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|In my fantasy city of Mreshth, orcs are accepted as part of society (they'd better be, they established the city!); but an inter-racial marriage among the higher classes is very rare. However, one night at Festival, a child is concieved, and due to VERY old-fashioned magical bindings of family and land, the heir must be brought into the fold, no matter what. Now Zrethak is forced to marry a human man she'd thought a one-night fling. The marriage is arranged, the line of inheritence secured- now, if the new bride and groom can just keep from killing each other . . . This is the first chapter, but as soon as I get more done, you'll see just how antagonistic they can get.||
Storm clouds simmered and thrummed at the edge of the sky the day of Zrethak thragaGleshthrah thraga Brakash's wedding. The entire upper-class came to the celebration, if only to witness what was likely the most- er . . . unusual spectacle in the history of the city-state of Mreshth. Even more unusual than the centennial fish-war at the docks, a harvest celebration of the many faithful Neredaens (Both those of the species and of the religious persuasion) in the city.
And not just the Mreshthan "nobility," the wealthy merchants and social dominants, but the plebian workers and crafters, laborers and home-makers were all abuzz about the day's event. For not only were the two most important families in Mreshth to be joined, but never before had man married orc!
Meanwhile, as gossip raged and rumors boiled wilder than the gathering clouds, the lady in question waited in the Great Temple, where a small place was dedicated to every deity that the mish-mash of species, cultures and groups that filled out Mreshth could grandfather in, make up, or import. Zrethak, thragaGleshthrah thragaBrakash, was not in a mood to be trifled with.
A pottery goblet, of the sort orcs favored, committed valiant suicide by holding its post within her reach. The messenger was of a less principled nature, but far wiser. He presented a moving target to the shattered goblet, not sticking around but still certainly able to hear the woman's roar.
"WHERE IS HE?!"
Zrethak stood, shoulders squared, teeth locked in a snarl. After all she's put up with, agreed to, consented about, he repaid her with this embarrassment? She paced, temper still unsoothed by the death of the goblet. A real death under her bare hands might not have calmed her. Agreeing to have a marriage ceremony of the Mannish kind- grai-k'zlashgah, what had possessed her to do so? Humans were mad, with their ideas of an oath binding mates, ignoring or ill-treating children born to un-sworn parents. The boy's family had had to present one hells of a marriage gift to even attract her attention to the idea! And now-
Late for his own wedding. By the Cave-Mother, he'd pay for this.
Still smoldering, Zrethak settled in a large, comfortable chair, padded with soft hide still in its natural colors. Giving a growl, she shoved her minimal skirt to where it wouldn't wrinkle, and placed her forehead in her strong and well-formed, clawed hand. Her garments, as much of the impending ceremony, were a mix of Mreshthan Mannish and proper orcish style. Her shoulders and upper arms were bare to display solid muscle under her fine, leaf-tinted skin, and her lower arms past the elbow covered in finely-worked gauntlets that bore only a passing resemblance to "lady's" gloves. As for the rest- at bodice, belt and the edges of her obligatory skirt, it was difficult to say where was embroidered and be-gemmed and which was armored. Torques hung about her throat and wrists, with a more delicate, human-style necklace of lacy silver draped across her breasts.
Normally, the words "orcish hair" and "tamable" did not belong in the same sentence, but for today the back half of her coal-dark mane was bound in a braid, the front in the normal proud spiky crest about her face. Fingers combing back through the mass, Zrethak waited for her breathing to slow. All this, the result of one dark night at Spring Festival.
The great mix of differing groups in the city almost all had something in common- spring celebrations. Over the centuries, they'd blended and blurred, all the little fairs and rites and games, until finally there was just the chaotic, mysterious, rag-quilt beauty of Festival. A night for masks and mayhem, and revelry to lift the spirit and cut it free.
She'd worn a mask, and perhaps the first skirts of her life. Even if it was humanish-style, she'd loved her costume, so different from every day. And she'd gone courting, playing and flirting among such pretty lads. And Zrethak had won herself a night's pleasure.
Unfortunately, it had been with Merverad of Thrand and Birsragel. A family that kept close tabs on their heirs, and tried to make sure, no matter how lowborn, no matter how conceived, the first-born heir was always brought into the fold. Something to do with old-family-magic blessings on the estates- one of the old-time bindings of blood to land.
Zrethak growled, the sound rumbling and grating across the stone walls. Stupid idea. Why didn't they just hire a mage and get the spell lifted, instead of bothering honest unwed orc-women?
A timid knock at the door broke the rhythm of her growl. With a snarl worthy of a mountain cat, she leapt from her chair and turned, throwing open the heavy, darkwood door with enough force to tear a lesser of its hinges. She raked her gaze first left, then right, and finally down.
"Oh." The messenger. "What do you want?"
"The- the procession-"
"It's HERE?! Why didn't you say so the first time?!" She vanished back into the room, giving a quick adjustment to everything on her person in a few moments of frenzy, and bolted down the hall, leaving one very baffled messenger.
When Merverad had first not appeared, she had retired to the preparations room, both to escape from embarrassing, snide stares, and to keep from killing anyone. Her parents had recognized the look, and wisely let her be, trusting her to come when the bastard showed his face.
The corridors were nothing near endless, and in fact halted all too soon for her tastes. Before she could burst into the crowded main hall in a flurry of skirt and dust, Zrethak stopped herself, caught her breath, and quickly readjusted her hair and garments. Her betrothed had humiliated her enough already- she would not embarrass herself.
Not calm but disciplined, she strode in as a warrior, something beyond military in her shoulders and stride. The glittering, decorated crowd pulled aside in as much fearful respect as to make room for the bride; watching her take her place at the altar where, as per human Threadanan custom, the wedding goat would be slaughtered, was like watching some barbaric conqueror stride through a desecrated palace to take her rightful place at the bloodied throne.
She kept her snarl of contempt silent at the stares, almost tangible, at her waist. Let them look- there was nothing to see, and wouldn't be for some months yet.
Gleshthrah and her mate, Bruzthrek, watched their daughter with pride and apprehension. While glad that she was standing up for herself and keeping her pride in face of insult, the waves of barely checked anger rolling off her boded ill, and not just for their first grandchild. Uneasy glances traded between orc and mate, and shared visions of doom for their son-in-law danced before their eyes.
The crowed of guests waited, the air drawing tighter than a harp-string ready to snap in the Temple hall. Finally, noise from the uninvited celebrants outside told tale of the groom's procession. Cries of relief and revelry rose up with a crash against the temple walls, and a mass movement toward the great doors flowed like a river of velvets and fine leathers, feathers and jewels. A path was very carefully kept clear, though, for the gowned orc-woman slowly, inexorably, and implacably charging toward the ornate outside steps.
A blazing sun burst onto her, the sky edged in roiling purple clouds not taking a thing away from the eye-dazzling effect. She stood at the head of the stairs, staring with the crowd of what seemed like the whole city's population down at the procession before her.
Evening In An Orcish Household