Chapter 4 Part 9 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Lassa missed her moon. Twice.
She consulted a Sister in secret. "There must be something you can do, some way to stop the child?"
"We do not end pregnancies, especially royal ones," huffed the priestess.
Soon Lassa could no longer hide her blossoming belly from her lover. "You're with child? Lassa, you were not meant to be the mother of my children! You were to be everything but that! Did you not listen to the Sisters? Had you paid so little attention to their teachings?"
"You insisted even when I told you it was the wrong time of my moon!"
An turned purple. "You dare blame me for this! I have no use for you at present--I despise pregnant women. Go home to your father. When your confinement is over you may return."
"What about the child?"
"What do I care?" said An. "Send it to the Mother's House. With luck it will go to the Hill. I'm leaving for a tour of the Sairish reinforcements along the border at Valleysmouth. When I return, you will be gone."
Lassa sent word to her father, not knowing what to expect. Perhaps he would let her come home. But what if he didn't? Would her aunt take her in at Summerford? Not against her father's wishes. She might throw herself on the mercy of the Mothers, but to work like a slave in this new Mother's House--she trembled and waited for the messenger's return.
The messenger did not return; Gonnor of Whitehorse did.
He strode straight into the Princess's bower, scattering servants and ladies alike with the flat of his sword, bellowing, "Girl, did I not tell you I would kill you rather than see Whitehorse shamed?" The Duke deflated at the sight of his daughter cowering in a corner. "Lassanna, my darling, my baby girl, how could you do it? How could you let him do this to you?"
"You yourself know how little choice I had in the matter!" she cried.
"Do not blame me for this state of affairs! I love you, Lassa! Now, be a good girl," said her father, suddenly coaxing. "Come out into the courtyard and I will make your death as painless as possible. Don't make me stain the Princess's chambers with blood."
Inglatine placed herself between them, legs planted firmly on the floor. "This lady is under my protection."
"I am within my rights as her father, Your Highness," growled Gonnor.
"Oh, to be sure, but she is my lady and friend. To kill her you must come through me." Inglatine bounced the baby in her arms. "You would kill a Princess of Tremont--two princesses? To kill me would bring more than shame. The King would slaughter your House, to the last girl child."
Gonnor lowered the blade. "You cannot stand in my way forever. Sooner or later Lassanna will leave this room, and I will be waiting." He sheathed his sword and left.
Inglatine gave the baby to another lady. "We have little time." She grabbed the shaking Lassa's arm and dragged her into the Princess's bedchamber. She took a heavy cloak from its hook, threw it into Lassa's arms and ran to a chest; she fished out a purse and thrust it at Lassa as well. Inglatine ripped aside a tapestry on the wall to uncover an opening. "This passage leads to An's rooms. They say you Whitehorsers are born in the saddle, yes?"
Lassa followed her mistress through a narrow passageway to a tapestry-covered door into An's familiar bedchamber; she wondered if Inglatine had heard them making love. "Why are you doing this?"
Inglatine produced a key on what Lassa had assumed was a decorative chatelaine, pushed back another tapestry on the far wall and unlocked a hidden door. "I have told you, you are my friend. You do not love me, but you have never lied to me and have often been kind. An has shown me these stairs to the stables--they are a secret." Inglatine shooed her through the door and shut it behind them; they plunged together into the dark, feeling their way down the stairs as quickly as they could without tumbling headlong. Shame filled Lassa's heart. In many ways the Princess had been her sole friend since her parents' departure, the one person who didn't want something from her other than simple companionship.
A crack of light revealed a door; the faint smell of horses reached her nose. "Hush now," said Inglatine, "I am not sure what we will find. But our choices are limited, yes?" She fitted her key in the lock. The door swung open on silent hinges and they walked through it into the tack room. "Put on the cloak and stay there, Lassa."
Inglatine returned with a reedy young man barely out of boyhood with hair even more yellow than her own. "This is Hanni der Geelt--called Yellow Hanni here. He was once of my escort and has gone on many travels with the King. He will know the way. Where can you go? Summerford?"
"No, that's the first place Papa would look--yes! My mother's people in Kellen! My uncle, Williard ar Sial! I stayed in their holding at Brunsial on the Kellish coast for a whole year with my mother. Kellish ways are different. They will take me in, and it's not too snowy yet to cross the border."
Inglatine said something in Leutish to the reedy groom; he responded with a great gout of words and much gesticulating in Lassa's direction. "Hanni says he knows well the way to Kellen. He is yours now--a good horseman, good fighter, better bowman and so very loyal." The young man rushed off; Lassa took in his flailing arms and legs, and rather doubted his martial prowess. "I have told him to do as you say, that you are his mistress now," continued Inglatine, "but he does not speak much Tremontine yet outside stable talk. That, he knows. Poor Hanni der Geelt, now he will have to learn Kellish, too. I must return the way I came. Stay here until Hanni returns." Inglatine embraced her. "I will miss you, Lassa."
Lassa clung to the Princess. "Oh, how I've misjudged you, ma'am! How kind you are, and how sorry I am!"
"Now, now, yes. When I can set up my own household I will send word and you shall come to me. Perhaps my next two babies will be boys, eh? Then we will both be free." Inglatine hugged her one last time and slipped through the hidden door; the lock shot home.
When they were well away from the Keep, Lassa was stiff from riding and needed to piss. The wind cut through her cloak. They had no food, though Yellow Hanni pointed to his bow and insisted he was a fine hunter. Or at least that's what she thought he said. Hanni was murmuring incomprehensibly to his horse; how would she ever talk to the man? She looked down at her own mount. There was something familiar in the mare's lines, as if she recognized it. "Hanni, which horse is this?"
"To His Highness Lord of Whitehorse has given her," said the groom, "so I for you get. You like? Best mare in stable is!"
"My father's horse is carrying me away from him."
"No worries, Lady. I, Hanni der Geelt, take care of you will!"
Lassa raised her head to the cold sky and burst into tears.