Newlyweds


Previously: The Fort

They bathed in the river and changed their clothes before entering the city of Riften. Roggvir liked this set of clothes best; they made him feel like a proper member of society. The debacle at the fort had proved he was no warrior after all, so wearing armor felt wrong. He would never really pass for a noble, despite how much he liked the clothes (and how much he liked being seen in them).

But these were merchant clothes, and he could pull the look off seamlessly. The green embroidered fabric fit just right, they were worn but not too worn, and they smelled of Radiant Raiment and all its elusive elegance. He was suddenly very excited about getting married and rejoining society.

Zahra looked good in her blue dress as she led Roggvir to the Temple of Mara. She confidently walked in and asked to speak to the head priest. The priest was a Redguard called Maramal and he was pleasantly surprised when Zahra said they wanted to have a wedding at the temple.

"It's good to see love blossoming in such difficult times!" the priest exclaimed. "Where are you from?"

"All over," Zahra replied immediately, when Roggvir opened his mouth to say "Solitude." Necromancers sometimes had to deal with the outside world, and when they did, they found it best to keep personal information as obscure as possible. "We were most recently staying in Ivarstead," she added.

"And how did you two meet?"

"I met his sister; she told me about him." Roggvir noticed Zahra was doing that thing again, where she kept her voice calm, her words evenly measured, and her eye contact unflinching. "I agreed to meet him, and we decided we liked each other."

"Wonderful!" Maramal cheered. "We can have the wedding this afternoon. My wife will show you to a room where you can rest and refresh yourselves."

Maramal's wife was a Dark Elf named Dinya. She had dark blue skin and black hair. She seemed to be gentle, sweet-natured, with a soft voice. When Zahra realized the priestess was with child, her heart tugged.

That could be me soon, she realized. Granted, I'm not a fan of raising a child in Markarth, but I'm sure it will still bring me joy. As she and Roggvir settled down in a small room to unpack and wipe off their sweat, Zahra wondered what their first child would look like, sound like. She wondered if her children would ending growing to adulthood in Markarth, and if they'd be street-smart and cosmopolitan.




Norion had told her the wedding clothes were enchanted to chase away all doubt and regret, and he was right. As soon as Roggvir and Zahra looked at each other in their wedding clothes, their eyes met and they had a moment. They were confident this was the right thing for both of them. The long days of travel were worth it and finally coming to an end.

They could stop talking about the future and start living it.

A few guests had assembled in the temple hall; they seemed genuinely intrigued by the young couple. Dinya quickly whispered that weddings often cheered people up in Riften, especially now with news of the war.

Zahra and Roggvir took their places before the altar and Maramal began the ceremony.

He began by invoking Mara, describing her has the origin of love and life, and her civilizing effect on mortals. Zahra almost began to tune him out during this part, for she knew many a necromancer ready to debate him on that. But before she could let her mind wander, Maramal started firing questions at them.

"Do you agreed to be bound in love, now and forever?" he asked Roggvir.

Zahra could practically hear his heart pounding as he nodded slightly and said, "I do, now and forever."

Then it was her turn. "Do you agreed to be bound in love, now and forever?" the high priest asked her.

"I do," she responded automatically, unable to breathe. "Now and forever."

"Then I pronounce you married," Maramal beamed. "And I present you with these rings of matrimony."

There was small applause and Zahra and Roggvir placed their rings on each other, after which, both promptly needed to sit down. The weight of everything they'd done suddenly came crashing down upon their shoulders.

"I've organized a small celebration at the Bee & Barb this evening," Maramal told them. "You won't have to pay for a drop of mead."




While Roggvir was grateful for the savings, Zahra was grateful for the mead. She was inexplicably nervous for some reason, and it didn't help that strangers kept coming up to her to congratulate her, wish her many fat children, and ask her all sorts of questions about who she was, where she came from, and where they planned to live. She thought she was supposed to enjoy this, that this was supposed to be the happiest day of her life, and yet it simply...wasn't. She didn't know if it was because the ceremony was so quick or if because they had no loved ones to share it with, but the day didn't feel as great as she thought it would.

She suddenly realized she wasn't used to this many people talking to her. Zahra had spent her whole life trying not to be seen by outsiders, and now they were milling about her, wanting to know all about her. It was nerve-wracking.

While Roggvir gleefully took questions, boasting about the great life they were going to have in Markarth, Zahra drank cup after cup after cup of mead, until the Argonian innkeeper cut her off.

"It's your wedding night," she told Zahra delicately, lowly. "You're gonna want to have your wits about you."

Sometime after midnight the tavern began to empty and the young couple stumbled back to the temple. Alone now, they began to undress for bed in the light of a single candle. Roggvir smiled at Zahra, and she shifted uncomfortably beneath his gaze.

She's never made love before, Roggvir blinked, realizing just how sheltered his bride was. He'd bought his first harlot at sixteen, and since then had bedded whichever wanderer, tavern wench or bard was willing to have him. He skimmed his memories quickly, as though looking for pointers.

"I'll be gentle," he assured her softly, taking him into her arms and kissing her gently.

It felt warm and nice, but Zahra wasn't excited. She'd read books about torrid affairs and overheard many a caregiver in the thralls of passion, but her experience was different. It was nice to be kissed and held; there was a certain warmth and comfort to it. But that was all.

Later, as she lay in his arms and he started to drift off to sleep, she said emotionlessly, "We should leave for Markarth at first light."

***

The carriage cut through the mountains this time. They briefly stayed in the city of Falkreath; it was ruled by a young Jarl, and filled with hunting enthusiasts and a famous giant graveyard. The tavern was called Dead Man's Drink and the apothecary was called Grave Concoctions. Neither Zahra nor Roggvir considered staying; the city was too small for him, and she felt its morbid humor would drive her fall back on old habits.

The carriage continued westward, following the river and steering clear of forts and mines. As they drew closer to the reach, Zahra wasn't particularly thrilled about entering Forsworn territory, but she wasn't afraid either.

Roggvir, however, was in awe. And it was understandable; the Reach was a beautifully fertile region, with vast meadows, fields, farms, and settlements. The fact that it was home to most of Skyrim's silver mines didn't hurt either.

Zahra tensed as they finally drew close to the massive gates of Markarth. To be fair, Roggvir was right; unlike with Nord architecture, there was no siege weapon getting through those Dwemer walls. They were thick, completely made of stone, and already thousands of years old.

It was nighttime when they arrived in Markarth. The moons were out and the guards started lighting their torches during the shift change. Roggvir and Zahra were allowed through the great metal gates without harassment, which she fleetingly thought was odd, but soon realized why.


There were screams and panic as soon as the couple stepped through the gates and entered a marketplace in full chaos. Guards were swarming the city entrance, swords drawn, and people were fleeing the streets. Zahra looked down to see a miner drowning in his own blood right at the feet of a meat cart.

Great, she sighed wearily. Not one moment in Markarth, and there's already a body in the street.

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