Interspecies marriages weren’t uncommon in druid culture. While many places frowned upon humans and elves, or dwarves and gnomes, or those of draconic ancestry, or any of the civilized races mixing with anyone of another civilized race romantically, those in the commune were much more open with their ideas. They still had limits, of course, and rules around marriages and what was and wasn’t proper in and out of them, but love was love, and as long as the two involved truly loved each other, the rest were just details. Usually.
Then again, usually, one of the two getting married wasn’t a large hyena creature not seen as a ‘civilized’ race by most, and which many of them had bad memories of being attacked and nearly eaten by. Gux was under special scrutiny right now, and a lot of questions were raised. Would he make himself a proper family man? Was his bride to be completely insane? Would he, one day, go feral and rip apart all he had been making so far? Would the wedding be allowed to proceed normally? What, if it even worked, would their kids look like?
The answers, in order, were only time would tell, probably, no, definitely no, and nobody knew. Gux had no idea what it meant to be a married man in society… His tribe wasn’t exactly big on that whole monogamy thing… or even letting the man live long enough to see the pups born. But he did know that he loved Lily with all his heart, and would do anything to protect the village.
He’s proved that once again when a hydra managed to rampage through the magical barrier. Walls of thorns and fire had done wonders at moving the hydra away from the buildings, but only he had been able to rush into the swirling mass of biting, thrashing, huge draconic heads. By the end he was bleeding, barely standing, and exhausted, but he had slashed through enough heads to send the beast packing. His skills with his wooden sword, which turned back into a simple branch when the fighting was done, were still matched by none.
There was a small contingent of druids that were asking for him to teach them lessons in fighting, but Birch was having none of it, and the other leaders didn’t seem to care enough to weigh in on the matter. Those people were all backing Gux and happy to see him getting married, wishing him a bright and fertile future. He didn’t really know what that meant, but he thanked them all the same.
Lily was getting rather sick of the strange looks she was getting in town. She’d already been through enough flak when she’d brought Gux in, and even spent time in jail when she’d refused to kill him or kick him out. Now he was proving himself to be an asset the commune needed more than ever, and they still treated him like a monster magnet, and treated her as some fool deserving to be kicked out. Of course it wasn’t the bulk of the town… heck, all of the kids loved playing with Gux, and Juniper always made sure to pack them a little something extra as thanks for all they were doing… and apologies for all they were going through.
But Lily didn’t want apologies… she wanted to be treated normally again. Yes, she was going to be the first person ever, so far as she could tell, to marry a gnoll. The first, it seemed, to ever get past their ravenous hunger, hideous laughter, dominant aggression, and matted, evil fur to find a heart buried underneath. But the heart she’d found there was pure… even if the body around it was still really bad about a lot of social cues and conversation pieces. And she knew, deep down, that he would never let himself give in to that gnawing hunger he’d been born with. He would protect the town with his life, saving every last person in it if he could… And she loved him for that and so much more.
Many weddings in this town were small affairs, and originally Gux and Lily had been wanting to have a quiet ceremony not more than a few days later, just the two of them and an officiant. But as they went around asking, they got a lot of people who wanted to be there to see Gux’s wedding and offer gifts and thanks… and a lot of people who wanted to see the whole thing put an end to. Lily was starting to get fed up… why did the council have any right to get involved in her love anyway? She hadn’t stopped loving, and being a lover to, Gux, and they weren’t going to stop her either way. She’d even stopped taking her anti-pregnancy herbs, letting her natural cycle resume.
Originally she had been going to wait until the wedding… that was three months ago, and in that time, she’d become a Godmother… or, at least, would be, if she was ever allowed to marry Gux. Juniper’s little girl, Yew, was born and presented to the gnoll in a private ceremony. Some, upon hearing of it later, were surprised the girl wasn’t eaten on the spot… but seeing Gux there, playing with that little baby elf, laughing as his ear was grabbed and rubbing his nose against hers… The way she held his paw, the way he smiled at her, looking so content… so happy… She wanted that. She wanted it more than she wanted the approval of the town. And she wasn’t going to be one of those girls who got stuck carrying a litter of wolf pups and being shunned… Because Gux was a person, dammit, and screw everyone who couldn’t see it.
Gux was still the sweetest lover, and he was still amazed at how wonderful Lily was. Even if he wasn’t the best at conversation, or got lost in social cues, or missed parties because he wasn’t that social of a creature… he always made sure to greet her in the morning with a hand-grown (if magically aided) bouquet of flowers and a kiss, and every evening he would hold her close and listen to her day, letting her know of anything interesting he had done. They didn’t see each other nearly as often as when he’d been her student, and at first that had hurt, but… The loving licks she felt on the back of her neck in the middle of the night… the way he held her close, his huge form curled around her protectively… the way she could feel his heartbeat in time with hers… They were meant for each other.
One evening, while they were sitting at home, they got the sign they needed. Lily was weaving a nest out of flowers for the sparrow’s newest clutch of eggs and Gux was watching intently, his eyes full of love as he made sure his armor was cleaned and his weapon was properly taken care of. A knock arrived at the door, and Lily started for it, but Gux got up, motioning that he had it as he went to the door, opening it. Outside was a woodpecker with a letter in its talons, though it quickly shifted into one of the guards that worked at the town hall, Ironwood. “Hello Gux! Hello Lily. I came by to deliver news of the ruling as quickly as I could.”
Gux’s ears perked up, while Lily went to the door, holding Gux’s hand. “Yes? What is it?” She squeezed his paw tightly, and felt his other arm hold her close.
Ironwood unscrolled the note, clearing his throat. “The council hereby decrees that Gux and Lily shall be allowed to marry-” The two celebrated, with Lily jumping up into Gux’s arms, kissing him as he spun her around. However, the guard continued. “-on the condition that Gux must prove his fealty. He is to train those we send to him in his unique battle style, and should any be injured or killed, or there be a single sign of domestic violence, the marriage shall be nulled and Gux considered for banishment.”
Gux was still smiling happily, only hearing that he’d get to train people to help fight, but Lily was more worried. “Wait… So if anyone gets hurt while learning how to fight, Gux could be sent away?” She didn’t even care about the violence part… The closest Gux had gotten to hurting her were a series of claw marks on her back and being unable to sit for a day after their first time trying the other hole.
Ironwood shrugged. “Honestly, Birch is still a bit paranoid, but enough people were arguing both sides that they couldn’t let you guys marry without their intervention. But, since it’s set, I’m looking forward to it. And I hope you can show me a few things on the training field,” he said, tapping Gux on the chest with the note.
Gux smiled and nodded. “I look forward to! And so happy! When we ready, Lily?”
She still was worried about the idea, but the two happy guys next to her brought her from her funk, a smile forming on her face. “Oh… I don’t know… Tomorrow I’ll make sure Shoebill gets the word around for when the ceremony will be. I know too many people will want to come to it now…” The truth was, she already had a plan, and had been starting to grow the trellises for the wedding and its party in a small spot near her house, but she’d been keeping it a secret this long… what was a day or two more?
Ironwood shook Gux’s paw, then Lily’s hand. “Congratulations, both of you, and I wish you the best of luck.” He turned back into a woodpecker as he flew off, leaving Gux and Lily on the doorstep. Gux closed the door, hugging Lily tightly.
“We did it! You can be wife!” He peppered her with a few light kisses, but soon found himself pressed against the wall, his little lover looking at him with seductive eyes. “Lily?”
She shushed him, starting to work at the buckle on his tunic. “I know just how to celebrate, my love… and it’ll make sure to get rid of all the stress your new responsibilities will bring.” One gentle stroke of her hand let her know he was ready, and they didn’t even make it to the bedroom until the wee hours of the morning…
The next day Gux found Lily sitting outside as the day began. There was an acrid smell lingering in the air, but he couldn’t put his paw on it, and was still too happy from the night before to be worried about it. Lily kissed him gently on the cheek, offering him a morning favorite: some toast with goodberry jam. He took it eagerly, starting to put on his armor when a rather elderly falcon swooped down on the porch. Before Gux knew what was happening, Elder Elm was standing before him, a grin on the old man’s face. Gux dropped his belt, bowing his head in deference, while Lily did the same.
The elder just chuckled. “Good morning! Gux, you are looking well, and Lily, you’re as beautiful as ever. I know, officially, I was to bring you the news, but I trust Ironwood made an appearance last night?” Lily nodded, a blush returning some missing color to her cheeks, and Elm grinned. “Well, then I am sure you know why I am here, Gux. While you will still have your patrol today, you are to be brought before the council to discuss matters of training. Now, normally I wouldn’t be out here telling you myself… I’m not even a council member anymore, but…” He gestured for Gux to follow him as he walked down a path on the property, leaning on his staff. “Come, we need to talk.”
Gux followed willingly, curious as to what was going on, as Elm walked alongside him. As frail as the old man seemed, he was still the one setting the pace, and it was not a slow one. “What we talk about?”
Elm sighed. “Gux, you’re being set up to fail. They tried to word the decree as loosely as they could so you’d be in trouble no matter what you did… and I don’t like that.” He looked over at Gux. “I might have a lot of bad memories with your kind, but you are a pinnacle of your species… And one should always base thoughts on the person, not their race.” He stopped near the waterfall, looking up into Gux’s eyes with an intensity, the old man’s grey eyes looking like a coming storm. “If you do a single thing to hurt Lily or this village, I will turn on you immediately. There will be no escape from my wrath.” His demeanor then calmed as a smile returned. “But I know that is not you, so I will reword the agreement. Still, try not to break anyone from the commune while you’re training. We always need more people helping us stay safe away from the rest of the world.”
Gux had been about to say something, but could tell that everything he’d say was already covered by Elm. He looked worried for just a moment, then resolute, nodding. “I will do very best. I no like hurt… won’t hurt friends.”
“Or your enemies either… Not mortally, at least. You’re sometimes far too kind… but I like that about you.” Elm patted Gux on the shoulder, a feat considering how hunched the old man was, but he walked back to the house with Gux, grinning all the while. “After your patrol, make sure to come to the council. We’ll be waiting.” Gux nodded, going inside to finish getting ready. As Gux left, Elm looked at Lily, who was sipping on some tea. He just smiled warmly. “Congratulations.”
“On what?” she asked, looking genuinely curious.
He chuckled. “The wedding, of course. And your husband. Far too many will never know what they missed out on.” He then turned to leave, turning into a bird and taking to the sky.
Lily watched him go, sipping on her, frankly, horrible tea with a smile on her face. “They never will… and it’s their loss.” She kissed Gux on the cheek as he left, then sat on the porch, her heart finally sinking into happiness. She looked at her tea, considering dumping it, but… the special properties she was too worried about making happen, so she’d endure. She took a quill and some ink, writing down a note. The Marriage of Gux and Lily on their property, three days’ time. Come one, come all, but come with kindness in your heart and understanding in your soul. She whistled a few notes, summoning a bird that she gave the note to, sending it off to Shoebill. Now everything was perfect.