Chapter 12 Part 5 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
Warin and the Travelers reached the City the night of the wedding, making camp well outside its walls. Travel by mirror had been considered and discarded; the chances of Hildin finding them were too high. The Traveler Queen had insisted on riding with them, and to Warin's surprise, she kept up with the men, never tiring.
They sat before the camp fire, Warin thoughtlessly poking at it with a stick and watching the sparks rise. A sudden vitality burst inside him, a brilliant light overwhelming unknown inner barriers, a million doors to a million rooms filled with the light of the sun, the moon, every star, opening in his soul all at once.
"Are you all right?" said Connin.
"I don't know--yes, I think so. Something's changed inside me..." Warin trailed off, gasping. A dark foreboding fought with the great sun bursting inside him. The exhilarating incandenscence felt so very wrong and so very right, all at the same time. What was its source, what did it mean?
Suddenly, deep bells, mourning bells, sounded over the dark walls of the City.
The Traveler Queen groaned and clutched herself in pain as the bells reverberated; her son rushed to her side, and Warin jumped up, but she waved them away. "No, Connin, take Warin into the woods--you know where, and why. I must move--I'm too close..." Two Travelers helped her away from the fire, solicitous and soothing.
"Is she all right?" asked Warin. "What's wrong?"
"Come," said Connin, walking into the woods. The moon struggled to shine through clouds. Even in the dark Connin knew the way, as if it were an old, familiar trail. They entered a small clearing, and Connin called, "We're here."
"Is Warin with you?" said a cool voice. A black figure moved from the shadows into the clearing.
"Teacher? Gods, it's you!" cried Warin, running forward. "Oh, my old friend, how I've missed you!" He kissed the offered cheek and hugged Teacher close.
"You need not have, Your Majesty. You should have stayed."
"I know that now." Warin paused. "You say, 'Your Majesty.'"
"Gethin is dead," said Teacher. "The bells are for him." Warin dropped his hands from Teacher's shoulders and allowed himself to acknowledge what he already knew: the source of this over-bright new light bathing his spirit meant his father was dead. "Your power has come to you, and so have I. There is a mirror hidden in these woods, and one hidden in my library. Hildin's power over me as Regent broke the minute the King died, and I escaped. You have Tremont's magic now."
The glorious, consuming light inside Warin turned harsh, and he blinked back tears.
"Do not grieve, Warin, your father has been dead a long time," said Teacher. "His body merely lingered. You are here now, and you are needed. We must try to reach the Father's Temple before Hildin's coronation tomorrow. If we do not, the Guard will have no choice but to follow him."
"Why not use a reflection?" said Warin. "True, I've had little luck finding one into the Keep, but at the Temple there must be something."
"No," replied Teacher. "If we find one, it is sure to be a trap."
"The one in your library?"
"I must be there for it to exist. It is a one-way journey, even for me. We must go by foot."
"There are always the Brothers," said Warin. "They will follow only the rightful king, no matter who's wearing the crown, and between the two of us, we can make it plain I am king."
"More importantly, we must hope that the people believe you. Otherwise, we might face a long and painful war." Teacher took Warin's hands. "One last piece of unwelcome news. Hildin has married the Princess."
Warin dropped his head; bitterness joined grief. "She's made her choice, then. I'm too late."
"Choice?" said Teacher. "How could you consider this a choice? Consider what she faced, with such an enchantment upon her and the disgrace of nearly three spokes with her 'captor.' Fredrik has no illusions--he knows Tremont wants Leute and will take it one way or another. Uniting through marriage is always better than uniting through conquest, and her honor is damaged at best. She had no choice." Teacher considered what to say next. "Your Majesty, I strongly believe he intends to kill King Fredrik as soon as he himself is crowned. He may kill the Princess as well."
"Take me to her now, then! Let me go to her!" cried Warin, crushing Teacher's hands. "Merciful Amma, take me to her!"
"Calm yourself, sir! Hildin has ensured a certain death were you to enter the Keep through any reflection we might find, and as for entering the city, the gates are locked, and the moon is too new for a reliable reflection. My mirror in these woods is kept magically lit-- Oh!" Teacher leaned on Warin's arms, staggering. "Lead me further away from the camp! Please, now!"
Connin took one arm, Warin the other, and they guided Teacher away from the clearing. "Mother must have gone back to the fire," said Connin.
Teacher straightened, waving away Warin's arm. "We cannot be near one another, not even in earshot. I am all right--this is far enough. When you see her, tell her I would not wish pain on her for the world, Connin, but I had to come."
"She knows," he answered.
"Go back to the camp, then, both of you," said Teacher. "Rest now. You will need all your strength tomorrow."
Warin hugged Teacher one last time. He said nothing to Connin on their way back, his hand on the pommel of his sword.