Norrath was deep into fall, and start of the back-to-back holiday season was starting to cause frenzy on many fronts. Niami Denmother's home, however, was a picture of tranquility. Mostly. Sort of.
Niami ("Mum" to most who knew her) was sitting on the floor of her storage library, surrounded by stacks of books that practically hid the flame-haired halfling from view. Sitting in the doorway, her wings carefully extended out the door so as not to disturb the stacks, was a white-haired aerakyn lady, carefully flipping through old recipe books.
Scarletwing was new to the Bristlebane art of pranking, and Mum had taken her under her wing after viewing one of her pranks go rather spectacularly awry. "Th' trick, lass, is tae do SAFE pranking. Think aboot yuir prank, an' think o' all th' ways it could go wrong an' hurt someone, or damage their property, then adjust accordingly. Some folks deserve th' meaner stuff, but frae th' rest, ye need tae make it funny withoot causing harm, an' that can be th' difficult part." Scarletwing had seen the wisdom in that bit of advice, and now was content to study under the mistress of Mischief and learn whatever Mum had to teach her. Of course, it helped that she was a provisioner, just like Mum, as it gave them some extra common ground when planning pranks -- even when Mum was being at her most mysterious!
"I need ye tae look frae twa cake recipes, or a cake an' a pie recipe, lass. Th' first needs tae be summat simple but tasty, that can be expanded tae feed aboot a dozen, dozen an' a half or so, an' can be cooked up on short notice. Best if it can be decorated a bit as well. Th' second can be smaller, an' can be a cake or a pie. It has one main rule: naught that will cause a stain on fancy clothes. It would help if it tastes an' looks guid, but nae berries that will stain, frae example. I hae a couple ideas, but I'd like tae see what ye come up wi'."
That was all Mum would explain about the idea percolating in her tricky little head, too. When pressed, all she would say was, "I am anticipating summat lass, but it is nae my place tae speculate aloud until it happens. Think o' this as a lesson in patience, as truily guid pranks oft require boatloads o' patience."
Meanwhile, Mum appeared deep in an an ancient pre-Shattering tome written by an earlier Niami, and was occasionally snickering in between mumbling to herself. "Nae, too long-winded. Hrm, mayhaps...."
A distracted Agnor, in search of Mum, barely managed to stop himself before running into Scarletwing's large wings. "Oh! So sorry, I didn't expect... that is, I was looking for ... I'll come back later."
"Nae, Agnor-lad. 'Tis time tae take a break anyway. Some o' these tomes are a bit dusty, an' some fresh air is guid!" Mum's voice wafted over a teetering stack of books, followed soon by the sight of one dust-smudged halfling.
Scarletwing, meanwhile, had untangled herself from her own stacks of books and moved out of the doorway. She had to wonder about Mum's suddenly triumphant grin, but she wisely kept her silence as she rearranged herself to be less out of the way and pretended to be studying the recipe book in front of her.
After a couple minutes of polite small-talk, the normally stoic Coldain dwarf finally worked his way around to the purpose of his visit. "Gnormajean and I have been talking, and the holidays are going to be even busier than usual for us this year, especially with how popular her shop has become. While some want us to wait and have a huge ceremony sometime next summer when things might be calmer, we don't want a big ceremony, nor to wait that long."
"I cannae say as I blame ye twa at all." Mum nodded for emphasis, trying to keep her face sympathetically understanding. Inside she was doing mental dances of glee. She had suspected that Agnor's sister, Kendra, would try to find some way to take control of the wedding planning, now that she was more or less resigned to her only brother marrying a gnome. It had been her hope that the couple would rebel against these mostly well-meaning machinations, and forge their own path, in their own way.
The blue fists that had been clenching the seams of Agnor's pants relaxed their death-grip at Mum's calm acceptance. Now he just hoped she continued to be so accepting as he continued, "We were hoping --" He cleared his throat, and tried again, his words tumbling out in a very un-Agnor-like rush. "We'd like to get married this coming weekend, before things get any busier. Just a small ceremony with a dozen or so close friends. Then once things settle down again in the spring or summer, we can have some huge party to celebrate with friends and family. It will take a lot of the stress off us, and give my sister the big shindig she wants to plan."
"Tha' makes perfect sense tae me, lad. Ye twa need less stress as ye build yuir lives together, nae more. Mayhaps yuir sister will then move tae throw a New Year's party, or a Brewday party tae celebrate yuir union an' stop pestering th' twa o' ye. She can do whate'er she wants that way, throwing her own party, rather than trying tae control yuir special day." Mum nodded emphatically.
Agnor let out a deep breath that he hadn't been aware he'd been holding. "Neither of us are deeply tied to any of the gods, which was another point of contention with my sister. Would you do the honors, Mum, and officiate for us? Some hearfelt words by someone we both like and admire so much would mean much more to us than some stranger officiating."
Mum had to swallow through a sudden tightness in her throat before she could respond. She had hoped to be asked to perform the ceremony, but still found his words moved her strongly. Agnor and Gnormajean were like family to her, and she often thought of them as the children of her heart. Her accent might have been a bit thicker than usual because of it, as she responded, "Aye, lad, it would be my honor, an' th' timing could nae be better. I was just going through my library an' found some auld ceremonies tha' th' ancestress I was named after performed afore th' Shattering. I can transcribe th' most promising intae summat more legible an' bring them o'er tomorrow frae ye twa tae choose yuir favorite."
Agnor looked momentarily alarmed, due to a knee-jerk response from too many interruptions by the over-controlling Kendra, who tried to force him into a myriad of wedding decisions several times a day. "That's all right, Mum. We trust your judgement.
"All right, lad, ye can leave it in my hands. I'll make sure it is meaningful an' nae too long." She tilted her head and added, her tone seemingly casual. "A dozen or a bit more? We can handle th' cake frae ye as well. There's nae need frae Gnorma tae stress aboot it tha' way, with everything else that is going on."
Scarletwing barely managed to stifle an exclamation, and covered it at the last minute with a small sneeze. Now she understood the desire for the first recipe, at least. She still wasn't so sure about the nonstaining one, but that enlightenment would come in time, she was sure. Half the fun was trying to figure out how Mum's tricky mind worked, after all!
"Oh, Mum, that would be wonderful. I didn't want to overload you, but Kendra's been driving Gnorma to distraction in the midst of the Nights of the Dead sale at the bakery, and I would love to take some of the stress from her shoulders." His face softened into one of his rare smiles, as he thought of his beloved bride-to-be. She was an immensely capable and creative woman, and she didn't need to be stressed any more than she already was. (He loved his sister dearly, but there were times when she got a bit too bossy and controlling, and Gnormajean hadn't yet learned the ways to deal with Kendra's interference.)
After settling details regarding time and place, a much-relieved Agnor headed back to Halas to bring the good news to Gnormajean. Mum and Scarletwing, meanwhile, went back to rummaging through old tomes with renewed vigor, interspersed with some giggles as Niami explained her idea to her aerakyn partner in mischief.
The day of the wedding was one of those perfect fall days -- it was crisp, clear and not too cold, making it a fabulous time to have the ceremony on the shore of Mum's little Vale island. While she had set up an indoor space, just in case, she was just as glad it could be held outdoors. (She figured that cleanup would be easier that way, and one less thing for the happy couple to deal with!)
In the end Mum had ended up writing most of the words of the ceremony herself, with only light borrowing from her predecessor. She agreed with that earlier Niami that it was better to custom-tailor the ceremony to fit the individuals in question, and had stayed up late the night before, finding just the right words to wed the two that were the closest in children of her blood that she would ever have. (Author's note: While the Muse is feeling active again, it isn't feeling that energetic again, so you don't get to read a detailed recounting of the ceremony, k? :D)
At the very end of the ceremony, Mum nodded and Scarletwing carried an elaborately carved wooden crate up to where Mum was standing between the couple and set it down with the side opening facing Mum. "There's jus' one more thing, frae th' twa' o' ye before I set yuir wedding guests loose on ye, an' this is summat that was a tradition wi' th' weddings tha' my ancestress performed, sae many years ago. I hae a wee secret tae tell ye both, as ye start yuir lives together as a married couple. It is one o' th' most important "married folks" secrets oot there, that will help ye greatly in yuir life together." The flame-haired halfling beckoned the couple to lean closer, as she reached into the crate. Before the two could process what she was up to, **SPLAT**, they'd been hit in the face with confection that seemed to be mostly whipped cream. (Scarletwing had finally admitted defeat in finding anything on the pie and cake front that not only didn't stain, but used ingredients that were readily at-hand on such short notice.)
In a louder voice, Mum exclaimed: "Always laugh wi' each other, nae at each other, an' ye can get through most anything. Laughter heals much when shared, an' can hurt much when it is nae. In Bristlebane's name, go forth and laugh often together! I now prounounce ye husband an' wife!"
And so it began, with meringue-covered faces first grinning, then giggling, then being picked up by the close friends and family who had gathered to witness their vows.
Later that day, after the guests had left, Scarletwing helped Mum straighten up as they discussed the prank a bit more.
Mum waved a forgotten stray bit of trash in her hand as she explained. "Ye see, lass, it was guid-natured pranking, sae they laughed. Part o' that was relief, as well, as I did nae go frae th' more obvious pranks -- an amateur pranker would hae done summat like push them intae th' cold waters that they were standing beside, or summat like that. That would hae possibly caused an injury, which is bad tae do tae friends, an' worse tae do on their wedding day. Others would hae tried for frae some complex prank an' risked it failing due tae some wee niggly getting in th' way. I considered that they may want tae preserve their wedding finery an' did nae get it all stained, but still managed tae do summat silly. My ancestress used tae use berry pies, but I'm a bit more kind-hearted tae my friends an' their clothes. We kept it simple while still making it a silly story tae retell in later years."
"I can see that, Mum. As you said, they don't deserve the nastier side of pranking." Scarletwing tipped her head in thought, "I'm guessing the crate you used, with the opening on the side, helped, too, since they were short as well, and couldn't see into it from their angles. What would you have done if you were wedding taller folks?"
Mum let her pleasure shine through, as Scarletwing showed that she was starting to think the consequences through thoroughly. "Likely I'd hae asked Miaou tae whip up some sort o' tiered dais frae us tae stand on, along wi' the crate she made. I may hae changed th' shape o' th' crate tae hexagonal or such as well, jus' tae be sure they could nae see in." Her blue eyes twinkled with merrriment. "Saying, most truthfully, might I add, that I was tae impart wisdom spoken first by my ancestress helped, alsae, an aroused their curiosity. Th' best pranks, in my mind, are th' ones where ye can speak th' truth an' still manage tae trick them."
She continued on a more serious vein. "It takes nae special skill tae prank people. Responsible pranking, howe'er, especially wi' folks ye need tae interact wi' in th' future, takes much thought an' planning tae do properly.
The pint-sized maven of Mischief, and her unexpected new understudy then spent a pleasurable couple hours talking of mischief and of food, cementing the bonds of friendship with much, much laughter.
Created: 2016-10-24 06:48:15
Last Modified By: Niami Denmother
Last Modified on: 2016-10-25 04:24:50
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