Chapter 8 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

On his return to the Keep, Harsin called for both Winmer and Teacher and informed them of Twenna's condition; he ordered his secretary to draw up papers making Elbig Shelstone a baronet. "Find a holding. Something quite small and quite far away."

"Are you sure, sir?" said Winmer, wrinkling his nose.

"He is a loathsome little toad and a rascal, but it must be done. I will elevate Twenna to an earldom after the baby is born, and her father needs some kind of rank. Ready Middlemont for Miss Shelstone's prolonged stay. Send Hallik and his wife to run things--apologize to old Crookman and give him a sop to make up for Hallik's usurpation--oh, what is it, Winmer?" snapped the King.

Winmer stopped bouncing on his toes. "Sir, wouldn't it be more expedient to send the child to a Mother's House? There's one catering to the extra children of the nobility, not far from the capital. Quite the picturesque estate, you'd hardly know it was a Mother's House. The girl would be raised with the utmost propriety and a fine education."

"Do what I have told you." Winmer gave a skeptical, almost critical bow and left. Harsin turned to his advisor, who stood like a sliver of black ice before him. "It won't change my decision, but do you approve?"

"I confess to surprise at the depth of your attachment, sir."

Harsin paused. "All of my mistresses have told me they love me. Some of them might actually have meant it. With Twenna--I know she means it, poor girl. I'll do what I can for her, but no, my attachment is to the baby. I will not let another child of royal blood escape my supervision. Not after my brothers, and not after Tellis Ambler's girl. That damned Ansella. She should never have sent the girl away. I need her--I wish to marry her off to Fennows since he's so deuced anxious for an intimate connection to the royal family. I refuse to give him Elly, and there's no question of Sedra whatsoever."

"Dismissing your half-brothers from court when you were born was perhaps the most unwise thing your father ever did."

"We had quite the mess to clean up all around let alone the bastards' claims once I became king, didn't we. My father should have remarried as soon as his first wife died--by the time he married my mother, Perin had convinced himself he was the rightful Heir."

"In the absence of a legitimate son, he would have been king."

"What a mess Father left me. His women kept him too busy to pay attention to ruling."

Teacher bowed. "As you say, sir."

"About that girl--Mattisanis Dunley. I'd meant to search for her over the last year, but haven't had time to spare a thought. The worsening rebellions in Inchar alone have been enough to preoccupy me, let alone Temmin's hijinks. But now with this new child on the way I'm ill at ease. Miss Dunley and her mother should be under my protection."

Teacher gestured to the mirror over the mantel. "Shall I look for her?" At Harsin's nod, Teacher intoned, "If Mattisanis Dunley is anywhere within sight of a reflection in this Kingdom or its territories, show her to me."

The obstinate mirror let not a flicker disturb the reflection of Teacher's silver eyes and Harsin's own somewhat worn countenance; he absently noted the increasing gray at his temples. "Try again." The second attempt was no more successful than the first.

"A different tack," said Teacher. "If Tellis Dunley is anywhere within sight of a reflection, show her to me."

The mirror resolved into a murky black. After years exposed to Teacher's magic Harsin never blinked, but this time something put the hairs on the back of his arms at attention. The distorted image kept jiggling; the reflecting object must be something someone was wearing. The wavering light suggested that whoever it was carried a lantern. The image rested on a niche in a rough wall--stone or perhaps brick. Within the niche lay a coffin.

The person carrying the lantern moved away from the niche, and the mirror presented Harsin's reflection once again, his face somewhat paler. "That was the inside of a Hill, wasn't it?"

"I fear so," murmured Teacher.

"So Tellis Dunley is dead. I'm very sorry for it. She was a beautiful girl." He knocked his knuckles against his chin. "How concerned should we be that you couldn't find my daughter?"

Teacher considered. "It may be she was not in view of a reflection. It may be she is out of the country. It has been a year, after all."

"Keep looking for her--you know best how to use reflections to find an elusive quarry."

"If I do not find her?"

"If you don't find her within a week, we shall send out agents and make inquiries. No--I'll have Winmer do that right away. Coordinate with him. It may be she's married a foreigner and gone off to Sairland or some such for all I know. Contact the Sairish through back channels and see if they will search for her there, without letting them know what she is--let none of our agents know what she is, but that she is to be unharmed in the search. If she's left the Kingdom, Sairland's her most likely destination."


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