Chapter 1 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Paggday night, the 9th day of Spring's Beginning
Tremont Keep, Tremont City

"I do not understand, Your Grace, why so glum the faces," said an enormous brown-skinned man. His long cloak of iridescent feathers covered otherwise unexceptional evening wear; his strong, naturally crimped black hair streamed unfettered down his back, and as he frowned around the ballroom in woozy concentration the blue-black tattoos curling round his nose and eyes furrowed.

"Glum, Your Excellency?" said his light-skinned companion. Anvalt Vonturus, Duke of Litta, was not a short man, but next to the tall ambassador even his stiff military bearing could not overcome an impression of smallness. In contrast with the ambassador's tattoos, a pale scar slashed through his left brow; a black ribbon clubbed his slate-colored hair in a queue that announced he was a conservative.

Litta glanced around the assembly milling about Tremont Keep's Great Ballroom in nervous clumps spiky with the glint of jewels. They winked on countless fingers; in the curls of women's hair; around slender wrists and wrists so fat they nearly hid their bracelets in their folds, and around necks both wrinkled and smooth; and from countless medals--some earned and some Litta knew were given to shut the bearer up. What a decadent age.

His eye settled on the musicians, fidgeting on the bandstand. To his approval, all the orchestra's members wore spotless evening attire, their brass and silver instruments polished to a blinding luster. The more careless musicians impatiently tapped violin and cello bows against their chair legs as the more careful ones rosined theirs; fingers ran up and down silent flutes, exercising the valves. Despite the orchestra's splendor, despite the brilliance of the Great Ballroom and its hundreds of inhabitants, a hesitant, uncertain mood hung over the whole.

"I suppose one might call it glum, sir," he continued. "This is not just the Heir's nineteenth birthday, but also his return to the Keep. Some are unsure how he will be received."

"Received, sir?" The Ambassador of the Vakale'le Confederacy, a Pau'an chieftain of birth high enough to match his stature, fidgeted in his unfamiliar suit; his broad, twitching shoulders set the feathers of his traditional cape to whispering. "Who by?"

"By His Majesty King Harsin."

"Happy the father on the birth date of the son, no? In Pau'a, this is so."

Litta allowed himself a smirk. "Oh, it is so here as well. Prince Temmin has been elsewhere for the last year."

"Where the Heir has been?"

"His Highness took religious orders at the Lovers' Temple."

The feathers rustled in shock. "The Heir is a priest?"

"Temporary orders. Supplicancy," muttered Litta. "They end next year at Neya's Day."

The Ambassador nudged the Duke, gently enough that Litta just stayed on his feet. "Ha! My wife hopes we are to be here for the Day of Neya Spectacle. That makes two for us this year. Your Gods Days, they are reversed--your Day of Neya, our Day of Harla. It is fall for us when it is spring for you--Tremont is the far side of the world." The Ambassador's tattoos softened, and Litta realized the man was a bit drunk. "Same Gods the world round, though different names. In strange lands, a comfort. It is said the Embodiments of the Lovers are most beautiful. To take on the Beloved Neya and the Lover Nerr--they must be so beautiful, indeed. They are real twins?"

"Issak and Allis Obby, yes," said Litta; his scar twitched.

The Ambassador pursed his lips. "The Heir is Supplicant, you say? How brave to learn from the Gods, how strange he would have that much skill--no, what word, not skill yet, he learns now the skill--perhaps talent? Talent needs learning to become skill. Oh, to see that deep into someone, to know what he wants. What advantages they could be!" He chose his next words carefully. "The King does not like this?"

"Oh, very much not." Few nobles did. Litta himself feared the prophecy attending Temmin's Supplicancy. He'd helped the King try to stop it, but what had that gotten him but the worst run of luck he'd ever had in his life?

Movement at the top of the ballroom stairs drew everyone's attention upward. On the landing stood a breathtaking pair, a young man and woman each with the same luminous green eyes and loose, thick black hair. The Pau'an hissed, low and soft. "This is them? Real twins, not a matched pair? Have you seen them together on Neya's Day, when the Gods possess them?"

Litta nodded. He'd watched as the Gods borrowed the Obbys' bodies for lovemaking--but not last year. Probably not this year, either. He didn't even bother entering the lottery for tickets, supposing his entry would be "mislaid." When he died, his body would be received into Harla's Hill, but his soul might wander the earth forever, a howling, despairing spirit. Blasphemy always carried such a risk.

In his still-reverent youth, he would have said he'd blaspheme when Nerr got the Heir--though he would never say the phrase aloud. The rather vulgar colloquialism meant "that will never happen." It was the remnant of an old prophecy: when an Heir to the throne became Nerr's Supplicant, the common people would rise to equal the nobility. Of course, no one believed it would ever happen, hence the vulgar meaning.

Commoners believed fulfilling the prophecy meant their prosperity. As Litta grew older, studied more and came into his full inheritance, he'd come to disagree. The Scholars, the priests of Eddin the Wise One, had it right: when "Nerr got the Heir" as a Supplicant, the commoners would revolt and the nobility would fall. When it looked as if Prince Temmin would fulfill the prophecy, Litta blackmailed the Obbys to stop him; it backfired, and now Litta faced damnation. For nothing. At least the monarchy hadn't fallen. Yet.

Behind the twins stood an overly-rounded girl he recognized as Anda Barrows, and Temmin himself: the two Supplicants of the Lovers. The lanky young man had put on weight in his year at the Temple--not fat, simply more of a man's stature than a boy's. His beard had finally filled in, and Litta grudgingly approved the proper if short queue curling at the Heir's nape. None of that modern, liberal shagginess that made men look more like dogs, short hair flapping around their temples like a retriever's ears. The Prince seemed relaxed, unruffled and confident. Even when he spotted Litta, his poise never faltered; he twitched one golden eyebrow in recognition and looked away.

Litta shifted his own gaze to King Harsin; his old friend's face was closed, unreadable. Let Temmin and his priests puzzle something out of that.

Comments

Amy's picture

Supplicant

I can't wait to order a copy of the book. I want to read it over and over again as I read the installments here.

and...

FIRST

Cheez-It's picture

gleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

fremmed's picture

Petitioner

ahem ... retrying under my flag

gleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Cheez-It's picture
Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... between Litta and the Pau'an (does he have a name?).

Spoiler: Highlight to view
Quote:
What a decadent age.

You know, it took me until today to catch the similarity in attitude to another character in the book. Find something new on every re-read...

Quote:
Your Gods Days, they are reversed--your Day of Neya, our Day of Harla.
So does that mean that the southern hemisphere has its own set of Embodiments?

Also, while we're at it, why would the Embodiment of Harla not be situated in Corharla Hill? Does the preeminence of Tremont in the northern hemisphere trump the preeminence of Corharla Hill and the relative lack of enthusiasm for Harla in Tremont?

MeiLin's picture

Most High

I wish I could tell you that it was intentional. Smile Many writers will tell you that unconscious stuff like that happens all the time. The connection you make is an apt one. Thank you for pointing it out. Smile

No, there's only one set of Embodiments. Harla's Embodiment isn't at Corharla Hill because the concentration of power in the world is in Tremont, and has been for a thousand years or so--since the conquest of Barle and Whithorse.

V's picture

Embodiment

I suspect that the timing of the various Days follows the seasons - planting, harvest, life/death/summer/winter etc.

Cheez-It's picture

what happened to the third supplicant? I can't remember her name at the moment...but I remember her receiving actual art and played a decent role in the story before the edits and such.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

Her name was Bessa Vissek, and she will be returning to the story at some point in some way. She was supposed to be in this book, and I wrote a TON of stuff about her and Silsha, her maid. But I got stuck. The more I worked at it, the stuck-er I got, until I realized the sticking point was Bessa: she just was not supposed to be in this book. I took her scenes out, boom, off I went like a jackrabbit...a writing...uh...jackrabbit...

Anyway, Bessa is gone but not forgotten and I'm figuring out where her puzzle piece fits. I've got all this stuff written, you see, and I hate for it to go to waste.

Kunama's picture

Devotee

Someone else recalled a 3rd supplicant from the drafts too, I'm not going senile!

Also - eEEeeeEEEeeeEeeEee IT'S BACK YAYAYAYAYAY!!!

Cheez-It's picture

but please tell me we're not going to skip on a whole year of learning for Temmin in the temple. (it was way too much fun in the draft Blum 3 )

MeiLin's picture

Most High

That doesn't mean we'll never see it. It just means that the main novel series can't move that slow. I'm hoping to fil in that year at some point when I'm not trying to tell the main story.

Laureril's picture

Supplicant

I broke down and devoured the book - and it's every bit the wild (new) ride we've been promised. Looking forward to the reactions!

kalinka's picture

Postulant

And it was wonderful!

Cheez-It's picture

Any word on when we will be able to purchase the e-book for those of us who didn't get in on the pre-sales or Kickstarter?

MeiLin's picture

Most High

I'm waiting on Robert's map and I'm doing a super-fiddly edit as I format the serialization. I'm up through chapter 5--late July 2012. There are 18 chapters plus an epilogue. I'm hoping to do two chapters a day. It's going to kill me. But then I won't have to think about it EVER AGAIN until the next one. This won't finish till approximately mid-September 2013.

So anyway, back to your question *ahem*. I think in two weeks or so. My semi-official launch date is March 20th.

Cheez-It's picture

Just read the post above and see that it may be a while until IHGK 3.

SIGH. Granted good writing and good food share in common that both things take ever so much longer to produce than consume. Here's to keeping your creative juices flowing!

MeiLin's picture

Most High

There is a very off chance I may go to Clarion West this summer. If so that'll knock schedules into a cocked hat.

But I'm glad you like the story and that you're reading. Smile

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