Chapter 1 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Later that evening, The Duke of Corland watched the King and the tailor's daughter disappear within moments of one another. Twenna had caught the royal eye much faster than he'd expected. So much the better. A tremulous voice interrupted his happy musings: "My Lord Corland!"
At his elbow he found an overly elegant little man, his round belly supported on spindly legs. "Oh. Hullo, Shelstone," said Corland; he'd almost forgotten the girl's father was here.
"I do thank you so very much for your notice of myself and my daughter."
Corland shifted his weight from uneasy heel to toe. "Not a-tall. One always wishes to see interesting people at these things, I should think."
The former tailor beamed, his smile as pomaded as his hair. "But putting in a word to the royal family's social secretary--!"
The Duke winced. Lady Olster had owed him a great favor; it had galled him to spend such dear coin on Shelstone and his daughter, but it served the greater purpose. The Duke pulled the former tailor to one side. "Listen, old thing. Let's not bandy that about, eh? Just between us. Tell your girl the same. Discretion is the watch word."
"In fact, I do not wish to be seen speaking with you."
"Discretion, certainly," said Shelstone, bobbing his head in confusion. "Nevertheless, I shall always be grateful--"
"Just remember that gratitude. Excuse me." Corland sidled away toward the buffet. As the Crown owned the best vineyards, the King always had the best wine, and the Duke wanted a great deal of it.
Temmin, meanwhile, was enjoying his birthday party immensely; he'd been in society such a short time before Supplicancy. He liked dancing, he liked pretty women whose sole aim was to charm him, he liked sparkling wine, and above all he liked studying Allis and Issak as they sailed through the room's political shoals and depths. He'd learned a great deal about politics in the year he'd been in the Capital, both in and out of the Temple. He escorted his latest partner to the sidelines and her next partner.
Thirst pounced on him, and instead of taking a new partner he went in search of something to drink. Wine was all very well, but it wasn't quenching. Temmin spotted a curtained-off servants' hallway to one side of the room. A year ago there had been water in that hallway for the servants, and he wanted water. He pushed open the curtains and went inside unnoticed.
Temmin's eyes adjusted to the dimmer light. Exactly a year ago he'd danced here with Arta Dannikson, an extremely pretty downstairs maid. In his father's attempts to stop his Supplicancy, Arta had been both human bait and hostage. Temmin remembered the knife at her throat as Harsin tried to force him from the Lovers' Temple. She and her sweetheart Fen were safe at the Estate now; Arta was learning to read and write, and Fen was learning the care of horses. From what their letters told him, especially Arta's painstakingly copied ones, they were busy for the moment, but he'd have to figure out what to do with them longer term at some point.
Temmin drank three dippers of water and strolled back to the hallway's opening to observe the brightly dressed throng. Last year was his first chance to enjoy the company of beautiful women--any women, at least those close to his own age who weren't related to him. Even Mattie. Pretty, hazel-eyed Mattie, the young servant girl he'd almost raped in a drunken haze the night before he left home. Mattie, who'd turned out to be his half-sister. Temmin shuddered. More than once he'd wondered what had become of her, and whether she knew they were related. Letters from home said she and her mother had left Reggiston in a great hurry; he suspected his parents had a hand in that. He wished he knew where she was. He wanted to make amends to her himself.
Temmin sighed. He would find her when he left the Temple next year. For now, duty required him to rejoin the dancers.