Jenks

Chapter 8 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

On Neyaday morning, Temmin skipped his ride. For one, he wanted Jebby to be fresh, and for another, he wanted to give what saddle time his poor bottom would allow to Allis. He would have her all to himself for an afternoon. What would happen once he had her all to himself, he didn't know.

Jenks and Affton made the preparations. A picnic would await them in the Fairy Meadow, not as high in the foothills as Temmin had ridden two days previous, but high enough to afford a lovely view of the City from the comfortable shade of an Inchari-style tent pavillion: opulent carpets, enormous pillows, a low table, and no chairs. Temmin himself found the Inchari style of dining fussy and overly exotic, a decadent, indulgent byproduct of the southern continent's laxity of character and oppressive heat. But with Allis to impress, every luxury the Keep could produce must be brought to bear. All Temmin had to do was show up, and not make a fool of himself.

Chapter 7 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

The next day, Temmin wore his riding clothes to breakfast, going straight to the morning room from the stables and returning there straight after, as Jenks discovered too late. "He's gone, Mr Jenks, sir," said the Riding Master when the valet searched for his errant charge. "He wore the chestnut oot this morning an took another horse--Inchari mare, a rare fine un. T'was odd for him to be goin back oot, but it's not fer me to decide what a Prince should do, eh? We'll tell him you want him, sir."

"I'll tell him more than that when I see him, Pagg damn him for a headstrong boy," rumbled Jenks to himself on the way back to Temmin's rooms. "Tempted to chase him down and turn him over my knee."

The "headstrong boy," however, was in fine spirits, and not in the least repentant. Whatever admonition he might receive for skipping his studies was worth getting out of the Keep, and away from Fennows. He couldn't avoid the lordling at breakfast, and Fennows's endless fawning over Ellika enraged him; it was all Temmin could do not to vault across the toast rack and throttle him.

Chapter 7 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

In fact, Fennows could not ride. Fennows couldn't do anything. Temmin watched a groom trying, and failing, to give the spotty young man a foot-up onto his horse. Fennows abused the poor groom the whole time: did the groom know who he was--disrespectful cur--clumsiest groom in Tremont, he should think. And he got away with it! The groom didn't blink an eye. If Temmin had used that tone at home, he'd have found out what was what. But none of the grooms met Temmin's eyes this morning, merely pressing their knuckles to their foreheads or bowing, and all of them eyeing Fennows when they thought the Heir wasn't looking. It all conspired to deepen Temmin's already-sour mood.

"You will entertain Lord Fennows tomorrow, Temmin, and from time to time while he is with us as your studies permit," King Harsin had said the night before. "His father is important to me politically. Learn to like him. Is he really so bad?" he'd added at Temmin's sour face.

Chapter 5 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

When they returned to the Keep, much earlier than Ellika would have liked, Temmin found himself summoned to the King's study, despite the late hour. Teacher stood leaning against the mantelpiece, such a habitual position that Temmin wondered if the advisor weren't glued to it by the elbow.

"You're all right?" said Harsin. "A glass of wine? No? Very well. I've received a preliminary report from Brother Mardus. Needless to say, the Royal Guard will be under extreme scrutiny for this security breach. Mardus says in his note you acquitted yourself well."

Chapter 4 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin's dinner curdled. Who could have told his mother? Was it Jenks? No, never! Someone else at the Estate must have found out and told her. He wondered if he could send a letter to Alvo to find out who--Gods, it wasn't Alvo, surely? "What did Mama say?"

"That you kissed a maidservant under somewhat coercive circumstances."

"Coercive? She said yes."

"Temmin, we both know she said yes because she was afraid of losing her job." She'd certainly begged him not to tell Crokker, but he'd never considered she really might lose her job. Why would she lose her job? "There's nothing wrong with that," the King smiled, his teeth white against the dark of his beard and moustaches. "I've always found something rather arousing about holding that over them. Apparently you are of my mind."

"But I didn't hold it over her," said Temmin, appalled.

Harsin shrugged. "You don't have to justify yourself to me, son. Take a maidservant if you wish--take several. I've heard you're behind your peers on that score. I've left off the Keep's maids for your mother's sake--promised her I'd never have a mistress in the house--so the field is quite clear."

"You have mistresses?" said Temmin.

"No, Temmin," said his father. "I've been celibate for the last eighteen years. Of course I have mistresses."

Chapter 4 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin released the book. His shaking hands still felt Connin's skin; the Princess's terror and arousal coursed through him, as if the smoke of the Traveler Queen's spell had seeped through the book into him as well. Was he male or female? He consulted the stiffness between his legs: male. It had happened to someone else, it had happened to a character in a story, not to him.

Shafts of gold and white light slanted low onto the lawn outside the windows; three or four hours had passed. "What in Harla's Name does this fiction have to do with anything?" he said.

"You did not like it?" Teacher said mildly. "I thought you would at least be interested."

In fact, Temmin was afraid to stand up. "I don't see how this connects at all to history," he muttered.

Chapter 4 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin spent Paggday at the stables after a long ride, gradually coaxing the men into trusting him. He thought he might even have picked out a matched pair of horses for his curricle, sleek grays with just enough Inchari stock in them to impart the breed's fine heads and high-held tails, without their characteristic skittishness. He would have to consult his mother; her judgment of horses surpassed that of everyone he knew. He'd needed that relaxing day, for today, Ammaday, he began lessons with Teacher.

At breakfast, two members of the family were animated and talkative, two were sullen and withdrawn, and Temmin stood alone in the middle, looking anxiously round the table. Harsin and Ellika were both in fine spirits. The King beamed at Temmin, a mildly unnerving development. Ellika remained her usual ebullient self, even when she burned her tongue on her coffee. Sedra and Ansella, on the other hand, were not; Sedra looked alternately glum and resentful, stealing glances at both Temmin and her father over the top of a resolutely isolating newspaper, and Ansella kept her eyes down, answering questions with a frozen smile and as few words as possible. Temmin thought he would never understand his family.

Chapter 3 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

"Gods, I hope he gets his drinking phase out of the way soon," groaned Jenks at tea. "I swear, Annie, I'll thrash him otherwise."

"I seem to recall another young man whose 'drinking phase' lasted well into his twenties," said Ansella.

"That's different. I was an officer--"

"--And you had to keep up with my brother. I know." Ansella considered her reflection in the silver tea service. "How did it go, Standfast? How did you manage to explain things to her?"

"I didn't," said Jenks. "I talked to Tellis, instead--her name is Dunley now. I gave her a thousand gold, with a guarantee of two thousand more as Mattie's portion, told her to bring her daughter home and why, thanked her for her discretion and left it to her to explain the money away, though I made some suggestions--including a very strong one about leaving Whithorse and moving where no one knew them."

Chapter 3 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

"A by-blow!" shouted Ansella.

"You've been at the Keep all of three days, and your dramatics are already boring me! What now?"

"A by-blow, a bastard," she said. "You promised me! You promised me no child would come out of all your whoring!"

"I prefer the term 'engagements,'" said Harsin. "And no child has come of any of them."

"That you knew, apparently!"

"Annie, you attack me in my ignorance," said Harsin, sitting down. "Please enlighten me."

Chapter 2 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Jenks had gone through every combination of black and white clothing in the room, considered them, and discarded them, until he'd made the only possible conclusion and assembled it on the dressing stand. "It's a ball!" said Temmin. "One wears a black dress suit, a white shirt and stock, and a white waistcoat. All of the men will be dressed identically!"

"You are so, so wrong, Your Highness," said the valet, surveying the tidily ransacked wardrobe. "There are subtleties to the male wardrobe only a connoisseur may perceive, and while you are not yet a connoisseur, you shall be when I'm through with you. In the meantime, you will look the part." Temmin rolled his eyes. "It's for the pride of Whithorse, sir, think of it that way."

"Your pride'll be the death of me," grumbled Temmin.

"My pride will be the making of you, sir, depend on it."

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