Characters: Margaret Morgan, Ayeshalan
It was early in the morning when Ayeshalan knocked on Morgan’s door. “Are you ready for the trip?” she asked. “You look wonderful.”
Morgan had put on her newly made suit, which had aspects of the usual Minbari warrior caste gear to it, but resembled even more the sort of thing an early flyer on Earth might have worn. Right down to a silk-like scarf around the neck.
Which Morgan tugged at, unused to anything like it. “I suppose I am.”
As they settled into seats in the shuttle, Ayeshalan said, “The Fire Wings were the first of the Warrior Caste clans to adopt aerial combat. The elders of my part of the clan believe it’s important to remember our earliest heritage in our formal clothes.” She chuckled as she watched Morgan shift slightly in her seat. “They did not take comfort into much account.”
“If they were comfortable, they wouldn’t be ‘formal’ wear, would they?” Morgan joked. “It also is reminiscent of some ancient pictures I’ve seen, from Earth’s first pilots.”
Ayeshalan’s eye widened a bit. “Is that so? Remarkable. It would seem our species have more in common than some might guess.”
“The longer I spend around Minbari, the less surprised I am at these things.” She smiled.
“One of these days, I will have to spend some time exchanging military maxims with you,” Ayeshalan said. “I have a suspicion we would find some more similarities there.”
The shuttle set down in the middle of a large compound, which was similar to the Anla’shok training compound in Tuzanor, but larger by an order of magnitude. Ayeshalan led Morgan to a large meeting hall, where already many Minbari were gathering.
“This is one of the main bases of the Fire Wings clan,” Ayeshalan said. “I’m told this is the first wedding we have had since the civil war, so it likely will be very well attended.”
Morgan tried to suppress her nervousness as she looked around. While she appreciated the nose-thumbing she represented, it was also nerve-wracking.
Ayeshalan led her through the gathered Minbari, pointedly ignoring the murmuring left in their wake, until they reached a low dais at one end of the hall. Another Minbari woman stood there, dressed in the same finery as Morgan and Ayeshalan.
Ayeshalan stepped up and bowed. “Freyala,” she said. “It is good to see you. May I present Anla’shok Margaret Morgan, who stands with me today. Anla’shok Morgan, this is Freyala, mother of the bride.”
Morgan bowed properly, murmuring a greeting in the Warrior’s language, hoping her accent wasn’t terrible.
Freyala’s elegant eyebrows rose. “A Human, Ayeshalan? Are our ceremonies for aliens?”
Ayeshalan’s reply was calm, yet as sharp as the spikes on her bone crest. “Anla’shok Morgan is not an alien. She is my comrade and friend. And as Shok’na’li of the vessel Sorna’silat, she is my superior officer.”
The Minbari looked Morgan up and down, a slow and deliberate appraisal. Finally she said, “So be it. Anla’shok Morgan, be welcome in the clan of the Fire Wings. I am sure Ayeshalan has told you what your responsibilities are here. I trust you will fulfill them honorably.”
“Thank you. I have no intentions of dishonoring the Fire Wings, or the Anla’shok.”
Any reply Freyala might have made was interrupted by the sudden beat of a drum that cut through the babble of voices and brought them all to silence. Ayeshalan guided Morgan to their places on the dais as the other Minbari scrambled to find seats.
As the rumble of movement began to fade, the beat of the drum was replaced by the gentle tones of a harp and the ringing of small bells. Heralded by members of the religious caste in long robes and carrying their instruments, a tall Minbari warrior strode slowly into the room and took a place at the head of the dais.
Ayeshalan offered Morgan an encouraging pat on the back. She gave Ayeshalan a grateful look, then straightened, running over her part in this in her head.
“Friends and comrades,” the Minbari at the head of the dais said, “we are come here to witness and pay homage to the joining of two of our children; as they commit themselves to each other, so shall we commit ourselves to them.
“Terron, son of Ayeshalan and the elder Terron, come forward to receive your partner.”
The drums beat, and Terron stepped from the side of the room and strode slowly, deliberately, to the dais. A healing scar — his last trophy of a career in the Mutai — was still visible on his forehead. When he reached the center of the room, he bowed to his bride’s parents, Morgan and Ayeshalan, and finally to the caste elder.
“Duvanyi, daughter of Freyala and Kathlon, come forward to receive your partner.”
As the harps and bells sounded, a young Minbari woman, dressed in warrior caste finery much like the rest, stepped forward from the opposite side of the room. Her bone crest was carved into short spikes, and lined along the outer ridges with black ink and gold leaf. As she made her bows, she made eye contact with Morgan, flashing a quick smile.
Then she turned to face Terron, taking his hands in hers. The clan elder placed his hands on their shoulders, and spoke to the assembly.
“We are warriors, pledged to serve in battle and to die at need to protect ourselves and our people. Terron and Duvanyi come together to carry on this sacred charge, and we must do all we can to aid them in their times of need and share with them their times of joy. As they will be wingmen to one another, so we must be leaders and loyal wingmen to them.
“I call on the parents of the young Terron, Ayeshalan and the elder Terron, to speak and make your pledge.”
Ayeshalan drew herself up to her full height and spoke clearly. “I, Ayeshalan, daughter of Maya and Elarvon, pledge to watch over my son and daughter, to teach and defend them, that they may serve with skill and honor.”
“I, Margaret Barrie Morgan, stand in the place of the elder Terron, who has passed beyond the Veil. I pledge to watch over my son and daughter, to teach and defend them, that they may serve with skill and honor.”
The rest of the ceremony passed smoothly, and the entire assembly shouted in salute as Terron embraced his bride at the conclusion. A tear flowed from Ayeshalan’s remaining eye as she looked at the pair and smiled.
Morgan’s smile was bittersweet, and she silently wished them luck, and long joy.
Behind them, the room seemed like the surface of a boiling pot as the Minbari guests started moving, joined by worker caste helpers, to reconfigure the room. In moments, the hall had been turned into a reception room, complete with banquet tables being loaded with food.
“Now,” Ayeshalan said, wiping tears from her eye, “now we celebrate. This will go for as long as the food and our stamina allow.” She grinned.
She looked at her oddly for a moment, then laughed.
Ayeshalan tipped her head to one side, then asked, “What amuses you?”
“The part about our stamina. Mine hasn’t been tested for a while.” She didn’t mention, didn’t have the words to express the joy she felt, and she didn’t quite feel she had the right – it was Terron’s day, and Ayeshalan’s.
The Minbari warrior’s face split in a wide grin. “Come then,” she said. “Let us put ourselves to the test.”
Copyright (c) 2002 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.