Ava's Chronicle - Midsummer
Avlynka and Uro spent the remainder of Midsummer together, and on the final night, waited nervously with their respective families. The time had come for the Engagement Ceremony, when the young adults of the Clans would announce, in turn, the person the had chosen to be their mate, the person they had chosen to spend the rest of their life and raise a family with. Normally, the two would quietly agree beforehand, so that when the time came, and one announced her choice, no one would be surprised, and potentially hurt the other, by turning the choice down; in some Matari clans, a man could pick a wife, or a woman a husband, depending on their custom, and the chosen person had very little say in the matter. Among the Peninsular Sebiestor tribes, however, both had to agree.
Avlynka stood with her Mom and Dad, her younger sister, Jonn, and Kyllsa, the people that, more or less, comprised her “family”. She was dressed in a rather figure-hugging heavy blue and white robe, her hair loose and framing her face, her rather simple appearance today in stark contrast to the elaborate dresses she had worn for the previous four days. Among the Star-Fire, who trace their lineage through matrilineal lines, Avlynka would announce her choice, and he would step forward and accept... or refuse. Even though her and Uro had worked it out, she couldn't help but be nervous.
A shaman from the West-Call clan performed a brief blessing, purifying the ground where the young people would make their announcements and calling on the Spirits to bless the new couples. He then quickly walked away, the signal that the first young woman could begin.
She watched and waited as other young women, a few from her clan, most from others, stepped forward and announced their choices, watched the young men step forward and confirm that they, indeed, wished to likewise pick the other person. The oldest went first, including women who, due to bad luck the previous year or the death of their spouse, would pick a new mate in the same fashion. As the one before her announced her choice, which was quickly confirmed by her mate, Avlynka felt somewhat dizzy and sick. Her turn had come; she was the youngest, and the last one to announce her choice.
“Go on, Dreamer.” Tarja said with a smile. “He will accept... you've nothing to worry about.”
“Uh huh.” Avlynka replied with a simple, forced nod, quite convinced that the End had come. She walked slowly, making doubly sure not to do something clumsy like tripping over the hem of her robe, clutching a thin silver chain, hung with small, brightly colored seashells, in her hand.
Avlynka slowly walked across the open festival ground, quite aware that the eyes of every person in every clan on the Peninsula were upon her. She reached the wooden pole driven into the ground that marked the place where she was to stand and looked back at her parents, her sister, her shaman, and... Jonn.
Tarja was beaming and nodded eagerly, signaling for Avlynka to just get on with it.
Olno gave her a less-than-stealthy “A-OK” signal with his right hand.
Sukki stood, her arms folded, her weight on her left leg, looking quite bored.
Kyllsa stood perfectly still, her eyes closed, saying a quiet prayer.
Jonn took a few photos and scribbled madly in his notebook.
Avlynka sighed, turned to Uro, and made her announcement, speaking as loudly as she could without actually yelling. Her heart pounded as she called out the well-rehearsed words, the words called out by women of her Clan, on that very spot, since her people had settled on the Peninsula. “Uro Vaki, of the Deep-Moon Clan, will you walk the Path with me?”
Uro walked quickly across the festival ground to stand before Avlyna, smiling down at her slightly. His hair, much like hers, was combed straight down, and he wore a brightly patterned wool tunic over a pair of plain brown pants. He reached out his hand, and Avlynka gingerly placed her hand in his, as he replied, “Avlynka Surionen, of the Star-Fire Clan, yes, I will walk the Path with you.”
Avlynka placed the chain she carried around Uro's neck, and he returned the gesture, the same sort of thin chain, adorned with seashells and a few tiny copper beads, around hers. They laughed together, relieved, for just a moment, before walking hand-in-hand away from the pole.
Tarja and Olno hugged, Jonn beamed, and Kyllsa elbowed Sukki, as Avlynka and Uro walked to stand at the far end of the festival ground with all of the other couples, awaiting the announcement of the Elders that the Engagement Ceremony had concluded, and that the final night of revelry would now begin. Around them, the other couples planned, hugged, and talked, but Avlynka and Uro took little notice; they were too busy standing face to face, holding hands. Many picked their prospective mate on grounds of prestige, or income, or improving their family standing.
Uro and Avlynka chose one another, quite simply, because they were in love.