Chapter 18 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Though it was not Malla's intent, Temmin closed his face to the world. He spent more time in the less-senior clergy's beds and gave Allis no more than his polite, rather stoic regard. He declined any assignment that might lead to physical intimacy between them--indeed, any assignment that might lead to them being alone. Supplicants were not allowed to pick and choose, but now the senior clergy let him.
As he withdrew, Allis did her best to let Temmin go. He would leave at Nerr's Day anyway, and here it was almost Neya's Day. But he stuck to her heart like a burr, a ball of tiny hooks she could never remove no matter how hard she tried. She'd done quite well at hiding the depth of her love from Issak and the Most Highs, but to herself she despaired. He would be gone soon, she would stay behind in a beautiful, pink, plush prison, and they'd rarely see one another for at least ten more years.
She never thought she would tire of being Neya's Embodiment so soon; she was proud the Goddess had chosen her. Issak was her sole family since their mother died, and separation from him had been a constant anxiety until the Gods had accepted them both together. Now they need never part. They would always be safe, always have enough to eat and a fine place to live. Though it forced them into…circumstances…twice a year that reminded them both of childhood suffering, the Gods soothed and healed them even as They possessed and used their bodies. She'd been proud, relieved, even happy until Temmin. Falling in love had not been among Allis's fears. Her girlhood and training made it unlikely, and she'd gone years in the Lovers' Temple with many dear friends and bedmates. None had possessed her so.
She sat on the dais in the dining hall now, the night before her seasonal ordeal began again. She picked at her dinner and did her best to keep herself from seeking Temmin out among the ranks below her. Even so, his height and golden hair made him obvious among the others, and the rich embroidery of his Supplicant's tunic stood out in the sea of rose, white and red garb. Who sat with him? Some Lover whose name she couldn't recall--a recent transfer from the Temple at Maryakuspa--and the recently-sworn Justinna Beloved, who'd attended her last time and would again tomorrow. All three laughed and flirted. Jealousy flared like a fire that burned too hot for its hearth, and she sent up a prayer: I wish to serve you, Neya. Take this burden from me. Do not desert me!
Preparations for the twins' possession began the next day. Temmin kept his eyes averted from Allis as much as possible; outwardly she was composed, but now he sensed her fear for the first time. He wanted more than anything to spare her the coming ordeal and had to struggle to keep from throwing himself between her and the door to the Gods' Chambers. Everything he'd learned in the last two years deserted him. He didn't trust himself any more.
Neya's Day night, Temmin helped bind Issak to the frame, knowing the Beloveds did the same with Allis in the next room. The sound of worshippers entering the gardens filtered through to the Chambers as he went about his business with Barik Lover, Senik and Mathanus Lover. Temmin lit the incense; woody resins masked the bitterness of the drug it contained. The smoke flared up and he accidentally breathed in too much. Temmin stumbled back from the brazier, searching for fresh air. A dread crept into his bones, and he reeled as dark, indistinct images filled his head. Something terrible was approaching...
A few deep breaths, and Temmin cleared the poison from his system. The disturbing images faded, but the dread remained. He told himself it was his last Neya's Day, and that was all.
Temmin helped Barik and Mathanus set the heavy jeweled clamps in place on Issak's nipples and sac. At the right time, he kissed the Embodiment hard; Issak screamed into his mouth as the clamps came off until a shuddering calm came over the Embodiment, and possession's rosy glow spread from his streaming eyes. Temmin jumped back. Nerr had come.
Screams penetrated from Neya's side of the Chambers. The double doors flew open; Allis struggled against the frame, her breasts swinging from side to side. The holy light did not surround her: The Goddess had not come. "Release Me," said Nerr-in-Issak. His voice was cold. "Release her as well."
Allis fell from the frame in a writhing heap on the floor. Nerr ran to her, but instead of helping her up as Temmin expected, He kicked her square in the ribs. "What are you doing!" yelled Temmin. Barik tried to seize him before he could do something stupid, but it proved unnecessary; they were all rooted to the spot. Nerr kicked Allis again as the mortal attendants all cried out. Allis did nothing to avoid the blow, howling as she huddled naked on the floor. "What in Pagg's name are you doing!" Temmin yelled again.
Nerr stabbed a finger at him; pink stickiness filled Temmin's mouth. "You dare to invoke My Father's name against Me, little Prince?" He turned to Barik; the elder priest stumbled, the hold on him released. "Fetch Me a strap." The dark forebodings from the drugged incense crowded into Temmin's mind, less cloudy and more menacing. Barik came back holding a thick leather belt, split at one end into two wicked tongues; the stocky Lover trembled and kept his eyes averted as he handed it to Nerr. "You have spoiled My Sister's Embodiment and made her unfit for use, Temmin, and so this punishment falls on you," snarled the God. "You both leave Me little choice."
Temmin closed his eyes and waited for the expected blows but snapped them open at an agonized scream. Nerr was beating Allis, striking her bare back over and over, leaving deep welts where the tongues snapped and bit at her skin. Blood soon ran down her sides to the marble floor.