Chapter 15 Part 14 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
All through breakfast, Temmin wondered about his behavior. It was a silent, musing meal in which the twins respected his mood; indeed, it didn't even seem to surprise them. He wondered all through his leave-taking with the Most Highs and the Holy Ones, his enjoyment of the goodbye kisses muted and absent-minded. He wondered as he climbed gingerly onto Jebby's back, trying to form the questions as well as the answers.
Why had he submitted to Issak--how had Issak persuaded him, when after Emmae's experience had consumed him, he'd sworn it would never happen to him, ever, assuming it would ever come up, which it wouldn't. She'd been humiliated, shamed, used, and didn't that come with it? But with Issak, he'd felt nothing but trust. Had he told Issak to stop, Issak would have stopped. He'd told Issak not to stop. He'd gone to the Temple simply for Allis. The spiritual trappings were confusing, and possibly useful; he wanted to gain the kind of control over himself and his world that Issak seemed to have. Now, he wondered if there were more to it than even that.
Questions usually angered him. He preferred answers, absolutes, not ambiguities. He liked his world in black and white, and these questions were a stubborn gray. He wanted the answers, even though they promised to lead to more questions. He wanted to stay at the Temple, and learn.
On the remaining ride to the Keep, he endured the sullen streets with greater equanimity, staying his heels from Jebby's ribs, and holding his head high. The barriers to Supplicancy both within and without him were gone.
Let his father choke.
At the Dunley Arms, in the High Street of Reggiston, lived a Corrishman. He hadn't lived there very long--only two days. He didn't look Corrish, nor did he sound Corrish, at least now; his voice lacked the melodious, doleful, singing tone largely all that was left of the Corrish language, but if need be, he could sound as posh as any Maryakuspan gentleman, as coarse as any borderlands deerherder, or as sophisticated as any fashionable gentleman on the Capital's Promenade.
His eyes turned down at the outside corners, and when his handsome face was in repose they gave him such a naturally melancholy appearance that old women passing by in the street were likely to stop, take his hand and ask him how he did. In the course of his work, the Corrishman had schooled the melancholic, meditative gaze so characteristic of the far north from his sad eyes, the Corrish gaze that could turn on a moment's notice harsh and cold as an icy wind whipping around a corner; the long northern winters taught the inhabitants too much about the fickleness of the world.
He'd pelted down the highway from Corland to Whithorse on his master's business, stopping only to change horses and snatch a scanty few hours of sleep before settling at the Dunley Arms. His handsome face, his demeanor of quality, and his generous purse quickly made him friends in the tap room, especially the innkeeper.
The innkeeper was not the first Dunley at the Arms; his older brother had owned it first, he told his wealthy guest over the pint of ale the Corrishman had bought him. The brother died, leaving no son. And so in course the present Mr Dunley turned the widow and her daughter out and took the Arms for himself. "It's Pagg's Law," said the man somewhat defensively.
"Oh, to be sure," murmured the Corrishman. "You did what was right and proper, to be sure. I do wonder, though, if the mother and daughter ended up in a Mother's House?"
"Oh, no, no, sir!" cried Mr Dunley. "For shame, no, for who could see his own people living in a Mother's House? No, sir. Tellis--that's my sister-in-law--took in washing, and our Mattie--that's my niece--she's a grown girl. Mattie went into service at the Estate, and sent her wages to her mama like a good girl. Her mother'd served at the Estate when she was young, you see, born on the Estate. They 'most never hire from out of the Estate, oh no. No need. Plenty of help to be had, born and raised there. But the Old Duchess, she made an exception for Mattie. Even took her into the Estate school, taught her reading and writing--waste on a servant if you ask me, especially a girl, but the Old Duchess has advanced idears on such things. Much good it did Tellis," Mr Dunley snorted. He took a deep draft of his ale, and nearly wiped his mouth on his sleeve before remembering he wasn't in the back by himself. "Pretty little thing, Mattie. very taking. Just like her mother. Would've had Tellis to wed myself, but Darwas got there first, didn't he. Ah, well."
"I wonder if your niece is as pretty as my sister. I'd lay wages she isn't," smiled the Corrishman, producing a miniature from his pocket. "I'd lay a five silver piece on it."
"Aye," said the innkeeper, squinting, "a lovely girl you have, but not as pretty as our Mattie." He stretched out his hand for the silver.
"But I should like to see her myself before I pay my fiver," laughed the Corrishman.
"Well, sir, I'll tell you," said his host. "I don't know where she is. Tellis come to us not a spoke ago, and said they was leaving Reggiston! And her, born on the Estate!"
"How odd," said his listener.
"Aye, sir, passing odd! Said she had money come to her from a distant uncle. Distant uncle. Her people are all Estatesmen! None of 'em have that kind of scratch, sir, and that's a fact. But she and Mattie, they're gone. Last I saw of 'em, they was off to the Owl. Hired a post and four, if you can believe it! I'm supposing they went north after this uncle. Poor Darwas, I'm glad he's dead rather than see it." He took back his hand glumly.
"Oh, good host, never be sad. Here--I will take you at your word. Here is your fiver. And another pint for the both of us, eh?"
"Thank you, sir, thank you very kindly!" cried Mr Dunley, happily bustling back to the taps.
"Oh, no," murmured the Corrishman, "thank you."