Ivaris - Chapter 10 by Jennifer Raney

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Consummation and the upper hand.

The day of the princess's wedding came too quickly. The castle was in a frenzy with only a week to prepare for such a grand ritual, but the day had finally come, and everything was set. The castle grounds teemed with guests and servers, anxiously awaiting the ceremony.

The wedding coordinator, Cherene, who was extremely good at her work, was overwhelmed by the lack of preparation time. The swiftest messengers were hired, at great expense, to speed the invitations out to the more distant dignitaries as soon as possible. It was important they be invited, to maintain good relations with the border lands. They would be irritated at the inconvenience, no doubt, but they would attend.

She began the final preparations before the dawn broke, assuring all the servants were properly assigned, the flowers had arrived safely, the entertainment was sufficiently prepared, and a final inspection of the hall for perfect sparkling cleanliness before the workers even arrived to begin setting up.

"I want more ice on this champagne," she called into the kitchen, "it'll be room temperature before noon."

The kitchen staff rolled their eyes, but obeyed her with haste, as did all the servants under her direction. By mid morning, the castle was buzzing with activity and preparation for the wedding, to start at three. Cherene took a few vain moments to re-pin her hair, spilling now all over her face. She had much work to do, but to look frazzled now would be unacceptably unprofessional.

When noon arrived, and the festivities were due to begin, she thought she would collapse with the relief of successfully reaching the first hurdle of the day, "Thank the Stars," she breathed, as the polished servants began taking the heaping dishes to feed the extensive guest list.

Inside the Great Hall was laid a great feast with all the season's delicacies. Acrobats in shimmering costumes swung from the ceiling on rings and silk ropes; illusionists performed light shows and disappearing acts. Beast tamers brought their companions in to dance and amaze the guests.

Jovraan and the Emperor strolled the castle together, greeting guests and accepting gifts from admirers. Most of the guests shared a vague dislike for the Emperor-to-be, but everyone smiled and made the best of the day. Such extravagant food was a rare delight in Itriscia. Most of the kingdom was high desert and paved with mountain ranges, making agriculture more difficult than many places. Most of the fresh fruit and vegetables were purchased and shipped in overnight in ice-wagons, at great expense of course, to arrive, still fresh, promptly the night before the wedding day. The guests, of course, had no notion of the difficulty of coordinating such an event, but were very appreciative of the results.

The princess was unable to take part in the meal-time festivities, however. Instead she was locked in her chambers obliging four maids fussing over her gown, hair, and make-up.

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