Chapter 9 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Inside, Harsin was stripping as he hurried into his bedchamber; his valet Gram followed behind, stooping to pick up the discarded riding clothes, and his secretary Winmer brought up the rear. Harsin changed into fresh clothes and washed his face. "This would have to happen when I was at Middlemont. Cancel any appointments for the next three days, Winmer, and send word that while it was a lovely interlude et cetera, I will not be seeing Miss Shelstone in the immediate future. Do not under any circumstances say anything about the Queen's indisposition, to Miss Shelstone or anyone else." Winmer nodded, scribbling in his neat little book, and Harsin stepped through his bedchamber door through the private hallway and into the Queen's bedchamber.
In one corner Miss Hanston was giving a nervous midwife a flinty going-over. The ladies maid bobbed a quick curtsey to him and rumbled into the sitting room, dragging the protesting Sister behind her. Donnis stood up. "I'll give you a moment, Your Majesty."
Harsin took her hand in his; it was damp with Ansella's sweat. "My dear Donnis, stop a moment. How is she? What's happened?"
Donnis breathed in, long and slow, and let it out. "Ansella may be miscarrying, Harsin. She wouldn't let me tell you she was with child." Harsin's heart soared--a baby he could claim as his own legitimate daughter--and just as quickly tumbled down as he remembered his wife's face when he'd told her about Twenna Shelstone. Had he caused this?
"It's worse," continued Donnis. Miscarriage, disguised poison, still in danger, Ibbit--when he found the rebel Sister, he would kill her personally, trial be damned. "I'll leave you," said Donnis, "but do not stay long. She must be still and rest. Don't agitate her, Harsin, I beg you." She closed the door behind her.
Harsin sat down and studied his sleeping wife and her shallow breathing. Stubborn woman, you have been nothing but trouble. He brushed away the hair slicked to her cheek, and she fluttered awake.
He leaned down closer to hear, stroking her jaw with a gentle thumb. "I'm here, Annie."
"Harsin," his name came again in a tiny, dry chuckle. "You came through the door first. I win."
He laughed, a short, soft bark. "You win, sweetheart," he said through tears. "You win."
Meanwhile, Sedra pushed Ellika away and stood up. "Where are you going?" said her sister.
"I have something to do."
"Temmin's doing something, you're doing something, what am I supposed to do!" wailed Ellika.
"Go to your room. Wait here for news. I don't know, find something to do! I'll be back later." Ellika burst into tears again, but Sedra didn't spare a backward glance as she went through the door.
Through the Keep's warren of new and ancient corridors and galleries Sedra ran, scattering footmen and maids, until she came to its oldest part: the original tower that had begun the great fortress, its round base carved into the living rock beneath the Keep. To one side, enormous decorated wooden doors led to the family chapel. To the other side rose stairs, winding up the tower walls higher than she could see. Prayer on one side, action on the other. She chose action and began climbing the stairs, grateful for her long walks and the strong legs that went with them.
Sedra lost count how many steps she'd taken by the time she reached the top and the landing's only door for the first time since her father banned her from study. She knocked.
Teacher opened it. "Your Highness! I am surprised--are you allowed to be here?"
"It doesn't matter, I need you, Mama needs you," she said, pushing past into Teacher's library.
"How may I serve you?"
"Have you heard about Mama?"
" I am afraid I have heard nothing. I have been here in the Tower, looking for several wanted personages. What is amiss?"
"I think Mama is dying." Sedra recounted her mother's condition and Imvalda's sobering assessment. "I need your help."
Those silver eyes shone cold as ever, even in Teacher's sympathetic face. "There is little I can do. My power does not extend to women's magic."
"No," she said impatiently, "but you know where the Traveler Queen is. You can convince her to help!"
"I cannot take you to her, nor can we speak to one another," said Teacher, "and you know the pain when we are too close to one another."
"But you know where she is," Sedra insisted. "Tell me. I'll go look for her on my own if I have to, but I know you already know where she is, even if you can't be near her--you can get me to her more quickly!"
Teacher took her hands in a long, cool grip. "Calmly, Your Highness."
"You used to call me Sedra, not 'Your Highness.' You said you were my friend, even if you could be nothing else, even if I wanted something else."
"You were not alone in that wanting…Sedra," Teacher said, "but I did not choose what I am, and there is another I have waited for a long while now. Of course I will help you, never worry. I care for your mother very much, though she does not care much for me. I cannot take you to the Traveler Queen, but I can bring you quite close." Teacher turned her to face the great mirror hanging from the round room's ceiling. "Show me Mirror Clearing." The mirror's image shifted; a round, irregular window framed forest greenery.