"Surely thou art not proposing such haste, my Lord," Nerina gasped.

"As a matter of fact, I am. I have to get back to Riva and I'm not going to leave here until the two of you are safely married. Things have a way of going wrong in Arendia if somebody isn't around to watch them."

"I am not suitably attired, your Majesty." Nerina protested, looking down at her black dress. "Thou wouldst not have me married in a gown of sable hue?"

"And I," Mandorallen also objected, "I am still under arms. A man should not approach his wedding clad in steel."

"I don't have the slightest concern about what either of you is wearing," Garion informed them. "It's what's in your hearts that's important, not what's on your backs."

"But-" Nerina faltered. "I do not even have a veil."

Garion gave her a long, steady look. Then he cast a quick look around the room, picked up a lace doily from a nearby table and set it neatly atop the lady's head. "Charming," he murmured. "Can anyone think of anything else?"

"A ring?" Lelldorin suggested hesitantly.

Garion turned to stare at him. "You, too?" he said.

"They really ought to have a ring, Garion," Lelldorin said defensively.

Garion considered that for a moment, concentrated, and then forged a plain gold ring out of insubstantial air. "Will this do?" he asked, holding it out to them.

"Might I not be attended?" Nerina asked in a small, trembling voice. "It is unseemly for a noblewoman to be wed without the presence of some lady of suitable rank to support and encourage her."

"Go fetch somebody"' Garion said to Lelldorin.

"Whom should I select?" Lelldorin asked helplessly.

"I don't care. Just bring a lady of noble birth to the chapel -even if you have to drag her by the hair."

Lelldorin scurried out.

"Is there anything else?" Garion asked Mandorallen and Nerina in the slightly dangerous tone that indicated that his patience was wearing very thin.

"It is customary for a bridegroom to be accompanied by a close friend, Garion," Mandorallen reminded him.

"Lelldorin will be there," Garion said, "and so will I. We won't let you fall down or faint or run away."

"Might I not have a few small flowers?" Nerina asked in a plaintive voice.

Garion looked at her. "Certainly," he replied in a deceptively mild tone. "Hold out your hand." He then began to create lilies -rapidly- popping them out of empty air and depositing them one after another in the startled lady's hand.

"Are they the right color, Nerina?" he asked her. "I can change them if you like -purple, perhaps, or chartreuse, or maybe bright blue would suit you."

And then he finally decided that he was not really getting anywhere. They were going to continue to raise objections for as long as they possibly could. They were both so accustomed to living in the very heart of their colossal tragedy that they were unwilling -unable even- to give up their mournful entertainment. The solution, of necessity, was going to be entirely up to him. Knowing that it was a trifle overdramatic, but considering the mental capabilities of the two involved, he drew his sword. "We are all now going directly to the chapel," he announced, "and the two of you are going to get married." He pointed at the splintered door with the sword. "Now march!" he commanded.

And so it was that one of the great tragic love stories of all time came at last to a happy ending. Mandorallen and his Nerina were married that very afternoon, with Garion quite literally standing over them with flaming sword to insure that no last-minute hitches could interrupt.

On the whole, Garion was rather pleased with himself and with the way he had handled things. His mood was self-congratulatory as he departed the following morning to return to Riva.


"Anyway," Garion was saying as he and Ce'Nedra relaxed in their blue-carpeted sitting room on the evening of his return to Riva, "when we got back to Mandorallen's castle and told Nerina that it was all right for them to get married, she raised all kinds of objections.""I always thought she loved him," Ce'Nedra said.

"She does, but she's been in the very center of this great tragic situation for all these years, and she didn't really want to give that up. She hadn't got all that noble suffering out of her system yet."

"Don't be snide, Garion."

"Arends make my teeth ache. First she held out for a dowry -a very big one."

"That seems reasonable."

"Not when you consider the fact that I had to pay it."

"You? Why should you have to pay it?"

"I'm her guardian, remember? For all of her thee's and thou's and vaporish airs, she haggles like a Drasnian horse trader. By the time she was done, my purse was very lean. And she had to have a formal letter of consent -and a veil, a lady to attend her, a ring, and flowers. And I was getting more irritated by the minute."

" Aren't you forgetting something?"

"I don't think so."

"Didn't Mandorallen propose to her?" Ce'Nedra leaned forward, her little face very intent. "I'm certain that she would have insisted on that."

"You're right, I almost forgot that part."

She shook her head almost sadly. "Oh, Garion," she said in a disapproving tone.

"That came earlier -right after the business with the dowry. Anyway, he proposed, and I made her say yes, and then- "

"Wait a minute," Ce'Nedra said firmly, holding up one little hand. "Don't rush through that part. Exactly what did he say when he asked her?"

Garion scratched his ear. "I'm not sure I remember," he confessed.

"Try." she urged him. "Please."

"Let's see," he pondered, looking up at the ornately carved wooden beams of the ceiling. "First she objected to having the proposal come before they had gone through all the business of 'getting acquainted,' as she put it. I guess she meant all the sneaking around so that they could be alone together in secluded places -and the love poems and the flowers and all those calf-eyed looks."

Ce'Nedra gave him a hard little stare. "You know, sometimes you can be absolutely infuriating. You've got about as much sensitivity as a block of wood."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Never mind. Just tell me what happened next."

"Well, I told her straight off that I wasn't having any of that nonsense. I said that they were already acquainted and to get on with it."