Chapter 17 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1
Temmin woke up, unsure whether he'd been dreaming or if the lovemaking really had gone on all night after the visions. He remembered slipping into Neya over and over, holding Her in his arms as Nerr took Her, kisses that left him blind, breasts and hands and mouths and cocks, but a film overlayed it all, turning it indistinct and hallucinatory: a terrifying, ecstatic fever dream. Again, there were no windows in the room, and he couldn't gauge the time.
He rose. Allis and Issak lay each to one side, clearly themselves again even in sleep. Their faces were drawn and exhausted; Anda hadn't told him the half of it. Allis turned in her sleep, clutching vaguely around her shoulders for sheets, but they lay heaped at the bottom of the bed. Temmin stooped to cover them both.
There on each twin's left hip was the silver sigil he'd seen and dismissed on Issak the night before--they both had one. Now that his head was clear of the incense, he recognized them instantly as the same sort of sigil the Traveler Queen had placed on Emmae. He hadn't seen one on Issak the week before. Were they new? Or had something else happened to him?
A prickling shiver passed over his scalp, and he decided to tell no one, just as he had said nothing about seeing Teacher in the mirror. Well--he'd told Teacher, but that was only logical.
Temmin was always hungry, but the night's exertions brought the word "starving" into clear, sharp focus. He cast about for the towers of sweets, but the plates were bare of everything, even crumbs. He found a towel to wrap around his nakedness, and shambled into the anteroom ruffling his hair, hoping for breakfast. The antechamber was deserted but for neatly laid-out clothing--Lover's red for him, undyed for the twins--a small tray of cold food he immediately began to ransack, and a note addressed to him from Anda, too late for the bread loaf's topknot: "LEAVE THIS FOR ALLIS AND ISSAK, GREEDY GUTS. Get dressed and come to the Supplicants Chamber for a proper breakfast."
This promised proper breakfast hurried him into his red Temple garb and through the door leading directly to the Supplicants Chamber. Only one of the beds was occupied, but it was occupied to capacity. Once the occupants untangled themselves, the bed proved to contain Anda, Senik, the rugged blonde Lover, Evra Postulant, and a very confused but happy apprentice chandler. Anda called for breakfast, and the rest carted the chandler off to the baths and thence to the dining hall.
"So?" said Anda once they were settled with the fragrance of coffee and toast all around them.
"So?" shrugged Temmin, slapping marmalade on his toast a little more firmly than necessary. "You've been with Them. I don't need to tell you."
"Was it what you hoped it would be?"
She shook her head impatiently. "Temmin, you're different. You're different from any other Supplicant this Temple has ever had, and that includes Finnia--you've heard of her, yes, the other royal Supplicant? You are one of a kind. I cannot believe your investiture deserves only 'so.'"
Temmin hesitated. The Lady had said he must never discuss it with anyone. But surely, talking to another Supplicant, someone who'd laid in that bed herself, would be all right. He opened his mouth, but his tongue stuck; his mouth filled with the sticky, pink taste of a Neya's Day sweet. No matter how hard he tried, not a word would come out. "Ah," said Anda. "She showed you something."
"Many somethings," Temmin blurted, tongue released. "Did She not show you anything?"
"He did. Not Her. I can't speak of them, either," she murmured, "and they were all personal, anyway. I just thought--since you're different--maybe that was different, too. Maybe She'd tell you something meant for everyone. The Most Highs hoped She would."
Allis and Issak staggered in. "Food," said Issak.
"Coffee," said his sister.
Anda went to the side door and called for more of both. "Are you all right?" said Temmin, pouring coffee into cups.
"The usual," said Allis in a haggard voice. "We'll be eating most of today, eating and sleeping."
"Mostly sleeping," said Issak, piling his plate high with the remaining bacon, sausages, eggs, fruit, as Allis gnawed on a chop. "But also eating."
"Is there anything I can do?" squeaked Temmin.
"Pass the jam."
The Embodiments devoured what food was left on the table, their usual sophistication and poise abandoned, and pounced on the reinforcements when the servants carried them in.