Chapter 4 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Temmin came to himself, still feeling Lassa's delight in fashionable clothes and freedom. "She reminds me of Elly," he said.
Teacher echoed his smile. "Lassanna of Whitehorse could be said to be a spiritual sister to the Princess, yes."
"But why is her story important? It's not real history, is it?"
"The History contains the forgotten stories, especially those of the Kingdom's women--your family's women in particular. Did you know anything about Emmae before you heard her story?"
All the kings of Tremont--Temmin had the entire line memorized all the way back to Temmin the Great. But the queens? No, unless they brought substantial holdings or benefit to the Kingdom. Ilhovin the Peacemaker married a princess of Sairland and cemented the final truce between the colonizer and the once-colonized at last, for instance, but he didn't know her name. In marrying Princess Emmae, Warin the Wise secured Litta for his son Gethin the Third, but Temmin hadn't known her name or her story until Teacher told him last year.
"All right," Temmin admitted, "if you say it's important, then we start with her, and I'll find out what her connection is with Temmin the Bastard at some point, I suppose." He closed the book and began to rise from his chair when a thought took him. "Teacher, is there any news about my sister Mattie?"
"None that I have heard," said Teacher, sliding off the table. "Why?"
Temmin shrugged as if shaking off an irritation. "I feel responsible for her. If you hear anything you will let me know, won't you?"
"Of course. Shall we resume after lunch?"
By now the early spring sun was high in the sky, and Temmin was hungry. Obtaining lunch meant dealing with Harbis, but the big pain was probably already waiting in the hallway with a chafing dish. "If that means getting to the exciting part, I'm all for it."
Teacher nodded and left through the study door, admitting Harbis and his luncheon cart; the valet started back at the sight of Teacher, but once the black-robed figure disappeared down the hallyway, Harbis rolled his cart into the room with nary a rattle. Atop it sat the anticipated chafing dish and inside it was exactly what Temmin wanted: ribbony egg noodles in a thick sour cream sauce, with mushrooms and little meatballs--his favorite dish from home. How did Harbis always know?
By the time Teacher returned, Temmin had had about enough and paced up and down his study until Teacher arrived and Harbis beat a somewhat terrified retreat. "Pagg's balls, save me from this valet!" he shouted once the man was gone. "Only one thing ruffles him, and that's you. Don't leave. Ever."
"What a kind invitation," said Teacher.
"Don't leave, or go fetch Jenks from the Estate. Otherwise I'm going to wring this suave bastard's neck with his perfectly tied cravat."
"What is so odious about Mr Harbis?"
"What on earth do you mean?" said Temmin, continuing his pacing.
"He has perfect attention to detail, anticipates your needs, keeps a serene countenance--"
"Not when you're around. You scare him."
"Sir, I scare everyone," said Teacher. "It comes of the terrible parenting habit of threatening children with the Black Man. Apparently I look like this--this bugaboo."
"Oh, don't give me that," Temmin laughed, shaking his head. "You love it. You cultivate it."
Teacher ignored him. "It seems to me that your great complaint against Mr Harbis is that he is not Standfast Jenks."
Temmin gaped, arrested mid-stride. "Well of course that's my great complaint! He's always underfoot, not like Jenks a-tall!"
"Mr Jenks is usually underfoot, sir, and much noisier about it than Mr Harbis has ever dreamed of being. While he is an excellent man on the whole, Mr Jenks is not a touch upon Mr Harbis's professionalism."
"When I'm at the Temple, I'm too busy to miss him, and besides, Jenks in the Lovers' Temple doesn't bear thinking on." Temmin slumped onto the sofa. "When I'm here, though, I miss him terribly." He glanced up at the mirror above his mantelpiece and sat up straighter. "Say, could you do me a favor? Please let me see him. I'd feel better if I could get a glimpse of home."
"Very well." Teacher faced the mirror. "If Standfast Jenks is anywhere in sight of a reflection, show him to me."
The mirror wavered and resolved into a dim, grayed vantage point that moved from side to side in a dizzying manner. A somewhat weathered man appeared, brown eyes intent; a short-cropped beard marched over a strong jaw, and a receding hairline heightened an already great expanse of forehead. The man peered down before a cloth descended and blocked him from sight. After a minute of rigorous scrubbing the man reappeared more clearly than before. He wore a shirt, open at the collar, its sleeves rolled up and a waistcoat over it. The vantage point dipped and swayed again as the man squinted with first one eye, then the other. A satisfied smile broke out on his face. As he stood up the view switched to trousers ending in a pair of carpet slippers; they walked away. The mirror went dark before resolving into Temmin's study.
"I do believe," said Teacher, "that the reflection was from a pair of boots."
"That's what I'm talking about!" exclaimed Temmin, leaping to his feet. "He can get a shine on boots--"
"--That I am sure Mr Harbis can match if not surpass." Teacher put a quelling hand on Temmin's shoulder. "Another year. It will pass quickly."
"What's a year to you?" grumbled Temmin. "You have all the years you want."
Teacher took a step back and snapped, "I have not wanted the years I have had."
Temmin started; Teacher rarely displayed such intense emotion. "I'm sorry." He ruffled his hair, dislodging his queue again. "I won't miss him as much once I'm at the Temple, and I'm going back as soon as Cousin Donnis arrives."
"You are going back when it is safe. Which," Teacher amended, "will likely coincide with the Marchioness's arrival. I am sorry too, Your Highness. My sensibilities are difficult for others to understand. A long life is not necessarily a happy one. Let us not dwell on it, for at present there is nothing to be done for it. If you would, please," Teacher finished with a gesture toward the book.
Temmin studied his father's chief counselor, who was under some unknown compulsion to serve the royal family. He knew Teacher hadn't enjoyed serving those like Hildin the Usurper--an evil, troubled man if ever there was one--but surely serving Hildin's brother Warin hadn't been so bad, or even serving Temmin's father. From what he'd heard in his time at the Temple and from Sedra, Harsin wasn't a bad king--merely ruthless in the ways in which a monarch must be from time to time.
Temmin nodded, opened the book, and let it take him away.