On Facebook I've been posting excerpts of the Barton Clover subplot that was cut from Heart Fortune. And I offered there, as here, to post more if there were birthdays of my readers, as presents. I had 3 recent birthdays, so here's a huge chunk.
Glyssa jerked at hearing her name. She hadn't known Walker Clover, T'Clover, knew her name, let alone of her.
"Yes, this can all be worked out later. Now we should celebrate an excellent match!" said an older woman from the doorway. She brought in a tray of champagne and flutes, poured for them all.
"To Barton and Enata!" T'Willow toasted.
Everyone drank. Naturally the champagne was top-of-the-pyramid. Glyssa sighed into hers. This event had wrenched her life – her Family's lives – into changes she hadn't imagined.
After they drank, T'Willow met her gaze. "I believe you have a connection with GreatCircle Temple?"
"Good, the marriage ritual can be tonight." Barton squeezed Enata and she squeaked.
"Tonight!" T'Licorice exclaimed.
"No reson to wait, is there?" T'Willow asked gently.
"The women–" Walker and Barton said together. They almost shuddered in unison, too.
Barton jutted his chin. "I want to be married tonight. Glyssa is one of that trio of friends with Camellia D'Hawthorn and that priestess."
"Tiana Mugwort," Glyssa said faintly.
"That's the one," Barton said. He smiled with glee at Walker. "You alert the Clover women, Head of the Family."
"Yeah. And you alert all the guards that will be needed tonight at GreatCircle Temple, providing we get that venue."
Preferring public to private communication, Glyssa took her scrystone from her sleeve, and murmured Tiana's direction.
"Here, Glyssa! How did it go with Enata and GreatLord T'Willow?"
"We are still at T'Willow Residence," Glyssa said formally. "He knew Enata's match at once."
Tiana's eyes widened. "Really!"
"Yes. He's Barton Clover."
"Barton Clover! He dated my sister," Tiana said.
Barton went wide-eyed himself, not in the same way. "Only one evening date, I mean, one dinner only. I promise you, Enata. Months and months ago."
He must be fibbing. Since Tiana's sister was recently married, it couldn't have been that long. Glyssa kept a comment behind her teeth about that. "In any event," Glyssa said. "GreatLord T'Willow advises an immediate marriage and GrandLord Walker Willow would like it there at GreatCircle Temple tonight."
Walker crossed to Glyssa, looked down into the scry. "Can you see what you can do? We would love to have you officiate."
"Me?" Tiana seemed dazed.
"There shouldn't be more than a couple of hundred Family members," Walker said. "You can call on all the resources of the Clover women to help, um, decorate and whatever."
Glyssa saw Tiana literally reel against a wall.
"Barton is my favorite brother, and highly respected by our clan," Walker said.
"A couple of hundred people. Lady and Lord," Tiana continued to repeat.
"Is the Temple, the entire large area of GreatCircle Temple, free tonight?" Walker asked.
"Ye-es, I believe so. I will have to consult the schedule and my superiors, of course."
"Of course, but if GreatCircle Temple isn't free, I suppose we should have a wedding – not a marriage ritual, but a simple wedding – in the Family grove at Clover Compound."
Barton's shoulders came up around his burly neck. "Please, no, not at the Family Grove, Walker. The women will flig–, sorry, will pick at me all day long. I'll be bones by night. Really hard to love a woman if all you are, are bones."
Enata giggled. "You're funny."
Glyssa lifted her nose and pinned Barton with a stare. "Enata can match any Clover woman." After all, the Licorices had had their title since the second generation of the colonists. Not many Families could say that, certainly not the Clovers, the newest of the Grand tier of nobles.
Barton pulled Enata in front of him, wrapped his arms around her. "I believe that, Lady and Lord, bless. I have a woman in ten thousand."
"One moment please," Tiana said.
In the silence Barton sighed loudly.
Glyssa's mother studied the couple, then glared at T'Willow. "You are sure this is a good match?"
"An exceptional match," T'Willow said.
"Mo-ther," said Enata. Then tears came to her eyes. "I'm happy."
"'Who ever loved that loved not at first sight,'" Glyssa's father said.
"Christopher Marlowe," Barton identified the quote.
"What?" Walker Clover asked.
Barton jutted his chin. "Christopher Marlowe was the poet who wrote that."
"You read poetry,?" Walker sounded disbelieving.
Barton flushed and fisted his hand. "Keep it up, brother, and you'll be taking part in a marriage ritual with a broken nose."
"He is wonderful," Enata said.
"We don't need to get married tonight, wedding or ritual," Barton offered. "But Enata's coming home with me. For at least a few days. Right, sweetie?"
"Right," Enata said.
"Oh," D'Licorice said.
"I'm back," said a breathless Tiana, showing up in Glyssa's scry pebble once more. "The high priest and priestess are...intrigued at hosting a marriage ritual of such size. They ask that, even if they don't officiate, they be included in the gathering."
"Of course," Walker T'Clover said.
"Then the ritual will begin at MidEvening Bell, please have the bride and groom here a half-septhour before the ceremony. You can take care of contacting your Family. Now I have much to do. Blessed be." Tiana signed off.
"Blessed be," Walker said belatedly.
"My HeartMate and I would like to be invited to the ritual, also," T'Willow said.
Enata appeared dazed.
"Of course. I'll – we'll take care of that, GreatLord." A lopsided smile from Walker. "Thank you, Saille."
"You are welcome. You'll receive half of my bill."
"And now I might just be able to salvage my own schedule if you will all leave," T'Willow said.
"Enata and I will go somewhere private and get to know each other." Barton smiled winningly.
"Like hell," Glyssa's father said. "You are coming with me on a tour of the PublicLibrary and to be introduced to our Residence. Perhaps spend some time with me in the HouseHeart."
"Wow, fascinating," Barton said. "I've never been in a HouseHeart. Really great. Great idea!" He thumped Glyssa's father on his back, and Jace had to step in and steady T'Licorice.
Her father wheezed, "Got curiosity. That's good."
"All of the Clovers are curious," Walker said, slowly drawing a scry pebble from his trous pocket. "You'll have a swarm of children around once they understand they're welcome."
"Oh, my," D'Licorice said, a mixture of anticpation and wariness on her face. She turned to Walker. "I will go with you to make the announcement to your ladies."
Walker shoved his perscry pebble back in his pocket, offered Glyssa's mother an arm and a relieved smile. "I'm honored to introduce you to my HeartMate, Sedwy Grove Clover, my mother and my Aunt Pratty who runs us Clovers."
Glyssa's mother nodded decidedly. "Good. Thank you, T'Willow. We will see you later."
She walked out with Walker, talking animatedly about the ritual. Glyssa's father and Enata and Barton followed. Her father accepted a package on the way out.
Glyssa and Jace were left alone with T'Willow. That lord scrutinized them, grunted. "Anything you want to speak to me about?"
"No," Jace said.
"Yes," Glyssa said at the same time, then sighed and changed her answer. "No. We'll muddle through."
"I'm sure," T'Willow said and she couldn't tell whether that was optimism or truth speaking.
"Merry meet," she said.
"And merry part," he said.
"And merry meet again, tonight," she ended.
She tried to keep her actions casual as she slipped her arm in Jace's, no pushing. As soon as they were alone outside T'Willow Residence she sighed and let the laugh that was in her out. "That was interesting."
"Very." Jace glanced around at the wide boulevard in Noble Country, where the FirstFamilies lived. "Your father left without us."
"I guess we need to get home, walk or teleport?"
"Teleport." She smiled. "To the guest room. I know you've been practicing. Why don't you whisk me away."
"Why don't I?"
* * *
Jace wanted to be anywhere but the marriage ritual. The Clover Family was massive, and their joy at the wedding filled the great Temple.
The whole huge circle of people seemed to be nothing but couples, from young teens who were engaged to oldsters who'd obviously spent most of their lives together. Well, there were the children, too, interspersed between the couples. More children than he'd ever seen at one time, including when he was one growing up in the village.
And Fams, too. Zem had been given permission to fly free. The other Fams, including more foxes than Jace expected, were confined to the edge of a quadrant.
Being linked together in the circle wasn't like the large circles at camp. More of these people had more than average Flair, the high Priest and Priestess, Walker Clover's wife who belonged to the FirstFamilies, so did Laev T'Hawthorn. Camellia D'Hawthorn and Tiana Mugwort, who led the ritual, came from lower noble Families. More noble Families he'd ever seen gathered together, let alone been a part of, including the Licorices.
Power throbbed through him in waves, he stood between Glyssa and her mother, nearly awed at the Flair cycling around the circle.
The whole atmosphere made him envious at the close bonds of the Families – the Licorices as well as the Clovers – and wary at how each person seemed to have a press of expectations on him or her to do certain things, fit into a Family slot.
Glyssa's future remained open. She could become D'Licorice, he saw that, how her Family and the Clovers would accept that. How she herself could grow into that status. That would be good for her. But not for him, and he was beginning to accept that she would be in his future. In fact, he couldn't imagine a future without her.
Enata, the bride, spoke a little piece, thanking her Family, saying she loved them, including her new brother, her sister's HeartMate.
Jace cringed. No, still not ready for that word. The ritual ended on a huge surge of joy that dizzied him and he shouted and could almost see the love aura around Barton and Enata. The circle was opened and he was finally outside of the circuit of Flair and more confused in his life.
Especially when folk treated him and Glyssa as a married couple.
She left his side for a few minutes and it was a relief until some Clover woman started asking about their marriage ritual and he choked on flatsweet crumbs.
Glyssa handed him a tube of alcoholic punch, excused them, and took him away from the main temple area, through the circular corridor to a small room.