Chapter 4 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Gonnor was waiting when she came into her mother's rooms the next afternoon. "I disapprove your sleeping so late, Lassanna."
"The dancing didn't end until dawn, and I was having such wonderful fun, Papa! I don't know how you could stand to go to bed. I suppose when one is old--"
"I'm not old, I'm forty-eight!" He turned to Lassa's mother. "Woman! You should have made her come upstairs much, much earlier. Can I trust you with nothing?"
"My lord husband, she's just a girl, she should be allowed her high spirits--"
"High spirits? Girl? She's eighteen!" thundered Gonnor. "What's more, I forbid you to wear these new-styled dresses! Your mother knows well how I feel on this matter--you will not bespeak such another, madam!"
"Oh, don't be angry at Mama! Prince Andrin gave it to me."
Gonnor turned the shade of last night's wine. "You accepted it--and wore it? At court? What will people think? Pagg's balls, I know what they think already! Sittenna," he said to his wife, "you are a foolish woman to risk our family's honor so!"
"It was an Eddin's Day present, lord husband. He gave gifts to many here at court."
"Are all the Kells stupid, or just the one I married?" roared Gonnor. "If this is how you both intend to behave I will send you home to Whitehorse--under guard if I have to!"
"It's winter, lord husband," said Sittenna. "There's snow between here and Whitehorse. The Sella Gap must be closed. We won't be able to cross the Altennes until Spring's Beginning at the earliest."
Gonnor closed his aching eyes; she was right. Where could he send them? Sittenna's people were in Kellen, to the far west on the other side of the River Cobb. They might go by ship to Brunsial, her clan's seat on Kellen's coast, but it was no easy journey. No--he would send them to his sister at Summerford, further north on the Feather River and easily reached even now. A fast messenger sent on ahead could make the 150 miles upriver to herald their arrival in four days if the weather held; another four and his daughter would be far from scandal and temptation.
Word spread that Lord Gonnor was sending his women away, and to his surprise he received a summons from King Temmin. The Heir stood next to his father on the dais as Gonnor entered the King's chambers; Temmin looked bored, but Andrin's gaze made Gonnor's scalp prickle. "My Lord Whitehorse," said the King in his drawling Sairish accent, "we hear your wife and daughter are to leave us."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Gonnor answered. "In two days' time, for Castle Summerford. My sister--"
"Yes, yes," drawled the King, "but no. Your daughter is needed here. Lady Lassanna is to serve Princess Inglatine as lady-in-waiting. Her Highness's Leutish women are being sent home, d'you see. It is time she took on our Tremontine ways."
Gonnor blanched. "Your Majesty, your consideration is flattering, but my sister and her husband are expecting my daughter and Lady Whitehorse. A messenger has already been sent."
"We have intercepted him," said the King.
If ever Gonnor had worried for his youngest daughter, nothing matched the fear overtaking him now. "I see. I…I will tell my daughter of her new duties, then. The House of Whitehorse is honored. Your Majesty, Your Highness." He bowed and turned to leave.
"One last thing, Lord Whitehorse," called the King. Gonnor paused. "We sent your messenger onward with new instructions. Baron and Lady Summerford are now expecting you and your wife. We are certain you will enjoy a long visit."
A slow smile spread across the Prince's face. Gonnor's repressed anger racked his limbs. "Yes, Your Majesty. I will inform Lady Whitehorse directly and begin preparations for our journey."
Gonnor stalked from the audience hall to his family's apartments. Ordered to Summerford like a lackey, though on reflection he supposed he was. His family owed its duchy to Temmin the Great, after all, awarded for his great-grandfather's valor some sixty years ago in the conquest of Whitehorse. Giving his Lassanna to the Heir out of wedlock went far beyond fealty. If she got with child, her shame would devolve upon her family as well. Who would take her then? Perhaps the Prince might keep her under his protection for the child's sake. Andrin's grandfather Hildin the First had kept several ill-gotten offspring in the Mother's House. A pious institution for foundlings and destitute women, the Mother's House, but no daughter of Gonnor's would ever end up there. He'd see her dead before that.
When first she heard, Lassanna danced a gleeful little jig until her sleeves knocked over a pitcher. She loved her father and would miss him, but not his old-fashioned notions. Her sisters never got to be young; Papa made them take up husbands not long after they'd put down their dolls. Harla take her if Lassa wasn't going to have all the fun they missed out on.
Now, as she she watched her parents' caravan leave for the War Road, she dreaded their absence. The sharp wind coming through the unglazed window reminded her she now had little protection at court and no real advisors.
"Lady Lassanna," a servant called, "come away to your fitting!"
New dresses! Lassa almost skipped away from the chilly window after the servant, gloomy thoughts banished. I will have the longest sleeves imaginable and pointed slippers too, see if I don't, Papa!