Disclaimer: All the Twilight stuff belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm just slurping in her saucer.

I am in complete awe regarding the reception of the first chapter. I keep saying 'wow,' so I guess I'll say it again. WOW!

Regarding the time and place of this fic - there isn't one. The kingdoms, lands and times are completely fictitious. Though most of the tale will stick with something close to 12th century England, I'm leaving it all open intentionally so I don't have to call artistic license all the time! :) If you are looking for complete historical accuracy, you probably won't find it, so don't be too disappointed if the customs don't match exactly what might have occurred at any particular place or time in history. For example, handmaids might have been considered something of an upper-lower class in actual history, they're considered just marginally above a serf for the purposes of this story.

I'm also going for pretty short, concise chapters at this point. They may not be as long as you are used to with me, but I should be able to update pretty regularly.

Thanks to Salix caprea, Melanie, and Tita Hale for the beautiful banners they made! All can be found on my blog (address in the end notes).

Thanks to DK for the beta reading!

I had just married this man, and I hadn't even known the color of his hair.


Chapter 2 – Guardedly Celebrate

"If we ride hard, we should be able to reach the abbey in a couple of hours."

"We don't have an extra horse – she'll have to ride with me."

"That will slow us down."

"Undoubtedly."

Sir Edward looked over to me for the first time in several minutes – ever since King Aro and his entourage had left us here in the stables. His companion – the knight with the red dragon on his breastplate – glanced at me often, but his look was not the same as the one Sir Edward bestowed upon me. I felt certain he did not appreciate my presence, though he had said nothing of the sort since his initial confrontation with Sir Edward.

My fiancé.

It didn't sound right in my head. Though I was certainly of marrying age, I hadn't given the idea a single thought in my life – not with any true meaning, anyway. I had perhaps entertained a passing fancy when an attractive page or market seller caught my eye, but even that was rare. I was too busy with my duties to consider such things. When Sir Edward looked at me, I felt a strange tingling sensation in my belly, which seemed to make me forget anything and everything that was going on around me.

"You must stay behind us," Edward was telling the knight. "We will have to ride too slowly, and I need to know we are not being followed."

"Of course," the knight responded. "Though I don't think he would be so bold."

"I won't chance it," Sir Edward said. "Not with my fiancée."

"As you wish," the knight bowed his head slightly, gave me one last cursory glance before he walked out of the stables, leaving me alone with Sir Edward.

"Come, Isabella," he said, gesturing back towards his horse. "Have you been to the Angeles Abbey before?"

"Yes, my lord."

"Good!" he smiled, which made his eyes light up for a moment. The reins fell away from handle of the stall door with a quick tug from Sir Edward, and a moment later he was lifting me into the saddle, my legs hanging off to one side. He mounted behind me, and again his arm wrapped around my middle, holding me securely against his body. "We're going to ride quickly."

"Yes, my lord."

"Have you ridden often?" I could feel the warmth of his breath against my neck, and again I thought I could hear him inhaling deeply.

"No, my lord."

"If you tire, please tell me. If possible, we will take a short break. Understood?"

"Yes, my lord."

Though we walked out of the stables and down the short path to the castle gates, Sir Edward quickly brought his horse to cantor as soon as we had left King Aro's abode behind. I bounced around in the saddle uncomfortably, even though his arm held me tight. After a few minutes he slowed and shifted forwards in the saddle, then lifted me slightly, placing me across his legs.

"Put your arms 'round my neck," he said quietly. I felt my body tense slightly and blood rush to my face.

"Yes, my lord," I responded quietly. I wasn't sure if he even heard me. I had to turn my body to his to comply, and once I was more or less facing him, though still side-saddle, I reached up and placed my hands around the back of his neck. As soon as I had, he called out to his steed and we raced ahead again. Sitting in his lap as I was, my body moved with his, up and down in the same rhythm of the horse. It was decidedly more comfortable, and in this manner we reached the abbey without another word between us.

The priest at the door greeted Sir Edward warmly and smiled in my direction when Sir Edward informed him of our hurried nuptials. Sir Edward introduced him as Father Charles, and while Sir Edward spoke to the priest, I tried to remind my legs how to walk again. I had no idea simply sitting on a horse could leave one's legs barely able to stand! I carefully shifted from one leg to the other, trying to stretch tired, sore muscles. Perhaps I should have asked Sir Edward for a break after all.

"The nuns will care for you until mid-morning," Sir Edward informed me. "By then servants should have arrived with your wedding dress, and they will help prepare you."

"Yes, my lord."

"I will see you tomorrow eve in the chapel, Isabella," Sir Edward said quietly. He reached out and took both my hands in his, produced the half smile that made my cheeks warm, and laughed softly through his nose. "So lovely."

I watched for a few moments as he rode back down the road in the direction from which we had come. Twilight was upon us, and at the darkened horizon I could not have been sure, but I thought he met with another rider off in the distance.

"Come, Isabella," the Father Charles implored. "You'll need your rest for tomorrow."

"Yes, Father," I replied. I followed him inside and heard the gate shut behind me. Throughout the rest of the evening, despite the meal I was fed and the bed I was given for sleeping, all I could think of was the feeling of his arm holding me tight and my arms wrapped around his strong neck. These were the thoughts that took me into a surprisingly restful slumber, and when I woke to the dim light of daybreak, the nuns informed me I had visitors.

Both Angela and Kate had been allowed to leave Princess Jessica long enough to be brought to the abbey to help bathe me and dress me in the most beautiful white dress I had ever seen. It wasn't overly fancy, like a real lady or princess might have worn for her wedding, but I thought it was wonderful, and by far the most extravagant thing I had ever worn. It was soft and covered in fine lace with a train flowing out in the back. There was a sheer veil, which Angela affixed to my hair and pulled down over my face. When Angela pulled a looking glass over for me to view myself, I could hardly believe it was me looking back out of the mirror. Kate also helped Angela dress as my Maid of Honor, in a gold colored dress with black trim, in honor of Sir Edward's banner.

Everything was happening so fast, my head was still spinning when I found myself at the end of a long aisle, walking along a white carpet towards the altar inside the chapel at Angeles Abbey. King Aro was there, as well as Queen Renata, Lords Marcus and Caius and the other handmaids. Princess Jessica was in attendance, her dark eyes glaring at me. She sat between her young sister, Gianna, and her older brother, Felix. There were also perhaps six dozen lords and ladies of the kingdom in attendance, and they were all watching me as my cheeks flamed and I looked down at my feet. When I finally worked up enough courage to look up again, I could see Sir Edward Cullen, my soon to be husband, at the end of the aisle, standing next to the knight who had argued with him in the stable.

Since I had no living family, Father Charles from the abbey held my arm and walked me down the aisle to the altar, where he placed my hand in Sir Edward's. My head was so full of confusion, I didn't even hear Father Chaney's words as he began the ceremony, nor did I hear Sir Edward's response. Father Chaney nodded at me, and I dropped my eyes down to my satin shoes. I had never worn such finery before this day, and being dressed in such in front of all these nobles was quite frightening. I kept waiting for someone to realize who I was and tell me to leave the room. I could feel the palms of my hands moisten with my nervousness, and I was sure Sir Edward would feel it as well.

Standing immobile, I was somewhat aware of Sir Edward repeating the vows of marriage as dictated by the scriptures of his God. The words were not familiar to me, though I echoed the priest's words as he gave them to me, hardly able to hear my own voice.

"Isabella Swan," Father Chaney's voice boomed, bringing me out of the near trance I had been in since yesterday afternoon. "Do you take Sir Edward Cullen, son of Edward, Champion of the Golden Dragon, Champion of the Painted Arrow, Champion of the Angeles Arena, Champion of the Grand Tournament, Duke of Olympia, Lord of Masen, nephew to King Carlisle of Forks, and heir to the throne of Forks, for your husband?"

My throat tightened, and I found I could not swallow, nor find enough wind to speak the words I was supposed to speak. All those titles – I didn't even know what most of them meant. I had no titles, and found myself wondering how I was going to be announced. Handmaid to the Princess Jessica? Sole survivor of the Swan household? I heard King Aro's quiet scoff in my direction, and I forced sound from my throat, questioning the words even as I spoke them.

"I will."

"And will you, Sir Edward Cullen, son of Edward, Champion of the Golden Dragon, Champion of the Painted Arrow, Champion of the Angeles Arena, Champion of the Grand Tournament, Duke of Olympia, Lord of Masen, nephew to King Carlisle of Forks, and heir to the throne of Forks, take Isabella Swan to be your wife?"

Isabella Swan. Of course, that is how I would be introduced, for I had no title to announce.

"I will," he said simply, and I felt his hand grip mine ever so slightly, his thumb rubbing lightly over the back of my fingers before he reached for my left hand and brought it up. He took a simple gold band from the man beside him and slipped it over the third finger of my left hand.

"In front of God and these witnesses, I pronounce you Man and Wife. You may kiss the bride."

Kiss?

Edward turned me towards him and his hands reached for the front of the sheer veil covering my face. He pulled it up and laid it over the top of my head, cascading down my back. His eyes met mine, and his hand cupped my cheek. I could feel my heart racing in my chest, and I wondered if I would be the first bride to pass out in front of the altar. I only realized my teeth were biting into my lower lip when his thumb ran across my chin and pulled until my lower lip was released. He gave me another half smile and leaned in slowly. He paused barely an inch away from his lips touching my mouth, locked his piercing green eyes with mine for a moment before they fluttered closed, and I felt his lips on me. The warmth from his mouth covered my lips.

It was brief, and it was chaste, and it completely took my breath away.

His fingers stroked my cheek and I realized I was just staring up at him, but couldn't make myself stop.

"Breathe, Isabella," he said softly, so only I would hear.

He took my hand again and turned us both to face the group of witnesses for a moment, before linking my arm around his and walking me back down the aisle, out of the chapel, and into the fading sunlight. It was then I noticed the bright copper colored strands in his hair, and panic overtook me again.

I had just married this man, and I hadn't even known the color of his hair.

"Isabella," I heard his whisper near my ear. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, my lord," I answered automatically. I didn't want him to know how afraid I was.

"You're trembling," he responded, obviously seeing through my thin façade.

"I might be a little nervous," I admitted. His soft laughter filled my ears.

"I believe that's customary for brides." His hand reached up for my cheek again, his thumb ran over my cheekbone, and he spoke to me softly and intently. "Do not fear, my wife. You will always be safe with me."

Angela appeared behind us, holding the arm of Sir Edward's best man.

"Isabella," Sir Edward said, turning me to face the other couple. "I apologize for neglecting this earlier, but may I please introduce my distant cousin, Sir Jasper, son of Lord Whitlock, Champion of the Iron Horse Tournament, and betrothed of my sister, the Lady Alice of Masen, Duchess of Brandon."

Sir Jasper bent at the waist, and I felt heat cover my face that such a man would bow to me.

"Sir Jasper, may I introduce my wife, Isabella."

"I'm honored," Sir Jasper spoke, and his eyes danced over to Sir Edward's with a strange look before he righted himself.

Before they could exchange any other words, the lords and ladies of Volterra exited the chapel and congratulated us both. Many of the ladies who had never bothered to make eye contact with me before gave me quick hugs and words of encouragement, though in my nervousness, I didn't actually managed to remember any of their words.

Sir Edward never let go of my hand and kept me close to his side as they all came by. He pulled me even closer as King Aro and Queen Renata approached and stopped before us.

"Congratulations, Sir Edward," King Aro said gruffly. He didn't look towards me at all. "I'm sure your new wife will be able to tend to your needs adequately."

The way he sneered the word wife made me cringe, and I found myself stepping a little closer to Sir Edward's side. Though I assumed he was angry over Sir Edward's rejection of Princess Jessica, I had no idea what to think of his comment. His tone made it clear he was insinuating something, but I didn't know what it was.

"If I didn't know better," Sir Edward said, his voice cold and hard, "I'd think you intended your comment to be an insult."

"Of course not," King Aro said quickly.

"I'm glad to hear that," Sir Edward replied with a smile that did not touch his eyes, "because if you insulted my wife, I would be bound by the laws of chivalry to retaliate."

"I'm sure you misunderstood," the King replied and walked away quickly.

"Edward!" Sir Jasper exclaimed. "What are you…?"

"Silence," Edward growled back at him, and then he quickly turned to me and smiled. "I believe we're due for a party, are we not?"

There was a grand carriage waiting for us, and it quickly filled between the wedding party, King Aro's family and another couple I didn't recognize, but Edward introduced as Duke William of LaPush, and his sister, Lady Susan. I wondered if I should remember all of their names, and realized I had been in too much of a stupor to really have heard every introduction since the wedding. While I tried not to show my unease, they all chatted amiably. I shifted nervously, completely unaware of where we were going. I assumed a reception, but I had no idea where it was to be held and was far too embarrassed to ask. After a short ride, we came to another castle, one I had never seen before, though it couldn't have been too far from Volterra.

"Welcome to Masen," Sir Edward said. "This was my home as a child, though I live in Forks now. It seemed convenient enough for our celebration."

The castle wasn't as large as Volterra, but the high walls appeared sound enough. As we approached, torches were lit to show us the way through the gatehouse and to the keep inside. Sir Edward took my hand and assisted me from the carriage, with Sir Jasper and Angela following closely behind. When I looked behind us, I could see all the other carriages unloading their passengers as well. Sir Edward led me through the doors and down a long hallway, the walls covered in banners of black and gold.

The reception hall was also decorated with yellow and white flowers and many representations of Sir Edward's gold and black banner, much like the ones in the grand hallway. A feast was laid out on the table, and Sir Edward led me to the table in the very center of the room, sitting me in the middle next to him. Angela and Sir Jasper sat on either side of us.

"Alice is going to do you grave bodily injury when she finds out about this, you know," Sir Jasper said, holding his glass up to clink against Sir Edward's. "I'll go ahead and speak for her at this point, and state that the food is barely adequate and the decorations are atrocious. She would have done much better."

"My sister would have been hard pressed to come up with much more with the single day's notice I allowed."

"She would have still done it," Sir Jasper replied.

"Undoubtedly," Sir Edward agreed.

Being completely unaccustomed to these kinds of gatherings, I was terrified of doing something wrong, and had pretty much resigned to not doing anything unless Sir Edward commanded me. Dinner was the perfect example, since I thought the barely adequate food was incredibly extravagant, though nearly impossible to eat without getting something on my white dress. I also thought the decorations were beautiful. Sir Edward didn't seem to mind and indulged himself while making small, quick glances in my direction every minute or so. After a while, he tossed his knife to the table and turned to me.

"Come, my wife." Sir Edward rose and reached for my hand. "Dance with me."

"My lord, please," I said as he pulled me to the center of the hall and placed his right hand on my hip and took my right hand in his left. "I have never danced."

"It's simple," Sir Edward smiled down at me. "Put your hand on my shoulder, and trust in me. If you put your trust in me, and allow me to lead you, we will flow together perfectly. If you go against me, we will likely stumble and fall."

I had the feeling he was not just referring to dancing. As the minstrels began to play a new song, I tried to do as he said, and found when I let go and allowed him to move me as he desired, things did go remarkably smoothly. When the music slowed and the crowd began to cheer, Sir Edward held me closer to his chest and brought the back of my hand up to his lips. After our dance, Sir Jasper took Sir Edward's place, and Sir Edward danced with Angela. Sir Jasper did not make eye contact with me as we danced, and I did not feel as sure on my feet as I had in Sir Edward's arms.

"That was quick," Sir Jasper said, his voice so quiet I did not believe he intended me to hear him at all. When I looked in the direction of his gaze, I saw King Aro and his family leaving the reception hall. Sir Jasper's eyes finally met mine, and I wished I could understand his expression. "Thank you for the dance, Isabella."

"Of course, my lord."

Sir Edward came to my side again, taking me from Sir Jasper.

"Did you see?" Sir Edward inquired, nodding his head towards the exit where King Aro had recently departed.

"I did," the knight responded.

"Did you check the guards?"

"They are loyal to King Carlisle," Sir Jasper said.

"Good."

Sir Edward led me back to the table, where he quickly finished a glass of wine before pulling me back to the dance floor with him, where we stayed for some time, occasionally switching partners. Those times always made me feel unsteady, and once I felt as though I might actually stumble. I managed to get through the evening without falling in my white dress, and found myself relieved when Sir Edward took my hand again and informed me it was time for the last dance.

"You've held up well, my wife," he said softly before twirling me one last time in a slow circle under his arm. The minstrels stopped playing, and the crowd cheered for us again. Edward smiled and waved, perfectly at ease in the center of attention, while I blushed and hoped I wasn't doing anything wrong. Many of the wedding guests came to us again, offering their congratulations and wishing us well. Edward seemed to know each one by name, and spoke eloquently to them all while I tried not to actually cower behind him.

"The reception was beautiful," yet another lord commented to Sir Edward.

"I think it was splendid," Sir Edward replied. "Especially when you consider my eagerness to wed."

The lord laughed and walked away.

"As splendid as it has been," Sir Edward turned to me, "I am tired of celebrating with the populace. I think I would rather take you back to my chambers alone so we can complete our union."

His head tilted slightly, and his eyes burned intensely into mine. He raised his eyebrows softly, and his half smile returned, though I did not find it joyous and carefree as it has appeared before. Now it displayed something more primal, something…hungry.

My heart raced and my breath caught in my throat. I had been so overwhelmed in the wedding itself and the idea of marrying someone I did not know, that I hadn't even considered the expectations he would have of the wedding night.

Unlike the Princess Jessica, I was a virgin. My first kiss had occurred not four hours ago, right after Sir Edward slipped the ring on my finger. I knew what I was supposed to do; at least, I thought I did. Accounts of the act of marital relations were varied depending on who told the story, though most seemed to agree that it was for the benefit of the husband, and for the creation of his heirs, not for pleasure of the wife. If she were lucky, he would not hurt her much and it would be over quickly. A brand new panic settled into my head.

And that is how my wedding celebration ended.


Chapter End Notes:

Now you know the next chapter is going to be interesting! ;) It should be out in a week or so.

Edward likes pushing Aro's buttons, doesn't he? What do you think the wedding night will be like? Hit review and let me know!

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