Chapter 14 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
When Tennoc arrived at the castle's gates, Lady Flaryn's husband had already thrown them open. "I saw your forces long before you got here, Tennoc ar Sial," said Cror ar Crymavon, "and I couldn't have defended against your war machines had I wished to."
Tennoc smiled, but he drew his lips flat. "You're wise, cousin. In my current humor I am not countenancing resistance."
Lady Flaryn ar Crymavon still lived. In her own court, the cousin Tennoc's mother had remembered as painfully shy had blossomed into an assured woman, still beautiful and like enough to Lassanna that Tennoc's heart ached at the sight of her. "Why did you not stop here in your flight from Gwyrfal, cousin?" she asked him in Kellish at dinner that night.
"I was unsure of my welcome, Lady."
"You are Clan Sial. Never doubt your welcome among your kinsmen, King of Tremont or no--especially now, after what Dunnoc has done to my dear cousin Lassa." Flaryn squeezed his hand, and her eyes welled. "I loved her, Tennoc."
"We all did," added her husband.
"What are they saying?" murmured Fallik in Tremontine.
Tennoc swallowed hard and stuffed his grief down harder. "Lady Flaryn tells us we are welcome here," he answered in pointed Old Sairish.
Cror cleared his throat and apologetically switched tongues to Old Sairish so that the Tremontines might understand him. "The King is quite ill, Tennoc. Some say he will not last out the year, but I know from sad experience that the shaking sickness can take years to kill someone. One of my liegemen died of it. It took ten years from start to finish, and Dunnoc started shaking no more than four years ago. Were you to take Kellen, now would be the time, while the country's magic is tied up in a debilitated body. Cousin, I will be blunt--I'm a plain-spoken man. Is this a simple raid? I cannot believe it is, seeing the armies at your back. You are here to take the country, yes?"
Tennoc paused. He'd turned the question over in his own mind for some time. His other lords and generals believed they were to conquer the whole country, but he wanted Gwynna and revenge, and he chafed at proving the slanders against him. He would be revenged upon Daevys ar Ulvyn and his allies, and Dunnoc himself, but who would succeed to the throne? No Kellish lord seemed strong enough to hold the country together.
The Corrish might sweep down from the north. The Ulav Mountains stood between Corland and the Duchy of Whitehorse, but only the Bay of Kellen separated them from Kellen itself; were the Corrish to take northern Kellen, they would then have a western border with Tremont as well. They'd find the River Cobb far easier to cross than the Ulavs. For that matter, the Sairish might come back to Maalig and take back all of Trefhallyn.
Tennoc wasn't altogether sure he wanted an independent Kellen. More and more, Kellen seemed rightfully his, payment for the deaths of Lassanna and Kenver. His hold on the violence within him slipped.
Tennoc examined the lord of the castle. Cror ar Crymavon was an open-faced older man with little gray in his blond hair: vigorous, with strong, shrewd blue eyes. "If I took the country, would you support me?" said Tennoc.
"Would you leave Clan Crymavon be?"
"Have you no desire for the throne yourself?"
Lord Cror waved away the thought. "Never have I wanted more than what I have, and to pass on what I have to my sons."
"So I might count on you to bend your knee to Tremont and come with me on campaign against Dunnoc."
"Not bend my knee to Tremont," said Crymavon, pointing at him. He spoke again in Kellish. "To you, as king of Kellen as well as Tremont. We are kinsmen through my wife, and you are more fit to rule Kellen than Dunnoc or any who might succeed him--especially Ulvyn. I would want two things: assurances Clan Crymavon would remain unmolested…and that our, uh, tradition of tax-free trading across the border into Whitehorse would remain unmolested as well," he grinned.
"O ho, my smuggling kinsman," said Tennoc, answering his grin.
"What does he say?" murmured Fallik in Tremontine again.
"He says he will follow me," answered Tennoc.
"That's good," said Fallik. "I like him."
"I like you too," smiled Cror in barely accented Tremontine. Tennoc burst out laughing. Fallik scowled, but Cror kept refilling the Whitehorser's cup until the scowl disappeared.