The Woods of Oren,
Two Years Ago
The bells of the Basilica tolled loudly, though Markus didn’t notice too much from inside.
However, it would seem to be enough to wake him from an apparent slumber- his head would snap to attention. As his eyes flashed open, and he adjusted to the light, he'd notice he stood before the altar. He’d smack his dry lips together lightly, and rock his head back and forth with a subtle crack as he slowly regained his bearings.
How long had I dozed off? I couldn’t have been out for too long.
He’d glance down, and saw himself wearing unblemished plate armor- finer plate than he’d ever had seen. His best dress. Adorning it, was the Morovarian Coat of Arms- and tucked in his left arm was a fine piece of cloth, which likewise bore the signature of his house. Confused, he’d turn around- to see Konstanz Barclay, likewise dressed as sharply as him. He’d simply shoot a childlike, mischievous grin to his best friend before turning around.
Markus had regained his bearings. Markus knew where he was. It was the best day of his life.
His wedding day.
Excited, but yet nervous, as all prospective groomsmen were- he’d glance at the crowd. He recognized the faces of his many friends he had grown up with. The Vyronovs showed out, as the two large brothers occupied a pew to themselves. The princes, his other friends- Karl, Sergei, Josef, all sat in a pew, accompanied by their Marian. The Dame, Mariya, sat eagerly waiting in a pew- seeming much older than Markus thought was right.
Diverting his eyes to another section of the Basilica, he’d eye his twin brother, Petyr, who raised his hand in greeting. He’d poke their mother to alert her- Eleanore would then grant Markus the biggest smile he had ever seen.
If she could right now, she’d give me the biggest hug. I know it.
His father would look upon Markus with watery eyes, a proud gaze befalling his son. The duo would exchange courteous nods- the message they had just communicated known only to a father and a son.
He’d continue his assessment of the crowd. Notably toting their colours, the Baruchs sat in a row- His boss, the Palatine himself, Eirik, sat dwarfed by the always intimidating Isabel, who, in an anticlimactic finish, was followed by Saoirse. The trio noticed Markus’ attention, and proceeded to wave, hoop, and holler at him.
He’d then return his gaze back to the altar, to see the Pontiff himself, to his surprise.
Breaking free of his astonishment, Markus would politely dip his head to his holiness. After reciprocating the courtesy, the Pontiff would quickly shush the crowd, just as the doors to the Basilica were opened.
A veiled woman would enter, in traditional Haeseni wedding attire. She’d begin her slow walk towards the altar, rose petals adorning the floor as she meandered forth. It seemed an eternity to Markus as she walked forth. His heart beat out of his chest, as he averted his eyes to the floor to ease his nerves.
Finally, however, the walk had finished, and it was time for the ceremony to begin. The woman ascended the altar, taking the position opposite of Markus. She’d lift the veil hiding her face, causing Markus to gasp- loud enough for only the three of them to hear.
She’s… all I’ve ever wanted. All I ever will want.
The two would clasp their hands together, as the Pontiff began to rattle off the words he had said a thousand times before- the words flew right on over Markus’ head.
I’ll be a papej. I’ll be the best papej there ever was. My son and I, we’ll play forts, play knights. My daughter will rescue me from the clutches of a dragon! And we’ll go and have a tea party!
He’d then glance back up at Margrait, his wide smile revealing what he was thinking.
And they’ll be as beautiful as her.
Eventually, the Pontiff finally got to the part where they exchanged vows- and, in what seemed like a blur to Markus, they finally got to the end of the ceremony. Markus would stride forth to sweep Margrait off her feet, but suddenly, she’d hold her hand out.
“Markus! Ye know we cannae! Ye know ah’m married now.”
Markus would chuckle, shaking his head.
“Da! To me!”
“Nae. To Mikhail.”
A constant stream of rain began to thud on the roof, and a dull pain began to throb behind Markus’ eyes.
“Nie… Nie. Vy canniet be married to Mikhail! Vy… vy are supposed to be married. To me! Niet the abuser! Niet the snake!”
“Sorry, Markus. But ye know et must be. Now wake up, love. The Kingdom needs ye.”
The roof of the Basilica turned to the cloth roof of his tent, and the warm feeling turned to pain- in Markus’ stomach, in his head, and all over his body. All he felt was pain. And wetness.
How can I be wet? The roof of the tent is perfectly fine.
He’d lurch forward, and look down at his tabard. It was completely soaked in what appeared to be vomit. With a groan, he’d lean onto his side, and regard the many, many, empty bottles that littered the tent.
“Why can’t I just die!”
His voice was hoarse after he cried out. He knew nobody listened- he knew nobody heard. He knew nobody cared. Konstanz was long dead by now.
It was the fourth time he had attempted to die this way. Each time, he awoke from his attempt- with a pounding hangover, and a lurching stomach. Each time he awoke, he was reminded of his failure. The lady he wanted was in another castle- and he slept in a filthy tent.
He’d eventually garner together enough strength to leave his tent, stepping outside into the pouring rain. Eventually, in a fit of anger, he’d begin to abuse his tent. Starting with the wooden frame, he’d begin to smash bottles against it, bend it, snap it- whatever it allowed. He’d pound his fist against the ground, over, and over, and over again- proclaiming his failure.
“Loser! Bastard! Weak-minded, effeminate excuse of a man! Vyr not half the man Mikhail is! Vy gave up! Vy need her! Vy need her, and vy lost her!”
Lightning would flash, and eventually, after a while, he’d fall to his knees- and eventually, after a while, he’d defeatedly lie on his back. The rain would lightly, yet affectionately, tap on his face.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
His mind would flash back to the time spent with Margrait in Ghaestenwald, prior to his leaving.
His face was flushed red with anger. He’d let loose a little tantrum, kicking baggage as if he was but a toddler who did not want to leave a friend’s house. Meanwhile, Margrait nervously stood in the corner of the room.
“The Papej! Me! Me! It should be me! Niet Mikhail! Me! Ea will crumble his walls, if he even touches vy!”
Margrait would become angry, shooting an accusing finger at Markus. She’d scold him for his incessant anger, his yelling- his threats.
The tapping of the rain would bring him back to the present, and he’d let his body lay at rest.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
“Eam a child. Eam simply a child, an anguished child who throws vain tantrums. Ea still haven’t fixed myself, my anger, even after Margrait asked. Nie. After Margrait Demanded.”
“Mikhail isn’t a snake. And he’s… grown. Moved on. Since we were kids. Eam the one who hasn’t. Eam the flawed one.”
He’d shake his head with a sigh, covering his eyes with his hands.
“Margrait shouldn’t have me. Eam nie papej. Eam nie husband.”
“Eam nie man.”