Chapter 6 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
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Temmin left the book, desperately aroused. He couldn't say what provoked him more: Warin and Emmae's lovemaking, or the strange scene at the end. He gripped the table's edge and reached for quelling thoughts, anything to dull the book's effects. He turned to the story. "So it's Hildin the Usurper," he stammered.
"Still Prince Regent. King Gethin had slipped into senility by this time," answered Teacher.
"He had magic too? How many people held it?"
"Only the men of the royal bloodline. At this time, King Gethin still held most of it, though he could not use it. Warin held a considerable amount, then Hildin, and so on. The further from the throne, the less magic one possessed."
"Where did it go? How did we lose it?"
"Another story for another time."
Teacher said no more, and Temmin's thoughts drifted back to the two men at the end. Could one call that sex? The page focused so completely on pleasing the Prince, and Hildin didn't seem to care in the least; he expected it. It wasn't anything like what had happened with Alvo. "Why did Gian think of Hildin as his master? I mean, Hildin was his lord, yes, but 'master' seemed to mean more than that."
"Some people have a deep need to serve. Gian was one of them."
"Servants need to serve, certainly," said Temmin. "But none of 'em seem to want that!" The most disagreeable image of Mattie came to mind, and he flushed, fidgeting further in his chair.
"Servitude--true servitude--crosses the boundaries of class, wealth, power and gender," said Teacher. "Some are born with the need, some acquire it. If you decide to chase the Obbys, you will become quite familiar with the condition. The Temple deals with it all the time, though many seek private arrangements outside a religious framework."
Something in Issak's demeanor reminded Temmin of Hildin--not that Issak was cruel, as far as he knew, but he could see Issak commanding someone like Gian. He could see someone kneeling at Issak's feet, Issak's hand stroking a fair head, Issak sliding into a crying young man's willing mouth--
"I think I'm done with lessons for today," said Temmin.
"We are done when we are done, Your Highness," said Teacher. "I do not wonder that you are thinking on Hildin and Gian. You are due to be matched with a Mentor soon."
A Mentor. Temmin considered his older cousins and their Mentors. Sometimes their Mentors treated them with fatherly regard, sometimes with brotherly affection, and sometimes with open lust in the case of the handsome ones; most of his cousins tolerated it, and one or two of them reveled in being a more powerful older man's temporary confidant and bedmate. "Mentoring is rather like those two, isn't it? I mean, Mentors are older, and so was Hildin. Though not much older, was he. Ten years or so? And the Mentor has a great deal more experience and power than his Student, but then, that's rather the point, isn't it? To learn what the Mentor knows, to become friends with those in the Mentor's circle who can benefit him? It's that power thing you're always going on about." Temmin looked up at Teacher, too interested for bashfulness. "But what does the Mentor get out of it? Is it just the sex?"
"For some, it is the sex. For others, the service--teaching what one knows. For many, I suspect it is the chance to relive one's youth through another. Some Mentors and Students do not ever touch one another. Perhaps most."
"You'd never say that if you saw my cousins with their Mentors!"
"One wishes to keep up appearances," said Teacher. "The relationship between Mentor and Student is considered the most perfect, the most pure, a union of equals, at least in terms of class and education. Who would wish to proclaim himself a failure at that?"
"One of my cousins is still with his Mentor, and it's been years since they should have ended," mused Temmin. "I wonder who Papa is considering for me. I mean, I'm the Heir--no family is more powerful than ours. So I suppose I'd be matched with someone I can learn from--" He looked up, wide-eyed with a sudden thought: "It's not you, is it?" he said.
His tutor raised one elegant eyebrow. Temmin had never noticed the fineness of Teacher's face, the contrast of the soft mouth and sharp jaw, the smooth, pale skin betraying no sign of the years, the luminous, pale eyes--a face between handsome and beautiful, compelling in whispers. Teacher put two long, slender fingers under Temmin's chin. The unnerving, sensual mouth approached his own; his heart quivered, and he closed his eyes, unable to look into the intense silver. Teacher's cool, smooth cheek rested against his own.
He had nearly surrendered himself to a surprising swoon of anticipation, when a puff of breath hit his ear: "No," said Teacher in a laughing voice.
Temmin opened his eyes. "It's not funny."
Teacher pulled back, keeping hold of Temmin's chin. "Oh, I find it highly amusing."
"Don't make fun of me," he said, trying to wrench free.
Teacher gripped him tighter than Temmin could ever have guessed. "I am not making fun of you, Temmin. I am trying to get you to pay attention. You had no conception of or desire for anything between us, and yet I led you straight into it. You must learn to lead yourself, or at the least consciously choose to follow, instead of letting yourself be lulled along." Teacher let him go. "I do this with great fondness for you, whether you believe me or not."
Temmin gave a small, appalled shudder and looked away, composing himself. He schooled his face into something more poised, and said, "Has my father discussed Mentors with you?"
"To be sure. He wishes to match you with someone he needs to court politically, in the same manner as your sisters' marriages. There has been some talk of the Duke of Barle."
Temmin recoiled. "Barle? That hideous, boring old man? He can't even choose his carriage horses properly."
"It would be politically expedient. But if you go to the Temple, you will not receive a Mentor."
"You would not have time. You are seeing Allis Obby this Neyaday?" said Teacher.
"Yes," said Temmin, surprised. "How'd you know?"
"She told me. But I assure you, anything private between you stays with her. I will never hear about it, even though Allis and Issak are dear to me--the closest I shall ever have to children save one. If you want to understand these things, talk to them--study with them. The Lovers' Temple can teach you a great deal about 'these things.' Their tutelage would augment your studies of the History immensely--practical application of what you learn from the Book."
"She told you I'm considering chasing them, didn't she."
"Your Highness, your behavior has made it quite clear--she did not need to. It is all over the City. Everyone knows."
An icy spike at Temmin's groin killed any remaining, pleasant discomfort. "And does everyone know I...qualify?"
"Everyone has guessed by now," said Teacher in a gentle murmur.
"Pagg's own balls, I'll never live it down whether I go to the Temple or not! That damn Fennows--next time I see him, he'll be one big smirk!"
"Are you not getting along with your new companion?"
"Companion. Ha! I can't bear him. I've managed to avoid him since my ball."
"Strange. I heard you got quite drunk with him that night."
"I couldn't stand him any other way," said Temmin.
"Perhaps you might lay in a stock of wuisc, then," said Teacher. "I have been told he is staying at the Keep while his family retires to their seat at Maryakuspa on urgent business."
"Tomorrow. I will be leaving you to attend to one another for the day, with or without inebriation, and shall see you on Eddinday."
A day alone with that wretch, thought Temmin. Well, perhaps he could ride.
Son in Sorrow will end its serialization July 15, 2013.
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