Chapter 13 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

The Keep was a short ride down a wide, well-tended way called the War Road. "Our armies ride to battle from here, six abreast," said Teacher from a perch behind Tennoc. "These are the King's Woods. Only the King hunts here--and now you, if you please."

"I wish for nothing but a roof over my head at this point."

The trees thinned, giving Tennoc his first view of Tremont Keep, a stone fortress that was new in his great-grandfathers' day built into the living rock that sheered above the confluence of two rivers. Four rounded towers stood at each corner; the side closest to them bowed out toward the forest. A fifth tower rose just behind the bowed wall, higher than the other four. It looked out over the King's Woods and the foothills, and in the other direction, the Capital. Tennoc wondered how it stayed up; he'd never seen anything so tall.

"Never did I think to see this place again," murmured Hanni. "Remembering I am my good Lady Inglatine."

"Your good lady is healthy and happy at Marsury--with your two youngest half-sisters, sir," added Teacher to Tennoc. "When the Princesses are married, Lady Inglatine is considering returning to Leute."

"Will you go back with her, Hanni?" said Tennoc.

Hanni sucked on a tooth. "My Lady to Queen Lassanna gave me, Queen Lassanna to you gave me. If give you me back to my Lady, I end up at beginnings, I go. Else, no."

Tennoc faced his father not long after in the Keep's Great Hall. Though his mother had never said, he'd always imagined his father as tall, dark-haired and blue-eyed, elegant and somewhat languid. This man's eyes were hollow and dark; his crown rested on graying hair that hung lank and greasy, and if he had once been tall and elegant, now he seemed diminished, almost shrunken. How old was his father? He knew Andrin was older than his mother, but the King couldn't be more than fifty, and yet he looked older than Lord Grandfather. A man supported him to his throne; he sat down panting, in obvious pain. He beckoned.

"Your Majesty," said Teacher, "may I present to you your son, Prince Temmin of Tremont." Tennoc made a hesitant, respectful bow.

"The Kells do not call you Temmin, though, do they?" said King Andrin in a tired wheeze.

"My Kellish name is Tennoc ar Sial, and I prefer to be called Tennoc, sir."

"Tennoc it is," nodded his father. "In the family they call me An, after all." He examined his son with fierce and hungry eyes, as if he had a brief moment to learn the young man's features before he vanished. "You are very like her. You are very like me in some ways--don't you think, Teacher?"

"He has the shape of your eyes, sire, and your form. Tall and well-made."

"Once I was tall and well-made at any rate," said Andrin. He looked around the hall. "Leave us. Yes, even you, Teacher. You will have time to speak with the boy after. Much time." Andrin's lords and servants bowed low and left the room, Teacher trailing behind. "Come closer. You dislike my looks, hey? Didn't expect a father who looked like this? What did your mother say of me?"

"As little as possible, sir. May we not speak of my mother, please? Doing so can only lead to pain for us both."

Andrin smirked. "Do you believe her memory pains me?"

"Not in the least, sir, for you made your contempt for us quite clear."

"Contempt?" said Andrin in surprise. "Look at you, you're a fine young man. Strong, a warrior. The troubadours sing songs of Maalig even here. Any man would be proud to have you as a son, and I would have welcomed you and your mother at my court at any time."

"You never sent for her. You never even sent word to her. You did nothing to protect her from her father." Andrin kept silent. "In fact, sir," Tennoc pressed on, "you thought nothing about either of us until I became necessary to you."

"Why would I?" said Andrin on a long exhalation of air. "Since you insist on being plain-spoken: You have turned out to be a fine young man, but you are also a bastard. If I had been here I would have stayed Gonnor's hand against your mother, but I wasn't and it was too much trouble to send to Kellen for her. Had she stayed, I would have kept her until I tired of her and then set her up handsomely with some lordling--and I would have consigned you to the Mother's House. I would have done exactly as I have done: tried to sire more sons. But there will be no other sons. I'm dying." His feverish eyes fastened hard on Tennoc's own. "You are necessary to me, but not as Tennoc ar Sial. I need Temmin Heir of Tremont. I cannot leave this kingdom to be picked apart by the Sairs, the Kells, the Leutans--or worse, the barbarians to the north. I will not. So I recognize you as my Heir and give you my name, bastard though you may be."

Such speaking was too plain for Tennoc. "Sial is a better name in my books. Why should I care if your kingdom is picked apart? Perhaps I don't want your name or your throne. Perhaps I might encourage the Kells to nibble at your western border."

"You left the Kells and came to me. You're no foolish boy who'd reject a kingdom, let alone one as magnificent as Tremont, no matter how much you hated me--and you do hate me, don't you?" Tennoc said nothing, and his father continued, "You are an Antremont. You bear the direct blood of Temmin the Great, on your mother's side as well as mine. The land recognizes you, does it not? Show me."

Tennoc flushed. "I am unused to holding magic."

"Do your best. I do not sit in judgment."

Tennoc cast about the room. He'd been practicing picking things up and putting them back down; sometimes they even stayed in one piece. He settled on a massive bench. His mind reached out and tugged it bit by bit into the air; it rose as if he were pumping up a bladder beneath each leg. Frustrated, he pushed harder. The bench flew into the rafters. Gasping, he stopped it within an inch of smashing into splinters; he brought it down in several lumbering jerks before it hit the floor. Still in one piece: better than usual.

Andrin's mouth twisted into a smile. "You'll improve. Now that you have magic you won't want to be without it ever again. You'll want more of it. Powerful is better than powerless, son." Andrin sat back; sweat beaded on his sickly yellow forehead, his eyes so sunken their sockets stood out in clear relief all round each one. "I am tired now. Call for the servants. The seneschal will take care of you and your manservant. He's familiar. Do I know him?"

"His name is Hanni der Geelt."

Andrin chuckled faintly. "I remember Yellow Hanni." Andrin closed his eyes and said no more. For a moment, Tennoc wondered if he still breathed, but then his chest rose and fell. Tennoc called in the servants, and they tenderly bore his father away.

"The Sisters say he will not last the turn of the wheel," came Teacher's cool voice at his elbow. "Myself, I do not think he will live to see the end of next spoke. We do not have much time, Your Highness. You must master the magic you have before you inherit his as well."

"I have not decided I will take the throne."

Teacher's cold silver gaze flicked over him. "You decided when you crossed the River Cobb and claimed your magic."

"The magic claimed me," said Tennoc. "It hadn't even occurred to me what might happen, and I'm not at all comfortable with it." He sighed. "Quite honestly, I wish nothing more than to return to Gwyrfal and have everything be peaceful again."

"You will never be at peace outside Tremont again. Should your feet leave Tremontine soil, your magic will leave you--and when that happens, you will find yourself far less comfortable without it than you are with it. The thirst for magic has guided every action of every king in the world. Every battle between nations is fought to gain land and the magic it contains. There is no crossing back into Kellen for you--except at an army's head." Teacher reached up and took Tennoc gently by the arms. "You are not here solely at your father's summoning."

Tennoc hung his head. "In truth, I have nowhere else to go. Dunnoc has betrayed me."

"I know a good deal about betrayal," murmured Teacher. "Never worry. You are safe here."

Tennoc thought of his mother, and hoped she was safer than he was.

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