Chapter 14 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Late Fall's Ending, 62 KY
Six spokes after her wedding, Princess Gwynna was still kept to her rooms; armed guards stood beside her door, and she could trust none of her attendants. Her husband visited her every few days, but she saw no one else.
During his latest visit, Ulvyn once again denied her request to leave her rooms. "I am five spokes with child," she said in disgust. "How am I supposed to manage an escape? Who would help me?"
"You are impetuous, my dear," said her husband. "I would not wish anything to happen to the baby."
"I don't care what happens to it!"
"And that's why you cannot leave your rooms," he chuckled.
Gwynna tried another tack. "Can I at least see my father? He can no longer come to me."
"I might allow it," said Ulvyn, "but he won't recognize you. He spends much time talking to your late brother and stepmother."
Lassanna and Kenver on the executioner's block filled her mind's eye. Lassanna had gone first; did Kenver stare into his stepmother's eyes before his head fell into the basket beside hers? "You dare mention them to me?"
Ulvyn smirked. "I may dare anything with my wife."
That night, Ulvyn and five guards came to Gwynna's chambers and took her to see her father. King Dunnoc rarely left his rooms now, though his shaking had subsided. The Sisters said that in palsies like his, this signaled his final decline, though how long it would last no one could say.
The King sat swaddled in furs and blankets in a chair. No fire burned in the hearth nor candles in holders; Ulvyn carried a lantern so that they might see, but kept it out of Dunnoc's line of sight. The sole furnishing was a bed firmly attached to the wall. "How can you keep him like this?" cried Gwynna, pulling her cloak around her swelling belly against the chill. "Are you trying to kill him with cold and dark?"
"He can no longer control his magic, Lady," apologized one of his attendants. "If we have open flame in the room he'll set fire to the castle unless Prince Daevys is here to confine it, and if we leave things lying about, the King's magic will throw them at us. Sometimes the very air hardens," he added, pointing to the ugly bruise on his right cheek.
"We keep him covered in furs, as you see," hastened the other, "and there are hot stones always at his feet. Unless he throws them." A pillow from the bed flew up, bounced off the ceiling and fell in a heap before her. The first attendant shrugged ruefully and placed it back on the bed.
Gwynna squatted down beside him, her heavy belly between her knees. "It's me, Papa, it's Gwynna." Dunnoc mumbled something. "What? I can't hear you."
"Faithless woman," quavered Dunnoc. "I kill you and now you come back to me. Now you and Hallia both reproach me, so 'tis? You killed Hallia too, I wager, so you could get your hooks into me. Oh, Kenver, don't look at me like that, I did try to stop them from stealing all the cheese."
Gwynna's heart sank. "Do you know me, Papa? I'm Gwynna."
"Gwynna?" Dunnoc focused bloodshot eyes on her and poked a once-thick hand out from among the furs to prod her cheek as if to prove she was real. "Gwynna. I had a grandmother named Gwynna."
"I am her namesake, sir."
"She had black hair not red. You're not her."
"No, sir," she said with increasing effort, "I am your daughter."
"I have no children," he crooned, "none a-tall. No wife, no children, none a-tall…" He closed his eyes, still mumbling to himself in a soft voice. Gwynna sat back on the bare floor, biting her lip.
"I told you not to come," said her husband.
The next day, Daevys ar Ulvyn met with his cronies. "Do I have your support, then?" he said.
Bryth ar Brennow warmed his hands on his cup of hot wine. "You've had our support all through this, Ulvyn, though I'm left wondering what I'll gain in the end."
"Once I've taken the throne, I'll give you Brunsial, how will that be? Williard ar Sial can't hold out under siege forever. Then we shall march on Whitehorse--our armies are almost ready, and we've seen no movement yet from the Tremontine bastard. He's likely fighting his own lords over the succession. Besides, when he does move it's certain to be against Trefhallyn. He'll take Maalig by sea--he's well-loved there even now, they'll open the gates to him--and then he'll march to the relief of his uncle. But we can't do anything while Dunnoc lives."
"Dunnoc is dying already," complained a lord, frowning into his thick black beard. "Why not wait until he's dead? Is it necessary to kill him?" A murmur went up around the room.
Ulvyn smacked his fist on the trestle table before him; the men jumped. "Because most of the kingdom's magic is tied up in his crumbling bulk, and it might take him another turn of the wheel to die--perhaps more! If we are to move against Tremont it must be now, before Tennoc can consolidate his power. We must have Dunnoc's magic."
"I don't see how it matters," said the bearded lord. "Magic is defensive. We can't use it outside of Kellen, that whelp Tennoc can't use his outside of Tremont. If he can use it at all."
"That's the point," said Brennow impatiently. "If Tremont moves before us, we will be unable to defend ourselves!"
"I have Kenver's magic now as Dunnoc's heir," continued Ulvyn, "and you all have your paltry bits of power, but all of us together could not defeat Tremont in battle even on our own soil. No, we must take territory from him before he can gather his forces--win the land's allegiance, take its magic for ourselves and use it to build defenses in Whitehorse--and with Dunnoc's magic I can do that. Perhaps I'll give you a goodly chunk of Whitehorse instead of Brunsial, Bryth."
"Perhaps both?" smiled Brennow hopefully.
"Help me kill Dunnoc, and we'll see. If we succeed, there will be enough for all of us."