The Mothers were nothing if not efficient. Twenna found herself packed and ready to go in two days, her gray uniform returned to the laundry and her fine clothes from her former life sold in exchange for four plain dresses, two of cotton and two of wool, and a warm wool cloak; she kept her beautiful underthings, stowed these last spokes in a paper box under her bed. The Captain paid for her to keep her sturdy gray shawl, her Mother's House underthings, her boots, Rikki's clothes, his sling and a supply of diapers. "I will buy you more when we are in Hawksfield, my dear, but this will do for now."
The 40th day of Spring's Beginning, 992 KY
Meggan Esterill entered Twenna's tiny room with a perfunctory knock. "He's come again."
"Hush, Rikki just fell asleep," said Twenna, her foot rocking the baby's cradle. "Who's come?"
Meggan dropped her voice. "You know very well who. Captain Marr." She sat down beside Twenna on the bed.
Twenna tried to avoid her pointed look. "Oh…oh. He's serious, isn't he."
"Not to be put off, I'd say. This is his sixth visit in two weeks. Come, he's waiting for you in an alcove."
Nerrik pulled off the nipple with a gasping sigh of sleepy delight and Twenna chuckled in spite of herself. "Nerrik. I call him Rikki."
"Oh, a Neya's Day babe?"
"He--he has to be," said Twenna, her own sleepy relaxation retreating. "I was at the Spectacle last year. I don't remember what happened--as far as I know I was never with anyone other than Harsin, I swear it."
"It's all right, you're not on trial here. If you told me who it was I'd never tell anyway. I didn't have to tell my husband, he was there when it happened in a way."
"I beg your pardon?"
Meggan fixed her with a hard, questioning eye. "Are you easily shocked? No? ...My husband doesn't like women."
"What's so shocking about that? I don't think my father likes--liked--women all that much. He never remarried after my mama died, and I'm their only child."
"It's not that bad," said a voice at the door. Twenna looked up. It was a woman about her own age, her chestnut hair twisted into a low, simple bun. Her snub nose sat in a face neither pretty nor plain. She wore a lay Mother's uniform, the same as the one in Twenna's bundle: ugly loose gray high-necked dress collared in white; a voluminous unbleached muslin apron tying it closer to the body; and a plain wool shawl still the color of the sheep, its ends crossed over her breast and pinned behind her. In a canvas sling before her slept a baby not much older than Rikki, or so Twenna guessed; all she could see was white-blond fuzz and an obstinate little nose exactly like its mother's.
The Temple of Amma was a C-shaped, white stone building tiled in clear blues from powder to midnight in mosaics and reliefs of sheep, goats, pigs, sheaves of wheat, children, mothers, looms and shuttles; its wings curved away from the Promenade, where it anchored the row of buildings leading down the Temple Green to its end at the Temple of Pagg the Father. Nestled between those wings stood the enormous Mother's House, an institutional-looking structure built around a large courtyard. By the time Twenna reached its steps, her little boots were soaked through; they were made for carriages, not for walking winter streets.
Twenna and the baby arrived at her father's townhouse two weeks after the birth to chaos. Burly men were coming and going with everything they could cart off. White shrouds covered the few remaining furniture pieces until the movers could fetch them as well.
Twenna's one consolation was Wendia. The loyal maid's wages had been paid till the end of the spoke, and now she held the baby as Twenna tried to save something from the wreckage. Her wardrobe was already empty, the many beautiful dresses gone, even the ones she'd owned before she'd become the King's mistress. All that remained was the periwinkle silk she had on her back.
Temmin shook his head to clear it of Gwynna's terror and rage. "I don't like to hear my name used by someone like Tennoc."
"How so?" said Teacher.
"To kill a child--an infant?"
Teacher leaned back against the mantel. "Politics is an ugly business. There is a very real fear in any regime change that someone with perhaps a better claim--someone like Ardunn--would become a rallying point against a ruler and must be eliminated early. Your uncles have no clear claim to the throne, but they have become such rallying points. Is it so strange that Tennoc would wish to secure his position? Especially as a bastard?"