Chapter 4 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
For the first time in almost a year, Temmin found himself at loose ends. His ride with his mother took up part of the morning, but they were back by breakfast. He was not allowed to leave the Keep or its grounds. He might go to the stables. At home, the Estate's stablehands welcomed and then ignored him, treating him as a sort of honored comrade. At the Keep he made the men uncomfortable and formal; it turned a pleasure into a pointless exercise. Given time, he could have won them over, but he didn't have time. He would be at the Keep just a week.
An empty day stretched before him, with the annoying, perfect Harbis hovering around for good measure. He could stand his father's Gram; the man had a talent for making himself invisible. But Harbis was always puttering about, making sure everything one needed was at hand from the right change of clothes to a bath at the perfect temperature to the providing of a snack exactly when one wanted it but before one asked for it. Infuriating.
Thus, Temmin greeted Teacher's arrival in his study--and Harbis's brisk, somewhat alarmed departure--with great pleasure. This time he spared the slight figure a crushing hug and instead shook hands. "Just the man I wanted to see! I was so bored I even thought of finding your library again, but it's been some time since I've been up there and I wasn't sure I could find my way."
Teacher smiled. "Your father thought perhaps we might return to our lessons while you are here."
Temmin glanced at the lectern and the old red book. "Lessons? What for? I'm going back to the Temple soon. What kind of lessons are we talking about? Lecturing sorts of lessons, or…?"
"The other sort, if you prefer. I have nothing particular in mind, really, but to begin a story to be finished later. I thought perhaps one of the more exciting ones--well, they are all exciting, your family has a turbulent history. But this story..." Teacher crossed to the lectern for the book and paused, one hand on its Tremontine red leather cover. "You have opened it."
"Oh, well, yes," he blushed. "I've had another birthday, you see, and I thought perhaps…I mean, there's the sigils, and I can see you very clearly in the mirror now. I checked and I still can't use the mirror as you do, so I thought perhaps I might have been given the ability to read the book this year."
Teacher's mouth quirked at its corner. "Of those ancestors who held magic, most saw their abilities begin in a small way at puberty and develop fully at age eighteen. You are the first in 358 years to have any ability at all, and I am not certain how. Though I have my theories."
Teacher picked up the book and brought it to the library table by the windows; Temmin sat down before it. "Which are?"
"I have not come to any definite conclusions, but it would appear the land recognizes you more completely than previous men of the blood. You are the closest in bloodline to the first King in some centuries--perhaps ever. You even look like him."
"You mean Temmin the Great? You knew him? I thought you first served us under Gethin the First."
"I have served from Gethin on, but I knew Temmin the First. Sometimes it is hard to look at you and not see him. You are very like, though I did not know him in his youth." Memory, wistfulness and revulsion played across Teacher's face in a rare unguarded moment.
"You didn't like him, did you?"
The expression vanished. "Some day I will tell you the story of the first Temmin and me. Not until you are King yourself may I even try to do so." Temmin nodded; he knew the pain it cost when Teacher got too close to magically forbidden subjects. Teacher perched on the edge of the table as in days gone by. "For now, I can tell you the story of another of your namesakes: the third Temmin, called Bastard, the only illegitimately born king to date."
Temmin thought of his father's older brothers born on the wrong side of the blanket though raised as potential heirs; Harsin had come late in his own father's life. Even now they plotted somewhere outside the boundaries of the Kingdom to kill both Harsin and Temmin, and thus place the eldest of them on the throne. "Hopefully the only one ever, at least well into my great-grandchildren's lifetimes. All right, let's hear it--or--or whatever you call it when you open this thing." It never seemed to matter which page he turned to, so he spread the book open at random.
Teacher's voice turned hypnotic. "This story is called 'The Bastard.' Once upon a time…"