Chapter 4 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
Temmin spent Paggday at the stables after a long ride, gradually coaxing the men into trusting him. He thought he might even have picked out a matched pair of horses for his curricle, sleek grays with just enough Inchari stock in them to impart the breed's fine heads and high-held tails, without their characteristic skittishness. He would have to consult his mother; her judgment of horses surpassed that of everyone he knew. He'd needed that relaxing day, for today, Ammaday, he began lessons with Teacher.
At breakfast, two members of the family were animated and talkative, two were sullen and withdrawn, and Temmin stood alone in the middle, looking anxiously round the table. Harsin and Ellika were both in fine spirits. The King beamed at Temmin, a mildly unnerving development. Ellika remained her usual ebullient self, even when she burned her tongue on her coffee. Sedra and Ansella, on the other hand, were not; Sedra looked alternately glum and resentful, stealing glances at both Temmin and her father over the top of a resolutely isolating newspaper, and Ansella kept her eyes down, answering questions with a frozen smile and as few words as possible. Temmin thought he would never understand his family.
He covered his own nerves about the upcoming lesson, and stalled for time, by eating as much and as slowly as possible. True, he was hungry--he was always hungry--but eventually he'd eaten all the soft-boiled egg and toast even he could hold, along with a great deal of bacon, tomatoes, and coffee cut with cocoa. Nothing for it but to return to his study, and face Teacher. "Don't worry, son, you might even enjoy yourself," said his father as he rose from the table. Temmin gave a weak smile, and dragged himself up the stairs.
His tutor waited for him, back to the door and gazing out over the great expanse of lawn outside the windows. "I see you have covered up all your mirrors," said Teacher. "I do wonder how you shave in the morning."
"Jenks insists on shaving me. I don't want you spying," said Temmin, spreading himself out on the couch.
"I do not 'spy' on you. I observe you from time to time, nothing more."
"Really? Every time I looked in the mirror on my birthday, there you were," said Temmin.
Teacher smiled. "It was your birthday. I was curious to see whether you could see me. I spend much of every Heir's eighteenth birthday that way, and this is the first time in 358 years I have not been disappointed."
"Three hundred--really, I wish you'd stop that immortal nonsense. Next you'll be telling me you're the Black Man."
"There are people who believe I am, though I do try to discourage the belief. And I am not immortal. At least I hope not."
"Why wouldn't you wish that? I should like to live forever, I think."
"You are eighteen. You already think you are going to live forever, and that nothing can hurt you." Teacher looked down. "An abnormally long life is not as enjoyable as you might think. That aside, it is time to see what you know. I have heard you have spent more time in the stables than the schoolroom."
"Speaking of which!" said Temmin, brightening.
"Unlike your past tutors, I cannot be bribed," said Teacher. "There is nothing you have that I want."
"Nothing?" said Temmin, face falling.
"Nothing but your attention, which may be considered a rare and elusive commodity."
"I don't know why you want to bother," grumbled Temmin. "Everyone knows I'm the dull one."
"You are much brighter than you think you are," said Teacher.
"How would you know?"
Teacher considered. "I said I did not spy on you--and I did not. But your father and I watched your progress in reflections over the years. You are quite bright, and quite inventive."
"Sedra is the smart one," said Temmin.
"Do not compare yourself to your sister," said Teacher. "Few compare to her. She is more intelligent than your father, and that is a high standard. Let us survey what you know."
They spent the morning touching on everything from trade routes to exports to classical Old Sairish. It surprised Temmin how much he actually knew, though the main passages he had memorized were two vulgar love poems and several tongue twisters. "Nevertheless," said Teacher, "rattling off the tongue twisters without hesitation shows me your pronunciation is quite good."
"If I ever find myself in ancient Sairland, I'll count myself lucky."
"Old Sairish is the universal, civilized tongue of the West, Your Highness, and to know it is to understand our own language. Should you come across an educated person whose language you do not speak, the chances are good you will both have at least a smattering of it, and so can communicate. It is also convenient for speaking privately amongst less educated people."
Jenks came in, signaling luncheon. "I confess Sedra and I used to do it all the time, usually when we were arguing and didn't want the servants to know and tell Mama," said Temmin in classical Sairish.
"Do what all the time, sir?" said Jenks in the same language.
Teacher smiled at Temmin's astonished face, and said, in Tremontine, "We will resume after lunch."
"Jenks, damn you!" said Temmin after his tutor left the study, "all this time! Why didn't you tell me you spoke it!"
"Because it was more entertaining to listen to you and Miss Sedra concocting mischief. Now, it's lamb chops and spring greens. I suggest eating while it's hot," he said, effectively distracting his charge from an unfortunate line of questioning.