“My dear, I’ve got Father Nate outside. Can you talk to him? He’s asking about your faith, and I feel you should answer for yourself.” Inglorion has poked his head into their little tent, where Virginia is tending to Lucius.
She emerges from the tent, wiping her hands on her apron. “Certainly. What do you want to know?”
“I’m trying to determine whether I can marry you two,” says Father Nate. “Do you believe in God?”
She glances over at Inglorion, who nods yes. She says, “I did not take an oath as a young woman because my circumstances did not allow for religious training.”
Father Nate nods gravely, says, “I don’t really care about that elvish oath shit, but you should have some belief in order for me to marry you.”
“I believe that the gods exist, and that they care for us and look over our affairs,” she says, feeling her way.
Father Nate nods soberly, stands for a moment in reflective silence. Finally he says, “I don’t see any barrier. Belief is the main thing. That implies concurrence with the 39 Articles. Right, then. If you choose to make it legally binding, you’ll need a special license when you get back to civilization, or I can call banns at my parish church. If it’s convenient, I’ll perform the ceremony at sundown.” He glides off, with the grave and noble bearing of a Cardinal, or an Archbishop.
“That seems almost too easy,” says Inglorion in a mildly scandalized tone. After a moment, he adds, “I wonder if he’ll marry Aramil and Ajax, too? I’m sure they’re both enthusiastic believers in the 39 Articles, or could be.” Inglorion chases Father Nate down and confirms that Episcopalians have no objection to marrying two men. Or, rather, Father Nate’s willing to perform the ceremony, as long as the participants understand that the marriage will be invalid in most city-states and territories.
Inglorion finds Aramil a few moments later. He’s digging a supplementary privy further downwind from the camp. “Aramil, take a quick break. I need to ask you something.”
Aramil leans his shovel against the side of the partly completed hole, hops onto the bank. “What’s up?”
“Do you believe in the 39 Articles?”
“Never heard of them.”
“I think they’re some kind of oath or vow. I don’t know. It’s a human thing. Episcopal, I’m told. Let me put it another way. Do you want to marry Ajax?”
“Of course, if he’ll have me and someone is willing to perform the ceremony.”
“Father Nate will marry you as long as you believe in the 39 Articles.”
“I’d have to talk to Ajax. I don’t know if he’ll have me. And it might be convenient for one or another of us to marry a woman at some point. I’d hate to commit bigamy.”
“Elves wouldn’t recognize your marriage to Ajax legally, so I’m sure bigamy charges would be settled in your favor. Besides, you’ve been convicted of multiple counts of armed robbery and disposing of stolen goods. I’m surprised you would balk at a purely theoretical instance of bigamy.”
Aramil sighs, plops down on the bank, with his feet dangling into the half-dug privy. “Bigamy’s not the problem, of course. It’s unlikely that either of us will meet a willing woman who would understand our situation. It’s just… I think Ajax will have me, but I don’t know if he should.”
The problem lies between them, unspoken. Inglorion wants Aramil to say it, so he waits patiently, with his head cocked. Finally Aramil confesses, “I’m kind of a drunk, you know.”
“Well, yes, I’ve observed that,” says Inglorion.
“So I don’t think I’ll make him very happy, long term.”
Inglorion considers. “I’m not sure I know what the answer is there. It’s part of the reason I would hesitate to marry Ajax, aside from not being homosexual. He’ll put up with pretty much whatever shit you give him, unless there’s a side of his personality that I haven’t seen.”
“Oh, no. It’s perfectly true. If I do something stupid, he’s quiet about it, which I like. But over time, I’ve been such an ass.”
“Yes. That is a problem.” Inglorion joins him on the side of the privy. “Remember just before the operation, how I asked you what I should do?” Aramil nods. “You came up with a perfectly good solution. We did it, and it worked. I’ll admit, I asked because I didn’t know. I was angry and tired and genuinely confounded.” He breaks off and searches through his pockets, grumbling, “Oh, fuck, I really need a cigarette. I’m going to roll one. I hope Valentine has the fucking sense to get more tobacco while he’s out there. There’s barely enough for one left, and it will be half pocket lint. He’s going to kill me.” He rolls it, lights up and takes a drag. An expression of angelic bliss crosses his face. He flashes his silver eyes at Aramil, flutters his lashes, murmurs, “Never take up smoking, nephew. It’s a filthy habit, and fucking amazing.
“Right, so here’s my thought. No warranty expressed or implied. You know what’s right and true. You always have, but sometimes you don’t do it. You know you’re hurting Ajax, but you don’t stop because he doesn’t squawk about it. Valentine squawks, and you guys bicker about it until I want to kill you both, which, to be fair, is half his fault. I’ve done my best to work with you. Use you when I can, recognize your strengths, protect myself and the team from your worst behavior. But none of us can prevent you from getting drunk. I don’t know if you can. I’ve never been drunk in my life, so I don’t really understand it.”
Aramil looks genuinely sad. “Grandfather was a drunk. You’ve told me that. Sometimes I think, well, that’s the part I got.”
“You got the charm, too, like Sieia did.” He sighs. “I think about this a lot, and I just don’t know what’s true. Life is such an experiment. At some point, Tereus probably had no choice about what he did or who he was. It was probably too late.”
“Like with Artemisia?”
“Oh, you know about that?” Inglorion exhales a long plume of smoke. He’s looking into space, remembering a few choice incidents, the squalor and helplessness and anger. “Yeah, like with her.” His eyes return to Aramil. He’s put his prophet look on, and Aramil finds himself sitting up straight, trying to clear his mind. “Today, though, I think it’s like before the op. You know the truth. You know what to do. You just have to do it.”
A flicker of impatience crosses Inglorion’s face. “Well, of course. Look, Aramil, nothing important is easy. Not to brag, but I’ve come a long way. When I was eight years old I couldn’t talk and I cut myself. At 20 I almost killed myself with fasting and weapon drills. For most of my life I’ve fucked anything that would stand still. I know you’ve done some stupid shit, but there’s not enough paper in the world to record all the mistakes I’ve made. I should be dead 10 times over.”
“But drinking is an addiction.”
“Oh, bullshit. What do you think fucking around was, for all those years? And yet I stopped. Over time, I found shit that mattered more to me.” The cigarette is down to a stub, so he extinguishes it and restores it tenderly to his tobacco pouch. “I’ve got one advantage over you, which is that if I cheat on Virginia, I’m pretty sure she’ll walk. She doesn’t need me, not like Ajax needs you.
“So it’s on you, Aramil. You’re making a choice for yourself, and for the person you love most. Do you love the bottle more than you love Ajax? It’s that simple. You can’t have both. If you love Ajax, then stop the bullshit excuses and do whatever it takes. Which, yeah, is easily said and incredibly hard to do.” His face softens. “I’ll love you no matter what. Because things could easily have gone differently for me, and I don’t know how hard things are for you, or what you think and feel. It’s like with Tereus. I don’t know. I wish I did. Eventually you just forgive. Love is a helpless state.
“I hate it when I ramble on like this. Look, you know the truth and you know what’s right. Just stop fucking around and do it.”
“That’s what people always say.”
“Because it’s true and you don’t listen.” He smiles seraphically at Aramil and embraces him suddenly, startling them both. “I really do love you. We share blood and we’re tied to each other, and I wish we could have a double wedding. Let me know what you decide. My wedding’s at sundown. I hope yours will be, too.”
For the first episode of Inglorion’s adventures, click here.
For a linked table of contents, listing all of Inglorion and Valentine’s adventures, click here.