Chapter 11 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

A week after the Queen's funeral, Allis handed cups of tea to the Most High Beloved and Most High Lover. The two high priests and the two Embodiments sat together in a room warmer than most Tremontine rooms, but the two old ones held the handleless winter ceramic cups close to their bodies, letting the heat sink in. Allis wondered if she would be cold all the time when she grew old. She dropped a sugar in one cup for Issak and passed it to him. "What are we going to do about Temmin?" she said.

"Do? Nothing," said High Lover Gan. "He will grieve, and we will help if we can."

Allis sipped her tea. The cup felt good in her hands, too, though hers were smooth and young; it must be a colder winter than she'd thought. "He's not doing anyone any good here," she murmured. "He can't concentrate. He's done nothing but help the Postulants clean the petitioning rooms, and he rarely speaks to anyone. Perhaps he should take a longer leave."

"His vows bind him for less than three spokes more. Mightn't familiar routine be a comfort? It has been so for me in troubled times," said High Beloved Malla.

"I am surprised you'd wish to send him away," Issak said to his sister.

"I think only of his utility to the Temple and his own wellbeing," she answered, meeting his eyes steadily. You will not make me give myself away, brother. Do not make me give myself away! "Whithorse may be more comforting to him than the Temple."

"It's also a reminder of his mother," said Issak.

"Perhaps he wants to be reminded of his mother," said Allis a little too sharply.

"Gently, Allis, gently," remonstrated Gan. "I don't like the idea of sending him away. It seems unkind."

"He has nothing left for petitioners at present, Most High," said Allis. "Perhaps we should proceed with choosing a new Supplicant to replace Anda."

Issak put his cup down and studied her.

"No, one is quite enough for now," replied Gan. "You don't always have to have two, dear, and oftentimes Temples don't have any Supplicants at all. Look at Ronnul Embodiment at the Warrior's Temple. He doesn't have one at present."

"You seem quite eager to find a new focus either for Temmin or yourself," said Issak.

Allis flushed at last. "I cannot believe you of all people, Issak, would not remember what it's like to lose one's mother. I remember it clearly."

Issak straightened his broad shoulders. "That was cruel."

"It's cruel to keep him here!" exclaimed Allis stubbornly.

"To you or to him?"

"Children!" said Gan. "You are both excused until you compose yourselves. No, your apologies are due to one another. Go away. I'm tired and I still have matters to discuss with Malla."

Allis put down her teacup and rose from the couch, her skirts tangling round her ankles. She kicked them loose, curtsied and stalked from the room, Issak close behind. "I'm not a child, I'm almost twenty-three," she muttered to herself.

"If you think no one knows about Temmin, Allis, you're quite mistaken," Issak hissed as he followed her down the hallway.

"We are not alone," she replied in kind.

"Let's remedy that, shall we?" Issak grabbed her arm and yanked her into an empty receiving room, slamming the door behind them. The rarely-used room was decorated less to the Temple's tastes and more to the general world's in a conservative, restrained style, chairs instead of couches and no warming braziers. No fire burned in the grate. "You have to stop, Allis. Ask for help. This cannot continue."

"What cannot continue?"

"You cannot love him. You cannot."

"Love him? I wonder, are you jealous? Seeing rivals that aren't there?"

"Rivals?" he exclaimed. "Allis, I'm your brother. Listen to yourself!"

"I seem to recall many tender moments between the two of you."

Issak took one of the few conventional chairs the Temple possessed, spindly and insubstantial, as if it wouldn't bear Allis's weight let alone his, but it didn't complain--much--when he sat on it. "At least you've clarified who it is I'm supposed to be jealous of. In this case I have managed to confine myself to proper emotions. Allis," he coaxed in their shared patois, "We no per he, he no per we. Tha knowst it!"

"You're mistaken."

"You love him."

"You're mistaken!" she repeated, keeping her gaze steady and her face relaxed and unsmiling. "I love him as you do, no more."

"Allis, you have got to swallow your pride!" Issak glowered beneath his strong brow, anger mixed with pain. "You know what may happen."

Allis's heart clenched. "Na gimme thy grief, frer mine!" she shouted.

Issak's glower turned to a grim smile. "Na me who givee the grief, ser mine. The grief's a thee." He stood; the little chair gave a tiny, relieved squeak as he walked through the door.

Allis hugged herself, cold in the unheated room. She slipped back into the Temple's warm, busy hallways, but the chill lingered.

In the end, Allis prevailed. The Most Highs dismissed Temmin for a few weeks to return to Whithorse and mourn his mother, an extra spoke to be added to his vow; though he was to have left in two spokes he would stay now until Summer's Beginning at Nerr's Day.

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