Chapter 16 Part 5 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
Despite Anda's light, musical snoring in the alcove bed across the room from him, Temmin slept late on Neya's Day. Or at least, he assumed he had; the Supplicants Chamber had no windows. Anda's bed was now empty and made, and his only gauge of time was his roaring appetite. With his breakfast, he learned that he had in fact slept until lunch, "A good thing on the whole, as it'll be a long night, with little sleep for anyone and much exercise for everyone," smirked Senik.
All Temmin knew about the upcoming ritual was this:
There was to be some sort of trial for Allis and Issak to bring down the Lovers, something that might be painful for them, or perhaps it was the presence of the Gods Themselves that was painful. He and Senik and one of the senior Lovers, a man called Barik, would help Issak prepare for it, though the preparations were obscure to him.
There would be a Chase. Neya and Nerr would run until the Brother caught the Sister. It would end as it did in the Sagas, with lovemaking. The people would pass by one at a time to watch Them and receive the blessing, then find a corner of the gardens to imitate their Gods; everywhere, all over the kingdom, over much of the world, people with no chance of seeing the Gods in this life would do the same, going out into the fields and gardens to ensure their fertility. Temmin was to help hold the people back until the Gods were satisfied.
There would be some kind of acknowledgment of his dedication as Supplicant, and he was to follow the Gods back into Their bedchamber, a room used only when They were in residence, as it were. Neya would take his virginity and that would be an end to the ceremony as far as he knew.
With this scanty knowledge in mind, Temmin made his way to the gardens, already filled with worshippers waiting for the Chase. The Most Highs sat in state on a dais above the crowds. Beside them, rigid and fidgeting, sat his mother.
He climbed the stairs quickly, and sank down on his knees before her. "What are you doing here?" he cried, taking her hands. "I'm happy to see you, truly, Mama, but I'm very surprised."
Ansella gave him a shaky, rather liquid smile. "The pious parent attends the investiture of a child into a Temple, sweetheart, no matter how I myself feel about..." She stole a glance at the Most Highs, who graciously pretended deafness.
"You heard what happened last night," said Temmin. "He's not making it hard on you, or Jenks, or Teacher?"
"Your father is putting a brave face on it. He has decided it is more politic to downplay the significance of 'Nerr getting the Heir.' The commoners, however, are jubilant." She nodded at the milling crowds, most gazing happily up at him, some bowing reverently. "As for consequences at the Keep, as soon as Teacher returned from Whithorse, he was confined to his Tower. That's the only good thing that came of it. Col--Jenks is under suspicion of helping you, as am I now that I've come here--I couldn't let you do this alone, with none of your family here to witness! Sister Ibbit didn't want me here, and neither did your father, but they couldn't stop me from attending Temple." She sighed. "You were wise to send your friends to the Estate. I've never seen Harsin so angry, or so frightened. I wouldn't come home for a good while, my dear."
"The Keep is not my home," he answered. "I'm happy to see you, Mama. This is all...I'm sure this is the right thing to do, but I confess... Everything's upside down, except for here."
"Temmin," called Senik from the foot of the dais, "it's time to get ready." Temmin kissed his mother's little hands, made his obeisances to the Most Highs, and turned to go, his step unsteady. Malla stayed him, her warm, thin-skinned hand on his. "It's all right to be afraid, Temmin Supplicant. But don't withhold yourself, any part of yourself, from Them. They will take all of you, and if you resist Them, so much the worse for you."
"Respectfully, Most High, I didn't go through all this to resist."
She smiled pensively. "Ah, but there is so, so very much more still to come."