Ellika

Chapter 14 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

The first day of Winter's Ending, 992 KY

To Temmin's surprise, Amma's Day comforted him. He watched the farmhands herd the Estate's cattle, sheep and goats between the two sacred bonfires and helped the stablehands do the same with the horses, leading his own Jebby through himself; Alvo worked beside him but said no more than "A blessed Amma's Day to you, Your Highness." Temmin wanted to shake him.

As Duke of Whithorse it was also Temmin's duty to walk with the Reggiston Temple's Senior Mother through the cleaned and shining stables, poultry yards, goat sheds and pig pens blessing the animals. Every barn cat that could be found, every sheep dog at its master's heels received the Mother's Blessing.

Chapter 12 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Whithorse Estate, Whithorse
The final week of Winter's Beginning, 992 KY

With the family in mourning all royal celebrations and parties were canceled for the next year, and the City's leading lights of course followed suit; the social season thus ended two spokes early, to the despair of more than a few mothers looking to marry off daughters who were aging by the minute. Ellika, who would normally never hide herself at the Estate at this time of year, didn't care a bit. She spent her time in the Great House's cozy nursery fussing over Anneya with Lady Donnis.

The wet nurse brought from Tremont City lost her milk, to general alarm. "How does one find a wet nurse, Cousin Donnie?" fretted Ellika.

Chapter 11 Part 8 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Ellika rarely let the baby go, relinquishing her little sister long enough for the hastily-called wet nurse to feed her before snatching her away again. She declared to the family that Anneya was her responsibility: "No one else seems to care, so I'm taking her back to Whithorse with Temmin. Nurse and I will see to her." She even learned to change the tiny girl's diaper, refusing assistance with a savagery once reserved for incompetent milliners and dancing partners who trod one too many times on her toes.

Chapter 11 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Harsin folded Ansella's arms over her chest. The Friends brought the shroud around her body; Harsin and the children took turns sewing it closed. Emsa gave Ansella's velvet-wrapped hair to Sedra, who accepted it with shaking hands. The Friends took up the body in its coffin again and returned to the main hall for the walk to the royal section of the catacombs.

A ramrod-straight, barrel-chested man in the dark Tremontine red uniform of a colonel of the Royal Cavalry waited in the hall; the uniform's markings were of the First Cavalry Battalion of the Whithorse Guard, and medals covered its front. Tradition banned weapons from the Hill, and his sword sheath hung empty at his side. The man held his black fur winter uniform hat under his arm. Gray threaded the black hair fringed round his head as well as his neatly trimmed beard, and his weather-lined face flashed a heavy grief before he snapped to attention.

Chapter 11 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Emsa approached Harsin. In her hand was a knife, exquisitely sharp, knapped from slick black obsidian. Harsin took it from her and began cutting away the simple white dress on Ansella's body. "All this is fleeting, all this is lost, all this is unnecessary," said the King.

"All this is ending, all this is beginning, all this is needed," answered the rest, Friends and family in gentle chorus. Temmin did his best to follow along. He knew the words but they kept sticking in his throat.

"Life is fleeting, life is lost, life continues," said his father.

"Her life has ended, her life is beginning, all this is needed," came the response.

Chapter 11 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Tremontine flags trimmed in black flew at half mast throughout the City, the dark red field and its three golden mountains limp on this cold, still day. Every bell, from the great War Bell in the Keep to the time-keeping carillons at the University tolled, echoing desolate against the City walls as the funeral procession passed through the streets. Harsin walked before it, dressed in severest black but for the Tremontine red sash beneath his coat; his head wore neither hat nor crown. Emsa, the high priestess of the Friends of Harla, and Harla's Embodiment Trudannis walked beside him, their black hoods lowered to show their stubbled heads.

Chapter 11 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

The chief midwife came into the Queen's sitting room, where Ansella's daughters and husband waited. Her face formed a professional mask, but the moment the woman entered Ellika knew. From the Queen's bedchamber came a newborn's wail and the sobs of women. The midwife cleared her throat. "The Queen…the baby is fine, healthy and whole, but I'm sorry. The Queen is gone."

A shocked silence fell. Ellika's insides dropped to the floor. "Gone? The Traveler Queen said she'd be all right!"

"No, she said it was up to Mama," said Sedra. "It was her choice. I didn't know this is what she meant! Mama chose the baby. How could she--how could she leave me!" Sedra fled from the room, crying.

Chapter 10 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

His sisters were standing before the empty hearth, chatting aimlessly with the beautiful Senik Lover. The girls turned to the door, both smiling, both holding small cases. Sedra dressed with customary restraint in a simple gown of opulent, thistle-colored silk. She wore simple bob earrings, amethysts dusted a long golden chain round her neck, and fragrant white orange blossoms winked in her dark plaits like jewels in a crown. She made no attempt to conceal her height; she stood straight as a dancer and towered majestically over her fair-haired sister, already queen-like.

As promised, Ellika's aquamarine gown contrasted perfectly with the rose marble of the Temple. Soft, creamy gauze trimmed its low neckline and swathed her shoulders; on its bodice, tiny pearls traced the traditional Nerr's Day horn-and-flower pattern woven into the fabric. Ropes of the same pearls threaded through her golden curls. Its extravagance bordered on the ridiculous and suited her utterly.

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.

Chapter 9 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin had a time tracking down his father. He wasn't in his rooms, he wasn't in his office. The council room contained a few Ministers, alarmed and irritated at his headlong intrusion. He finally thought to ask Affton and tracked him down to the servants' hall. "Riding, I believe, Your Highness," said the butler. "May I say I took the liberty of sending a groom to find His Majesty as soon as the call for the Sisters went out, sir."

Temmin slumped against the kitchen archway and let out a shuddering sigh. His eyes burned, and he wiped at his brow with his handkerchief. "Thank you, Affton, I should have known you'd think to find him."

"May I also suggest, sir, that since there's nothing you can do for the moment you might have a cup of tea?" Affton murmured. "I can send a tray up to your room, if you'd like, or the Small Sitting Room."

"If I go upstairs I'll have a hard time staying away...and Lady Donnis made it clear..." he trailed off. Affton glided him back through the kitchens to the Small Sitting Room. Temmin sat in his shirtsleeves drinking tea and eating plain buttered toast, huddled in a corner of the big room.

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