Chapter 4 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
Temmin released the book. His shaking hands still felt Connin's skin; the Princess's terror and arousal coursed through him, as if the smoke of the Traveler Queen's spell had seeped through the book into him as well. Was he male or female? He consulted the stiffness between his legs: male. It had happened to someone else, it had happened to a character in a story, not to him.
Shafts of gold and white light slanted low onto the lawn outside the windows; three or four hours had passed. "What in Harla's Name does this fiction have to do with anything?" he said.
"You did not like it?" Teacher said mildly. "I thought you would at least be interested."
In fact, Temmin was afraid to stand up. "I don't see how this connects at all to history," he muttered.
"This is the story of your family," Teacher replied.
"We have nothing to do with fairy tales about Travelers."
Teacher smiled sardonically. "Travelers are intimately entwined with your family."
"I've studied my family's history. There are no Travelers in it!" said Temmin more emphatically.
"The Intimate History contains all the untold stories of your ancestors, excised from official and unofficial chronicles."
Temmin was flushed and irritated, and dearly wanted Teacher to leave. "If they've been excised from the chronicles, then they're not relevant. I don't see what this unfortunate girl's story has to do with me, even if it is true, which I doubt."
"You feel this girl's situation was unfortunate?"
"Of course it was!"
"How so?" said Teacher. "She was unpleasant and spoiled. Did she not get what she deserved?"
"I don't know," said Temmin, suddenly confused. "But--she was forced into--something!"
"Was she? She seemed willing to me."
Temmin gaped. "What kind of man are you! How can you be willing when you're enchanted?"
"Interesting. I am surprised you came to that conclusion. It happens every day, you know, without enchantments."
"Many of us are confronted with choices that aren't choices at all."
"Oh!" said Temmin, leaving the story behind. "That's certain! Look at me--I'm stuck here when I'd rather be back home on the Estate! But what choice do I have?"
"To be sure," murmured Teacher. "But truthfully, Your Highness, you were the last person I was thinking of."
Long after Teacher left, Temmin considered the story, and Teacher's last stinging remark; he repeated it to Jenks, leaving out the whole magic book part. "What could he have meant, Jenks?" he asked as he dressed for dinner. "As if I had any say in anything! If I did, I certainly wouldn't be studying with him, the old crow." Choices that aren't choices--he could come up with several examples from his own life, if he squinted hard.
"Your Highness," said Jenks, "I suggest you grow up."
"How'm I supposed to grow up when I'm not allowed to do anything?" said Temmin. "And stop rolling your eyes!" When they'd gone walking, Sedra hadn't been terribly sympathetic either, now that he thought about it. He gave an aggrieved, inward sigh; sympathy was in short supply in the City.
After dinner, his father invited him for a brandy--not an invitation one refused, and thus a new resentment for Temmin to mark on his lengthening list. "Why am I studying fairy tales, Papa?" said Temmin as he accepted the snifter.
"Do sit down, son, join me. Fairy tales? What fairy tales?" said Harsin.
Temmin colored and looked away. "Some sort of story about...about an enchanted princess," he mumbled.
"Ah," smiled Harsin. "You don't like that story?"
"He told it to you? You're not saying it's true, are you?"
"Oh, yes. It was the only one from the book I listened to, though. I didn't pay much attention to anything else, and Teacher gave up and focused on teaching me statecraft. And the managing of magic."
Temmin fumbled with his brandy. "I'm sorry?" he said.
"You haven't wondered how Teacher does the trick with the book?"
"That's exactly it. I had it pegged as some sort of trick!"
"Oh, no. It's quite real, I assure you. Has Teacher not taken you through a mirror by now? That would surprise me."
"Oh, yes," said Temmin weakly. "He has." He kept seeing Teacher in the mirror to himself.
"I imagine it must seem strange to find out magic is real, even though your mother raised you up with bumpkins. Country people still believe in magic and superstition, don't they?"
"To be sure," said Temmin, warming instantly. "In fact! The grooms insisted one too many times on taking a new mare widdershins round the entire stables before bringing her inside the first time, and I said, 'You're ridiculous, the lot of you,' and just brought 'er in directly. One of the grooms fainted dead away!"
"I believe it," chuckled Harsin. "And then I imagine the rest ran to the little shrine of Amma in the barnyard and made an offering to keep the horses from dying, yes? Here, all the servants think Teacher is the Black Man. They make the Sign of Amma every time he passes."
"Is he?" said Temmin.
Harsin considered. "I suppose he's how the myth started. But I'm not talking about superstitions and stories to frighten children into being good, Temmin. Teacher is power, real power that has kept us an unbroken dynasty for the last thousand years. Even though the men of this family lost our own magic more than 350 years ago, Teacher holds it for us, along with a great deal more--oh yes, he's really that old, older than that. He served Gethin the First. With Teacher's magic behind us, we will always be stronger than any outside enemy, though our nobles must still be managed with a deft hand. Statecraft. When you become king, you will control Teacher. He will teach you what the magic can and cannot do. As long as the land recognizes us, and as long as we have Teacher, our family will rule."
"How did Teacher end up with our magic? And what does this girl have to do with it?" Temmin demanded.
"It's not her story," said Harsin. "I like that part too, you should understand. I like it very much, in fact, and I've remembered it fondly many times over the years. But Teacher misses the actual point, as far as I'm concerned. This leads me to something. I had a conversation with your mother yesterday, and I'm very curious as to your side of the story."
"My side of which story?"
"Something about a maidservant at the Estate, if memory serves."