Chapter 18 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Though it was not Malla's intent, Temmin closed his face to the world. He spent more time in the less-senior clergy's beds and gave Allis no more than his polite, rather stoic regard. He declined any assignment that might lead to physical intimacy between them--indeed, any assignment that might lead to them being alone. Supplicants were not allowed to pick and choose, but now the senior clergy let him.

As he withdrew, Allis did her best to let Temmin go. He would leave at Nerr's Day anyway, and here it was almost Neya's Day. But he stuck to her heart like a burr, a ball of tiny hooks she could never remove no matter how hard she tried. She'd done quite well at hiding the depth of her love from Issak and the Most Highs, but to herself she despaired. He would be gone soon, she would stay behind in a beautiful, pink, plush prison, and they'd rarely see one another for at least ten more years.

She never thought she would tire of being Neya's Embodiment so soon; she was proud the Goddess had chosen her. Issak was her sole family since their mother died, and separation from him had been a constant anxiety until the Gods had accepted them both together. Now they need never part. They would always be safe, always have enough to eat and a fine place to live. Though it forced them into…circumstances…twice a year that reminded them both of childhood suffering, the Gods soothed and healed them even as They possessed and used their bodies. She'd been proud, relieved, even happy until Temmin. Falling in love had not been among Allis's fears. Her girlhood and training made it unlikely, and she'd gone years in the Lovers' Temple with many dear friends and bedmates. None had possessed her so.

She sat on the dais in the dining hall now, the night before her seasonal ordeal began again. She picked at her dinner and did her best to keep herself from seeking Temmin out among the ranks below her. Even so, his height and golden hair made him obvious among the others, and the rich embroidery of his Supplicant's tunic stood out in the sea of rose, white and red garb. Who sat with him? Some Lover whose name she couldn't recall--a recent transfer from the Temple at Maryakuspa--and the recently-sworn Justinna Beloved, who'd attended her last time and would again tomorrow. All three laughed and flirted. Jealousy flared like a fire that burned too hot for its hearth, and she sent up a prayer: I wish to serve you, Neya. Take this burden from me. Do not desert me!

Preparations for the twins' possession began the next day. Temmin kept his eyes averted from Allis as much as possible; outwardly she was composed, but now he sensed her fear for the first time. He wanted more than anything to spare her the coming ordeal and had to struggle to keep from throwing himself between her and the door to the Gods' Chambers. Everything he'd learned in the last two years deserted him. He didn't trust himself any more.

Neya's Day night, Temmin helped bind Issak to the frame, knowing the Beloveds did the same with Allis in the next room. The sound of worshippers entering the gardens filtered through to the Chambers as he went about his business with Barik Lover, Senik and Mathanus Lover. Temmin lit the incense; woody resins masked the bitterness of the drug it contained. The smoke flared up and he accidentally breathed in too much. Temmin stumbled back from the brazier, searching for fresh air. A dread crept into his bones, and he reeled as dark, indistinct images filled his head. Something terrible was approaching...

A few deep breaths, and Temmin cleared the poison from his system. The disturbing images faded, but the dread remained. He told himself it was his last Neya's Day, and that was all.

Temmin helped Barik and Mathanus set the heavy jeweled clamps in place on Issak's nipples and sac. At the right time, he kissed the Embodiment hard; Issak screamed into his mouth as the clamps came off until a shuddering calm came over the Embodiment, and possession's rosy glow spread from his streaming eyes. Temmin jumped back. Nerr had come.

Screams penetrated from Neya's side of the Chambers. The double doors flew open; Allis struggled against the frame, her breasts swinging from side to side. The holy light did not surround her: The Goddess had not come. "Release Me," said Nerr-in-Issak. His voice was cold. "Release her as well."

Allis fell from the frame in a writhing heap on the floor. Nerr ran to her, but instead of helping her up as Temmin expected, He kicked her square in the ribs. "What are you doing!" yelled Temmin. Barik tried to seize him before he could do something stupid, but it proved unnecessary; they were all rooted to the spot. Nerr kicked Allis again as the mortal attendants all cried out. Allis did nothing to avoid the blow, howling as she huddled naked on the floor. "What in Pagg's name are you doing!" Temmin yelled again.

Nerr stabbed a finger at him; pink stickiness filled Temmin's mouth. "You dare to invoke My Father's name against Me, little Prince?" He turned to Barik; the elder priest stumbled, the hold on him released. "Fetch Me a strap." The dark forebodings from the drugged incense crowded into Temmin's mind, less cloudy and more menacing. Barik came back holding a thick leather belt, split at one end into two wicked tongues; the stocky Lover trembled and kept his eyes averted as he handed it to Nerr. "You have spoiled My Sister's Embodiment and made her unfit for use, Temmin, and so this punishment falls on you," snarled the God. "You both leave Me little choice."

Temmin closed his eyes and waited for the expected blows but snapped them open at an agonized scream. Nerr was beating Allis, striking her bare back over and over, leaving deep welts where the tongues snapped and bit at her skin. Blood soon ran down her sides to the marble floor.

Comments

Cheez-It's picture

I don't like that the punishment falls on Temmin- Allis could have sought help if she'd been but enough to admit she were in trouble. Temmin didn't ask her to love him or demand her attention, he didnt encourage her affections (quite the opposite by the end) and she knew what she risked. It saddens me that Nerr called him out like that for just unfortunately being the one she fell for- it isn't like he has tried to woo her in all of this, he has just been himself...

Cheez-It's picture

While you say the punishment falls on Temmin, it's not like Allis isn't be punished. She is being beaten bloody here. And I can't imagine that no matter the punishment, seen or unseen by Temmin, wouldn't be punishment for him.
Now why Nerr decides to say this is an interesting question. But as we've already seen about Nerr, he does things for his own reasons.

Cheez-It's picture

I agree with you- I interpreted him as saying ultimately it was Temmin's fault, and that's where I disagreed. It's sad, indeed...

I hate that this is the end and we'll have to wait so long for the next book! It's too good!

DiDi's picture

It's almost here. The ending.

Also Cheez-it, I'll just say keep reading. It's not over yet.

I can't wait until it's over. I wish to talk about it. *nods*

MeiLin's picture

Most High

This scene was written as I was about halfway through the book. The beta readers said, "Er, uh, Mei? We think you just wrote the end." They were right; no way could another half of a book top this.

While the punishment is equally Tem's and Allis's, the physical punishment is to open Allis back up to Neya. Allis's own guilt and her love for Temmin are keeping her from possession. Both were prideful, and both in their hearts knew the other also loved and loved stubbornly. That's why Nerr blames Tem as much as Allis; neither would drop their end of the rope.

DiDi's picture

That's what I figured. I kept thinking about it over and over and I just figured it had to be.

Since you mention pride already, I can at least jump on that part.

For Temmin, he mentioned much earlier in the story that he wasn't even sure he wanted to stop loving Allis. That to me was the bigger flux of pride for him. The best example of it.

It took me a minute to get an idea about Allis but I figure her pride comes with her stubbornly refusing to admit to everyone that Temmin's feelings aren't one-sided.

Notice how the rebuke was mostly aimed towards him? Because she's been successfully hiding her true feelings even from her own brother--though he is suspicious--and apparently determined that she can handle the problem herself. Basically the opposite of what Temmin was advised earlier which was to talk about it. This was her major pride point.

But I did not see that Temmin figured that Allis loved him in turn. Especially after the rebuke, I figured Temmin had no idea that she had any feelings for him at all.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. *sighs* It feels good to get that out.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

And I probably did a bad job of conveying it.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... that you did that bad a job of conveying it. Sure, he never comes out and says it, but there were odd moments here and there where he did notice something and then promptly shut it away so he didn't have to deal with what it might mean for her to love him right back.

I still think Nerr is being too harsh on Temmin, especially with what's to follow, but not by much.

Batty's picture

through the mirror darkly it is

Diva's picture

I think what bothers me most is that Allis's punishment is being attributed to Temmin. I understand punishing her for her own sins, no matter how much I might dislike it, but to say that her getting beaten is Temmin's punishment bothers me quite a bit. We'll see what happens from here....

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... is twofold, I think. For one, Divine Justice is big on the former, but maybe not so big on the latter. Or, as MeiLin likes to put it, the Gods are not your friends.

What I find even more chilling the more I think about it is something else, though. Namely, that Nerr is apparently attributing all agency in this to Temmin and by implication denying any agency to Allis. If the omnipresent misogyny of Tremont reaches as far and wide as the whole pantheon, that gives a whole new outlook on the Annikans in the Sister's Temple, as well as even more food for thought about what went down around Temmin the First's death.

It also means that I have an even harder time waiting for Sedra's story. Fool

Diva's picture

Yeah, not gonna lie, I always sympathized with the Annikans a little bit, in their theory and theology, but the ends do not justify the means, and I strongly disapprove of the means.

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