The plan broke, as plans do and as Tennoc expected it would. Fallik's cavalry waited too long to charge the Kells, giving them time to set up the shield wall so familiar to Tennoc. The Tremontines had no such reliable protection. He gritted his teeth in frustration; he'd warned his cousin, but Fallik was both headstrong and unconvinced Tennoc knew his business despite their previous victories. Magic could puncture the shield wall, but Tennoc's power had deserted him again.
Fallik of Whitehorse
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.
When Tennoc arrived at the castle's gates, Lady Flaryn's husband had already thrown them open. "I saw your forces long before you got here, Tennoc ar Sial," said Cror ar Crymavon, "and I couldn't have defended against your war machines had I wished to."
Tennoc smiled, but he drew his lips flat. "You're wise, cousin. In my current humor I am not countenancing resistance."
Lady Flaryn ar Crymavon still lived. In her own court, the cousin Tennoc's mother had remembered as painfully shy had blossomed into an assured woman, still beautiful and like enough to Lassanna that Tennoc's heart ached at the sight of her. "Why did you not stop here in your flight from Gwyrfal, cousin?" she asked him in Kellish at dinner that night.
New Year's Day, 63 KY
King Dunnoc did not appear at the Eddin's Day celebrations for the new year: too ill, said Ulvyn, to leave his rooms. Gwynna sat at her husband's side, hugely pregnant. It was for the best that Dunnoc had not been brought down. He'd begun drooling, and his private conversations with ghosts had become even more incoherent. The Sisters said he might go on like this for spokes--perhaps years.
Her father's condition oppressed her spirits as much as the infant within her did. In the last days its squirming and kicking had subsided. Perhaps it had died. She would not cry if it was stillborn. Nevertheless, she loved children and she feared that one look at a tiny, helpless baby of her own, even one fathered by Ulvyn, would be her undoing. She had resolved not to look at it and to leave it to a wet nurse until she recovered her equilibrium.
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.
Tennoc left the room much disturbed and ran almost headlong into Fallik. "Do you have a habit of listening at doors, cousin?" said Tennoc.
The cords stood out in the bigger man's neck. "You are a rude, dishonorable cur. I've half a mind to challenge you!"
"By all means!" answered Tennoc; his new power crackled and sang within him. "Name the time and place, if you ever find the other half."
Tennoc and Hanni rode through forests, over rolling grasslands, past oak groves, ripening grain fields, neatly tended farms and grasslands dotted with sheep, cattle and horses, all sleek on the lush pasture. Tennoc wondered if it was a good year, or if the land was always this rich. His grandfather must be wealthy indeed. "Prime horse country, just as I've always heard," said Tennoc.
"Aye, sir. Once, long ago, when I served my Princess Inglatine, came I here to Whitehorse. Best horse country there is."
They followed the main track, camping at night wherever they could find cover. When he could, Tennoc practiced his magic, trying little things he'd seen Kenver do. If he concentrated, he could snatch a flame from the fire and bounce it in his hand like a ball. He could float good-sized rocks, though the larger ones made his broken rib hurt and he couldn't always make them go the direction he wanted them to. More than once, Hanni unleashed a torrent of Leutish curses at him when a rock went astray and came close to braining the man.