The Alexandrian monarchs sent Eiko a letter on her wedding day; they wished her good will and a happy marriage. Garnet apologized for not being in attendance for her birthing time was near and recently took to her private chambers. Zidane, dutiful husband, was not about to leave his wife's side. Their oldest boy eagerly waited for what some suspected was twins. Eiko grinned at the swirly penmanship.
She knew Freya and Amarant would arrive to witness the nuptials, and Quina mentioned that he/she might travel to Conde Petie, but Steiner would remain at his post in Alexandria. Her only frown of regret came from a little boy in a steepled hat who stopped years before.
Gentle purring echoed behind her, and she reached around to snuggle her cat. He'd go with her to her new home with Iain, as every mage needed a familiar. This one actually caught mice in his spare time.
A baby wailed in the next room. Only a fortnight ago, Eiko's mother gave birth again to another child with silver hair and small tail. The child was male, exceedingly beautiful like his father, almost a mirror image. Kuja named him immediately while Hilda, covered in sweat and bruises, recovered in her chambers.
"Llewelyn's hungry again," Eiko muttered. "Mama will be back to her thin self in no time."
Fae women shunned the practice of hiring a wet nurse like the other nobles. A babe deserved milk from the natural mother. Kuja could care less either way as long as the child got fed. He just made sure they grew a healthy supply of catnip and chamomile for those instances of colic or distress. Ceridwen always tagged behind him in the greenhouse; she loved plants the very moment she emerged in the world.
So while Eiko sat by the window with her cat nestled in her lap, Ceridwen plunked herself by her big sister and grinned. "Thank you for your old toys and books."
"I don't need them anymore, Ceri."
"Mama said she'll be out in a minute to get you ready." Ceridwen wiggled a loose tooth with her tongue. "Eiko, why did papa cry yesterday when you gave him your necklace?"
Eiko snorted. "Our father doesn't know the meaning of the word."
"Nu-uh. I saw liquid!"
"Oh, I dunno. I guess he will miss me." Eiko hadn't wanted to give Kuja back her locket as custom dictated, or give away her old playthings, but marriage changed an individual for many reasons the summoner didn't quite understand. She knew that in fae law, she went from the authority of her father to the protection of her husband. Iain, no longer to be obedient unto his parents, was now required to provide and care for a bride. "Did you know, Ceri, that I am not our mother and father's natural child?"
"Well, duh," said Ceridwen. "They don't have a horn."
"I loved mama the moment she took me in. Our father ...took a while longer."
"You exaggerate, Eiko," said Kuja from the doorway, smiling. "You loved me the moment you laid eyes on me." Because of the dry heat of Conde Petie, Kuja often cast aside his usual attire of silk and codpiece. The billowy shirt and slacks were more comfortable.
She smiled sweetly. "Father, I do believe your memory is warped."
"I still remember the day you first called me 'dad' and reached out your arms for an embrace."
"I was delirous with fever!"
"You still spoke truth."
He grinned. "Come along. Your mother needs to get you ready."
Eiko dutifully stood, patted her little sister on the head, then left the room, pausing only briefly to press a light kiss on her father's cheek. Kuja looked on as she entered her mother's chamber. Wasn't it only yesterday that he taught her to summon a will o'wisp? Or give her a book of herbal lore? The concept of time was no longer his friend - and he had so few to start with.
Ceridwen tugged at his slacks. "Papa, I'm hungry."
"Define hungry, Ceri." Her eyes flashed solid black. "That's what I thought. How long has it been? A month or so? I have some vials in the cellar."
"I will grab my pretty scarf."
The sunlight was very bright this morning.
Hilda fastened a wide sash around Eiko's waist. "You're lucky," she said. "I didn't receive this much attention on my wedding day."
"To dad?" Eiko stifled a laugh.
"Hm, how do you kids put it? Ah, we simply partied the night before." Mother and daughter shared a chuckle. "My little girl," mused Hilda, shaking her head. "For a long time I thought I'd be planning your nuptials in Lindblum."
"I'm glad you're not."
The newborn babe gurgled in the nearby bassinet. He stayed in the shadow of the room, away from the sunlight pouring inside. Lady Hilda stood straight, tilted her head in deep thought. "This is where I'm supposed to give you pearls of wisdom about your wedding night," she said. "Close your eyes, lie back, and think of the empire."
"Mother, you cannot be serious."
"Of course I'm not serious. That is a bold-face lie."
The summoner knew well enough thanks to Zidane and Amarant running their mouths in earlier years, then eavesdropping on her mother and Dagger discussing their pregnancies. Lady Margaret gave Eiko a very thorough explanation - complete with pictures - one morning during normal studies, for which her student would never forget the rest of her remaining days. "Brilliant," Eiko deadpanned.
"I think the best piece of advice I can give you is to simply relax, have a bit of ale, then see where the mood takes you."
"Iain's taking me to Esto Gaza."
"Well, that's romantic," said Hilda with a smile. "Your father just took me down on Sanctuary Road."
Father Dayvid faced the couple and their families. "Permission granted from the mother o' the bride?" The dwarf-priest was well-on in years now, though most would say he wore his age well. Thanks to the influx of fae folk, the religious grew used to witnessing the marriage ritual.
Lady Hilda, newborn Llewelyn cradled in her arms, stated firmly, "I consent and freely give."
"From the father o' the bride?"
There was eerie silence until Hilda nudged Kuja with her elbow. "I consent and freely give," the sorcerer spoke.
"Then may the blessin's o' heaven be upon this man an' woman!"
When Eiko leaned forward to accept her husband's kiss, a part of Kuja's soul snapped and died.
There was one particular fae custom that Eiko loved: while her family and friends partied away the afternoon, she and Iain were able to immediately leave for their wedding trip. Kuja's last act of fatherhood toward the summoner was to grant her a gift. She and her husband climbed on board a silver dragon, one young and resembling its mother. "Take care of her," said Kuja. "She likes a chocobo now and then."
Iain flashed a wide grin. "The dragon or your daughter, medicus?" His bride whacked him in the chest.
"For Gaia's sake," she chastised, sounding very much like her mother. "He can still kill you and make it look like an accident."
Oleander, made into a tea, mimicked a heart attack. Wipe away the vomit and the murderer walked away with a whistle and a hop, though Kuja preferred neither actions. He smiled like the sharks in the ocean.
Ale flowed freely between the fae and dwarves. Other denizens partook in the celebrations; a dragoon from Burmecia, a flaming redhead who liked to throw things. A Qu ran around the outdoor market, made numerous purchases of tasty items. The odd reunion between enemies would have been extremely awkward if it wasn't for ample amounts of alcohol ...and the return of another redhead.
"Caela?" Hilda ran forward and wrapped the young woman in an embrace. "Caela, when did you return?"
Her hair was down and braided, covered with the cloak of a free woman. "Late last night, my lady. I visited some family in Lindblum, and boy, do I have some gossip for you!"
Freya topped off her mug with foam. "The regent, of course." A snort came from Amarant.
"What's a regent?" asked Ceridwen.
"Nobody important." Kuja rested his infant son against his shoulder.
"Well," continued Caela, eyes sparkling. "He remarried to start with. A young little thing."
Freya jumped in. "I'd say bimbo."
"They divorced in less than a year."
"Shocker," said Amarant. Kuja agreed.
"He married again."
Hilda rolled her eyes. "Another bimbo?"
Caela shook her head. "No, an older widow."
"I'd say a bit of a ditz." Freya sipped her ale.
"Anyway." The former slave paused to collect her thoughts. "They're in the middle of a divorce as we speak."
"Heh." Amarant's response earned him a smack from the dragoon. "It's funny, dammit!"
When evening fell over the village, Ceridwen fell asleep against her father. He took the chance to steal away from the waning festivities and put the girl to bed. Lady Hilda still chatted with Caela, showed off her newborn. Kuja waltzed into his home, toward what used to be Eiko's chambers. The room was quiet and absent of the summoner's belongings. Ceridwen quickly snuggled under the blankets.
Quietly, Kuja walked over to the bookshelf. All of Eiko's herbal tomes were gone, along with her spell books and horror novels. She liked an occasional fright before slumber, something her parents never figured out or understood. The books that remained were meant for young children, fairy tales and fables that taught morals or manners. Then Kuja smiled; Eiko left her favourite fairy tale for her little sister.
He took the dark blue book in his palms. "Tales of the Miraculous Medicus," he said. "Bad Wolf, Empty Child, Demon's Run..." He silently read through the table of contents. "Oh, the Silence. I haven't read that one in awhile."
"Daddy?" Ceridwen rubbed her eyes. "Can we read tomorrow? I'm very sleepy."
"Rest, little one," said Kuja, kissing the top of her head. "And tomorrow morning, I shall tell you all about the funny man who travels in a big, blue box."
"Big sister Eiko says he has a name, but you can't say it out loud."
"Hm, that's very true."
"Can you whisper it for me?"
The sorcerer leaned close to his daughter's ear, spoke a name that made monsters shiver in fear and children clap in excitement.
Ceridwen scowled. "...Medicus who?"
The stone angel outside their home stood at guard, its hands over its eyes, never moving or shifting, until Amarant swaggered by drunk.
"Holy hell, did that thing move?!"
Mystic: I tried with this ending. I really, really tried. It's supposed to be happy and funny and give something of a closure. Did I succeed? At all? Anyway, thanks for sticking with me; it's been quite a ride. And don't worry, I'll be back with more Kuja/Hilda goodness. (They're too much fun!)
Thanks again everyone! :D