Chapter 8 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
The long, wide strip of parkland running between the two rows of the City's religious institutions was properly called the Temple Green, but it was better known for the broad walk down its middle: the Promenade. Here the upper class and its aspirants strolled, rode and drove, seeing and being seen. The last of the trees had shed their blossoms to the disappointment of the Promenade's regulars; the pink and white petals scattered on their carriages, shoulders and hats were a badge marking the bearers among the Capital's fashionable, genteel, and indolent.
Down the Promenade strolled the overly fashionable, nominally genteel and very indolent Percet Sandopint--Lord Fennows. A great golden knob topped the ebony walking stick swinging from one hand, his black silk hat sat rakishly askew, and his lorgnette searched for Princess Ellika, a Promenade regular at this hour.
Instead, Fennows spied a pair of matched grays drawing a shell-like curricle; a Brother led a smartly dressed contingent of Guardsmen in escort, and two familiar figures sat within. Lady Donnis Provisa, the Dowager Marchioness of Petras, handled the curricle's ribbons almost as well as the Queen beside her would have, but to Percet's eye the Queen looked not quite the thing: pale, almost green. He caught Lady Donnis's attention and before she could look away he raised his hat.
Neither the Queen nor Lady Donnis would have had to do more than acknowledge most anyone else in their acquaintance, but the Marchioness was his mother's cousin and Her Majesty was Percet's godsmother. One might assume some affection between godsson and godsmother, but the miserable summer twelve-year-old Percet spent at Whithorse Estate with the royal family obliterated any tenderness he might have had toward her. She'd tried to stop Temmin's endless pranks--him and that groom, what was his name, Alvo Nollson--but the Heir and his friend were clever, sneaky and cruel. They always managed to escape hands clean. Temmin always escaped consequences for his actions, the bastard, but his luck couldn't hold out forever.
Falling in love with Princess Ellika was almost worse than her brother's gleeful cruelty. She'd paid him kinder attention than Temmin, but at almost fourteen she'd dismissed his love as a little boy's crush. She still dismissed him all these years later. Some day she would be forced to reckon with him, even if he had to wait until their wedding night. Some day he'd pay Temmin and Nollson back too, with interest. Let them all hold him in disdain; if the Sandopints played their cards right, some day they would get everything they wanted from the Antremonts.
With such ties among them, Lady Donnis was required to rein in and accept Percet's address; her cordial mien thinly veiled her dislike. No matter; the Provisas were on his list as well. "Your Majesty, Lady Donnis! How splendid to see you on such a lovely day." The ladies were murmuring their greetings when Percet spied the perfect dart, right to hand. "Oh, look, there's Sir Elbig Shelstone. Who would've thought he'd be elevated."
"Elbig Shelstone has been elevated?" said the Queen, turning even more bilious.
Ah, she'd taken the barb straight to the heart. "Only to a baronetcy, but still. Shelstone's done just one notable thing for His Majesty, and that was, oh, twenty-two years ago, I believe. Though that notable thing has amused His Majesty for weeks now, I should think."
"We have an appointment at the Hearth, Percy," snapped Lady Donnis. "Good day to you."
Percet smiled as they pulled away, the Queen's back rigid and her cousin's furious. "Quite a good day so far," he murmured.
Across the Temple Green from the rose marble Lovers' Temple stood the Hearth--the Temple of Venna the Sister, its dark green stone walls marbled in white, with the enormous gray Healer's House beside it. Donnis pulled Ansella's curricle up before it with a fuming flourish, and a groom jumped down from the curricle's back to take the reins. Ansella stepped out with shaking knees; the curricle's sway and the news about Elbig Shelstone had sickened her so much she'd wondered if she'd make it to her destination without vomiting.
She had vomited every morning for the last few days. She didn't seem to be losing weight, but she was so often chilled. Both Donnis and Miss Hanston had urged her to call a Sister. Ansella had refused, but now she wondered if perhaps she was sick. "Percet Sandopint's a worm, just a slimy little worm to be trod underfoot," seethed Donnis as she took Ansella's arm.
Ansella seethed herself but kept her composure better. "Hush, Donnie, it's all right and we're in public." They walked up the shallow switch-backs into the Sister's Temple, made so the sick and infirm could more easily enter.