The second royal wedding was underway.
It was a lot different from the first royal wedding, which was so noisy and busy that the souls of the Prince and Princess, who were so use to the tumultuous and public lifestyle, were drowned out.
At the end of the Virgin Road, in front of the Archbishop who was to marry them, Bjorn slowly turned to Erna.
He did not let go of her hand.
The light from the stained glass window bathed the pair in rose light.
Under the gaze of hundreds of onlookers, Bjorn lifted the vail that covered Erna’s face.
It was such a small gesture and only the first act in a long line of prescribed ceremony and tradition.
It was also a pointless act, to uncover the face of the one he had looked upon so many times before today.
It was mainly for the masses.
The corners of Bjorn’s lips gently curled into a smile as he looked into Erna’s eyes.
The fierce blue was tainted by the red light and looked like flame sparked in the sky.
Erna looked like a flower in the wedding dress of layered lace and delicate silks.
He wanted to applaud the tailor, who did a splendid job of encapsulating the country girl who liked long dresses.
Erna avoided looking directly at Bjorn and even though her cheeks had been brushed red, he could still see the flush of embarrassment in them.
He couldn’t help but laugh.
She had remained stiff right up until the moment the Archbishop began to speak and then a change came over her.
She took on the air of an eager student.
Her eyes shone as she concentrated on the Archbishop’s long, projected syllables that resonated a little more enthusiasm than his usual bored droll.
Bjorn looked out over the passionate sympathy of the onlookers as the Archbishop addressed Erna.
He could tell who were the ones that were knowledgeable in the theory of all the traditions practised in this moment and those who were fully absorbed by the emotion of it.
Erna nodded her head delicately and the cold, stern gaze of the Archbishop softened.
He then turned to Bjorn and his face became a visage of damnation and hellfire once more.
He stared at Bjorn with unnaturally forceful eyes.
Those eyes made his words feel more like threats than promises of devotion.
Especially when coupled with words like forever, until death, duty and honour.
“Do you hear me, your Highness? Do you understand my meaning, your highness? Under pain of burning in hell for all eternity, your highness.” The Archbishop seemed to say.
The Bjorn continued to smile in spite of the Archbishops stinging glare and coolly said “Yes, I get your meaning.”
Bjorn thought the Archbishop may resent him a little.
He smiled more at his wedding to Gladys and now, four years later, he was marrying another woman.
No doubt that disturbed him a little.
Bjorn could see that he looked at Erna with pity as he blessed the couple, with a booming voice that was loud enough to be overheard by the bells.
Bjorn concluded the ceremony by bowing low and giving Erna a kiss.
The crowd did not cheer, but they clapped and the hall of the chapel made it sound like a hundred thunderstorms, coupled with the bells, the noise was incredible.
When Bjorn pulled away from the kiss, Erna’s eyes opened and looked brighter than ever, like a pair of shimmering samphires.
Erna nodded her head lightly, as if contemplating something and locked Bjorn with a firm gaze.
She smiled at him.
She no longer shied away.
Erna Dniester is so beautiful. Bjorn thought, it was a satisfying fact.
Throughout the wedding, she had heard the word repeated over and over again.
No your grace, no your highness, no your excellency.
She was sure that last one was wrong.
If the only change was the name, then was there any change really?
Erna looked at Mrs Fitz, who stared Erna down with firm, fierce eyes.
She had only said that she could take a bath by herself, but was made to feel like a criminal about to be hanged.
“His Royal Highness is the host of Schuber Palace, which means you are the first Princess, the Grand Duchess of Lechen.
We have the responsibility to maintain the appropriate dignity, Your Highness.” Mrs Fitz said.
It was difficult for Erna to understand, would bathing alone be such a detriment to the dignity of the Grand Duchess?
Mrs Fitz was the Princes nanny and had raised him from a baby.
She was one of the most trusted servants on the Royal Families staff.
Erna knew that she could learn a lot from her.
She was quite literally Bjorn’s will in another form.
She had taken care of Erna in the months leading up to the wedding and had been responsible for ensuring all the wedding preparations went smoothly.
Mrs Fitz was a stern woman and cold when needed to be, but she was also very bright and dignified.
She was a nice person, according to Baroness Baden.
So what could Erna do? She couldn’t be in better hands, she supposed, so with a silent nod, Erna succumb to Mrs Fitz’s will.
In response to the silent order, the maids worked diligently to prepare Erna for her bath.
By the time the Grand Duchess was sat in the scented water, she didn’t really have time to feel any shame.
Laid in the hot water, the scent of flowers making her mind all fuzzy, she thought back on the day.
She had started the day at her Grandmothers side as Erna Hardy.
She ended the day, naked, in a bath surrounded by maids, as Erna Dniester.
It was a disjointed feeling.
Luckily for Erna, Lisa was still by her side and poured hot water over Erna’s shoulders.
“It will be okay Your Highness.” Lisa said.
It was still unfamiliar to hear Lisa use that title.
Erna lowered her head and touched the petals with her nose.
She prayed that the time would pass, to be out of the bath and dressed, in her own room and alone.
Finally coming out of the bath and into the Grand Duchess’ chambers that she realised the wind brought ever greater ordeal.
Big. She thought. Everything is too big.
The thought, which must have come to Erna a dozen times, only now seemed appropriate.
The palace was far too big and Erna was overwhelmed.
When Erna moved to Hardy Mansion from Baden Mansion, she was amazed by the grand scale of luxury, but this blew that well out of the water.
In Erna’s room alone, there was enough grand luxury that was impossible to measure any value to.
In reality, none of it belong to her.
Although Mrs Fitz had prepared the room for Erna, technically it all belonged to Bjorn.
How shameless of the Grand Duchess, to be married to the prince and have only her body to bring to the union.
Erna was well aware of how the people viewed her and the slander they spread.
The Baden family were unable to keep a single country house and the Hardy family was so poor they only brought debt to the Royal Family.
Bjorn was willing to bare it all.
The mansion of the Baden family was secure and firmly belonged to Erna.
The Hardy family was able to escape bankruptcy and it was all thanks to Bjorn’s money.
The people added up imaginary sums of money and wondered how much of it could be left.
While Erna was absently away in her daze, the maids busied around her, getting the Grand Duchess dressed.
They dressed her in layers of night gowns and dressing gowns, piled her hair up into a neat bow and drenched her in the scent of flowers.
“Have a peaceful night, Your Highness.” Mrs Fitz said.
When the doors closed behind the old woman, Erna was left standing in the middle of the room all on her own.
It was nearly dark in the room, deep shadows filling the corners where the fireplace and candle light didn’t reach.
Slowly, Erna turned around and took everything in.
She noticed the flower decorated table and the two drinking glasses placed upon it.
She was not so naive that she didn’t know what was to be expected on a couples first night of marriage.
She just never truly believed it could happen between her and Bjorn.
She sat down on the large bed.
It was softer than anything she had come across before and as she sat, the day unfolded in her memory once more.
From the carriage ride up to the chapel, the stern gaze of the Archbishop, which quickly turned to pity.
After the wedding, they rode together through Schuber in an open top carriage.
There were so many people gathered, she wondered if every person in the city had poured out onto the streets.
Even just remembering the spectacle of it all made her feel out of breath once more.
She had been so frozen in terror she could only look ahead.
When she had finally taken it all in, she found she could smile and even went as far as to wave at the people she passed.
As Bjorn had told her to do.
In her mind, as she waved, she imagined the people were not cheering for her, they were booing and as she sat on the edge of the bed, she felt like such a naive little girl.
Bjorn had been reassuring during the parade.
She would often forget that she was the Grand Duchess and just simply stare up at him.
Taking in the sharp lines and delicate features of his face harmonised to give a very elegant impression.
The blend of his slender figure and large, solid frame was the same.
His light, golden hair looked bleached in the sunlight, which almost seemed like a cloud had decided to attach itself to his head.
He noticed Erna looking at him and she dropped her eyes in embarrassment.
She felt like a little child who had been caught doing something naughty.
All through the reception, this same scenario kept playing out, she felt like she was not allowed to look at the Prince, her husband.
Erna had been staring down at her fingertips, as she sat on the bed and drifted off to sleep.
She didn’t realise until she was rudely awaken by nearly falling from her perch.
The clock said it was nearly midnight and Bjorn had not yet returned.
He must still be celebrating with his friends.
So Erna curled up on one side of the bed.
Mrs Fitz’s stern admonition came to her head, but she didn’t care, she was too tired.
Drowsiness and fatigue turned her mind to mush as she considered the ramifications.
Her eyes slowly closed as she rationalised her choice.
The sweet scent of flowers and the romantic candlelight wrapped Erna in sleep, which was to be her only companion on the night of her wedding.
Bjorn made it up to the bedroom long after midnight.
Once he had gotten ready for bed, the night had gotten deeper.
The master suite was enveloped in a dark silence, now that the attendants had withdrawn for the night.
Bjorn loosened the overly tight knot of his gown and moved along the passage that connected his bedroom to the Grand Duchess’ room.
As he opened the door to Erna’s room, the first thing he noticed was the sweet scent of flowers and soft lighting.
It was strangely quiet, no sound of movement, but there was something breathing in there.
Bjorn went into the bedroom and scrutinised everything.
He stopped when he saw a bundle on the edge of the bed that was Erna.
Even when he approached and his shadow fell over the bundle, Erna did not stir.
She was really asleep.
He giggled to himself.
“Erna?” He said softly, but she still didn’t move.
When Bjorn brushed her cheek gently, she finally stirred and turned over.
“Y-Your Highness!!!” She screamed when her eyes fully opened and saw the looming shadow leaning over her.
Bjorn cupped her mouth to stifle the noise and drew her gaze back to him.
“Hello, my wife.” He said softly, reassuringly.
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