Chapter 7 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
The next day, Temmin wore his riding clothes to breakfast, going straight to the morning room from the stables and returning there straight after, as Jenks discovered too late. "He's gone, Mr Jenks, sir," said the Riding Master when the valet searched for his errant charge. "He wore the chestnut oot this morning an took another horse--Inchari mare, a rare fine un. T'was odd for him to be goin back oot, but it's not fer me to decide what a Prince should do, eh? We'll tell him you want him, sir."
"I'll tell him more than that when I see him, Pagg damn him for a headstrong boy," rumbled Jenks to himself on the way back to Temmin's rooms. "Tempted to chase him down and turn him over my knee."
The "headstrong boy," however, was in fine spirits, and not in the least repentant. Whatever admonition he might receive for skipping his studies was worth getting out of the Keep, and away from Fennows. He couldn't avoid the lordling at breakfast, and Fennows's endless fawning over Ellika enraged him; it was all Temmin could do not to vault across the toast rack and throttle him.
But here in the meadows of the foothills, the fresh air cleared his head. The mare he'd chosen, a black Inchari cross named LeiLei, had a fine comfortable gait and a good temper, far better than a purebred Inchari horse. Too bad Jeb was a gelding; a colt of Jebby's out of this mare would have been a fine horse indeed. Temmin let her wander, cropping the spring grasses. He looked down at the City, spread far below him. He'd climbed high into the foothills over the course of the morning, higher than he'd realized, and the mare hadn't griped at all. No trouble carrying him in the least--a good-sized girl. Wonderful horse, LeiLei. She'd make a good addition to his personal stock.
"C'mon, sweetheart," he said, and guided them back into the forest. He knew a stream ran nearby, and he was sure the mare was thirsty. He found not just a stream, but a lovely pool: a backwater formed behind a rocky outcropping in the stream. The mare dipped her head gratefully, and Temmin dismounted to wash his hot face, and take a drink himself.
When he looked down into the water, he saw his reflection. His mind flitted to Hildin finding his brother in the story, and instantly he realized he'd made a mistake. "Oh, shit," he whispered.
Too late: Teacher's shadowy face appeared, rising through the water towards him. Before he could scramble back away from the bank, Temmin found himself seized by the collar and dragged down into the pool.
He emerged into his wardrobe, a fist clenched in his shirtfront. "I wondered when I would have to cane you," said Teacher. Temmin found himself marched into the study and thrown over the back of the green velvet couch. So many hands pinned him, he knew there were none: magic pinned him. His trousers came down, as did his pants. There was a crack! A burning hot stripe of pain followed across his ass. Before he could catch his breath, five more stripes criss-crossed the first. He struggled against his restraints; his hands jerked in an involuntary attempt to protect himself. As Teacher laid the six stripes down, each worse than the last, Temmin's knees buckled, his eyes streamed, he choked and gasped and howled. For a moment, he wondered if he would vomit.
Instead, he sank to his knees in his puddled trousers as soon as the punishment ended. "Do not ever do that again," said Teacher.
"I--" Temmin gulped, "I should have--more say--in my life! I am a man!"
"Simply disappearing is the action of a boy, not a man. It is ill-mannered, impolite, and inconsiderate of the time of others. If you have a need to be elsewhere, consult me. I am not unreasonable."
"You said yourself I should choose to lead or--choose to follow, not just let myself--be lulled along!"
Teacher burst out laughing, a surprisingly high, rather unnerving chortle. "Do tell! And who lulled you into this course of action? I wonder. It is not your usual behavior at all. You would have tried to bribe me again and then accepted your fate when I refused. Someone has put something into your head. How was your day with Lord Fennows?"
By now, Temmin had risen to his feet and regained his clothing. When he could form words, he said, "Perfectly awful, thank you. He's worse than a prat. He's a little bastard who can't mount a horse without a foot-up, and even then has to be manhandled into the saddle. He thinks Papa's going to give him Elly, and by the Gods, I'll do everything I can to prevent it!" He wiped his still-dripping nose with a savage swipe of his handkerchief.
"And yet you let him goad you into disrespecting me."
"A scrub like Percet Sandopint, goad me? How can you think that?"
"The color in your face tells me everything."
"You just caned me!" Temmin cried, trying for righteous anger, but he dropped his eyes and spoiled it.
"What did Lord Fennows say?"
"...He said I wasn't a man because I haven't had a woman yet."
"Is that all?"
"He said I shouldn't let you order me around, that only boys let their tutors order them around."
"Interesting. I had no idea that is what made a man these days." Temmin glared at Teacher, and took to pacing the room, limping as he went. "I am not at all sure why you dislike me so much," said Teacher. "Please, state your grievances, and I will do my best to make amends."
Temmin stopped in his pacings and gaped. "You just caned me!" he repeated.
"You just wasted my morning," retorted Teacher. "It may surprise you, but I have other duties than your education, sir. And your distaste for me predates today. I ask in all humility, what have I done to earn your hatred?"
"Hatred? I don't hate you, honestly, I don't!" Temmin said. He ran a hand through his hair, threw his long arms open and said, "I dunno! I s'pose I'm just not used to you. You tell me disturbing stories from magic books, you pull me through ponds and I don't get wet--hang on, what about my horse?"
"Shall I pull her through, too?"
"Don't be ridiculous."
The door opened, and in came Jenks. "You're finally here, Your Highness--how did you get home? Temmin, are you all right?" exclaimed Jenks. He stepped toward his still-tear-stained charge, but stopped once he saw Teacher; they exchanged disdainful glances. "Ah--the old crow found you in the mirror?"
"Jenks, would you be able to ride my horse back home to the stables?" said Temmin. "I had to leave her--well..." How to explain why his horse was in one place and he was in another?
"And cover my riding her home how?" said the unfazed Jenks. "The stables are watching out for you, young dolt. First place I looked. Fine bit of work I'd have, coming up with a story about how you got home in under an hour without your horse!"
Temmin peered at his valet. "You don't seem terribly surprised by any of this."
"By what?" said Jenks.
"The magic...thing," Temmin finished lamely.
"I've known Teacher longer than you have," said Jenks. "You'll have to put him back, Teacher, or at least wherever that mare is. Here's hoping she hasn't wandered into the next duchy by now."
They all walked back to the wardrobe. Teacher called up the image of the mare, who had stayed where Temmin left her and was barely visible in the pool. "I'm keeping that horse," he said to himself, just before Teacher pulled him through the reflection to her side. "Come straight back, or I will cane you again," said Teacher before returning to the Keep through the pond.
Caned. He'd forgotten for a moment. He thanked Farr the mare had a smooth gait, gritted his teeth, and swung himself into the saddle.