Chapter 1 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
The next day hurt. "It's called a 'hangover,'" said Jenks as he bustled around the room packing Temmin's last things. "The first one's the hardest. Come on, Your Highness, ass out of bed. Serves you out for drinking in the first place."
"Go away, Jenks. I'm not going," said Temmin.
"Balls to that, and up you go, young sir. I've only got two hours to get you into a state fit to be seen by your mother, let alone smelled. Drink this," he ordered, thrusting a glass filled with a viscous, malodorous liquid in Temmin's direction.
Temmin took the glass. He gave the big man a dubious eye, the glass an even more dubious eye, and downed it. "My gods! That's foul!" he spat.
"Aids the head and the stomach. Take it from one who knows. Into the tub. No sympathy from this corner. You did it to yourself. What did you two drink last night?"
"Was supposed to be wuisc," mumbled Temmin through the washcloth over his mouth.
"Horse piss, more like," said the valet, his solid bulk filling the doorway. "Tell Alvo next time to come see me. If you two are set on drunkenness, I don't want blindness following on its heels."
Temmin dunked his head and blew water out his nose; if Alvo was right, there wouldn't be a next time. And what would he say if there were?
Temmin found his mother already waiting in the grand entrance hall. Queen Ansella had given Temmin his blue eyes and golden blond hair, and this morning the smooth blond plaits framing her face shone in the light from the wide, round window over the great doors. How pretty she was in blue! Only her children would recognize the unhappy cast to her eyes, an unhappiness Temmin shared. They had both been born at Whithorse. Temmin had lived there his entire life. He wanted to be cheerful for her sake, and though the hangover remedy helped, it didn't help enough, and he glumly shook hands and said goodbye to his grandmother the Dowager Duchess and the Great House staff. Every last servant cried, even the fierce Crokker; the butler shook his hand with such emotion Temmin blushed for him.
Temmin waved out the window until the Great House disappeared and they were well on the road to Reggiston. Once out of sight, he slumped into a groaning heap. "Pagg's own, my head."
"Don't swear, Temmy," said his mother. "And if you're going to get drunk, you should expect a headache."
Temmin sat up. "Who told you I got drunk last night?"
"You did, this very second." Ansella smiled. "I was guessing, sweetheart."
Temmin closed his eyes in queasiness and consternation, but opened them again. "Say, where's Sister Ibbit?"
"She's leaving from the Healer's House. I suspect she wanted to give us this last moment to ourselves."
"That's strangely thoughtful of her."
"Respect for clergy, please, Temmy." Ansella stared out the window at the rolling pastures, dotted with horses and sheep. "We won't get much time alone from now on. Your father will be getting the most of you. But promise me you'll spend a little time with me, and with your sisters. We won't have them much longer. In fact, it won't be long until you'll be my only baby left."
Temmin opened his eyes again. "Mama, I'm not sure about anything in my life right now but you. Things and people I thought I knew--everything's upside down."
"You'll be rightside up before you know it, my sweetheart. Listen a little while longer, and I'll leave you to your headache," she smiled. A pause, and she turned serious. "You will be around women a great deal in the City, many of them...notorious," she forced out. "I want you to be careful."
"Notorious women?" he said hopefully. This was not the first time his mother had gone on about notorious women, to the point that Temmin was extremely curious to meet one and find out what made them so notorious.
"You'll be tempted to make...make wrong decisions. I don't want you falling into some hussy's clutches, or worse, led into spending time at...oh, at houses of ill-repute!"Temmin had no idea what a house of ill-repute was, and said so.
"This is your father's office, but he would never give you good advice!" murmured his mother in agitation. "It's a house where women sell themselves, a horrible, horrible place! Nothing more infamous!"
"I'm sorry, Mama, but d'you mean a whorehouse?"
His mother winced. "It pains me to hear the word."
"Pains me to say it to you, but you would ask! Never worry," he said. "I won't go to one." In fact, his mother had spent many years arming him against hussies and loose women, whatever they were; he had no clear idea what went on in a whorehouse, but he knew the men who went to them should be staying at home, or at worst going to the Lovers' Temple and renewing their faith, though he had no clear idea what happened in the Temple, either.
The rolling pastures and woods turned to new-plowed fields. At the outskirts of Reggiston, the Station stood in its proud new cast iron and gilded glory. Waving crowds stood in little knots around the station. On the tracks, the royal train awaited, a great black locomotive at its head, its details picked out in gold, the platform round it and its coal tender behind painted the deep red called Tremontine red: the color of garnet, of pomegranate, of a thick pool of blood. On each side of the handrail at the very front of the engine flew small Tremontine flags in that same red, three golden triangles grouped in the middle.
Temmin settled into the resplendent, wood-paneled car that belonged to his father, the salon car sandwiched between it and his mother's coach. Beyond that rolled the royal dining car, and at train's end trailed the kitchen. The remaining entourage traveled closer to the engine and its noise and smoke.
By the time the train left Reggiston behind, he felt a little better and asked for a small lunch. "Meaning one chicken, not two?" said Jenks on his way to the kitchens. But once the plate sat before him, Temmin picked at it. "Now you have me worried, young sir. You should be over the worst of it by now."
Temmin shook his head, and ran his fingers through his locks; Jenks winced in dismay at the ruination of the royal hair style. "No, I'm all right. A little headachy, but whatever you gave me did the trick." He furrowed the mashed potatoes with his fork. "Jenks, what if I can't do this?"
"Do what, Your Highness?"
"Be what they expect me to be. Be the Heir. Be King in my turn." He knocked the fork against the plate's rim. "I mean, I think I know what's going on, and then I don't. I don't want to go to the City."
"So you've said about two dozen times today, the day before, the day before that, and all of Winter's End. But you're on the train to Tremont City, and when you get there, that's where you're staying."
"I'm the Viscount of Prunedale, and I don't have to go there," said Temmin. "Though I do like prunes."
Jenks ignored this. "Besides, you haven't seen Miss Sedra in three years, and it's been a year and a half since Miss Ellika left."
"Oh, I'll be very glad to see them, and Papa, too. I haven't seen him since he came to fetch Ellika." Temmin stopped sculpting the potatoes. "It's funny. I've hardly seen him apart from a visit or two every year, but Mama always insists we call him Papa."
"Her Majesty wanted you to feel close to your father despite the intervening miles, I believe. She has certain ideas about raising healthy children. Are you through?"
"No, I'm just thinking." He took a few mouthfuls. "Jenks, do you know why Alvo wasn't allowed to come with me? I wanted him to be my groom."
Jenks stopped brushing Temmin's dinner coat. "Oh, young sir. You know the answer to that yourself."
Temmin remembered Alvo's words: We can't be friends forever, they won't let us. What were they now, he wondered? He decided not to think on it, and ate another chicken leg.