Chapter 15 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Temmin brooded in his study, saying little to either the nervous Fen as he juggled the luncheon service or Jenks when he came to check on his disciple's work. "What did he do to put you in a mood, sir?" said Jenks.
"What did who do--Wallek? Nothing. He's fine." Fen exhaled and dropped a fork. "A little less scrutiny, Jenks," smiled Temmin, rising from the table. "It's no wonder he's dropping things with you breathing down his neck."
Jenks propelled the trainee and the luncheon cart out the door. "Sir, if you need me--for anything--just ring. I will answer the summons."
"I'll be all right, Jenks. Teacher will be here soon to whisk me off into his fairy tales." Jenks lifted his eyebrows but continued into the hall and closed the door behind him.
Temmin thrust his hands into his pockets. He stood with his back to the hearth, the tails of his coat over his arms, and rubbed the Inchari rug's pile with the toe of his boot, a long-standing habit. Watching the color and luster of velvet, carpet--anything with a pile--change as he pushed it one way and then the other gave him something to stare at while his mind worked on things. Alvo was his most immediate concern, but the second and much larger was whether he'd learned anything at all at the Lovers' Temple.
To be sure, he now knew ways to handle almost everyone, to read their telltale body language and expressions well enough that he might match his words and actions to their needs, for their good or his own, but when it came to anyone close to him, he failed. He struggled to remain composed and unreadable around them and while he often knew their deeper states of mind, he didn't always know what to do about them. He always knew what Alvo was thinking. Anyone could see what Alvo was thinking. He hadn't known Alvo loved him, true, but that was two years ago, when he couldn't see past his own nose. He couldn't bring Alvo round his thumb any more, though; thinking on their strained conversation at the hill fortress, he cursed himself for his clumsiness, his tactlessness, his complete lack of technique. Mathanus Postulant could have done a better job of persuasion.
It wasn't just Alvo. Allis flummoxed him down to his bootlaces. He never knew what she was thinking or what she wanted from him unless she chose to tell him. Granted, she was the Embodiment of a Goddess and had been training to read and not be read for more than ten years now, but as well as he knew her and loved her, he should know her heart by now. She must know his. Everyone must know his. When it came to those he deeply loved, he was as transparent as Alvo Nollson.
He'd lost the last year of his mother's life only to fail as a Supplicant.
"You look introspective this afternoon, Your Highness," said Teacher's cool voice at the bedchamber door.
"I suppose I am," said Temmin as the advisor entered the room to stand before the fire. "I am wondering if I did the right thing in taking Supplicancy. I don't seem very good at it."
Teacher's brows raised. "The Most Highs and senior clergy tell me you are doing rather well. Your petitioners are grateful, and your fellow clergy respect you. What makes you think otherwise?"
Temmin scuffed at the carpet again until a sudden awareness that he looked like an eight-year-old made him stop. "I suppose I read people well, and I like them in general--I want to help, I like helping, and yes, all right, people seem to think I've helped them," he said, thinking of poor Meggan Esterill among many others. "But it only seems to work with relative strangers, or people I know and don't really care about--no, that's not right!" He didn't scuff so much as kick at the hearth rug. "If truth be known--and I say this to you because you've never betrayed me--it's like this. The more I…I love someone, the less devotional I get. I lose my way, I can't use what I've learned, I can't veil my heart, I can't stop feeling things I'm not supposed to feel!"
"Emotions are neither right nor wrong, Your Highness. It is what we do in their grip that is right or wrong."
"So they keep telling me, but it's not true. There are things we're not supposed to feel for one another at the Temple."
Temmin flicked a guilty glance at Teacher and settled his eyes back on the fine wool scrollwork beneath his feet. Unlike most people, Temmin trusted more than feared Teacher. He could never have become a Supplicant without Teacher, who could have betrayed him any number of times but never had. "I am in love with someone."
"Loving someone is not impermissible at the Temple, surely."
"Loving someone in this way is."
"Ah. Exclusive love. What have your superiors told you?"
"To seek pleasure and affection elsewhere. I have tried, believe me--I'm never at a loss for either. But…" He trailed off, watching the flowers on the rug lean first to one side and then to the other beneath his toe.
"Does the object of your affection encourage you in your love?"
"No, oh no. At least--sometimes I think she might. But she is the hardest to read of all, she's so very good at what we do, so sympathetic and compassionate, but that's hardly surprising, I suppose."
"No, it is not."
Temmin realized he'd given himself away and took his hands from his pockets. "Teacher, you must say nothing, please, I beg you."
"No one knows you love Allis?"
"Everyone knows!" cried Temmin, taking up a path before the fire. "Everyone must know! She knows, Senik knows, Issak knows, Anda knows, the Most Highs know."
"That does not mean 'everyone' knows."
"You made it quite clear who you meant."
Temmin shook his head in irritation and scrubbed at one eye until he realized he was back to being eight again. "Well. Allis began avoiding me, and I hoped it would help but it hurt so much I couldn't bear it. Then right after last Nerr's Day the Most High Beloved lectured me on it, and I did as she told me. I took many lovers, I redoubled my efforts with petitioners and I became especially diligent in my devotions. I thought I was getting better but then Mama died and now it's getting worse and I don't know what to do. I pray and pray, but They don't seem to want to help me."
"I'm fairly certain Allis sent me here." Temmin stopped his pacing, pulled a chair close to the fire, sat down and put his feet up on the fender, though his right foot kept up a nervous rhythm that sent his knee jiggling up and down. "I don't know what that means."
"Did you not want to come home?"
"No. Yes. Merciful Amma! I just want some peace!" Temmin pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. "But you're here," he said in a quick exhalation. "Did Tennoc find peace?"
"Kings are never at peace," answered Teacher.
"That's why I don't understand why everyone wants to be king, though it's dawning on me that princes have no peace, either."
"Princes and paupers all find peace elusive, Your Highness."
Temmin sat back in his chair. "Well then, go ahead, read on." Teacher opened the book, and the story began again.