Chapter 5 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Temmin left the book uneasy. "They never leave you alone, do they?"
"Elaborate, please," said Teacher.
"Well, plots and plots and more plots. Is any king ever safe?" He ran his hands through his hair to scratch his scalp; his queue's fastening fell to the floor again. "Pagg damn it, and this thing takes forever to tie. I'm still not used to it, I like my hair shorter."
"The Temples are conservative in all things, sir. And to answer your question, no king is ever completely safe. There are always those vying for power, especially in the days when the Tremontine kings wielded magic directly. Now one might say the competition is for me, as strange as it sounds."
"No, I understand what you mean. But this was Kellen, not Tremont."
"Kellen had its own magic then, and not all magic was concentrated in the hands of one man--remember, even Gian of Valleysmouth had his little bit. The lords of Kellen had their little bits as well. Over time Tremont's magic became concentrated in the hands of the King, and now it is wholly mine. I hold it for your family. More than magic drives men to reach for power, though. Women, too, but they must reach for it through their men. There are few outlets now for them."
"Now? Was it ever different?"
"Once, long ago, women had their own power--enough to guarantee many of them an independent place in this world. Those days ended with your--your--" Teacher slipped from the edge of the library table, gripping its edge. Temmin reached out his hands but was waved away. "Too close, I fear. When you are king I may tell you," Teacher wheezed. "I must wish to tell you very badly to risk the pain so often."
Temmin patted his tutor's shoulder, feeling boyish and ineffectual. "You never get the urge to talk with anyone else about…forbidden matters?"
"Oh, I speak with few people in any event--your father, Mr Winmer, the heads of the Temples occasionally. In the past, your sister Sedra. We had wonderful conversations. I wish your father were more liberal in his views on female education," said Teacher wistfully. "You might think after nearly a thousand years I would be more circumspect, but in truth it does not come up very often. The only ones with whom I may speak freely of those times are your father and Connin."
Temmin brushed his loose hair back behind his ears, frowning at the mention of the Travelers. "They are the same as you, aren't they? Connin and his mother, I mean. Immortal. They were in Emmae's story, and that happened some 700 years ago." Connin's mother the Traveler Queen cursed Emmae to return the desire of anyone who wanted her, a horror softened by forgetfulness of her proud past; the Queen granted that mercy when Emmae gave Connin her virginity. "How did Connin end up with a royal name? Was the Traveler Queen one of those ambitious women?" he said, thinking of Lassanna and her initial eagerness to be the mother of a king.
"I can tell you nothing about that."
"How do ambitious women seek power now?"
"They enter the Temples and work their way into positions of authority--Ibbit is an example of such. Those who marry ambitious men help them in their cause however they can. Some women who have married more phlegmatic men goad them into striving for power. Some content themselves with social power. Others pin their hopes on their sons."
"Like Lassanna? But she didn't seem to want her son to be king. Why?"
"She saw it as a dangerous path. As a bastard, Tennoc might face opposition, possibly armed opposition, from all sides unless he showed strength."
Temmin considered the table top, brows raised in thought. "She wanted a title for him, though, and a noble wife." He rose and stretched his long frame. "I wonder what Mama wants for me."
"She wants for you to be happy and safe. There are few mothers as devoted as the Queen."
Temmin thought back on his childhood, living as normal a life as Mama could give him. He'd had no idea assassins had stalked him even then. For the first time he wondered how much she must have worried and suffered on his behalf--and still did. "I'll never be safe," he murmured.
"She knows this, and so she wishes for you to be happy most of all."
He didn't know if that was possible either. "I suppose if Donnis is due any moment I had better ready myself to return to the Temple."
"I have made inquiries, sir. The Temple's Own has secured the building and only Sisters personally vetted by Sister Imvalda are in service at the Lovers' Temple."
Temmin nodded. "All right, then. I'll just have to trust Donnis and the girls to help Mama from here on out. Actually," he considered, "Donnis will do more for her than any of us might."