CHAPTER ONE ~ The Lost Daughter

Lord Hemnen had plenty of grounds on which to feel impatient. A strong loyalist and especial friend of King Duaryth, he was, perhaps, more upset about the death of the Queen than the King himself. Perhaps courtesy of his old Antany governess, Hemnen prided himself on his understanding of Antany women—how they had always seemed to come to him for friendship.

One especially beautiful lady had borne him a daughter, Aspaith, who had married a middle-class man just a few years ago and was now in possession of a young girl-child and a son, to whom she had given birth just the previous morning. Hemnen recalled that he had not been pleased with his daughter’s choice of husband; despite Aspaith’s illicit origin, Waldur Spildor was her social inferior and therefore undeserving of her hand. Yet Aspaith was stubborn—even more stubborn than her father—and at last Hemnen’s wife had convinced him to relent.

His late wife Carya had borne him a second child, and it pained Lord Hemnen to remember his younger daughter as much as it pained him to remember his sweet wife—how he wished that he had honoured them both when they had been with him!

Yes, Lady Carya had been a truly wonderful woman. She had lessened each of her husband’s burdens with the simplest caress—why, she had even adopted Aspaith as her own daughter, and brought her up just as efficiently as she had Cinchya. Though Lady Carya had died of fever over three years ago, her gentle memory would prevail in the hearts of all whom she had known for decades afterward.

And it was just weeks after Lady Carya’s death that Cinchya had run away from home. She had not yet eighteen years to her credit, and Hemnen was sure that she had eloped.

Cinchya had always been a retiring soul, timid of trouble and rather foolish in retrospect, and Hemnen reflected that it was his own fault that she had fled. After everything he had said to his elder daughter upon her stubborn decision in marriage—remembering, indeed, that he had all but disowned her, and she had not been with child!—Lord Hemnen could not bring himself to feel surprised that his shy Cinchya had decided to marry in peace. If she had realised that the fact of her pregnancy would have solidified the destination of her dowry, would she have remained to bear her father’s wrath? Hemnen did not want to know.

Although he still did not regret his words regarding Aspaith’s husband, Spildor, for he intensely disliked the man’s infamous gambling habits. And yet Waldur Spildor was, of course, a staunch loyalist—and so he couldn’t be so very bad, could he?

The End

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