Chapter 2 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Issak's rooms reflected the forests he'd dreamed about as a little boy. Navigating Ouve's stinking back alleys and bustling marketplaces as he carried and fetched for Mistress, he'd imagine himself in the fairy tale forests from the books Maman read to them when she could. "I bet Tremont has lots of forest," he'd said to Allis once after Maman died. "I want to ride the whole country, all the way from Ouve to Greenvale. How far d'you think that is?" She'd always replied that when they'd paid Maman's debt, she'd buy him a horse and he could find out. "Only if you go with me," he'd answer. Issak thus chose greens and browns for his rooms: moss, sage, leaf; bark, rosewood, the amber of sap. He found it restful to the eye after the Temple's relentless parade of pinks and roses.
Issak lounged barefoot on his brown velvet couch as he read the papers; a coffee pot and a tray of pastries sat on the low table before him. "Did you just get up, too?" Allis said.
"No, I was up before noon," he answered, adding in the back-alley Ouve patois they used only when alone, "Alla time per dem, é no time per we, ehn? Café?"
Allis accepted a cup of coffee, yawned and settled against him on the couch. "What time is it?"
"Just after two."
"We knew we'd be home late. What could you possibly've had on your schedule the morning after a ball?"
"The Eldest Sister died early this morning and I had to discuss protocol with the senior staff and the Most Highs. It's been a decade or so since the last high official's death. We let you sleep in," he added, kissing the top of her head.
"Wirdun? Hardly unexpected. How old was she?"
"Well into her eighties. I can't remember the last time I saw her but for the Venna's Day Spectacles."
"The Sisters carried her across the Promenade to attend the last two Nerr's Day Spectacles, or so I'm told."
"Can't really say we saw her--we aren't exactly ourselves on Nerr's Day," Issak chuckled. "Imvalda is acting Eldest Sister for now, though it looks as if she's going to get a run for her money as far as the official succession goes."
Allis frowned over her cup. "I thought Wirdun made her succession clear. She wanted Imvalda to follow her."
"Oh, she could have engraved it on the Hearth, but the senior Sisterhood still has to vote on the successor."
"But who else--not Ibbit? Oh, surely not Ibbit!" Allis reached for the last pastry on the coffee tray.
Issak snatched it away at the last minute and dangled it just out of her reach before surrendering it with a grin. "Here, eat this for me. Oh yes," he resumed, "The Queen is the Hearth's highest-ranking patron, and Ibbit enjoys the Queen's favor. The Queen's favor. One way of putting it. One hesitates to ask Temmin what he thinks of that particular affair."
Allis snagged a napkin from the table and wiped the crumbs from her mouth. "I don't think he knows."
"How could he not know?"
"They're quite discreet."
"One look and any second-year postulant would know. Tem's a Supplicant!"
"He is also her son. That's always been a blind spot with you--parents and children."
Issak blinked at her. "I suppose to people who grew up the usual way that'd make a difference." He brought his cup to his lips and added casually, "Anda says he wasn't in their room last night, by the way."
"No, Tem stayed with me." Allis slid her eyes the smallest guilty fraction from her brother's. "It was his birthday."
"Allis, you're playing a dangerous game," he murmured. "You know this. We no per he, he no per we. Giving him more of yourself than you would any other Supplicant is not a kindness to either of you."
"Spending the night with him on his birthday is hardly special treatment for a Supplicant."
"That's not what I'm talking about."
Allis studied his linen-clad shoulder for a moment. "You're mistaken. In any event," she said, looking back up at him, "is Ibbit a serious threat?"
Issak let her change the subject. "Her influence over the Queen is said to be considerable, and it's swaying a significant number of the Capital's senior Sisters. I don't know what the representatives who'll be arriving from the hinterlands will think, but it wouldn't be the first time a royal connection has swayed the selection of a high priest or priestess."
"But she's suspected of the Annikan Heresy."
"She's never given herself away in public, nor has anyone ever spoken out against her within the Sisterhood. If she is an Annikan--and from her disdain of the male Temples I can only believe she is at the least a sympathizer--she's a very cautious one."
"Considering what happened to Anniki, I should think so," shivered Allis.
Issak frowned. "She and her followers slaughtered every male in the Healer's House at Turus, right down to the newborns."
"Oh, she deserved it, but I would think her head hanging on Marketgate and her body burnt and spread to the winds was example enough to deter anyone from following her."
"Not if you believe Anniki was trying to bring about the return of the One True Goddess and eternal peace on earth. Her followers believe she's a martyr to the greater cause."
Allis snuggled into her brother's side. "I don't see how anyone could believe a single goddess split into many, or that killing all the men would put her together again. Surely Ibbit has to have seen Venna come down into Her Embodiment!"
"Venna is a special case, apparently. Even those who see the Embodiments possessed sometimes don't believe. You know what some say about us."
"'Play-acting whores' I believe is the term," murmured Allis.
Issak put his arm around her. "Mm. Well, if the Queen advocates for Ibbit, she could very well beat Imvalda. Ibbit isn't friendly outside the Hearth, but the Most Highs say within it she is quite the charismatic leader, while Imvalda is seen as...more the administrative type, shall we say. Ibbit has a real chance."
"If she wins?"
Issak shook his head. "It's a bad business. Tensions between the Sister's Temple and the rest of us at the least. If the Sister's Temple leaves the covenant entirely, the destruction of all seven Temples at the worst."
"Do the Most Highs think Ibbit's an Annikan?"
"She was at Turus that day. While not all the Sisters there were Annikans, suspicion still attaches. The Most Highs say Ibbit is smart, but not half as smart as she thinks she is. If she's an Annikan, she'll slip up eventually. But that's not what I want to talk to you about and you know it."
Allis rose from the couch and shook out the folds in her clothing. "Your concern is noted, brother. Now, na gimme thy grief. I need a bath, and I want it before Tem wakes up."