Orlan’s first night at his father’s castle:
That night, Orlan was put to bed in a small chamber near his father’s apartment. He woke later in strange darkness. Nothing was as it ought to be. The bed was too large and when he reached out he found nothing but cold sheets around him. He was used to sleeping at someone’s side. Where was Ellan? Where was Mama? Tonight, for the first time, he was alone. “Mama?”
With a sudden throb of renewed grief, he realized that his mother was gone. She was not here; he had left her at Lammouthe, a hundred miles away, and he would never see her again. Vividly, he saw her face again, eyes shut, blonde curls limp on the pillow, lips faintly blue.
Dead. His mother was dead.
He fell to the floor, howling his terror.
The door opened and candlelight shone upon him. His father was there. Orlan clung to the wizard, sobbing wildly, refusing to answer the repeated question, “What’s wrong? Can you tell me?” as Redmantyl took him up and carried him back to his chambers. He sat before the cavernous sitting-room fireplace. “What’s wrong?”
“I want my mama!” the boy yelped. “I wanna go home! Please? I want my mama? Make Mama come back?”
“I can’t,” his father answered. “I’m sorry, but your mother can’t be brought back. You must know that she was very ill and she is beyond that pain now. She is no longer here.”
“Where has Mama gone then?”
“I cannot say. Somewhere.”
Again, Orlan felt the pull of that gentle magic and he surrendered to the comfort his father offered. How strong the arms about him seemed; how truly safe he felt against the powerful rhythms of that thundering heart. “Ye think she is better, Father? Where she is?”
“I do,” Redmantyl whispered. “As you are better here. This is your home now, Little One. You need not be affrighted, for I am here and I shall care for you. I promise.”
Orlan knew that something was being done to him. He was beginning to forget his mother. He didn’t want to forget her! If he did, Mama would truly be gone forever. But it hurt so much to think of her. The pain cut him so that he wanted to cry out. He couldn’t bear it. Here, it didn’t hurt so much. Already, the memory of her was fading, lost in the stronger currents which soothed his mind. In his father’s enchantment there was peace…
“Sleep now, my darling. Hush.” Redmantyl kissed the child’s brow and pressed his fingers to his temple; Orlan sighed and relaxed. “Sleep, and do not trouble to remember.”
As Orlan slept, his father continued to whisper words that would ease and comfort, although the child would not understand if he heard them. The soft chant was interrupted by a tentative knock at the door, and Simon came in.
“M’Lord? I `eard the little one weepin’.”
“He’s had a bad dream,” Redmantyl answered. “`Tis ended now. You may go.”
“Yes, M’Lord.” But Simon did not leave.
“What is it?” the wizard asked after a moment.
“M’Lord, the rags that child came in, I’d not like to think where `e’s been all this time. Ye’ve never said a thing about `im `til `e came today.”
“I didn’t know of him,” Redmantyl confessed. “If I had, I would have acknowledged him before.”
“She is not important. A girl, a barmaid I knew many years ago. I had almost forgotten her. If there had not been a child–” he paused. “Well, I cannot go back and mend my faults of years ago. She is dead now and my son is here. You must be loyal to him, as you would to me.”
“If I must,” Simon replied. “`E’s a pretty little lad.”
“Yes, he is.”
“Got a charmin’ way to `im.”
“That’s from his mother. She was a pretty maid when I knew her. They called her Dafodylle.”
“But `e’s mostly yers, I expect.” Orlan’s hair was a froth of curls rather than long, smooth plaits but it was as silvery as his father’s, and the little chin was dimpled where Redmantyl’s was smooth beneath his tarnished gilt, short-clipped beard, but the line of the jaw was as strong and squared; the boy’s mouth, a rosy curve half-hidden by a small fist, was soft and less resolute than his father’s, but no child could have the self-discipline of an adult wizard. “`E’ll be a credit t’ye, M’Lord, if we see to `e’s proper brought up. Give a year, an’ ye won’t be able t’say `e’s ever been anywheres but `ere and a rightly born little Lordling.”
Redmantyl smiled. “You must assist me in that, Simon. I am especially unused to caring for little children.” He tousled Orlan’s curls. “Look. What a helpless, tiny thing it is, and it frightens me more than all rival magicians I’ve faced in battle and all the dangers to life and soul I’ve yet encountered. My son. What am I to do with him? The best wizards never know their children so they are not distracted by family bonds. I meant to– Do you know, half a dozen times I’ve thought of sending this one along to Maryesfont Abbey or my aunt at Tremontegne, or back to his horrible old nurse so that she may have charge of him.”
“I couldn’t. He’s mine. He belongs here.”
“That’s as it should be,” Simon agreed frankly. “Shall I see `im to `is bed, M’Lord?”
“No, I’ll watch over him. See yourself to bed, Lad, and sleep well.”
“An’ ye, M’Lord.”
After Simon had gone, the wizard lifted the sleeping child and carried him to his bed.