Chapter 07

“Milady, how does the dress feel?” Teyla asked as she saw Aracely in the beautiful dress that tailor Cadman had brought over, after quickly sizing the lady up. It seemed like a perfect fit, almost.

Struggling to breathe, Aracely looked down, where her bosom was pressed flat from the corset. “Like every other – uh – uncomfortable formal that I had to attend as a child,” she replied before gasping a little when Teyla pulled the cords tighter in the back. “Is this necessary?”

“You’re going to be wedded to Prince John, of course it is necessary, even if it’ll be a very small ceremony, because of the King’s health.” Teyla smiled warmly. “It is the only fitting dress we have right now, but, if you wish, our tailor could make you better dresses, for future formal occasions.”

“I wish, I wish,” Aracely squeaked out. “Chaya would have fitted this much better. I am afraid I am not as slender as she.”

“You’re healthy, that is all that matters.” Teyla then looked at her. “I do not suppose you have something of your own that looks appropriate to wear?” She motioned for another maiden to fix the corset, so that Aracely could at least breathe easier.

With the upper cords loosened, she was more comfortable, even if she now appeared to have a larger bosom than she truly did. “Not with me, I am sorry. This is a lovely gown and your seamstress worked so hard on it, already.”

“You look beautiful,” Teyla smiled. “I am sure John will appreciate it.”

“If he does not, I will make him wear one of these things and then I will be positive that he will appreciate the lengths that I would go through,” she said as she shifted the waistline, so that it sat on her frame a bit more smoothly.

“Make sure that I will be able to see John in one, should he say something.” Teyla chuckled. “Do you want me to do your hair?”

Aracely looked at her reflection. “I don’t know. I suppose we could pin it back? I don’t see the need to make it overly-elaborate. We are holding the services in the King’s chamber, yes?”

“I believe so, Meredith has gone to ask John.”

“Meredith?”

“John’s godfather… strange little man.” Teyla shook her head.

She didn’t say anything but still was rather amused. Once they were done, she turned to Teyla. “I suppose now we wait for John?”

Suddenly, there was a racket outside Aracely’s chambers. “Ronon put me down!” John’s voice could be heard. “I can walk myself… you’re embarrassing me… come on, please put me down, don’t make me beg…”

“I believe he’s already here,” Teyla said with a smile on her lips.

Aracely went to lift the dress, so that she could go to the door, but Teyla held her back. “What?”

“You may not see or feel how eager you look, but you will wait here. I will go to make sure that John is waiting in the bedchamber for you, with the minister. Patience milady,” she grinned before making her way out to the hall.

“Teyla…” John complained. “Ronon is stopping me from going to see Aracely.” John was sitting on Ronon’s shoulders, having to duck for almost every light fixture on the ceiling. “I can walk.”

Teyla had leaned against the door so that he could not enter past her, either. “I am sorry, but you will have to go wait for her with your father. She will be there, shortly.”

“Told you so,” Ronon said and looked at Teyla. “Want me to release him?”

“Only if his Highness will behave and go wait in the King’s chambers,” she said.

“I promise I’ll be good,” John said and sighed. “Please put me down…” He was glad to be able to feel the ground again; he didn’t really like heights and Ronon was an unusually tall man. “Thank you,” John said as he continued to walk towards his father’s chambers, slightly annoyed that he wasn’t allowed to see Aracely.

Teyla looked at Ronon silently. All he did was nod and he knew that he was to keep their friend in the room, as he would more than likely sneak back out. “I promise that I won’t keep her long. Just a few more moments. Gabriella should be there already. I had someone send for her while the Lady was finishing her bath.”

“Fine,” John’s voice sounded from the end of the corridor. He opened the door to his father’s chambers and found Gabriella sitting in a chair next to the door, on the inside. If he wasn’t mistaken, she was wearing an old dress of Teyla’s, and made a mental note to make it more clear to Meredith, who was sitting beside John’s father, to keep his hands off of the young woman.

“They are keeping you from seeing Lady Aracely, too?” she asked as she stood eagerly, having hoped that it was her friend who had arrived.

John nodded. “It’s not fair.”

“Miss Teyla told me that she wanted Aracely to be a surprise for us, as we would not see her in such a manner again. That she would only be wed once, to you,” she smiled.

“I know,” John said slowly. “It’s just that I want to make sure she’s alright, because knowing Teyla, she has been forced into a corset dress, and I am sure she doesn’t like them… although I think she must look really pretty in one!”

Gabriella chuckled and nodded. “She does not like the feeling of being trapped. She always considered them to be a method of cruel torture to women.”

“I find them hazardous for the fingers of men.” John nodded as he excused himself to check up on his father, getting a glare from Meredith. “Stop it, Mer,” John warned him as he sat down in the chair beside his father’s bed.

The minister slipped in quietly, with Carson, and they made their way over. The physician had large smile on his face as he looked down at the boy that he come to watch grow up. “I just caught a glance of the young lady coming down the corridor. She really is quite lovely.”

John groaned. “It’s not fair that you got to see her first.”

“I am not the one to wed her,” he pointed out as the sounds of the doors being pushed open filled the space. Teyla entered, but paused briefly before Aracely entered, to say something to her. It took another moment before she stepped aside, to reveal the bride stepping in slowly.

John couldn’t believe his eyes. Aracely looked enchanting and even more gracious than she already was. He quickly rose to his feet and walked towards her. “You look… amazing,” he smiled.

“Thank you,” she said as she looked at him. He certainly looked more attractive than she imagined while she was preparing. Regardless of the blush on her face, her cheek was still very much reddened from Chaya, but she couldn’t even feel the pain from it anymore.

Carson coughed to get their attention, as he stood from looking over the King, who happened to awaken amidst their distractions. “My John…”

John took Aracely’s hand and walked with her towards the bed. He kneeled down next to the bed and took his father’s hand. “I am here, Father.”

Looking up at the minister, who nodded his agreement, Aracely joined John on her knees, taking care that she did not accidentally rip the fabric of her dress.

“This,” the King coughed, “is this your Queen?” he asked as he raised a weak finger to point at the girl.

“Yes, father, this is my heart, Lady Aracely.”

The King nodded, seemingly in approval, as he gave a small smile before closing his eyes. “Almost as lovely as your mother.”

“Your Highness, we should begin,” the minister interceded softly, as he hugged his bible to his breast.

John nodded as he smiled at Aracely. Instead of the long, traditional and extremely boring prayers that they would normally have endured, the minister was kind enough to shorten it for the sake of the King’s comfort, as well. The ill man slipped in and out of consciousness a few times through their prayers, that had everyone, including Carson, on edge.

As the couple finished with the vows prepared by the minister, Aracely could not keep her eyes from the King’s sleeping form. From the pasty shade of grey that covered his skin, she was now sure that their pressure to perform the services that evening was the right one.

Finishing the final hymn, she squeezed John’s hand reassuringly, as she could see that he too was thinking much of the same. It was not long after that the minister shared that the two were indeed now married to one another, but the moment was bittersweet. Lying on his death bed, the King was clearly slipping away more than before.

Aracely could not help but to shed a tear. While she was not favorable of the King’s choices, in regard to the well-being of her home village, for a man such as John – who was very much open-hearted – to lose the father he clearly was dearly fond of, was difficult to watch.

The small congregation that was present, as witness to the nuptials of the Prince, was soon broadened with more of the castle staff, to bid their final words of peace. For the many that remained, it was a near-deafening silence as everyone struggled to listen for the old man’s breath. It wasn’t more than shortly before the rise of the sun that Carson shared that he was certain that the King had departed their realm of life for another. “The King is dead,” Carson declared.

“Long live the King,” the few people in the room chorused.

John looked at his Father, the hand he was holding had gone limp. “Carson, are you sure?” he hesitantly asked, not really wanting to believe the physician.

“I am afraid so, my friend,” Carson replied quietly. “The blood does not flow through his body any longer.”

John slowly nodded and carefully placed his father’s hand on his body, along with his other hand. His father looked as if he was sleeping, and John had to tell himself that his father was sleeping, but he would not wake up again. “Prepare for his burial,” he managed to say. “My Father, the King, will be buried within three suns, in our crypt underneath the castle.”

“Yes, your Highness,” one of the head staff murmured with a bow before leaving the chambers with a few of his workers.

Aracely had long since stepped back to sit with Teyla and Gabriella, to allow John the time he needed to mourn his father. Teyla stood quietly, to leave to prepare John’s room for his rest, as she was certain he would be soon weary from the long evening of events. As much as the girl wished to stay with her friend, Gabriella was also quite tired herself, and slowly nodded off, repeatedly, before it was noticed, and Aracely insisted she go rest.

John looked at Aracely; she was sitting alone near the door and she looked tired. “You don’t have to stay…”

Her eyes flew open after realizing that she was slowly succumbing to her exhaustion. Looking up at her now husband, Aracely shook her head. “No, my place is at your side,” she said before a small yawn escaped. “I am fine. As long as you remain here, so will I.”

“Don’t be stubborn,” John said and sighed. “You must think I’m a fool for remaining with my father’s empty shell.”

“I do not,” she replied with offense. “He is your father and you simply are not ready to let him go, even as he has passed on. There is nothing foolish of feeling lost with his death, of any death.”

“I am afraid that if I walk out of this chamber, and I would return after some rest, that he would not be here any more.”

Aracely sighed as she dropped her hands to her lap. “You are the Prince. If you so ordered them to leave your father in his bed until you return, they will do as you ask. In less than three sun’s time, you will be crowned King and, as much as you miss your father, you must be mindful of your own health, for the people. Now, please stop being so petulant and go find yourself some sleep.”

He managed to pull himself away from his father and walked towards Aracely, holding out his hand for her, smiling. “You win, Aracely,” John nodded. “Are you coming?”

Clearly hesitant, she knew that she had to follow. While she was not comfortable, nor did she believe she was even ready for marriage, especially of this regard, it would be a continual learning process for her to overcome her opposition to many things. Nodding, Aracely stood but kept her head low as she followed John, silently praying that he would not wish to consummate their marriage, however knew that it was likely and expectant of them now.

“Where do you want to sleep, Aracely?” John asked her as they exited the chamber, into the corridor. Apart from losing his father, getting married and becoming King in a matter of days, he was terrified and hoped that she did not expect him to force her into any intimate relations. He was so tired, he believed he wouldn’t even be able to perform. He would love for her to stay with him, but he left that choice up to her, suspecting that she was feeling anxious herself. “And I thought we had made progress, you and I. You’re my equal, don’t bow your head when you’re walking through the corridor with me.”

The previously confident woman was certainly different with all the changes that were happening, but she would likely return to her former self, once she grew more comfortable with the new life she had accepted. “My apologies. I will sleep wherever you wish me to,” she answered, looking up at him and taking a breath to prepare herself for if he requested that she join him in his bed.

“That was not my question,” John said and rubbed his face with his hand, stopping dead in his tracks. They were in front of the chamber Aracely had been in before. He opened the door. “I’m too tired to argue, I’m too tired to even want to ask if you’d like it if we’d… because I can’t… I just want to sleep.”

Aracely swallowed as she looked into the room. If it was only sleep he truly wished for, then she believed that she could join him. She had slept with him in the carriage, during their journey to the castle, and the time might help her grow more comfortable in his presence for when he did wish to seek more of her. “Then I will join you for sleep,” she said, raising her chin to him, feeling slightly put off that he was quick to choose for her.

“Thank you,” he said, entering the chambers, not wanting to walk towards his own. He pulled off his boots and laid down on the bed. “Good night.”

She stood there, unsure of what to do as he laid in her bed, still in his day clothes from the ceremony. One of the maidens who had been confused as to the Prince’s choice of bed hurried to assist Aracely out of her dress. There would be no way that she could sleep comfortably with a corset as tight as hers was. As she was assisted into her bed clothes, she glanced back at John, who looked to be in a sound rest so quickly.

Crawling into her side of the bed, she laid her head to the pillow as the staff left the newly-wedded couple to their rest. For as tired as the girl was, she found it difficult to fall into a slumber, laying there with a man beside her. He was not just any man though. Aracely had a lot of fears to overcome, she knew, but all she could think about was this man, John, who she decided to force her mind to not recognize him as anyone other than the Johan she met in San Franciskus.

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