Chapter 12 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Gwyrfal, Kellen
Spring's Beginning, 60 KY

Eighteen-year-old Tennoc ar Sial took the stairs to his mother's bower two at a time, bearing a parchment in his hand. "Mother!" he called. "I--oh!" The young man skidded to a halt. Ladies-in-waiting surrounded his mother, at work on their embroideries and sewing; they smiled at him, especially Cariodas. Any other young man would welcome her soft brown eyes gazing at him in worship, but Tennoc blushed and looked away. "Ah, something has come for you, Mother. The messenger said it was for your eyes only, but that it concerned me."

Queen Lassanna set her tambour aside. "Perhaps we should be alone." Her ladies curtsied and filed from the room; one whispered, "Gently, Cariodas--Princess Gwynna will scratch your eyes out!" Cariodas looked back at him anyway and smiled. With the ladies gone, he handed the parchment to his mother and sat at her feet. "The messenger said it's from Lord Grandfather," he said, switching to the Tremontine they often spoke when alone.

"I'm surprised the messenger dared come to court, with things the way they are between the kingdoms," said Lassanna. She slowly broke the seal, read the scroll's contents, read them again, and put the parchment down on her lap. "It's from your grandfather, all right, but it's really from your father."

"King Andrin?"

Lassanna looked down on her son in grave amazement. "We are restored to grace. The King has given you his name and is calling for you to come to Tremont Keep. You're still his only son. I am once again Lady Lassanna of Whitehorse--oh, my name is long enough now without adding that back on." She rattled the parchment in dismissal, but Tennoc caught notes of suppressed pride and something akin to grief in her voice. "And you are now Prince Tennoc, though here--" she rattled the parchment--"they insist on calling you by your Tremontine name."

"Which is what?"

"Temmin Antremont, styled Temmin of Tremont."

Tennoc wrinkled his nose. "Feh. I have no wish to be Temmin of Tremont, or know either His Grace or His Majesty. They've had no use for us these nineteen years--I have no use for them, especially Lord Grandfather. I'm Tennoc ar Sial, and that's all I want to be."

"That's fine," murmured his mother, stroking his fawn-brown curls. "I don't want you going to Tremont Keep either, my Tennoc, not with all this tension at the border."

Word of the Queen's letter from the Duke of Whitehorse reached King Dunnoc's ears before she could tell him. "A secret message from Tremont, Your Majesty," said Bryth ar Brennow, "and she's told you none of what it says."

Daevys ar Ulvyn nodded and poured more wine for the men in Dunnoc's council chamber. "She's Tremontine, sir, and the King was once her lover--the boy's his only Heir! You should send him away--send them both away. What if Tennoc should turn his hand against Kenver?"

"Then you'd be Dunnoc's heir," snorted Sian ar Lifris. Ulvyn glared at him. "Besides," continued Lifris, "Tennoc would sooner cut off his own hand than cut a hair from Kenver's head. Never were there closer friends."

"Too close if you ask me," said Bryth ar Brennow. "He's Tremontine. You know they take after those filthy Sairish in the bedchamber."

Shame-fueled outrage swelled Dunnoc's neck. Magic sparked in his fingers unbidden; of late he'd had moments where he lost control of his power, strange flickerings as disturbing to him as the tremors creeping into his limbs. "Are you accusing my son of being a man-lover?"

"That Tremontine boy might lead the Prince into iniquity in his innocence," hastened Brennow.

"It's past time Kenver married, Your Majesty," said Lifris. "He's almost twenty-two, and there are several suitable ladies here in court--why, my own Cariodas--"

"I have not changed my mind, Lifris. I am giving Cariodas to Tennoc." The lord's face fell.

"Tennoc of Tremont is more dangerous to the Princess Gwynna's chastity than to Prince Kenver's," said Ulvyn. "I've seen the way he looks at her."

And she at him, thought Dunnoc. "I will never allow that match."

"Then send him away," urged Ulvyn. "Send the boy and his mother back to their clan at Brunsial--or lock them up for fear they will betray us!"

Dunnoc stood, drained his cup and smacked it down on the conference room's long table. "You speak of my Queen. She is loyal to Kellen, and why shouldn't she be? The Tremontines turned their backs on her and she's a Kell now, a good woman of Clan Sial, and what's more, I love her. No more of this talk, my lords."

But the seed had been planted. Though Lassanna gave her husband the letter, he wondered if she knew he'd been told and would have withheld it otherwise. She'd said many times she had no love for Tremont, but she missed her mother and sometimes yearned for Whitehorse.

Perhaps the boy should go to his father. He loved Tennoc almost as much as he did his own children, but he never forgot the boy's origin and subtly reminded Tennoc of it now and again. He would have to remind the boy more openly. His daughter's heart belonged to the blue-eyed bastard of the Tremontine King, but both children seemed to accept their futures apart; Tennoc had already informally consented to marrying Cariodas. Dunnoc had never before considered that perhaps Tennoc and Kenver were more than brothers.

As the weeks went on, the King thought he saw knowing sniggers aimed at his son and stepson, and leers directed at his younger wife; he'd taken to sleeping alone, for despite visits to the Sisters and the Lovers' Temple, Dunnoc's potency in bed had left him. Lassanna was a passionate woman, and a tiny voice in his mind said one day she must betray him.

For now, Dunnoc turned away from all that. The best cure for his troubles was always battle, though he himself could no longer fight; his neck and shoulders were stiff, and he trembled unless he stood and moved around, though so far no one seemed to notice.

Tremont was testing the eastern border, but his lords there had things well in hand. He would move against the Sairish fortress at Maalig, on Kellen's southern tip in Trefhallyn. Maalig was Sairland's last foothold in the far west. Tremont tried repeatedly to move against the fortress, but Kellen had a strong presence along the southern River Cobb; the Tremontines had to approach Maalig by boat and brave the fort's impenetrable seaward defenses.

Maalig-based raiders swooped down on Kellish merchant vessels far too often for Dunnoc's taste, and he intended to stop them once and for all. Time to push them into the Gulf of Inchar.

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