Chapter 3 Part 8 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Temmin woke the next morning to someone moving through his room. "Jenks?" he called, sitting up and ruffling his hair.
From beyond the bed-curtains came a level voice he recognized as Gram, his father's valet. "No, sir. I'm tending to your needs until my nephew Mr Harbis arrives this afternoon." Gram opened first the bed-curtains then the draperies, letting the gray winter light creep apologetically past the valet's square shoulders into the bedchamber.
Temmin flung himself down on the pillows again. "Harbis? Oh, Pagg's balls," he muttered to himself. He'd had to put up with Harbis as his valet last year when Jenks was called away. The elegant man was irritatingly good at his job, his sole flaw being that he wasn't Jenks--Jenks, the dispenser of advice from fashion to horses, more a father to him than the King. The gravel-voiced ex-cavalryman had been Temmin's personal servant since he could remember. The year they'd spent apart had been busy enough that Temmin hadn't had time to miss him much, but here outside the Temple he felt his old friend's absence greatly. "Gram, your nephew is all very well and good, but I'm not going to be here long enough to need him!"
"As you say, sir. Nevertheless, Mr Winmer has requested his presence. If you do not need him, I am sure there is some further employment for him here."
"Let him be Winmer's valet, then," grumbled Temmin. Harla take Winmer anyway. All the worst things at the Keep seemed to originate with his father's secretary--forcing Arta Dannikson into seducing him, blackmailing the twins, the near-murder of Arta and her sweetheart Fen Wallek, and now foisting an unwanted valet on him. It was enough to put a man in a mood.
Mood or no, he took the bath Gram drew for him and put on the clothes Gram set out for him. "I believe His Majesty expects you at breakfast this morning, sir."
Temmin found his father and sisters already sitting at the breakfast table in the sunny, robin's egg blue morning room; they stood at his arrival. Ellika bounded from her chair, almost overturning it in her eagerness. "I wanted to see you so much I got up for breakfast!" she crowed, hugging him tight.
He kissed her on both cheeks, patted her back toward her chair, and kissed Sedra before he turned to Harsin. Temmin took the King's outstretched hand and shook it warily. "Sir."
"Good morning, son, I'm glad to see you looking well after last night's excitement."
"I'm still not sure it was necessary, sir. The Temple's Own does a fine job."
"They could not protect you against a Sister the Lovers' Temple trusted." Harsin sat back down, his children followed suit, and his arrival's good feelings evaporated into an uncertain tension. Sedra picked at the corner of the newspaper at the top of her habitual morning stack; Ellika concentrated on spreading apricot jam on toast until she'd covered it in a thick, even coat from crust to crust.
Temmin fidgeted until he could stand it no longer. "What are we going to do about Mama?"
Harsin swallowed a bit of sausage. "We've done it. Ibbit is imprisoned awaiting trial, and the Sisters are purging Annikan sympathizers. I wouldn't go anywhere near the Hearth for the next four spokes for all the tea in Nija," he added in a mutter.
"I mean she's miserable, have you noticed nothing?" said Temmin.
"Have I noticed nothing--of course I've noticed it! Your mother does not do well in the City, it's why she's lived at the Estate all these years. I'd send her back if I could, but we'd both lose face now that you're grown."
"But what can we do for her?"
Harsin had taken on the red beginnings of a fine shade of purple when Sedra murmured, "I've called for Cousin Donnis."
"What?" said Harsin, his ill temper switching to his oldest daughter. "Without consulting me?"
"It seemed more important to bring her here quickly than ask for permission first. You won't deny Mama the comfort of her closest friend, surely?"
Harsin squinted at her in irritation. "Outmaneuvered again. I wish you were one of my generals in Endan. Damned Incharis don't know what's best for them. No, I won't begrudge her Lady Donnis, I've always liked the woman." He tapped his finger on the table. "Temmin, your mother will be better just having you near. I attribute her worry over you more than anything to her indisposition of late. It, ah, it's not too late to withdraw from the Temple. If you're worried about your mother, I'm sure the Most Highs would give you dispensation if you asked--or if I asked for you."
Ellika fumbled her toast; Sedra rattled her newspaper open.
"You're asking me to break a vow, sir, a very serious vow," Temmin said, turning an answering shade of red.
Harsin picked up his fork and pointed it at his son. "Worth a try. But the damage is done, in any event. Coming home now would probably make things worse, now that I think more on it." He tucked into his sausage.
"Well, that's good," said Temmin, "because I'm due back there sooner than later. Neya's Day is coming up."