In Port Naain, people get married. This can be done comparatively simply and cheaply at the Hall of Records. All the happy couple need do is sign the paperwork, pay over one vintenar, and you are married. Notice of the wedding is posted widely on various official noticeboards and anybody who objects, like another spouse, has a month to raise formal objection. The objection is investigated and if upheld, the marriage is void and one or both parties may then be prosecuted for bigamy, or other offences.
Still, these problems are not everyday occurrences and most marriages cause no administrative complications. Indeed even the couple who cannot afford a vintenar need have no fears. There is a small charitable fund which will pay the money. So no couple can claim they cannot afford the paperwork. There is little ceremony, the clerk filling the forms in will normally congratulate the couple, but frankly on busy days they might forget even this small gesture.
That being said, there are those who, for whatever reason, want to get married in a shrine or temple. At the Shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm, we do a number of weddings. I must say that when seen from the perspective of a temple warden they can be problematic.
To be honest, the male participants of the ceremony rarely cause problems. Their wives/daughters/whatever can normally be relied upon to get them to the temple at least comparatively sober and properly dressed. Fathers can cause more sadness in their absence than by their presence. I remember one case where the father genuinely couldn’t be present. Through no fault of his own he was trapped many hundreds of miles away. His daughter walked down the aisle, slim, beautiful and alone. We arranged for a miniaturist to paint the scene so that her father could have something to remember it by.
On the other hand, brides and their mothers can be problematic. One bride was initially supposed to be married in a different shrine, but for reasons never entirely explained, moved the ceremony to us. It had to be at a different time, an hour earlier. This the bride said would be entirely suitable. Unfortunately she also had an appointment to get her hair ‘done’ before the ceremony and the hairdresser, ridiculously busy, couldn’t alter that appointment. So the young woman kept that appointment, had her hair done and seemed most put out when we were vexed because she was over an hour late when she arrived with us.
Another young woman, a man-at-arms, was marrying her true love who also served under one of the great condottieri. She had initially contemplated them being married in full armour. Now I can understand the temptation. Given that many if not all the guests would be in the same profession, the temple would have been a riot of colour, polished steel, heraldic banners, emblazoned surcoats, and the like.
The problem, can you imagine what all those hard steel edges would have done to the woodwork? We eventually managed to talk her down to having them wearing light travelling mail. Still martial, but more likely to be covered with tabards and similar.
Then she had the walk down the aisle to consider. I agree it was an entirely appropriate idea to have some sort of military march or bugle call. Not only that, but between ourselves I can understand her being unwilling to stand at the end of the aisle, waiting for the interminable music to finish because the musician has another three trills and flourishes to put in before they feel they have paid suitable homage to their art. Still, few brides go as far as having a piece commissioned of exactly the right length. She then had her mother stand with a drawn sword behind the musicians as they played to ensure matters went smoothly.
Still, at least with the bride wearing full body armour, or even mail, there is not the risk of something ‘falling out’ during the service. Obvious fashions come and go, and I have seen many brides look utterly radiant wearing something with a high neck. Some would argue that this style flatters the slimmer lady. But as I said, fashions come and go, necklines rise and fall, and the issue of embonpoint arises.
The problem is, in all candour, less to do with fashion than it is to do with engineering. We are all cognisant of the use of the cantilever and such structural underpinnings. It appears that some dressmakers are less firm with their clients than they should be, and some brides seem to feel that because they don’t intend to make any sudden movements, they will escape the consequences of gravity.
There again, brides are often young and hopefully very much in love. So much can be forgiven them, even by the most cynical and embittered temple warden. Their mothers on the other hand, lack both of these excuses. They have their own agendas.
You get the mother who sees her daughter’s wedding as mother’s chance to repay the hospitality she has enjoyed over the years. Thus the bride and groom look out over a horde of three hundred guests, none of whom they know, but who are friends of their parents, friends of friends of their parents, that nice couple who invited us to that delightful drinks party, and similar such undesirables.
Then you get the mother of the bride, whose own mother doubtless ‘took over’ the management of her wedding. Thus she, in her turn, takes over her daughter’s wedding because she is determined she is going to organise one. The bride, biting her tongue, swears vengeance and will in her turn provoke her own daughters to silent fury.
Then you have the ‘artist’ who sees the creation of the ‘perfect wedding’ as her manifest destiny. Everything must be perfect, no expense is to be spared. May Aea have mercy on those who inadvertently cause a hiccup in her plans. We were discussing one wedding where the bride’s mother, as she left the temple after the rehearsal, commented that her daughter would be a princess for a day. Maljie immediately did some back of the envelope calculations and we came to the conclusion that had mother put the money into hiring a mercenary company or two, the girl could have become a princess in fact, and for a lesser cost!
Then we had the mother who wanted us to have scantily clad mendicants, posing as cherubs and similar, scattering rose petals in front of the bridal party. At this point you ought to check you have the correct shrine. We all do things differently and some things fit better with one shrine than with another.
Thus whilst you might not immediately think of holding a wedding at the Shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Chastity, in reality they do a really beautiful wedding. They will not do it for everybody, and will discuss matters with the bride and groom in considerable depth. But if they decide to allow you to hold your wedding there, it will be a very touching occasion. Normally both bride and groom are blushing, the whole service is gentle, even affectionate, and there is never any charge.
On the other hand, if you go to the Temple of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Fertility the ceremony will be entirely different. Dancers will lasciviously cavort around flower bedecked lingams, and should the bride be obviously pregnant or the couple already have children, this will be celebrated joyously.
With us at the Shrine of Aea in Her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm, the name contains a hint. Yet mothers ignore this as they ignore anything else that might get in the way of their perfect wedding. Yet we have standards. Instead of scantily clad mendicants scattering rose petals, the mother of the bride got Maljie. She stomped along the aisle, in full regalia. She flicked petals to the right and left with considerable vehemence, using a ceremonial rose petal shovel we had borrowed from a somewhat more frivolous shrine. Indeed I saw members of the congregation flinch as she cast the petals in their direction. From her attitude you might have assumed the rose petals had sharpened edges and every mother of the bride who had ever crossed us was a valid target. Still the father of the bride seemed to enjoy it, he struggled to keep his face straight and later that day a couple of bottles of a rather excellent wine arrived ‘for the Temple Wardens.’
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As a reviewer commented, “
I am a fan of the writing of the very English, Jim Webster. Although his books are set in the fantasy Port Naain, there is a strong and delightful flavour of the best of English life and humour that flow threw in all of this author’s works.
Poor Laxey finds himself firmly entwined in the objectives of Maljie, and everything he does and every punishment that comes down on his surprised head as a result of his foolish actions, is exploited for personal gain by the dexterous Maljie.
Maljie, a strong and determined woman, who lets nothing, with emphasis on that nothing, stand in the way of her achievements, has taken ill. The ill fated, Laxey, who just cannot keep himself out of trouble, is tasked with travelling to a distant mountain monastery in the Aphices Mountains in search of a therapy for her ailment. Laxey’s journey is full of surprises, the greatest one being what happens when he arrives. He does, however, make it back to Maljie to enjoy another day. He brings her a tonic wine from a monk, but this does not stop Maljie from seeking her own interesting cures, including covering her painful area with a concoction made from a hot spice, called The Devil’s Pomatum. Having applied this exotic mixture, she sets off to attend a public hanging with rather unexpected consequences.
Maljie is a fascinating character as she manipulates her way through life, taking advantage of unexpected accidents and career opportunities to progress her goals. This is the first book in the Maljie series and I thoroughly enjoyed this new and spicy character, all the more because she is female and keep everyone, male and female, who crosses her path very firmly in their place. She is not past resorting to getting rid of unwanted people and disposing of their remains in the most peculiar places. Building alterations take on a whole new purpose when Maljie is around.
I recommend this highly entertaining short read for people who enjoy fantasy and a jolly good laugh and the lighter side of life … and death too.”