The Grand Duke of Tuschia was positively revolted at the thought of the Duchessa of Bellezza. She had refused his brother, Geanteo, and then his late father, Niccolo di Chimici. She had then married his mortal enemy, Luciano.
Fabrizio di Chimici was only twenty-three, but he ruled half of Talia, the cluster of city-states in Europa, along with his entire family. Those city-states that were under his rule were called the Republic, though the government was far from that.
How he wanted to take revenge on Bellezza for refusing to join his Republic! The man smiled evilly as a terrible plan began to form in his mind, a tiny seed nurtured by his loathing. The girl-ruler Arianna would only give up her rule if something she loved was in danger. She loved only her Luciano, her father, her closest advisors, and the Belezzian islands. Fabrizio would pick off each one until she consented to join the Republic. If she were as faithful as her mother had been, the Republic would soon have another city-state. This time he would not fail.
The girl's father-that freak scientist Rodolfo Rossi would have to go first.
The wedding was almost over when another, older woman trotted over to Patricia and Arthur. She was short and plump, and her wavy red hair was turning grey. Her sharp, lined face was severe enough to quiet a grackle, and the scent of bird droppings wafted toward the teens as she neared them. She seemed to glide rather than walk, and she had a certain aura of purpose surrounding her. The cold eyes softened when she saw Patricia, and her smile became real, but that did not stop her from scrutinizing the teens from head to toe.
When she spoke, her voice crackled like dry parchment. "I am Angelica. We are all very glad that you are here. Come, follow me and I will lead you to your seats for the rest of the wedding."
Arthur moved to follow her, but Patricia held out an arm to stop him, and then spoke to Angelica, who was already turning to go. "We won't go anywhere with you until you answer some of our questions! How can we trust you?"
Angelica pursed her lips, and crossed her beefy arms, and then she said, "All will be revealed to you in good time, but that is not now. There is a wedding going on here-"
"Aha! So I was right about at least one thing around here." Patricia turned to Arthur and gave him an "I- Am-So-Much-Better-Than-You" expression that she often used. "told you it was a wedding!"
"The time for chit-chat is not now," Angelica continued as though Patricia had not spoken, "Although, if you would like to stay in blissful ignorance, I could leave you here, and you could keep on thinking this is a dream. I, on the other hand would like to go back to my seat to watch the remainder of the wedding. My old limbs can't take all this standing."
Arthur looked pointedly at Patricia, and his twin sighed. Shaking her head, she walked after Arthur and Angelica to some seats at the edge of the crowd. She watched as the wedding went on, and Angelica explained that the couple was Luciano and Arianna. They were both very important people, but when Patricia pressed any more, Angelica shut up tight.
A middle-aged woman who seemed to carry herself with the same defiant, regal posture as the beautiful Arianna lifted the delicate white mask off of her face, and Patricia realized that the two women were probably related.
A tall man with silvery hair and sharp features stepped up to the wedding couple and placed silver wreaths on their heads, and Luciano kissed his new wife as the cathedral was filled with voices.
The exuberant hollering was not all coming from inside the church, so Patricia guessed that there were more people outside, rejoicing in the marriage of these two people. However, she did not expect to see thousands of people streaming to the Maddalena to feast when the doors of the great cathedral were opened. Hundreds and thousands of people were yelling happily for the couple. The marble steps leading down from the doors were already filled with people. As Patricia was swept with the tide, she watched people set up trestle tables, while others filled the already-standing tables with food until they sagged under the weight. The wide street was also bustling with people, and they were pushing carts laden with food. There were sweet tarts filled with blackberry custard, delicate pastries, five kinds of bread including banana bread, great wheels of cheese, exotic fruits some of which Patricia could not name, fish and hams, and wooden barrels flowing with rich wine, which the people didn't hesitate to pour for a moment. It seemed that the island was preparing to eat itself to death.
The people made a circle, and couples began to join hands in the middle to dance. An orchestra was playing song that seemed to be a sort of renaissance waltz; Patricia wished she knew how to dance.
The revelries did not slow as the night wore on. After what seemed to Arthur as hours, Angelica came over and stood with the twins, and explained that "Belezzians" loved to party.
" I have explained to the others about you coming," Angelica said, "And they are very excited to meet you. But the happy couple wanted to dance first. After this song, Luciano will come introduce Arianna." She glanced at Patricia, who was staring at Luciano with a frown. "What's the frown for?" she asked.
"It's Luciano. He looks a lot like my late cousin, Lucien. But that's impossible, right?" Patricia asked, glancing up at Angelica.
"Oh, but don't you know? Of course you don't-silly me, I forgot to tell you!" Angelica chuckled, " Luciano Crinamorte, formerly known as-"
"Lucien Mulholland?" Arthur cut her off excitedly.
"Yes. He did die in your world, but he was translated here. I can't explain it, but
Rodolpho will make you understand it soon enough." Angelica answered.
"So that is our cousin…" Patricia murmured, then her eyes lit up, "But if he is dead, then this is heaven, and we are dead too!"
"Oh, no! This place is far from heaven, dear," Patricia turned to find Claudia, who had first led them to the cathedral, standing behind her.
"So, where is this place? And who is this Rodolpho you keep on speaking of?" Arthur asked. "And who are you?"
"Me? Oh, I'm Angelica, the caretaker of the city doves. And this is my daughter, she takes care of the orphans in the city. As for where you are, this city is Torrone, an island of Bellezza, and today you are watching the Duchessa of Bellezza marry the love of her life, the stravagate Luciano Crinamorte, the Cavalier of Bellezza. But I'm guessing you already know that, and you are specifically asking what you are doing here. That will be answered in due time. Ah, here's the happy couple!" Angelica babbled, opening her arms wide and crinkling her eyes with her wide smile.