Chapter 17 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
This section is NSFW.
Winter's Ending turned into Spring's Beginning. Temmin's twentieth birthday came and went on the ninth of the spoke with little fanfare; the country was still in mourning, and he was in no mood to celebrate.
The Temple kept Temmin quite busy. Helping petitioners soothed his grief somewhat, but between sessions he walked through the rose marble halls seeing nothing but gray. His duties ran the gamut from coaching petitioners through the acts of love to helping heal emotional wounds. What he so often had in common with the petitioners was not eroticism but pain, now more than ever. "Does suffering always come with sex and emotions?" Temmin asked Barik Lover one day.
"It doesn't have to," he answered, "but it often does."
Barik considered. "Truthfully, Temmin, we don't always get to know why we suffer, and if we did it still wouldn't do us any good. The Gods conceal much from us, for reasons known only to Them. All we can do is accept Their guidance, and do the work given to us."
Temmin tried to do the work given to him, failed, and tried again. I'm doing all I can do, Lord and Lady, he prayed. Make me stop loving her--or at least make me willing to stop loving her. He received no answers; despite his prayers and outward humility, deep in his heart Temmin clung to Allis harder than ever. He fantasized her living at the Estate, or Middlemont, or even in the Keep itself once her time as Embodiment was over. His father had agreed never to keep a mistress under his roof, but surely Temmin and his own wife--whoever she was to be--might negotiate something different. Tennoc and Cariodas had done so, after all, and Teacher said she was content while she lived.
He supposed the King was already thinking about suitable brides and alliances; by Temmin's age, he'd already been married two years and was a father. Temmin resolved to marry a woman who would be the mother of his children and no more. True, it hadn't worked for his parents, but they fell in love. He would not. Look what came of it. Nothing but pain.
At least he was covering his tracks. Keeping an unruffled, unreadable exterior--or projecting an entirely different mien--was almost as important as reading others. Nerr was the God of actors, after all. Allis and Issak continued on as his teachers, but casual contact had faded to nothing; when it did occur it was inevitably with Issak and not Allis. He loved Issak, even more than he loved Anda, but not as he loved Allis.
Talking with someone about it never came into his head. He'd done that already. What could they say that hadn't already been said? It would just expose him to further humiliation and pain. Allis didn't return his feelings, and Temmin could not bear confronting it--not with a heart already so full of grief for his mother. He soldiered on, feeling more and more like a failure and a fraud.
Then came the rebuke.
Summoned once again to Most High Beloved Malla's chambers, Temmin exchanged cautious greetings with her. "How may I serve you, Most High?"
"Tonight we have a special class, my dear. I wish you to narrate the Sacred Eight for an incoming class of Postulants."
Rank beginners in the Most High Beloved's chambers? Most irregular, but Temmin kept his face neutral. "I am always happy to assist in teaching, Most High."
"You're always so good with the new Postulants, Temmin Supplicant," said the old woman, patting his thigh, "but the lesson is not for them."
Temmin's scalp prickled, but he presented polite attentiveness and curiosity. "I am always grateful for anything you may teach me, Most High."
"I rather doubt it this time." Malla clapped twice; the heavy gold-chased doors to her rooms opened, and sixteen Postulants--eight male, eight female--filed in. At the end of the timid procession came Senik Lover and Allis. She flicked a glance his way; he detected a minute anguish, but it resolved so quickly into her teaching face that he doubted himself.
The Postulants sat cross-legged on the carpeted floor in a respectful half-moon around the wide, low couch in the middle of the room. Allis and Senik disrobed, folding their Temple garb and setting it to one side. "Now, Temmin," said the Most High, "I would like you to narrate for the Postulants as Allis and Senik demonstrate the Sacred Eight."
Temmin struggled mightily, but his face flushed as he rose to his feet and placed himself before the half-moon. "Of course." He turned to the students, his back to the naked couple. "Sexual positions can be broken down into eight basics," he began. "Each one expresses the quality of a God. We call them the Sacred Eight."
A blush ran through the seated Postulants and several men began to fidget. "Turn so you may see both your students and your demonstrators, Temmin Supplicant," said Malla. "Define for them now the terms 'giver' and 'receiver.'"
Temmin did as he was told. There on the couch lay Allis, her full breasts splayed to each side of her body. Above her knelt Senik, stroking himself. Senik caught his eye and winked, and Temmin resisted the urge to throw him to the floor and beat his beautiful face in. "The giver is the one who penetrates," he continued. "The receiver is the one being penetrated. A man is not always the giver. There are ways for a woman to penetrate as well, sometimes manually, sometimes with devices."
"Very good," nodded Malla. "Senik, Allis, continue." Senik settled himself between Allis's legs; she let out a small gasp as he entered her and began a slow rhythm.
A fine red mist gathered in the periphery of Temmin's vision, but he kept up his narration. "When the giver is superior, we call it the Way of Pagg, for He is the Father and the Law. There are many variations on this basic position," he continued as Allis and Senik shifted; Senik took her legs over his shoulders and pushed deeper into her, his happy groan masking the sound of Temmin's grinding teeth.
"Next is the Way of Amma, for She is the Mother and the Lady of the Cattle." Senik withdrew long enough for Allis to rearrange herself on all fours, and entered her again. Temmin watched her breasts sway with each lazy thrust, at once aroused and furious. Allis slid to lie flat on the couch, Senik still inside her. "Again, many variations."
When he ran through the Eight himself, Temmin prided himself on his control; he drove his partners to release multiple times while holding his own back until the end. Now a tic pulsed at the corner of his eye, and he was not at all sure he'd make it to the end of this set without running away--or worse. He wanted to pull Senik off and pound into Allis himself until they were both senseless. He wanted to maul her breasts, to soothe her and cover her with kisses; he wanted to do anything but stand here, pretending to be calm.