Chapter 3 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
"What do you mean, the kitchen's closed?" said Temmin.
"I mean it's closed," said Anda, lounging on her alcove bed with a book. "Not the cooks' fault you decided to see that hulk of a Postulant instead of eating."
"Mathanus and I've been trying to get some time alone for weeks now!"
"Was it worth missing dinner, oh bottomless pit?"
Temmin considered his stomach, and then the rest of him. "Let me put it this way. Math needs practice with women. You won't regret giving him some." He flopped down on the bed next to her. "You have nothing squirreled away? Not even chocolates?"
"You ate the last of my chocolates, little piggy--oof! Giant piggy! Get off!"
"I'm searching you for chocolates!"
"Are you now?" Anda giggled. "I wouldn't hide chocolates there."
"Really? There's plenty of room under here."
"I could lick them off."
"Could you now--Oi!" yelled Anda. "Where in Harla did he come from?"
Temmin rolled away from her and jumped to his feet, ready to fight. "Teacher?" he said, dropping his fists. "What are you doing here?"
"Where did he come from?" repeated Anda.
"The lavatory. Good evening, Miss Barrows," Teacher said to the puzzled Supplicant. "I am glad to see you well, Your Highness."
Temmin swept the slight figure up in his arms. "Teacher! I've missed you so much!"
"And I you--Temmin, put me down, please."
He did so and helped smooth the robes covering Teacher's severe white shirt, black suit and Tremontine red cravat; Temmin wondered if the Tower Library closet contained anything besides. Or perhaps there was just this one set of clothes.
"How're Mother and my sisters? How's Jenks? Is he still in Reggiston? How are you? What in Pagg's name are you doing here? Tell me everything!
"I am here to take you back to the Keep immediately. You are in danger."
Temmin settled back down on the edge of Anda's bed; Anda herself had retreated into its recesses to peer out at the curious pale figure with the iron-colored hair and strange eyes. "I'm always in danger," said Temmin.
After extracting a promise of secrecy from Anda on her vows as Supplicant, Teacher summed up the situation. "This is a more pressing danger than even your uncles' assassins. We do not know who among the Sisters currently in the Lovers' Temple may be trusted, nor do we know if you have sustained any damage from a long-acting poison Ibbit may have slipped you. You must be seen by a trusted Sister, or...or better." Teacher's face clouded over in thought. "I do not think it likely, but all possible threats must be assessed. In any event, you cannot stay here. I must take you back to the Keep until the situation is stable--at the least until Sister Ibbit is taken up and her sympathizers identified."
Anda had scooted across the bed to slip concerned arms around Temmin's neck from behind. "We should get word to the Most Highs, or at least Allis and Issak. Shall I go?"
"The Embodiments are not involved in this. Temmin, on my authority you are excused until such time as we can guarantee your security here. The Most Highs will not dispute this." Temmin rose and tugged at the fastenings of his red linen trousers; Teacher put a restraining hand on his arm. "We have no time for you to change. Your mother is sick with worry. We must go back to the Keep, and I must go to the Hearth to see the acting Eldest Sister. I will speak with High Beloved Malla in the morning."
Anda walked with them into the lavatory and gave Temmin a quick kiss goodbye. "I'll be back soon," he said. "Give Allis and Issak a kiss from me. Don't be scared at what you're about to see, it's harmless, I promise." As Teacher pulled him through the mirror, he looked back into the white-tiled room; a terrified Anda touched her head, her heart and her groin: Amma's Sign, a blessing to protect against the Black Man.
They emerged into his mother's receiving room. Temmin blinked against the room's brighter light, and a chill shot through him. He wore nothing but his thin Supplicant uniform, and the Keep was considerably colder than the Temple. His mother ran to him from her drawing room door. He caught her up in his arms. "I'm all right, Mama, I'm fine, see? Please don't cry. Where's your handkerchief? There, now." He reached into the pocket in her wrapper where he knew she always kept one, awkwardly dried her eyes and dabbed at her nose. He'd done this many a time for petitioners, but comforting the woman who'd always comforted him made him clumsy; she'd never presented such a face to him before, lined with tears and care.
"You're well? Have you had him checked for poisons yet, Teacher?"
"Ma'am, we have just returned. I must be off to the Hearth now to speak with Sister Imvalda. I believe there is time yet before His Highness must be examined. The Traveler Queen is nearby if necessary."
Ansella swallowed hard, fighting back a new gust of tears so fiercely she shook in Temmin's arms. "That is good. Tell Imvalda I will support her as Eldest Sister to the best of my ability."
"Where's Father?" said Temmin.
"On his way back to the Keep, I surmise," answered Teacher. "Mr Winmer has been sent personally for him, and if he has not arrived by the time I am returned from the Hearth I will fetch him myself. Now, I really must go." Teacher turned back toward the nearest of the two mirrors. "Show me Imvalda of the Sister's Temple."
The receiving room mirror wavered into the image of a middle-aged woman sitting in a comfortable if sparsely furnished apartment. Her image was somewhat distorted and to one side; Temmin thought it must be a reflection from something shiny rather than from a smooth mirror. The woman's habit was the Elder Sisters' inky green. Her uncovered hair was black, heavily salted with silver and shoulder-length in the Sisters' style. Her profile was strong but not unkind--a patient, watchful, handsome face. She leaned against a slightly younger woman clad in green a shade lighter, her expression intelligent and filled with humor. They both held books in their hands, and golden light as if from a fire flickered across their faces. The younger woman absently kissed the black-and-silver head against her shoulder.
Teacher swirled through, and the image vanished.