It ain't easy to swallow
It sticks in the throat
She gave her heart to the man in the
Long black coat
"Man In The Long Black Coat"
Elizabeth searched blindly through a stack of clothing already packed in a box, moving mostly on confusion and adrenaline. She found a random white dress of her mothers and put it on in a hurry.
You had wretched taste, mother. She thought as she buttoned it up and started back towards the door. She stopped however as her eyes fell on another box, after a brief internal struggle she got down on her knees to search through it quickly. She pulled out the tiny envelope with her parent's rings in it and tucked it in the hideous sash tied around the dress.
When she returned to the yard Death had already mounted his horse. He offered her his hand as she neared him and pulled her up to sit astride the horse in front of him, taking the reins on either side of her.
"Er…I don't suppose there is a church open at this time?" Elizabeth asked, an almost hopeful tone in her voice. The enormity of what she was doing falling on her as Death tugged on the reins.
IN ANKH MORPORK, CERTAINLY. Death replied.
And then Binky was moving through the air, not flying, but galloping on a surface of his own devising. Mere seconds later they were traveling through the dark, but by no means quiet and empty streets of Ankh Morpork.
Elizabeth was silent, watching people move like shadows beside them, completely avoiding contact with the horse without knowing it. Occasionally someone would look at them and then turn away looking confused or uncomfortable.
Elizabeth had only been to Ankh Morpork once with her father. He had said that she was to stay near him, and to hide any possessions that looked at all valuable. She doubted that she'd have anything to worry about this time.
"Where are we going?" She whispered nervously.
I AM NOT SURE. Death replied. Elizabeth raised her brow.
"You don't know? But I thought…"
I AM NOT WELL VERSED IN THE WAYS OF RELIGION ELIZABETH. I AM LOOKING FOR A CHURCH THAT DOES NOT LOOK AS IF IT IS DESERTED.
She sighed and leaned back slightly. She was beginning to feel the adrenaline wear off. Now feeling slightly exhausted as well as uncomfortable, doubt began to ebb into her mind.
THERE IS A PLACE. Death said. Elizabeth sat up to look in the direction that Death was extending one bony digit.
"That's the Temple of Small Gods." She said with a yawn.
IT IS INSEFFICIENT? He asked. She thought a moment and then shrugged.
"I suppose it really doesn't matter…supposing they can even perform a wedding service. My parents were never really devout in anything."
WE SHALL TRY IT. He said as Binky halted. She felt Death leave the horse and then his hands were extended out towards her.
Elizabeth hesitated for a moment before taking them and sliding off of Binky.
Still holding her hand, Death led Elizabeth towards the entrance to the church, which was small and admittedly unremarkable. There was quite a lot of damage, which must have been issued over a long period of time, and some of the lettering had faded in the sign atop the door. Elizabeth stopped, tugging on Death's hand gently so that he would do the same.
"Their hours are printed along the side of the door. They're closed." She said quietly.
SOMEONE IS HERE. He said calmly. Elizabeth frowned. There was a glow coming from inside the chapel.
"Yes, but…that may just be someone working late."
EXACTLY. He said as he knocked on the door. They waited a moment. Elizabeth was about to suggest that they find somewhere else when someone spoke to them from inside the church.
"We're closed. If you want to come back tomorrow at ten o' clock we'll sort out whatever burial you need made or any funeral services you might want to schedule." Elizabeth gave Death a questioning look. He shrugged and then knocked again, this time slower, louder and more deliberately.
OPEN THE DOOR. Death interrupted him. The man fell into silence, and then, to Elizabeth's surprise there was a shuffling on the other side of the door that suggested that the man had begun to unlock it. It swung open and a very small man peered out uneasily. He fixed his gaze on her after trying to look at Death and failing.
"Can I help you young lady?" He asked, a little edgily. Elizabeth cast a sideways glance at Death before looking back at the man.
"Er, can you perform a marriage service?"
"A marriage service? Your not related to a watchman?"
"No." Elizabeth said, a little bewilderedly.
"Well…yes…technically yes, although I don't remember the last time someone's gotten married here. Normally it's just funerals and burials for policemen."
"You want to get married here?"
"Well you'll have your pick of dates in any case." He said, occasionally glancing confusedly at Death, whom he seemed to be debating about. It appeared as if he wasn't sure if he was there or not.
"Er…I'd like to be married now actually."
"Now!?" The man said, startled. "Are you aware it's going on two in the morning, young lady?"
"Yes um…we're terribly sorry but…" She looked up at Death for help.
IT MUST BE NOW. Death said. The man attempted to eye Death a second time and failed again.
"Well I don't know…I mean, technically I can perform a marriage but…er…I never have…"
THAT IS ALL RIGHT.
"In a hurry aren't you…well all right…I suppose it won't hurt…I mean…we have been looking for ways to expand our influence. And…well…this will keep me away from my wife for a couple more hours. Come in."
The man appeared to be going through a small stack of dusty books. The only other presence in the church was a very old cocker spaniel, which lay on the floor by the door asleep.
"Just give me a moment to find the traditional vows…don't really know them by memory myself. Ah, here we are." He appeared to open a book at random and flip a few pages.
"Okay, the bride stands here, you to my left, the uh…the groom stands to my right. All right." He flipped through a few more pages as Death and Elizabeth got into position. .
"All right…let's see…ah…we are gathered here to day to witness the union between…oh.." He stopped and looked up at both of them. "What are your names?"
"Er…Elizabeth Shaul…um." She looked sideways at Death, who was eyeing her nervously.
"And your name um…sir?" He asked, as he tried to focus on the other figure in the room.
"Door!" Elizabeth said quickly.
"It's Bill Door." Death nodded gratefully.
YES…THAT IS MY NAME…
"Sounds made up…" He said as he looked back towards the book.
Death turned to Elizabeth.
WHY DOES EVERYONE ALWAYS SAY THAT? He said, a little irritated.
"We are gathered her today to witness the union between Elizabeth Shaul and William Door." He read. "Before we begin, does anyone here have a reason why these two should not be wed?" He looked up and cleared his throat slightly as he eyed the room, consisting only of the elderly dog. When he felt he gave a long enough pause he turned back to the book.
"All right then." He said as he turned the page. "All right...it says I'm supposed to do a reading from the book of Small Gods…er…not much in there uh…worth mentioning to be honest…perhaps I'll just skip that bit." He skipped a few pages. "Okay…do you, William Door take Elizabeth Shaul for your lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worst, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do you part?"
ER YES? Death said awkwardly. The man looked up at him, or attempted to, in any case.
"I do." He said pointedly.
"You're supposed to say I do." Elizabeth whispered from beside him.
OH, SORRY, YES, I DO.
"Okay then. Do you Elizabeth Shaul, take William Door to be your lawful husband…" As he went on Elizabeth couldn't help but feel like somehow, these vows didn't really make much sense in the circumstances. At least not for him. The man finished and looked at her.
"Er…I…uh." She frowned and then swallowed hard. "I do." She said quietly.
"Good…now, the rings?" He asked. Elizabeth could see the panic in Death's visage out of the corner of her eye as she reached into her sash and pulled out the envelope shakily.
"Um, I have them." She said, as she dumped her father and mother's rings into her hand. Death watched her quietly.
"Um…be…be careful with it all right?" She said as she removed her father's ring from her palm and took Death's hand carefully. She placed it gently over his ring finger, half expecting it to fall off again. Instead, it seemed to be stuck in place by some unseen force. He took her hand, before she was able to withdraw it.
I SHALL BE. He said. She smiled faintly and handed him the other ring. Death took it and slid it on her finger after she pointed out the right one. It was a bit loose; apparently her own fingers were thinner then her mothers had been.
"Very good. I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride." Death looked awkward again. After a moment, when they both appeared to be, in a metaphorical sense, shuffling their feet, Elizabeth took a step towards him and hesitantly placed her hands on his shoulders, having to stand on her tiptoes to do so, and pulled him close enough so that she could kiss him awkwardly on his mandible.
When she parted she blushed slightly and avoided his gaze.
"Let me be the first to introduce Mr. and Mrs. William door, to all who witness on this day." He said. From her spot by the door, the dog raised her head slightly and wheezed before lying back down.
Elizabeth yawned as Binky headed once again through the streets. It was nearly four in the morning.
GIVE ME A MOMENT. Death said, bringing her out of a light doze that she was falling into. He dismounted and Elizabeth blinked as she turned wearily and watched him.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
ER…WORK, I'M AFRAID. Elizabeth shifted uncomfortably.
He disappeared into a nearby alley. After a few seconds she slid off of the horse to keep herself awake, so that she wouldn't accidentally do it while asleep. She wasn't sure if it was possible to fall off of Death's horse, but she didn't really want to have the opportunity to find out.
As she blinked in the darkness she caught sight of a building on the corner. 'The Church Of Nugan.' She smiled humorously, but her smile faded when she saw a tall figure walk from the door, removing something from his coat and heading slowly, down the walkway. He looked up and met Elizabeth's dismayed eyes.
Dorjan smiled and approached her from across the street.
"I must admit I'm a bit surprised you showed up…well, I'm a bit surprised you showed up sober in any case. And early too." Elizabeth scowled. Dorjan looked puzzled for a moment.
"That isn't the dress my sister picked out is it, is it Miss Shaul?" He asked.
"It's Mrs…actually" She started coldly before being interrupted.
"Indeed it soon shall be. Walter will be pleased to see you." He said as he pressed his gaunt hand against the small of her back and pushed her in the direction of the church. Elizabeth moved from his grasp.
"Get your hand off of me!" She said irately. "I'm not going to the church!"
"Now's not the time for cold feet my dear." He said as he grabbed her more aggressively by the arms and began to force her across the street.
From inside the Church of Nugan, Walter and Devon emerged to see what was going on outside. (As well as other Ankh Morporkians, just in case it was something interesting)
"Hey, what are you…" Walter started. He then brightened considerably when he saw Elizabeth, despite the fact that Dorjan was clearly trying to force her to the church.
"Hey, Devon your getting married after all!" Walter said excitedly. Devon frowned a little; both his nose and hand were bandaged up.
Elizabeth finally shook free of Dorjan and without hesitating she punched him as hard as she could in the face. There was a crack as his nose broke. A couple of unseen watchers let out an almost inaudible cheer. Dorjan straightened and gave Elizabeth a positively livid look.
"Why you horrible b-" He started as he made to grab Elizabeth.
EXCUSE ME. Dorjan recoiled as if stung. Elizabeth jumped slightly as Death seemingly appeared behind her. IS THERE A PROBLEM? Death asked, his voice low and dangerous.
Dorjan swallowed and managed to get a hold of himself despite this stranger who came out of nowhere.
"N-none that's any of your business." Dorjan said, his throat dry.
"He's just helping my future daughter in law get over her post wedding jitters." Walter said from his spot beside Devon. "It uh, it isn't what it looks like."
WELL, THAT IS A RELIEF. I THOUGHT THAT YOU WERE BOTHERING MY WIFE." Death said as he stood beside Elizabeth, who couldn't help but smile a little at the sudden distortion of Walter May's face as he worked the situation out.
"Here, there's no way…you aren't married!" He shouted, while pointing at Elizabeth with a shaking finger. "What kind of game is this!?" Elizabeth held up her hand so Walter could see her ring, the ghost of a smile still evident in her countenance.
"Wha…boy, you aint gonna let this happen are you? Let someone else just walk away with your wife?" He turned to his son, but Devon clearly wasn't listening. He was staring at Death with wide horrified eyes. His face was as pale as a sheet and he looked as if he were going to be ill. "Are you listening!? Go take back what's yours!" He said as he shoved Devon towards the street. Devon stumbled a few steps and then looked wildly from his father to Elizabeth and Death. Finally he made a decision and slowly backed off of the street once more.
"I-I'll just let him have her…if…if that's all right." He stammered. Walter scowled and turned to Dorjan.
"And what about you, any brilliant plans?"
Dorjan had straightened and pulled out a handkerchief. He was currently dabbing at his nose carefully while contemplating the situation.
"I'm afraid you're still in a bind my dear." Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. "You see, what I failed to mention earlier this month was that that law is extremely outdated. You could have gone your whole life without marrying and no one would have noticed." Elizabeth's brow creased slightly.
"Outdated…" She repeated him in a far off voice.
"Yes, but you see, even though it is outdated, it is also still in place, so if I wanted to bring it up in front of a judge, he would rule in favor of me. He would have to and the law does say ten years…not fifteen." Elizabeth gave him a detesting look. "Of course, all of this could be avoided if you only marry my nephew."
Death shifted beside her. Without much thought Elizabeth stopped him, letting her hand fall gently on his arm.
"You can take my land away then." She said coldly. "I made my choice yesterday. I won't repeat myself because I'm sure you remember what I said. Besides, as you can see, I am already married."
"Fine…" Dorjan said, a hint of annoyance in his voice. "Suit yourself. I hope you manage to pack all of your things before you are vacated." His voice had venom in it. He started to turn but was halted as a voice like ice and coffin lids closing, like creaking doors and shadows spoke to him.
I WOULD RECONSIDER YOUR ACTIONS. Death said. Dorjan managed to turn and rise to his full height, which was impressive, but not quite as impressive as Death's.
"Oh, and why is that?"
BECAUSE, IF YOU SO MUCH AS THINK OF CARRYING OUT YOUR PLANS YOU WILL REGRET IT DIRELY. He said.
"Is that a threat?" Dorjan asked, now slightly anxious.
NO. IT IS A PROMISE. Dorjan seemed on the verge of saying something else, then, he thought better of it, and after a long moment of reflection, mostly over the consequences of acting out against the stranger's commands, he sniffed and turned away.
"Tough luck, Walter." He mumbled as he walked past his brother in law, who was still staring at Death. He only turned away when Devon fainted beside him. When he looked back up, there was no one in the street. He vaguely reminded himself to tell Olette to take everything she bought back to the store, everything that would go…and maybe having a seamtress for a daughter in law wouldn't be too wretched. There were worse things after all.
"Thank you." Elizabeth broke the silence when Binky touched down in her yard.
DO NOT MENTION IT. Death replied. He swung himself off of the horse and then helped Elizabeth down. After a moment's pause, he spoke again.
I HAVE BEEN THINKING, ELIZABETH.
"Hmm?" She asked, casting a longing look to her house, where her bed waited.
YOU WOULD NOT HAVE MARRIED ME, IF YOU DID NOT HAVE TO. Elizabeth looked up at him awkwardly.
"I didn't have to…" She said after a moment, her eyes falling to the tall grass. The horizon was beginning to lighten where the sun would soon rise.
YOUR CHOICES WERE VERY LIMITED.
"Sometimes that's just the way it is." Elizabeth replied.
THAT IS THE WAY IT SHOULD NOT BE. Death's skeletal hand rested briefly on Binky's back. He sighed. I HAVE DECIDED THAT I WILL NOT BOTHER YOU. Elizabeth looked up at him again.
IT IS LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU CAME TO WORK FOR ME. YOU WILL LIVE MUCH BETTER IF I AM NOT HERE. THE LAND IS YOURS, AND I WILL GIVE YOU ANY MONEY YOU MIGHT NEED, SO THAT YOU DO NOT COME TO THE POSITION YOU WERE IN WHEN WE MET.
Elizabeth was looking ahead of her in a manner that suggested that she were seeing her own thoughts. A troubled expression touched her face.
"So, what your saying is, things go back the way they were, before any of this happened?"
YES. Death said.
"Ah…" From the corner of her eye Elizabeth watched the cat dart across the yard to the porch, probably after some stray butterfly. She made her decision at that moment, and resolved that, as soon as she made it, she could not change her mind, despite how troubling things got afterward.
"No." She said.
"Thank you, I suppose, but I've just made some of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make over the last few days and if it's all the same, I would rather they didn't all come back to me being in the same situation I was in, in the first place."
I AM ONLY TRYING…She interrupted him.
"I've been thinking too. And it's come to this. I can't spend every day of the rest of my life living with you. I couldn't manage it."
He looked slightly hurt.
"So, instead, I'll just spend part of the time living with you…and part of the time here." She said. She wasn't looking at him, but she could feel his surprise. She was a little surprised herself. She knew it would be difficult…maybe more difficult then she could ever imagine.
"I think four months will be sufficient." She said while nodding.
FOUR MONTHS…OUTSIDE OF THE WORLD? ARE YOU CERTAIN?
"Actually, I meant four months here. Eight months out of the world. This way, I can spend spring and early summer here, and autumn and winter with you. Winter has been unpleasant lately anyways. This house practically draws the cold in."
"Yes…of course…I won't spend all of the time there…I imagine I'll be able to leave if I want to, for a day or so…I'd probably better do most of the shopping too…no offense…but you aren't very good at it."
UH…YES…NATURALLY. He said, a little dazedly. ER…ARE YOU…REALLY SURE ABOUT THIS? He asked bewilderedly.
"I think…as sure as I can be."
WELL THEN, I SHALL SEE YOU IN A COUPLE MONTHS. He said as he mounted Binky.
"You can stop by before then, you know…whenever you like." Elizabeth said with the start of a smile forming on her lips. Death grinned, he was always grinning, but this time it was on purpose.
THANK YOU. He said. And then he pulled on the reins and the horse was gone. Elizabeth stood there for a moment, before she turned around and headed back towards her house. Around her, then sun began to rise.
There it is, the end of this story. It was fun. I've enjoyed it immensely and I hope that you all have enjoyed it to.
I've decided to go ahead and write the sequel, unless anyone really doesn't want me to. For those of you who do not want to add me to their Author Alert list, I've already decided on the title. Just look for "A Game Without Rules" in the Discworld section. I don't know when I'll upload the first chapter, but it shouldn't be more then a couple of weeks from now, at the most.
Loverdoll: I'm pleased that you liked it : ) As I have said, I have decided to write the sequel. Thank you so much for all of your kind words.
Digimitsu: Sorry that your jealous :) Thanks so much for all of your support and all of your reviews.
Tim: Thank you : ) And thanks for reading. I have every afternoon off this week. Call me. We can go to the mall or something…I hear there's a sword store there OO…been wanting to check it out. I've seen almost everyone this summer aside from you. (Mean Bean doesn't count)
MJ MOD: Weird indeed, but this is why, it's so easy to make a sequel. So glad you've followed the story. Hope you liked this chapter. :)