Chapter 3 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Ansella returned to her drawing room, fingers steepled against her mouth as she wandered back and forth before the fire. Ibbit, an Annikan. I will not cry over her, an enemy of my son is an enemy of mine. But the tears fell no matter how often she repeated it.
Was there anyone who could be trusted in the Sister's Temple? Perhaps Imvalda was an Annikan. No, that couldn't be. Ibbit ranked lower than Imvalda. Wouldn't it be easier to take control of the Sisterhood without a fight over the succession? Imvalda was still relatively young, though; if she weren't an Annikan, it would be at least twenty years--perhaps thirty--before an Annikan could try again. Ibbit would need the sponsorship of a great personage to beat Imvalda…someone like the Queen.
She paced and paced, waiting for Teacher. Why hadn't Ibbit killed Temmin, when she'd had five years to do it? No--it made sense. If her only son died, Ansella would be set aside for a younger woman who could bear a new Heir; it had happened in the past. Ibbit needed a Queen, so Temmin lived--until now. She wouldn't need Ansella much longer. No, not much longer at all, the false woman, the woman who'd said she loved her, and why wouldn't she kill Temmin now? Ansella let out a panicked moan.
Teacher arrived quicker than she'd expected, slender, elegant hands clasped before the habitual black robes draping the counselor's slight frame. "Your Majesty, how may I serve you?" said Teacher with a bow.
In her anguish, Ansella ran up and caught the pale hands in her own. "It's Ibbit--you must make sure Temmin is safe, she might do something--might already have done! I don't know where Harsin is, and--"
Teacher tugged on her wrists. "Stop! Calm yourself, ma'am. I can find the King if Mr Winmer is unavailable, but you must tell me what has happened." Ansella retrieved the gray leather-bound book and gave it over. Teacher didn't even bother to open it, silver eyes wide in astonishment. "I thought these were all destroyed when the Scholars burned Anniki's body. Where did you get this?"
"My religious advisor. Sister...Sister Ibbit." Ansella covered her mouth and nose with her hands and turned away.
"Very well," said Teacher. "First we will see to Prince Temmin. I shall go to the Lovers' Temple and alert the Temple's Own immediately. Until this situation is resolved, the Prince should be kept here. The Most Highs will understand. I will bring him back with me, and then I will proceed to the Hearth to speak with the Elder Sisters."
"You will tell me when Temmin is here?" said Ansella, her voice breaking at last.
"Lady, I will bring him directly to you." Ansella followed Teacher into her elegant, bright, circular receiving room where a set of mirrors flanked the fireplace. "I will be back as quickly as possible," said Teacher. "Show me the Supplicants Chamber lavatory." The right-hand mirror flickered. A small, white-tiled room replaced the celadon-walled receiving room's reflection; Ansella's stomach lurched.
Teacher paused, slender fingers half-sunk into the nauseating, fluid mirror, and in a gentle voice added, "Your Majesty, Temmin is alive and well, and will remain so. You have done the right thing, as painful as it is at this moment." Teacher swirled into the mirror until all that was left were the hems of the long black robe; they too passed through, the image in the mirror resolved into the celadon bowl of her receiving room, and Ansella was alone.
She returned to her darkened drawing room and curled into a ball on the couch before the fire. She glanced at the porcelain mantelpiece clock, a blue confection trimmed in gilt and pink porcelain roses. Harsin had given it to her on their first anniversary. He'd said it reminded him of her: the blue of her eyes, the gold of her hair and the blush of her cheek. Where was Harsin? He must be with the Shelstone woman.
Now and then would come a knock at the door and a polite request to see to the fire, trim the lamps, bring Her Majesty a tray, perhaps her bedtime tea? Ansella did not answer. She stared into the flames, hugging her knees. The already-starved fire burned low; a lamp flame fainted.
Sisters, Lovers and Beloveds passed between the Lovers' Temple and the Healer's House all the time. Who knew what might happen before the Sisters rooted out the Annikans? Teacher would see to it. No harm would come to Temmin. Please, Sweet Venna, let no harm come to him. Guard my son.