Rensa let everyone finish adjusting her. The wedding she’d always expected would have had simpler seeming preparations, if only because she would have known what to expect. There wasn’t going to be any all-concealing powder over her face, hands and neck so that when her veil was lifted for the sealing kiss everyone would see the face she should have had. This was going to be far more exposed. Not only was there no powder, there was no veil and the very nice dress left her lower arms exposed as well as revealing everything at the front down to her collar bones. If it were not for the opaque white stockings her legs below the knee would be bare to the world as well.
And the world would be watching via television camera.
The hairdresser and the dress designer watched as the makeup artist applied clear gloss to Rensa’s lips with a brush and then transparent mascara to her lashes. When she was done Verrin, the designer, voiced her approval. “Nicely done. She’s made you look like yourself, Your Highness. It’ll help make anyone with a drop of nous realize that the Emperor’s getting a one-off treasure.”
Rensa turned carefully in the blue high heels she was wearing and looked at herself in the full length mirror again. Two questions warred in her mind, both of them important, and the resulting confusion showed on her face.
“Are you worried what he’s going to think?” Verrin had some experience with nervous brides and this one had less than fifteen minutes before she was due to make her big entrance.
“He’ll say something nice,” Rensa said pensively. “All those female relatives have got him well trained, but will he like it?”
“I think,” said Mirren’s friend Beriel the hairdresser, “That he’s going to love you in it.”
“No-one’s going to laugh at me, are they?” That was a real fear, after all Verrin’s dress hadn’t started off as a wedding gown and Rensa had developed an insecure niggle that she was somehow making herself look ridiculous.
“No,” said Verrin firmly. “I expect quite a lot of people will try and copy the look, badly in many cases. Now, where are your escorts?”
The two former insurgents, both now respectable members of the new regime, were outside the door looking as if someone had polished them to within an inch of their lives. Someone had apparently put some thought into what a well-dressed insurgent wore when he escorted someone he hadn’t had the stomach to kill to the altar because both of them were wearing it. It involved some tailoring and a polished sidearm. Rensa wasn’t sure she recognized them – her memories of their first meeting were dominated by images of her dead workmates and kinsmen who’d tried in vain to barricade their office against the attackers. It had not been a good day.
Her escorts took Rensa from her rooms down to the public chambers near the main entrance to the Palace. They were in plenty of time when they arrived in the room set aside for them to wait in across the corridor from where the ceremony was being held. Everyone who had anything to do with Rensa’s appearance double checked her then cast a professional eye over her escorts who bore the attention stoically. Rensa was allowed to sit carefully for a few minutes, then she was on her feet again, her dress straightened and they went back into the corridor.
The door was pulled open and her escorts took her into the room beyond. The pantu rug from their betrothal was back on the floor. The Registrar was there with registration book on its stand. Yannic and his mother were coming in from the opposite door. She smiled at them, glad to see him looking almost as nervous as she felt, making her feel not silly about being nervous after all – he’d done this before and he was still nervous. Taking a quick look at the audience, Rensa realized that a lot of the people present were people she now knew, though the big sections of cameras made the audience much larger than just this room. She turned her attention back to Yannic, much closer now, and feeling more confident, smiled again. Yannic smiled back and Tyrren beamed encouragingly.
A shot rang out from behind the audience.