Chapter 14 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
The first day of Winter's Ending, 992 KY
To Temmin's surprise, Amma's Day comforted him. He watched the farmhands herd the Estate's cattle, sheep and goats between the two sacred bonfires and helped the stablehands do the same with the horses, leading his own Jebby through himself; Alvo worked beside him but said no more than "A blessed Amma's Day to you, Your Highness." Temmin wanted to shake him.
As Duke of Whithorse it was also Temmin's duty to walk with the Reggiston Temple's Senior Mother through the cleaned and shining stables, poultry yards, goat sheds and pig pens blessing the animals. Every barn cat that could be found, every sheep dog at its master's heels received the Mother's Blessing.
They ended at the shearing shed, where the most beautiful of last year's lambs waited. It was too cold, really, for the poor thing to lose its fleece--Temmin could see his own breath--but tradition must be upheld. The expert shearer clipped the fine, creamy wool into a single unbroken sheet, and the little ewe bounded away. She would be kept in the shed wearing a wool blanket until the weather warmed, a detail that had delighted Temmin as a child. "A sheep in a wool blanket!" he'd crow to his mother every year. It still made him smile even as it reminded him Mama wasn't there to share the joke. The Mothers carefully rolled the fleece in a blue ceremonial cloth to be borne away to the Mother's Temple in Reggiston; the Mothers and Sisters would scour it, spin it and make it into clothing for the newborns in the Mother's House.
For the first time since they'd arrived, Ellika left the house. Though she wore black and dark circles still lingered under her eyes, a little of her old sparkle shone whenever she looked at her baby sister Anneya. Nurse had swaddled the poor infant in layer upon layer of white wool sacques, undercaps, bonnets, mitts, shawls and blankets until she looked more like a gigantic cocoon than a baby. Second Nurse had to carry her about; the entire bundle was too much for Nurse, though she hovered beside them, tugging the coverings up and down in open disapproval of the new addition to the nursery's staff. The baby herself, now exactly three weeks old, slept through the whole thing.
Lady Donnis, who unofficially ran the household, insisted that however things had gone on so far at the Estate no one was to dine in his room on a holiday, or indeed from now on. All attended in evening dress to eat their Amma's Day pork and lamb. Standfast Jenks, resplendent in full Tremontine red and gold uniform with a wide black ribbon round his left arm, stood out against the rows of black crape. Never in Temmin's memory had Jenks eaten in the dining room.
More remarkable than Jenks's presence was his mother's absence. Temmin sat at the table's head; Dowager Duchess Markellis came from Meadow House and sat at its foot. Temmin kept looking down the table expecting to see Mama there and finding his grandmother instead. He kept his composure during the meal and quiet conversation in the drawing room after, but he excused himself not long after the tea was brought in, and went to bed.
Temmin stared up into the canopy while scenes from his childhood played over and over in his head. He would never again give his mother an Amma's Day gift. He thought of every time he'd made her unhappy, and wished he could tell her he was sorry.
Temmin came back from the stables the next day vexed at best. Alvo showed no signs of softening, and Temmin began to wonder if he could win his friend back. What had he done that was so bad, anyway? His father had said an Heir could not be friends with a groom, but he'd beaten his father once to become a Supplicant. Compared to that, insisting on friendship with Alvo was trivial. How could Alvo have so little faith in him? Alvo was his best friend. Possibly something more--time would tell--but after his mother's death no one, not even the Gods, would ever keep him from the people he loved again, not Alvo nor…
Temmin threw himself down on his well-broken-in, faded gold sofa; behind his head, he stuffed a down pillow he'd compressed into the perfect shape over the course of his boyhood and that his mother had loathed. He missed Allis. He knew his leave had been her doing, though she'd never said so. He needed her. Maybe she'd sensed it and sent him away to keep him from doing something stupid--again. Home was safer, and frankly more comforting, but now that they'd been apart more than a week he felt her absence keenly. He needed home and Allis at the same time, and it rankled that he couldn't have them both. He should get used to it; when his time at the Temple ended at Nerr's Day, three spokes from now, they would rarely see each other until her time as Embodiment was over.
And then what? Could he make her his mistress? Not if she chose to stay at the Temple. No, he couldn't let her do that, he'd have to find a way to make her leave. Issak might stay, but not Allis. He loved Issak, but not as he loved Allis. He and Issak would always be friends; with luck they'd remain bedmates. The particular way Issak bit his neck came to mind; he shivered at the tug in his groin. No, he didn't have to worry about Issak, or Anda. Though he wouldn't see them often at the Temple, when he did it would be a reunion with a good friend.
Allis was more than a good friend. He ached for her.