Chapter 13 Part 13 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
Temmin came out of the book sobbing. Her years of loneliness, her yearning for love: her father broke her heart, and when she finally thought she'd mended it, Warin broke it again. He felt every ache of it, but unlike Emmae, he knew what Warin had gone through, and why. "Warin loved her! Why didn't she know? She was so lonely and unhappy, how could she turn him away?"
"A handkerchief, Your Highness," Teacher said, handing it over. "You have seen this story through her eyes. Is it not possible he did betray her? Is it not possible he expected too much, too soon?"
Temmin wiped his eyes, his tears as much for himself and his present troubles as for Emmae's long-ago heartache. "Because...because it's what she knew?"
"That men would always betray her--that's what she felt. She had no experience of anything else, and so she saw Warin in the same light. But that's unfair. He wasn't like them. He didn't mean to do what he did."
"He knew exactly what he did."
"Then he's evil!" said Temmin. "Except...except he's not evil."
"Sometimes, good people do evil things," Teacher replied. "They use duty, profit, expediency, desire of all kinds to justify their actions, and however strong the justification, somewhere inside they know they have done wrong and must make amends somehow. That is the difference between real evil and transitory error. The irredeemable are those who commit evil with no self-justification whatsoever. They commit it because they can. The question is, should good people in error be forgiven? Are some offenses so great that no amends can be made?"
Temmin's head ached. "I don't know. I don't want to talk about it."
"Then think about it until our next lesson."
"I don't want to think about it!" shouted Temmin. "It's all I've done, is think about things, and morality, and gods, and--and what to do for the good of the people!" He jumped up from the couch, and advanced on his tutor. "This was supposed to take my mind off of things, not torture me with them!"
"What tortures you?"
"You're torturing me!" he said, clutching his throbbing temples. "This is a horrible day! Just go away!" He stalked into his bedchamber and threw himself on the bed. Teacher did not follow him.
No matter how he tried to sleep, he kept coming back to "things." Hildin and the woman who'd whored out the Obbys as children--they were certainly irredeemable. Gian made amends with his life, but that was the least he could do. And when he was king, Temmin intended to track down that brothelkeeper and kill her himself, the Obbys and their cavalier attitude be damned. Maybe he'd kill Lord Litta while he was at it. Maybe he wouldn't wait until he was king. He had two years to fill now, after all.
Harbis entered and inquired after His Highness's preferences for dinner dress. His Highness said his preference was for the substitute valet to piss off because he wasn't coming out of his bedchamber until Jenks came back. "Very good, sir," murmured Harbis, wasting a masterfully outraged twitch of the chin on a young man with his head in the pillows. The valet tiptoed out again.
And then, Temmin thought, there were the people who might still make up for their sins and restore their honor. Warin might still make it up to Emmae in the story. Yes, he knew they married in the end, but were they happy? His parents weren't. Maybe married people didn't get to be happy. And Emmae was so frustrating! What else could Warin have done? Here was this girl, half-naked in the hedge...no, she'd been naked in the woods...
"Why does everything lead back to Mattie!" he shouted, and burst into tears again. "Where is Jenks?"
Harbis the valet, chin still twitching, walked down the short flight of stairs from the Residence Wing to the mezzanine where the senior staff and personal servants lived. There in the hall by his door stood Mr Winmer, the King's personal secretary. "How is the Heir?" said the dapper little man.
"Indisposed, Mr Winmer," said Harbis after a discreet pause. "I believe His Highness will be dining in his room."
"It's a perfect evening for an intimate dinner," said Winmer, his smile widening. "Take the evening off after dinner service, Mr Harbis. I've made other arrangements for Prince Temmin's comfort at bedtime."
"Thank you, sir," said Harbis, his professional facade breaking into genuine pleasure. He opened the door to his temporary rooms. "I am much obliged to you."
"Not at all," said Winmer. "We are obliged to you for stepping in on such short notice." He watched the door close behind the valet, then turned to his own rooms, set apart from the rest of the floor closer to the King's apartments. By the fire stood a young woman in maid's livery, wringing her hands. "Ah, Miss Dannikson!" said Winmer. "Promptness is a rare quality in the young female. It is one of your many charms."
"Mr Winmer, sir," said Arta, bobbing a nervous curtsey.
"Are you frightened? Don't worry, my dear, it's merely time to collect on your little debt."
"My debt...?" she quavered.
Winmer circled behind her and unpinned the little starched cap from her hair. "I didn't tell Mr Affton about your very shocking behavior at the Heir's birthday ball, and you promised to do anything I asked. Didn't you?"
"Yes, sir," she whispered, squeezing her eyes closed.