Chapter 11 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Tremontine flags trimmed in black flew at half mast throughout the City, the dark red field and its three golden mountains limp on this cold, still day. Every bell, from the great War Bell in the Keep to the time-keeping carillons at the University tolled, echoing desolate against the City walls as the funeral procession passed through the streets. Harsin walked before it, dressed in severest black but for the Tremontine red sash beneath his coat; his head wore neither hat nor crown. Emsa, the high priestess of the Friends of Harla, and Harla's Embodiment Trudannis walked beside him, their black hoods lowered to show their stubbled heads.

Black horses drew the Queen's bier behind them. A Brother held the reins; his helmet sat next to him on the box. Bare-headed Friends walked four to a side. Commoners lined the streets, hats in hands, ears and noses red with the cold; as the procession passed, they pressed flowers on the Friends to be placed on the bier. The mass of flowers had grown so deep the simple coffin holding the Queen's body could no longer be seen. While Ansella had passed most of her time as Queen outside the City, the people still loved her. The popular press had idolized her as an exemplar of motherhood since Sedra's birth, and never more so than now.

Behind the bier came Ellika, Sedra and Temmin, all in black. Though Ellika ordered new clothes for every possible occasion, when her maid Miss Clommert asked in her gentle way if she should call for Mistress Naister Ellika flew into such a rage that poor Miss Clommert retreated deep into the wardrobe in self-defense. Ellika pulled all the black lace, ribbons and rosettes from the dress her maid chose, a gown first made for the old Duke of Barle's state funeral almost three years prior: "I have no patience for dressmakers and no taste for fashion, Iddie. I may never again. I don't care if I wear a black sack!" She wore her golden hair in a girlish plait hanging down her back to her hips, and no jewelry at all.

For the first time ever, Ellika dressed more severely than Sedra. The oldest sister had also pulled out her dress from the Duke of Barle's funeral. She wore the jet mourning jewelry she'd inherited from their mother, a much more elaborate set than anything she ever chose for herself: ear bobs, a high choker with pearls separating its many strands, a round brooch framing a white, empty space pinned over her heart.

Temmin dressed in his role as Duke of Whithorse and head of his mother's family. He fingered the green silk sash across his chest beneath his coats. He'd been head of the family for fifteen years and he was not quite twenty; heads of families should be older. At his wrists, the horses engraved on the cufflinks Sedra had given him last Nerr's Day flashed their emerald eyes; Ellika's stick pin reared silver against his black silk cravat. In his waistcoat pocket he carried a new gold mourning watch, a gift from his father. His mother's portrait, done in brilliant enamels, had been taken from another decorative piece and fashioned into the watch's cover. Crystal faced the cover's inside; between the two layers would go a lock of Mama's hair. They walked down the Promenade, past Pagg's Temple and through the City gates, where the Promenade became a broad road through the sacred woods leading to Harla's Hill in the southwest.

Once, each of the seven Temples had its own hill, scattered throughout the City. Now, Harla's old Temple was the only one still in use, the others long since moved from the hilltops to the graceful Temple Green, though their old temples still stood as shrines. While the City had grown to surround the other six--indeed, marched up their hillsides--Harla's Hill remained alone outside the old City walls, surrounded by what was left of the original woods once covering the Valley of Three Mountains.

The Temple itself burrowed into the Hill rather than sitting atop it like the others had once done. Smooth, black stone tiled its entrance. A cool wind emanating from the Hill's wide, dark mouth smelled clean and damp, faint incense floating on it.

The Friends collected the flowers onto a cart and took the box containing Ansella's body down from the bier. They carried it through the great archway and into the Hill; Temmin and his family followed behind with Friend Emsa and Trudannis Embodiment.

A natural cave formed the Hill's main hall, its ceiling high above them; from this vault, the Friends had hollowed out the Hill in all directions to make room for the niches where bodies rested long enough to rot to bones, the private chapels of nobility and the wealthy, and the great royal ossuary, the resting place of its kings dating back to Temmin the Great almost a thousand years before.

They followed the Friends bearing Ansella's coffin into a smaller preparation hall, hung with the royal family's Tremontine red and gold, and Whithorse's grass green, white and silver. A stone table stood in its center; a large basin stood at the table's head. The Friends set the coffin down on a nearby bench and opened it. They picked up the edges of the sheet on which Ansella's body lay, lifted her from the coffin and placed her on the stone table.

Comments

Batty's picture

I suspect my playlist to be in league with you MeiLin. Friday, 2Cello's rendition of Hurt started playing, today it's Goran Bregovic's Lullaby. If those scenes ever need a soundtrack ...

MeiLin's picture

Most High

You've discovered my superpower! Smile

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