Chapter 16 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
The Mothers soon gathered. Ardunn knelt before the King at the feet of Amma's image; his hands clasped his sword hilt and his new lord wrapped his hands round them both. In a strong voice, Ardunn swore his allegiance to Temmin of Tremont, swore away the name of Ulvyn, and placed his life at the King's disposal. He rose, saying, "I never considered anyone but you King at any event, let alone myself."
"It's not your opinion that concerns me, insolent boy," snapped the King. "It's the opinions of Kellish lords who may wish to use you as a pawn."
"Not much chance of that and never was," said Ardunn with the expansive cheerfulness of an unexpected reprieve, "though I don't regret my oath in the least. I've already said my goodbyes, though expecting a different outcome. When do we go?"
"Now. Gather your things." Ardunn bowed deeply and left for his room at a fast pace; the King dismissed the Mothers from the room.
All this had stretched poor Gwynna's endurance to the breaking point. Eighteen years of worry and grief now over--and a new era of worry begun. More immediately, gratitude, love and resentment toward the man before her sank her to the floor sobbing her thanks, her forehead on the King's feet. "No, no, Gwynna, never do that, never!" cried Tennoc, bending down to her. "I cannot bear you prostrating yourself before anyone, especially me." He raised her up to stand before him; his hands rested uneasy on her arms as she collected herself, but he did not remove them. "He is an extraordinary young man, Gwynna," he said in a rough voice. "Dunnoc and Kenver would be proud of him."
"Thank you." Gwynna bit at the inside of her mouth long enough to stop her tears and said, "What will you do with him?"
"I intend to take him directly to Marsury to be of use to--I suppose you'd call her my stepmother. You must have heard Mother talk of her--the Lady Inglatine, Mother's great friend who was once my father's wife. She's now styled Countess of Marsury. She's the mother of seven of my half-sisters, a most amiable old dame. I have a fine detachment of Guards there. If Ardunn does well, I'll give him a commission and a name."
A name! That meant a holding--a title! Gwynna's heart swelled; this was more than she'd ever hoped for. "I wonder--where might I live close by?"
"I hoped…how close by must you be to him?"
"As close as I can, of course," she said, worried some impediment might still arise.
Tennoc's hands tightened on her arms and he leaned down in tender, rather frightening intensity. "Live with me at Tremont Keep. Be my love."
Gwynna's heart took a joyful leap, only to hit a brick wall. "No, I won't do that to Cariodas. Let me live near my Ardunn. Forget me."
"I have not forgotten you, nor will I ever forget you," said Tennoc in a voice like tearing skin. He kissed her, and she fell into his arms as she had eighteen years ago, with a different pain and longing. The blue linen veil had fallen away, and as he whispered his repentance his breath puffed against her hair, warm in the drafty Worship Hall. "Gwynna, please, please come back to me."
She burrowed her nose in his shoulder. Tennoc smelled of silk and fur, of the outdoors, of salt air and musk and the ozone of his magic. Their one night together surged through her, and she lost her grip on her refusal. "Can you not come to me at Marsury now and again through a reflection?" she said in a small voice. "I can't, I can't live with you under the same roof as Cariodas and I would not have you send her away for the world--has she been a bad wife to you?"
"She has been the best wife a man could wish for. Her only flaw is that she isn't you," said Tennoc, stroking her wet cheek.
"Then give her the respect she deserves. If you leave Cariodas her dignity and if you give up your other women--yes, she told me, and quite reluctantly--if you give up your other women I would…I would welcome you to my bed in Marsury whenever you might come to me."
"I will be in Marsury every night!" he cried, hugging her close.
"You will not be there every night and you know it," she laughed. "I cannot believe I am considering such a thing!"
"You love me."
"I love you," she confessed.