Author: Findswoman Title: Our Big Fat Lasat Wedding Era: Saga–PT, 19–18 BBY Characters: Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios, Lasan Series OCs, Chava the Wise Genre: Romance, family, some drama, some humor; multichapter (five in all) Summary: Zeb and Shulma get married, though lots of things lead up to it, of course. Contents: 1 (below) | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 Notes: Part of the Lasan Series, of course (no surprise there). I have been meaning to write this story for a while, and OTP Challenge #16: Milestones finally gave me the occasion to, so it is an entry in that challenge as well. With thanks, as usual, to @Raissa Baiard for beta reading. 1. Dusty winds whirled and screamed across the hills and cliffs of Lasan’s northern continent, scouring the rocks and sending trees and shrubs flying. But inside the houses that dotted those hills and cliffs, warm light shone, and all was bright and cheerful. It was Midstorm’s Eve, the midpoint of the dust season, and with the harshest half of the harshest season behind them families and friends gathered to celebrate all over Lasan. No one threw a more splendid Midstorm’s Eve feast than the Orrelios family, in their spacious home in the cliff-country surrounding the capital city of Lira Zel. The entire family had turned out for the celebration, coming from every corner of Lasan. A scrumptious spread of seasonal puddings, pies, and stews, crowned by a gigantic roast spear-boar, covered the table, leaving almost no empty space. Sounds of feasting, singing, games, and revelry echoed from the rafters, drowning out the roar of the stormwinds outside. But right now, a hush fell over those assembled as a young, tousle-haired male in Honor Guard uniform rose and began clanking his tankard with his meat knife. “Hey, everybody! Zebby’s got an announcement!” Another male, larger, older, and balder but also clad in Honor Guard attire, shot him a fierce look. “SHAI!” “You said you were gonna tell everyone tonight!” “I know, but—right. Fine.” Zeb stood and cleared his throat as Shai clanked his tankard again. A hush fell over the room, and Zeb began. “So, er, erm… Right. So, I want you all to know that I am now the happiest, er, Lasat on, er, Lasan.” Murmurs of interest arose. “Because Shulma here”—he placed his arm around the long-haired female seated next to him, whose emerald eyes gleamed as he did so—“said she would be my wife.” The guests broke into a mix of raucous cheers, and applause, and questions. “WOOHOO!” “YAYYY!” “GO ZEB!” “ZEBBYYYYYY!” “When’s it gonna be?” “Do we get to come?” This time Zeb hit his tankard again to quiet everyone down. “So, er, yeah,” Zeb continued. “We still gotta work out some details, but we’re lookin’ at sometime next growin’ season… er, the one after next dust season, not the one after this dust season right now… and yeah, yeah, I know that’s a long way off, but that way Shulma can finish her First Degree exams an’ I can get my rank a little more advanced, an’ all that.” He paused and took a drink of ale. “An’ you’re all invited of course, so, er, don’t worry about that.” Cheers erupted again. An elderly female leaned across the table and wagged a wrinkled finger at Zeb. “And you’re going to let me do all your food, aren’tcha? A couple of nice roast prongbok with fire-pepper sauce and all the fixings?” “Aw, ’course we are, Gran, ’course we are! Who else? No one does it like you!” He gestured to the myriad platters of food covering the table, and again cheers rang out. “So, Priska, this mean you’re gonna to challenge Shulma to a betrothal fight?” someone asked, addressing a wiry female a little older than Zeb, also in Honor Guard uniform, and sitting next to Gran. A few gasps morphed quickly into laughter. “Yeah,” someone else added, “Make sure she’s worthy o’ your brother?” “Hah! No way! Not in a million dusts!” Priska guffawed in response, slapping her knee. “She’d fry me to a crisp with that Ashla lightning of hers!” She turned and winked at Shulma, who purpled a bit but smiled. “No one does betrothal fights anymore, anyway!” Shai piped up. “’Least not here. No telling what they do out in the sticks.” “Then how about a noogie competition instead?” suggested someone else as several others chimed in with “Yeah!,” “Do it!,” and “Totally!” Shulma beamed winningly in Priska’s direction. “Ah, in that case, I most definitely am not worthy,” she said, winking at Priska, who smiled and winked back. “’Course you’re worthy!” Herleva Orrelios—retired Honor Guard captain, mother of Zeb, Shai, Priska, and their two older sisters, and perhaps the most redoubtable matriarch on all Lasan—punctuated this utterance with a pound on the table. “And you don’t need any silly old-fashioned customs to prove it, either! Now, whether he’s worthy of you...“ “Aw, Ma!” groaned Zeb as his family members burst into laughter around him. “Teasing, teasing, Garazeb, and you know it. Now, why don’t you raise us a toast in honor of this happy announcement.” “Right.” Zeb refilled his ale from a large crockery pitcher, then cleared his throat and stood up, raising his tankard high. “Er, this is to my sweet Shulma. Who I’d brave a thousand dust storms for. And a thousand of Priska’s noogies, too.” Laughter. “But yeah, really. I can’t wait for you to be my wife, and… er, yeah, love ya, darlin’. This is for you.” “Hear, hear!” “Shulma!” “Zeb and Shulma!” “WOOHOOOO!” Happy sounds of cheering, applause, and clanking drinking vessels filled the room as Zeb took a swig and gathered his bride close to him for a kiss. * * * The next day, for the midday meal on Midstorm’s Day, Zeb went to dine with Shulma and her family at their home in the mountain town of Flowstone Vale. It was a much smaller, much quieter gathering than the gigantic Orrelios feast of the evening before. Besides Shulma, her parents, and her elder twin brothers Chornogar and Chornozod, the only other guests were the brothers’ wives, a pair of grandparents, and a very frail and elderly great-grandmother. But here, too, there was good food aplenty: a fricassée of assorted game fowl, rainbowfish panfried with herbed butter in the mountain style, spiced squash fritters (a Trilasha family specialty), and two cream-topped maznaberry pies for dessert. Generous portions of ale and cordial washed it all down. Just as Zeb had done at his own family’s meal the night before, Shulma stood up partway through the meal and made the official announcement that she and Zeb would be marrying. Her parents smiled proudly as exclamations of congratulation arose, followed by the usual questions of when and where, along with anecdotes and friendly advice from the elders. Then Shulma, too, followed the custom of raising a toast to her betrothed—“to my love, my Garazeb, who is a mighty bristlecone among the shrubs and a noble konculor among the akk dogs.” Mugs and glasses clinked as the pair kissed. Only the two brothers were silent through it all. At their sister’s announcement their mouths had merely curved momentarily upward, and they joined in the toast with no more than a grunted “hear, hear.” Zeb wasn’t sure what to make of it. Even after all these dust seasons, it still amazed him that the same family that had produced the learned, gracious, and gentle Shulma had also produced… well, those two. (Then again, his own family had produced both himself and Shai, so…) All the same, he wondered why they couldn’t show at least a little happiness for their sister. Was it just because they already knew the news already? That was probably it, he considered, as he tucked into a generous slice of maznaberry pie. At least he hoped so. * * * It was late in the afternoon when the festivities wound down. As the dust whirled ever more darkly and fiercely outside, the last mugs of tea, cider, and ale were sipped, the great-grandmother retired upstairs for a nap, and the brothers and their wives had already disappeared. Zeb put on his standard-issue officer’s overcoat and took his leave of Shulma’s parents and grandparents. Shulma accompanied him downstairs to the storm entrance in the cellar—every house on Lasan had one, and they connected to the network of underground tunnels that even the smallest towns provided for use during the dust season. “Journey safely, my Zeblove,” she said, tracing the Triangle on his chest and pressing close to him. They shared a tender kiss. Then he exited and made his way down the tunnel toward the speederport for this part of the tunnel network, where the staff hovercar he had borrowed from base was parked. At intervals, yellow-green wall lights cast a sickly glow on the duracrete walls. As he walked, Zeb heard the echo of his footfalls, the occasional drip of water, and the muffled, distant white-noise of the storm above ground. “Oi! Garazeb!” Zeb stopped and spun around at the sound of his name. Two tall, brawny males were walking toward him—and he knew who they were, for he had just seen them at the Midstorm’s Day meal: Chornogar and Chornozod, Shulma’s brothers. What they were doing following him through the storm tunnels, Zeb had no idea. Their wives were not with them. “Er, hello?” he said, as cordially as he could through half-gritted teeth. “Hello nothin’,” scowled the taller and lighter of the two, whom Zeb recognized as Chornogar. “So y’ think you can sneak outta here without a proper betrothal fight, do ya, guardsman?” “Well, you’re mistaken, heh heh!” Chornozod chimed in. “Betrothal fight…?” Zeb was slightly nonplussed, but he kept his cool and kept his teeth gritted. “Well… er… I… didn’t know anyone still did that anymore.” “Maybe you sophisticated, citified folks don’t,” Chornogar retorted. Zeb was now even more nonplussed; apparently Chornogar didn’t know he actually was from outside the capital, which was very different from being from the capital itself. “But here in the Gosrral we still have some RESPECT FOR CUSTOM!” With that, both brothers rushed at Zeb. Zeb readied himself in an instant, calling on both years of combat training and a history of youthful tussles with Priska and Shai. After pushing Chornozod back with a single thrust of his hand, he caught Chornogar in a headlock, noogied him soundly, and sent him whirling backward directly into Chornozod, nearly bowling him over. Zeb flicked the dust from his wrist bracers. Perhaps this whole betrothal fight thing really was no different from those tussles with his own siblings. “Is that it?” he called, chuckling. “No, that’s NOT IT!” snarled Chornogar. He ran at Zeb again, this time whaling on him with both fists. Zeb blocked and parried the blows, even landing a few choice counterstrikes to Chornogar’s ribs and abdomen. But Chornogar did not let up and only kept coming at his opponent harder and harder. At last he grabbed Zeb by the upper arms, pressed his nuchal hump into Zeb’s, and tried to wrestle him to the ground. Zeb was the stronger of the two and kept his footing, but Chornogar gripped and clawed at him so stubbornly, so relentlessly, that he was hard to shake off. All the while Chornozod stood watching in befuddlement. “What the Bogan are you doin’, Chorg?!” “Teachin’ this—puffed-up—guardsman—a thing or—AAAAGHHH!” A sudden, crackling blaze of golden-yellow lightning engulfed Chornogar, throwing him backward against the duracrete wall. At the same time a voice—familiar, beautiful, but angry—echoed in the passage: “What. Is. This?!” It was Shulma. Yellow sparks still danced around her hands and glittered in her eyes as she marched up to confront her brother. Zeb’s heart fluttered as he straightened his bracers and smoothed his overcoat, and he couldn’t hide a hint of a smile. Karabast, my lady’s gorgeous when she’s mad… Chornogar rubbed his brow ridge as he peeled himself from the wall. “Er… uh… I woulda had him if y’ hadn’t come an’—” “No you wouldn’t, you nerfbrain!” yelled Chornozod, shoving him back against the wall. “Be that as it may.” Shulma’s eyes still smoldered as she stared Chornogar down. “What in the name of all the spirits do you think you were doing?!” “Aw, c’mon, Shul! Just wanted to make sure he was—” “Worthy, is no doubt the word you have in mind? Well, in case you were not aware, this is no longer the First Colonial Age, and I can make my own decisions about who is and is not worthy of me, thank you VERY much!” Sparks rose as she stamped her foot to punctuate this utterance. She went over to Zeb and clasped his hand. “Are you all right, Zeblove?” Zeb pulled her hand up to kiss it. “Yeah, I’m fine, darlin’, just catchin’ my breath. Gotta say, your brothers are worthy opponents.” He smiled and winked at the two brothers. Chornogar’s face remained immobile. It was Chornozod who spoke next. “Look, er… Shul, Garazeb… I’m really sorry. I thought it was just gonna be like with me and Gorff just a couple years ago. We just sort of… shoved each other around a bit, y’know? I didn’t know things were gonna get all… rough. So yeah, I’m sorry.” “Me too, I guess,” muttered Chornogar. “Not to worry, no harm, no foul.” Zeb inclined his head toward the brothers and placed hand over fist. Chornozod returned the gesture, and a moment later Chornogar did as well. “I meant that about worthy opponents.” “It’s all right, you two. But please be kind to him.” Her emerald-green eyes sparkled as she reached up to stroke Zeb’s jaw fringe. “He’s one of the family now, you know.” “Aw darlin’, heh heh...” Zeb broke into a giddy grin as she placed a peck on his cheek. He drew her toward him for a proper kiss before taking his leave and heading for the hovercar. One of the family now—aw yeah, he liked the sound of that. And he sure couldn’t wait till that happy day a dust season and a half from now, when it would be official.