Tarno and Urla get married.
The next morning, Tarno dressed in his best clothes. Clia and her man helped move Tarno’s good linens and his dishes and spoons to the confraternity’s hall. Clia and two of the widows had been cooking there, after Tarno paid for the food, and the marriage feast would be held there. Given that he was a widower marrying a woman without dower, only a few members of the confraternity and Clia’s family would join him and Urla’s family. When he’d married Annaka, things had been far larger with much longer celebrations. To do so now? Not wise, especially since he was marrying outside the walls. Keeping things quiet and modest would be better for the peace. And for his household expenses, but everyone knew that.
Tarno got the boys ready as well. The three of them took their time walking to the smaller temple of Donwah in the salters’ district. A great-hauler cart stood outside the temple, carrying an ornate wooden chest. Tarno nodded. Hepsha waited with the birds, talking to them. The lead female’s crest ruffled then settled. The young woman stroked the bird’s neck, peered into the water trough, and walked into the temple. Urla’s family had arrived first, on order to show the contract to the priest or priestess and to confirm that yes, they had agreed to the match, since Urla was not a self-supporting woman of the city.
Hands shaking the tiniest bit, Tarno opened the temple door and led his sons in. They bowed to the goddess. Rand Graber, Widow Dalman, and a few others waited with Urla’s family. Urla herself stood off to the side with her mother. Urla’s soft red-brown hair hung loose under a crown of late-season flowers and a few crimson and gold leaves. She wore a creamy white blouse under a heavily embroidered green and brown bodice. The patterns repeated on her dark brown skirt. Two priests waited with the others. A priestess of Donwah, as Tarno had anticipated, but also a priest of Gember.
Tarno steered the boys so that they stood with the salters. The priests moved so that they stood together before Donwah’s altar. “Tarno Halson come forth,” the priestess called. Tarno did as commanded.
“Urla Dorsdatter Erbstman come forth,” the priest of Gember said. Urla’s mother moved clear and her daughter approached the clergy. She stopped, facing Tarno. Urla looked nervous. “Urla, do you come into this marriage of your own free will, not coerced or under threat?”
“I come of my own free will.” Her voice shook the least bit.
The priest smiled. “Good.” Urla relaxed.
Donwah’s priestess nodded to Tarno. “Do you come into this marriage of your own free will?”
“I come of my own free will.”
The priestess raised her voice and called, “Any man or woman with just and true claim against this marriage, speak now and show forth your witnesses, or abide in silence.”
A cart clattered past in the road outside the closed doors. Someone sneezed. Otherwise silence. The silence grew longer. Donton rustled.
“That’s what I thought,” Gember’s priest muttered under his breath. He eased off to the side, away from the priestess. Tarno wanted to turn and look a question to Rand Graber, but held still. He’d hear all about it later, like as not.
Donwah’s priestess turned and removed a length of blue-dyed linen cord from atop the altar. She turned cleared her throat. “Masters and mistresses, Goodman and Goodwife, Tarno Halson and Urla Erbstman stand before you, seeking to join their households in marriage. The gods decreed marriage as an honorable and noble condition, for it is not good for man or woman to be alone, without comfort and support. It is not good for children to be without guidance and discipline, without care and affection. For these reasons, the gods bless those who join together in the sight of witnesses, pledging their loyalty and honor to each other.”
The veiled priestess turned to Tarno. Despite the veil, he felt her eyes lock with his, as if she could see inside his heart. “Tarno, do you take Urla to be your wife, to protect and cherish, to care for and support, to guide and honor, so long as life is in you?”
The priestess turned to Urla. “Urla, do you take Tarno to be your husband, to support and cherish, to care for and obey, to advise and honor, so long as life is in you?”
“Tarno and Urla, step forward.” They did as ordered. “Tarno, repeat after me. I, Tarno,”
“Take you, Urla, to be my honored wife.”
“Take you, Urla, to be my honored wife.”
The priestess tied one end of the cord around his left wrist. Then she turned to Urla. “Urla, repeat after me. I, Urla.”
A soft voice said, “I, Urla.”
“Take you, Tarno, to be my honored husband.”
With more confidence, Urla repeated, “Take you, Tarno, to be my honored husband.”
The priestess tied the other end of the cord to Urla’s right wrist. “With this cord, you are now one in honor and family. With this cord, you are bound into one life, in good times and in bad, in sickness and health. You move together into life as one, no longer under the protection of parents but under the protection of each other. As many waters mingle into one river, so too do your families mingle into one marriage.”
She raised her hands. “Friends, family of the bride and groom, I call upon you to support and counsel this man and woman. Give them aid in times of need, comfort in times of sorrow. Rejoice with them in times of joy. Speak words of caution and advice when such is warranted and requested.”
Tarno bit the tip of his tongue against a smile, because he knew exactly what the priestess had in mind. If Urla’s expression told truth, so did she.
“Will you do as charged, Donwah as your witness?” the priestess demanded.
“We will,” and “yes,” rose from the group.
“What the gods have blessed, let no man tear asunder.” The priestess lowered her hands. She took Tarno and Urla’s hands and joined them. “Before the Lady of Waters and the Lady of Grain, before these witnesses, I declare you man and wife. Be blessed in all that you do, and may the gods smile on your household and family.”
Tarno and Urla bowed together, then faced each other. He kissed her, carefully. The priestess untied the cord. Goodman Erbstman bowed and gave the marriage contract to the priestess to keep with the marriage cord in the temple records.
Everyone except Tarno and Goodman Erbstman walked to the salters confraternity as a group. The men took the great-hauler cart and went to Tarno’s house. There they left the bridal chest. Tarno didn’t yelp when he took the weight as his father-in-law eased the chest out of the cart, but he wanted to. Had Urla been sent with pots and pans? It almost felt that heavy. The two men carried it with great care into the house and set it at the foot of the large bed. Anneka’s chest had been given to the temple of Rella for the use of a young woman who could not afford a chest. Anneka’s mother had agreed and had given some fine linen to help the young woman, whoever it might be, begin gathering her bridal portion. By giving the chest to a temple not aligned with either family, it might reduce fears of ill-fortune. Tarno did not inquire about the contents of Urla’s chest.
“She’s your problem now,” Dor said with a wide grin. He slapped Tarno on the back. “Not that she was much trouble for me and her mother, mind.” The grin vanished. “But if you lay hands on her in anger, and I hear of it . . . “
Tarno drew himself up. “Dor, I refuse to raise my hand against a woman, especially a women of my house. I don’t agree with hitting a woman or girl in anger, unless she strikes first and with ill intent.”
“Good. I didn’t think you were that kind, but my father ended my younger sister’s betrothal after her intended left her with a broken wrist and bruises on her face.”
“Good for him,” Tarno growled. If the man had done that to his betrothed, what would he do after the marriage? Tarno took a long breath. “Shall we join the others and see if they left anything of the feast?”
“Aye. If Kyle and Donton are the way I was at their age, we’ll find naught but crumbs and a sop of gravy left.”
That night, Tarno sent Kyle and Donton to stay with their cousins. What with Urla being a maid, he didn’t want any more eyes in the house to make her uncomfortable. He wanted her, oh so wanted her, but slow and gentle now would prevent fear later. He let her undress while he saw to the back gate and brought more wood into the house. Then he locked the doors and joined her in bed.
The next morning, he gave her a silver chain that had belonged to his mother as a morning gift. She kissed him and gave him a warm vest of black-dyed schaef wool embroidered in white, and a pair of heavy wool socks. Then she set about making breakfast.
(C) 2021 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved