Chapter 14 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
Temmin woke to a gentle clatter of dishes, and a savory smell of roast beef, potatoes, warm bread, and a bit of a cabbage-y smell that might be broccoli. He must have slept through tea. Did he have lunch? His stomach seemed to think he hadn't. "Jenks?" he said. He sat up and pushed the hair out of his puffy eyes.
"Harbis, Your Highness," said the valet in his irritating, melodious tenor, nothing at all like Jenks's gravel-filled baritone.
"Oh, it's you," grumbled Temmin.
"It is me, to be sure, sir," said Harbis. "If you please, sir, your dinner has been sent up. You seemed ill-disposed to dine with your family." He had perfectly appointed the little table; its damask cloth shone clean and white, and the valet's elegant, slender hands fluttered among the dishes, removing silver covers with unfamiliar gestures Temmin found annoyingly graceful.
Despite his mood, Temmin wolfed down two bowls of broccoli bisque, a plate full of oysters, most of a roast of beef, potatoes, asparagus, the whole basket of rolls, and a good-sized pudding with custard. Even after all that, he had no objection to the decanter of port, a bowl of sweetnuts and a small, aged cheese. "Thank you, Harbis," he said, remembering his manners even with this overly suave substitute for Jenks. "Now, push off. I don't want you. I'll put myself to bed," he added. Harbis bowed, eager to be gone, and nearly scampered out of the room with the service cart.
Temmin cracked nuts, setting the meats aside. He wasn't hungry any more, but the brittle crunch as he crushed each shell satisfied. He did not hold back on the port; he hadn't intended to get drunk, but drunk suited the gloom of the single lamp, and his mood. He hadn't realized how much Supplicancy had come to mean. Here the twins had just shown him part of what he might learn, what he might do, what he might see... How he suffered for their kisses.
Maybe he could still learn from them. His father might not see the utility in reading people, but he certainly did. Reading people made it so easy to lead them. Look at Issak, bending people so effortlessly, and so gently, to his will.
Warin seemed to read people. He brought them to his side, and he hadn't had Lovers' Temple training: charisma, that's what it was. His own father had it. Maybe it was genetic, and Temmin didn't need training. Harsin had only to look at you, just like Issak--but not like Issak. People feared his father, but they loved Issak; they wanted to do what he wanted them to do, whether it was pour him wine or kiss him. That was part of the twins' skill, perhaps, making you want to be led.
They'd be disappointed, but better disappointed than shamed. The tiny voice in the chapel, it would be disappointed too. Maybe angry. But what could he do? It would be worse to let Allis and Issak be hurt, wouldn't it?
He wondered what he might face when Harla took him home to the Hill, when She would weigh his crimes against his soul. How long would She torment him before he was allowed to rest forever? Centuries? Millennia?
Litta didn't seem concerned, nor did his father, even though Temmin knew he believed. Litta must be an atheist, in spite of what he'd said. To Temmin, atheists were semi-mythical creatures; no one would admit to unbelief, not if they valued their livelihoods. Or lives in some parts of the kingdom.
Worshipping a God, worshipping Allis and Issak--it was the same to him. And if it brought luck to the common people, that was for the best. Why would Litta think otherwise? Warin wouldn't have gotten his throne back without the commoners. There wouldn't be a throne without the commoners. The people were the kingdom, not just the king. But now it didn't matter, and to be honest, it figured only tangentially into his desire to take Supplicancy. It would be easier now, he told himself. He'd find some girl. There were plenty, according to that prat Fennows. Then he'd get it over with, and go to the twins. But it wouldn't be enough. He glanced at the decanter. Nearly empty, though he couldn't remember drinking it, and he didn't feel that drunk.
A whisper of fabric against carpet, and he looked up, expecting that useless Harbis. Instead, a girl stood just inside, with the door closed behind her. She quailed when she saw him, and reached for the doorknob, but steadied herself instead. She walked further into the room until he could see her more clearly.
He rose in surprise. It was Arta. She wore a gown of soft green like the fine ladies she'd admired at the ball. He'd been wrong that night; she was even more beautiful dressed as a lady than she was as a maid. Pale gold freckles dusted the fine skin of her shoulders, just as he'd imagined, and her hazel eyes were brilliant even in the low light. She dropped a curtsey all the way to the floor, stumbling on the way down, and he helped her up; she quickly pulled her loose, dark curls over her shoulders in an unsuccessful attempt to cover her cleavage.