Chapter 4 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Inglatine was just as dull and plodding as expected. She groped for words in her horrendous Tremontine until she lapsed into either Leutish or Old Sairish. Lassanna knew Old Sairish alone of the ladies-in-waiting; her mother had insisted her girls be educated as she was, despite Tremontine custom. Knowing Old Sairish was fortunate, if translating for a lump like Inglatine could be considered so.
Lassa sorted fine wool threads for Inglatine's embroidery, and helped put her to bed at night; the Princess insisted Lassa was the only one who could properly comb out her stubborn, impossibly yellow hair. Lassa soon found herself in the unwelcome position of favorite, but even as tiresome as Inglatine was, Lassa had to acknowledge her kind, gentle manner.
Court life made it bearable: dancing, feasting, music, entertainments of all kinds, often in the Sairish way even with the two countries on the brink of war. Though the King had spent many years in Sairland and its territories, his chief counselor Teacher insisted the Sairish should not only be opposed but driven back. Land gained was magic gained.
"We'll make merry while we may, Lady Lassanna," smiled Andrin one night as they danced. "Soon enow we'll march to war."
"How sad I shall be, Your Highness, to be deprived of such company," said Lassa, demurely keeping her eyes to one side.
His grasp on her hand tightened. "Who do you watch, my lady?"
Lassa brought her startled gaze back to him. "No one, sir, no one at all."
"I am happiest when you look at no other."
"As you say, sir," she replied, keeping her troubled eyes on him from then on.
That night, the uneasy Lassanna tended to the Princess, unfastening her veil and shaking out the unruly yellow torrent beneath. "What ails you, dear Lassa?" said Inglatine in her heavy Tremontine.
"Nothing, ma'am, nothing at all." She began to comb.
"I wish you to call me Tina," the Princess continued in more comfortable if stilted Old Sairish. "No one knows or cares for me as do you. My husband loves me not, you know."
Lassa cringed but kept combing. "Oh, Your Highness, say not--"
Inglatine stopped her hand. "We are honest with one another, you and I. I am not stupid, though it is supposed that I am because I speak Tremontine little--and badly. Andrin does not often come to me, and when he does he cares not. But it matters not. I am with child." Inglatine removed her hand, and Lassa speechlessly began combing again. The Princess lapsed into silence, her head pulling back in gentle snaps against Lassa's combing. "He likes not women with child," she resumed. "He will leave my bed, perhaps forever if it is a son--I pray for a son so he will leave me alone. Yours I think will be his bed now," she added in Tremontine.
Lassa dropped the comb. "Oh, no, Your Highness! I am sure…that is, the Prince certainly…" Flattery evaded her honest tongue. "I wish it not. Were he to ask me--"
"You would say yes," said Inglatine in Old Sairish. "You will say yes. I bar not your way, no, I approve."
"But I want my own husband, not someone else's!"
Inglatine bent and picked up the comb. "That is not what Andrin thinks, nor is it what anyone else thinks." She gave Lassa the comb but held onto one end, squinting up at her lady-in-waiting. "Do you know not why you were kept from going to Summerford? I think perhaps you are the stupid one."
Lassa blushed. Any Eddin-inspired thoughts she'd had of the Prince were as a husband not a lover, after some vague unfortunate occurrence to Inglatine. She had no intention of letting any man into her bed unmarried. "My father does not approve."
"Oh, but I think it matters not," Inglatine smiled. She let go the comb with a careless gesture. "Either way, Andrin will not let you go. Finish my hair. I am tired and wish to sleep now."
Inglatine's bluntness kept Lassa wakeful that night; she sat brooding before her fire, watching the flames fall to embers. She decided Inglatine wouldn't know a flirtation from an argument and went to bed.
The court agreed with Inglatine, with reason. Andrin sat Lassa next to him at meals, Inglatine on his other side. He danced almost entirely with Lassa in the evenings. He insisted Lassa call him An, as he was called among family and friends. He came to the Princess's bower but spent his time there flirting with Lassa. Within the week the courtiers began flattering Lassa, the men keeping one eye always on the Heir and the women sneering behind their hands.