Chapter 16 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
Freshly bathed, Temmin pulled on his new Temple garb--red, the color of the postulant Lovers, a happier, somehow less serious shade than the official Tremontine red garb he wore the last time he was at the Temple. "Will I see the Holy Ones again before tomorrow?" he asked over a late supper with Anda in the Supplicants Chamber.
She put her wine glass down and replied, "No. You won't be seeing them until it's time to draw down the Gods tomorrow night. It's not at all an easy thing, you know, Tem."
"Allis says it's something like being a puppet."
"I am happy to say I don't know," said Anda. "I only know what it looks like, and frankly, that's enough. It's exhausting. The twins'll only be able to serve ten years or so. Most of the Embodiments serve at least twenty, but they only take on their Gods once a year. Ours do it twice a year, in quick succession. By the time the Gods were through with Idia and Hendas, the last Embodiments, they were spent. They're still at the Temple in Kellen, I think, just taking the sea air and resting the last two years. They chose me, you know. I miss them," she said, looking off into memory. She came back to the room. "It's so tiring we treat the serving Holy Ones like glass for a whole spoke afterwards, even Allis and Issak, young and fresh. No one sees them."
"Even me?" said Temmin, who to his surprise hadn't seen them since Teacher had unceremoniously dumped him in Issak's sitting room three hours ago.
"Oh, no. You'll see them. Just don't expect much. You'll be training with the Postulants anyway."
"I've been wondering--who will be watching tomorrow? In the crowds, I mean. It's--it's not all nobility, is it?" he winced, thinking of Litta; he wasn't sure if the sight of that white scar among the onlookers would frighten him or anger him.
"Social standing doesn't matter, here or in any Temple, you know. We hold lotteries. All are equal before the Gods, at least on Spectacle days--except virgins. No virgins at Neya's Day. And royalty. Royalty's expected. And then this year, there's extra precautions because of you. When royalty stays up on the dais where it belongs--"
A loud to-do in the Great Hall erupted outside their door. A Temple's Own knocked briefly and thrust his head inside. "Your Highness," he said, "you'd better come. The King is on the steps, calling for you."
Temmin shook the crumbs from his clothes, still indifferent when it came to tidiness at mealtime, and strode from the room behind the warrior Lover, a small cadre of Temple's Own forming around him as he walked. In every corner, servants and clergy filled the Great Hall, cleaning and polishing in a frenzy. No worshippers were in sight for the first time in Temmin's brief experience; everyone was barred from the Temple but staff until the doors opened for the celebrations the next evening.
Temmin and his guard emerged onto the rosy marble steps. The air was cold; he could see his breath. Halfway up stood his father, flanked himself by Royal Guardsmen in a respectful standoff with a line of Temple's Own. A few steps behind him stood that dratted Winmer with a small knot of others including, to his surprise, Teacher. Behind them gathered a small crowd made up mostly of late visitors to the Healer's House across the Promenade, drawn by the unexpected martial sounds at the Lovers' Temple.
Temmin drew a deep breath, hoping to quell his shaking. "Well?" he called down, with a creditable attempt at bravado.
"Well, indeed," said Harsin. "I've come to take you back."
"I don't think so. This is my choice, and I've made it. You can't come in and cart me off bodily. No one's allowed in tonight."
"He's right. Pagg's Law, sir," murmured Brother Mardus at his side.
"Do not think to lecture your King on Pagg's Law," snapped Harsin. "Even were it an ordinary night, I would not dream of defiling this Temple--any Temple--by bringing Guards into it to cart you or anyone else off bodily. You will walk out on your own."
"Will I," said Temmin, his temper rising.
"Don' you do it, sir!" a young woman called in a sweet, familiar voice. "Don' you do it! If we come to harm, that's as it should be!"
Torches had finally been brought, and a young man's flaming red hair blazed plain in their light. Fen flexed against the Guards pinning his arms back, but made no move; they held Arta far too tightly for him to risk it.
Who had betrayed them? Jenks didn't know where he was going, and fully believed Arta and Fen were his lovers; Ellika knew they weren't, but had no idea he'd decided to join the Temple and wouldn't have stopped him if she had. That left Teacher; he glared into the strange silvery eyes. Teacher didn't look away, and gave a barely visible shake of the head, as if knowing Temmin's mind.
"I'm not for the idea of us dyin in general," said Fen, "but I don' beg anyone for anything, and I'd rather die than be damned. This whole thing is blasphemy, and I want no part in it. Go ahead, sir, and let the Guards be damned, not us!" At this, the men holding him shifted uncomfortably, looking at one another and then at the Temples surrounding them.
"You'd kill them to stop me?" said Temmin to his father. "You'd place their deaths on your soul?"
"We are King, Temmin. We do what we must, and we must stop you. Their deaths will be on you if you don't come down from there."
"You speak to me as if I'm a child up in a tree!"
"When you act like a child, I'll speak to you like one!" roared Harsin.
By now, the Most Highs had joined the flock of Lovers and Beloveds at the top of the stairs, Gan leaning on Senik in his sleepiness. "What do you wish to do, Your Highness?" said Gan.