Several things happened at once.
–The gibbering in the room ceased.
–The purple crystal I chipped out of the rock cave we spent the night in fell out of my pocket and clattered to the floor.
–The Great Goober stiffened and stopped shouting.
–His hands, which had been bringing us to his mouth, froze where they were. His tentacles just brushed my face.
Then pandemonium broke out, and the next thing I knew, Sigyn and I were gently lowered to the ground. My helmet and spear were returned. Goobers great and small surrounded us, petted us, touched our hands and hair.
I am still not sure what is going on. From what I have been able to gather, from the Great Goobers garbled orations and a painfully slow yes/no session with Burble, Gribber, Iggle-nix, and Ynnerp, we seem to have inadvertently stumbled upon the two things Goobers love most:
Shiny trinkets and a good romance.
The Great Goober coveted my purple crystal on sight and decided to save me, in case I could tell him where to find more.
All of the Goobers, when they heard me declare my feelings for Sigyn, seized on us as Couple of the Year. Though they would have enjoyed our demise as a good, tragic love story, they would much rather see us alive and together.*
The ensuing exchange went something like this:
Great Goober: This is your wife?
Me: “Um, no.. Not ye–… Er, No.
Great Goober: But she pleases you?
Me: <Opens mouth. Nothing comes out. Nods.>
Great Goober, to Sigyn: You like this man?
Sign: <uncomfortable smile> Um?
Great Goober: Then you must be married at once! <to the other Goobers:>: Prepare the ceremony! <to us>: If you give me this magnificent gem, you shall be wed! We shall feast, and then I shall give you gifts and send you home. I, the mighty <unpronounceable> have spoken!
I looked at Sigyn. She looked at me. Trade a chunk of colored quartz and a few words for our ticket out of this realm? I raised an eyebrow. She shrugged and nodded. Goobers scattered to make preparations.
Which is why we find ourselves now, in what I suppose must be the holy shrine of some long-dead Goober saint, surrounded by intricate tile-work and a huge assortment of Goobers. Sigyn and I have both been tidied, though I guess there is no clothing here to fit anyone who is not deformed, so we are to be wed in our own battered clothes. Someone has found Sigyn some flowers. Burble has a tear in his one good eye, Yennerp is grinning like a fool, and Iggle-nix is still looking at my dearest with a triple leer that I am going to wipe off his face with my fist at the earliest opportunity.
The Great Goober is mumbling his way through some intricate rite, which seems to require nothing of us beyond our presence and the occasional “Yes.” Every “Yes” earns a cheer from the Goober congregation, except in one spot which must require a “No,” because they all frown and start muttering. We change our answers to “No,” and the garbled ceremony continues.
Is the God of Mischief actually getting married? Does this even count? Is it binding? Oh, never doubt that Sigyn is my dear heart, my only. Those who know me would be surprised to learn that I actually do intend to be true and kind to her. But what about her? What is in her heart? After all, one can say words under duress and not mean them.
It may very well be that, once back in our own realm, she will walk away from the man who kidnapped her, led her into danger, and all but forced a farcical wedding on her. The Trickster. The Liesmith. I couldn’t blame her if she did. I tell myself to cherish this moment but steel my heart for what may prove a greater loss than either kingdom or throne.
L + S = ♡ ?
* (My theory is that since they are so variously and hideously misshapen, very seldom can any two Goobers come together in such a way as to make more Goobers, so romance is in short supply. By my horns! Anyone could conquer this race with a few Harlequin novellas and a Barry White album.)