Chapter 17 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

In the days after his investiture, Temmin fetched and carried for Allis and Issak. To Temmin's relief, the bloom was creeping back into Allis's face, and Issak no longer looked as if someone had crumpled him up and thrown him away--though Someone had, thought Temmin.

Even so, Temmin saw little of them. He lived the unglamorous life of a Postulant. He got lost a lot. He joined a class of newly minted Postulants studying anatomy: not the obvious kind, but the kind in which one learned the names of the bones of the hand. He kissed an extraordinary number of people. Senik hadn't been joking: in the Temple, a kiss meant "Hello," "Goodbye," "Thank you," "You're welcome," and occasionally, "What are you doing after anatomy class?" He learned to sleep through Anda snuffling her tuneful little snore in the bed opposite, and, rarely, in his bed beside him.

Temmin did not miss the Keep, at all, but he did miss his mother and sisters, and especially Jenks. Temmin sent several messages to them and had given up ever hearing back, when one day Senik called Temmin to a receiving room. "A representative from your father, I believe," he said.

It was Winmer.

Temmin advanced into the room, his hands in fists. "What do you want?"

"Your father bid me bring you a message, along with your post, Your Highness," said Winmer with a bow; he held out a neat packet of letters.

Temmin folded his arms across his chest, and made no move to take the packet. "What is the message?"

Winmer inclined his head and withdrew the packet. "He bids me tell you that your two friends at Whithorse are now your responsibility. They may not return to the Keep as servants. He also adds that what he did, he did out of sincere concern for both you and the Kingdom."

"Balls to that," snapped Temmin. "The King has a great deal of nerve sending you of all people here. I know you're behind the blackmail, Winmer. Only the most loathsome of men would use Arta Dannikson like that."

Winmer sighed, and spread his arms in conciliation. "Your Highness, I am the King's man. It doesn't matter what I think is right. When the King comes to me, it's not for advice. I do what the King commands me to do--I find ways to make what the King wants, happen. In the matter of your Supplicancy, he wanted to find ways to stop it, and so I did. I was unsuccessful, but that is less a criticism of my dedication than it is a tribute to yours. Well done, sir."

"So it's some sort of game? Is that what you're saying? It's all right to be contemptible, as long as it's your job--or--or if you win?" said Temmin, unfolding his arms and taking a step forward.

Winmer stood his ground and smiled, the corners of his mouth curving up to touch the ends of his tidy mustache. "A King should always have clean hands, don't you think, sir? Perhaps also a Prince. Some day soon, you will have a man like me to keep yours clean as well." Winmer left the packet on the low table, bowed, and departed.

Temmin blinked after him. Never, never would he have a man like Winmer, he said to himself.

He plunked himself down on the wide, low couch and picked up the packet of mail. At the top of the stack, he found a small note addressed to him in Ellika's curlicued script and bearing her seal in bright blue wax. He broke the seal:

Dearest Temmy,

You are a sly boots indeed & I am very proud of you even though you have made Papa very angry & I miss you! Seddy & I will see you at the Temple on Nerr's Day to give you your brother-gifts--Papa can't stop us from doing that, at least!

Much, much love,

Your sister E

Temmin smiled. He took up the next letter; it bore the rearing stallion postmark of Whithorse Estate, and the pragmatic handwriting of his best friend.

He sat up straighter.

"Your Grace," it began:

I have done as you asked, but things are easier now that word has come to us about you and the Temple. I have to say I am surprised by that since I helped you skip lessons here. But I am sure things are different in the City.

Miss Dannikson is getting along. She seems to like learning her letters at the school, but she is uncomfortable learning to be a gentlewoman.

Here the words, "Are you sure that's what she wants?" had been smudged out, but were still legible enough if Temmin squinted.

My mother likes her, and so do most of the women here. She is very sweet and pretty and I see why you might like her.

Wallek is all right, I suppose. He is very keen on fighting. He is good. We have had a couple of bouts for fun. Then he challenged the Guards Captain, and at the end there was more red on him than his hair, I will just say that. Wallek got a lot more serious about training after. You are right, he does not know much about horses. He says he is the third son and never paid attention much since he would not get the blacksmith shop and did not want it anyway. But he is learning because I told him you want him to, and you told him to do what I said. I could wish he took that last a little more serious sometimes.

Everyone here is well. They are all very excited about you and the Temple, and keep talking about Nerr getting the Heir. Sometimes I think they are expecting gold to rain down from the sky now. People are stupid.

About Mattie, I am very surprised to hear about that. You may wish to know that she has left the Estate and no one seems to know where she has gotten to. She and her mother do not seem to be in Reggiston any more.

As for the other thing. Forget it. It does not matter.

Your obedient servant,
Nollson

Temmin rattled the letter absently, mulling it over and over. Alvy never used his titles, ever, unless he was angry or important people were watching. He signed himself "Nollson." And "Forget it?" How was Temmin supposed to forget it?

At least Fen and Arta were all right. Temmin would have to take them into his service, but he had no clear idea what he might do with them; Fen would definitely make a good sparring partner, but what would he do with Arta?

And Mattie had disappeared. Well, his father had said she might. He hoped that wherever she'd gone, she didn't hate him too much, and that she was happy.

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