17.2.12

Mountain Part 15 - Union

She lay curled on her side and watched him rest. He reclined in the big chair by the fire, long legs stretched out in front of him, eyes closed. After a while, he began to snore softly. His face, softened by sleep looked quite handsome, in a rough sort of way. He was not frowning and he looked almost peaceful in the firelight. Before long, her eyes grew heavy and sleep took her too.

When she awoke, he was gone and Septa Rohanne sat by the fire. "You're awake then, my dear?" she said when she noticed Melicent begin to stir. She set down her needlework and came to stand beside the bed. "Your betrothed summoned me this morning. You must not see him today, not until the ceremony, but said he did not want you to be left alone." She looked at Melicent solemnly. "Luthor says your Lord spent the early hours in your bedchamber. Did he... use you? Last night?"

Melicent sat up and shook her head. "No, he... kissed me. That is all." The Septa frowned and she could feel herself blushing. Talking to her Septa about kissing a man! "He was kind to me, truly. I did not mind it. I was frightened and he stayed with me. He slept in the chair, by the fire. He is rough, but he has a sense of honour, I think. He does not wish to break the contract with my father."

Septa Rohanne looked at her, as though trying to see the truth in her eyes. Melicent wondered if she could. She seemed to have an uncanny ability to know when they told her tales as children. Finally she nodded. "I'll summon Mynne, then. You'll want to visit the Bath House before you dress for the wedding." She went and called for the maid, then returned, sitting down with her sewing. Melicent went to the window and looked out. It looked to be a fine day. That was another sign, she thought, that the Old Gods favoured her marriage to Gregor Clegane. It was they who had sent her the sign that she must offer herself to him, after all.

The Septa spoke then, bringing her back to the present. "You're doing an admirable thing, Melicent. Indeed, I confess, I'd always thought of Nella as the brave one. You've always been timid. Marrying a man you do not want, one who is so intimidating, in order to save your home, your family... you're a brave girl indeed. May the Mother protect you, my dear."
"I am afraid," she said without turning away from the window, "I'm afraid of everything. But I'm more afraid for others than I am for myself." She turned now, and the Septa looked up to meet her gaze. "He is not the Knight I'd imagined, its true. He is more than that. He is the largest, strongest, most feared Knight and Lord in the realm. No man could be more impressive. I do want him. I shall be proud to be Lady Clegane."

Septa Rohanne looked surprised, but then she smiled a sad smile. "You truly will be a fine Lady, my dear. You always do say the right thing. You must always remember that you are Lady Clegane before anything else. A Lady's feelings and preferences come second to her duty to her husband and his House. I believe you are ready for this."

Melicent stared at her Septa, wondering how the woman could have helped raise her from a very small girl, and yet not know her at all. She can not see the truth in me, after all. Of course she knew her duty as a Lady of Westeros. This she knew backward, forward and inside out. This is what she had been born and raised for. However, she was not playing the role of Lady now. A true Lady did not lose her temper, and Melicent was about to lose hers.

"I do want him, Septa, I do!" she could hear her voice getting louder and she did not care. "You think no one could, but I want to be his wife and give him sons. I promise you, this is what I want!" She stopped shouting abruptly when she noticed her sister Nella in the doorway.

The Septa looked at her in astonishment. It was unlike Melicent to lose her temper, and Septa took a dim view of Ladies who showed such strong emotion. Nella's face showed a sad resignation and she said flatly, "Then you are a fool, Melicent... and there is little I can do to help you."

"Help me?" she laughed. "Nella, I ask only for you to try to understand. If you cannot attempt to do that, then I require nothing of you." She turned away from her sister and looked out over the Godswood.

Mynne entered then, Nella and Septa Rohanne withdrew to the outer chamber so that Melicent could dress. When she emerged from the bedroom, she found the small table was laid for a late breakfast with bread, fruit and a pot of tea. Nella and the Septa sat at the table eating in silence. Melicent joined them and poured herself a cup of tea. They did not speak during their meal and all three ate very little. When they had finished, Melicent decided against a visit to the Bath House and instead had a tub filled in the dressing room off her bed chamber. Nella's bed chamber. She had slept in this room for the last time. Tonight, and for as long as she should live, her place would be in Gregor Clegane's bed.

The tub filled, Mynne scented the water with her special blend of scents, vanilla, rose oil and spices from the Summer Isles. She added red rose petals to the bath, then Melicent climbed stiffly in, sinking gratefully into the steaming tub. Her body ached, everywhere. She dismissed Mynne so that she could bask for a short time in peace, letting the hot water soothing her sore muscles. The bath relieved her body, but not her mind. In gaining a husband, was she to lose a sister? She feared that Nella held such distrust, such hatred for her betrothed that their relationship would be forever changed. She somehow felt that she had lost Nella already... 

Shortly, Mynne returned to help her bathe and wash her hair. When she had finished, she climbed out of the tub and Mynne helped her to dry herself, applied powder and scent, and dressed her hair. The maid chattered away while she worked and helped to distract Melicent from her thoughts. Mynne was excited, as Lady Sylva had decided that she should stay with Melicent as her Lady's maid, as it was proper that a Lady should have her own personal servant.  One of the younger girls would be trained to attend to Nella and their younger sister Jeyne.

When it was time for Melicent to dress, Mynne first helped her into the diaphanous lace smallclothes that had been specially made for her wedding night. These were followed by a fine corset, several layers of frothy, gossamer underskirts and the underdress of pale yellow. Finally she donned the creamy white gown. This was cut in a "V" up the front of the skirt to expose the underdress and embellished at the neck, cuffs and hem with intricate designs in the deeper yellow and black of House Clegane, entwined with the black and silver of House Karstark.

When her mother and Septa Rohanne arrived, shortly afterward, both women shed tears to see her in her wedding finery, no longer a girl, but a woman grown. Lady Sylva brought with her the Clegane necklace that Melicent was to wear, which Ronel the Steward had found in Lord Gregor's armamentarium. The gemstones of House Clegane were yellow topaz, which represented fire, and black spinel, which represented power. The jewels, a necklace and ring, were large and heavy, as all things seemed to be at Harrenhal. The bulky necklace was comprised of large square cut yellow topaz alternating with smaller tear-drop shaped black spinel. The stones were set in thick gold and featured a larger square cut topaz which hung lower and was surrounded by smaller spinel and white diamonds. The large, square ring was a replica of the necklace's feature stone. The jewels were given to Lord Gregor's grandfather, the first Knight of House Clegane, by Lord Tytos Lannister as part of the reward for saving his life after Lord Tytos had been attacked by a lion.

Lady Sylva fastened the necklace around her neck and Melicent thought it must weigh ten pounds at least. She wondered if she would be able to lift her arm after Gregor slid the ring onto her finger. The last piece of her ensemble was the House Karstark Maiden's cloak. The black fur cloak shone in the afternoon sun. The edging, white ermine flecked with black, gleamed brightly. An intricately embroidered white and silver sunburst identified her as a maiden of House Karstark. The cloak too, was heavy and as they descended to the Hall of the Hundred Hearths, Melicent remembered that this added weight on her shoulders was meant to symbolize the mantle of childhood that she would exchange for one symbolizing the responsibilities of a Lady of the Realm.

Upon reaching the lower lever of the keep, they found Lord Tomard waiting in an antechamber off the main hall. Luthor escorted Lady Sylva and the Septa ahead to the Godswood. When they had gone, Her Lord father looked at her and cleared his throat. "My girl, you could not be more beautiful, I'm terribly proud of you. Lord Gregor is most impressed with you already. I'm sure he will be completely enchanted by you today." He looked a bit sad and said, "It seems too soon for you to don that old cloak. I find myself a bit reluctant to remove it from your shoulders."

Her eyes filled with tears and she moved forward to embrace her father. She knew this was right, but the thought of everything changing suddenly struck her. She would no longer be a Karstark maid. If they were to regain Karhold, she would not return to live there. Harrenhal and Clegane Keep would be her homes now. At Karhold, she would be no more than a visitor.

Maester Alaric entered then, and informed them that Lord Gregor waited in the Godswood. As the Karstarks kept the Old Gods, they would be joined first in the Godswood, then they would return to the Sept, where they would be wedded before the New Gods.

The walk to the Heart Tree in the centre of the Godswood was easier than it had been on the night she first met her betrothed. The path had been cleared of downed trees and branches, so walking was not difficult. It seemed a long walk to Melicent, however, as the layers of clothing she wore were so heavy. Perhaps this was what it was like to wear armour, she thought as they neared the clearing. She entered on her father's arm and the group of people gathered turned to look at them. She looked past them as her eyes found and focused on the immense shape of Lord Gregor. Their eyes met across the clearing and she smiled, shyly.

He stood straight and tall before the Heart Tree, towering over all those assembled. His beard was freshly trimmed and though he still looked rough hewn, yet he was neatly attired. He was not fully armoured, but instead was clad in all in black and wore a fine velvet doublet of Clegane yellow. The three black dogs that were his house sigil leapt across his massive chest and his sword-belt and boots were of fine, supple black leather. What she noticed most though, were his eyes. His dark eyes found hers and suddenly she didn't see anyone else. It was the same look she had seen tiny flashes of before, however, this time, it did not pass so quickly. For several moments it lingered, she felt the sense that she was seeing the man without his mask.

It felt to Melicent as though she were watching the scene in a dream. As she moved across the clearing, Lord Gregor stepped forward to meet her and held out his enormous left hand. Her father took her left hand and brought it to his lips, smiled at her, then placed her tiny hand into Gregor's. His fingers closed around hers and he led her to stand before the Heart Tree. Lord Tomard brought forth a long thin cloth displaying the colours of Karstark and bound their joined hands together. He looked to Melicent and nodded.

In a small voice, she said her vow, never taking her eyes from Gregor's. "I stand before the Old Gods and pledge to you my womb, my heart, my love for all the summers and winters of my life."

He half smiled and answered with his vow. "I stand before the Old Gods and pledge to you my sword, my strength, my honour for all the summers and winters of my life."

Lord Tomard nodded once more, and produced a second cloth, this one bearing the Clegane colours. He bound that cloth around their joined hands, thus uniting the two families in the eyes of the Old Gods. He then said "I give you my daughter, our Houses are joined, our families are as one." and unwound the cloths.

Gregor kept Melicent's hand in his and Ronal stepped forward with a small wooden box. He opened it and presented the box to Lord Gregor, who withdrew the topaz and spinel ring, which he slid onto Melicent's fourth finger. She looked down at her hand and thought, I belong to him now. The ring was too big, so she pressed her fingers together to keep it from sliding off. She looked up at Gregor again and smiled. He smiled too and placed a finger under her chin and bending low, he kissed her. Her eyes closed and her hand moved to his shoulder as she parted her lips and she felt a tendril of warmth begin to grow in her tummy, spreading rapidly, making her feel weak and a bit light headed. Her fingers tightened on his shoulder and she felt him pull away. He straightened, still holding her chin and looked down at her. He was unsmiling now, but so was she. They stayed this way for a moment, standing before the Heart Tree, and she felt as though the tendril that had begun to grow inside of her had somehow connected with something that was growing inside of him. That they were truly joined, bound by an invisible tether and she knew in that moment that she would always be connected to this man, and he to her.

They processed through the Godswood, following the largest path to the main gate and crossed the Outer Ward to the New Sept. The joining in the Godswood had been intimate. Six armsmen led the way, a short column of three Clegane men bedside an equal column of Karstark men. Lord Gregor and Lady Sylva came next, followed by Lord Tomard and Lady Melicent. Behind them came her sisters accompanied by the newly Knighted Ser Cregan and Ser Reglas, given positions of honour on this day. Septa Rohanne was escorted by Maester Alaric, then the Karstark cousins on the arms of Raff and Dunsen. Ronal the Steward led the handful of Clegane and Karstark court and guests who had been invited to attend. The Outer Ward was teeming with Smallfolk, servants, craftsmen and their families who cheered and threw fresh herbs. Melicent noticed moonflower and agaric for fertility, rosemary and chamomile for love, meadowsweet and celandine for happiness, calamus and elder flower for protection. She was touched by their sentiments and smiled warmly at them as she passed. Lord Gregor was not necessarily loved by his Smallfolk, he was respected but quite a bit feared as well. Yet they called out to her and wished her luck, sons, and health, welcoming her as their Lady.

The Septon met them on the steps of the Sept and as they entered Melicent noticed its benches were already nearly full. The ceremony passed rather quickly, the Septon reciting his part as Melicent's mind wandered a little. This marriage was for her mother and the Riverlands, as it was her father's Gods, the Old Gods, to whom Melicent felt truly close. When it came time for the changing of the cloaks, her father stepped forward and took her hands in his. His eyes shone with unshed tears, yet he smiled and kissed her cheek, then unhooked the clasp of the Karstark cloak. He lifted it from her shoulders and draped it over his arm, stepping aside and nodding at Gregor.

Gregor turned to Ronal who stood by holding the House Clegane bride's cloak. He accepted the cloak and turned back to face his bride. He swirled the cloak around her shoulders, and she felt as though he had enfolded her in his huge embrace. As he fastened the thick gold chain, one side of his mouth curled up in a smile which might have frightened another girl, but made Melicent's heart swell. It was time for the exchange of vows and once again, she looked up at Gregor and pledged herself to him. “With this kiss I pledge my love and loyalty, and take you for my Lord and husband.” She spoke her words clearly and surely.

 “With this kiss I pledge my love and loyalty, and take you for my Lady and wife.” Lord Gregor responded in his deep rumble, letting his gaze linger on her face for a moment. Then he slid his arms around her, lifted her in his arms and kissed her long and deep. Melicent's ribs ached, but she did not care. Her arms went around his neck, holding him tightly, and she returned his kiss, forgetting for a moment where they were, conscious of only one thing, that this was her man and she belonged to him.

Shortly the Septon cleared his throat and they turned to him, both a bit surprised to find themselves in such a place. Gregor nodded, still holding his bride in his arms. The Septon smiled, raised his crystal and pronounced them wed ... "man and wife, Lord and Lady, one flesh, one heart, one soul, now and forever, and forever cursed be the one who comes between them." Then they kissed again several times, soft touches of their smiling lips, she lost count of how many times. Her hand cupped his cheek and she felt the warmth of his skin, the roughness of his beard, the strength of his arms around her.

Lord Tomard chuckled and stepped forward. "Perhaps you two would consider leading your guests to your Hall, Lord and Lady Clegane. I, for one, am ready for a feast."

"Come then," Gregor said and kissed her once more, shifted her to the crook of his arm and set out for the Hall of the Hundred Hearths. When they emerged from the Sept, the Smallfolk cheered for their union, tossing flowers and calling out good wishes for their Lord and Lady.
 
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14 comments:

  1. yeeeyeyeeeyeeeee!!!!! *-* so cute!!

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  2. *sniff* :-)

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  3. So... I really love this story.) One more perfect chapter, thank you!
    I like your Melly and your Gregor, both of them are very well done and I like the interaction. I wonder what Gregor thinks of his tender little wife! It was a pure pleasure to read about their wedding, your writing style is beautifully nuanced! I can`t wait to read more, I`m burning with curiosity.))

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  4. "Melly's ribs ached"...so did Elia's

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  5. Wow, does the last commenter not know this is fanFICTION? Where you take a character of characters and make them your own? Laugh it off honey, they're trolls and they just wish they could write as well as you! This is by far one of the best fics I've read, as far as the quality of the writing. As far as the character, I'm surprised you haven't had more anti-Gregor hate. I think its much more interesting to take a character without a lot of depth and make them human. Bravo, and keep writing!

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    1. thank you, you're right. its fiction. i just wrote a little post about that very thing. thank you for your support! it is much appreciated!

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  6. i'm with you on this Clare and houndgirrl!!! keep writing,you're awesome!! :) * encouragement d'une canadienne!*

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  7. i'm with you on this, Clare and Houndgirrl!! keep writing, you're awesome!! :D *encouragement d'un canadienne!*

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  8. thank you so much! it means a lot, really! i won't stop, i promise :)

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  9. Wow. Just, wow. OK, so I came to this blog ready to laugh at this fic after hearing about it on twitter. I just have to say that I was SO wrong. This is in the top five fanfics I've read. The research is extensive, the detail is impeccable, the writing quality is truly excellent, and the characters really draw you in. I'm extremely impressed and shocked. I hate Gregor Clegane. HATE. Still, your story had me captivated. I'm not really easily impressed, so my hat's off too you Houndgirrl. You need to keep writing because this is an amazing fic, and because now I am HOOKED! :D

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  10. awesome job! i need more chapters soon!

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    1. Thank you so much !!!! ♥♥♥ I just posted part 16 & 17 is in the works. :D

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  11. This is so great,I love this sooo much!Wonderful work!Respect!

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