Celebration Hill was aglow with lanterns that hung from streamers which were stretched from pole to pole in anticipation of the equinox celebration. Tables, laden with food and drink, had been erected on sturdy trestles to support them. The soft grass underfoot reflected a blending of lantern and the lingering light that the viridian sun cast off as it slowly disappeared below the horizon.
Jonaton ran his hand through his thick, wavy brown hair pushing it from his face as he contemplated the hurried preparations – final touches were being put in place with care. Delyth, Jonaton’s wife of twenty years, was busy draping garlands of Graz flowers onto the low rails that edged the slightly raised platform on the north side of the hill.
It would be upon that platform that Jonaton would perform his first official equinox duties since rising to the position of Council Leader. Today’s summer equinox celebration would be that much special for him since his daughter Elena had chosen to enter into the union with Ren, the town metal smith. He was a good man, Jonaton reflected, one who would treat his daughter with love and respect – the fact that he was in line for a seat on the council further stood him in good measure.
“What are you gazing at so intently yet not seeing, my love?” Delyth asked from his elbow.
Jonaton sighed softly as he turned to regard his wife with his soft grey eyes. A smile transformed his face, normally composed and firm, as he regarded his lovely wife.
He stood a hand taller than her – which he considered perfect as she could comfortably rest her head on his shoulder when they stood side by side. He looped an arm around her and pulled her close, both regarding the platform.
“You realize you aren’t losing her.” Delyth said gently, lifting her head to look into his eyes.
He loved her green eyes, and the short blond hair that framed her elfin face. After all these years, he still considered himself the luckiest man in Redwood for having won her heart. The fact they had chosen to remain in their union spoke of the depth of their love for one another.
“I just hope that they find the same happiness that you and I have when they are half of our age.” His comment elicited a giggle from Delyth. Turning to her, he continued though he already knew the answer, “Don’t you have someplace to be my love?”.
“I do, but I had to see how you were doing. You are quite right though, Elena needs her mother now.” She stood on her tiptoes to give her husband a gentle kiss. Then with soft hands she smoothed his tunic – he had to look resplendent for his first equinox after all. “You will do fine tonight, I am sure Elena will be quite proud; that is if she even notices you.”
Jonaton laughed a full laugh at Delyth’s tease; she always knew what to say to lighten his mood. “Aye, you are correct – I know she will be happy, Ren is a good man. I’ll try to not growl at him during the ceremony; at least not too much.”
“See that you don’t.” Delyth retorted with a soft threat and slap on his arm before turning and walking away.
Yes tonight would be a very special occasion Jonaton thought.
“JONATON.” The harsh voice of Pol interrupted his quiet reflections, “A word please.”
Turning to face the town butcher, Jonaton made no effort to close the distance between them, content to make Pol walk the entire way. He regarded the short, stocky man as he approached –muscular, with a crop of sandy brown hair, and penetrating brown eyes – he was not one to remain silent when he felt he had a point to make, and he had one to make now it seemed.
Jonaton sighed softly, sure it would be the same point he had already attempted to make – repeatedly; he didn’t believe it was right to have to share his union day.
“Jonaton,” Pol began once he stood his side, “have you given anymore thought to my request?”
“Which request might that be?” Jonaton wasn’t above baiting Pol – his brash attitude grating on his patience.
“You know exactly which request I am referring to, blast it – I asked if there was some way that you could move Elena and Ren’s union to the next equinox. I had petitioned the council first after all.” Pol quickly added, “Not that I have anything against your daughter.”
Jonaton raised his hand, stopping any further comments by Pol. “You have my answer, and it has NOT changed. There is no precedent for what you are asking, the Union occurs twice a year for however many couples petition.”
“But…”“There is not but, this is final…unless of course you would like to change your union to the winter. THAT is a choice you can make – is this what you would like to request?”
“Me? No, I was first petition, they…”
“Good, then we will proceed with two unions tonight; I will see you ready within the hour.” He turned and moved to the platform, clearly dismissing Pol.
Pol bored holes into Jonaton’s back with his eyes, doing his best to contain his anger. How could Ren ruin what should have been the happiest day of his life?
Furious he turned, and stomped off to get ready. He barely noticed the people hurrying to get out of his way.
Jonaton looked over his shoulder, watching Pol leave Celebration Hill – he had held out hope for a few minutes there that Pol would change his mind and choose to enter the Union in the winter. It was not to be, he only hoped he wouldn’t cause trouble for Ren tonight.
Delyth assisted Elena into the traditional red union gown – it was the same gown she had worn for her union to Jonaton, and her grandmother before her. It was still in pristine condition, and Delyth was proud she had chosen to wear it tonight.
She smoothed the lay of the gown on her daughter’s shoulders, “It fits perfectly, Elena.” Tears threatening to flow, as she regarded the gown. It fit so well, almost as if it had been hand sewn for her.
“Let’s do you hair now love,” guiding Elena to the seat in front of the mirror. Picking up the brush, she started to run it through her hair. Elena had the same soft, blond hair as her mother – the blue eyes were a wonder though, considering hers were green and Jonaton’s grey. But they were lovely eyes, she thought with quiet reflection. She had watched how Elena had won Ren with those eyes – he adored her Delyth knew.
Setting the brush down, Delyth deftly braided Elena’s hair, weaving flowers into it. Once the braid was completed, she twisted it in a circle forming an artistic mound on the crown of her head. Delyth drew fasteners from the drawer of the table and secured her hair in place.
“Turn and let me look at you.”
Elena stood and did a pirouette so her mother could inspect her handiwork. Delyth fixed a few loose strands before she was satisfied with the arrangement. “Now let’s just add a bit of color to your face, shall we.”
Elena smiled; her mother had spent the morning gathering the necessary items to mix the colors for her face. Pale pink flowers provided color for the cheeks, flowers in blues and purples provided for the eyes, and to complete the effect for her lips she had gathered the blood red flowers of the Graz trees that were in full blossom.
Delyth took her time with her art, savouring every moment she had with her daughter. After today she would be a married woman and she wouldn’t be able to enjoy these private moments.
Completed, Delyth stood back to observe the results – Elena was stunning, radiant for her Union day…
“Ren is such a fortunate man; I hope he knows how lucky he is my love.”
“He does mom, and I plan to make sure he never forgets.” Elena concluded with a mischievous smile which resulted in her mother’s rippling laugh.
Standing, Elena gave her mother a final hug careful not to ruin all the hard work – whispering in her ear, “I love you mom; thank you.”
“Let’s go join the party…”
Elena linked her arm into her mom’s offered one, and they walk to Ceremony Hill in a companionable silence.
Ren was a bundle of nerves as he finished preparing for the union. He hadn’t seen Elena all day –the traditions of the union required them to not see one another until the ceremony, and the separation was agony. He just wanted to day to be over yet last forever all at the same time.
He had to be there for the start of the festival even though it started with the dedications of children – it was expect. However his tunic wasn’t behaving…the collar wasn’t lying correctly. In frustration, Ren soaked it with water, and rolled it the way he wanted it to sit.
As he gave it a few minutes to set, he looked around his home. It was really just two rooms, detached from his parents’ house and the smithy, but it was his and he had done his best to prepare it for Elena. His fervent desire was that she would be happy here with him – he planned to do everything he could to make that a reality.
He released the collar letting it unfurl. FINALLY, it was sitting a little better at least.
The sweet sound of the equinox bell filled the air – summoning all to gather. He would have to hurry if he was to be in place on time.
Ren didn’t even bother to lock his door as he flew out of his apartment and ran to the hill.
The sun was almost gone; the Jester had followed his brothers Lumos and Merli out of hiding and graced the night sky with their luminescence – the final event of the evening was ready to begin.
Jonaton had completed the Dedication of Children, and was ready to commence with the Ceremony of Union. If he had rushed through the dedications, no one would slight him – his own daughter was partaking of the Union today after all.
He regarding the two men waiting before him: Pol slightly agitated still, though valiantly trying to hide it; and Ren looking totally nervous, but excited at the same time.
“Please be seated,” He said, lending impetus to his request with a motion of his hands for the assembled to be seated. “Those who have petitioned for the Union step forward.”
Pol and Ren moved quickly forward in response – Jonaton motioned Pol to take the position on his right, Ren to his left.
“Pol, have you petitioned to enter the Union with Atina?”
Turning to face Ren, “Ren, have you petitioned to enter the Union with Elena?”
“Then let us proceed.” Jonaton felt his breathe catch as he gazed down the aisle and saw Elena waiting just behind Atina – Delyth had outdone herself, she was stunning. The pause lengthened until Jonaton brought himself back to the event at hand.
“All stand,” he ordered the assembled. As they stood and turned to face the women, ohs and ahs could be heard rippling through those gathered.
“Let those being joined come forward,” Jonaton motioned them to come take their places, both resplendent in their traditional red union gowns. He watched as they slowly made their way forward to stand beside their intended mates.
“Pol and Atina your hands please.” Pol extended his left hand, Atina her right. Jonaton took a silk cord from the small table beside him, and after setting Atina’s hand on top of Pol’s, bound them together with the cord – loose enough that one or the other could pull out if for some reason they changed their mind.
Turning to Ren and Elena, “Ren and Elena your hands please.” Taking the second cords he bound them in the same fashion as he had Pol and Atina.
Turning to the assembled he announced, “Pol of Redwood has asked to enter into the union with Atina of Redwood – does anyone have anything to say against this union?”
Jonaton paused for the require amount of time before continuing, “Pol, do you agree to enter into the Union with Atina, and do you promise to care for, to cherish, to honor and esteem her for as long as you are joined.”
“I so agree.”
Then turning to Atina, “Atina do you agree to enter into the Union with Pol, and do you promise to care for, to cherish, to honor and esteem him for as long as you are joined.”
“I so agree gladly,” Atina replied, her eyes sparkling.
“Then with the authority granted to me I declare this union sealed!” Quiet cheers greeted his pronouncement – it was fitting as there was another union still to go.
Turning again to the assembled he continued, “Ren of Redwood has asked to enter into the union with Elena of Redwood – does anyone have anything to say against this union?”
Once again, Jonaton paused for the require amount of time before continuing, “Ren, do you agree to enter into the Union with Elena, and do you promise to care for, to cherish, to honor and esteem her for as long as you are joined.”
“I so agree.” Jonaton noted that his eyes never once left the face of his intended – with those three words, he knew with a certainty that Ren meant to keep his vow.
With a smile for his only daughter, he turned to her, “Elena do you agree to enter into the Union with Ren, and do you promise to care for, to cherish, to honor and esteem him for as long as you are joined.”
“I so agree with all my heart.” Elena replied joyfully.
“Then with the authority granted to me I declare these Unions SEALED!” The cheers sounded out with unrestrained enthusiasm at the final pronouncement. Jonaton’s final act was to first pour the traditional cup of Graz wine over each couples head to complete the ceremony.
The party lasted long into the night, each couple enjoying the hearty well-wishes from friends and family. In the early morning hours, Ren quietly led his new mate to their small home to start their life together.