World of Light > A Fine Display
A Fine Display
He gazed in the great mirror on the wall, lined with golden and surrounded by flowers. He was as dashing as he ever looked. He made slight adjustments here and there, turning his crown ever so slightly, that it might catch the light streaming through the stained glass windows better. A slight stiffening of the high collar of his mantle was next, smoothing out the slight wrinkle that had materialized at some point in the morning. Appearances were everything, particularly on an occasion such as this. As the living embodiment of the Crown Imperial, it was Raphael's paramount duty to ensure he inspired the proper awe. That he chose to wear the self-same crown his ancestor Daphnes, son of the great Nohansen, himself wore upon his wedding day was no accident.
"Preening, always preening. You great feathered peacock," a rich, feminine contralto mocked him from the shadows, with that soft, almost melodic accident the Sheikah possessed. Raphael smiled slightly, and turned to gaze upon the source of that familiar voice. She was tall and proud, very nearly his own height, her long silver hair pulled back tightly into a thick braid. She wore the black and silver leather raiment of the Shatriyaan, the elite band of Sheikah who were the Imperial Family's personal guard. And wore that raiment well she did; she was a paradox of honed, sinewy musculature and soft feminine curves.
"You shouldn't be here, Nira," Raphael warned her. "Someone may see you."
"Feh," Nira laughed derisively at him. "Do you honestly think I'll get caught? You forget who you're talking to." She sidled up to him, rather pleasantly invading his personal space. "And I'm your bodyguard."
Raphael smiled in defeat, and kissed her soundly. "You guard it well." Nira grinned, stroking his hair, but he sighed, and gently pushed her away. They had no time for this. And discretion was paramount--even more so than it usually was. It would be even more vitally important from this day forward. She had to know that. "Love, we can't. Not now."
Nira clenched her teeth as he brushed past her, and pounded a leather-gauntleted fist into the wall. "Not ever again, your Highness."
"Nira," Raphael sighed wearily. "We've been through this. This was my father's idea, and I had no say in it."
"For duty. For the Empire. Always it is, with you," she said bitterly, lowering her head, her fists clenched.
"...and you've known this from the day you swore your oath to protect me," Raphael countered. "You've known this day would come, eventually."
"It doesn't mean I have to be happy about it."
"Oh, Nira." Raphael went to her, taking her face into his hands. The hardened warrior, brash and fiercely proud, was fighting back tears, and it took every ounce of discipline he could muster not to do the same. He kissed her brow, and held her close against him. "I don't have to say this again, but I will: today is about politics and nothing more. That woman out there will bear my name, and my ring. She may even bear me sons. But she will never bear the name 'wife' on anything but parchment." He pulled Nira away, holding her shoulders firmly. "It is you whom I love, Nira. You, and you alone."
Nira slipped out of his grasp, and back into the shadows. "So say you, Raphael."
And then she was gone.
Raphael sighed, then turned to the mirror, adjusting his clothing once more. He took a deep breath, as the fanfare reached a crescendo and the door to the antechamber swung open, signaling the end of the bridal procession. I am Raphael Casimir Valentine, Prince of Hyrule, Heir to the Imperial Throne of Hylia. I am the Jewel of the Empire, the Fist of Din Herself. Thrice-blessed by the Triforce. I am...
Reciting the litany of titles and affections over and over in his mind, the steel returned to his veins as he was reminded of his purpose. It seemed a blur, a dream, a storm that he was the calm and the center of. He always had to be; that was his role, his purpose in life. Liana, breathtakingly beautiful with her hair the color of a fiery sunset, draped in Ticonderan silk, dripping with jewels in every shade of the rainbow, stood waiting for him at the massive altar. She smiled at him, her angular Elven features artfully rouged, her angular eyes soft and radiant, outlined with the kohl so favored by Ticonderans. Raphael was re-assured that she would be his perfect counterpart in every way; as beautiful and mysterious and charming as he was; they were certainly quite a stunning pair. When he took her hand into his, and they gave each other the traditional greeting, he returned her smile. She knew every Hylian custom, every nuance and every gesture executed to perfection: matching his pace perfectly as they stood at opposite ends of the shimmering basin, passing their joined hands through the mystical flame. Liana's grace matched his own, and the smoldering look in her emerald eyes told him everything he needed to know. Perhaps his father was not so mad after all. She would indeed make a fine Empress, in her own right. She knew the game as well as he did.
The elderly priest gave a final benediction, and Raphael took Liana into his arms, as was customary. She was soft, and smelled of exotic flowers; it was not an unpleasant feeling. They kissed, to the roaring of the crowd. There was the stately procession to the chariot that awaited them outside the temple, and the triumphant march through the streets of Kasuto, throngs of people throwing flowers, shouting prayers of hope and good fortune. Raphael drunk in their adoration, savoring their devotion and praise. The people loved him, and more importantly, they loved their new princess. Even the skeptical Hylian nobility were swept up in the jubilation of the day. It had accomplished precisely what they set out to do.
And that made it a good day, other things notwithstanding.