Chapter 15 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
"He's here, Lady," the Kellish Little Mother murmured.
Gwynna stood up, the baby in her arms. "Where?"
"In the Worship Hall. He is alone," added the old priestess. "He wished to bring his men inside, but the Brothers would not allow it--they are ringing the Temple even now. Quite the argument he made, too. The Eldest Brother said he understood and even sympathized with the new King's…aims…but you'd taken shelter here and they could not break Pagg's Law. Do not be deceived--if you leave the Temple, the Brothers themselves will kill the child on the new King's orders. But they will not enter these walls on such an errand."
"I'm still unsure it's wise for me to see him."
"I made him vow before the Mother that he would harm no one in this Temple were we to let him inside, with magic or anything else. It's best you see him." The Little Mother held out gnarled, gentle hands. "You may leave the little one with me."
"No. Tennoc will see the one he wishes to kill."
As she walked to the Worship Hall and its many little altars to the Mother in all Her aspects, Gwynna wished she were wearing something a bit more regal than the nursemaid's practical wool dress. Lassanna always said bearing made a Queen--usually when she returned filthy from a hunt--and Gwynna's stepmother had been about the most queenly woman Gwynna had ever known, whether laughing and covered in mud, or with her head on the block. What would Lassanna think of Tennoc now, she wondered. Gwynna straightened her back, pushed her braids over her shoulders, and marched into the Hall.
At its far end near the doors stood Tennoc. He wore armor, his helm under one arm, and his face wore those haunted lines again. "Come home, Gwynna," he said without preamble.
"Not without your vow before the Mother that my son may live."
"You know I cannot do that."
"I know nothing of the kind!" she shouted. Ardunn stirred, and she took a moment to sooth him back down before continuing in a softer voice, "All I know is you would kill my child."
"Did you love Ulvyn as you love me, then, that you would keep it?"
Gwynna thought about her late unwanted husband, how she had loathed but borne his touch in hopes of better days. "Never did I love him, and as you have seen I do not mourn him."
"Then how can you love something of his getting?"
"He's my child, whatever his getting!"
Tennoc threw down his helm; Gwynna started as the sound of the metal on marble crashed through the Temple. "He's my enemy! Infant or no, when he is grown he will threaten our sons!"
"We can raise him as a Tremontine," pleaded Gwynna, "and he will love you as his father and our sons as his brothers if you treat him as you will your own. It's how you yourself were raised. My father loved you as his own!"
"How did that turn out? For any of us?"
Gwynna held herself up as high as she could and turned Ardunn so that Tennoc could see the sleeping baby's face. "Here is the innocent you would kill. His name is Ardunn. If you insist on doing this, there will be no children of ours. I will not marry you."
A white wave of rage built on his brow. "You will marry me if I have to tie you to the bedpost!"
"Then you are no better than Ulvyn!" she shot back.
Shock replaced rage on Tennoc's face. "How can you say such a thing--he murdered Kenver and my mother!"
"And you would murder my son--Kenver's nephew and Dunnoc's grandson--all we have left of them!"
"Being in Dunnoc's line as well as Ulvyn's is why he must die. Do not pretend you don't understand this." Tennoc picked up his helm and put it on; she could no longer see his face, and this upset her most of all. "When you leave this place, madam, my men will be waiting--I will be waiting. The moment you leave the Temple I will ensure the safety of whatever sons I may have, by whatever woman I marry."
"Then I shall never leave."
"If he lives past infancy, he will grow to manhood and then he must leave."
"There is time enough to consider the problem," said Gwynna. Tennoc spun away and walked toward the door, and she realized these were the last moments they would spend together in this life. "You will say no good thing to me? Not even goodbye, Tennoc?"
The helm turned toward her. In the shadows it looked empty, as if no man inhabited it, and Gwynna shuddered. He said something in Tremontine she didn't understand in a voice curt, harsh and hollow, so unlike Tennoc, and then he was gone. She had no one left in the world to her but Ardunn, and she grew so hollow, so fragile, that if someone tapped her in the wrong spot she was sure to shatter.
A gentle throat-clearing came from behind her. The Kellish Little Mother stepped from the shadows. "Forgive me, my dear, but I wanted to make sure you were safe. I believe the new King to be true to his word, but…" The old priestess let the thought hang.
Gwynna wiped her eyes on the none-too-soft wool of the nursemaid's sleeve. "I wish I knew what he said at the end."
"I speak the language," murmured the Little Mother. "He said, 'My name is Temmin.'"