Chapter 12 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

"Pirrun, you should have been there!" cried Tennoc, clapping a young man on the shoulder. Music, endless wine and drunken laughter filled Gwyrfal's great hall; Kellen's warriors were home after a long, successful campaign.

"I would've if I hadn't broken my leg," winced Pirrun. "You've been gone so long it's healed! Why did you two not come home on the Royal Road, as the King did? Why come home with your soldiers? You could've been back weeks ago!"

"I don't ask anything of the men I'm not willing to do myself," declared Kenver. "Besides," he added in mock confidentiality, "Tennoc gets nauseous when I take him through a reflection!" The crowd hooted.

Tennoc took the dig with a slight flush and a grin. "Be that as it may, my lords, Kenver took the day! Had his magic not blocked the spring feeding Maalig we'd still be laying siege to it. He just reached down, so--" Tennoc dropped to one knee and put his hand on the floor-- "and those Sairish bastards lost their water. They gave up within two weeks!"

Kenver laughed and took a long drink from his goblet. "Not entirely, brother! A few guardsmen surrendered a gate--they were half-dead from thirst. We still had to fight our way through the rest. I couldn't keep the spring plugged and use my magic to fight at the same time. If it weren't for you, I'd've been gutted more than once. D'ye hear, my lords?" he shouted over the music, "Tennoc saved my life ten times ten, and took the fort's commander single-handed!" Kenver put his arm around Tennoc's neck and hugged him close to his side. "Tennoc ar Sial!" he shouted, hoisting his goblet.

"Tennoc ar Sial!" roared the hall in return.

"I did my duty as a Kell," said Tennoc. He glanced to one side; the King was frowning at them both. Beside Dunnoc sat Lassa, who nodded reassuringly. Tennoc grinned and turned back to his friends. "It's our pleasure and duty to serve good King Dunnoc--all of us!" he cried, raising his own goblet. "The King!"

"The King!" roared the hall even louder. Every cup was emptied, every cup refilled.

The musicians struck up their best dancing tunes. Servants cleared the benches and tables from the floor, and the dancers formed into lines: men in one, women in the other. Tennoc found himself facing Cariodas ar Lifris, Lord Lifris's daughter and one of the maidens who served his mother. She blushed and held out her soft, warm hand to begin the form.

He gave her his most gentle smile. He had no wish to hurt Cariodas. She was a court favorite, a sweet girl, pretty--hair and shining eyes so dark they approached black, unusual among the fairer Kells. She was kind, intelligent, obedient, accomplished in every way a young lady should be. He was expected to take her to wife, and he would. She already loved him, and he could never love her. Further up the line of women was Gwynna, and his heart.

Among the dancers Dunnoc saw his wife and brooded. She was so much younger than he was, still as merry at thirty-eight as she'd been when she'd first come to court. She refused a matronly role and still loved to dance, though he could not. Now a handsome young man bowed to her, took her hand and paraded her laughing up the gauntlet of lords and ladies. Had they danced together before? Dunnoc must watch him. Neya's Day approached, and while Lassa always insisted on sharing the Blessing with him, perhaps this would be the year she slipped off into the dark to bless the fields and forests with another.

Ulvyn approached, bowed and took a place beside Dunnoc. "The lords are calling Tennoc the Hero of Trefhallyn," he murmured. "Some say you should give it to him--let him found a new clan and become Tennoc ar Trefhallyn."

Dunnoc looked for his stepson among the crowd. There he was, dancing with Gwynna. Wine might explain the flush on his daughter's face, but Dunnoc doubted it. Where was Cariodas? There, dancing with Kenver. It was past time and past to marry Tennoc to Lifris's daughter and pack them off to a holding somewhere away from Gwyrfal until he'd found Gwynna the right husband; Trefhallyn lay some 1400 miles from Gwyrfal. "Perhaps I should," he muttered.

"And hand over the southern tip of Kellen to Tremont?" said Ulvyn. "Your Majesty, all that separates Trefhallyn from Tremont is the River Cobb. We've had the Sairish to thank--in a twisted way--for keeping the Tremontines out of Trefhallyn thus far. With them gone it will take a strong hand there to keep the border safe, and whether the bastard son and Heir of the Tremontine King will wish to keep that border safe…"

Dunnoc's left hand trembled. "I must give him some holding, but not that one."

Ulvyn jerked his head; Tennoc's arm encircled Gwynna's waist as the two whirled around one another in a circle of dancers clapping in time to the sprightly music. "You must also give him a wife."

"Not that one either," grunted Dunnoc.

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