Chapter 4 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
Temmin woke up with a start. Something had just whacked him on the nose.
"Get up, sir," said Teacher, brandishing a rolled-up newspaper.
"You hit me!" squawked Temmin.
"I usually use a cane on the bottom. Be grateful for a newspaper on the nose," retorted Teacher. "I beat your father for two weeks straight before he got his head on the right way round, and he would be the first person to say it made him a better ruler."
"How do I avoid his fate?" said the Prince, rising from the green velvet couch and pulling on his suit coat.
"It's simple, really. Do not misbehave. Be awake when I return from now on or I really will beat you."
Temmin drew his eyebrows together. "You are nothing like my other tutors."
"You have no idea how true that is."
"All right, then, I'll do my best to behave. Can we get on with it? What next?" said Temmin. "Geography? Trigonometry? What do you want me to recite?"
Temmin groaned. "I hate history. I know it all, anyway. I can recite the kings from Temmin the First onward. Temmin the First, called Great, Gethin the First, Hildin the First, Temmin the Second, Andrin the First, Temmin the Third, called Bastard, Andrin the Second, Harsin the First, Warin the First, Gethin the Second, called Sad, Warin the Second, called Wise--"
"What about Hildin the Second, called Usurper, between Gethin the Sad and Warin the Wise?"
"No one counts him," said Temmin. "We don't even use the name any more. Bad luck."
"What do you know about him?"
Temmin shrugged. "He was king for a day. He wasn't supposed to be. The end."
"He was directly responsible for the unification of Tremont and Litta, though it was called Leute then."
"Ah, now you're trying to trick me--the only child of the last king of Litta married Hildin's brother, Warin the Wise, and their son Gethin the Third, called Uniter, inherited both kingdoms. See? I told you I knew my kings."
"I am sure you do, Your Highness," said Teacher, "but there is much about the story you do not know--much that is not written in the official histories, or even the unofficial histories."
"What kinds of things?" said Temmin, curious. "What could you possibly tell me other than the names and dates? That's all anyone seems to care about."
"I can tell you what kind of men your ancestors were, because I knew them. And I can tell you the stories of the women."
"Who cares about that?" said Temmin. "Women have nothing to do with the running of the kingdom and never have--I'm sure Mama doesn't!"
"Even if you believe the women of your family truly had nothing to do with ruling, they still influenced their men, and how their men treated them speaks volumes about who those men were."
"If the women were so important, why aren't they in the histories?"
Teacher gave a thin smile, and slid an ancient-looking book across the table, neither large nor small, covered in leather dyed Tremontine red; it was the old book from the lectern in Teacher's library. In dull gilt lettering on its front and spine were the words, An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom.
"They are in this one," said Teacher.
Temmin opened the book. "It's blank," he said.
"Once upon a time," intoned Teacher. Words blossomed on the page. Temmin pulled his hands away from the book in astonishment, and the words vanished. He looked up at Teacher, who said, "It is all right. It cannot hurt you." Temmin hesitantly took up the book, and Teacher began again:
As Teacher spoke, words scrolled out into the empty book, faster and faster, until the pages spilled over. The words continued to flow, growing larger, taking form, turning into pictures, then pictures that moved. Temmin saw as if from a great height, higher than a tower; below him spread rivers and mountains, rushing closer as if he were falling, and though he wanted to cry out, he couldn't make a sound. He swooped over a forest, flying over villages and what must have been considered a city, its houses mostly of wattle-and-daub and rough, thatched roofs not much more sophisticated than the villages. An imposing stone castle stood apart from the little city, an actual moat encircling it. It must have been a very long time ago, thought Temmin dimly. Teacher continued:
A portrait of a breathtaking young woman appeared, dressed in rich clothing from long ago like a princess in Ellika's illustrated book of Corrish fairy tales. Her soft mouth and strong brows drew into a frown, but her blue eyes were more sad than sulky. Teacher's voice began to fade. "Her story," said Teacher, "is called 'The Curse of the Traveler Queen.'"
The room fell away, and Temmin fell into the distant past, caught in the pages of the book.