During the Great Ox Wars, the Chieftain of the Griffin Clan made a promise to his most loyal knight as the knight lay dying. The Chieftain promised that his heir and eldest son would marry the knight’s newborn daughter when she came of age, and would be raised in the castle with her mother to see to her care and education. The knight was able to die in peace knowing that his small family was going to be well provided for. The betrothal ceremony took place as soon as the Chieftain returned home from battle. The young heir, a strapping lad of 5 years, looked at his future bride swaddled in her blankets and curled his lip in disgust, for not only was she a girl child; she was a red, homely, wrinkled little thing.
Four years passed and the young heir did all that he could to avoid interacting with his future bride. There were times, to the young heir’s chagrin, when nobles of other clans visited when they all must spend the day together. He was not only forced to spend the day with this young betrothed, but he was also stuffed into his best clothing with strict rules not to get dirty. One such day a visiting noble’s son, a brutish 13-year-old, was taunting the younger heir into demonstrating his feats of prowess. In other words, he dared him to walk the fence surrounding the pig pen.
“Syrinx, you musn’t!” Yamei bossily ordered chubby hands firmly on her hips, attempting to raise an eyebrow in judgment as the Chieftain often did. “You’ll be whipped!”
Syrinx shot Yamei a disdainful look, lifted his chin and straightened his spine then marched towards the narrow fence. Yamei followed at his heels buzzing dire predictions of punishment into his ears as only a young girl can. Syrinx climbed on top of the fence, balanced just so, and looked behind him and saw the older lad climb up behind him. Yamei kept speaking so he blocked everything out and focused on reaching the end of the fence. About halfway down the rail he felt it shimmy and heard a thud and the squealing of pigs. He looked back over his shoulder and noticed a defiant Yamei glaring at a sputtering lump of smelly muck.
“Syrinx, why didn’t you listen when I warned you he was going to push you? Oh, I had to stop him, and now the whipping will be mine, but I couldn’t allow you to be dishonored. I am not sorry!” she stamped her little foot in emphasis.
Saying nothing, Syrinx reached down and held her hand and together they walked into the keep. The Chieftain was surprised by seeing Syrinx holding Yamei’s hand, and immediately suspicious as any father would be. He arched his eyebrows and asked where the noble’s child was.
“In the pig pen. He’s the one wearing the hat.” Yamei quipped.
The great hall erupted with the sounds of laughter, and Syrinx wisely snuck Yamei from the room.
After her defense of him, Syrinx began to regard Yamei with less disdain, and almost a sisterly affection. He tolerated her tagging after him constantly asking why. Once she acquired new skills he allowed her to join with him; tending the griffins, riding them. She joined him to practice combat arts and spellcasting with him. However, with their enlightened and natural studies, especially herbology, she eventually surpassed his knowledge despite the 5 year age gap. And so they went until he was 18, and she 13. At 18 his idea of feminine beauty shifted as is wont in young men of his age. He allowed that she wasn’t as ugly as he’d previously regarded her, and despite not having golden curls, her hair was lovely as lovely burnished russet and quite pleasing. However, she was thin and gangly, her eyes too small, her nose too large, and he could do naught but sigh that this was his future wife.
Time passed, with Syrinx often gone between attending Court and being in battle. The wedding was to occur on her 18th birthday. Syrinx had matured, and at 23, while not thrilled with giving up his bachelor ways to commit to one woman, he was ready to shoulder his duty with some peace. The wedding was to be a huge affair as it corresponded with the of the end of long-lasting Great Ox Wars, with Syrinx and his griffin riders playing a large role in the realm’s victory. The King himself was in attendance, along with all the Nobles and thousands of peasants.
On the final night before the wedding, Syrinx was to bed down in the barracks with the other griffin riders as his chamber was being used to house the Prince. After dancing once with Yamei in the sweltering great hall, he snuck out to take a walk around the bailey. As he circled back he witnessed a man pulling a woman into a darkened niche and decided not to interrupt the lovers’ tryst. However, upon hearing Yamei’s name coming from the Prince’s lips, he stopped in his tracks.
“I love you, Yamei. I can give you everything. Come away with me.” the Prince insisted.
Syrinx could see her stiffen due to the imperious manner of the Prince, yet she replied in a sweet tone that did not betray her irritation.
“I am, of course, honored beyond words by your proposal. But, my father’s honor, nay my own honor, cannot allow me to accept your exalted offer. You say you love me now, and so you must also know and love my integrity. Dishonoring my father, the Chieftain, Syrinx, and the loyal Clan of Griffin, would lower my esteem in your eyes, and not bode well for our future felicity.”
“Nay, Yamei! I would only love you more for your sacrifice. Your honor would not be tarnished, as no one would dare judge the future Queen. Nay, they will benefit from your goodness and love you as I do. I do not know why you reject me for a lesser noble who doesn’t even love you.”
Yamei softly sighed and trembled slightly before lifting her chin and replying “ I know he doesn’t love me, I have always known it. You have been a close friend, a companion, one I treasure dearly in my mind, but not in my heart. I have been raised to be his wife, and my loyalty has led me to closely observe him, and I do love him. My love will be enough to keep me happy. If you love me as dearly as you claim, kiss my cheek now, and bless my marriage tomorrow.”
The Prince leaned in and kissed her cheek then walked away. Syrinx was stunned, he had hardly given her notice in the past 5 years, he assumed that she was as indifferent to their union as he was, doing her duty. Instead of returning the great hall and the celebration, he headed to the barracks to absorb and reflect on this new information.
The ceremony was to be at Terce, with a large wedding breakfast to follow, early enough for visiting nobles to depart the keep and allow the servants to prepare the marriage apartments. Syrinx rose and performed his morning ablutions with care. Yamei rose early, and after also dressing with care she went early to the vestry to meditate and pray. When Syrinx arrived to meet her at the chancel, he stopped short upon seeing her in her wedding finery. It was like he was truly seeing her for the first time, and how her peace, goodness, and spirit rendered her truly beautiful and he had never seen it. He was proud when he placed the ancestral diadem upon her head, signifying not only their union but the future guardianship of the clan.
While his father was still living, Syrinx’s mother passed away soon after their marriage. Yamei assumed the role of the heart of the clan. With her loving nature, she cared for the sick, championed the peasants’ welfare, and even personally saw to the education of all the children through afternoon gatherings when all their chores were done. The clan prospered and adored her. However, despite being attracted to and respecting Yamei, Syrinx was not yet in love with her.
When their first son was being born, Syrinx felt pride and concern, as any new father would. As is a clan tradition, a seer accompanied him into the chamber to meet his new son. The seer touched his arm while he gazed upon his infant son and gave him a glimpse into the future. Due to his wife’s love and guidance in his son’s life, his son would be the greatest leader that the Griffon Clan had known, far surpassing Syrinx. When the vision faded, Syrinx looked from his son to his wife’s face noting the joy and love radiating from her face and knew beyond a doubt that he was madly, deeply, and truly not only blessed by but in love with Yamei.
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