It was a cold morning, the fire in the home’s hearth had died down some time in the night after Clemnilshala and Folruth had returned from their fifteen days away. Clemnilshala was stirred by a chilled breeze, she burrowed further beneath a blanket made of sheepskin and horsehair. Folruth’s hand laid over her burn, she couldn’t tell when it had stopped hurting at his touch. She couldn’t tell when the fire in her stomach had faded. She woke with a deep breath that filled her lungs with the bright flavor of of the wakeful air mixed with his dreams that came from his mouth while his nose whistled. She closed her eyes for a while longer, making attempts to ‘let go’ and return to her slumbers, her eye kept opening to look upon him while he slumbered.
O! His hair was so silver now. Barely any trickle of scarlet passed through the fresh snowy drifts that laid atop his head. He’s slowed down so much these years. She laid up on one elbow and watched as his eyes darted back and forth beneath his eyelids like crinkled parchment. When she pushed a tightly condensed curl from his face and sighed gently, his mustache stretched to the side and a smile of his aged teeth shone through.
“Good morning beautiful” he would mutter, running his thumb over her cheek.
She knew. She knew the day would come soon. Soon enough in her eyes as the days flowed like water. These days flow like water. What did she used to think? They were blood, perhaps? Were the days blood? She could no longer remember what the days flowed like. The nightmares had stopped coming for her as well. When was the last time she saw the faces of Valthran and Senaar? A hundred years ago? A hundred fifty? Certainly around the time that Garuk was here.
But today was not that day at all. He was awake and vibrant as his eyes, still the same as oil burning hot, searched her face for nearly a moment. His hand came down her cheek, falling over her shoulder and back down to his chest.
“Ah my Clemnilshala, yer the sun every morning. Feels like I’m out in the open air.” He’d readjusted and held her hand to his chest.
“Yer soo wordy this mornin, My Folruth.” She kissed him on the forehead, the wrinkles there moving about with his eyebrows as he had come to expect every morning for the past hundred something years. Her knees drew up cradling him closer in a basin her own making. She rested her head on his chest and listened to his heart, it remained strong and vibrant and assuredly not going to patter out this day.
“They just” he cleared his throat “They cannot stop themselves, after so many years my love I canna stop myself from saying tha yer the brightest spot in the day.”
He ran his fingers in her hair, pulling the flopped over part of her good ear. He toyed with her earrings and brought his other hand weakly to her cheek.
“Do ye hear tha lass? Tha’s goin’ tae be my voice to ye some day.” He smiled and laughed a little as her eyes filled with water. “And I’ll make sure tae follow ye around whenever ye leave this mountain an’ go outside. It’s my hope that you go and down Nahchog once and fer all this year. Or some day, and I can watch over it.,”
“Oh darling please don’t speak like tha,” She kissed his head, and sat upright.
Damn time for bringing this, the dull squeezing of the body before an aching that one knows will come. But, somehow, she was so tired too. So tired of avoiding the thoughts of what she knew was coming all along.
But please please please.
Just not this day.
It was not this day.
It could never be this day
This was a good day, a bright day.
But the way that his breath caught in his throat and the way he wished to simply relax in the bed today filled her with doubt.
The day was brighter since Amryth burst through the doorway into the little slot in the wall with his easel and his painting sets and the same grumpy, black haired, demeanor over his face. The golden caps over the ends of his braids clacked together as Clemnilshala crouched back down, arching around Folrught like a shell.
“Get dressed ye deviants. I’m nae goin’ tae wait tae paint yer weddin’ portrait for one more day let alone another ten years.” Amryth said, “Ye get married but never had a portrait painted the nerve.” He took off his outer robe and hung it on the wall while he set up his supplies implying that they were ashamed of their marriage to never have a portrait painted and displayed in the Noblehood family hall. They both gawked at the idea of being ashamed.
Clemnilshala dressed in her best dress, eaten butter eggs with Folruth and Amryth, and gone out onto the front stoop while Folruth dressed in his good clothes. Amryth joined Clemnilshala, striking up his smoking pipe, he touched her arm and looked up at her.
“Lass, I’m older than he is. I’m goin tae paint this painting before I croak.” He said. “Ahh lass what are ye goin’ tae do?”
“I don’t know. Meet it head on…” she reached over and took a breath of his pipe, exhaling after holding it so long. “All I know is I’ll miss him, the both of ye really.”
“Bah ye woon’t miss me.”
She bunted her shoulder against Amryth’s
“Of course I will, let’s nae forget that its because of yoo and Ferynia that the king allowed Garuk to stay here when he first came tae us.”
“Ah my Ferynia did put up a mighty ruckus in the King’s hall fer him didn’t she.” he ran his fingers in his own shortened hair. “Ye knoow tha was because my silly little brother promised tha he wouldn’t bring her any more injured animals or eynnil. Only people we knew”
Clemnilshala laughed aloud, leaning back and kicking her legs like a little fawn at the thought of a younger Folruth making such an errand. Folruth leaned out of the window of the house and loudly chortled about how he missed when her legs did that. She jumped up and gave him a great many kisses upon his balded head, leaving markings of lip color for him to remember. She put her fingers through his hair, the unbraided parts, and allowed the tangled bits to catch at her nails. She couldn’t have smiled brighter.
“Ye don’t seem so angry anymore, lass” Amryth said, putting out his pipe, tapping out the spent ashes onto the ground with a smile. “Nae come I’ll need ye tae sit here, and for Folruth tae stand.”
Like a great puppeteer Amryth was, moving arms and legs and fingers into the perfect positions, and there they were for hours. Folruth speaking at great length that Rigmol should be a part of this painting, Clemnilshala agreeing much to Folruth’s surprise.
“No fooling!” He shouted, holding her shoulder tighter, his smile only grew wider.
“Aye, Rigmol is as part of the family as I am, perhaps the least strange part iffin ye ask me”
Folruth pulled her face into his, planting kisses all over her cheeks and forehead as numerous as trees in the forest. It was as though he were the excitable lad that she’d met in the woods one fateful night. She laughed and laughed, wrapping her arms around his torso and pulling him closer.
Amryth scrapped the painting.
“I swear I am going tae paint yoo two if it’s the last thing I ever do!” He pulled together his paints and his brushes and his easel. Stuffing things under his arms and flailing about saying that he should be paid with a robe with enchanted pockets so that he could get around easier as they exited the slot in the wall and walked, almost like a procession, down to the scholar’s district stable, passing by horses and mounting beasts that Clemnilshala no longer feared.
She was seated and they were posed before the hearth in the stable, the fire roared behind them, the light was dimmer, more intimate between the three and Amryth. Rigmol stood just behind Folruth and clemnilshala. Lowering his head like a great statue and showing his great crown of antlers. On occasion either Clemnilshala or Folruth would reach up to pet his neck or muss with his fur.
Rigmol shook out his hair after Amryth gave a thumb’s up that they were free to move a bit now that his sketch was completed. He made sure to watch them closely as they sang songs and told stories from their life together, only filling Amryth with inspiration of details that he possibly imbued into the painting.
Pieces of Folruth like the tiniest images left in the specks of dust or straw that flittered about in the air. Pieces of Clemnilshala in the floating ash that sometimes rose from the grates of the hearth or the way she moved so much like a dwarf, only taller. The way their clothing moved. The way that they smelled of the outside and how it seeped into the smell of painting oil. The way they individually thanked Amryth several times across that day. It was all here, someone with a jeweler’s glass could peer deeper into the painting and see the images that were never intentionally placed into the larger story of their life as bride and groom. The stag was so difficult to place but he found a place in the background of the painting just as well.
In the middle of the day, while Amryth was rubbing paint into the canvas, Rigmol had laid on his side so that Folruth could lean over and nap against his stomach. Clemnilshala leaned over as well, lounging in a way, supporting her head with her hand while her elbow was on the stag’s flank. She breathed quietly, pushing hairs out of Folruth’s face. Only small pieces of red remained. Calm but solemnity came to her eyes as she thought deeply. Rigmol bunted his nose against her cheek.
“I know I know,” she replied to the stag.
“You talk to him too now eh?” Amryth said, pushing the blue into Folruth’s good eye and blurring out the cataracts in the bad.
“Aye, he’d been talking tae me all this time and, well, now I’m privy tae hearing him.” She moved her shoulder up and back down. “It’ll be good to have a friend after…well after.” She muttered.
“For a long time after. I remember the day that my little brother brought that great beast intae the mountain. He’d gone out on the back of a pack ram and lo and behold once he comes back he comes home with that great monstrosity. I thought he’d stolen it from the tall-ells, or some strange humans that live over the north ridge.”
Amryth said, laying bits of brown and grey into Rigmol’s fur in his painting. “Rigmol, he said his name was. Though it wasn’t then tha he could actually ‘hear’ the beasty. Nae nae that was quite some time after.”
“What happened? When he first began to understand Rigmol here.”
“Hmmm, I’d reckon it was about ten years before yoo came along. He’d sit up at night and lean out his window just to talk tae the beast. Our pa, couldn’t be prouder, the makin’s of a good scout something about listening tae nature.”
Amryth and Clemnilshala laughed and traded all kinds of stories.
One thought on “The Wedding Portrait”
This chapter is host to many big feelings. Many feeling of joy, beauty, love, but also of change and its hardships. It feels strongly of the change of seasons and all they give and or take. I appreciate that you share certain realities with us, like the fact that Folruth us getting older but you still give him some zip, which is also so him. Like Clem, his progression of age is something that sits in your stomach and is hard not to think of. You have a strong sense of dignity and you share that beautifully with your characters. It’s bittersweet, but I look forward to your next chapter.