*Over a year later than promised, but here is the next chapter.*
"What do you hope to achieve by marrying this girl?" Upon his arrival at the fairy castle, Orne immediately set out to question why his promising student would willingly choose to make such a stupid decision. Marriage, the very idea!
"Nothing malicious, teacher, I assure you. I love the princess and simply want to be with her as much as I possibly can. By human customs, this means Adelina and I must marry or else bring her to the derision of her peers and possibly her kingdom as a whole." Rhys tried very hard not to sound too angry or annoyed by Orne's tone. He had nothing to gain by losing his composure.
When he chose to invite the older sorcerer to his wedding, Rhys knew of the trouble he was asking for. After all, Orne's wont of lecturing the apprentices for hours on the follies of marriage was not well known for nothing. Why would his views not present themselves now? It mattered not that the wedding was to be held at Mt. Ziriat and presided over by a fairy—it was still the union of a sorcerer and a human!
The present lecture aside, Rhys knew that going forward with his planned nuptials without informing anyone from the Citadel, especially his teacher, would have left him worse off. Had it all been kept a secret until after the fact, his sincerity in the matter would have easily been questioned. It wasn't as if he was marrying a servant girl or a farmer's daughter (which still would have drawn questions), he was marrying the heir to the Bamarrian throne. Whether or not he was seeking power or riches were questions that were certainly going to be asked. Why else would he marry?
"Don't patronize me, Rhys. I know well enough of human culture. What I fail to understand his how you allowed yourself to form this foolish attachment in the first place! Have you completely disregarded your teachings?" Orne's normally monotonous speech for once emoted something other than indifference.
"Of course not, Orne!" His previous resolution all but forgotten, Rhys snapped at his teacher, "I simply disagree that forming attachments with others, especially humans, is a folly. I love her and she loves me! How is that harmful to anyone?" In his agitated state, Rhys had raised his voice higher than he had meant to. He merely wanted to make his point, not disrespect the older sorcerer. Despite this, he did not apologize for what he had done.
Taken slightly aback by his pupil's tone, Orne changed his approach. "How old is she?" Receiving only a confused look in return, he elaborated. "This girl you intend to marry, how old is she?"
"Sixteen. Nearly seventeen. What does that matter? If she doesn't marry me, her useless father will likely marry her off in some political arrangement in a year or two anyway, probably sooner. She's not too young, if that is what you mean to imply." No longer caring to hide his displeasure with the conversation, Rhys reverted to impetuous comments.
"You best not speak ill of your present sovereign, Rhys, no good will come of it." Not allowing a word in edgewise, Orne continued, "The girl is sixteen and you are eighty-two. In fifty years, she will be sixty-six and you one hundred thirty-two. While the years will age you at most ten years, nature will not be so kind to her. She will wear each of those fifty years, maybe more. With every passing year, she will grow older and older until the frailty of her human body will fail her. She will die and your apprenticeship will still not be over. Will she love you then, when she is a withered crone barely capable of caring for herself while you look young enough to be her great grandchild or younger? Will you be able to watch her deteriorate and stay by her as her love turns into hate?"
The evident shock of his words etched on the young sorcerer's face, Orne left his pupil to contemplate his lecture alone—he had said all he could and would on the matter. Saying more would be fruitless and unbeneficial. At his present state, Rhys was not likely to think rationally over his actions. Despite the harshness of this last exchange, Orne still valued Rhys very much as a student, but would not hesitate to act against him if the situation warranted it.
Sitting alone on one of the many benches in the fairy garden, Rhys stared at the never changed horizon. He had remained silent throughout Orne's final speech. It was perhaps hours after—his mind was so wrapped up in his thoughts he couldn't process time—and he still couldn't speak. He knew he would love Addie until the flame in his chest extinguished, even after, but would she love him? Physical age could never hinder his love, but he wasn't the one that would suffer its effects. Though he loathed admitting it, Orne was right. Addie would age and he would not. He would live long after their time together was over. Could he really ask that of her? Could he ask that of himself?
"Hello, there." Startled, Rhys looked up to find the subject of his thoughts and love by his side. Kissing her in greeting, Rhys inquired as to why Addie was out in the gardens and not sleeping. Despite not knowing the hour, he knew it was still late enough (or early) that she should be asleep. Had she sensed his unease?
"I couldn't sleep. Meryl had me up late choosing a wedding gown," responding slowly, Addie took in her fiancé's disgruntled appearance. His conversation with Orne must have affected him dearly. I knew it would be trying, but why is my normally jovial love this sullen? Hoping to add a smile to his face, she added, "She may not look it, having spent most of her life planning battles, but Meryl has a hidden love of clothing. She kept making me try on dress after dress!" When this barely elicited a small tug of his lips, Addie placed her hand on Rhys' face and stroked his cheek. Her concern undeniably clear, "I know you can't sleep, but you look so tired," she inquired if he was well. "Are you not fully healed?"
Staring into her beautiful eyes and leaning into her touch, Rhys took long to respond. He carefully brushed the hair from her eyes and tucked it behind her ear. How could I possibly bring myself to cause this wonderful woman pain? Does she even know what she's agreeing to by accepting my hand? Is it better to end it now, as Orne suggests, than to prolong the inevitable? Taking her hands in his, he whispered, avoiding her eyes, "are you sure you want to marry a sorcerer like me? You wouldn't prefer a human?"
Quickly removing her hands from his, Addie almost slapped him. "How dare you ask that, Rhys?" He knows I love him, more than anything, so why would he ask that? Addie blinked back tears, does this mean he no longer wishes to marry me? How was that possible? Just hours ago they had kissed passionately under the overhanging leaves in the garden, all the while whispering of their love. "I love you and only you!" Since awakening from her convalescence, Addie never thanked her new found confidence more than she did now. Without it, she wouldn't still be sitting at Rhys' side—she would have fled long before.
Immediately regretting his words, Rhys took her face in his hands and wiped her tears. How could I be such a fool? Of course, every year, every minute we spend together will be worth whatever pain I receive at her passing. Why am I even thinking of that when we haven't married yet? "I am so sorry, Addie. I did not mean to imply anything by that at all," he kissed her lips.
It took all of her to pull back and not respond to his kiss, Addie still felt the simultaneous chill in her spine and warmth in her being whenever he lips neared hers. "Then why did you say it?" She met his eyes.
Holding her gaze, Rhys felt shame engulf him once again. Not one full day had passed together since their love was confessed and he had already hurt her. "It was my conversation with Orne. He said something that resonated more than just his hatred of attachments." Seeing the hurt on Addie's visage replaced with worry, Rhys continued, "he made clear that no matter how long our union lasts, it will be just a fraction of my life. I cannot offer to grow old with you as a human could. I cannot even offer my remaining years…"
"I know that!" Addie interrupted, "I knew that from the moment I fell in love with you. You are a sorcerer and I am a human—nothing will ever change that." Her tone softened as she once again took his hands in hers, "I don't want anything to change that. I love you as the sorcerer you are and I want to be with you for however long we have, as husband and wife." Whispering, she added, "We can postpone the wedding, if you want."
"No," he kissed her hands, "I've allowed too many foolish ideas to cloud this wonderful day. I want to put this silliness behind us." He leaned in to kiss her, but she beat him to it. Her lips met his with such passion that they quickly forgot where they were and succumbed to their senses. After what could have been hours, minutes, or even centuries, Rhys pulled away. It would not be wise to get too carried away, especially here. Only a few hours, maybe six or even five were left until their wedding—they could wait. "Besides," he added with a smile, "you should get some more sleep before your sister comes to wake you up." With that, he walked her to chamber, gave her one final kiss, and retreated to his chamber.
**Reviews are nice! Special thanks to YIEQ and MissMusic101 for their involvement in jump starting to my writing again! Check out their Bamarre fics too!**