Chapter 16 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

The urgent conversation appeared to be one-sided from a distance, but on closer inspection, both parties were fully involved, a small pulse in the King's jaw the only sign of increasing tension. "Master yourself, Corland. What do you mean, Temmin's lovers are a sham?" said Harsin, keeping the smile on his face.

"I mean, he's pulled the wool over your eyes!" hissed Corland. "He still qualifies! Your son means to take Supplicancy!"

"How do you know this?"

"Fennows found it out--His Highness must have confided in him," Corland said evasively.

"He would never have thought up such a plan. He doesn't have it in him--doesn't have the courage. He's as guileless as a child..."

"He's not a child any more. He's fooled you. You must stop him. Where is he?"

"He went to Whithorse to spend Neya's Day with his--with his lovers..." Harsin thought back over his conversations with Temmin. In none of them had the Prince said outright that he'd taken those servants into his bed. "Pagg damn him. Pagg damn him!"

He left the purple-faced Corland and exited the ballroom as naturally as he could. Winmer fell into his wake as he climbed the Residence Wing stairs. "Call Miss Selvaci out of the dance, as if I'd sent for her. I don't want my absence to raise suspicions. Take her to one of the suites connected to mine--you know which one. Send Teacher to my study. See if Temmin is in his rooms, then send the Colonel to me as well, damn them both. Then go back and keep the girl busy--get her drunk. She loves sparkling wine and it won't be long until she passes out. Put her to bed, then come to me yourself." Winmer nodded, and peeled off as Harsin tried not to slam the door to his study.

Colonel Jenks and Teacher came in not long after, the former in a hastily-donned and rumpled coat, the latter as smooth as ever. "Where is my son?" said the King.

"Where is he? He's off to Whithorse! The old crow took him," said Jenks with a jerk of the thumb at Teacher. "Outright refused to take me with him, said he wouldn't need me. It's time we told him what I am, sir. I can no longer insist on my presence in--in some situations."

"We both know Whithorse security is up to the task," said Harsin, "but we both know that's not where he is." He measured the Colonel's unfeigned look of surprise, and turned toward Teacher. "Tell me where he is and how he got there. I order you."

"I took him to the Lovers' Temple, as he requested."

"Show me."

Teacher paused, then murmured at the mirror over the mantel. A foggy image formed of a great bath: men and women milling about in various degrees of nakedness; towel-wrapped heads just visible above the surface of a steaming pool. The image moved closer to a naked, golden-haired young man covered in soap and sitting on a stool. The most beautiful young man Harsin had ever seen was dumping buckets of water over the other's head. Temmin--for once the suds were gone, it was clearly him--spluttered under the stream, though Harsin couldn't hear him. A last bucket poured over him, and once he'd shaken off the water, a buxom young woman Harsin recognized as the current Supplicant of the Lovers pulled Temmin off the stool, threw a towel over his head, and vigorously dried his hair, kissing his laughing face at the end.

"I gather you didn't know, Colonel Jenks?" said Harsin.

"No," said Jenks slowly.

"I believe you. It would appear that our boy has become a man capable of lying to almost anyone." The King sank into his chair, the leather creaking. "Teacher, when I said take him to his lovers--you know very well what I meant!"

"But that is not what you said," replied Teacher. "I regret that my lessons in precision of speech--"

"I would call down Pagg's curse on your head, but it's too late for that, isn't it?" snapped the King. "You're dismissed, Colonel. No, no, not for good," he added at the tightening of the man's broad jaw. "For the evening. Go on."

In the doorway, Winmer stepped aside to let the Colonel pass, then closed the door behind him. "Miss Selvaci is asleep, sir," he said to the pacing King. "She'd entertained herself quite well at the ball already. I've instructed one of the upstairs maids to nurse her through tomorrow's expected hangover."

"He's gone, Winmer. Slipped through our fingers," said Harsin, watching his feet as he paced slowly back and forth.

Winmer bounced on his toes, thinking. "You could still force him out. Send Teacher to Whithorse, bring those two servants back--"

"You said that girl was reliable."

"Indeed, sir, but we underestimated his determination. They can still be of use, though. Have Teacher bring them back. We can use them as leverage against the Prince. If he thought them in immediate peril...?"

"He cares about them enough to shield them. True." Harsin stopped pacing and ran through the possible scenarios in his head.

Two deaths to possibly save the kingdom. Harsin had killed more men than that in battle with his own hands, and caused the deaths of thousands more in Inchar. But those were Inchari, stubbornly refusing what was good for them. These were Tremontines, and innocents. The prophecy might be wrong, or the Scholars of Eddin might be interpreting it incorrectly.

"If he balks, the death of the young man and a sword at the throat of the young woman would bring him to heel quickly," said Winmer. "Do it in the Great Hall of the Temple. Teacher can take us there without anyone knowing."

Teacher's silver eyes radiated contempt. "I am the servant of the King, except when I am the servant of the Gods. No outsider may enter a closed Temple without an invitation, and the Lovers' Temple is closed until the Spectacle tomorrow." Teacher pointedly turned away from Winmer to the King. "You have come perilously close to outright disrespect, Your Majesty, astonishing from a man who does not believe but knows what the Gods can do. Have I taught you so poorly? Have you paid no attention all these years to the Gods made manifest over and over in your life?" At Harsin's shaken expression, Teacher added, "It comes down to this, Your Majesty. You fear for the Kingdom's fate. Will you murder two innocents on the steps of a Temple, and perhaps bring down an even worse one?"

"No," whispered Harsin, dropping his head. Winmer rocked on his heels in disapproval. Harsin raised his eyes to his secretary. "But if Temmin knows I'm aware of his deception, the threat of murder might be my only recourse. You," he said, glaring at Teacher. "Find my son's spurious lovers--no, let's be exact, shall we, Winmer?"

"Arta Dannikson and Fen Wallek, sir," said the secretary.

"Find Dannikson and Wallek. Bring them here to the Keep. Do it now. Is that specific enough?"

"Yes, Your Majesty," said Teacher, with only a hint of reluctance in departing through the mirror.


Cheez-It's picture

Dun dun dunn indeed...

Also, the bit about it being too late for Pagg's curse on Teacher - too late because it's already been done, and thereby a small hint as to the nature of Teacher's eternal-ish state, or just that it's too late and it won't change anything about the situation?

(still readin, just lurkin!)

Capriox's picture


I know Harsin's a desparate, scared ignoramous here, but I don't quite get... Killing Arta and Fen is the fastest way possible to get Temmin to hate him and rebel against anything he says/orders/wants in the future. That wouldn't be good for the political future either, especially with three half-brothers wandering around looking for possibilities.

Amy's picture


How many a desperate, scared, ignoramus, people can think so clearly that they can and would see those possibilities? Besides, he's Angel used to barking orders & having them obeyed; & (b) still thinking that Tem is a kid that can be threatened with the loss of a favorite toy in order to bring him into obedience.

Capriox's picture


True, true. Although this is a man who has witnessed a goddess kill someone, so, y'know, you'd think he'd respect his own gut feeling that this is a Bad Idea as Teacher pointed out...

Hm. Another way to put my reaction: I get that he's scared of the prophecy, but I don't understand *why* he's so scared. So scared that he's reacting desparately instead of intelligently, that is. The nobility losing power doesn't have to mean that the *King* loses power. A populist ruler could use common sentiment in his favor to counter sour grapes among the nobility - or a populist military, even. (Roman Emperors and their armies circumventing the less relevant Senators comes to mind). And he himself even acknowledges that the Scholars' interpretation could be wrong.

C'mon, Harsin, you're better than this!

(Can I blame Winmer? I know it's his job to be the King's enabler, but c'mon. He's a bastard to poor Arta. I wanna hate him anyway Blum 3 )

Sook's picture

We know that the dynasty's power is tied to its control of magic and of the land that sustains it, right? What would a mass revolt by the nobility mean? We don't know - and maybe Harsin doesn't, either. Maybe he thinks that the prophecy means that the system that's in place will be disrupted, and the nobility will have a grievance, private armies, and maybe even their land's magic on their side.

I'd suspect that Harsin is just worried because he doesn't KNOW what happens when Nerr gets their Heir, but doesn't feel like taking chances.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Harsin doesn't know.

Sook's picture

Yay, a confirmed correct guess! I will reward myself with Nutella on King's Hawaiian bread.

Does Teacher know anything that Harsin doesn't regarding the prophecy? If so, is he not allowed (or he is keeping to himself) to tell Harsin?

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Teacher is as in the dark as anyone in regards to the prophecies.

Vandole's picture


It's important to note here that Winmer, not Harsin, was the one who suggested murder. Harsin ran it through his head and realized that it wasn't a viable course of action. There is likely some cut material about just what the reaction the public would have to the slaughter by the king's men of two servants - citizens in good standing - guilty only of being the prince's lovers. That could very well cause a lower class revolution on its own if it were public enough.

Harsin strikes me as a man who considers his options carefully. This includes things a man of conscience would consider barbaric. Harsin has two priorities:
1. What he thinks is for the good for the kingdom
2. What's in his own interests (Mistresses, for example)

Harsin probably even argues to himself that his sexual and romantic dalliances are necessary to satisfy his cravings since his relationship with his wife is not good. By using mistresses to get off and relieve stress, he theoretically can be a more level-headed ruler.

Sook's picture

1: "I would call down Pagg's curse on your head, but it's too late for that, isn't it?" - Harsin to Teacher.

Mei-mei, this is a plot point, isn't it? Something to do with Pagg, Teacher, and the Lovers?

2: "Although this is a man who has witnessed a goddess kill someone..."
Capriox, what do you mean by this? I don't recall.

MeiLin's picture
Sook's picture

Thanks, Mei-mei! How's Orycon?

MeiLin's picture

Most High

I spent the morning/afternoon in the green room registering panelists, hit a good panel on political systems in fiction (lots of thought fodder for me), and am about to hit the dealer room with Velvet Ackbar. I'm having late snackies/drink with some other Broad Universe members tonight. Tomorrow: lotsa panels! \o/

Capriox's picture


Point 2 - I can't remember where now (something behind the patron wall?), but there is a story of what happened about the heretic Sister (Aniki, possibly spelled wrong), and I'm pretty sure Harsin is among the witnesses...

Augh, detailed memory fail.

Gudy's picture


... that scene. OTOH I maybe, dimly (mis?)remember MeiLin sending you some stuff a good long while ago.

As for Pagg's curse, I certainly choose to treat it as a plot point related to Teacher's mysterious past.

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