Hanni der Geelt
"What will you do, Lady?" said one of Gwynna's attendants as they looked out over the Tremontine armies gathered before the city. It seemed to Gwynna they went on past the horizon. Daevys must be dead, or else his forces so broken up that he could not regroup. If Daevys lived, Tennoc would hunt him down. She was or would soon be a widow, free to make her own choices.
She could not see the march into the city, but she knew Tennoc would come to claim her father's throne, and possibly herself. Nothing stopped them from marrying now--in fact, everything was in favor of it. But would it still be his wish? It had been a little over a spoke since she'd birthed another man's child, after all. Had he heard? Perhaps he'd already married Cariodas, if she'd lived to reach Tremont City. She'd always been his intended, after all. Cariodas, riding out of Gwyrfal dragging her father behind her: perhaps a girl as brave as that would make him a better wife. "I will prepare to meet our conqueror, is what I shall do," Gwynna said in the end.
Tennoc awoke alone in his pavilion the next day. He'd been stripped of his armor and bloodied clothing, and lay naked on his cot under blankets and furs. A small camp stove burned nearby warming the winter air; on its hob a can of water heated. He found a towel and scrubbed dirt and blood from his body; goosebumps rose on his wet skin. He dressed in clean clothes, placed a gold circlet set with ruby cabochons upon his head and a fur-lined cloak around his shoulders, and walked outside. Men huddled near fires came to attention as Tennoc passed. He ignored them and left the camp.
Tennoc took his armies north along the River Cobb toward Gwyrfal, Crymavon's men joining the expedition. The Kellish towns and castles along the way were caught unawares and lightly defended. Some surrendered outright to the Hero of Maalig, others after a brief skirmish; a few chose to fight to the last. The fierce battles at the coal mines of Baltha ended in the fortress's taking, and the slaughter of Clan Baltha's men.
Inside the catacombs, Tennoc stared at the two bricked-in niches. In the lefthand one, his father King Andrin the First moldered; to the right, the heads of his mother and his best friend lay, sewn into clean linen and left to rot away to bone, with Tennoc's heart beside them.
Lassanna died Queen of Kellen; Whitehorse would also lay claim to her remains, but Tennoc would keep Mama here, in the Tremontine royal chapel beside Andrin's bones--and some day, his own. Kenver's spirit would not fully rest until he lay in Gwyrfal's Hill with his ancestors; somehow Tennoc would return his stepbrother's skull to Kellish soil.
Thoughts of Gwyrfal brought thoughts of his Gwynna. She must be alone and friendless now, for Dunnoc had clearly lost his mind. Even so, madness wouldn't stop Tennoc from caving his stepfather's head in.
The day after he committed his father's body to the Hill, Tennoc rode down from the Keep to Tremont City for his hasty, simplified coronation, his father's reluctant lords at his back. Hanni followed behind, holding the reins of a white bull calf. They climbed the long winding switchbacks on foot up Pagg's Hill to the Temple at its top. He could have lifted himself to the top had he wished--Teacher had taught him to raise himself on a column of solid air--but he did not wish to leave his lords behind. He had lords now. What a strange thought. Would that he could depend on them.
The discovery of the guards' bodies put Gwyrfal in an uproar. "How could Tennoc have defeated three of my best men?" fretted Dunnoc. "Three men he trusted!"
"He had to have been warned, sire," said Daevys ar Ulvyn. "There's no other explanation, though perhaps it was his plan all along. He took them by surprise like a coward." He helped Dunnoc drink from his cup. The King shook now more than ever. His legs were growing stiff; he never left his rooms but for meals at which he presided but did not eat for fear of spilling food and drink down his front in public.
"Who could have done it? Who betrayed me?"
"We shall discover the man, sire. Or woman."
The Keep was a short ride down a wide, well-tended way called the War Road. "Our armies ride to battle from here, six abreast," said Teacher from a perch behind Tennoc. "These are the King's Woods. Only the King hunts here--and now you, if you please."
"I wish for nothing but a roof over my head at this point."
The trees thinned, giving Tennoc his first view of Tremont Keep, a stone fortress that was new in his great-grandfathers' day built into the living rock that sheered above the confluence of two rivers. Four rounded towers stood at each corner; the side closest to them bowed out toward the forest. A fifth tower rose just behind the bowed wall, higher than the other four. It looked out over the King's Woods and the foothills, and in the other direction, the Capital. Tennoc wondered how it stayed up; he'd never seen anything so tall.
Teacher met that night with the nervous Duke, his fidgeting heir and the new Prince. No one in the room seemed at ease around the pale figure in dark robes; Teacher took their fear in stride. When a servant made a furtive sign of Amma--head, heart and groin--Teacher may even have smirked. "We leave tomorrow, Your Grace," said Teacher.
"The boy should rest, counselor, do you not think?" said Gonnor. "It's been a long journey for him…and I would like for Prince Temmin--Tennoc," at his grandson's lowering look, "to know his homeland and family. He's been on the road for more than two weeks already, surely a rest before such a long journey--it's the better part of a spoke to Tremont City."
"We will go back the way I came," said Teacher.
Whitehorse Freehold reared up from a flat plain, its ancient earthen and stone fortifications undulating around it in sinuous curves. Rising above it stood a new stone fortress, spectators lining its ramparts; a lookout must have noted the unknown additions to the outriders and spread the word. Though the fortress was huge, the hill fort itself dwarfed it--an old, old place. Across the valley, another hill rolled up from the grasslands surrounding it. Turf had been carved away from the hill to form a rearing horse, white chalk against the deep green grass.