Chapter 9 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Two days before Summer's Beginning on a sunny Vennaday, the merciful Most Highs sent Temmin back to the Keep. He shot his cuffs and twitched under his now-unfamiliar shirt collar in the warm weather; there was much to be said for the loose, comfortable Temple garb as the temperature rose.

He sought out his younger sister on arrival and found her in her apricot-and-gilt private sitting room, pacing on the needlepointed roses of her carpet. Ellika pounced on him as soon as he came through the door. "Oh, I'm so glad you're home, Temmy, it's been the most vexing spoke ever!" She poured out her sorrows: the odious Elbig Shelstone's elevation, the hussy Twenna Shelstone's residence at Middlemont, their father's frequent, indiscreet absences, Sedra's impending engagement, and their mother's troubling indisposition. "You look well at least," she sniffed.

"I'm here," he said, kissing her forehead. "Doesn't that satisfy, you little baggage?"

"What will satisfy, you vulgar creature, is your going to Mama's apartments and storming Castle Hanston. Go! Off with you, or I shall prick you with your brother's gift and there's your hint! Go go go!"

Ensconced in a bed full of pillows, Ansella pushed the soft boiled egg and toast away untouched. "I just can't, Donnie. Please take it away, the smell is giving me a terrible headache."

"You must let me call the Sisters!" said Donnis. "You're getting worse, not better."

"It's just the baby, cos. It will pass in a spoke."

"I'm not sure you have a spoke!" said Donnis, taking the tray. "If you can't eat a little something by tonight, I'm calling the Sisters whether you want me to or not!"

"I beg you not to! I don't want him to know about the baby!"

Donnis dropped the tray to her hips in exasperation. "Why, in Amma's name?"

Ansella set her pale face. "I will not compete with that Shelstone woman!"

"Oh, Annie, you can't stay in here the entire six spokes--" A racket rose from the sitting room.

"I'm sorry, Your Highness, but the Queen cannot be disturbed!" Miss Hanston's voice boomed. "Sir, please!" Donnis clanged the tray down on a nearby console; she had specified no visitors.

"Very sorry, Hanston," Temmin's voice came, "but I'm only here for a short visit." What was he doing here at all? "Mama! Fair warning, I'm coming in!" The rangy young man dashed through the door, Miss Hanston rumbling after.

"I did try, ma'am!" she said.

"It's all right, Hanston," smiled Ansella. "He's welcome, as long as he can be quiet and not rattle the teeth in my head." Miss Hanston gave the Prince a stony look that said she very much doubted it, retired to the wardrobe, and closed its door behind her.

"Hullo, Mama!"

"Hullo yourself, antic boy, what are you doing here?" said his mother.

"An impromptu visit at the command of the Princess Ellika. What's on the tray, Cousin Donnis?" sniffed Temmin.

"Ellika? Haven't you eaten, sweetheart?"

"It's been at least an hour, Mama." He examined the untouched plate. "Donnis, is she eating?" he demanded.

"No, she's not," Donnis answered. She took the tray out to Miss Hanston, Temmin eyeing it wistfully even though all it contained was toast and soft-boiled egg.

When she returned, Donnis found him holding his mother's hand at her bedside. "You do not look at all well, Mama."

"It's just a touch of something. I'll be right as rain in a day or two."

"Elly says you haven't been downstairs in a week, that's not a 'touch of something.' Has she been this ill the entire time, Cousin Donnis?"

"She's gotten worse the last day or two." She told him over Ansella's protests about the headaches, the weakness, the vomiting, the vanished appetite. "But she won't let me call the Sisters! I've given her until this evening, and then I'm calling them whether she likes it or not," she finished.

"I'm not giving her five minutes," said Temmin. "We're calling them now, and there's an end to it. Papa will be furious when he finds out you're ill and haven't gotten help, Mama!"

"If your father cared, he would have enquired," said Ansella.

"Elly says he thinks you're having a sulk."

"And don't I deserve one!" she said, high color and her old temper breaking through her lethargy.

"About Miss Shelstone--"

"Don't bring her up, Temmy," warned Donnis.

"The Honorable Miss Shelstone can have him!" shouted Ansella, rising off the pillows and then sinking back, shaking. A spasm racked her, and she cried out in pain.

"Right," said Temmin. "Donnis, I'm sorry to order you about--"

Donnis was already on her way to the sitting room. "Hanston, off you go. Find the nearest footman and have him fetch the Sisters. Be quick about it!"

"Past time!" huffed Miss Hanston. She picked up her skirts and rolled from the room.

Breaking glass brought Donnis into the bedchamber at a run. Ansella was panting, doubled over in Temmin's arms; pieces of a drinking glass lay in a puddle on the floor. "I tried to give her some water--I dropped the glass and it hit the edge of the table, don't tread on it--I had to catch her--" Ansella cried out and clutched at Temmin's shoulders. "Cousin Donnie, what's wrong!" Temmin said.

Donnis rushed to the right of the bed to hold Ansella on the other side. "She might be miscarrying," she said. "There, Ansella, let go of Temmy, I have you!" she soothed as another spasm shook the Queen.

"Don't tell him! Don't tell him!" Ansella wept as Donnis rocked her.

"Tell me what?" said Temmin. He stood up and just missed stepping on the glass shards. "Miscarriage? What?"

"Not you, Temmy. Go get Mistress Mannell, right now!" said Donnis.

Temmin ran out the door to find the housekeeper, nearly tripping on the rug.

"I don't want to lose the baby, I don't want to lose her!"

Clammy, cold sweat stuck Ansella's golden hair to her cheeks and forehead; Donnis reached for a damp cloth on the bedstand. "I know, sweetheart. Let's make you more comfortable. There, now, cos, it's all right." Donnis lay Ansella against the pillows and peeled off the bedclothes; blood already stained the sheets.

Ansella turned on her side and drew her knees up to her chest. "It hurts! Donnie, I feel wet." She put her hands between her legs; she brought them out bloody and began keening in earnest.

Mistress Mannell bustled in, arms full of toweling stacked in a large basin. Behind her stood Temmin, stock still in the doorway, white-faced and staring. "Hanston!" she called. "Get His Highness out of here!" Miss Hanston tugged hard at Temmin's sleeve, but he didn't budge. "Temmy, go find your father!" said Donnis. This had the desired effect; he fled the room, and Donnis turned back to her charge.

She climbed onto the bed and took her cousin into her lap, using a flannel damp with lavender water to clean Ansella's hands. "Mannell's here, now there's my girl!" she murmured. "The Sisters will come soon, now there's my girl!" Ansella lay limp against her, breath shallow.

Mistress Mannell and Miss Hanston flew around the bedchamber, stripping off the crumpled covers, covering the bed in toweling, starting a fire and putting a large copper kettle on to boil. Donnis had miscarried twice before Alberto, both times quite early. It hurt, but not like this, and she hadn't bled like this. By the time Eldest Sister Imvalda and the midwives arrived, Donnis only hoped they might save her cousin's life.


Tigger's picture


This part and the next are the hardest ones for me to read in either book. I always make myself read them, but I also end up in tears.

Gudy's picture


... about hardest to read. Sure, they increase the moisture level around my eyes, too. But on the other hand there's been quite a bit of build-up to this, so it isn't all that hard to take for me. By contrast, I found quite a few things in the story-within-story rather more poignant and throat-restricting.

Tigger's picture


Personal experience and those of some friends are what make this so hard to read for me. It hits me right in the feels and then some. Every time I read it, I feel like I've been sucker punched in the gut, even though I know it's coming!

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