Chapter 18 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Mathanus vomited on his own feet; Justinna huddled on the floor in incoherent shrieks. Temmin would have begged for Allis's life, but the stickiness filled his mouth; all he could do was cry. Nerr was going to kill her, to whip her to death, and it was his fault--beat me, kill me, Lord! he begged silently. "She bears responsibility too, never doubt it," said Nerr, raising the strap and bringing it down again. "She must bear the pain alone if she's to be of any use to My Sister."
The beating went on and on until Allis lay still in a pool of blood; her long black hair soaked in it. "Please, Lord, I think she's stopped breathing," begged Glaes Beloved. "She's of no use to Our Lady dead!"
Nerr threw down the strap. "She's not dead."
"Not dead at all," came Allis's voice. The rose-colored light spread over her; the savage cuts obliterating her pale skin began to close. "Though I would have preferred her less mauled, Brother." Neya-in-Allis stood up; the blood covering Her skin and clotting in Her hair fell away, leaving Her borrowed body pristine and whole once more.
"It was the only way to open her, and You know it. Besides, remembering the fruits of disobedience will serve her well. Now run, let Me chase You before I beat this princeling to death for his presumption." Neya laughed and took off running; somehow the door to the garden had opened, and as She entered the grounds the crowd roared. If only they knew what had just happened, Temmin thought. Nerr strolled up to him and took his chin in His hand. "Speak, boy."
The stickiness left his tongue. "How could You--how could You do such a thing? I prayed and prayed to You both, and no help came! What were we to do? You deserted us!" he cried.
"Prayed and prayed? Pride brought both of you down, not Us." Nerr seized his tunic and ripped it in two. "You are excused, Temmin Antremont. We release you a spoke early but still in Our debt. You will leave this place instantly, and not return while these Embodiments serve. You will not see them or speak with them in any way until We are done with them." The God released him and walked toward the garden door, followed by the other priests but for Justinna.
"What else can the Gods take from me?" Temmin screamed after Him. "I gave You two years of my life--I lost the last moments of my mother's life to You! Harla took her from me, and now You take Allis and Issak! What more do You want from me?"
The God turned. "Everything. The Gods are no one's friends, little Prince--but rejoice! The land loves you more than any of your line." He ran through the door in pursuit of His Sister.
The garden door closed, leaving Temmin alone but for the young Beloved still hunched on the floor. His gorge rose in his throat and he fought it back down. Best to help Justinna…and then leave. He stumbled, and his foot slipped in Allis's blood, drying on the floor. He cursed aloud. "No one's friends, no indeed--enemies!" Rage burst through him in a familiar tingling under his skin. The room grew brighter, hotter, the shadows sharper; blood and burning timber came to his nose. His eyes followed the scent to its source. Flames leaped in a wide arc from the incense braziers to the racks that had lately held the twins; they were well and truly ablaze.
He ran to the braziers. He'd doused Issak's incense himself, he knew he had, but the more sand he now dumped onto the two braziers the higher the flames rose until he fell back. At this rate the room would be an inferno in seconds.
Justinna still clutched herself in a crouch and gibbered, mad with fear and oblivious to the danger. Temmin shook her to no avail, scooped her up and over his shoulder, and ran for the door. He ran until he reached the hallway, where he deposited the young Beloved in the arms of a surprised Temple's Own guarding the door: "Take her to the Sisters here on duty, she's had a terrible shock!" To the other guard standing by, Temmin yelled, "The Chambers of the Gods are on fire, get help!" He ran back, casting around for anything he might use to smother the flames. He finally grabbed one of the rose silk wall hangings, ripped it from its moorings and dashed into the Chamber.
The fire was out, leaving nothing but faint smoke in the air and two piles of ash on the floor: the racks. Melted metal blobs, once the fastenings that held the wood together, hissed among the remains. Temmin backed away, shaken to the core.
A Temple's Own captain rushed in, more following at his back. "Your Highness! I thought there was a fire--?" He stared at the ash heaps, then at the ripped tunic still hanging from Temmin's shoulders. "Are you all right, sir? What happened here?"
"I don't know," whispered Temmin. "I don't--I don't… Bring round a carriage or horse of some kind--no, for once I'd prefer a carriage--something enclosed. I'm going home." The Temple's Own members took in a shocked breath all at once.
"I don't understand," said the captain, brows drawn together beneath his silver helm. "It's Neya's Day!"
"And I'm leaving," answered Temmin, his voice strengthening. "I'll be ready in ten minutes. Bring the carriage round immediately."
Temmin walked from the Temple and into the carriage so differently than he'd arrived on that dramatic Neya's Day two years ago. His eyes smarted, and shame and rage cramped every muscle.
When they reached the Keep, Temmin strode through the family's private entrance and surprised an antsy pair of footmen waiting until their duty ended and they could join the Neya's Day festivities. "Your Highness!" squeaked the nearest one.
"Has the King gone to the Temple yet, Josip?" said Temmin.
"He's not going at all, sir," answered Josip. "He's up in his rooms, if you please, sir." Temmin took the stairs two at a time toward the Residence Wing. Below him, the other footman said, "What's 'e doing here?" Where else was he to go?
Winmer opened the King's receiving room door to Temmin's sharp rap. "Your Highness!" he blinked. "What are you--"
Temmin brushed past the startled secretary. "Is he in?"
"He's in his study, sir. He will be puzzled but pleased to see you."
Harsin jerked around when Temmin opened the door. "Temmin! What's happened? Are you all right? What are you doing here on Neya's Day?"
To return in shame to the father he'd defied so gleefully--how could he bear it? How could he have been so wrong when two years ago he'd never been so sure of anything in his life? "I've come back," said Temmin, his voice breaking like a boy's.
Harsin circled around his chair to approach his son. "During a Spectacle? Nothing bad has happened, I hope?"
"Everything bad has happened." Temmin's head began to pound; he rubbed at his eyes. He searched until he found his father's brandy, poured himself a shot and downed it in a gulp. "Everything bad. I'm back." He poured and downed another brandy.
"Against your vows? Now? Temmin, don't drink so quickly, you'll make yourself sick."
"I don't care," he said, but he put down the decanter before pouring his third drink in as many minutes. "I--I'm not sure but I think my vows are suspended. I don't know. I'm confused." He was beginning to feel the two quickly-downed brandies. "All I know is, I've been banished from the Temple and I can't go back until Allis and Issak are no longer Embodiments."
"By whose order?" rumbled Harsin.
His father turned a pale shade of parchment. "What did you do?"
"I should never have gone. You were right. I was wrong…you were right." Temmin sank to his knees, wobbly but determined, and his eyes burned as he looked up at his father. "From now on, I'll listen. Tell me what to do."