Ansella

Chapter 11 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Vennaday, the 25th day of Winter's Beginning, 992 KY

"The Queen is in labor?" said Anda.

The spoon in Temmin's hand stopped midway to his mouth and he snuck a glance around the dining hall. His last petitioner had taken longer than expected, and by the time he entered the room most of the diners had already finished; near-empty tables and padded benches surrounded them. Satisfied no one might hear their conversation, he answered, "Yes, I got the message just after lunch with the Holy Ones. How'd you know?"

Chapter 10 Part 8 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Inside the pavilion sat a table and a low lounge before it. Glasses, plates and various delicacies covered the tablecloth; Ansella wondered where the servants who'd carted everything up here were hiding, but the falling water would mask any conversation beyond the pavilion itself. Harsin walked to the pool's edge and pulled out a bottle of foamwine, chilled in the icy water. He wiped the bottle with a white towel, opened it and filled their glasses.

The wine was cold and crisp, so young it was almost as clear as the water. Ansella took a long sip. "Beautiful."

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Chapter 10 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Summer ripened, and so did the Queen; her health returned, better than ever. Harsin had planned to stay in town for the summer, but instead accompanied his wife and daughters to High Haven, the royal family's retreat in the mountains above the Capital. To their surprise, Ansella's brush with death rekindled their passion for one another. They spent their nights rediscovering each other's bodies, though long-exposed nerves still ached. Ibbit never left Ansella's mind, but her emotions changed from heartbreak and bewildered anger to implacable hatred--not just for her own sake, but for the unborn baby she carried. Ansella could almost understand it if Ibbit had tried to kill her from jealousy, but trying to kill the baby? For that, Ansella would see the woman dead.

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 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?"

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

A whisper ran through the Hearth that night, carried from one sympathetic mouth in the Healer's House dispensary to various sympathetic ears until it reached a young Sister who worked in the kitchens; she nodded, setting her stubborn black cowlick bobbing. When she returned to her work, she picked up a dinner tray and walked the long stairs into the basement to Sister Ibbit's chilly cell. She gave the renegade her evening meal and murmured, "She is with child, Blessed Ibbit," before she turned away.

Ibbit tore her bread into hunks, the hunks into chunks, the chunks into shreds, the shreds into crumbs. She threw them into her soup and ate with deliberate intensity until the same black-haired Sister came back for the tray. "Tell our friend in the dispensary I have a task for her. Carry it out, the both of you, and then flee," said Ibbit.

Chapter 8 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

So this was her Neya's Day blessing. She'd loved being pregnant. She loved her children. She would love this one unreservedly--loved her already. It had to be a girl; if she carried a son, Teacher would have known immediately and announced it to Harsin.

What would he think? He'd preen and strut, the smug bastard. Pregnancy would give her an excuse to stay away from him. Except pregnancy usually made her...what was an acceptable word? More...receptive to him? Demanding, more like, said a traitorous inner voice. She might go home to Whithorse and put some distance between them, but she could not leave her three oldest, just before the girls might leave forever. They were all grown and didn't need her any more, but she still needed them. And it would look as if she were running from that Shelstone bitch. She burst into exhausted, frustrated tears. "I don't know what to do. Please don't tell him yet."

Chapter 8 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Just inside the Hearth's portico waited the newly invested Eldest Sister Imvalda, tall and twiglike in her deep green habit trimmed in the gray bands of her high office, and the Sister's Embodiment, a gentle, plump woman named Sarra. A woman in lighter green trailed behind them; Ansella recognized her from the brief glimpse of Imvalda's apartments in her receiving room mirror. That night seemed so long ago, but it was no more than a spoke.

Ansella and Donnis bowed to the Eldest Sister and the Embodiment, each touching her forehead to the priestesses' hands; the priestesses kissed the two women on the cheek and led them inside.

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.

Chapter 6 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Ansella paused, remembering their early marriage. She had loved him, though she thought she'd schooled herself out of it by now. She wondered if he'd loved her then or simply wanted her. He couldn't possibly love her now, not after so many years apart. "I'm surprised you're nostalgic for that time. I know I'm not."

"You never think back on our early days?"

"Not in the way you seem to." She moved away from him onto her back to stare up at the canopy again.

Harsin twisted onto his side and propped his head on his hand. "What do you think of?"

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