Only two weeks after Marielle learned who she was to wed, and the representative of the Castellian family sailed away on his trade ship, did another arrive carrying the tutor Marielle was promised. The tutor was driven up to the house, from the port, in a horse-drawn wagon accompanied by Count Jorel. The wagon was weighed down with chests full of her belongings and the servants went to work unloading them as soon as they arrived at Marielle's home. A room had already been prepared on the second floor, next to Marielle’s.
When they entered the house, Marielle was called for immediately. The servant fetched her from her gardening lesson, and after having her clean her hands and make herself presentable, brought her to the reception room for introductions.
Marielle walked into the room and the tutor bowed her head gracefully. Count Jorel began the introductions. “I present, Cressa DeTuttelia, a vassal in service of the Castellian family. She has been sent by your betrothed to be your tutor.” Marielle went to copy Cressa’s bow but was stopped by a gesture from her father. “This is Marielle Jorel, my daughter.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Marielle said and Cressa raised from her bow.
“The pleasure is all mine,” said Cressa.
Marielle looked Cressa over. She was wearing a simple rose coloured dress, had long grey hair, but a face that wasn’t nearly as wrinkled as Castor’s. Cressa was short and just a little plump and was wearing a polite smile.
“From now on Cressa will be in charge of your education. Cressa, you have a desk in your room where you can hold the lessons. I was told you would bring everything else you needed with you.” Count Jorel looked over to Cressa and she nodded. “Alright, I’ll leave Marielle in your care.” Count Jorel then promptly left.
“So, when do we start?” Marielle asked.
“Now. From what I’ve heard you’re already far behind where you should be at your age, at least, if you were raised in Venocia. Come follow me to my room and we’ll get started immediately.” Marielle obediently followed. Once they got to the desk in Cressa’s room, Cressa brought out a book, pointed to a passage, and got Marielle to read it aloud.
“Manas, the god who left, wan… wandered the world alone before the first cities were built. He swam deep into the ocean and found... Aurelia, the god of the ocean, in the dark deafs… I mean depths. He lifted her to the land and laid her down on rocky shores. Aurelia looked, but could not see since to see you must un-understand, and after spending an eter..nity in the darkness that was all she could understand. Manas spoke, but she couldn’t hear since to hear you must un-understand, and after spending an eter-nity in silence that was all she could understand.” Marielle read very slowly. Marielle looked up at Cressa for approval.
“Hm. You stumbled more than you should have. That was an easy passage.” Next Cressa asked her to show her math skills. Cressa took out a pen and paper and wrote down some simple addition problems. Marielle struggled but managed to get them all. “These are right, but that took far too long.”
Cressa tapped her fingers on her forehead. “We have lots to cover. I guess I should have expected this because I was warned. It's to be expected that a farming count wouldn’t prioritize his daughter’s education the same way a wealthy Venocian would.” The two of them continued on a variety of topics that Cressa felt were important, history, religion, and civics. And for those subjects, Cressa learned that Marielle knew essentially nothing.
From then on, all of Marielle’s horseback lessons, gardening lessons, archery lessons and weaving lessons ceased. They were all replaced with Cressa’s curriculum. She would wake, bathe, eat, and then study until lunch. Then study after lunch up until dinner. That routine repeated on all but one day of the week, with exceptions for special occasions. And it was more exhausting than she could have imagined. At first, the curriculum was mostly reading and math. The texts for reading were religious mostly, interspersed with some historical texts. For math the lessons started with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and how to use an abacus to solve those problems. For flavour, when Cressa noticed Marielle’s attention was waning, Cressa would tell stories of her experience in Venocia, which would serve to reset Marielle’s focus.
After three months, the math lessons switched to learning to account. First Marielle was shown a ledger, and Cressa slowly explained each part of the ledger and how things should add up. The reading lessons from before turned into writing lessons. Starting with writing simple letters; a letter thanking someone for a gift, a letter inviting someone to a party, or a letter ordering goods. Marielle felt the difficulty of these new lessons. The writing was so much harder than reading for each word needed to be chosen carefully, and you couldn’t just sound out words, you needed to remember how to spell them. Ledgers were the hardest of all though, each scenario required it’s own unique context.
Each scenario presented was different. One example, for instance, was to suppose two brothers started a business selling furniture. Their father was an established businessman with a related business, so he lent his children the labour of some of his servants. Then, given a list of orders, Marielle had to determine how profitable the business was. She had to calculate the cost of materials, the cost of the workplace, and then estimate the cost of the labour (which although was free, still needed to be taken into account when calculating profitability). But it would also have unique ledger entries, like abnormal spoilage, which would be when a piece of furniture was crafted poorly. Regardless, accounting led to a lesson on the currencies of Venocia, which was a matter unto itself. Then she needed to calculate the taxes she owed, which led to a whole other complex course on taxes.
The currencies of Venocia were the conte, vente, and the gilde. They were copper, silver and gold coins respectively, stamped with the seal of Venocia. The problem was that the exchange rates could vary from day-to-day. A vente was worth about two hundred twenty conti, but sometimes it could be worth two hundred, and sometimes as much as two hundred fifty. A gilde was worth about thirty-five venti, but again it could fluctuate.
There were four taxes in Venocia. Two port taxes, the aprivo tax and the provo tax. The aprivo tax was on all goods that came into the city, and the provo tax was on all goods that left the city. The provo tax was always lower than the aprivo tax, but the rates of each could change from year to year, set by a vote of the Senate. There was a citizenship tax, which was four venti per person of marrying age, per year. Then finally was a building tax that would change from district to district and was proportional to the size of each building.
Cressa made sure to also emphasize the importance of weighing coins. “Always weigh your coins!” she said on multiple occasions. Cressa showed Marielle how to use the scale, and the coin-standards, which were rocks cut to weigh as much as each coin should weigh. “When they mint the coins they make sure that they will balance on the scale.” There were bad actors out there that would either shave off the edges of the coins or reforge the coins diluted with a cheaper metal then try to pass them off as legitimate.
The lessons would pile on like this, new examples would shoot out into new areas that would need to be explored. Eventually, things got so difficult Cressa noticed Marielle getting discouraged. So Cressa said, “Don’t worry too much. This is all more to serve as a base of knowledge that you can reference. You’ll have time to learn once you get to Venocia. And there will be resources there to help you. For one, I will stay as your direct attendant. But you must have an understanding of how businesses function from the ground up.”
It had been almost four years, and Marielle had already turned sixteen when the word from the ports came. A message, along with a package, was dropped off at the port as a Castellian ship passed through.
When Count Jorel received the message he called the family together in the reception room and once they were all gathered, with Marielle in a seat of honour next to her father, Count Jorel got his daughter to read the letter aloud.
“Greetings Count Anthony Jorel, Lady Cecilia Jorel, and Dear Marielle Jorel. I, Augustus DeCastellian, write to you all from the Scarlet Wind. I have been ordered by my father on a voyage to distant new islands in the Maysian Ocean, and when this letter is received I should be already on my way to that destination. I estimate the voyage there, the labours on these new shores, and the voyage back will take two and a half months. On our return from the isles, we shall arrive for the ceremony to join Marielle Jorel and myself in marriage. Enclosed are two dresses for Marielle. They were ordered to generous measurements, but the maker assures me that adjustments are possible. I’m afraid I must ask you to hire a seamstress to make the adjustments and I will gladly cover the cost. Count Jorel, I leave that in your capable hands, with my thanks. Finally to Marielle, I look forward to the day we meet. Sincerely Augustus DeCastellian.” She finished with a smile, glad in part to not have stumbled on a single word. But more glad to be receiving new dresses.
Marielle's mother picked up the package and opened it with a smile, "Let's see the style. Oh my!" Cecilia gushed at their sight. Marielle could tell Cecilia was impressed. "Let's try these on immediately. Anthony, please call our seamstress. We should get your attendant too, the tutor."
Count Jorel called over his attendant then gave his order quietly, with a hand covering his mouth. It wasn’t so much a whisper, but simply the way a noble was supposed to order his house servants when guests were around. The servant disappeared as Cecilia was laying out the dresses for inspection. One was turquoise with blue and white accents embroidered all over with the symbol of Aurelia, the other was white with red and yellow accents and on the left breast was the crest of the Castellian family. The quality was impressive. The linen itself was smoother and shinier than any of the clothes even Marielle's mother had. But it was the detail work that truly set it apart.
Cressa arrived and looked them over too. "Excellent. I hope your seamstress won't ruin these, I'm sure she's never worked with material like this."
"Miss Cressa, do you know why Augustus sent these dresses?" Marielle asked.
"Well, the white one with the Castellian family crest is for when you meet with master Augustus' family. The turquoise dress is for the marriage ceremony in Venocia that will take place at the temple of Aurelia. They are two dresses you will need at your disposal for your life in Venocia. For any time you have dinner with a family member of higher or equal status, or anytime you have to do something at the temple."
Marielle looked over to her father. "I thought the marriage ceremony was taking place here?"
"It is." Count Jorel nodded.
"Yes. There will be a ceremony here, whatever it is you do here. Then once you arrive in Venocia there will be a ceremony. Don't worry, it's more of a legal formality, you show some documents, sign your name, and have a few guests witness a quick ceremony. But as a representative of the Castellian family, you must have a ceremony at the temple of Aurelia, and for that, you must wear respectable clothes."
Once the seamstress arrived, Cecilia and Cressa helped Marielle change into each dress in turn. They were too big for sure, but Marielle could tell how lovely they would be once adjusted. The seamstress took her measurements while Cressa made her comments on how it should fit, how carefully she had to treat the dress, and how lucky the seamstress was to work on such a lovely dress. In between the comments Marielle managed to spy the seamstress rolling her eyes. The entire time, Cecilia was giddy admiring each detail of the dress. Once the seamstress was done measuring, she informed them it should take only a couple weeks to complete the adjustments and left.
With the time of the ceremony and Marielle’s departure from her home, given a solid window on the calendar, her time spent studying with Cressa declined significantly. Instead, she spent the majority of the time during the next two months helping her parents with their ledgers and spending family time with her siblings playing games. Before she knew it two and a half months had passed.
A messenger from the port was sent ahead, sending the news that the Scarlet Wind had arrived and that Augustus and his attendants would spend until the evening on the boat, before heading up to the Count’s house. The cooks were immediately sent to work to prepare a feast, the guest rooms were prepared, and a servant was sent to fetch the priest of Cyril to perform the ceremony.
The priest arrived first, that evening. When he arrived the family exchanged polite greetings, except Count Jorel, who was predictably absent. The priest was a balding man with a wide waistline and was wearing the deep blue robe that Marielle had always seen him wearing. She knew that the priest and her father hated each other, but neither of them would voice their disdain for each other openly. She supposed that was the reason he was given a room away from the house. After the introductions, the priest of Cyril made sure to mention that Marielle shouldn't speak at all when his soon-to-be husband arrived. She wanted to say that she already knew the ceremony but bit her tongue and politely said, "I thank you for the reminder. May we all be blessed by Cyril."
When Augustus and his two attendants arrived, Count Jorel miraculously appeared. Count Jorel was wearing the same clothing he would wear at the harvest festivals; a green tunic over a white shirt, and blue pants. It was his finest clothing.
The count led the introductions as to-be-weds weren't allowed to speak. It was the first time Marielle had seen Augustus. He was wearing a red a yellow robe that was just as elegant as the dresses she had been gifted. Physically he didn't match the image Marielle had of him. He wasn't as tall as she thought he would be, for he was shorter than both of his attendants. But still taller than she was. He was slender with soft skin as if putting his privileged life on display. Thick curly brown hair that was kept clean and neat, no doubt meticulously. Through the introductions, they both exchanged meek smiles and bowed.
As was traditional each of the subjects of the ceremony would have their primary attendant speak for them. For Marielle it was Cressa, and for Augustus, it was Castor, that old man Marielle didn't remember fondly. Castor was even older than before, the past four years hadn’t done him any favours, he was even more wrinkled with even thinner hair.
"Augustus is so happy to finally meet you. And he would like you to know how beautiful he thinks you look." Castor said the rehearsed line. Augustus wasn't allowed to speak at all or signal anything to the person talking for him, so it was up to Castor to either say things that were already rehearsed or just say what he thought Augustus should say. The same went for Cressa.
"Lady Marielle is so pleased to hear you think that. She has long awaited this meeting, and would also like for me to convey how lovely she thinks Augustus looks. She gives her gracious thanks for the gifts of those two dresses."
"Augustus notices she is not currently wearing them. Although Master Augustus thinks she would look lovely in any dress, he would love to see how lovely she looks in the family dress that was gifted. Perhaps you could change into them so we can see if any further adjustments need to be made to further display your beauty." Before Augustus and his attendants arrived, Marielle's family were unsure if Augustus would want her to wear the dress for the Jorland ceremony, and risk them being dirtied. So they had decided to have Marielle wear her other ceremonial clothing that was nowhere near as fancy.
"My lady would be overjoyed to wear that dress for dinner. She is quite confident that the adjustments are appropriate, and would love to have the approval of someone she admires so. She will go change now, as dinner will be ready soon." Marielle bowed, then she and Cressa went up the stairs. "Make sure not to get the dress dirty while you eat! That would be a disaster. Shh! You still can't speak." She wasn't even allowed to nod her head.
When they reappeared, the food was ready. It was a late dinner that all in the household had endured their hunger for.
They all sat and began the pre-meal ritual. All the food was served on large platters in the center of the table that everyone would take parcels from onto their plate to eat. But not before the ritual. Heratio stood up and rolled up his sleeves to his armpits. Castor acted as Augustus’ voice for the charm, "We thank you for welcoming us as guests to your home. Since you have been so overworked preparing this meal, please allow us the honour of serving you your meal."
"That would be splendid." Count Jorel gave the standard response. Heratio picked up a plate. "Please, if you are going to fill my plate, you might as well fill your own too." Heratio smiled and grabbed another plate. He set down the two plates and began filling the plates with at least one of each item on the platters, each time he picked up a piece, Count Jorel would say “That piece is much too big.” Heratio would then cut the piece in two, placing half on each plate. He then placed both plates in front of the Count. "I would also like some wine."
"Do you mind if we choose for you? I promise we have great taste in wine, we will pick something appropriate to pair with that plate." Said Castor.
"That would be splendid, and you might as well pour a drink for yourself." The count said. Heratio then looked over the wine and reached out his hand as if to randomly pick a bottle, then poured the two glasses of wine, and placed both of them in front of Count Jorel, along with the two plates. Count Jorel looked both plates and glasses over, then picked the plate and glass of wine of his choice. Leaving Heratio to take the leftover plate and wine to his seat.
The Count would take a bite of each item on his plate, and immediately after, Heratio would eat whatever the Count had just eaten. Then exclaimed, “So delicious!”
Finally came the wine. The count drank, then Heratio, but this time it was Count Jorel who spoke. “This was an excellent wine choice, it pairs beautifully with the food.” With that the ritual was complete and everyone else at the table was free to fill their plates and eat.
Marielle and Augustus meekly met each other's gazes, and then quickly looked away. Eye contact, and smiles in agreement with what their attendants said, was their only true form of communication. “Augustus has asked me to request that since we have an entire ship waiting at the port, and he has been away from his home for so long, that the ceremony takes place as early in the morning as possible tomorrow. Then once it’s complete we would be setting sail as soon as possible.” Castor said.
“I don’t have a problem with that, and I’m sure our priest would be willing to accommodate. Marielle, do you mind? Have you packed all of your belongings?” Count Jorel asked. The priest nodded as he gathered his third helping onto his plate.
“My lady assures me she wouldn’t mind at all and is so excited to finally see Venocia that this velocity makes her happy.” Marielle didn’t smile at that. “She has had all of her belongings packed for a week now.”
“Then Augustus would like to settle the matter of the dowry tonight. But first, Augustus and his father have heard how well the port here has been doing. No doubt because of your skill and leadership. As thanks, we would like to offer you a gift.” Castor got up and went over to his bag and produced a wooden box. “I present to you fifteen gilden for inspection as your gift.”
A house servant went and got the scale and placed it in front of the count. First, he placed one coin on the scale, weighed against the coin-standard. After seeing it balanced, he placed the coin that was weighed with the coin-standard then weighed against two new coins. Then four, then eight. “I thank you for your gift.” He placed all the coins back into the box. “I present to you fifteen gilden for inspection as a suitable dowry.” The count handed back the box he was just given and Castor went through the same process the count had just performed.
“This is indeed a suitable dowry, and my lord accepts,” Castor said, putting the box away. "Since it is so late, and tomorrow is such a big day, requiring us to wake so early, Augustus suggests we all retire for the night."
"My lady agrees," Cressa said and everyone departed the dinner table. As Marielle and Cressa were headed to their rooms, Cressa turned and said, "I will wake you early tomorrow, then dress you in the turquoise dress." They separated and went to bed. But Marielle had a restless night, spending most of it in the darkness staring at her bed's ceiling. When Cressa came to wake her, she was already awake but pretended to be startled so she wouldn't give that away.
When Marielle appeared in the reception room everyone else was already there. Augustus wearing the same colours as Marielle, turquoise with blue and white accents, in an equally elegant outfit. But her family, the priest, and their attendants were all in the same clothing as the previous evening.
"Let us begin." Said the priest and everyone got in their places. Augustus placed his hand out, and Marielle placed her hand in his. The priest tied a blue ribbon around the joined hands, then said, "May Cyril bless and witness this union." Then he untied the ribbon.
"We have already prepared a bed in the garden." Said Count Jorel. "My witness will be Cressa."
"Giovanni DeCastellian has given his approval that I am his witness," said Castor.
"And finally, I, as a priest of Cyril, will act as his eyes and be his witness."
And so Augustus, Marielle, and the witnesses went outside to the garden so that the marriage could be consummated in full view of Cyril, the sky god.