threshold, if it was at all possible to enter.
“Get a move on” Margo hissed, shoving him. He stumbled, but found his footing and started to slowly walk down the hall that should have been bright with sunlight but was now dim, the rain still hammering on the windows. There were candles, of course, hundreds and hundreds of them, but they did not light the hall, as well as the sun, would have. But there was a feel of magic in the air, a soft spell winding and weaving over and through the throng of people, and Eliot found it fitting. The candles whispered of ancient power, a power no man can ever hope to defeat. The power of Love herself.
As he came to a stop at the front of the hall, on the dais that usually held their thrones, Eliot had to square his shoulders and bite his tongue to keep from fidgeting. This wasn’t his first wedding, but it was the one who mattered. There was music played by a few musicians in the corner, but they could barely be heard over the rain. It seemed fitting, somehow, that the heavens demanded their attention; it was the heavens, after all, that had led them here.
Or perhaps he was being maudlin. If Margo had known what he was thinking, she would have laughed in his face.
But she wasn’t laughing. Her face was smooth and still like a pond in winter, as she took her place next to him with a confidence he suddenly found himself lacking.
“You okay?” she whispered, lips barely moving, as she briefly squeezed his hand.
“Fine” he whispered, and they both knew he was lying.
But just then, the musicians made an attempt to play a louder, cheerier tune and it was almost enough to drown out the rain. But not quite. It didn’t matter, anyway, for just then the grand doors opened a second time and Eliot looked to them in anticipation - only to immediately have his hopes dashed. It was just Alice. But then he took another look and realized that it wasn’t just Alice .
The gown she wore was pure white, so brilliant it seemed to light the hall. It was the white of clouds, of snow, of the air itself. Her shoulders bared, the bodice itself appearing to be made from a thousand feathers stitched together. White pearls glittered amongst the down, and fell like droplets over the full white skirt, as light and airy as the clouds. It swirled around her like a summer breeze, as if it would vanish in but a moment. Her hair shimmered like the sunlight, the choker around her neck like a strand of light. Her glasses were not the ones he recognized her in but seemed to be made from silver, slim frames that suited her well. Eliot wondered, briefly, why she wasn’t wearing a crown. Maybe it was some sort of tradition. In her hands, Alice clasped a small wicker basket.
She stood there, letting the people see, and Eliot could feel more than see Margo roll her eye at the spectacle.
“Show off” she muttered, and Eliot smirked.
“She deserves it” he muttered back, and she did. Alice deserved this moment. Deserved to be seen as the celestial being she was. And if he hated her for that, just a little, she never had to know.
Alice started to walk down the aisle, slow measured steps that made the dress flow and shimmer in a way that, Eliot noted, had several of the noblemen watching with great interest. As she walked, she sprinkled snow white petals on the ground, a gesture he recognized from most Christian weddings. Quentin had asked for a Christian wedding, and Eliot had as always been unable to refuse him. He had, however, talked Quentin into adding Fillorian elements. They were, after all, rulers of the realm.
Eliot’s frustration and nerves only got worse the further down the aisle Alice got. Where the fuck was his groom? This was hell, this unending wait.
He looked past Alice’s carefully blank features and looked hopefully to the door. No sight of Quentin. Instead, a beaming Julia appeared. The first thing that was prominent when one looked at her was the wreath of leaves and flowers in her hair, giving her a whimsical air that clashed with who he knew her to be. Over her shoulders and down her arms she wore a pale green short jacket, looking as if it was made from the gossamer of fresh grass and spider’s webs. The sleeves were long and flowing, almost covering her hands. Or they would have if they were not raised to carry a wooden bowl, which contents Eliot could not see. The jacket was clasped in front, just above her breasts, with a brooch that was in the shape of a flower of a kind he did not recognize. Its petals were red as blood. The gown she wore also appeared to be made of leaves; in many shifting colors of green, they seemed to writhe and move sinuously as the candlelight flickered over them. As if she had sprung from the very earth itself, clad in the colors of a summer forest, she seemed to float down the aisle, her smile never wavering. Lovely as she was, Eliot could not help but feel aggravated. It was not her he wanted to see.
Once more a figure appeared on the threshold, and once more Eliot’s hopes were dashed and his frustration increased. Fen. Her hair was falling over her shoulders in her usual style, but she did not wear the crown she usually wore when she could be bothered. Instead, a copper circlet with little spikes, ending in tiny rubies, rested in her hair. Her gown was glowing as if fresh from a forge, in colors from pale orange to deepest red. A thin ribbon of flame was more decoration than anything else where it went up around her neck, and as she moved down the aisle it was as if watching a fire sprite whirling towards him. The colors of her dress seemed to crackle and glow like a small campfire, lighting up the night with it’s welcoming warmth. In her hands, she carried a candelabra with five lit candles, their glow so close to her face giving her an appearance of both danger and welcoming. She looked peaceful, almost content. He wondered if she was faking, or if it was honest.
And then… there he was. Quentin. And for a moment, Eliot completely forgot how to breathe. Quentin stood at the threshold, the candles turning his hair into molten gold.
The style of his outfit was much similar to Eliot's: doublet, and trousers. But oh! The red brocade of his doublet shimmered in the glow of the candles, the gold embroidery sparkling like a thousand jewels. Down the arms and the sides, strategic slashes revealed a cream shirt that accentuated the wooden buttons perfectly, drawing the eye to the fine stitching and, more importantly, how the doublet fit just right around the trim waist. It fell further than was common, but it only served to draw the eyes to the edge, to the deep brown of the trousers that were hugging his thighs like a second skin. Eliot’s eyes helplessly slid further down, taking in the legs that he loved to feel wrapped around him, briefly admiring the fine knee-high boots decorated with the same dragons that accentuated his own. Then his eyes slid back up, noting that the embroidery of the doublet mostly consisted of little flames. And they weren’t a single shade of gold but ranged from bright yellow to soft red copper and every shade in between. Surely some sort of magic had gone into its creation. Up and up his gaze went, over a firm chest and a slender neck unadorned by any jewelry, lingering on full lips that seemed to be painted with a gentle red, only just enough to emphasize the curve of his lips, making Eliot ache to kiss and bite. Then their eyes met, and Eliot forgot how to breathe. Those eyes, those ethereal dark eyes. He could wax hours of poetry over those eyes, much to Margo’s ill-hidden amusement.
But it was his smile that drew Eliot’s gaze like a moth to a flame, helpless and delirious. It was not the beaming happiness of Julia or the smugness of Margo, but a small pleased smile that made Eliot’s heart make strange movements in his chest and made his throat feel tight, tears prickling his eyes. This was really happening, it was finally, finally happening.
He lost more and more of his breath as the procession neared; Alice and Fen turned to the right, Julia to the left, and then Quentin was standing in front of him. Margo discreetly punched Eliot in the back to get him to start breathing again, and he drew a heaving breath. Quentin’s lips twitched as if he was repressing a smile, and then he ascended. The two steps he took up onto the dais seemed to take forever, but then he was suddenly close enough that Eliot could feel the warmth of his body. For a moment that lasted an eternity, they looked into each other’s eyes.
Is this happening? Eliot’s eyes whispered, barely able to believe he wasn’t dreaming.
Yes, it is. Quentin’s answered, indulgent and amused.
He was so lost in those eyes he did not notice Margo stepping back, now standing next to Julia as they waited in silence.
Someone cleared their throat, and it was with great reluctance Eliot tore his eyes away from Quentin's and turned to face the man waiting with ill-hidden amusement. The high priest - whose name Eliot could never remember - was the epitome of the wizened old wizard. His hair and beard were a silvery grey, falling long and stripy to his waist. He looked like he would fit very well in a pointed hat, and the fact that he had braided his beard only added to that impression. He wore a black robe, heavily encrusted with gold and silver thread, the embroidery depicting the stars that each night shone over Fillory. His eyes were a pale, pale blue, twinkling as if he knew a very good joke that he wasn’t sharing with anyone.
Beside the high priest stood a small table covered in a white cloth, upon which Alice placed her basket, Julia her bowl, and Fen her candelabra. Then, much to Eliot’s surprise, Margo stepped forth with an athame in her hand. Where she had got it from, Eliot would most likely never know. But it was a beautiful item; its handle encrusted with gold and jewels, it's edge glowing with the sharpness.
The high priest cleared his throat.
“We come together on this day, to witness the union between two souls.” He said, pitching his voice to carry through the hall. “Let us all, for a moment, silently allow ourselves the joy of seeing these two stand before us, waiting to receive the blessing of the four sister-goddesses.”
Most of the people bowed their heads, as if in prayer.
“Hold out your hands, my lords” the priest instructed, “palms up.”
As they had practiced, they turned and held out their hands to the priest. He smiled at them, then nodded at Margo who stepped forward and picked up the athame.
“As water flows,” she said solemnly, “so flows blood through the heart, allowing it to beat in unison with the one who owns it.” She slid the athame across Eliot’s palms, blood immediately springing to the surface. Then she did the same with Quentin’s.
“So let my blessing flow like the water, like the blood joining you together.”
“Face each other and clasp hands,” The high priest said gently, and they did so, their blood mixing as palms pressed together. Margo stepped back, placing the now bloody athame on the table, staining the fine cloth.
“Sister of the air” the high priest prompted, and Alice reluctantly stepped forward. From Julia’s wooden bowl she picked up a white ribbon. As she looped it around Eliot’s left wrist, down over his hand, and further over Quentin’s left hand, she said:
“Let the love flow between you like whispers of the wind, like the air you breathe, that unnoticed and that necessary.” She tied the ribbon in a neat knot around Quentin’s wrist and stepped back.
“So let my blessing whisper in your hearts, and carry upon each breath you take.” For a moment, but only a moment, she looked unfathomably sad.
Next, Julia stepped forward, taking a green ribbon from the bowl.
“My blessing is that of strength,” she said as she mimicked what Alice had just done, but from Quentin’s right hand to Eliot’s left. “As you stand upon the earth, let its power flow through you, binding you together and letting you face every challenge as one.” She then did something that was not part of the ceremony; she pressed a quick, chaste kiss to each their lips. Then she stepped back, the beaming smile from earlier making a reappearance.
The high priest picked up a golden ribbon from the bowl, looping it in an intricate pattern between them, forming an elegant knot between their hands.
“So have you been blessed by the air, water, and earth. And with their blessings upon you, it is time to speak your vows.”
Eliot hesitated, suddenly forgetting what he was supposed to say. After much discussion, they had agreed to use the traditional Fillorian vows; neither of them was much of a poet, and anyway, what they wanted to say was already whispered every time they touched.
So, instead, he cleared his throat and said;
“I have gazed upon the stars many a night, waiting with growing sorrow for your descent. Like a falling star, you have come into my life and brought me light, when all I knew was darkness.” He felt ridiculous saying it, but the tears that welled up in Quentin’s eyes made his embarrassment worth it.
“For many a night,” he said, his voice shaking, “I have ached for the darkness in your eyes, the light surrounding me blinding. I do not fear the darkness, for my heart rests there.” Eliot looked down at the ribbons tying their hands together, licking his lips.
“And so, as you bring me your light, I shall give you my life.” He said, trying to keep his own voice steady, “trusting you not to waste it.”
Quentin laughed softly.
“And as you give me your darkness, I give you my heart, trusting you to keep it.”
“I shall walk beside you wherever your path leads,” Eliot promised, squeezing Quentin’s hands, not caring for the sting of the cuts on his palms.
“I shall support you, whichever challenges you face,” Quentin replied, sounding as if he meant it with every fiber of his being.
Fen stepped forward, picking up the candelabra. She held it carefully, lowering it and letting it rest just below their clasped hands.
“Let there be light,” she said, “and let there be darkness.” She raised the candelabra slowly as she spoke, the flames licking their skin. It probably hurt, but Eliot was too lost in Quentin’s eyes to notice.
“Let there be the warmth of a lover’s embrace and the heat of passion. Let my blessing burn, a neverending flame within your hearts.”
She twisted the candelabra and raised it further so that the flames touched the ribbons. They immediately started burning, but there must be some sort of magic in it that there was no pain as the fire licked their skin, only warmth. Once the flames died down, around their right wrists looped a thin gold band, the symbol of their union.
“And so it is done,” Said the high priest, as he raised his hands in his own blessing. “May the stars shine favorably on you both.”
“May the stars shine” Margo, Alice, Fen, and Julia echoed.
“May the stars shine” echoed the people that had come to bear witness.
But Eliot did not hear any of them, all he was aware of was Quentin turning his face up for a kiss.
Far above them, the thunder roared and lightning lit the sky.