Chapter 10 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
This section is NSFW.
Nerr's Day morning brought the climax of the Embodiments' ordeals. Allis and Issak were beaten, hung on frames, tortured and drugged until their spirits buried themselves deep, leaving their hollowed-out bodies for Neya and Nerr to use. Their howls of pain and longing ceased, the rose-colored halo rippled around them, and their attendants removed the blindfolds and restraints. Allis and Issak were gone, Neya and Nerr in their places.
"Hello, Sister." This time there was to be no running, no lovemaking in the garden: a day and night of leisurely pleasure. They exchanged a casual, erotic kiss. "What will you give me for my brother's gift this year? Besides this." He slipped His hand between His Twin's legs, and She moved against it before taking His erection in Her grip.
She gazed sideways at Temmin and Anda. "Our Supplicants, as always. Will they suffice?"
Nerr-in-Issak released His Sister and crossed to Anda. "Our last day with you, my little partridge, at least as Supplicant. Are you frightened? Excited? Sad? Ah, you are all those things," He cooed, tracing her nipples through her white tunic. "I wonder if next time I see you, you'll be wearing a Beloved's rosy clothes."
"I--I was hoping you might guide me, Lord," she stammered; a blush mounted high on her round cheeks, and she trembled.
Neya-in-Allis grasped Temmin's hand. "Little Prince," She smiled, "how happy I am to see you." Her erotic, frightening touch glided over the taut front of his thin trousers.
Temmin bit back a groan. He could not avoid Her borrowed eyes, glowing green with terrifying power, but none of the images he'd seen his first Neya's Day appeared.
"I am sorry, you know, for what's already come to pass," Neya said. She released his hand, took up Nerr's and walked away toward the Great Hall, Barik, Anda and the other attendants forming a train behind them.
"Wait! Lady, wait!" he called, striding to catch up. "Can you just tell me..." He tried to force out words, but they stuck in his throat like a hastily swallowed candy.
She patted his face, Her hand warm against his skin even in the Temple's hothouse air. "Oh, sweetheart, you can't stop it. But your part in these events is not pre-ordained. In them, you are the unknown." The Gods were often so cryptic; what did She mean? But he knew that's all he would get from Her.
They entered the Great Hall. Worshippers, all male, filled the immense space before the entwined statues of the Lovers. Temmin gazed in longing at the door leading to his room, hidden behind the huge statues' feet. To serve the Gods was exciting, yes, and frightening beyond words at the same time. Hiding appealed.
High Beloved Malla and High Lover Gan sat upon a dais at the statues' base, the magnificent red throne between them waiting for the God's arrival. Before the dais, racks displayed offerings from the faithful in the thousands: massive bouquets of rare, fragrant hothouse flowers from the rich to humble handfuls of wildflowers from the poor, and everything in between. Rank dictated the display of both the offerings and the worshippers. In the front rows kneeled the nobility; Percet Lord Fennows was among them, for his sister Despilla still lived at home. Fennows gave him a lewd wink; Temmin chose to ignore him.
Behind the nobility knelt the gentility, then the wealthiest of the merchant class. All rested their well-dressed knees on elegant bolsters and cushions, supposedly the handwork of their sisters. At the back the men and boys who worked for their livings knelt on their coats, or if they had no coats, nothing at all. Most were young, though the odd gray or balding head marked men with spinster sisters still at home.
Nerr ascended the dais, kissed Malla and Gan more intimately than one might usually kiss the aged, and settled onto His throne. Temmin and the other attendants settled themselves on cushions at His feet.
An aisle ran down the crowd's center; in it stood a knot of women, all dressed in black or varying shades of green. Neya joined them, and they sank to their knees in respect. She raised two of them and embraced them tightly. One was Trudannis, the young and solemn Embodiment of Harla the Bloody One; the other Sarra, the graying, gentle Embodiment of Venna the Sister. He liked Sarra though he'd seen far too many Sisters lately, and while he'd met Trudannis, he hoped further acquaintance might be put off as long as possible.
Sarra and Eldest Sister Imvalda approached the dais, both in the dark green robes of the high-ranked among the Sisterhood. Behind them streamed a procession of Sisters in lighter green, each bearing a large basket. Imvalda and the other Sisters bowed, but Sarra did not. "I stand in Your Sister Venna's place, Lord Nerr, and bring You Your brother's gift."
Nerr gave Sarra a different blessing than the one Temmin had recited to his own sisters the night before: "As your brother, I promise to protect you even should you fall from Our Father's favor."
Sarra returned it: "As Your Sister's representative, I thank You for Your protection and offer You all praise. I bring You Venna's gift, the twenty-two herbs of pleasure gathered this morning by tradition."
"I thank you," said Nerr. Lovers took the baskets from the Sisters, giving them enormous bouquets in return.
Next came the High Priestess of Harla and Her Embodiment. The blessings were exchanged, but no gifts. Harla's representatives never gave or received gifts on Her behalf; a gift from Death was bad luck, and everyone gave themselves to Her in the end. Temmin wondered if bad luck even applied to the Gods. Did death? He frowned at the black-clad women. The Bloody One had come far too close to his mother for him to welcome Her priestesses, now or perhaps ever.