Chapter 14 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Inside the catacombs, Tennoc stared at the two bricked-in niches. In the lefthand one, his father King Andrin the First moldered; to the right, the heads of his mother and his best friend lay, sewn into clean linen and left to rot away to bone, with Tennoc's heart beside them.

Lassanna died Queen of Kellen; Whitehorse would also lay claim to her remains, but Tennoc would keep Mama here, in the Tremontine royal chapel beside Andrin's bones--and some day, his own. Kenver's spirit would not fully rest until he lay in Gwyrfal's Hill with his ancestors; somehow Tennoc would return his stepbrother's skull to Kellish soil.

Thoughts of Gwyrfal brought thoughts of his Gwynna. She must be alone and friendless now, for Dunnoc had clearly lost his mind. Even so, madness wouldn't stop Tennoc from caving his stepfather's head in.

Tennoc thanked the Friends for their care, called for Hanni and stalked from Harla's Hill. "What now, sire?" said the servant.

"Now we go to Cariodas and find out who I'm to kill besides Dunnoc."

At the Healer's House they found Cariodas sound asleep. "Let her be, sire," said the Sister in charge. "She is fair done up. We will send a messenger when she awakes."

Cariodas slept for the better part of two days. The Sisters took Sian ar Lifris's left leg off above the knee the first night, but Harla still hovered over him; the amputation had come too late, and the putrescence was spreading throughout his body. Cariodas had just enough time to say goodbye before her father sank into a sleep everyone knew would be his last.

When Tennoc found her, she was sitting on the bed in the little room the Sisters had given her, holding a pillow to her chest and staring off into space. She'd been washed and dressed in a gray wool gown that hung from her now-thin shoulders. Tennoc wondered for a moment if she'd lost her senses, but she looked up and smiled at him from a far-away place. She dropped the pillow, rose to her feet and made her curtsey. "Lady, please don't bow to me," he said, lifting her up. "I am to blame for this." He guided her gently back to the bed, the only real seat in the room, and sat her down.

"You to blame?" exclaimed Cariodas. "You didn't spread lies. You didn't beat my father and drive me from Kellen. You didn't--didn't…" She left the sentence dangling. "You are not to blame," she finished in despair.

Tennoc sat on a stool at her feet. "Who did?"

"The King, though Daevys ar Ulvyn all but rules Kellen now."

"I cannot believe Dunnoc would listen to such a man."

Cariodas all but spat. "Who do you think urged your exile? Who do you think convinced Dunnoc to have you killed? He boasts of it outside the King's hearing. Not that it matters now."

"Tell me what happened."

Cariodas took a deep breath, her fingers flexing in the pillow's stuffing. "When they discovered the bodies of the Guards at the crossroads, the King ordered the traitor who'd warned you found. Ulvyn followed the trail back to my father. I confess…I confess I was surprised Father did it. He was never the bravest of men, but he worried for the kingdom and he saw Dunnoc's weakness. The King is far worse than when you left. He shakes openly now, and his mind is clouded. Some began to whisper he was being poisoned, and Ulvyn took advantage of it. He accused the Queen."

"That's why he killed her? With what proof? And why kill Kenver? Amma's heart, he is truly mad!"

Cariodas shook her head. "That's the least of it. You know how jealous the King's become. When it was discovered Father betrayed the plot against you to Kenver, Ulvyn convinced His Majesty Kenver and the Queen were--were lovers conspiring against him in your favor...and the King did as you have seen."

"I will kill him!" choked Tennoc. He sprang from the footstool, tipping it over, and paced the room as he tore at his hair. "I will kill them both, I swear I will kill them all for this." Cariodas huddled on the bed; in the clutches of an unseen hand, the footstool was beating itself to flinders against the opposite wall. I'm frightening her. She should be frightened of me. Everyone should be. He regained control over himself; the remains of the footstool dropped meekly to the floor, and he turned back to the bed. "What of Gwynna?"

"I'm sorry, Tennoc. I know you…" She faltered, and Tennoc fought down panic; was Gwynna dead as well? "King Dunnoc made Ulvyn his heir and gave Gwynna to him the very day of the execution. She fought, you should know. Ulvyn had to drag her to the marriage bed. She may still be tied to it for aught I know--he exiled us before he let her out."

Tennoc began assembling his army in his head. "And then? What happened to you and your father?"

Cariodas flinched, gripping the pillow in both hands. "They beat my father in open court the next day. They surrounded him, called him traitor. Broke his sword. Beat him before my eyes until he stopped screaming and the blood poured from him. You could--you could see the bones sticking from his leg, though I did the best I could later on to set it. They drove us from Gwyrfal with little food, no clothing but what we had on our backs, a cloak for me and a blanket for him, no escort, no way to defend ourselves, just a horse and the branch sled. And that vile, vile chest! Oh, that was almost the worst, Tennoc, knowing what it contained! They even sent riders ahead, warning people not to help us. So many times I thought Father had died in the night."

Tennoc sat down next to her and took her hand. "What did you do?"

"Ulvyn bid us to come to Tremont Keep and show you 'what Kellen does to its enemies.' The Mother's Temples gave us food and the Sisters helped me with Father--when they could. Most towns refused us entrance for fear of angering the King. There was nothing for it but to keep moving. By the time we crossed the River Cobb I was so tired and frightened I didn't even try to get help in a town--I don't speak Tremontine, and I didn't think to find anyone who spoke Old Sairish. I just tried to stay out of sight and get to you." She squeezed his hands and blinked rapidly, clearing away tears. "So. I am in your hands, sire."

"You needn't call me 'sire.' I'm not your king."

Her eyes flashed to his. "Tennoc, you've always been my king." She hung her head, blushing at her own impulsiveness. "That is, I cannot return to Kellen, Your Majesty. I would become Tremontine if you would have me as your subject."

"Lady Cariodas, any king would be proud to have you as his subject. You will always have an honored place in my court, as will your father."

"Thank you, sire, but he's dying. He won't last the night."

Tennoc left instructions that Cariodas and Lifris be given the best of everything. He sent fine clothes, rich food and a girl to serve Cariodas as maid, but Lifris never regained consciousness and died two days later. Cariodas saw him into Tremont City's Hill and came to live at the Keep.

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