Chapter 3 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Temmin dropped his fork, tried to catch it on the way down to the floor and nearly knocked over his wine glass. "I'm sorry--what?"
"All that fancy training, and you didn't know Ibbit is Mama's lover?"
"I...I grasped it when I came home tonight. How long have you known?"
Sedra slowly shook her head, keeping her eyes on the amber liquid swirling in her glass. "About five years now."
"That's almost as long as Ibbit's been Mama's religious advisor!"
"Oh, she started in on Mama almost immediately."
Temmin sat back against the couch cushions, his supper forgotten. "How did you know?"
"You're not the only one with a talent for observation. And Ibbit left a love letter Mama wrote tucked into a book she lent me," she added sheepishly. "I think she wanted me to know for some reason."
The two siblings stared moodily, Sedra into her snifter, Temmin into his food. He cut a hunk of cheese, topped it with pickled onion and mustard, and ate it while Sedra took another long sip of her brandy. He swallowed and said, "What I don't understand is why."
"Why Mama took a lover!"
"Oh, honestly, she's not just your mother, she's a woman, and still fairly young--Tem, if you don't get that look off your face, I'll slap it off. D'you think it's been enjoyable to know all this about my own mother and have no one to talk to about it?" she snapped.
"You could have told me, or Elly." He ignored her answering scoff, and continued, "But why did she pick a woman? Especially Ibbit?"
"Who else could she turn to? She's the Queen! She can't take a male lover--she'd be executed. She can't even go to the Lovers' Temple. Have you learned no history?" In truth, his only tutor who'd ever said anything about the Kingdom's royal women was Teacher, and they'd finished only Emmae's story before he'd left the Keep. His sister continued. "Mama was lonely and vulnerable, and she's too proud to admit she loves Papa, and...and he's a hard man to love." She stifled a sob. Temmin winced inside; seeing Sedra so emotional was like surprising her in her underclothes. "Ibbit found an empty space and filled it. She can be very charismatic and charming when she wants to be, and in the right light is quite attractive."
"I don't think the human eye can see that sort of light. At least mine never have."
"Don't women come to your Temple for comfort in the arms of other women?"
Temmin recalled the many times in the last year he'd seen women make love to one another, thoughts of his mother firmly tamping down any erotic impulse. "Of course. But they come to us because they are at a time of life when they risk pregnancy otherwise, or because their husbands forbid them Lovers but not Beloveds, or because their impulses are childish and they desire women. In time we hope they'll mature, but often they don't, poor things."
"And among the women of your Temple?"
"Well...they do it because they must practice for the petitioners' sakes."
Sedra laughed. "You really believe that? And why, oh servant of the Lovers, are affairs among men tolerated, even encouraged, and not among women? Why do young nobles become Students to older Mentors--why is that partnership honored, revered as the most meaningful, pure and virtuous of all, and two women loving one another is considered childish, foolish, degrading and sordid, even though Neya and Venna both took mortal women as lovers?"
"Because..." Temmin furrowed his brow. He'd never thought about it. No one at the Temple had said anything to him about it all year, and he'd never thought to ask. It was just the nature of things; everyone knew this.
Sedra rose to her feet and hugged him. "It doesn't matter, just something to think about. I'm glad you're here. Mama will be easier with you close."
He slept fitfully that night in the now-unfamiliar bed, wondering how he could have missed something so obvious. A year ago, before he'd become a Supplicant, Allis had said he was quite perceptive when he wanted to be. He must not have wanted to perceive very much at all if his mother had been having an affair right under his nose for five years. Then there was this supposed threat to his life. He just couldn't take it that seriously. His uncles' assassins with crossbows and daggers? Yes. Grumpy, man-hating Sisters? Not really. He finally dropped off, missing Anda's snoring.