Chapter 5 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
When they returned to the Keep, much earlier than Ellika would have liked, Temmin found himself summoned to the King's study, despite the late hour. Teacher stood leaning against the mantelpiece, such a habitual position that Temmin wondered if the advisor weren't glued to it by the elbow.
"You're all right?" said Harsin. "A glass of wine? No? Very well. I've received a preliminary report from Brother Mardus. Needless to say, the Royal Guard will be under extreme scrutiny for this security breach. Mardus says in his note you acquitted yourself well."
Temmin shrugged, embarrassed. "I winged him with a rock. Nothing else for it. I'm just glad Alvo and I used to practice hitting old bottles."
"You've had archery lessons, surely," said his father.
"Arrows aren't rocks. Listen, Papa, who are these brothers Mardus mentioned? The only uncle I know about is Uncle Pat."
Harsin sighed and sipped his wine; he looked tired, and the fire picked out the gray in his hair and beard. "I'm the youngest of four brothers, and the only legitimate one," answered his father. "Their names are Perin, Tallin and Ruvin. All of us are half-brothers--different mothers."
"Temmin the Fifth was a ladies' man, let us say," observed Teacher. Harsin rolled a quelling eye toward the mantelpiece, but Teacher continued. "Your father was something of a last-minute surprise. Your grandfather's first wife died in childbirth, and the baby not long after. The King took his time remarrying. His three illegitimate sons were recognized and brought into the Keep."
"Then my father remarried," said Harsin, "and here I am, and my sisters, too. Perin never forgave me for removing him from the succession--he was fifteen when I was born, and fully expected to ascend to the throne."
"Worse," said Teacher, "Temmin the Fifth sent all three brothers away from the Keep into the countryside as soon as your father was born, against my advice. Tallin was twelve, and Ruvin was just five."
"No wonder they were upset," said Temmin. Unexpected homesickness struck him behind the eyes; he blinked hard and looked away.
"Don't waste too much pity on them," said Harsin. "They left the Keep lords, all of them, with substantial holdings. They had respect, influence and wealth enough for anyone, but they began plotting against me. Several assassination attempts."
"To be fair, Ruvin was a cat's paw until he reached his majority," said Teacher.
"When our father lay on his deathbed, Perin led an open rebellion against the throne. Tallin and Ruvin joined him--why not? It isn't as if any of them had any brotherly feeling toward me. None of them really knew me. We put the rebellion down, but they escaped. They're in exile, and still attempting through proxies to kill me--and you, Temmin. If I die, you become king. But if we both die, my oldest remaining brother takes the throne. Perin is 56 now, Tallin's 53 and Ruvin's 46. They're running out of time, and when you have a son, the odds are completely against them or their children ever becoming King. Your mother is at the end of her childbearing years. Unless I set her aside and take another wife, which I will not do, you will remain my only son. You've been their main target since you were born, and we've stopped many, many attempts on your life. It's the main reason you were kept in Whithorse. You were safer there. Every man and woman at the Estate would gladly die for you, and some did."
"People died for me?" said Temmin, stepping forward. "Who?"
His father waved his hand. "It doesn't matter. You're safe here in the Keep, and in the King's Woods. No one can get in from the far side of it but the Travelers."
"I'll explain later, Your Highness," murmured Teacher. "It has to do with the story we are studying."
Temmin moved closer to the fire, chilled. "Where are they--your brothers?"
"I cannot find them," said Teacher, "which means they are either extremely careful about reflections, or they are not within the Kingdom's boundaries."
"That's how it works, eh?"
"Outside Tremont and its territories, I have no power at all. It is tied to the land."
"We have agents looking for them outside the kingdom, as well as Teacher's regular searches," said Harsin.
"All right, so no one knows where they are. Why does no one talk about them?" said Temmin.
"Their names were wiped from the family rolls," said Teacher, "and it is generally believed best not to speak of them. The former princes were recognized, and their training for leadership begun, but their places in the succession were never announced, and they were rarely spoken of outside the Keep except as the King's bastards."
Temmin supposed Mattie was a bastard. He didn't like thinking of her that way; he didn't really know her, but it didn't sound right. "Mattie was a surprise," he said aloud. "How do you know I don't have a brother?"
"I know," said Teacher. "If a potential Heir is conceived, I know immediately. I knew the moment you were conceived. Your father may have countless daughters--I never know about the daughters--but you are the only son."
"Thank you for the explanation, Teacher," said Harsin, with a stern glance that Teacher ignored. Harsin turned to Temmin. "You look exhausted, son. Go to bed." Temmin nodded, gravely shook his father's hand, and took his leave.
Once in his room, he let Jenks prepare him for bed. "Papa said people died for me at the Estate. Why wasn't I told?"
"You were a child," said Jenks, shaking out his nightshirt. "It was better that way. It's better now." Temmin began to speak, but Jenks stopped him. "You're a Prince, sir. Many people have died and will die for your sake. And that's all you'll get from me."
As Temmin drifted off to sleep that night, his last thoughts were of the dead assassin, blood pooling in his unseeing eye.