This is my answer – or the beginnings of one – to the “guy has umpteen wives” trope.
Sefton was beyond nervous as his parents led him down the path to his bride, but he kept his chin up and smiled as if this was the best idea in the world.
Taisiya of Stonewall had three husbands already and six children, the oldest of which had been in classes with Sefton. At least he wouldn’t have to look Isham in the eye; he’d been part of the three-way trade that had ended up with Sefton bare-footed in the grass and Taisiya waiting at the pillar.
His parents’ hands were firm on his elbows, and behind him his mother’s second and fourth husbands marched quietly. He could no more run away than if they had already put chains on him.
But he would not. That would have been shameful and ridiculous, and, above all, it would have been futile. So he knelt at the appointed spot, his best outfit dampening with the dew still fresh on the grass. “Lady Taisiya. I come to you.”
Those were his only words. The rest came between the lady and his mother, with his father and his mother’s other husbands saying only the few words they were needed for.
Everyone understood that this was a contract. First marriages might be for love. Late-marriages, too, past the age of children or war. Sefton had never even met Taisiya before; there was nothing of love about this arrangement. This was for deals between houses and connections, for his mother’s fifth husband, for a trade arrangement that would strengthen the three houses involved and their constituencies against the  to the north and the  to the west.
Sefton pressed his forehead to the ground and considered meditations on obedience.
“Rise as Feltian of Stonwall.” The words had been said between the interested parties. Lady Taisiya reached down — there was symbolism there, in that she would always be reaching down for him, and guided Sefton to his feet. She was, he was surprised to find, smiling. “Welcome to my House.”
Sefton stole a final glance at his mother and father, at his second-father and fourth-father. Only Safion, for whom he’d been named, met his eyes. His second-father winked at him before lowering his own head, a playful smirk still dancing on his lips.
It was far too late to back out, even if backing out had ever been an option. Sefton let his new wife lead him from the hilltop down into the waiting carriage.
There was a kneeler inside the carriage, and a man he thought was probably Lady Taisiya’s second husband sitting in the driver’s seat. The Lady took her seat, and Sefton knelt by her side before he had to be told to.
She said nothing to the driver, not he to her, but simply clucked to the horses. The carriage moved away from the boundary between Stonewall and Sefton’s home. He stared at the wooden floorboards, at the soft velvet edge of the kneeler, at his knees, barely hidden behind white linen.
“Stonewall is not so far from your childhood home.” Her voice was soft. Sefton peeked up at her guiltily; had he spoken aloud?
She smiled at him, as gently as she’d spoken. “It was only a week ago I took my oldest to another hill. He was nervous then. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t be just as nervous.”
“I do my duty, mistress,” Sefton murmured.
“I am Taisiya,” she corrected — her voice was no less gentle, but it was still very clearly a correction. “I am your lady wife in public — but my husbands call me Taisiya. Do you understand, Feltian?”
Sefton swallowed. She hadn’t had to change his name. Not everyone did. His mother didn’t, as far as he knew. Now he would have to learn a new name, in addition to everything else new. And her name as well. “Yes, mis… yes, Taisiya. I understand.”
“It’s all right to be nervous. I was nervous, the first time I wed. And the second,” she added wryly.
Sefton peeked at her. “Nervous?” He had never heard of women being nervous at their weddings!
“Oh, terrified. My first husband, he was much older than I was, and he had lost his entire family. I was barely older than you are now, and I was meant to be Honored Wife over a man who could have been my grandfather.” She wrinkled her nose, and then let the expression slide into a wistful smile. “We became friends, eventually. It was he who found my second husband.”
“Onter?” He had met Lady Taisiya’s husbands — in the marketplace, or running errands, and in the fields at harvest-time when everyone worked.
“No.” Now she looked sad. “Diafel. He died when the raiders attacked, twelve years past. He was a good man, and a kind man, once we got used to each other.”
Her expressions shifted again, like a fickle wind, and now she smiled, if not too broadly. “You and I will get used to each other, too, you know. It’s not a death sentence, to be married.”
It’s not being married I’m worried about. Sefton nodded slowly. “I know… Taisiya. I am not frightened.”
“You are, and I’d rather you not lie to me.” Her hand settled gently on the back of his neck. “You are being sent away from home, to be fourth husband to a woman who has a son your age. It can’t be easy… every boy I’ve ever known dreams of being a love-match, a first husband to a woman his age, growing old together. Most boys dream of being an only husband, a strong protector like they do it in the mountains. It’s okay to have those dreams.”
“They don’t matter, though.” She’d hit too close to the mark, and he found himself sounding bitter.
“Nonsense. They matter because they are part of what makes you a person. They are part of what drives you.”
Sefton swallowed. “You… you care what makes me a person?” It seemed a foolish thing to say to his new wife, but he seemed to have forgotten all his manners.
“I do care. You are to be my husband, after all, father of my children.” She squeezed gently, her calloused fingers pressing into his neck. “We’re nearly there, Feltian. Are you ready?”
He couldn’t duck his head; he could barely move at all. “I’m…” no, I’m not wasn’t an answer. He searched for another one. “I will do my duty, Taisiya.”
“I know. They told me you were dutiful.” He couldn’t look away, so he saw her amused smirk. “It is good to be dutiful. In the end, I believe you will find I am much more interested in the things they were trying so hard not to tell me.”
There was nothing to say to that, so Sefton waited, his eyes downcast and his neck pressed into his new wife’s hand. He would be a good husband… no matter what his parents had hidden from his new wife.
Chapter 2: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/1139741.html
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