Chapter 16 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Senik led Temmin down a long corridor that ran parallel to the gardens. Temmin carried a basket full of little muslin bags, Senik two small but heavy caskets. "Barik Lover will lead, we will assist," said Senik. "Have you met Barik?"

He had; he'd met all the senior clergy. The biggest thing about Barik Lover that he'd seen were his eyes: soft, sympathetic brown pools often lit with some unheard, inner joke. Otherwise, Barik's balding, close-cropped head came only to Temmin's shoulder. He was middle-aged, and beyond good looks in Temmin's estimation--a long nose, square-set mouth, and rather well-furred forearms. They entered the anteroom of the Gods' Chamber, a long oblong with two doors. One was red and led to Nerr's side of the Chamber; the other was white and led to Neya's.

Barik sat before a long, low table. "Senik Postulant," he muttered, "why do you go all the way to Inchar to fetch me something?" He took the basket from Temmin and laid out the bags on the table. "They're already on the frames, and I don't like them hanging up there any longer than necessary."

Barik began taking practised pinches from the muslin bags, depositing them in the center of two large pieces of thin paper: dried herbs and flowers, spices, barks, and a bitter powder that made Temmin sneeze. Some substances were common to both; some, Barik added only to one of the papers. "There's an exact sequence of sensations--hunger, scents, tastes, caresses, even blows--that bring the Gods down into their Embodiments," he said, "and these mixtures provide the incense. We'll burn these in a brazier. Stay away from it." He folded the papers into packets and directed Temmin to reseal and stow the muslin bags back in their basket.

Barik handed one of the packets to Senik, who still held one of the caskets. "Take these to Glaes." Senik disappeared through the white door; when he returned, the three men opened the red door, and entered Nerr's side together.

Temmin thought of the last time he'd seen Issak naked: thick-muscled, almost cruel, bending Temmin's will to his own. And now here he was in near-reverse, bound naked to a frame, sweaty, already half-erect and bending himself to Nerr's will, whatever it might be. There was a sadness to the set of his mouth, and Temmin wished he could see Issak's eyes, but the Embodiment wore a blindfold. "Why is he tied up like that?" said Temmin.

"It's part of the sequence, and it's for everyone's safety including Issak's. When the Gods come down, They're on the exuberant side at first," said Barik, depositing the remaining paper packet on a brazier at Issak's feet. Smoke curled up from the brazier, smelling of rich woods and amber, and that bitter powder; it made Temmin a little dizzy in the head. Issak took it in, long steady breaths ending in sighs, and hardened further, Temmin's own arousal responding.

Another scent wafted into the room: white hothouse flowers, tuberose, gardenia, and the little trumpet-shaped ones Ellika loved--freesia--but underneath floated that same bitterness. "Neya's scent," murmured Senik. "They've begun the greater preparation with Allis."

Allis tied and blindfolded, helpless and open to his touch: a deeper breath, and the image became clearer, almost physical. He had yet to even see her naked, but he could imagine the rise and fall of her breasts, sweat trickling between them, her soft mouth open and panting; it shot between his legs in a burst. He reached out to touch her.

Barik's suddenly booming voice in his ear brought him back to the room. "Don't stand near that brazier, I said! It's for the Holy One, not you. I need you here, not hallucinating in a heap. Back away." Temmin dutifully stepped back, and though his head cleared somewhat, his arousal stayed with him, tight against the red linen trousers.

Issak's sighs turned to groans, his thick cock fully erect and straining. Temmin's eyes slipped down his body and came to rest on a mark he hadn't noticed before, on Issak's left hip: a birthmark? Who had a glowing silver birthmark? He stepped further away from the brazier, and took in a few lungfuls of clean air.

Senik offered the box to Barik with a hitherto unknown solemnity; Barik opened it with a quiet click of its clasp, and pulled out three heavy clusters of rubies, earrings Temmin supposed, though far heavier than an ear could support. The clusters altogether must have weighed half a pound. Barik stripped the earrings and handed their gems back to Senik.

Senik smothered the smoking brazier with sand. Whatever the effect of the incense, Issak was firmly in its grasp; he strained against the binding straps, the tendons and veins in his arms standing out in sharp relief. Barik ran a gentle hand up the Embodiment's broad chest and stopped at the first nipple he came to, stroking it gently. Issak flinched and whimpered, and then Barik took what Temmin had thought was an earring and fastened it to the nipple.

The Embodiment let out a long, roaring groan. "Gently, gently, now, Holy One," murmured Barik as he fastened the second clamp. He stepped behind the frame and pulled Issak's head back by his thick, black hair, kissing him; the Embodiment returned it, hungrily. "Come take my place, Temmin Supplicant," said Barik. Temmin hesitated. "Supplicant, here. Now. Hold his head. Give him what he asks for."

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