Chapter 12 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Gwynna darted among the apple trees so quickly Tennoc couldn't get a bead on her; his missile bounced off a tree trunk. She was luckier. The hard little green apple flew from her hand and hit Tennoc square above the heart. "Ow!"

"A fair hit! A fair hit!" she cried, jumping up and down and clapping her hands until her flowing sleeves flapped. "You're dead, sir!" Tennoc clasped his chest, let out a melodramatic shriek and fell down obligingly.

A few yards away, Kenver said, "Can I get up now?" His sister went to both her fallen enemies and helped them to their feet in gracious victory. "How did you become such a good shot?" grumbled Kenver as he dusted off the dirt and picked twigs from his once nearly white hair, now a dark brown.

"It just comes easy to me."

"It's unnatural. You're far too strong for a girl."

"You'd be strong, too if you had to run in heavy skirts. Blame Hanni. He taught me to 'shoot as Leutan.' He says you 'shoot as Tremontine girl.'"

"You're strong but you're not that strong--you still can't send an arrow as far as I can."

"What's the use of strength when you can't hit the target half the time!"

"Gwynna's just got better aim, Ken, and that's all there is to it," said Tennoc, smiling at her. Running had brought a flush to her face, and her red-gold braids had tumbled down. The gray eyes so like her brother's sparkled like the sun striking the waves in the bay. "Are you hungry? I am!" They ran laughing toward the castle; Tennoc wished for the courage to take Gwynna's hand, but even here, in no one but Kenver's presence, he didn't dare.

In the courtyard, Dunnoc awaited them; was it Tennoc's imagination, or was he developing a stoop? "You're getting too old for this, all of you. Gwynna, it doesn't become a young lady to run riot with men unaccompanied."

Gwynna gasped. "Papa, I was with my brothers!"

"No more of this. You are done with childish romping. Go to your rooms and arrange yourself." Gwynna's mouth dropped in betrayal, and she walked into the castle as if she were going to the dungeons. "Kenver," the King continued, "you will end this sort of play. If you wish for activity, go to the training ground and spar."

"But sir, we only--" began Tennoc.

"I am not speaking to you, I am speaking to my son. Take your presumption to your rooms and stay there." Tennoc exchanged shocked looks with Kenver and did as he was told.

In the archway leading inside stood Daevys ar Ulvyn and Bryth ar Brennow. Tennoc politely made his leg. "Lord Ulvyn, Lord Brennow, how do you do today?"

The older men did not return the bow. "Do as your father King Andrin wishes and go home, Temmin of Tremont," said Ulvyn.

Tennoc drew himself up in angry surprise. "I am Tennoc ar Sial, and Gwyrfal is my home until the King tells me it's not. Good day, my lords."

Ulvyn made no effort to move, and Tennoc brushed past him as politely as he could. "Bastards have no home, Tremontine whelp," the lord called after him.

Brennow watched him up the stairs and turned to Ulvyn. "Why do you hate the boy so much, Daevys?"

"Hate him?" said Ulvyn in surprise. "I don't hate him. I don't hate anyone. Kenver stands between me and the throne, and Tennoc is his right hand. Therefore, I will strike off his right hand."

"What does that gain us?"

"It weakens Kenver and Dunnoc both--it gives the King reason to doubt his Queen, and his own son's loyalties. Andrin's recognition of the boy as his heir is the most perfect weapon we could have been given. Tennoc has turned from a beloved stepson to an enemy with too much influence, and all it took was a few words written on parchment."

Tennoc wanted to go to his mother, but, obedient to the King, he went to his rooms. "Plagues you something, my lord?" asked Hanni, looking up from examining Tennoc's boots.

"It's all right, Hanni, go get your dinner." The Leutan set down the boots, bowed cheerfully and fled the room.

The King's demeanor had changed markedly of late. Dunnoc was all the father Tennoc had, and he loved him as one. Now Tennoc's place at table had been moved a chair away from Kenver, then another; his once-easy association with Gwynna and Kenver had just been ended. What had he done to deserve it? Gwynna was always to be taken from him, but Kenver taken from him as well would be like losing his wind.

Gwynna's father must be preparing a marriage for her. She was almost eighteen, after all, and everyone knew they loved one another. But everyone also knew he was respectful. He would marry the Lady Cariodas, as the King and his mother wished, but he would carry his love for Gwynna to his death bed.

Tennoc stayed in his rooms through dinner, starved as he was. His mother came to him with a tray. "Why did you not come down, sweetheart? Were you not hungry? Are you feeling unwell? Shall I call a Sister?"

"I feel fine, Mama, and I am very hungry," answered Tennoc, eagerly surveying the tray's contents. He took out his dagger and speared at a cold roast pigeon.

"Then why did you not come down?"

"The King told me to stay in my rooms," he said between swallows.

His mother's brows knit in consternation. "He did? He asked where you were. I said I didn't know, and he said you must be sulking again, that you sulked far too much, and that he wouldn't be surprised if you were beginning to think more highly of yourself than you should. I answered that you never sulk and he told me not to contradict him at table." She puckered her pale brows. "He is ill--you must have seen it--but he refuses to see the Sisters."

Tennoc took a quick swig of wine and wiped his mouth. "He's planning a marriage for Gwynna and wants me out of the way."

"But you've never been in the way, and Dunnoc's said nothing to me about marrying Gwynna to anyone. He's always planned to marry you to Cariodas--now, don't look like that, I know she's quiet and a bit insipid, but she's a pretty girl, a kind girl, and she's devoted to you. You could do much worse."

"I don't love her."

"You don't have to," retorted his mother. "She will be a good wife to you. She will guarantee you and your children a place in this world, and love will grow, given time."

Tennoc listened to the sounds rising from the courtyard far below. "Should I go to Uncle Williard at Brunsial, Mama?" His heart sank even as he spoke the words. "Just for a time, until the King's reassured I intend no disrespect? Perhaps until Gwynna's…married? I would miss you and Ken--and Dunnoc, too, but if he wants me gone…"

Lassanna stood and circled behind his chair to hug him round the neck. "It might be best, as much as I don't want you far from me. He is beginning to worry me. I've stopped dancing--he frowns so when I do, and his shaking gets worse--and he asks me questions about… But that's not for you to worry over. I'll send word to Brunsial and see if they'll have you for a few spokes. Yellow Hanni will go with you."

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