Chapter 10 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin gave up. "I think about her all the time, Most High. When she and Issak started avoiding me I didn't know what I'd done to deserve it. I thought, I'm not understanding something, I'll just have to wait until whatever the next lesson is. I was trying to be patient. I really was." He swiped at his eyes. "And I tried to accept the obvious correction, but I couldn't. She said--she said most young men think they're in love with the first girl they lie with, but they're not." He looked up at Malla. "I do love her, Most High. It's not a passing infatuation."

"I believe you, but loving her will make your work here harder, and hers as well. It happens to everyone here at some point, this possessiveness." Malla smiled and rolled the teacup in her hands. "I remember back when the High Lover and I were young. Gan was a Lover before I joined the Temple myself, though we were bedmates before I joined. He was always admonishing me that he could never belong to just me. I served my postulancy apart from him and some years later we both found ourselves posted here, in the Capital. Of course, we immediately became bedmates again and were overjoyed to be together."

The old woman's faded amber eyes looked past the young man before her. "We were both surprised when jealousy struck Gan. We always thought it would be me when it came, but he couldn't bear my being with anyone else. Oh, not petitioners--that was our vocation. He couldn't stand it that I had other bedmates in the Temple. It took time, patience and dedication to the Gods to resolve it, but we did. We've been together in our way now some sixty years. Jealousy struck me down eventually, too, but not with Gan--with another."

"What did you do? How did you work it out?"

"Prayer. Hard work. Talking. A great deal of talking. We were separated for a time--he went back to Barle."

"I've tried talking with Allis. She won't talk to me."

"Then talk to the rest of us. My door is always open, as is Gan's, Barik's, Glaes's--any of the senior clergy." She smiled wistfully at Temmin. "My dear child, Allis can never have a normal life. If you love her, you must love all of her. That means loving her vocation--you must love sharing her. You've seen firsthand what her life is--taking on the Goddess, consorting with your own father, though he's stayed away lately. She and Issak are this Temple's public face. You are going to be the King. She's a commoner, she can't have children, and she's not a virgin. You can never marry her. You know this. The best you can hope for is that she will consent to be your mistress when she is done at the Temple. That won't be for many, many years to come. Your feelings may have changed, and she may very well decide to stay on here when the Goddess finishes with her."

Temmin wiped his eyes again. "Most High, I haven't even thought about any of that. I just want to be with her."

Malla looked into her teacup before meeting his eyes directly. "She can never love you while she is Embodiment. Neya cannot take her if she is in love, do you understand? It can never happen. It will not happen. You will not try to lead her down that path. None of us can love exclusively, but the Embodiments risk everything to do so. Were you any other clergy we would have you both reassigned to opposite ends of the Kingdom as Gan and I were. We'll help you as much as we can but ultimately the work is yours. You must pray, Temmin, often and hard, and you must learn to seek both pleasure and affection elsewhere."

"Yes, Most High," he mumbled.

"Now, go on. Issak needs you."

"Yes, Most High."

Temmin walked back to Issak's apartments deep in thought. Why would she reassign Allis? Surely the fault was his alone. Did Malla know something he didn't?

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