Chapter 2 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
"The Prince is here, Your Majesty," said Harsin's secretary with a bow.
"Very good, Winmer, give us a moment and then show him in," said Harsin. "What have you observed of Temmin so far, Teacher?" he continued, turning toward the fireplace.
Teacher considered. "'Callow' is not too strong a word, Your Majesty."
"I agree. I admit to disappointment," said Harsin, shaking his head.
"I should not be disappointed," said Teacher. "Eighteen is still quite young. Remember yourself at that age--I caned you for fourteen days straight. I am surprised you can sit down to this day."
"I was hoping he would be more prepared than this."
Teacher leaned against the mantel. "You are still young yourself, Harsin. You have many years to prepare Temmin for ruling."
"Even so," said the King, "more and more I feel raising him at Whithorse was a mistake."
"I know what it says. We may have interpreted it wrong." Winmer ushered Temmin into the room. "Well, son!" said Harsin. "A glass of something, perhaps--Winmer--" Two glasses of pale red wine appeared, and Winmer disappeared through the door, his last bow more of a little bounce on his toes.
"Thank you," said Temmin; a faint tremor shook his hand as he accepted the glass, and Harsin swallowed a lump of dismay. The boy had no spine, no spirit.
"May I introduce Teacher, my own tutor and this family's counselor for many years," said Harsin. Teacher bowed.
"And you are to be my tutor, now, sir," said Temmin.
"Please do not call me 'sir,'" muttered Teacher.
"Teacher has his ways, Temmin. Pay attention, or it's the cane. Trust me on this. Now," Harsin said, shifting in his chair, "there is much to discuss. The matter at hand is your coming of age. It's time you heard your birth prophecy."
"My what?" said Temmin.
"At birth, every male child is taken to the Queen of the Travelers, who gives him his prophecy," said Teacher.
"The Travelers? You took me to a bunch of vagabond thieves and actors, well-known frauds--for a prophecy," said Temmin. "I hope you didn't pay for it."
That was more the spirit, thought Harsin. Aloud, he said, "A little more respect, please."
"Think what you will of the Travelers, Your Highness," said Teacher, "but their Queen can see the future--reliably when it comes to the royal family. Hers is a true gift, not play-acting."
"All right, then," said Temmin as he squared his shoulders. "Let's hear it."
Son in sorrow, son in joy, brings darkness or the brightest day
Two the consorts, two the paths, two the deaths for him to rule
One will be the trusting child and three will be the rivals cruel
Thirst and hunger, sleep and death will come to strike a trusted one
And stones will shatter, stones will stand when might reclaims the rising sun
"That's conveniently cryptic!" said Temmin. "I have no idea what it means."
Harsin took a long draught of his wine, and studied the glass in his hand. "We can make fair guesses about much of it. Some lines are quite clear. 'Two the consorts'--you'll marry twice. And one of the deaths for you to rule will, of course, be my own. Now, stop, Temmin. You wouldn't become king if I were still alive, would you? Regent, perhaps, should I be unable to rule, but not king. And it's likely you'll have one son, the 'trusting child.' We thought the first line meant you should be raised at Whithorse, with your mother." Harsin gave Teacher a hard look from the corner of his eye. "I would have preferred to send you to Parkdale, where I went to school, and I'm still not convinced we did the right thing. You will start your studies with Teacher on Ammaday, to account for the hangover I'm sure you'll set yourself up for tonight." He rose, and Temmin rose with him. "One last thing: I have asked the son of a very good friend to be your companion, to help you adjust to life here in the City."
"I had a companion, at Whithorse," grumbled Temmin.
"That groom? He wasn't a companion, he was a servant," said Harsin. "It's time you kept company with your own class. Percet Sandopint is the oldest son of my good friend, the Duke of Corland. He's styled Lord Fennows. He'll be at the ball tonight."
"I know him, a little," said Temmin, failing to stifle a grimace. "He visited us one winter for a spoke." Almost seven weeks of incredible boredom, he added to himself.
"Well, then. Go have your tea, son. I'm glad we had this chance to talk."
Once Temmin left them, Harsin said, "More pluck than I'd feared. He's spent far too much time chumming around with commoners. I'm hoping Fennows will properly introduce him to City life--show him things about his place in the world he can't learn from you or me--things he should have learned by now."
"Lord Fennows has an indifferent reputation."
"But he's hardly a wild terror. Ansella sheltered Temmin far too much. Wouldn't surprise me if the boy were still a virgin. Ha! That's going a bit far, but he is still quite the wide-eyed child." He finished his glass and added, "I shall be very amused to see his face when we show him the magic."
"Yes," said Teacher. "I am sure it will be quite comical."