Chapter 8 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

"A question? I don't think so," said Temmin, dropping his reins. Jebby came to a halt, and turned his massive head to eye his nervous master.

Temmin picked up the reins, and Jebby sauntered away down the Road, until Allis suddenly sped up and wheeled Jinny around to block Temmin's way. "I said, ask your question, Prince Temmin."

Teacher had said Temmin might ask Allis anything, anything at all, but this was far too embarrassing to contemplate so soon into the ride. "I hadn't intended to ask you anything, Holy One," he said, echoing her formal tone, "until perhaps we'd gotten to know one another better--"

"Ask your question!" she repeated, still blocking the Road.

"Very well, then!" he said. "Do you--have you--what is the nature of your relationship with your brother?"


Chapter 8 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin left his mother's rooms, so deep in thought he barely looked up until he took to the stairs leading down into the family's informal entrance to the Keep, Harsin's sigil in gold inlay upon the huge doors. He wanted to dirty it with soot. How could the King have hurt her so? How could Harsin prefer any other woman to her? She was kind and beautiful, she was cheerful and loving; she was his Mama, and how could any man be cruel to her? The footmen took one look at his scowl and swept the doors open just a little faster than usual, not a ripple of interest on their professionally still faces.

A groom held Jebby's bridle; the big chestnut pawed in good-natured boredom at the fine gravel beneath his hooves. Temmin's anger swerved to apprehensive excitement. He mounted and rode down the switchbacks and the long, long drive to the massive gates at the entrance to the grounds. There he waited, silently rehearsing a little greeting meant to sound nonchalant and sophisticated. "How terribly good of you to come, Miss Obby, or should I say, Holy One, ha ha." No, that didn't sound right...

Chapter 8 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

On Neyaday morning, Temmin skipped his ride. For one, he wanted Jebby to be fresh, and for another, he wanted to give what saddle time his poor bottom would allow to Allis. He would have her all to himself for an afternoon. What would happen once he had her all to himself, he didn't know.

Jenks and Affton made the preparations. A picnic would await them in the Fairy Meadow, not as high in the foothills as Temmin had ridden two days previous, but high enough to afford a lovely view of the City from the comfortable shade of an Inchari-style tent pavillion: opulent carpets, enormous pillows, a low table, and no chairs. Temmin himself found the Inchari style of dining fussy and overly exotic, a decadent, indulgent byproduct of the southern continent's laxity of character and oppressive heat. But with Allis to impress, every luxury the Keep could produce must be brought to bear. All Temmin had to do was show up, and not make a fool of himself.

Chapter 7 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin took his meals that day standing up in his rooms. He slept on his stomach, and in the morning, skipped his ride. He made it through breakfast with the aid of a fat cushion; Jenks had discreetly tipped off Affton, and between the two of them, they'd gotten the Prince settled in the morning room without anyone in the family noticing. When he returned to his rooms, Teacher already waited, perched just outside the arc of light that crossed the wide library table. "And how was your ride this morning, Your Highness?"


Chapter 7 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

The next day, Temmin wore his riding clothes to breakfast, going straight to the morning room from the stables and returning there straight after, as Jenks discovered too late. "He's gone, Mr Jenks, sir," said the Riding Master when the valet searched for his errant charge. "He wore the chestnut oot this morning an took another horse--Inchari mare, a rare fine un. T'was odd for him to be goin back oot, but it's not fer me to decide what a Prince should do, eh? We'll tell him you want him, sir."

"I'll tell him more than that when I see him, Pagg damn him for a headstrong boy," rumbled Jenks to himself on the way back to Temmin's rooms. "Tempted to chase him down and turn him over my knee."

The "headstrong boy," however, was in fine spirits, and not in the least repentant. Whatever admonition he might receive for skipping his studies was worth getting out of the Keep, and away from Fennows. He couldn't avoid the lordling at breakfast, and Fennows's endless fawning over Ellika enraged him; it was all Temmin could do not to vault across the toast rack and throttle him.

Chapter 7 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Fennows pounced on the wine. He finished off a glass in two gulps and poured himself another. He regarded Temmin across the table, as the Heir piled his plate with ham and cold chicken. "D'you mean to tell me you haven't bedded that little darling?"

Temmin's hand paused over the bread basket. He blushed, but said, "It's none of your concern, Fennows," and fished out a roll.

Fennows squinted at him, malice playing around the corners of his mouth. "Touchy! It's true, isn't it? You do qualify for Supplicancy. And at your age, tsk."

"I said, it's none of your concern," said Temmin. He took a fierce bite from a chicken leg.

"Dear me," said Fennows. "I'd be grumpy if I were a virgin, too, I should think. What is it, old thing? Don't like girls? One would assume you do, the way you stare at Allis Obby, but then, perhaps it's Issak Obby who's your ultimate goal? Well, they're a package deal, ain't they."

Chapter 7 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

In fact, Fennows could not ride. Fennows couldn't do anything. Temmin watched a groom trying, and failing, to give the spotty young man a foot-up onto his horse. Fennows abused the poor groom the whole time: did the groom know who he was--disrespectful cur--clumsiest groom in Tremont, he should think. And he got away with it! The groom didn't blink an eye. If Temmin had used that tone at home, he'd have found out what was what. But none of the grooms met Temmin's eyes this morning, merely pressing their knuckles to their foreheads or bowing, and all of them eyeing Fennows when they thought the Heir wasn't looking. It all conspired to deepen Temmin's already-sour mood.

"You will entertain Lord Fennows tomorrow, Temmin, and from time to time while he is with us as your studies permit," King Harsin had said the night before. "His father is important to me politically. Learn to like him. Is he really so bad?" he'd added at Temmin's sour face.

Chapter 6 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin left the book, desperately aroused. He couldn't say what provoked him more: Warin and Emmae's lovemaking, or the strange scene at the end. He gripped the table's edge and reached for quelling thoughts, anything to dull the book's effects. He turned to the story. "So it's Hildin the Usurper," he stammered.

"Still Prince Regent. King Gethin had slipped into senility by this time," answered Teacher.

"He had magic too? How many people held it?"


Chapter 6 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin sat silent for some time. The smoke of the fire still lingered in his nose, Emmae's skin smooth on his fingertips. He shook the feeling from his hands, and sneezed. If only he could shake Warin's shame off as easily; it clung tight to him, guilt mixed with erotic satisfaction. "I am Temmin of Tremont, not Warin the woodsman," he said to himself, "and I have not just finished making passionate love to a beautiful woman I've discovered is enchanted to desire me whether she wants me or not. A stunning woman I found naked in a clearing outside my lonely hut. A woman I want to make love to over and over and can't stop thinking about... Jenks in his underwear, Jenks in his underwear..." Aloud, he said, "Am I right in thinking this is Warin the Wise we're discussing?"

"You are," nodded Teacher.



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