Chapter 10 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
His sisters were standing before the empty hearth, chatting aimlessly with the beautiful Senik Lover. The girls turned to the door, both smiling, both holding small cases. Sedra dressed with customary restraint in a simple gown of opulent, thistle-colored silk. She wore simple bob earrings, amethysts dusted a long golden chain round her neck, and fragrant white orange blossoms winked in her dark plaits like jewels in a crown. She made no attempt to conceal her height; she stood straight as a dancer and towered majestically over her fair-haired sister, already queen-like.
As promised, Ellika's aquamarine gown contrasted perfectly with the rose marble of the Temple. Soft, creamy gauze trimmed its low neckline and swathed her shoulders; on its bodice, tiny pearls traced the traditional Nerr's Day horn-and-flower pattern woven into the fabric. Ropes of the same pearls threaded through her golden curls. Its extravagance bordered on the ridiculous and suited her utterly.
Senik Lover stood quite close to Ellika, carrying on a flirtation that for anyone other than a Lover would be considered impolitic. Temmin caught Senik's eye; the priest understood his meaning, excused himself and gave a final wink to the giggling Ellika. Temmin laid the two nosegays atop a nearby console. "Thank you for coming," he said, his voice uncertain and boyish to his own ear; Senik always threw him off his stride.
Ellika threw her arms around him. "Where else would we be, silly? Let Seddy go first," she said into his red tunic.
Temmin released his petite blond sister and turned to the regal dark one, but Sedra held back, ducking her head; her bright, liquid eyes seemed afraid to look at him directly. He picked up the rose-beribboned nosegay and almost crept up to her before he pressed the flowers into her free hand. "Sedra," he began, "as your brother, should you ever lose our father's protection before your husband comes to claim you, I promise to protect you, to give you food and drink, to shod your foot and clothe your back, until--" he choked on a sudden marble in his throat-- "until you are safely married." His eyes watered; he was ashamed until Sedra began crying herself.
She screwed up her mouth into something like a smile and said in a scratchy voice, "As your sister, I thank you for your protection, and I promise to pray for you every day until you are safely married!"
She gave him the ceremonial kiss on both cheeks, but Temmin pulled her close and hugged her. "Oh, Seddy!"
"I will pray for you every day even after you're safely married, Tem. No matter where I end up or how far apart we are. Now, here, it's a small thing," she added, handing him a little jewel case. Temmin opened it. Silver cufflinks nestled in its green velvet interior, each one engraved with a rearing stallion, its mane flying--the symbol of the House of Whithorse. Tiny emeralds made up the horses' eyes and decorated the shirt studs displayed beside the cufflinks.
"They're beautiful!" He hugged her close again, released her and retrieved the nosegay beribboned in blush-pink. "Ellika," he said as he gave her the flowers, "as your brother, should you ever lose our father's protection before your husband comes to claim you, I promise to protect you, to give you food and drink, to shod your foot and clothe your back until you are safely married."
She gave the proper response and added in a merry, false tone, "I hope you've started saving up for my clothes, and I imagine you pray I'll get married before you're responsible!"
Inside the jewel case she'd given him nestled a matching stickpin for his cravat, a larger version of the Whithorse stallion. "Thank you, thank you both," he said, kissing each sister again. "I will wear them often."
"Not with that outfit," giggled Ellika in between teary sniffs. "I have never seen you in your priestly raiment." She fingered his red tunic sleeve's hem, squinting at it critically. "Very nice. Who does the embroidery?"
"I haven't the faintest. Now, tell me about Mama. Is she well?"
"She seems very well indeed," answered Ellika. "Almost troublingly so."
"How could you be troubled by it?" said Sedra. "She is well and shall remain so. The Traveler Queen has saved her, and there's an end to it."
"Her cures are not always reliable--"
"And they often are," interrupted Sedra. "Besides, what do you know about it?"
"I don't see what you'd know about it either," sulked Ellika.
Temmin sensed now was not the best time to broach the other matter, but when might he get another chance to speak to his sisters alone? "I have heard rumblings about…about a possible match for you, Seddy?"
His sister's face clouded further. "Apparently I'm marrying King Bannig of Sairland. Papa hasn't spoken to me about it, and Mama tells me Bannig's brother Prince Brinnid will be sent to test my wind, check my withers and examine my teeth."
"I do hate it when you talk like that!" said Ellika.
"Does it remind you too much of your own future?"
"I still don't have to enjoy that sort of talk," Ellika muttered, fussing with her nosegay's ribbons. She cheered as the pink silk satin slipped through her fingers. "I do wish you were coming to the Duke of Barle's ball tonight, Tem, it's the last of the season, you know. We're to go up to High Haven next week before the heat gets too beastly here in town, and then it's nothing but little country dances and concerts until we come back to the Keep for Farr's Day. Well, we'll be back for Venna's Day next spoke, but just for a week. I do hope we'll see you then?"
"At least at the Spectacle. I'll be in attendance with the Most Highs and the Holy Ones."
"Of course," Ellika sighed. "I do wish we were allowed at the Lovers' Spectacles."
"We'll be married soon enough," snapped Sedra.
"Best put a blossom from your brother's gift flowers under your pillow, then, and get a glimpse of your new husband in your dreams tonight!" said Ellika.
"Has that ever worked for you?" said Temmin.
"No-o-o, but it might this year! That's enough marriage talk. We're off to the ball, my dear, and here's hoping we see you before Venna's Day. Don't worry about Mama, she's quite well and happy. She and Papa have even reconciled and he's stopped dancing attendance on that horrid Shelstone chit."
"I'll write you from High Haven, Tem," said Sedra as she hugged him one last time. "Don't worry."