There never was a happily ever after. This thought worried Brigitte as her maidens took measurements and fitted her with matching jewelry. Earrings that dazzled like a sun. A choker green and hopeful like the first rains of spring. But where was the matching joy?
"A son, a prince, a hero," her father cried when she was returned.
"A lady could do worse," her mother gauged.
Baldwin the brave. Handsome, dashing, warrior prince and dragon slayer. With eyes like ice and a laugh like thunder, he had stormed into her life brandishing nuptials and a hand-and-a-half sword.
En garde! Foul beast! Do your worst! A skewered lizard as the bride price. She was relieved and overwhelmed. The only thing slain in her honor before had been a calf on the day she woke up to her womanhood.
What of the wolf killer? Is he given a lamb for his troubles? Why is it merely a bounty and a fare-thee-well?
Baldwin liked to hunt. He lived most days in a lodge on the frontiers of his father's property, among a gallery of severed animal heads for trophies. There were deer and bear and boar and lion. Now a dragon to impress and install as a center piece. A new trophy. He also jousted, dueled, raced horses, and generally attended to affairs of honor.
"What about poetry?" she ventured.
"There are some warrior epics," he confessed, "That I have imagined my name in."
Surely the troubadours would spin one or a dozen for their wedding day. Noble hero, valiant knight, against fear, oh, he showed his might. She had not yet seen fifteen summers and they were giving her forevers like flowers, expected a curtsy and smile in return.
And what is so cruel of dragons besides? Does not the bear take his due among the fawns, only to be revered for his sturdy might and bellowing charge against all odds.
"We'll have estates and manses. Gold and food aplenty. A title for me and adoration for you. Always a fire in the hearth. Always wine in your cup. You'll never want for anything--"
Fire, flame, Passion, desire...
"--You'll be happy," Baldwin promised.
"You look so happy, my dear," her father mistook her for a mirror.
"You'll learn to be happy, my dear, once the girlish things are put aside ," her mother counseled with an earnest look betrayed by the shadows and husks of dreams that dead eyes never hide.
"I am happy," Brigitte said softly, tears streaming behind her veil. In the church they sang joyous canticles and were uplifted in their praise. The priest buzzed his blessing with the diligence of a bee, so sure his labor would result in honeyed days and happy endings.
"I am happy," she repeated in the cover of darkness, both fumbling to find themselves, ignoring the sharp pain, the blood, the eternal truths hidden behind misdirecting words and sweet lies, "I am happy to be with you."
Somewhere a dragon had swallowed a virgin, ripped her open and feasted on the insides. Somewhere a doe ran free and untroubled, bounding over streams and under green boughs of scented moss while a hungry wolf looked on. Somewhere a sun set behind dark mountains, whose shadow cast long into the souls beneath their peaks, longer than a night was right to take.
There never was a happily ever after.