Chapter 10 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Temmin returned to the Temple reluctantly. Though his mother appeared healthier than ever before, he still worried. The first fulfilled prophecy frightened him, but continued good news from the Keep and Nerr's Day preparations occupied his time and mind. He let himself be reassured that the Traveler Queen had performed one of her vaunted miracles; Mama and the baby would be well.
The twins' twice-annual ordeal began again this evening, a necessary suffering that sickened Temmin every time. Issak and Allis stood at the doors to the Gods' Chambers, the senior staff gathered around them. Allis smoothed Temmin's wrinkled brow. "Never worry. Nerr and Neya will be here and gone in a short while, and then we can all rest until next Neya's Day."
Temmin couldn't wait. Nerr's Day was all very well; brothers received homage from their unmarried sisters, and that meant presents. But if he'd known as a boy what the Lovers' Embodiments went through for him to get those presents he wouldn't have liked them half as much.
"This is your last Spectacle as a Supplicant, Anda," said Issak, his arms around the plump girl's waist. "Any grave and sober thoughts?"
Anda put her head on Issak's chest, hugging him tighter. "I can't be flippant about this."
"We'll be all right, we always are." Issak let her go and patted her cheek. "Have you decided your future? Will you stay at the Temple or make a brilliant match? Perhaps Mr Hasty, the banking magnate? I hear Lord Breitborough has been dangling after you as well."
"We'd be cousins if you become Lady Breitborough, Anda," added Temmin.
Anda shook her head. "I'm hoping Our Lord will guide me on Nerr's Day." She moved to Allis and kissed her over and over before clasping the smaller woman to her generous bosom in tears.
Temmin put his hands on Issak's shoulders. He'd grown enough that Issak had to look up to meet his eyes now. For once, vulnerability filled the green eyes that had so mesmerized him a year ago and that had been so closed in recent spokes. Why did it take the prospect of torture for Issak to open to him? Temmin pressed his advantage; he held Issak's head in his hands and kissed him, pouring as much concern and love into the embrace as he could. They rested their foreheads against one another. "Why have you been so distant?" Temmin whispered.
Issak glided away, professional and closed off again. "I'll see you on Nerr's Day, Tem." He strode into Nerr's Chamber, stopping long enough to kiss Barik Lover before closing the door. Barik locked it behind him.
Temmin turned to Allis, who stood half-in half-out of the doorway to Neya's Chamber. He hated thinking of her locked in there alone for two days: no food, no drink, no light, no sound. Bad enough for Issak, but Allis was so small, so delicate. He wanted to scoop her up and run away with her, even though he knew she was as strong as her brother--perhaps stronger. She smiled encouragingly, its intimacy contrasting against her brother's coolness, and slipped into isolation.
Temmin carried Issak and Allis in his heart until Nerr's Day Eve and his brother's gift ceremony. This would be the first time he'd gotten his gifts from his sisters' own hands since Sedra left home for the Capital four years before, and if rumors were true it would be the last. In all the chaos surrounding Mama's illness he hadn't been able to ask about Sedra's impending engagement to Bannig of Sairland. If what Ellika said was true then Sedra would be married and gone by the next Nerr's Day; as a married woman she would never give him a brother's gift again. He teased himself he could do quite well without one, but as he dressed in his best Supplicant's uniform, he knew it wasn't the little trinkets she gave him that he would miss. How much longer could Ellika remain unmarried? Soon enough there would be no trinkets at all, or sisters to give them.
The Temple's gardens and hothouses supplied the flowers for the nosegays tradition demanded brothers give in return for their unmarried sisters' tributes. On Nerr's Day Eve, Anda helped Temmin arrange them and wrap their stems in ribbons--deep rose for Sedra, blush pink for Ellika. He'd never done up his sisters' flowers himself; the Estate's housekeeper did them when they all lived at home, and then the Keep's housekeeper Mistress Mannell did them long distance when the girls moved away. As he carried the flowers to his meeting with his sisters on Nerr's Day Eve, he smiled at them; his results were not professional, but they were quite the prettiest nosegays he'd ever seen. He paused outside the private drawing room, spent a moment untangling the ribbons, and entered.