Chapter 4 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Ansella suffered in ways Temmin didn't understand. Yes, she had loved Ibbit, but Ibbit had proved false. Ibbit wanted Temmin dead. She wanted his father dead. Oughtn't Mama to be more angry than sad? She stayed in her rooms, avoiding both the morning room and the dinner table. Miss Hanston swore she ate, but "Her Majesty is in a kind of mourning, sir, and that's a fact."
Temmin supposed she might well be in the ordinary kind of mourning soon, depending on what the Sisterhood dug up in its investigations. Mama told him she'd been there when Anniki died, and how terrible it was. He hoped she would not be present if they executed Ibbit. He'd never disliked Ibbit enough to want her dead before, but for what she'd done to his mother he wanted to see her horse face looking down its nose from the hooks above Marketgate.
Or did he? He'd seen dead bodies. He remembered the first man he'd seen die a violent death, an assassin at Lord Litta's ball a year ago, and the first to have gotten close to him. Temmin still thought of the blood dribbling from the crossbow bolt in the man's forehead. There'd been several assassins since, but he'd seen only one other die--a pathetic little shopman who'd been forced to attack him. The rest never got near.
He'd seen a great many men killed in Teacher's magical book; the "Intimate History" made him relive the battle his ancestor Warin had fought to take his throne. Seeing the head of someone he knew as well as Ibbit, even if he hated her…he didn't know. Maybe it wouldn't come to that.
Ansella revived in the presence of her children. Without saying anything to one another, on Temmin's second night at home they tried to recreate their cozy childhood evenings at the Estate, sitting together before the Small Sitting Room fire. Even Ellika foreswore her nightly round of parties and brought out her little-seen workbasket. Mama's knitting lay in her lap, but the needles remained silent. She said little; she stroked Temmin's hair as he sat on her footstool, or bent quietly over Ellika's embroidery. Sedra sketched them, singly and together. One study arrested Temmin's eye: Mama staring away toward a dark corner, pressing the tip of a knitting needle into the top of her thigh.
What joy had she had the last few years? Ibbit had reined Mama in for so long, stopped her from doing so many things she'd loved--everything from dancing to reading novels to riding. Temmin's earliest memories of horses involved his mother. She was a true daughter of Whithorse, such a good judge of horseflesh that Jenks said her father the old Duke and her brother Patrin often deferred to her: "His Grace always swore she rode before she could walk, and your Uncle Patrin always regretted having to buy a horse without her advice when we were on campaign. Though he never bought a bad horse in his life." As patrician a lady as any, half the skirts in her wardrobe were riding skirts, divided down the middle.
Mama loved horses. How could she have denied herself one of the great pleasures of her life for so long? Perhaps, Temmin thought, a return to the saddle would help Mama see how wrong Ibbit was--not just in her heresy, but in all things. "Mama, come ride with me tomorrow in the King's Woods. I won't be home long and I'm sure Flor misses you." She demurred, but he detected interest in her voice. He coaxed, and coaxed some more; when she gave in, her smile almost reached her eyes.
The grooms and stable hands were thrilled to see the Queen; she had been a frequent visitor in the past, taking particular care of her little white mare Flor, but a few spokes of the wheel had turned since the stables had seen her shadow. Poor Flor's back more often than not carried a stable boy round the paddock.
Riding Master Cappel came hurrying up from the ring where he'd been working with a promising roan, snatched off his cap, and bowed so low he almost fell over. Ansella took his gnarled hands and helped him up; the old man blushed like a boy. "Yer Majesty! We've miss't you so!"
Ansella mounted Flor. Temmin's favorite, Jebby, had been sent back to the Estate for the duration of Temmin's Supplicancy, and while he missed the big chestnut gelding he enjoyed riding this black half-Inchari mare named LeiLei almost as much. They took off at a brisk walk out of the yards, breaking into a light canter when they reached the War Road leading into the King's Woods. His mother looked as if she'd never left the saddle, more herself than in the entire time they'd been in the City. She moved with Flor as one, giving the white mare little direction beyond the slight shift of her weight, and as they flew over the meadows dotted with blue and red wildflowers and through the dappled, ferny King's Woods her narrow shoulders seemed less bowed; her face relaxed.
They stopped in the Fairy Meadow, high in the foothills where the air was clearest. His mother's aspect altered; a life and vitality informed the way she leaned over and scratched Flor's neck in just the spot to make the little mare shake her head in bliss. "That's what I like to see," said Temmin. "Roses in my mama's cheeks."
"Am I so wan, then?" she said, breathing a little harder than she should.
"Mama, you've had me worried since before--" He stopped himself. No references to Ibbit. "Since before my birthday. Since I saw you at Amma's Day. You're winded. You were never winded after a little canter like this. You must keep riding after I've gone back to the Temple. Mama, you love riding. I don't understand why you stopped. You need the air and the exercise. Exercise will improve your appetite."
"I'm eating, sweetheart--"
"Not enough. Cousin Donnis likes to ride. Sedra will instruct her to drag you to the stables if she has to. Promise me you will both ride and eat more, Mama."
Ansella promised, meek as a remorseful child.