Shoal was agog, chirping too high-pitched for people to hear. Someone had to go next, and it didn’t look like Murra or Lur were moving. She didn’t know if she could do it the way her sister did, to offer herself as John’s lover. He wasn’t bad looking, but… but!
In the end, she decided to gird her loins and do what custom required.
John watched the youngest of the Pendy clan get to her feet. She looked like a purple-eyed dandelion—if dandelions could have a cloud of white-blond hair that matched the color of the pinfeathers in her wings.
He took her hands when she offered them, and waited for her to speak.
“I,” she chirped, “Shoal Pendy, daughter of Cam and Ginga, welcome you,” she interrupted herself with another chirp, “into my family with joy in my heart. You are my brother, as Etty is my sister. I bid you have patience with me, older brother, for I am not perfect.”
She blushed crimson, and her wings puffed up. She whispered to John, praying that her sisters wouldn’t hear her request.
“Brother, I’ve never kissed anyone before, and I have to kiss you. Will you help me?”
He nodded. She looked immensely relieved.
“Take two steps back.” He told her.
She did as he said, and he stood up. They joined hands again. He leaned down to her upturned face, and gave her a gentle (and chaste) peck on the lips.
When he stepped back, she was smiling. He couldn’t help but return it.
“By the work of my hands, my future as a bride and a mother, and my honor as a maiden. I welcome you. There is always a place at my table for you.”
“Thank you, Shoal. There will always be a place at my table for you, too.”
She let go of his hands, jumped up and down gleefully, and sat back down.
John turned around to the young man who dwarfed him as he did Shoal. Lur clasped his arm with a huge, clawed paw, and looked down at him with very serious brown eyes.
“I, Lur Pendy, entrust my younger sister to you, John Frost. I bid you think well of her, care for her as she does for you, and be a fast friend to her all your life. You are my brother, as Etty is my sister. By the work of my hands, the most ancient trees, and the defense of the innocent, I welcome you into our family with joy.”
He let John’s arm go, and leaned back against the wall.
Murra tapped him on the arm.
“Turn around, Mr. New Husband.”
John turned, and looked into the face of the final member of his new family. She was almost as tall as him, and dark, where the others were fair. If he could have used a single word to describe the look she gave him, it would be “suspicious,” but he joined hands with her anyway.
She sighed dramatically before she began.
“I, Murra Grass-and-Water Pendy, daughter of Cam and Ginga, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Family. Brother—so on and so forth.” She smirked at him, and he couldn’t tell if it was mischief in her expression, or annoyance. “I’m not going to kiss you.”
She continued, wrapping up the greeting with, “By the work of my hands, the truth I have seen, and the revelation of hidden things, I welcome you into my family with joy. You will never have less than the truth from me.”
“Thank you, Murra.” John said, and gave her a neat little bow before releasing her hands.
Murra smiled, a genuine one, and was surprised at how warm she felt inside.