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A Great Beast of a Feast
Note: Image associated is from Ironage.media, specifically their prompt 'The Oblation'
"Are you ready yet Nathaniel? We'll be late for the ceremony if you don't hurry."
"Ready Mother, I was struggling with my cravat." The young man came down the stairs, dressed in his finest clothes, arrayed as best he could follow from his father's example and lessons. "I do have it right, don't I?"
Nathaniel's Mother, an aging beauty named Olympia, and Father, a humble man of able means called Gautsbert, looked him over, meeting each other's gaze and nodded their mutual approval of their son's efforts.
"You have it right, son. However," His father leaned closer and with a hand-sized brush, dusted his shoulders again, "you missed a few hairs on the shoulders." His father smiled, showing it to be a jest at his youngest son, soon to be a man eligible for marriage within the Kingdom of Ingsverd, though whether he could ascend higher than the Lord of Ketilsbern was unlikely. By custom, it was a singular thing for a man to marry a woman of higher station. Nevertheless, it was the hope of many parents to see their sons gain station.
"Let's be off then. As your mother said, the Meet is soon." As though the Church clock could hear them, it struck itself 8 times; the sonorous brass bells were unmistakable for anything else. Only a half hour remained before the Matchers Meet would begin. "With haste then!" Gautsbert motioned Nathaniel out the door, Olympia behind him, and with what poise a provincial could manage in haste, came to the Church doors with 3 minutes left. The guards at the door confirmed Nathaniel's age and right to attend as a trueborn subject of the Crown of Ingsverd. With a kind smirk at the young man, the guard hurried him in with a nod, though per the Diocese's traditions, barred his parents. The ceremony necessitated the fresh-faced adults stand firm on their own, an honour to their first steps into life, and test their integrity absent their parents' presumably careful gaze, advisements, or knowledge of who was whom's child.
Nathaniel entered the church, signing the correct way for the Matcher's Meet, and joined with the crowd in watching for the start of the ceremony, waiting only a short time. In moments, the Deacon stepped forward from the veiled Sanctum, dressed in the Armour of the Saint, said to be uniquely light for its kind, despite, or perhaps because of, its intricate decorations, where the shining steel had been fluted to depict the Martyrs of Ingsverd. Yet that was not what had drawn the gazes nor gasps from the young audience, nor was the heavily embroidered silk cloak afforded such astonishment. No, those honours had been reserved for the Matcher's Beast, a hulking wall of black fur, 14 feet high at the shoulder if it was an inch, with immense horns near two feet long all told, and thick as a man's head to boot. Every step of the Beast was announced by a groan from the flagstone and a heavy 'clop' as its hooves touched, and its breath, while soft, was all that could be heard for a long moment as the Deacon brought it forward.
"My flock, thank you for your attendance and efforts to honour tradition. The Matcher has blessed you well this year, as you can see from his gift to you all." The Deacon spoke powerfully, cutting clear across the Hall, reaching the many hundreds of ears gathered, dominating the air as the Beast dominated the eyes of the youths. "And so I command you, dance, entertain, meet your peers. Dwell not on rank nor marriage, but on whose company you find pleasing, whose laughter spurs your own, whose joy is your own. And at the end of this day, at the feast provided by the Matcher," the Deacon gestured to the Beast standing calmly before them, "trust Him to see you in the company of those who seek yours as much as you seek theirs." As the Deacon guided the Beast back into the veiled Sanctum, the fledgling adults were slow to break the spell of silence left behind, with only the bravest speaking in whispered tones for a time. Until one of them found the organ and began to play, finally animating all to follow the words of the Deacon.
*Apologies for the button spam in previous posts, an overzealous ad blocker on my PC had been hiding them from me.*
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