â€œI feel like a piece of meat.â€ Serafin looked down at her pristine white dress, draped around her in a curtain of ivory floss, and shook her head. Reaching down, she tugged surreptitiously at the brocade around her chest, trying to pull it higher. Matron Tula slapped her hand away, and fussily restored the dress to its original dimensions.
â€œYou wanted to marry a god.â€ The matron looked over her charge with a grim expression, as though it were she who was marrying Serafin. Walking around, she pulled the corset tighter, eliciting a small gasp from her charge. â€œWhat did you expect?â€
â€œWant is a bit strong, matron. Letâ€™s settle for â€˜willing.â€™ Itâ€™s not as though I have any other prospects, and how would I say no to a god?.â€ Serafin shook her head at the elaborate dress. â€œWhere did you even find silk? I know I certainly canâ€™t afford it.â€ She paused. â€œAnd why does anyone need a fourth wife, anyway?â€
â€œDress came from the castle, silly. And heâ€™s a god. Might as well ask why he doesnâ€™t spin a wife out of the wind, like one of those little chuckling things that fly around.â€ The Matron shrugged expansive shoulders, then stepped back to regard Serafin. She smiled broadly, wiping away a tear. â€œThere! Youâ€™re a beautiful little angel, my Serafin.â€
More accurately, thought Serafin, catching sight of herself in the matronâ€™s mirror, she looked like a doll. Although she wasnâ€™t short, she was thin, with pale skin and black hair â€“ a legacy of her parents, who had come to the Scavenger Lands from the Blessed Isle, dying during the Realm invasion the year before and leaving her in the care of a merchant who dropped her unceremoniously in the carehouse when passing through town. It was lucky, she reflected, that Hazelburn even had one of those, or she might be a slave right now, or worse. Still, it left her with few attachments and fewer friends, and when word came that the god was taking a fourth wife, she decided to try her luck and join the other hopeful women lining up to watch him pass by.
She had been as surprised as anyone when he paused, striding along, and stepped up to her â€“ more surprised, perhaps, because she did the unthinkable and met his eyes, not even considering the disrespect suggested. He regarded her for a moment, and then smiled broadly. â€œYour Sword is powerful, young lady. Who are you?â€
â€œS-Serafin, my lord.â€ It was the first time she had seen him up close, and his aura was almost overpowering. Inhumanly beautiful, he made her want to spend her life just watching his perfect movements.
â€œWell, Lady Serafin, will you be my bride?â€
â€œYes, my lord. Thank you.â€ She had finally remembered to lower her eyes, as he leaned forwards and kissed her forehead. The crowd murmured with a mixture of joy and envy as he continued on his way.
Now, however, away from his overpowering presence, she was having second thoughts. It had been six months since his first bride went to live with him, and one month since the third, and they rarely came into town or talked with their old friends. And what if the god didnâ€™t like her?
â€œYou must remember not to ask so many questions, dear.â€ The matron led her towards the door, chattering nervously herself. â€œIt is well and good for us, but a god has many things more important than the questions of a lowly mortal â€“ even a wife. And be pleasant. Donâ€™t offend him.â€ The carriage awaited outside â€“ a finely-spun contraption of glass and crystal, pulled by a pair of deer, with no driver. It seemed as though half the town was present to watch, hundreds of people gathered to gawk and whisper and cheer. Serafin looked over them a moment, and wondered how many of them would truly wish to trade places with her, and how many only thought they would. Then she turned and kissed the matron.
â€œI will be most respectful, Madame Tulin. And I will visit, I promise.â€
â€œOh, youâ€™ll soon have better things to do, my dear.â€ Tulin wiped away more tears. â€œGo along. Your husband awaits.â€ She shuffled backwards, waving and smiling and crying. Serafin turned, looked at the waiting coach, and then climbed carefully into it. Within moments, it was rolling smoothly along the ground, heading up the hillside to the castle of the god, towards the setting sun, leaving her old life behind.
He was waiting for her at the gates, as the coach drew to a stop. He stepped up to take her hand, kissing it lightly, and smiled with the radiance of sun. She felt her misgivings washing away. â€œYou are radiant, my dear.â€
â€œThank you, your Grace.â€ She bobbed a curtsey, and he smiled. Reaching into his cloak, he came out with a necklace, and she gasped with awe at its beauty. Rubies and silver glittered along its length, catching the light with a glow that almost seemed to come from within.
â€œIt pales before your own beauty, but I hope that you will have it.â€ Sweeping around, he gently swept the necklace around her neck, and gently snapped it closed behind her. She felt the strength of his presence, and something more, a warmth settling into her in a pleasant way that she could not describe. As he did, she felt herself blushing, and didnâ€™t try to stop. Then, the necklace was on, and he stepped back.
â€œIâ€™m sure that you are most overwhelmed.â€ With a snap of his fingers, a wind gathered in the courtyard, taking on a faintly humanoid shape. â€œMy servants will lead you to your bedroom, and you may meet the other residents of this castle. It has, after all, been a day of many stresses and changes for you, I imagine.â€
â€œOhâ€¦ of course, my Lord.â€ Serafin curtsied again. When she rose, he was gone, and the sense of his presence was muted, faint. She frowned bemusedly.
After a moment, she spoke. â€œThatâ€™s it?â€