They completed the short journey from the Palace to the cathedral without incident, which might have owed at least a little something to the hundred and fifty picked Royal Guardsmen of the "honor guard" around the carriage. Those guardsmen offered no protection from the deafening waves of cheers which seemed to come from every direction, however. Banners in the colors of both Charis and Chisholm waved madly, spectators leaned out of open windows, cheering and waving, and the street before the carriage's perfectly matched four-horse team was a drift of flower petals, while still more petals sifted down like rainbow-hued snow. Given the wild fervor of the crowds lining the entire route from the Palace to the Cathedral, Merlin and Seahamper's security arrangements seemed comfortably redundant. While Merlin had no doubt that somewhere in that swirling chaos of cheering, whistling, shouting humanity there had to be quite a few people who were outraged and infuriated by the notion of this marriage and what it represented none of them were foolish enough — or suicidal enough — to make their presence known on Cayleb's wedding day.


            Not that he or Seahamper intended to lower their guard.


            At the cathedral, the king and queen were quickly and efficiently ushered to their places in the royal box. Crown Prince Zhan and Princess Zhanayt were already there, waiting for them, and the Duke of Darcos, in the sky-blue dress tunic and dark blue trousers of a Royal Navy midshipman, had managed to get back to Tellesberg in time for the wedding after all.


            There were three other people in the royal box this day, however, and Adorai Dynnys and her sons stood as Cayleb and Sharleyan entered it. Archbishop Erayk's widow was more richly, though still somberly, dressed than on the night of her arrival in Tellesberg, and her sons seemed less frightened. There were shadows in the boys' eyes, however — shadows put there by their mother's confirmation of how their father had died. Nor were they the only ones who had heard that heart-wrenching tale. At Adorai's own request, Maikel Staynair had made the cathedral itself available to her, and it had been crowded to capacity while she described her husband's agonizing execution not simply to her sons, but to the entire Kingdom of Charis.


            Erayk Dynnys had not been held in universal affection by Charisians, yet as they learned how he had died — and what his final words had been — many of his harshest critics had found themselves echoing their new archbishop's prayers for Dynnys' soul. And several members of the Charisian clergy whose support for their new archbishop and the newborn "Church of Charis" had been at best tepid had found themselves reconsidering their positions in the wake of the atrocity visited upon their old archbishop.


            But the atmosphere in Tellesberg Cathedral was very different this day. As Cayleb and Sharleyan appeared at the front of the royal box, a torrent of cheers overpowered the rich-voiced organ and the choir. The mighty structure seemed to quiver on its foundation, and the tumult redoubled when the king and queen raised their hands in acknowledgment of the thunderous greeting.


            It took quite a while for the cheering to subside. Then, finally, when the packed pews were calm once again, the organ launched into a soaring prelude  which had been composed specifically for this wedding. The cathedral doors swung wide, and Archbishop Maikel Staynair and the assembled bishops of the Church of Charis entered through a storm of music.


            If Staynair was troubled in the least by memories of what had almost happened to him in this cathedral, neither his expression nor his body language so much as hinted at it. His golden crown flashed in the stained-glass-filtered sunlight, the rubies glowing like small red suns in their own right. The richly embroidered and adorned robes of his high office (suitably modified by Owl, whether anyone knew it or not) gleamed with their own thread of gold and silver, their own pearls and gems. The other bishops' vestments were almost as richly embroidered and adorned as his, but as bishops visiting in another's cathedral, they wore their traditional priest caps rather than their own coronets. There was, however, an enormous difference between their normal priest caps and the jeweled and magnificently embroidered ones they wore today.


            The choir's superb voices rose as the clerics processed down the Cathedral's central aisle behind the scepter-bearers, the candle-bearers, and the thurifers. Despite Merlin's soul-deep hatred for the "religion" Langhorne and Bédard had foisted upon the inhabitants of Safehold, even he was forced to acknowledge the sheer beauty and majesty of its pageantry and liturgy as he watched Staynair, still reaching out to touch children's heads in brief blessing as he passed.


            And the fact that all of these people truly believe in what they've been taught is part of it, he thought. There's power in faith, even when that faith is being used and abused, and I can't believe God doesn't listen to these people, however they may have been lied to. All of this faith, all of this belief . . . surely He has to recognize its strength, its passion. How could He condemn anyone for worshiping Him in the only way they've ever been taught?


            The procession of bishops unraveled as the prelates took their positions, and Staynair turned to face the entire crowded Cathedral from the foot of the steps leading to his archbishop's throne. He stood there, until the music finally swept away into silence. Still he said nothing, only smiling, while that silence stretched itself into a perfect and purified stillness. It was so quiet that it seemed as if no one in that entire vast cathedral dared to so much as breathe, and only then did he speak into the waiting hush.


            "My children," he said then, "this is a great and joyous day. It is always a source of joy for the people of a well-ruled kingdom when their monarch weds. Not only does that marriage become a promise and a guarantor of the future succession of the kingdom, but any ruler — be it King or Queen — who finds the spouse of his or her heart, so that they may stand side by side, united against all the world may send against them, is a stronger and a better monarch.


            "King Haarahld, may God and the Archangels smile upon him, found exactly that bride in Queen Zhanayt, and now I may tell you that, of my own knowledge, King Cayleb has found that bride in Queen Sharleyan, as well. Marriages of state are all too seldom marriages of the heart, my children. Never doubt that this marriage is both."


            He smiled up at the royal box, where Cayleb and Sharleyan sat side-by-side, and Cayleb reached out — unconsciously, Merlin was almost certain — to take Sharleyan's hand in his own.


            "This marriage, however, is more than simply the union of a young man and a young woman," Staynair continued. "It is more even than the normal dynastic marriage which secures the inheritance of a title or a crown. In this marriage, we see the union not only of man and wife, but of Charis and Chisholm, of two realms which will become one. Of the commitment and fierce resolve of two peoples to stand for truth and to defend that which all men not blinded by avarice, greed, personal ambition, intolerance, or bigotry know to be worth dying to preserve. And so, we have much to be grateful for this day, much for which to return thanks to God. There will be days of darkness before us, my children, for the struggle to which we have set our hearts, our minds, and our hands will not be an easy one, nor will the battle be quickly won. But when those days of darkness come, when gloom lies all about you and you are most tempted to despair, remember this day. Remember this King and this Queen, who come before you now to consecrate their vows to one another in your sight, and in the sight of God. Remember that they have chosen to promise their lives to one another . . . and to you."


            The silence was even more absolute, if that were possible, and then the archbishop smiled once more — a huge, and beaming smile, flooding the sober silence his words had created with a vast tide of joy and anticipation as he raised both hands and Cayleb and Sharleyan rose. They descended the carpeted steps from the royal box, between sweet-scented drifts of spike-thorn, to stand hand-in-hand before him. For all the importance of this wedding, all the hopes and fears and promises riding upon it, the ceremony they had chosen was very ancient, and very simple. Any young bride and groom, however humble their circumstances, might have chosen it, and there was a message in that, as well. They faced the primate of all Charis, and he looked beyond them to the waiting tide of faces.


            "And now, dearly beloved," he told the people behind those faces, "we have gathered together here in the sight of God and the Archangels, and in the face of this company, to join together this man and this woman in holy matrimony; which is an honorable estate, instituted of God and the Archangels, signifying unto us the mystical union that is between God and His Church; which is a holy estate which the Archangel Langhorne adorned and beautified with his presence in his time here upon Safehold, and is commended of the Archangel Bédard to be honorable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace."