Chapter 14 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
"How can I serve you, Your Highness?" said Teacher, surveying the crying couple on the floor.
"You can do things for me, yes?" said Temmin. "You're not forbidden to help me?"
"I may do whatever is in my power for you, save in that one matter."
Temmin laid out the situation, with interruptions from both Arta and Fen until he ordered them to be quiet. "I want to send them to Whithorse. Take them through the mirror."
"No," said Teacher.
"No? What d'you mean, no? You said you'd help!"
"Taking them through the mirror will not help. The King will suspect something if they suddenly disappear, and then I will just have to bring them back. You must send them in plain sight. Let everyone believe what they already believe, and that you are sending your new lovers to take up residence near your home."
"But how can I send Fen with her?"
"Sir," said Teacher, "let them believe what they already believe."
"Oh. Oh!" said Temmin.
"Give them new clothes, gifts. Put them day after tomorrow on the train to Whithorse, first class. In fact, have Winmer make the arrangements. No one will question it, not even your father."
"Does anyone aim to ask us whether we want to go to Whithorse, with everyone thinkin we're--we're--" Fen grimaced, coloring.
"Better no honor than no head," whispered Arta, leaning into him.
"What's to prevent 'em from killin us later?" said Fen.
"The King is not vengeful," said Teacher. "By the time he discovers the full story, the matter of His Highness's Supplicancy will be resolved. Hurting you would mean nothing." Temmin walked Teacher to the door, leaving Arta and Fen holding each other on the hearth rug. "I must say, Your Highness, you have impressed me this evening. Well done."
"You're sure my father won't hurt them once he finds out Arta's not my mistress?"
"Once you have either lost your innocence or become a Supplicant, it will not matter."
"I'd better find a real mistress, then."
Teacher put a long-fingered hand on his shoulder. "Time will tell, sir, who is your Mistress. Or Master."
Fen and Arta slept in Temmin's bed that night, while Temmin turned fitfully on the green velvet sofa. In the morning, Harbis blandly served breakfast for three on the little table, pulled up before the morning's fire. If he noted Temmin's haggard face, he said nothing. No one spoke as they picked at their food, and not even Temmin could empty the toast rack.
He could take care of Fen's things, but he knew nothing about outfitting or buying gifts for girls. Oh, certainly, for his mother and sisters, but--perhaps one of his sisters might help? The three of them scorned tattling on one another as children, but this was more important than who put salt in his tutor's sugar bowl.
In the end, he chose Ellika. She already took an interest in Fen and Arta, and she'd know exactly what sorts of things to pick out. Still in his dressing gown, he sent Fen into the wardrobe with Harbis to find whatever might fit him, and called for Winmer.
Temmin managed bare civility to the little man, and his resulting rather haughty demeanor added credence to his orders: that Affton should ready temporary rooms for Arta and Fen in the guest quarters nearest his own; that Harbis, with Winmer's assistance, should arrange gentleman's clothing and accoutrements appropriate for Fen; and that two first-class tickets be obtained for the Neyaday train to Whithorse. Winmer gave Temmin a satisfied bow, and went so far as to kiss the cringing Arta's hand. "Oh, how I hate him!" she said as soon as he was gone.
The outraged but professionally resigned Affton arrived next to escort his former employees to their suite; Harbis followed, arms full of princely attire he deemed low enough for a former footman. Temmin, dressed by now, sent for Ellika, who bustled into his study in a disapproving burst of rose and gold silk. "If what Iddie's telling me is true, you are a horrid young man, and I am loathe to speak to you," she sniffed, dropping gracefully onto the sofa.
"If she's telling you I've taken Arta Dannikson as my mistress, she's mistaken--no, not her sweetheart, either--but listen, Elly. You can't tell anyone, not Sedra, not Mama--not anyone, d'you hear? You must let them believe I've taken them both."
"But Temmin, whatever for? Everyone thinks you've dropped your plans for Supplicancy!"
Temmin's heart sank; he'd been so worried for Arta and Fen that he'd let the Temple slip to the back of his mind. "I have, but not because of this," he said. "Later, I'll tell you later. For now, just know that if you tell a soul, you'll get them both in serious trouble, the killing kind. You can't even tell Iddie how things really stand." He put the matter before her.
"But of course I'll help!" cried Ellika, jumping to her feet. "I'll send Iddie with a tape measure this instant, and set Naister on a full wardrobe for Arta right away. She'll put aside her other work, I'm sure, she always does when I ask, and why shouldn't she. We'll have to send the things to Arta by messenger later, but I'm sure I have a few old things that'll fit her for now, or that we can alter quickly. Our coloring's so different--well, Iddie and I will figure it out. Oh! Your secret's safe. I love intrigues! And that Winmer--I always thought he was too smug by half." She paused at the door. "Poor Arta. Poor Fen--somehow it's always worse for the boys. Well, we'll get them safely off, Temmy, never worry. And you will tell me why you decided against Supplicancy, soon. In the meantime, I shall play outraged and put-upon sister! Hooray!"