The two parties came out of the caverns together, carrying candles and lamps, and made their way to the fire. Melissa carried Laura, wrapped in the blanket Vormund had made, with Gavin at her side. Sophia was clad in red, with bands of embroidered white, black, and blue designs at her collar, elbows, and waist. Her veil was gone, flowers woven in her long black hair, and in her hands she clutched a wooden bowl.

Rowan had never seen Kemet in person. While he was much taller than he would have guessed—he towered over everyone else—the face that drew near was the same he had seen in his dreams of late. He had abandoned his black cloak in favor of a black jacket instead.

Once everyone was gathered by the fire, Vormund laid aside his guitar and rose. He took the wooden bowl from Sophia and stood between her and Kemet.

“A marriage sanctified by the god is beyond any earthly law,” he said. Then, lowering his voice, he asked Sophia, “Will you guard him against the evils of this world?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“And you—will you shield her from temptation?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“And do you both vow to remain in bondage to each other until death?”

Sophia’s gaze flickered. “I do.” Kemet echoed her a moment later.

“Take each other’s hands now, and let this seal be a symbol that holds fast.”

Sophia’s small hand, olive complected and with the nails worn to a nub, clasped Kemet’s four long fingers without hesitation.

Vormund tipped the wooden bowl over until the hadzic nectar inside flowed over the edge, trickling over their knuckles and coating the backs of their hands before seeping between their fingers and over their joined palms. The nectar had the color and consistency of honey, but the weight of it dragged down until it was only the thinnest of coatings. Gradually, it would harden like wax.

Aren’t Exekians colder than us? Rowan thought. What if the seal didn’t work?

But a few moments longer was all it took. Slowly and carefully, their hands separated, slipping out of the fragile, gauzy shell of amber. The shape of their clasped hands was cast, and it would last for hundreds of years, provided it was kept in good condition.

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