Chapter 14 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
New Year's Day, 63 KY
King Dunnoc did not appear at the Eddin's Day celebrations for the new year: too ill, said Ulvyn, to leave his rooms. Gwynna sat at her husband's side, hugely pregnant. It was for the best that Dunnoc had not been brought down. He'd begun drooling, and his private conversations with ghosts had become even more incoherent. The Sisters said he might go on like this for spokes--perhaps years.
Her father's condition oppressed her spirits as much as the infant within her did. In the last days its squirming and kicking had subsided. Perhaps it had died. She would not cry if it was stillborn. Nevertheless, she loved children and she feared that one look at a tiny, helpless baby of her own, even one fathered by Ulvyn, would be her undoing. She had resolved not to look at it and to leave it to a wet nurse until she recovered her equilibrium.
All of this came to Gwynna's mind in an urgent rush when her water broke there on the dais, soaking the heavy brocade of her dress.
When the contractions, the fear, the pain, the pushing was over, a tiny boy nursed in Gwynna's arms just as she'd feared; his wispy white-blond hair let off the most delicious scent. "Little bit," she murmured, "you can't help what you are."
Ulvyn came to see his heir. He looked the baby over in delight, counting its fingers and toes and dandling it a while before handing it back to the birth attendant. "A strapping boy, my love! You've done well. I will name him for my father: Ennys." But Gwynna had already whispered the child's name in his tiny ear: Ardunn, a variation on "of Dunnoc," for her own father. Kellish tradition said his heart would then answer to that name and no other, despite what the world might call him.
"There is more news, lady wife," said Ulvyn. He sat down beside the bed and tried to take her hand, but she frowned and tucked it under the blankets. Ulvyn cleared his throat and composed his face. "Your father is dead. He died while you were giving birth. They tell me it was peaceful. He just stopped breathing and was gone."
A sharp pain hit her heart like the kick of a horse, and she gulped for air. She recovered her breath. "Leave me now." For once, he obliged her. Alone, she let her attendants see to the sleeping baby and turned her face to the wall. Her breasts ached--her whole body ached.
He'd been so sick. He hadn't been himself for two years at the least--since before he'd banished Tennoc--and if he'd understood what had happened to him she knew he would have wanted to die. He was still her father, and she grieved that he had not seen his grandson. Now he would be with her mother Hallia, and perhaps he might even be reconciled with Kenver and Lassanna in Harla's embrace.
More than three hundred miles to the south and east, Winter's Beginning brought a new wooden bridge on the River Cobb at Riverbend. It spanned the Cobb not far from where Tennoc and Hanni first crossed into Whitehorse more than a year before, within sight of Castle Crymavon. The Tremontines took only ten days to build it, and on Eddin's Day Tennoc led his armies across in broken cadence to the river's western shore. They marched without Tremont's contingent of Brothers; Farr's priests declined battle between kingdoms. A pity, but it meant he would not be facing Kellish Brothers in return.
Tennoc's magic drained away as soon as he'd crossed halfway over the bridge, but he paid it little mind; he'd fought every battle in the past without magic, and no battle would be fought today. They found but a small contingent of soldiers at Riverbend who surrendered after a half-hearted rattling of swords.
Tennoc met with the town's leaders to assure them there would be no looting; the army would take only its forage and no plunder. If farmers and merchants tried to resist, the Tremontines would regrettably kill them and their families, and seize everything they owned rather than the customary tenth. When he spoke to them gently but firmly in Kellish the Riverbenders smiled and bowed as if they accepted his supremacy already; Tennoc was a Kell as far as they were concerned.
Flickers of power licked at his skin again as he rode his horse among his men; he'd gained the land's allegiance here. Teacher said no one really understood how, but the land always knew whose blood line ruled it. Sometimes it seemed to choose a blood line based on brute force, sometimes based on stewardship. Thinking of Teacher made Tennoc wish the counselor was nearby; he needed good advice. Tennoc once loved Kellen, but now his instincts told him to kill every noble, wipe out every soldier he captured. Vengeance tugged at him, begging to be unleashed.
Fallik of Whitehorse reined in his horse beside Tennoc. "Mean you to besiege Crymavon, sire?"
Tennoc looked down the River Cobb to Castle Crymavon. "Not if I don't have to," he answered. "My mother's cousin Flaryn is the lady of the castle, or was--I hear Dunnoc has been busy trying to purge my relations. I recall Lady Flaryn's husband as quite devoted, but I wonder if he's done away with her to avoid trouble. My great-uncle at Brunsial has been under siege for the better part of a year."
"It'll take a few weeks to march a division down to his aid, if you intend it."
"Uncle Williard's a canny old man. He'll hang on until we get there--or more likely, until the besieging army is called back to defend Gwyrfal. Now let's go talk to my cousin, shall we?" Tennoc tapped his horse, and the armies advanced on Castle Crymavon.