Chapter 13 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
The discovery of the guards' bodies put Gwyrfal in an uproar. "How could Tennoc have defeated three of my best men?" fretted Dunnoc. "Three men he trusted!"
"He had to have been warned, sire," said Daevys ar Ulvyn. "There's no other explanation, though perhaps it was his plan all along. He took them by surprise like a coward." He helped Dunnoc drink from his cup. The King shook now more than ever. His legs were growing stiff; he never left his rooms but for meals at which he presided but did not eat for fear of spilling food and drink down his front in public.
"Who could have done it? Who betrayed me?"
"We shall discover the man, sire. Or woman."
Dunnoc looked at him in alarm. "Woman? What do you mean, woman?"
"Rest easy, sire," soothed Ulvyn. "I will root out those who work against you. In the meantime, let me help you. Is this partridge to your liking, or shall I cut you a morsel of beef?"
Dunnoc huffed in exasperation. "As you please. Food is a necessary evil to me now, no more. Why is the Queen not here to wait on me?"
"Do you not recall? She said she no longer wished to attend to you." What Queen Lassanna had said was that she did not wish to attend to Dunnoc with Ulvyn hanging over her shoulder; Dunnoc would not dismiss his favorite lord, the only one who told him what really went on in his court. Hadn't Ulvyn been right about Tennoc? He must be right about Lassanna. She was the ungrateful cur's mother, after all.
"What does my Queen do with her days, since she does not deign to wait on me?"
Ulvyn held a bite of meat until the shaking stopped enough for Dunnoc to eat it. "She spends much time with your children, sire. She seems quite close to Kenver. Quite. They spend many hours together. At all hours."
Dunnoc choked. "What are you saying?"
"Nothing, sire. They have many interests in common, among them, Tennoc. It's only natural," he said, wiping Dunnoc's mouth. "Your lady, though not a girl, is still lively, and your son is handsome. It may be she enjoys the sight of him so often in her bower. She is still a beauty. It could not be counted as unusual that in the absence of one they loved so much as Tennoc they might, er, find comfort one with the other."
"Enough." Tiny flames flickered on the King's fingertips; now used to Dunnoc's diminishing control, Ulvyn sidled away. "What do you believe?" demanded Dunnoc. "What is it you believe? You must tell me!"
The little flames reflected in Ulvyn's eyes. "I believe, sire, you know already."
"My son and my wife--! They must have betrayed me to Tennoc! But how could Kenver and the Queen have discovered what we meant to do!"
Ulvyn smiled. "I shall not rest until I find the traitor. In the meantime, sire, the Princess Gwynna should no longer be exposed to such as the Queen, do you not think?"
"I must find her a husband," whispered Dunnoc. "I must find her someone to keep her away from Tennoc, someone I can trust." He looked up through rheumy eyes. "Perhaps I shall give her to you."
"I wish nothing more than Gwynna's safety and happiness, sire, and would happily marry the lady now that my own wife is dead. But hush now, we shall not speak of it."
Teacher and Tennoc worked to increase the Heir's control over his share of Tremontine magic. "You are trying too hard," Teacher said time and again. "Let it float lightly on your thoughts, like telling your eye to blink or your leg to bend. You do not ask, you command, and with little thought. You must be sure in your mind. If you are unsure, do not use magic--choose some other method. Indecision will be your undoing in all things magical."
Day by day, Tennoc grew stronger and more confident, and King Andrin grew weaker. He did not leave his bed now, and Tennoc came to him every evening to display his progress. "I would accuse you of sucking the life from me," chuckled Andrin through dry and cracked lips this night, "but in truth I believe seeing you has kept me living a little longer than otherwise." He reached for Tennoc's hand and took it in a hot, papery grasp. "Do not think too badly of me, son. I must seem heartless to one raised as a Kell, but in Tremont, these things are different. In truth it is a good thing I left your mother in Kellen so that you might be raised with honor and a name, even if neither were mine." His grasp faltered. "It is too late, I think, for us to love one another, but not too late for me to be proud of you, both as Tennoc ar Sial and Temmin of Tremont."
"Thank you, sir," said Tennoc. His voice shook, and his stomach roiled. It was too late to love his father--perhaps too late even to forgive him--but knowing the King was proud of him hit him in a way he did not expect.
The next morning, Andrin breathed but did not wake. He lingered for three nights. On the fourth, Tennoc awoke from a dead sleep, screaming. A white, roaring ocean broke over him. The white faded, leaving coal-red traces in the air and sparks around the edges of his vision. Hanni ran in from the next room, yellow hair wild about his head. "What ails you?"
"He's dead," Tennoc rasped. "I'm too young to be King. I don't know the people, I don't know the country. I'm not ready. Pagg help me, Hanni."