Chapter 4 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
The first day of Winter's Beginning, 40 KY
Gonnor Lord Whitehorse disapproved of modern life--women eating with the men, dancers touching hands!--and never more than right now. His youngest daughter Lassanna danced with Prince Andrin this Eddin's Day night, her collarbones showing above her fur-trimmed neckline, and her unveiled hair fanning to one side whenever she swung round too quickly--he could see her nape! Was honor such a forgotten thing at the court of Temmin the Second? Temmin the Great would never have stood for it. In his days, men knew how to marshal their wives and daughters. But those days were forty years gone, and Gonnor himself had been a child.
Gonnor blamed Sairland. King Temmin had spent his youth traveling in the Sairish territories during the peace, three years in Sairland itself at King Patrig's court. Then his older brother died without a son, and Temmin hurried home to become the Heir. Though skirmishes along the border between Tremont and Sairish-held Valleysmouth had increased lately, the King's love of Sairish customs remained. Now women wore long, dragging sleeves and flashed their napes and ate with the men. He snorted to himself in disgust.
Gonnor kept the old customs alive in Whitehorse. True, he'd been somewhat lenient with his Duchess. Sittenna hadn't been entirely willing to marry him; technically, he'd carried her off from Kellen. He'd kept her bound to the bedpost until she gave in, took up Tremontine ways and settled down to married life, but he had to give her some little things in return, some of the feminine freedoms of her homeland. Perhaps when it came to Lassanna's upbringing he'd given her too much leeway, though he'd spoiled their youngest himself. He should have married Lassa off at fourteen like her two sisters, but here she was, eighteen and unwed--not the most beautiful of his girls but the hardest to give away.
Lassa trotted past him, flashing her bright smile. He tried to frown, but she looked so happy; instead, he reserved his disapproval for the back of Prince Andrin's head. Gonnor would have been delighted at the Heir's interest in his daughter had Andrin not recently married a Leutish Princess in a political alliance. The Duke ground his teeth. Never had he spent such a dismal first day of the year.
Lassanna reveled in her first holiday at the Keep. Real silver stars glittered among the evergreens gracing every beam and arch; the branches' sharp green scent mingled with the hot spiced wine constantly flowing into her cup,
Eddin's Day, with its presents and pranks, was still Lassa's favorite holiday. Th loud, violent tourneys of Farr's Day held little attraction; Father didn't think it suitable for women in any event. She always had a kitten or a songbird to be blessed on Amma's Day. She liked giving her brothers presents on Nerr's Day, she supposed. She took Venna's Day quite seriously, for her favorite brother had often been ill as a child. She still made offerings every year in hopes he might stay well; so far, Venna was pleased to keep him so. She dismissed dressing up in costume on Harla's Day as child's play. No one liked Pagg's Day, and as an unmarried woman, she could not attend the Neya's Day celebrations.
Lassa was in no hurry for marriage, for she was just as lively a girl as her father feared. Her mother had explained the barest of the ways of men and women; her lilting Kellish accent made it more of a conspiracy than a lecture. "Once I had your father in better order we enjoyed one another well enow. He thinks he has his way and in most things he does, but not in that way," she'd chuckled. The whole subject made Lassa intensely curious; for this reason alone she looked forward to her wedding night. For now, she would relish her thrilling flirtation with Prince Andrin.
The Heir could not be called handsome. He had inherited his mother's dark complexion rather than his father's fair one, and his nose was a little too hawklike for fashion. But he danced gracefully and spoke well; his eyes were dark and liquid, and he smiled at her as if she were the only woman in the room. His plodding Leutish wife never entered her mind; the woman danced like a cart horse and spoke Tremontine in a horrible, thick accent. No wonder he preferred to flirt with pretty Lassa.
At dawn this morning, Lassa and the other courtiers had climbed the hill to the Wise One's Temple to see Silver-Eyed Eddin descend into His Embodiment. She'd never seen Him before. The God had moved through the crowd offering blessings and whispering secrets in ears. The listeners sometimes clapped with joy, sometimes glared across the room at one another. Eddin always told the truth but delighted in causing mischief, and those singled out often misinterpreted what they heard. Eddin had so favored her, raising her up to whisper in her ear: "Yours will be an exciting life, and you shall be the mother of a king."
Now as she danced with the Heir, Eddin's prophecy fluttered through Lassa's mind like the bright silver ribbons in her hair. She returned Prince Andrin's intimate smile. Perhaps Princess Inglatine would die or be set aside, and Andrin would marry her!
At dance's end, her father pulled her aside, a little too roughly for company. "That was very badly done, Lassanna!"
She laughed. "It's 'Lassanna,' is it, Papa? You must be put out with me indeed."
"It's nothing to laugh about!"
Lassa pulled against his grip. "Papa, you're treading on my sleeve. Please let go, people are beginning to stare."
Her father released her arm and raised his offending foot. "Damn these trailing sleeves! We'll speak later, my girl, and you won't be laughing afterwards!"