Chapter 5 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Return to Gwyrfal? She wanted nothing more! Lassa's heart expanded, but past experience stayed her immediate answer. "At the risk of presumption, may I ask in what role, Your Majesty?"
Dunnoc laughed. "Older and wiser, eh, my lady?" At her darkening expression he added, "Nay, nay, don't think ill of me. It was a bad attempt at jest. Forgive me. I will speak honestly. I have put great thought to remarrying. I am lonely. Mistresses do not suit me. I never took one while Hallia lived, and I have found no comfort in them since her death though I have tried. As for Beloveds, well, you can't bring one home to warm the bed at night, can you?"
"Are you asking me to marry you, sir?" said Lassa in disbelief.
"I am asking you for permission to court you. I have asked your uncle for his blessing and he has given it, but only if you are willing to consider me."
Lassa stared off toward the sea, glittering in the distance; the children had changed their sticks from swords to horses and were galloping from the grove onto the open sward, Hanni strolling behind them. Their trails through the tall grass wove together in a loose braid, the three paths coming apart and crossing again. "What about Tennoc? What rank would he hold?"
Dunnoc raised his eyebrows. "Rank? Surely you're not asking me to make him equal to Kenver and Gwynna."
"No, of course not." Lassa brought her gaze away from the children and back to the King. "But I want to make sure your lords understand he is to be respected and that he is not to be treated with contempt or as anything less than honorable. He is not to blame for his birth."
"So you will consider my suit?"
"What will be Tennoc's rank?" she insisted.
Dunnoc frowned and released the hand he'd been holding. "I don't understand your concern. Tennoc has always had royal favor and has been accepted in court."
"Tennoc is a sweet-faced little boy right now. In ten years he'll be a man. I don't want your nobles guarding their daughters when it comes time for him to wed, or conspiring to cast him out somehow."
"You know it is less that he is fatherless than that he is the son of the Tremontine king--the only son. How many daughters has Queen Inglatine given Andrin now?"
"Five, poor Tina. Every letter is full of how badly she wishes to be done with him."
"Were she my wife, I'd set her aside and marry again. Send her to the Mother's Temple to be a priestess, preferably a contemplative somewhere praying for our souls. It would make them both the happier, Dear Amma knows. Is King Andrin so very bad, then?"
Lassanna set her mouth; talking about her former lover came hard to her. "Before Tennoc came, he was good to me," she said slowly.
"So were he to set Inglatine aside and call for you?"
"He will never call for me. In Tremont I am damaged goods, as they say. No one would marry me, let alone the King. When I was a stupid girl, I thought he might, d'you see. I thought…" She recalled Eddin's whispered words: You will be the mother of a king. "My mother raised me more like a Kell than a Tremontine. I was foolish. I thought An loved me. He never said it, but I thought his actions proved it. I believed what I wished to be true. He has never written me, never inquired after his son, never moved to protect me from my father so that I might go home."
Dunnoc let his gray eyes wander over her face in a way they never had before; she blushed. "Gwyrfal is your home, not Whitehorse. Come home, Lassa. Serve as the mistress of Gwynna's household and let us come to know one another better, not only as friends but as lovers. I know I am older by a good twenty years, but I am as ardent as any a younger man. You will be welcome in my court whatever may come. As for Tennoc, as long as he swears fealty to the Kellish throne, I will give him a holding and find him a wife. I swear to both on my honor as King."
"Consider his suit, niece!" said Lord Williard that night. "There's nothing you can bring to a royal marriage from a political standpoint, and you bring more than a bit of trouble considering Tennoc's father. There's many a lord angling to place his daughter in Dunnoc's bed--he must already love you at least a little. Probably a good deal more than a little."
"I remind him of old times, sir, nothing more," answered Lassanna.