The Lord’s party paraded the main street of the menhir village, as custom required. The villagers came out to wave and palm their foreheads, moves which Marquart acknowledged in passing. There were resentments for the building of the dam, for the taxes Marquart was once again collecting, and for the heavy surcharge Marquart had demanded before he set his stonewrights to opening a channel through to fallen rocks. But resentment of the powerful is the nature of the world, and it makes no more sense to be angry with one’s Lord than to curse the Weathermistress. Lords and weather do not listen to complaints, so it is bootless to make them.
At the temple of the menhir, Dymal and his priests joined the procession. Despite their civility, Marquart did not trust Dymal, and Dymal reciprocated in full.
The combined party wound their way westward a mile to a secluded bower of early blossoming kearblossom, which was set aside for marriage ceremonies among the serfs. The bride had woven the cloth and sewn the clothing for herself and her husband-to-be. He was dressed in a plain tunic and loinwrap, new wool, never worn before. She wore what had been a simple shift of newly woven wool, but her mother, aunts, sisters and female cousins had taken turns through the winter embroidering it with bright colors. She wore a circlet of kearblossoms in her hair.
The ceremony was long and tedious. Dymal performed it, not as a priest of the menhir, which only dealt with the dead, but as a priest of Hea Santala who provided meaning and comfort for the living.
There was a key moment of gift giving. As the man and his new wife knelt, Marquart stepped forward followed by servants carrying heavy items wrapped in precious cotton cloth. Normally, Marquart would have stood alone, but he chose to have Tidac at his side. He gestured, and a female servant passed over a package, which the new wife accepted with a shy bobbing of her head and quickly opened. It was an iron pot.
There was no surprise in that. The three gifts were always the same.
The wife spoke a few, shy words of thanks, and Marquart answered with the formula, “May your hearth be always warm, and the pot and your belly always full.” Then the girl blushed and the villagers giggled at the double entendre.
Marquart gestured again, and an ancient servant came staggering up under the load of the heaviest package, which he placed between man and wife. The wife touched the package and the man opened it. It was the plowshear Branbourn had been forging.
Marquart said, “Urel, plow deep and often, so that your seed may be sewn, and your harvest may be bountiful.”
Villagers and serfs alike howled with laughter. The double meanings of plow and furrow were particular favorites.
Marquart then described the land he had set aside for them. Before the day was over, he would walk the boundaries of that land with Urel, and the newlyweds would sleep together tonight in a temporary house of straw and blossoming vines that their relatives had built this morning on their new property.
Marquart gestured a third time and a powerful youth brought up the last wrapped parcel. This one the wife did not touch. Urel opened it and passed the cloth to his wife, then gripping the axe, rose to his feet. He knelt again directly in front of Marquart and raised the axe for him to touch. Marquart said, “This axe I give you to clear your land, to cut your firewood, to defend your family and yourself, and to carry in my service.”
Urel repeated, “This axe I accept to clear my land, to cut my firewood, to to defend my family, and I will carry it in your service. Our lives are yours.” more tomorrow