Chapter 15 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
The war of the wardrobe began. In the end, Temmin and Jenks reached a compromise: correct but comfortable clothes, not too formal, in exchange for the finest new small clothes the favored royal tailor could make on short notice. "If you're going to sit around in your underthings..." mumbled Jenks, letting the thought go unfinished.
On the day, Brother Mardus and his men escorted the Heir through the city and down the Promenade, handing him off to the Temple's Own at the top of the pink marble stairs. In their midst stood the ridiculously handsome Senik. To his surprise, the postulant kissed Temmin full on the lips. "That's how we say 'hello' here. It's also how we say 'goodbye,' 'thank you,' 'you're welcome'..." Senik waved an encompassing hand. "This way."
Up the broad, grand stairs on Nerr's side of the Great Hall, and into the reception room, where the Most Highs and the Embodiments waited for him. "I must say that we were pleased to receive your letter, young Temmin," said High Lover Gan once greetings and tea had been passed around.
"What did you do to Litta?" he said without preamble.
"The young, so blunt," sighed the High Lover, drowsily patting Issak's thigh.
"We are here to speak of you, dear heart," said High Beloved Malla. "The Holy Ones tell us that you left before your last visit even began, in some distress."
"I should say so," answered Temmin. "Litta cornered me and threatened to blackmail the twins if I didn't call off my candidacy."
"Litta is no longer a concern. We will leave him behind," said Issak firmly. "What concerns us now is why you're back. Are you reconsidering Supplicancy, or is this a state visit?"
"I am reconsidering. In fact, I'd like to formally submit my name, and ask if we might keep it among us. I don't want anyone else to know."
"Indeed?" said the High Lover, the sleepy look leaving his face.
"But do you still qualify?" said Allis. "We have heard things."
Temmin wanted very much to see if perhaps his shoes were untied, but kept his head up. "Gossip. I qualify. Those whose names have been linked to mine will be in some danger until after I take my vows if it becomes known that we didn't--we didn't..."
"Be very sure, Temmin," Aliis said. "If you've already lost your innocence, when the Gods come down that day--"
"They'll kill you," finished Issak. "Nothing and no one could help you. Not even Teacher."
"I swear," he said. "I swear on whatever God you want--I swear on my own soul, on my mother's soul."
The two elderly high priests and the young Embodiments considered silently among themselves for a long moment. "Very well," said Allis. "We accept your chase. You will take your first vows on Neya's Day Eve. You have a week to prepare. Will you stay today?"
"And tonight?" added Issak quietly.
This time, Temmin dipped his head. "Yes."
"Then go down to the Supplicants Chamber and change your clothes for Temple garb," said Issak. "We four have business to discuss."
Temmin walked down the broad staircase to the Great Hall alone, and stood uncertain in the light crowd of Ammaday worshippers, many radiating what Teacher had called disappointment, though Temmin would have called it outright anger. He fidgeted at the feet of the entwined statues of the Lovers, and finally walked between their legs and through the door of the Supplicants Chamber.
"Close the door, please," called a rich, lazy voice. "It lets in a draft." He did as he was told, and came further into the dim, rose-silk-covered room. Anda was shedding her last stocking, her simple Temple clothing draped on the couch. She let down her mouse-colored hair, each lock falling thick and wavy to her full hips before she unpinned the next. She smiled. "I'll be with you in a moment."
"I'm not here for you," he thought. All this time, and he'd now seen Anda naked twice and neither Allis nor Issak once. Nevertheless...
"The way you stare," she tsked, ambling toward him. Her large breasts bounced and jostled with every strangely graceful step, and to Temmin's irritation, the low twitch began again. She was plain, she was fat, she was not Allis, she was everything he didn't want, she was kissing him senseless, her hands loosening his cravat. "Hello," she said when she ended the kiss. "Get undressed. I'll get your Temple garb, shall I." She walked, hips lolling, toward a set of shelves lined with neat piles of folded clothes and a great many towels.