Someone had dug up all of the paraphernalia of a formal betrothal and arranged it in the audience chamber at the bottom of the steps before the throne. There was the old fashioned registration book sitting on its stand, which must have taken two or three men to wrestle here from the Palace’s Registry Office, a pantu rug she’d never seen before that had authority and fertility symbols as well as good luck signs on it which made it so old she was almost afraid to walk on it, a Registrar in his formal robes and the spare, elegant Vildanan stand-table that supported a flat cushion on which sat a pair of betrothal rings.
On the other side of the rug, the groom’s side she realised, given the way everything was set out, was the Emperor. With him were two of that coterie of advisors and a dark haired young woman with dark olive skin who looked so much like them the three of them must be related. In fact, given where they were standing...Rensa realised that they were probably blood relatives of the Emperor on his mother’s side.
“Come along,” Tuluc said kindly from beside her, “Time to get the formalities put of the way.”
In her head, Rensa was churning through all sorts of unuseful thoughts: this wasn’t how her betrothal was supposed to be, this was for someone with a public position; where was all the giggling fun of dashing along to your Registry appointment with your sisters and friends in a break from work; where were her veils and that twice allowed extravagance of bronze face powder to show what she should look like; and where were her parents, to be stern and supportive and to countersign against her name? She turned to Tuluc, “But who will stand with me and countersign?”
“You are Her Highness, Rensa, Princess devaunt, last scion of the Third Persisan Dynasty.” Tuluc looked at her sternly, “You will stand for yourself and you are your own authority for your word. You are a Princess of the divine bloodline and you are going take your place on that rug and both show us and prove to yourself what you’re made of.”
And she did. She filled in all the details in the registration book that she would have found prefilled in her old life. After the setting of signatures she slid the engraved ring onto the Emperor’s finger as he slid its mate onto hers. She noted but did not comment that the fit of the matched pair suggested definite pre-planning. The traditional kiss that followed was a butterfly wisp across her lips, nothing to object to, nothing to react to and a feeling that maybe that might not be what she wanted.
Afterwards the Emperor, Yannic as she now knew him to be, was saying to his kinsmen, “We have not decided the date yet – it has to be a least a month after the registration.”
“Disappointed, Princess?” Bannoc had reappeared and had come over to sneer while breathing carefully.
“No,” Rensa was absent mindedly playing with the new ring that sat on the middle finger of her left hand. “That will put the wedding more than a year after Montjoy. I think that would be a good thing.”
Bannoc, dislike suddenly and temporarily defused, said quietly, “I agree.”