Chapter 11 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Jenks sat down in the rarely used wingback chair before the fire. "I confess I would not say no to a glass of wuisc, sir."
Temmin poured them each a glass from the decanter on his sideboard, handed one to Jenks, and tossed himself on the moss green sofa. "What's this colonel nonsense? Has Father given you an honorary commission?"
"No, no. It's not honorary." Jenks took a deep breath. "It's time you were told, especially now that…" He cleared his throat and began again. "I wasn't a corporal in the cavalry, sir, and I was never your uncle's batman. I was his aide-de-camp--a colonel. I still hold that rank. I'm chief of your security detail and your personal bodyguard, which has made this time apart very worrying indeed after all these years."
"My bodyguard? You're my valet! Brother Mardus heads my security detail when I'm away from the Temple, at least here in the City, and I never had one at the Estate."
"Ah, but you did, and still do. Your mother--" Jenks swallowed hard again and took a long drink to cover his distress. "Your mother didn't want you to know about the dangers to your life until you were old enough to understand. Being with you most of the time made that possible, and being your valet was my most plausible option."
Temmin wondered when the world would stop pulling itself out from under him. "I never--it never occurred to me. When were you planning on telling me?"
"When you finished at Temple. Speaking of which, may I ask how your time there has gone, sir? You have two--no, two and a half more spokes left, don't you?"
Temmin paused. What to say? That he'd fallen in love against both his training and Temple rules? That he had no idea how he would make it through the next two spokes, how he would console anyone else when he himself was near-inconsolable? "It's complicated."
The older man sat back in the wingback chair. "Life's complicated. If you don't want to talk about it, you certainly don't have to, sir."
"What have you been doing at Whithorse?"
Jenks finished his wuisc. "I wanted to come back very badly after that business with Sister Ibbit. I was worried for you, and for Annie…that is, Her Majesty…" He shook his head and leaned forward. "Temmin, you need to know your mother was my very dear friend, more dear than you realize. It was for her sake, and for your uncle's, that I came into your service. I was ready to resign my commission when that old crow, Teacher, came to me. It wasn't long after Patrin died, you see. I felt responsible for his death. I still do. He was my best friend. He and Annie and I, we grew up together rather like you and Alvo--my father was attached to the old Duke's household as Captain of the Whithorse Battalion. I thought once…" He covered his mouth. "I thought once I loved your mother. It's how I got my early commission--to get rid of me so your father might court your mother more easily. We knew it was never possible, Annie and me, but we were young. Patrin took me on as his aide and we rose together. He was the best, the dearest friend I shall ever have in this world. I would never have spoken of it were it not…were it not…" Jenks put his face in his hand; Temmin looked away to the fire, tears rising in his own throat. "I never thought I could bear to go back to the Estate," Jenks continued, his voice rough but more composed. "It contained too many memories of Patrin, but I did it for her sake. Now I don't think I'll be able to return but for your sake, Temmin. You are what I have left of them both."
By now tears were running down both men's cheeks unchecked. Temmin rose from the sofa and crouched before his old friend. He took the man's hands. "Then don't return, Jenks. Stay here and wait for me."
Jenks shook his head. "I have work at the Estate to do. When you're through at the Temple, your father will let you come home for a visit, I'm sure. When you return to the Keep, then I will return here with you."
The two spent the three days of Temmin's leave riding together, talking of Ansella when they could bear it, but more often of the doings at the Estate. "How is Alvo?"
Jenks pursed his lips. "More taciturn. I'll say this, though. He hasn't gotten in trouble once since you've gone. Make of that what you will, scapegrace. He misses you but won't speak of you unless forced."
"I miss him. I'm bringing him to the Keep, you know, Jenks."
"He may have other ideas, sir."
"I don't really care. How are Fen and Arta?"
"Miss Dannikson is now Mistress Wallek."
"She wrote me," Temmin nodded. "I read my letters even if I'm not very good at answering them. She's gotten the hang of reading and writing very quickly."
"She would make an excellent housekeeper some day in one of your houses, sir."
Relieving news; Temmin had no choice but to take the two young servants into his household once they'd become embroiled in his father's attempts to stop his Supplicancy, and he'd been wondering what to do with them. "Have they forgiven me yet for almost getting them killed on the Temple steps?"
Jenks chuckled. "Forgiven you? They worship you!"
"Oh, dear. How is married life treating them? Well, I hope. I need some good news."
"Their little boy is three spokes old now, and a strapping infant he is, too," said Jenks as they walked their horses back to the stables along the War Road. "Red-haired like his father but looks more like his mother, lucky little chap. The elder Wallek is learning a number of skills."
Jenks gazed at a spot just above his horse's right ear. "Caring for a gentleman's wardrobe, hand-to-hand fighting, and keen attention to potential threats."
Temmin looked over at the older man in surprise. "You're training him to take your place."
"That I am, sir." He glanced at his Prince almost guiltily. "Temmin, I'm forty-four. Still in fine shape, but no longer young. I will serve you till the end of my days, but in a few years I will no longer be the best man to be your bodyguard. I will still direct your security detail, but I want Fen to become your personal bodyguard and valet. He has a sweet, take-no-prisoners street-fighting style that's just the ticket, and he's coming along nicely in the other respects, except I'm having trouble teaching him the proper way to fall off a horse rather than the way he's insisted upon so far."
"That bad a rider?"
"That bad at first. He's coming along, sir."
"Well, if he's got you to teach him, he'll be fine. You taught me everything I know about horses and that's quite a lot. You and…and Mama."
Temmin's heart plunged into blackness again, and the two men entered the stables in silent, shared grief.