Chapter 9 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
The last days of Spring's Ending turned increasingly pleasant. The icy mountain winds blowing down the City's two rivers mellowed in the strengthening sun: fresh, kind, their edges softly rounded. The City overflowed in greenery, and the gardeners at the Lovers' Temple proliferated like the flowers they tended. On this late morning, they worked around Temmin in a mild buzz of snipping and pruning as he sat on the lawn, his tunic off and his drawstring trousers rolled up to feel the sun on his skin.
In fact, it was too bright on the grass for him to read his latest missive from Ellika. He shifted into the nearest tree's dappled light, lying flat on the grass and holding the letter over his head. He began to skim what he assumed would be her usual cheerful nattering about what she would wear to this coming Nerr's Day parties--the last of the season--hints as to what his brother's gift would be, and society gossip about people he barely knew. What he read was quite different:
As for Nerr's Day, can you arrange a private meeting for us on the Eve? I fear this may be Sedra's last Nerr's Day with us, and I don't like the idea of her giving you your brother's gift in public! You know how emotional she gets, it's why she hides behind newspapers. I don't mind everyone looking at me, you know I don't, and I can't wait until you see my new dress, it's the perfect aquamarine to contrast with all that Nerr's Day rose, but Sedra doesn't like it at all--everyone watching, not my dress, she mumbled something about how very pretty it was, but could I get her to call for Naister and have something more fashionable made up for herself? I could not, it was all I could do to coax her into a new dress at all.
Oh, and you've probably guessed why this is likely to be her last brother's gift to you: Papa is increasingly serious about marrying her off!! I heard rumors of everyone from the Duke of Alzeh to that fathead Fennows, but now Sedra tells me it's SAIRLAND!! Merciful Amma, please let it not be Sairland!! She would be a Queen, and there's much to be said for that I suppose, but I do not like the idea of her being so very far away. Alzeh isn't so very far away, and the Duke comes to the City for the height of the season at least, so we would see her, but Sairland! We'd never see her again! Of course I have no idea what King Bannig looks like, but the Duke isn't so terribly bad, even with that dark Alzehni complexion. One good thing I hear about the King is that he does love a good party. So at least she'll be amused in Cordeneen. Come to think on it, maybe not. She's not one for parties, is she? Maybe I should marry Bannig! No, I don't want to move to Sairland, either.
In any event, Mama is not at all well. Cousin Donnis says Mama's stomach is delicate at present, but she is obviously uneasy about it. Mama started turning odd colors at meals and stopped coming downstairs entirely about a week ago. My Iddie tells me the cooks say all she eats is dry toast and mint-and-ginger tisane! And she won't send for a Sister and she won't tell me what the matter is! That odious block Hanston won't let me near her for more than a few minutes!!
Papa is up to his tricks again and has elevated his mistress's greasy little father to a baronetcy! Gave him a holding on the coast of Kellen, some miserable little fishing village in the middle of nowhere, but at least one doesn't have to see him in society at present--he's there now, gloating. And then! Papa put up the Shelstone at Middlemont!! I'm not supposed to know about it, of course, but how do you keep a secret like that? Papa thinks Mama is sulking. Maybe she is, but I don't think so.
I think perhaps Mama might tell you what is wrong, and if it is your absence, I shall be very put out with you for going away like this even if it was for good reason and I suppose a direct invitation from the Gods is a good reason but really, it's caused such a great deal more fuss than I ever expected. I should never have helped you had I known.
You simply must come home to see Mama!!
Your loving sister,
The letter's length alone convinced Temmin that perhaps he should ask permission to visit the Keep, but the news about Mama…and then Twenna Shelstone…
From the little he knew, he didn't think his father had ever gone so far as to elevate a mistress's family. This did not bode well. He rolled down his trouser legs, donned his shirt and began composing his request to the Most Highs in his head as he walked back into the Temple.