The Mothers soon gathered. Ardunn knelt before the King at the feet of Amma's image; his hands clasped his sword hilt and his new lord wrapped his hands round them both. In a strong voice, Ardunn swore his allegiance to Temmin of Tremont, swore away the name of Ulvyn, and placed his life at the King's disposal. He rose, saying, "I never considered anyone but you King at any event, let alone myself."
The King seemed to settle in to the same calm surrounding the younger man; he joined his hands loosely before him. "What else have you been told?"
"That I am the son of a man you hated for good reason," Ardunn answered. "I never knew him nor any of his kin--as far as I'm aware, I'm the only Ulvyn left, am I not?" At Tennoc's grim nod, he continued, "I know my grandfather was your stepfather and that he loved you until he went mad. And I know you grew up under a cloud, as I have."
The King cast a shrewd glance at Gwynna, who raised her eyebrows in acknowledgement. "You are also the heir of the last King of Kellen," he said.
Gwynna covered her mouth with both hands. Tennoc was coming, and his own wife said he still loved her. Shivers began deep in her chest, spreading out to her fingertips like tiny cramps. Fear, excitement, hatred, love--they all shook her at once, and instead of the strong woman she'd been since Ardunn's birth she was a tree hit by lightning, its bark ripped open and its heartwood exposed. The door opened again and the King stepped through.
Winter turned to spring and still Gwynna and the baby could not leave the Temple. Soldiers kept watch day and night in sun, rain and snow. The Brothers also kept watch to prevent the soldiers from entering, but they were protecting the sanctity of the Mother's Temple, not Ardunn; they would kill the baby themselves if Gwynna and Ardunn left their holy shelter.
Some days King Temmin stood among them--she could not call the man who'd spoken with her at the feet of the Mother that day "Tennoc." Sometimes he called to her, and sometimes she heard him. Sometimes he even sounded like Tennoc. The day came when the Mothers told her the new King had finally left Gwyrfal to turn his attention to conquering the rest of Kellen. Cror ar Crymavon was left behind with instructions to continue the watch.
"He's here, Lady," the Kellish Little Mother murmured.
Gwynna stood up, the baby in her arms. "Where?"
"In the Worship Hall. He is alone," added the old priestess. "He wished to bring his men inside, but the Brothers would not allow it--they are ringing the Temple even now. Quite the argument he made, too. The Eldest Brother said he understood and even sympathized with the new King's…aims…but you'd taken shelter here and they could not break Pagg's Law. Do not be deceived--if you leave the Temple, the Brothers themselves will kill the child on the new King's orders. But they will not enter these walls on such an errand."
This section is NSFW.
His arm was already beneath her; he slid his free hand down her back's curve, around her hip and up her side. His hand was warm and gentle, and would stop every few inches as if asking a question; her body would answer, and the hand would continue on until it asked for permission again. She gave it over and over without a word until his hand reached her milk-filled breasts. She moved it away to her belly, still loose from Ardunn's birth; Tennoc didn't seem to notice or care. A tautness crept over her.
"Gwynna," he murmured, "if we are not to go on, I must leave you."
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.