Chapter Ten: Union
"She's not coming," said Myret.
"Somehow, I don't think you mean Cousin Lyra," said Gyre, sighing and looking out the window. The window in his apartment looked out on a scraggly little courtyard, full of plants that weren't supposed to be there and the surrounding buildings' garbage bins.
"I don't remember a Lyra on either of the guest lists," said Ehail frantically, seizing the list of people to send invitations to once they pinned down a date and a location. She wasn't under Family as expected for a cousin, nor misplaced under Friends with Gyre's old Master and former co-apprentices and favorite neighbors and Ludei.
"Shh, it's okay," said Gyre weakly. "I've got a Cousin Lyra, but I've never met her and she lives very far away. I never thought she'd come."
"Oh." Ehail put the list down and looked at Myret. "You mean your mother."
Myret nodded, mouth set in a frown. "Yes, that's who I mean. I told Father, he told her, he said she agonized, but then finally she said that if you want to get married without her you can, and Father said that he told her you didn't want to but you would if she couldn't change her mind about Rhysel and magic and wizards and stuff - this isn't a direct quote, mind - and that she'd better hurry up because if he knows anything about you, once you hear that she's not going to change to watch you get married you'll have you and Ehail set up in a cute little house in Elcenia -"
"A cute big house," interrupted Gyre, though his heart wasn't in it.
"Fine, a big house with lots of room for grandkids she'll never get to meet, because if he knows anything about you, it's that you decide to do things and then you don't wait around forever like how Batai and Karyn had their silly four-year engagement, and so if Mother wants to watch it happen she doesn't have very long to change her mind, right?" Myret continued.
"And?" Gyre breathed.
"And then Father said, that Mother said, 'We'll see who knows our boy better. He doesn't love aberrations in the natural order more than he loves his mother.'"
A silence fell. There was a lump in Ehail's throat that she couldn't swallow.
"Well," Gyre said.
"We could wait -" Ehail whispered.
"Myret, do you think Grandmother would stand in for Mother during the first dances?" he said, looking up. "I don't know where Mother got her attitudes but at least it wasn't from her parents."
"I think Grandma would be willing to do that," said Myret.
"Good. I should write her and let her know I need to ask, so she can brush up on her dance steps if she has to. Speaking of which, Ehail, I should be helping you practice, too. I might invite Jenner over for a while. He's the better dancer and probably the better teacher. How fast do you think you can pick it up?"
Ehail remembered dance lessons from ages ago a world away. "If I'm mostly doing that and not other things, pretty fast," she said.
"All right. I'll write to Jenner too." He was making notes on another sheet of paper, a to-do list. "The bracelets are designed; I think we're both happy with the design, right?"
"So I'll get started on making those. I think I can have them finished in four, five days if I put off some nonessential other work. We can write up invitations - My, will you help? You and your nice apothecary's handwriting?"
"'Course I will," said Myret. "Nobody will mix up their wedding invitation with their sedative powder on my shift. But if I fall over twitching having flashbacks to penmanship lessons from my apprenticeship that's your fault, you know. 'Bad letters kill! Bad letters kill!'" she screeched in what was probably an impression of her former Master.
"Ryll will perform the ceremony," murmured Gyre. There was a tension in his neck but he'd otherwise stopped betraying distress about his mother's stubbornness. "So that's handled, don't have to fuss finding a celebrant. The Senate's in session now, but not for much longer - it'd be kinder to her to set a date during their next recess. We need to figure out the house. Rhysel said she'd build us a house, you mentioned earlier?"
"She insisted that we let her build us a house," Ehail said. "She said if we didn't let her build us a house she would mope for days and never forgive us. I think that's a little extreme..."
"She was pushing you to accept, Ehail, not making threats," said Gyre with a faint smile. "So we need to buy some land for Rhysel to put a house on. Ehail, can you make me a batch of diamonds, all colors, look like so?" He sketched a shape on his to-do list. "This is actual size. And then I can make a big batch of solitaire rings - boring work, but with conjurations I can underbid competitors, and sell them to a mail-order company that sells a lot of boring samey jewelry, and have a lump sum big enough to buy a plot and pay for the wedding. Rather than taking out a loan, which I'm probably going to want to do later to buy more shren scales anyway, and I don't want to go unmanageably into debt."
"I can make as many diamonds as you need," Ehail said.
"I'll ask Tennel to take care of the music," Gyre said, scribbling. "And Mo- and Cousin Laryn to take care of the food. I think his restaurant caters, doesn't it?"
"Yeah," said Myret. "One of my old co-prentices throws parties every Ascendancy Day and orders from Laryn's place every time. Threatens to start worshipping Laryn as a deity, and me as a priestess of his church for recommending his food. I keep telling him, that's how you get gods on your doorstep sharpening the spikes on their clubs, but does he listen?"
"So Laryn'll be able to do the food without... help," said Gyre. Ehail lifted her hand to rub the taut muscles in his neck.
"You need wedding outfits," Myret said.
"Right. I wonder if Rhysel's sister-in-law who did hers and Tekaal's takes commissions from more dubiously related people? We can pay her - doesn't have to be a favor - but I did like her work," Gyre said.
"The outfits were pretty," agreed Ehail. "But they might take a long time to have made custom."
"We could just buy from a store," admitted Gyre. "I don't really care what your dress looks like as long as you're in it, dear heart."
Ehail kissed him below his nearer ear. "I can ask Rhysel to ask her sister-in-law about how long it would take, though."
They carried on fussing about wedding preparation. Gyre's to-do list stretched longer, and Ehail started one of her own, beginning with conjure diamonds that look like so and ending with invite Ludei.
"Fix us" wasn't anywhere on the list. That was in other hands for the time being, and she would start work on it again after she had just one thing for just one shren.
Ehail had never expected to see Arylla again.
She didn't recognize the elf at first. Arylla was still an elf, and still a brunette, and hadn't gone shopping for new, less provocative outfits since her sentencing, but everything else was different. The excess makeup was gone, her posture didn't make anything more conspicuous than the dress managed all by itself, and she entered the shop with her eyes downcast and her empty hands clasped before her.
Ehail, standing in front of Gyre's till counter, turned into a tiger anyway. Her tail lashed of its own accord. Arylla flinched.
"What are you doing here?" asked Gyre, exasperated but unheated. He wasn't even afraid of her. Maybe he knew more about kamai personality modification than Ehail did.
"I'm sorry," Arylla said. "I'm so sorry. And I told my brother he should sell gems to anyone who wants to buy them. And I'm sorry. That's all I wanted to say. I'll never bother you again."
Arylla turned around, and went out of the shop.
"She's so different," Ehail murmured.
"Around us, at least," Gyre said. "I expect there are large parts of her unaffected - but I never got to see those."
"What did the kama do?"
"Found what patterns were making her behave badly," said Gyre. "Interrupted them. Those things - I guess in Arylla's case, extortion and harassment and assault - are unthinkable to her now. She's completely harmless - if you'd attacked her she wouldn't even be able to defend herself. But she does remember what she did. So I suppose she wanted to apologize for doing the unthinkable. Maybe she behaves completely normally around her friends or her parents, I wouldn't have any way to know."
Ehail turned human-shaped again. "Oh," she said softly.
Gyre walked around the counter to fold her up in a hug. "I don't think she's incapable of lying, but I'm pretty sure she really will never bother us again," he said gently.
She nodded, looking at the door of the shop.
"Late Pyrmaesest? Early Penmaesest?" said Gyre.
"That's so soon," Ehail said. "Is it enough time?"
Gyre took her right hand, reached into his pocket, and slipped two matching emerald-studded silver chains onto her wrist and reclasped the ends to sit snugly. "These are done," he said with a warm smile, and he pulled up his right sleeve to reveal his heavier pair. "The mail-order catalog fellow's head nearly exploded when I told him how cheaply I could make solitaires and he wants fifty. I can churn them out fast and have enough money to pay for everything by a month from now - Barashin month. The hall we picked is open a few of the relevant dates. I have a list."
Ehail consulted the table she'd made comparing Aristan time to Elcenian time and Gyre's list. "Morning of Penmaesest 5? That's the afternoon of Komehel 26. Everyone will be awake."
"Sounds good," Gyre said. "Myret's nearly done addressing and writing out all the invitations except for the date. I'll get her to fill that in and we can get everything in the mail."
"I wanted to ask you something," Ehail said.
"Anything, dear heart," said Gyre.
"When we get married - maybe as part of the ceremony if we can work it in or right after - can I have a syllable from your name?" she asked.
"Of course - but - you'll have to tell me how that works," he said sheepishly.
"It's simple," she assured him. "You can pick any syllable from any part of your name, whatever you think would sound nicest. Then you say my whole name with the syllable added to the end - so, three syllables. I could write it down if you needed it but I don't think you will," she said. "And then that's my name. You can't give away the same syllable to anyone else but you can give away other ones."
"Of course. I think we can work that into the wedding. We do say each other's names," he said.
"I love you," murmured Ehail.
"I love you too," returned Gyre, and he kissed her.
"This is the place? It's so nice," Rhysel said.
"It's a chunk of a rezoned park," Gyre said. "The realtor you recommended found it for us. Good and close to the circle so Ehail doesn't have to teleport me there every day. Plenty of yard. Neighbor families in walking distance but not all crowded in like most people here seem to live."
"It must have been astronomically expensive," Rhysel said. "It's so pretty. My garden might be about as complex by this point but I put it there since I moved in and yours just comes with the place. I can't even decide where to put your house that won't kill some lovely plant."
"It wasn't all that bad. People stopped coming to the park because the local pixies were being obnoxious - the pixies are gone now but the owners had already lost too much money. So they sold."
"Can you lift the plants up?" Ehail asked. "Have them growing out of the roof? It would be a strange look but not in a bad way."
"Maybe," said Rhysel. Her tongue stuck out of the corner of her mouth as she surveyed the parcel of park. "I'm going to do this in a few sections. Mind if I have some students watching me for parts of it? Watching and supplying energy?"
"That's fine," said Gyre. "Just don't let them booby-trap the place, please."
"Of course not," said Rhysel, laughing. "I'll have the structure up and furniture ready by Fenen. I can do colors and other detail work as you like after you've been here for a couple of days and had a chance to see how it all works for you."
"You are a spectacular sister," Gyre declared.
"It just seemed like a suitable wedding present," said Rhysel, smiling. "You two deserve a beautiful home."
Rhysel led Ehail through the hall. Across it, Gyre followed his twin. The attendants were in blue, the couple in green, and Ehail was worried she'd trip because she kept stealing looks at Gyre.
Ryll, enrobed in gray and bearing a circlet on her head, stood in front of all the benches filled with Gyre's friends and family and one white-irised shren. The wedding party came to a stop before the Senator.
"Join hands with your intended," said Ryll.
Ehail reached forward and Gyre laced his fingers with hers.
"Gyre and Ehail met at the last wedding I officiated," began Ryll, and then she carried on with the rest of the story of their courtship and engagement. She made it sound so much more like a story than it had felt to Ehail, but she supposed that was part of Ryll's job.
Ryll's speech came to an end, and she went on to the ritualized part of the wedding. "Rhysel," she said. "Is it your belief that Ehail loves Gyre?"
"Yes," Rhysel said, grinning.
"Myret," Ryll said, "is it your belief that Gyre loves Ehail?"
"Yes," said Myret emphatically with an affectionate roll of her eyes.
"Do you agree to stand as witness to this union?" Ryll asked.
"Yes," chorused Myret and Rhysel.
"And is it your belief that they should be wed?"
"Yes," repeated both attendants.
Ryll looked at Gyre. "Gyre Camlenn, you may speak your vows."
"Ehaillenn," he said fervently, and she half-felt a twinge in the back of her mind as her name changed for the first time since she'd been given one. "I love you with all my heart. I am yours, body, mind, and soul, and I swear to be devoted and faithful to you, unwavering, for the rest of our days together. I swear to accept you and everyone and everything that comes with you, with open arms."
"Gyre," she said, and a smile crept unbidden onto her face. "I love you with all my heart. I am yours, body, mind, and soul, and I swear to be devoted and faithful to you, unwavering, for the rest of our days together. I swear to accept you and everyone and everything that comes with you, with open arms."
"I witness these vows, and witness them binding, and let what I have seen joined be joined always," Ryll concluded, touching their hands.
"Always," Gyre whispered, which wasn't part of the ceremony at all, and he dropped Ehail's hands to cup her face and kiss her smile.
Ehail had a cozy little office in the house. It had a window, so she cast only a normal light spell on the ceiling, not a sunglow. She moved out of her shren house office in a few trips. When she came back for her spider plant, one of the childminders looking after those who didn't care to try to be adopted was already using the space for a petulant black's time-out.
She gave half of a communication crystal pair to Ludei, so that he or whoever he delegated to could call her when work needed doing at the house. A moonstone fellow Ehail didn't know well had been equipped with contact lenses and enrolled in the University of Imarnni to study wizardry; eventually Ehail would not be needed to do repair work at the house at all.
Rhysel came over to the flower-roofed house a few evenings a week, and taught Ehail to cook a little at a time, and went with her from room to room in the house changing colors and details of the place and its stone-made contents as called for. She kept getting more and more pregnant, at what she said was roughly the same rate she would expect for a normal halfblood pregnancy. Aar Camlenn (Ehail was newly allowed to call him "Tekaal", but hadn't gotten used to it) was working on a spell to predict due date, as prior spells to do the same were not behaving normally around the interworld twins.
Ehail bought a book of gardening spells and looked after the plants they'd inherited, and encouraged ivy up the sides of the building. She picked up her research again, passing notes to Tekaal at a regular clip. With rigid obedience to recipes, she put together meals with varying levels of success. Her drawings of jungles and topiaries and ferns were slowly collected on the wall of the living room, at Gyre's insistence that they not be discarded.
And there was Gyre himself.
The time zones out of sync meant that at first he went to work at predictable but strange times; finally, he hired an assistant who lived in Aristan City to handle the sales and bookkeeping from five-zero to twelve-zero every day. He went in to actually make things for periods of time that made sense in Elcenia regardless of whether it was noon or midnight in Aristan. Gyre announced that he wished he'd hired an assistant years ago, as he'd never realized quite how annoying minding a store was until he could turn his attentions entirely to jewelrymaking.
Then, every afternoon, he came home to her.
There were a few mirrors in the house, along the stairs and in the bathrooms and across from the big blue-gold sofa, and she kept catching herself smiling. As though that were just something she did. She lost count.
It wasn't as hard to get used to as she might have guessed.
Ehail liked cooking all right as long as Rhysel didn't push her to abandon the comfortable recipes with "substitutions" and "dashes of things" and "cook it until it looks done". She'd secured recipes for all of the things served at her wedding, as they'd all been delicious. She'd then been terrified by their intricacy and Barashi-specific ingredients, and had gotten Rhysel to simplify them for her. Simplified egg soup and simplified flatbread with simplified chicken-and-spinach was on the menu when the doorbell unexpectedly jangled.
"I wonder who that could be," Gyre said. They'd made themselves known to the inhabitants of the nearest house-circles, but none had shown an inclination to come over for impromptu visits. Rhysel and Tekaal would normally call ahead.
Ehail ladled servings of soup into bowls. "Can you check? I need to time the bread."
"Of course, dear heart." Gyre snuck a sip of his soup before going to the door and pulling it open.
Allera stood there, and looked up at her son with apprehension and sorrow.
"Mother," Gyre said. "...What are you doing here?"
"May I come in?" Allera asked quietly.
"How did you get here?" he asked.
Allera winced, but brought it under control a moment later and inhaled. "The circle," she said. "May I come in?"
Gyre hesitated and looked at Ehail, who was standing stunned at the oven with a pan of flatbread clutched in her mitts. He turned back to Allera. "Very well," he said. "But I will not hesitate to throw you out if you insult my wife again, so help me. Or my sister or my brother-in-law or any of their colleagues."
The elf flinched. "I suppose I deserve that," she said as she entered.
He silently pulled out one of the chairs for his mother. Allera sat. Ehail stopped witlessly standing frozen, put the pan of bread down on the stove, closed the oven, and started transferring breads into the bread basket.
When Ehail had brought the basket to the table and lowered herself into her own seat across from Gyre, Allera said, "I've come to say I'm sorry, Ehail."
"Thank you," Ehail said softly.
"I had no right to speak to you that way. You were a guest in my home. You'd done no one and nothing any harm," said Allera. The words sounded practiced, but not awkward; she might have written them in advance herself. "And I'm sorry I believed of you what I did. And I'm sorry I was such a stubborn fool that I missed your wedding."
Ehail thought of saying "thank you" again. Instead, she got up out of her chair, walked around the table, and hugged her mother-in-law where she sat.
At this, Allera shed tears. "I hope you can forgive me," she said, hugging Ehail back.
"Of course," said Ehail. "You're forgiven."
The hug ended, and Ehail went back to her place while Allera cast a watery look at Gyre.
"I love you, Mother," he said after a brief silence which he spent mostly looking at Ehail. "Of course I can forgive you."
Allera managed a faint smile and scrubbed at the tears on her face. "I wish I'd managed to say this before," she said, addressing Ehail, "but welcome to the family, child. Ryll told me a lot about you before I worked up the nerve to come here. You sound like the perfect match for my son."
"Thank you," Ehail said again. "Do - you want to stay for dinner?"
"I'd love to," said Allera. "But I really can't stay. I still need to go apologize to Rhysel." She swallowed. "If you want to extend the offer another day, I'd be happy to accept."
"Any time," Ehail said. "When the time zones match up."
"Ryll has an almanac of some kind about that," Allera said, nodding slowly. "Well. I have directions on how to get to Rhysel's... tower, but it may take a while, so I shouldn't stay longer - I don't want to risk waking them -"
"If you want," Ehail said hesitantly, "I can save you the trip."
Allera froze, looking panicked, but she controlled herself with visible effort and ended up appearing more chagrined than afraid. "If it won't disrupt your dinner," she said, "I would appreciate that."
Ehail held out her hand.
Allera took it.
Ehail teleported to the flagstone that sat outside her home's threshold, opened the door, and sat down to dinner again.
"Do you think she would mind," she asked without preamble, serving herself a flatbread and a heap of chicken-and-spinach on top of it, "if I called her Mother?"
Gyre blinked. "Why?"
"I always wanted," Ehail murmured, "for my mother to find me and ask me to forgive her." She met his eyes. "Do you think she would mind?"
"No, dear heart," Gyre murmured. "No, I don't think she'd mind at all."