Chapter 15 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Tennoc was gone when Gwynna awoke, tending to what must be an endless number of details now that he'd taken Gwyrfal. Now she sat in her bower amusing her babe. Ardunn had just begun to smile, and making him do so was her chief delight.
A rustle at the now-unguarded door made her pause; she stood up with the baby in her arms. Hanni slipped inside, a finger at his lips; his usual buffoonish demeanor had turned sober. He pointed toward the nursery, shooed her in and shut the door behind them. Tears shone on Hanni's cheeks in the weak sunlight just beginning to struggle through the windowpane's thick glass; Gwynna's heart began to thump; she wondered if Ardunn could feel it as he lay against her shoulder. "What is it? Is Tennoc all right?"
"Oh, child of mine heart! Run we must, and now, if you wish to keep your son!"
"Hanni, what's happened? Daevys isn't still alive, is he?"
"Nay, nay, Ulvyn is ashes on the winds of the Forchyll Valley. It is Tennoc. He intends to kill your boy."
Gwynna's head rang as if he'd boxed her ears. Ardunn sensed her sudden fear and whimpered; she dandled him up and down. "I don't understand--" she began, but Tennoc's words came back to her, coarse and dark: I will leave no child of that House alive. "Ardunn is my child, not just Ulvyn's! He would never do such a thing!"
"Dear, dear one, any king would do it."
"Not Tennoc, not to a child of mine!"
"He is not our Tennoc, not since Cariodas came to us with the chest. He will do it. He plans to call you away to attend him and take the child when you are not here. I know this, for he is wanting me to do it, and I will not. I helped his mother escape injustice, and now I help you. I am yours now, just as I belonged to my dear ladies Inglatine and Lassanna. I will not serve this stranger."
Gwynna had never seen Hanni so serious, as direct as an arrow from his own bow. "What are we to do?"
"Do you trust your woman?" Hanni had a stealthy hand on his dagger and stood a little more in the doorframe than before.
The nursemaid saw none of that. She clutched at Gwynna's arm and put a protective hand on Ardunn's back. "I will help you, please let me come with you!"
"Then come," said Hanni. "They will kill you if you stay, anyway."
"Where are we going?" said Gwynna.
"We cannot leave Gwyrfal in this weather," answered Hanni. "The Mother's Temple is the closest shelter. We must hurry. Tennoc rose before dawn and is at the Brother's Temple meeting with Kellen's Eldest Brother. When he returns, it will be too late."
They spent a frantic fifteen minutes bundling the two women and the infant into warm clothing; Gwynna disguised herself in some of the nursemaid's clothes and shoveled as much jewelry as she could into a sack. Yellow Hanni stuffed his telltale hair under a cap.
Hanni had timed their escape well; the early morning procession of vendors and entreating merchants there to see the seneschal was in full swing. Hanni hid Gwynna and the baby in a wheelbarrow covered in sacking and purloined turnips. The nursemaid walked beside him grumbling aloud to herself about the rudeness of the seneschal: "He wouldn't even look at our turnips!" Once clear of the castle, a two mile walk down the hilly road into the city surrounding it, they found a deserted, stinking alleyway, ditched the wheelbarrow and its turnips, and walked through the snowy streets to the Mother's Temple, where to the astonishment of the Mothers, Queen Gwynna, her child and her servant claimed and were granted asylum.
As a man, Hanni was not. "I leave you here, child of mine heart, where I know you and the little one will be safe."
"What will you do?" said Gwynna.
Hanni shrugged. "For now I go to Corland. I can stay nowhere in Tremont or Kellen--they are the same now, no? Tennoc will be angry and look for me. Perhaps I go to the Western Isles. From there?" He shrugged. "Years it is since I have seen my home in Leute. Perhaps I take a ship and go back there at last."
Tennoc returned to the castle, his step heavy but determined. He'd wrestled with himself over Ulvyn's child. Were it not Gwynna's he would have no hesitation; when a House set itself up in armed opposition to his own, he had to kill any male that might grow up to rebuild and revenge; it had gone against logic to spare the sons of the Kellish nobility, and he would never have done it had Gwynna not asked it of him.
Teacher disapproved of killing Ulvyn's son, to Tennoc's surprise, and Hanni had advised against it as well. The infant was Gwynna's. Hanni said she loved it. How could she love it? It was of Ulvyn! No, he had to do it. In time she would have other children, their children, and remember only her hatred of Ulvyn and not the lost child.
In the end after much argument Hanni had agreed to do the necessary, but he wasn't in Tennoc's rooms when the young King returned from the Warrior's Temple, nor was he in his own rooms. Tennoc stopped a Guardsman. "Find Yellow Hanni. I need him." To a nearby servingwoman he said, "Go and fetch Her Majesty. Tell her I wish to show her some preparations I'm making for our wedding."
The servingwoman came back alone. "The Lady is not in her bower, sire."
"She must be in the nursery," he said, starting toward her rooms.
"No, sire, I looked there next and she isn't. The little one and his nursemaid aren't there, either. If it weren't winter I'd think the three of them were out in the gardens, but no one would take a wee thing like that out into the snow unless--"
By then Tennoc had run down the stairs to the main hall, where Kellish Brothers were conferring with Tremontine Guards. "All of you, fan out. You must find Yellow Hanni, the Lady Gwynna or the woman who cares for Ulvyn's son. Search everywhere!"
"What's amiss, Your Majesty?" said Cror ar Crymavon, hurrying in from the courtyard.
Tennoc's fury rose up through his body, sweeping grief, shame and pain before it. "Hanni's betrayed me."