Do you remember the Vogon Commander in the Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy who used to punish miscreants by reading them his poetry? I hope what comes isn't a punishment, but I've just joined a creative writing course, and my first assignment is a 500 word story (I've done 800). The idea was to take something dull like a wedding reception and try and do something with it. This is what I came up with, and it has nothing to do with astrology:
Favian leant back in his chair at the Wedding Feast and savoured that first kiss. It was 2 hours since, but he fancied he could still taste the scented oil on her lips. It was only the second time he had met Katrina. The marriage was political, designed for peace between his people, the Incatasi, and the incoming Molags.
The name said it all: their language was guttural and crude, at least to Favian’s educated ears, and so were the people. The Incatasi had been settled here for a thousand years, they had built great cities, had become artistic and learned, and Favian liked to think some of their ways had rubbed off on the Molag this last 50 years. They remained treacherous, however, and took cruel delight in humiliating their enemies before slaying them.
Still, Katrina seemed different. They had been introduced exactly a year ago, at the end of peace negotiations, and there was nothing crude about her. Admittedly she could not read nor write, but she could speak Incatasi, and though their conversation had been limited to formal exchanges, there was subtlety and intelligence in her delivery. Her looks were fine in an almost boyish way, and she had a slim, wiry frame beneath the long emerald green dress she wore for the occasion. The touch of androgyny appealed to Favian’s sensibility.
The Feast was taking place on Molag territory, in a great wooden hall, held up by massive trunks of timber. In contrast to the delicate friezes and rich tapestries of the Incatasi, the walls were decorated with animal skins, weapons and, usually, the heads of their enemies: the latter, however, being mostly Incatasi, had been removed for the Wedding. For the Molag, this constituted subtle diplomacy.
The men were seated untidily along one side of the hall, the women, including Katrina, on the other, with servants milling between. A low chant began among the Molag men: “The Bedding! The Bedding! The Bedding!” The chant gradually swelled and then broke loose into a raucous chorus.
This was the real sting in the tail for Favian. The Bedding. That primitive rite of witnessing that took place at Royal Weddings among the Molag.
A giant figure lurched towards him. It was Rulf, the Molag’s chief warrior, drunk and leery. “I’ll make a bet with you,” he announced slurringly, “A bet that says a wincy boy like you can’t do it. What d’you say?”
“Ha! Well we all know you’re not lacking, Rulf,” Favian replied, “if only sheep could talk, we’d have some fine stories to tell about you.” Favian knew this was the sort of humour that appealed to the Molag, and would raise him in their estimation. “No, Rulf’s certainly not lacking,” the warrior replied, “and it’s not just the sheep who’s got some fine stories about me either.” He roared with laughter, pleased with his own wit and prowess, and Favian slipped away.
The Incatasi had their own tradition of Royal Beddings, but it had died out centuries ago, and had never been public in the way it was for the Molags. Just a few discreet courtiers. And it had its uses, reflected Favian, helping remove doubts over paternity and succession. And above all the rumours of royal incest that nowadays did the rounds among the ordinary Incatasi.
For the Molags, the Bedding was a public spectacle - but being who they were, there was no loss of dignity involved. One way or the other, thought Favian, royal marriages are matings, whether carried out in public or in private. The prize bull and heifer producing an offspring for the benefit of the people.
The moment had arrived. In the centre of the hall was a bed arrangement, covered in furs. Favian was very uneasy, even though he had, in his own way, back at the palace, rehearsed the occasion. What was not as it should be? The political advantages of this match were considerable for both peoples; he had married a striking woman whose temperament, it seemed, suited his own; and the Incatasi and the Molags were, for the first time, gathered as one. Be calm, he told himself, there is nothing to concern you, it’s just a public duty you’ve been trained for.
The hall had gone quiet. Favian and Katrina were standing either side of the bed while the disrobing took place. First it was Favian. Now he was naked in front of all the people. It’s a duty, a ceremony, he reminded himself again, it’s not personal. Now Katrina. They looked directly at one another while Katrina was disrobed. And then, as the last garment came off, those lips pouted teasingly at him. Something was wrong, very wrong. Before him stood the naked body of a man, aroused.
The laughter began, quickly growing to great guffaws and table-bashing from the Molag men. Favian’s humiliation was complete. And then the knives came out.
© Barry Goddard 2014
© Barry Goddard 2014