It struck them as funny. When they were younger, they would smile at the older couples they passed. Evelyn would elbow Paultin to get him to notice a particular pair walking on the beach or through a store. Paultin would comment how the man looked older because he had been nagged for so long, while the woman looked young because she probably said whatever she thought and never held back. Evelyn would roll her eyes, and Paultin would kiss her cheek as he snickered.
That was decades in the past. In their seventies, they became the cute old couple. Evelyn and Paultin marveled how they had made it so far. They spent their twilight years moving at a much more peaceful pace than they did in their battle-weary adventuring years. Volunteering at an orphanage, the occasional musical gig, and general relaxation were the priorities at this stage in their lives.
They had moved around innumerable times in their travels, but finally settled down in a small cottage on the outskirts of Red Larch. While they could never get the grass to resemble anything that looked like a lawn, they were able to grow all sorts of flora in colorful pots around the cottage entrance. There were birdbaths and stepping stones and little abstract sculptures scattered throughout the yard, things they had made themselves. Inside, there were jewel-toned throws, rugs, and lanterns… all souvenirs from the lives of a couple of nomadic adventurers.
Paultin, more cantankerous in his elder years, would frequently stand in front of the mirror in their bedroom. He’d run his hands through his silvered hair and lament the wrinkles he saw on his face. One evening in particular, he tried to suck in the bit of belly he had as he shuffled to the main room to complain to his wife.
“Dunno why you’re with an old coot,” he grumbled.
Evelyn, curled up on a plush loveseat, looked up from her reading to see his sour expression. White curls cascaded around her shoulders, seemingly kissed by an angelic glow. Her eyes, now flanked by crows’ feet, still twinkled like gems. She easily looked fifteen or so years younger than her age.
“Oh, I suppose I never made the time to find a young fella,” she sighed dramatically.
Paultin plopped down next to her in a huff. Evelyn put whatever tome she was engaged in to the side and turned her attention to him.
“You are as handsome now as the first time I ever saw you perform,” she cooed in his ear.
Evelyn reached up and played with his ear until she got a smile out of him.
“There’s my smirking bard.”
“Don’t know why you married me,” Paultin started in again. “Why did you marry me, anyway? You were a nice church girl. I was a jerk.”
Most of the time, Evelyn would smile and ramble off how she had loved him for so long, how nothing she ever experienced took her breath away like just holding his hand, or some other cute statement. These statements were accurate to a point. Sometimes, like that particular evening, she would just say the truth.
“We drank too much, remember?”
Decades earlier, the pair had lived in Waterdeep for some time in between jobs that forced them to travel across Faerun. During that time, Paultin played a large number of gigs there, more than he ever had in such a bustling city. It was a very successful time for the bard. He began to garner some local fame. These gigs soon brought offers as far away as Baldur’s Gate.
Evelyn began to accompany Paultin to gigs out of town. As his unofficial manager, Evelyn talked with the tavern owners, collected payment for the gig, and helped the bard stay sober enough to play an entire set. Paultin found people treated him like more of a professional with Evelyn there, as well.
After one particular performance, a Trielian tavern owner named Niven was especially thrilled.
“My place hasn’t been this busy in months,” Niven shared. “I’ve even rented out most of my rooms!”
“Glad to hear it,” Paultin said in between sips of ale.
“That has created a small issue, unfortunately. I rented out all but one room, and I forgot you’d need two. How about free drinks all night for you and your associate in exchange for my mistake?”
Paultin could not agree quickly enough, but tried to play it cool. “Maybe a meal, too?”
Niven grinned wide. “Of course!”
Naturally, Paultin spun the conversation to Evelyn in a different tone.
“I had to get a bit rude, but I managed to get us dinner and drinks for the night. That’s cool, right?”
“Sure,” Evelyn sighed. “Paultin, it is getting late and I am wiped out. A bed is a bed.”
“Of course, but first, a quick dinner,” Paultin insisted. “Niven’s treat.”
The dinner was wonderful. Pheasant cooked over a fire, with rosemary bread and turnips on the side. Paultin asked the bartender to keep the drinks coming throughout the meal. Evelyn was drinking as well, having regained some spunk after some food and hospitality. That spunk slowly turned to an uneasy feeling.
“Paultin, how many drinks have I had?”
“No idea. Not counting ales tonight. Drink as much as you’d like, Miss Manager.”
“No, I mean,” Evelyn panted as she loosened the top buttons of her blouse, “it is hot in here suddenly. Really hot.”
Niven came over to happily fill their drinks. “How is everything, my friends?”
“Delicious! It’s just a tad warm in here,” Evelyn offered.
“Ah, I see. I might offer that it could be the drinks affecting you,” he grinned.
Paultin smiled slyly at Evelyn, a look she ignored.
“Um, Niven, how many times have you filled my drink?”
“Oh, about seven or so. If you are in a competition with your associate here, however, you haven’t been able to quite keep up.”
As he walked off, Evelyn looked at her newly filled mug. She began to fan herself with a napkin.
“A swig of ale might cool you down,” Paultin teased.
“Ugh.” Evelyn pushed back from the table. “I am going to bed.”
The bard watched as his companion fluttered off to their room. Niven scurried back over.
“My friend, I know this is short notice, but are you available for a booking tomorrow night?”
Paultin cocked his head to the side. Niven was looking a bit fuzzy. “Depends.”
“I have not gotten the full details, but one of the patrons here tonight may want to book you for a wedding.”
“Last minute planning?”
“So to speak, but they promise it will be worth your time. I will have more details in the morning.”
Paultin agreed to discuss the matter further with his manager in the morning. As Niven cleared the table, Paultin stood up and staggered to the room.
The next morning, the couple woke up late. The window was still wide open from when the overheated paladin tried to get cooled down. Her side of the bed was soaked with sweat. Paultin thought is was gross, but humorous.
“Never again,” Evelyn muttered. She winced as she grabbed for her head.
“Sunshine isn’t so welcome this morning, is it? That’s an amateur move, my friend.”
Paultin reached over and patted her head before he headed down to breakfast. The normally morning-loving Evelyn mustered the strength to freshen up, said her prayers, and followed him a bit later.
Niven was ready with that evening’s performance details: just three romantic songs, twice the pay of the previous evening.
Paultin tried to speak up, but his manager interrupted him.
“Niven, we love weddings! Love is the most important thing in this world, and this is a fine offer, as well. He will be glad to grace this wedding with his musical gift,” Evelyn happily insisted. “We accept.”
The tavern owner advised the interested parties would be arriving around noon. He then departed to tend to other guests. Paultin turned to Evelyn with an annoyed look.
“Do you always speak for me?”
“Duh. I am your manager. I know your schedule, and you were free tonight. We can leave a day later than planned.” Evelyn left it at that as began to devour a newly-arrived order of waffles and fruit.
Deep down, Paultin secretly loved when the paladin took charge. Like so many things between them, he just didn’t want her to know.
Some time later, the wedding planner arrived with the funds and play list. The songs were extremely common, so little rehearsal was needed. Evelyn inquired about the handsome fee offered.
“Yes, sure,” the planner began, clearing her throat. “These families are eccentric and rich. They liked the performance last night. The couple first met here, so they thought it would be nice to get married here. Things sort of fell in place to favor everyone.”
Evelyn nodded excitedly. Paultin interrupted.
“Are we then welcome to be part of the ceremonies, refreshments and all?”
“Naturally,” the planner advised. “In fact, I have been advised to have you by a new performance suit as well. Spare no expense.”
With that, Evelyn took to the city to find some wedding-appropriate threads, while Paultin headed upstairs to practice.
The wedding was beautiful. The tavern had been transformed into a floral extravaganza. Evelyn has never seen so many flowers in one room in her life. Paultin wore a dark purple and gold suit that made him look like all the wealth in Faerun. He had moved people to tears with his singing. Evelyn, having already been handed a few glasses of champagne before the service began, was entranced. Watching him perform was one of her greatest joys. She had always been open about how she loved his performances.
Evelyn had long ago accepted that her love for Paultin would have to serve as a basis for friendship instead of romance. She knew he did not return her feelings, and she had arrived at a place where she was okay with that. Oh, but weddings were just so romantic...
“So, it was a good one, huh?”
Paultin and Evelyn had moved to a small table on the outskirts of what was now the dance floor. They were exchanging drunken glances. Evelyn stumbled over her words.
“You know I love to watch you… perform.”
The pair were constantly interrupted by adoring guests who brought them drinks. Paultin drank almost everything he was presented with. Evelyn continued to drink as well, mostly some cherry wine that she really enjoyed. The more she drank, the more she sapplily commented on the dancing couples and how attractive or happy they looked.
Paultin turned to Evelyn. He smiled at how much she was babbling on about the wedding, but his eyes soon turned to her new dress. She looked too good to not show her off a bit.
Paultin finally extended his hand for a dance. He led Evelyn to an intimate area of the dance floor. It was extremely apparent that both had overindulged in alcohol, but they fit in with many intoxicated couples already on the floor. They held tight to each other as they swayed, trying to keep one another upright.
“That dress,” Paultin said in his best drunken sexy voice. “You look fantastic.”
Evelyn was practically shouting in her inebriated state. “Isn't it so pretty? The planner said I should get a cute outfit since my white dress… you don’t wear white to a wedding. Oh! Unless you’re the bride. Then you can!”
“These outfits match. They make us look like a couple,” Paultin slurred.
“I picked complementary colors for us, being your manager and all. We look like a package deal.”
“We could be, you know.”
“We could be… complementary?”
“You have complimented me for years.”
“Paultin, I love to compliment your performance,”
“You could do that forever. I could also compliment you forever,” he continued, his own voice beginning to rise in volume. “I wanna compliment you right now.”
He looked her up and down. “All of this, it’s all I have ever wanted. Why not go for it?”
Evelyn agreed aggressively. “Yes! We absolutely should go for… go for what exactly?”
“Marry me,” the bard whispered in her ear. Paultin looked at the rings on his hand, and selected one. Evelyn watched as he struggled to get the chosen jeweled ring off of his pinky finger. Once he did, Paultin held it up between them.
“With this ring, I wanna compliment you. Forever.”
Evelyn had often imagined how she wanted an individual would propose marriage to her. She was unable to think of even one of those scenarios in her inebriated state.
“Yeah... yeah, okay! Let’s go for it,” she nodded happily. “I wanna compliment you right now and always.”
The next morning brought sunshine creeping through the window over the nude bodies of the couple. It was the only witness to the calamity that unfolded as they woke up. After some gasping, covering themselves, and comparing notes on what they recalled, they found they had immense hangovers, gaps in their memories and rings on their hands. As Evelyn shyly dressed and began to perform her (panicked) morning prayers, a disheveled Paultin went down to talk with Niven.
“Well. If it isn’t the other happy groom,” Niven chucked.
Paultin’s eyes grew wide at that phrase.
“Getting married during another wedding...that might not be seen as appropriate normally,” Niven offered with a cut of his eyes, “but those folks last night were more than happy to get two ceremonies in. Now, that’s a crowd that loves to party.”
A few of the remaining guests were having breakfast. Some of them waved at Paultin as they whispered excitedly to their table companions about the previous night.
“Uh… we got married,” Paultin started. “Yes. Right, that happened, but… but maybe it was just a prank?”
“The officiant you paid didn’t think so. You couldn’t keep your hands off of each other! You went out and got rings because you said people had to know that it was real, remember? Your bride carried you up the steps to your room. Such a strong gal!”
Niven’s laughter fell away as grew quiet in response to Paultin’s reaction.
“Rush into something, my friend?”
Paultin had already bolted back upstairs to their room.
“Then, I had a panic attack, and you apologized a lot. You then told me we could get it annulled,” Evelyn said as she traced the lines on the back of Paultin’s left hand. She leaned on his shoulder, as he nuzzled her hair. “So, we decided to get an annulment, but we couldn’t see anyone to get it done because of the weekend.”
“I remember,” Paultin chimed in. “I said, ‘Well, now wait. I got married to my best friend and biggest fan. Things could be worse, let’s try it out’.”
“I thought that was the least and the most romantic thing you could say at that point. We made our way back to Waterdeep, and decided to play it off like it was something we planned. From then on, we were this married couple that had never dated or anything.”
“We really did just sort of played house until we got it right, huh?”
Evelyn shook her head. “I hate that expression, you know. It wasn’t play, it was work. It changed everything! The adventuring jobs we took, the gigs we took, how we lived…”
“How we loved?” Paultin gave her a sneer with a little growling noise. Evelyn giggled.
“Oh? You think I forgot about that? I’m older, granted, but my memory doesn’t forget certain things.”
“Mrs. Seppa, I am having trouble recalling certain parts of our romance. Perhaps, you could be troubled to remind me?”
“Ha! With an old man like you?”
Paultin’s shocked expression made Evelyn dissolve into laughter. She stood up, and fluttered towards the bedroom. Evelyn cast a mischievous look over her shoulder at her husband.
“Care to join me, old coot?”