Chapter 17

More chairs had to be brought into Lady Julia's lounge. Rob and Cripps were settled on two couches by the fire, swathed in heavy blankets with hot mulled wine.

"How did you slip the ropes?" Rob asked Cripps, between sneezes.

"Oh it's just a trick I learned." Cripps blew his red nose. "I'd have slipped them sooner if I'd been awake. He kept knocking me out with nightberry juice on a cloth."

"He took you all the way out there to minimise the number of people turning up to help." Rioch said. "Such an arse."

"Rioch!" Fenton blurted. "Right, under no circumstances are you to copy Stepney's language."

"Hey! That's all Rob's fault." Stepney objected.

"Oh yes it would be." Rob rolled his eyes. "So Jean's staying in the Temple?"

"She's there now. Like I told her, if Dinsen wants her out, she'll know about it. Rigman had no right to tell her I'd expel her. Only Dinsen can do that. So yes, he was an arse." Stepney smirked at Rioch. "So how did he get to you Cripps?"

"I was following Rob to the Temple. He'd just travelled the realms and he was injured. Fenton asked if I'd follow him, just to see he didn't fall ill. He jumped me with the nightberries. The arse. He really was a beast with his wife, Stepney. I know she's acted atrociously, but he was a tyrant with her. I could hear every word from the cellar and it was vile. Even if there was a way out, I could never have left her there. He'd have killed her if he found me missing." Cripps sighed sadly. "How does someone get so fanatical?"

"Because he was a nutjob." Rob said flatly. "He likely wasn't wired up right all his life. You did say the Houses look after their own."

"So is that why Rob was brought here? To save Cripps?" Rioch asked.

"No." It was Rob who answered. "Rigman went apeshit completely when Stepney brought me here. If he hadn't, then Cripps wouldn't have been in danger. Anyway, wouldn't it have been easier if Dinsen told you all to learn to bloody swim?" That caused laughter from everyone. "So we still don't really know, do we Stepney?"

"Well we got engaged with no catastrophes so maybe that's a start. I've had no messages from Dinsen, if that's what you mean. I just keep being guided to the archives. I'll get the sc ... Jean to help me. Part of her penance type thing."

"Don't you go being a sow with her. She's not a skivvy." Fenton preached.

"Maybe an engagement isn't enough." Rioch said. "It's the actual marriage that's an oath before Dinsen."

"Why didn't you think of that?" Fenton said accusingly to Stepney. "You're the Cleric."

"I've been a tad busy with everything in the cosmos incase you hadn't noticed!" Stepney shot back. "I can't marry him while he's covered in snot."

"You're all heart darling." Rob said dryly. "Is she right Stepney?" He asked uncertainly

"Don't sound so scared." Stepney laughed, then stopped when Rob didn't. "You're scared?"

"No! No I'm not scared. You can't deny I'm pretty committed to Dinsen's plan, whatever it is. But you're talking about our wedding, Stepney. I don't want it to be just a part of a plan. I want it for us. You know? I'm all for doing Dinsen's stuff but I don't want our wedding day to be remembered just because of that."

"Our wedding is for us, Rob." Stepney smiled and sat on the end of Rob's couch. "If it fits in with Dinsen's plan then so be it. If it doesn't it doesn't. I'm not marrying you for Dinsen, I'm marrying you for us."

"Ah I know. I'm being daft." Rob sighed. "Maybe I am a bit scared. I'm not an expert on it, obviously, but I think everyone feels nervous before they get married."

"Yes they do." Lady Julia agreed. "I loved their father beyond belief but I was terrified for a week before our wedding day."

"Well I'm not terrified." Stepney looked at her mother in confusion.

"Neither was your father. Guess who she's like, Rob." Lady Julia rolled her eyes. "Anyway, these two need rest and I dare say the rest of us does too."

"You can sleep in the nursery with Nicholl if you'd like to stay on hand." Rioch offered.

"Only if you want them both up all night." Fenton said grimly. "I'll go for her if she's needed."

"You'd better. Good night Rob. Good ... poor Cripps is flat out. He's been through a tough ordeal." Stepney pulled Cripps' blanket over his shoulders. Cripps was in an exhausted sleep. "Sleep well, you two."

"Fine. I'll tuck my own blanket in." Rob grumbled.


Stepney decided to make her wedding preparations with Rob only, and at their own pace. Even Fenton and Lady Julia were kept at a distance, but they understood. The couple needed the pressure off for a while.

"The service sounds very similar to the ones back home." Rob said. They were sitting in the Temple and Stepney had been going through the ceremony with him. "I went to a wedding with Nan once. I can't remember who's. I wish she was here, even if it was just to prove I'm doing it." He smiled. "The only other two I'll miss are Jonty and Kate but I think I've done his head in enough."

"Cripps was delighted about being your Witness. Fenton's made arrangements for his parents to be brought here." Stepney told him.

"Well when I met Summerill the other day, I don't know who was the most nervous, me or her." Rob referred to Stepney's most senior Cleric who would be presiding over the ceremony.

"I really should make sure they're all more familiar with it. I usually preside over everything."

"Stepney, what am I going to do when we've done whatever it is we need to do? Your job is here in the Temple, obviously. I'm not really qualified in anything." Rob hadn't had the time to think of this before now.

"Yes you are. You can draw and you can think practically. If I was you, I'd start with that cliff path. It should have been re-landscaped years ago. There are the villages too. They need developed and modernised and brought into one society. The sewage system in the North Quarter needs overhauled. The market square needs re-flagged. The ..."

"OK! I get it." Rob laughed."Civil Engineer. Sounds good to me." Rob kissed Stepney's head.


"No!" Rob wailed and turned to face Cripps. Cripps was dressed in smart black leggings and a decent length tunic. Rob's wedding suit turned out to be red and gold leggings and a embroidered gold, billowing blouse, complete with sequins. What dismayed him even more were the gold ankle boots. "Don't I get a say in this?"

"It's a traditional wedding outfit." Cripps shrugged. "It's quite fine, actually."

"Fine if you're Pirates of the Caribbean. Come on, swap clothes." Rob tried and Cripps just smiled and shook his head. "I saved your soggy arse! Come on!"

"I'll be saving yours if you're late for your own wedding." Cripps told him. Rob folded his arms and snorted. "She'll batter you." Rob tutted and grabbed his outfit.

The Temple was packed with people and Rob didn't know most of them, unsurprisingly. Summerill stood behind an altar and still looked scared to death. The five Clerics behind her looked far more relaxed and were clearly excited about their High Priestess' wedding.

"Rob will you stand still." Cripps hissed as they stood at the front of the Temple.

"These leggings are chafing." Rob hissed back. "Who thought glitter and leggings was a good idea?" He turned round when the congregation began to stir and murmur. Stepney was standing at the door with Fenton and she was beautiful. She was dressed in a long, straight gown in red with a silver rope belt and her silver headband in place. Her sleek, black hair was decorated with tiny red flowers, as were her arms. "Well look at that." Was all Rob could manage in awe. "You got the rings Cripps? You'd better have. Don't drop them. Fenton looks like Will Scarlet. Is this shirt ... Stepney. Hello." Stepney and Fenton had reached the front of the Temple.

"Hello. You doing anything?" She smiled.

"Not really. Fancy getting hitched?"

"May as well."

"Can we start? I'm going to faint and I need the bathroom!" Summerill whispered desperately. "Thank you. This is the Temple of Dinsen the Wise and we are all gathered in her presence to ..." She was interrupted by a loud crashing noise coming from the Inner Sanctum. All the Clerics, Stepney included looked at each other in panic.

"Oh what now!" Rob flung up his hands. "I'm trying to get married here! Give me a break!"

"Rob it's the Inner Sanctum. No one should be in there. Summerill?" The two Clerics hurried towards the narrow steps.

"Do I go after them?" Rob asked anyone in earshot.

"No." Cripps answered. "It's sacred to the Clerics." He looked very worried.

"And all the Clerics are out here, even Jean." Fenton added. McLintock and Eamon had both taken up position at the top of the Inner Sanctum steps. Stepney emerged after a few minutes and Rob ran to her.

"Rob we'll have to postpone ... "

"What? No chance." Rob said flatly. "Postpone whatever's going on in there."

"A tome was flung out of its place in the dustiest corner of Lawlim. Rob it cracked the floor and it's glowing. It can't be anything else but an act of Dinsen." Stepney said and Rob looked far from happy.

"Timing's wonderful." He muttered.

"The timing's important, Rob. This is Dinsen's house and she's always here. Our wedding was stalled because I have to read the tome first. The sequence must be important."

"After everything else that's happened, a while longer can't hurt." Rob sighed.

"Thank Dinsen for giving me such a wonderful man." Stepney kissed Rob then went to make the announcement.

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