Chapter 8 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
Temmin told no one of his plans to visit the Temple--almost no one. He told Jenks that evening, and the happy valet burrowed into the Prince's wardrobe all Paggday to ferret out the proper clothes for a visit to the Temple. Though Jenks was discreet, Temmin himself let it slip to Ellika in the hearing of a footman. It spread through the Keep until it reached the ear of Gram, the King's valet, and thence to the King himself.
"Winmer!" said Harsin as he stomped into his study. "Harla take you, Winmer, I need you now!"
"I'm here, Your Majesty," murmured his secretary from the doorway of his adjoining office. "How can I be of service?"
Harsin flung himself into his favorite chair, and poured a snifter of brandy. "This obsession with Allis Obby has gone too far. He's heading into dangerous territory, spiritually and politically. Find something out about the Obbys to diminish them in Temmin's eyes. Anything."
Winmer paused; his little moustache rose toward his nose. "I'll do my best, sir, but I can hardly imagine anything worse than what they already are. May I speak freely, sir? I have misgivings, political misgivings, about tarnishing the Obbys--certainly not religious misgivings. The Lovers' Temple is nothing but a whorehouse, and the Embodiments are pretenders who perform lewd acts in public once a year for their Temple's financial gain. I am an atheist."
"And let no one other than me hear it, Winmer. I don't care how fashionable it is in certain sets, I'd be obliged to fire you for it, you know, and I rather like you." He contemplated the hearthscreen; it bore a classical scene of Nerr and Neya entwined in one another's arms, blossoming trees above Them, and flowers rising from Their footsteps. "Temmin is a believer, I think. He's his mother's son in many respects. At any rate, he keeps to the forms."
Winmer looked up from his little notebook. "You are a believer, sir," he said.
"Not so devout as to keep this from happening." Harsin put his feet up on a tufted footstool. "I'm slightly surprised at you, Winmer. I would expect, as an atheist, you'd try to discourage my belief in this prophecy."
"I believe in you, sir. If this is important to you, I will take the sin on myself--if there were sin to take. I will serve you in every way I can, even against my own misgivings."
Harsin raised a brow. "And what are your misgivings?"
"Letting Prince Temmin become a Supplicant is inconsequential--except in the political sphere," Winmer said, fingering his pencil. "It might portray the royal family as weak for its Heir to associate with the Lovers. Better he should dedicate to Farr, or Pagg, or even Eddin. But it wouldn't be anything a stint in the Cavalry couldn't reverse, and from everything we know about him, Prince Temmin still intends to train with them once he turns twenty. The common people dislike any conflict between the Crown and the Temples. Action against the Embodiments may be perceived as an attack on the Gods Themselves. That's my only concern, sir. The so-called prophecy is not to be feared--murky rhymes, no more."
"Hm," muttered Harsin. "I know better." He blew out a breath. "What do we know about the Embodiments already?"
"We know they're originally from Belleth. They showed up here nearly eleven years ago at a Mother's House under the auspices of your counselor." Winmer put the smallest emphasis on the final word. "Are they possibly his bastards, sir? I've always suspected it."
Harsin gave an uncharacteristically high snicker. "Getting information out of him is harder than simply ordering him to do something--he can always find a way out of doing something or telling me something--but one thing I know for certain: Teacher has no children of any kind and never will. Very well. Send your agents out. Dig, Winmer. Find out who their parents were. The Obbys are young for their positions, and Allis is far, far too good at what she does to have come by it all in less than three years. Now, send word for the Queen. And have them get rid of this," he added, kicking at the hearthscreen. Winmer bowed and retreated to his office.
As Harsin sipped his brandy, the memory of a delightful evening with Allis arose in his mind, complete with an image of her plump breasts bouncing as she sat astride him. Luscious girl, truly remarkable in every way; the visit to the newly installed Embodiment had been a high point of even his extensive erotic life. When his temper cooled, he might pay another visit to her.
He frowned at the Gods making love on his hearthscreen. His son seemed to be of a romantic temperament. Could that knowledge alone turn Temmin away--that his father had Allis first, and could have her again if he wished? Perhaps. Once he'd extricated his son from this mess, he would be sure to send Allis a gift, and present the Gods with a mollifying sum. Where was Ansella? Her rooms were right next door. Damned woman could never be found when he wanted her.