Chapter 15 Part 12 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin spent the rest of the day trotting after Allis and Issak, with Anda and Senik trailing behind all three. They met with higher clergy, sat in on a nervous postulant class identifying anatomy on one another before a stern but surprisingly unpuckered Sister, and then a quiet tea with Anda and Senik.

Perhaps, thought Temmin, he should begin his studies on his own if he were to be serious about this business. For instance, Senik fascinated him. As the handsome postulant moved first among the hallway crowds and then the small group in the Supplicants Chamber, he changed from moment to moment, instantly shifting to reflect whoever he spoke with. Was he really as beautiful as Temmin had first thought? Yes, and that affected how others treated him, certainly--it was clear Senik was a great favorite, much called on by the Most Highs for various tasks, and the Embodiments' servant of choice. Even so, Temmin detected a deep desire to please behind the sly, insinuating smile. Or was that just the face he turned toward Temmin? Either way, Temmin was pleased with himself for his growing discernment, until Senik caught him looking and to his surprise rebuked him. "Don't think you know me, Your Highness. You haven't learned a thing yet."

Dinner ended the evening, a dinner served communally at low tables in a dining hall. Temmin, the Most Highs and the Holy Ones sat a little above the ranks of Lovers and Beloveds in their linens of varying shades of rose; the postulant Lovers wore red and sat each with a Beloved, the postulant Beloveds in white and paired with a Lover. Issak and Allis alone wore undyed linen. As visiting royalty, Temmin wore the dark red of his family.

The lightweight linen clothes made life in the warm rooms much more bearable--pleasant, in fact--and Temmin grew more used to feeling underdressed and overexposed. By the time the evening ended back on the wide couches of the Supplicants Chamber, he was comfortable and acclimated, in mind as well as body, and anticipating the night. "So," he began, "what happens now?"

"Oh, lots of things," said Allis. She stood and raised her arms over her head, stretching back and away in a smooth, shallow curve; her breasts strained against the linen of her shirt, and her belly peeked from under its hem. "I'll leave you to it."

"Where are you going? When will you be back?"

"In the morning," she said. "I'll see you before you leave, never worry."

"Tonight is for us," said Issak, sliding his hand up Temmin's neck to play with the hair at his nape.

"I thought it was for all of us," said Temmin, disappointed.

"Don't be greedy," she laughed, and kissed him. "One thing at a time. Good night, now." She kissed her brother, and glided out of the room.

"Is it so very bad to be left with me?" said Issak.

"No, no," stammered Temmin. "I just--generally speaking, I prefer women, and Allis in particular, and--"

"To serve here, you must enjoy male company as well as female, regardless of your natural inclinations. It's not difficult, with training. Few people are focused exclusively on one sex or another, though it's true the Temple attracts those with the most fluid ideas about sex."

"Is sex with men like Mentoring?"

"Nothing like. That's a temporary arrangement--it's more about the submission of the young to the old. This is more a matter of service, though power often plays into it. Politics as well. All of society is about dominance and submission, really."

"I don't understand. What does sex have to do with politics?"

"Sex is about everything, and everything is about sex, at least as you contemplate the Mysteries this Temple is trying to teach you," said Issak. "I don't know what they teach in the other Temples. For all I know, Farr's priests teach that everything is about battle and battle is about everything, in fact, I'd bet on it. But I am not the Embodiment of Farr, or Eddin, or Pagg. I am the Embodiment of Nerr. I'm here to teach you what I know, and to guide you closer to the Gods on Nerr's path." The stroking fingers against Temmin's nape turned into a fist tangled tightly in his hair, pulling his head back. "Don't be disappointed. What you learn tonight will bring you closer to understanding women."

Temmin thought he already understood women, or at least Emmae, but how could he explain that without sounding ridiculous? He leaned his head into Issak's hand to relieve the painful grip on his hair, but Issak redoubled it, pulling Temmin close against his chest. "You're hurting me."

"Nerr's path is sometimes painful. But this only hurts if you fight it," murmured Issak.

A faraway voice came to Temmin: Gian telling Emmae, "The more you fight it, the worse it will be."

"Oh," said Temmin. "Oh, you can't possibly--what are you going to do, Issak?"

Issak slipped his free arm around Temmin, pinning him. Temmin had a height advantage, and had always assumed that with it came physical superiority, but he soon found out Issak was stronger. "I'm going to fuck you, and you're going to let me," Issak laughed, a low rumble that sent a shiver through Temmin.

"And why would I do that?"

Issak gave his hair a sharp shake. "Because I am your teacher, and you are my student. Because you have been spoiled all your life, and you need to give in to someone else's desires for once. Because you want me to."

"I don't want that," groaned Temmin, though his head swam; all of his blood had rushed between his legs, and his cock pressed insistently against the thin linen trousers.

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