Chapter 11 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Jenks sat down in the rarely used wingback chair before the fire. "I confess I would not say no to a glass of wuisc, sir."

Temmin poured them each a glass from the decanter on his sideboard, handed one to Jenks, and tossed himself on the moss green sofa. "What's this colonel nonsense? Has Father given you an honorary commission?"

"No, no. It's not honorary." Jenks took a deep breath. "It's time you were told, especially now that…" He cleared his throat and began again. "I wasn't a corporal in the cavalry, sir, and I was never your uncle's batman. I was his aide-de-camp--a colonel. I still hold that rank. I'm chief of your security detail and your personal bodyguard, which has made this time apart very worrying indeed after all these years."

Chapter 11 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Harsin folded Ansella's arms over her chest. The Friends brought the shroud around her body; Harsin and the children took turns sewing it closed. Emsa gave Ansella's velvet-wrapped hair to Sedra, who accepted it with shaking hands. The Friends took up the body in its coffin again and returned to the main hall for the walk to the royal section of the catacombs.

A ramrod-straight, barrel-chested man in the dark Tremontine red uniform of a colonel of the Royal Cavalry waited in the hall; the uniform's markings were of the First Cavalry Battalion of the Whithorse Guard, and medals covered its front. Tradition banned weapons from the Hill, and his sword sheath hung empty at his side. The man held his black fur winter uniform hat under his arm. Gray threaded the black hair fringed round his head as well as his neatly trimmed beard, and his weather-lined face flashed a heavy grief before he snapped to attention.

Chapter 11 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Emsa approached Harsin. In her hand was a knife, exquisitely sharp, knapped from slick black obsidian. Harsin took it from her and began cutting away the simple white dress on Ansella's body. "All this is fleeting, all this is lost, all this is unnecessary," said the King.

"All this is ending, all this is beginning, all this is needed," answered the rest, Friends and family in gentle chorus. Temmin did his best to follow along. He knew the words but they kept sticking in his throat.

"Life is fleeting, life is lost, life continues," said his father.

"Her life has ended, her life is beginning, all this is needed," came the response.

Chapter 11 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Tremontine flags trimmed in black flew at half mast throughout the City, the dark red field and its three golden mountains limp on this cold, still day. Every bell, from the great War Bell in the Keep to the time-keeping carillons at the University tolled, echoing desolate against the City walls as the funeral procession passed through the streets. Harsin walked before it, dressed in severest black but for the Tremontine red sash beneath his coat; his head wore neither hat nor crown. Emsa, the high priestess of the Friends of Harla, and Harla's Embodiment Trudannis walked beside him, their black hoods lowered to show their stubbled heads.

Chapter 11 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

The chief midwife came into the Queen's sitting room, where Ansella's daughters and husband waited. Her face formed a professional mask, but the moment the woman entered Ellika knew. From the Queen's bedchamber came a newborn's wail and the sobs of women. The midwife cleared her throat. "The Queen…the baby is fine, healthy and whole, but I'm sorry. The Queen is gone."

A shocked silence fell. Ellika's insides dropped to the floor. "Gone? The Traveler Queen said she'd be all right!"

"No, she said it was up to Mama," said Sedra. "It was her choice. I didn't know this is what she meant! Mama chose the baby. How could she--how could she leave me!" Sedra fled from the room, crying.

Chapter 11 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Vennaday, the 25th day of Winter's Beginning, 992 KY

"The Queen is in labor?" said Anda.

The spoon in Temmin's hand stopped midway to his mouth and he snuck a glance around the dining hall. His last petitioner had taken longer than expected, and by the time he entered the room most of the diners had already finished; near-empty tables and padded benches surrounded them. Satisfied no one might hear their conversation, he answered, "Yes, I got the message just after lunch with the Holy Ones. How'd you know?"

Chapter 10 Part 6 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin gave up. "I think about her all the time, Most High. When she and Issak started avoiding me I didn't know what I'd done to deserve it. I thought, I'm not understanding something, I'll just have to wait until whatever the next lesson is. I was trying to be patient. I really was." He swiped at his eyes. "And I tried to accept the obvious correction, but I couldn't. She said--she said most young men think they're in love with the first girl they lie with, but they're not." He looked up at Malla. "I do love her, Most High. It's not a passing infatuation."

Chapter 10 Part 5 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin numbered among Issak's attendants for the next few days as the twins recovered from two possessions in as many spokes. Anda had once said they treated the Embodiments like glass for a whole spoke after Nerr's Day; the other six Embodiments carried their Gods once a year, and while it took a toll on them all it was doubly so for the Obbys. While the other Embodiments might serve twenty or even thirty years, the twins would last perhaps ten. They did little but eat and sleep for the first week after Nerr's Day, regaining their strength.

Temmin told himself concern for Allis made him wait for the others to leave so that he might sneak through the door between the twins' apartments. Allis's pinched and exhausted face blooming again as she slept touched him in a way that Issak's did not.

Chapter 10 Part 4 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

This section is NSFW.

Then Neya Herself glided up to the dais in all Her nakedness. In a rare display of power, She floated up to Her Brother's side. They joined hands. "Sister," said Nerr in a voice that could not be called loud but that filled the Great Hall's every corner; its force shook the gathering. "As your brother, I promise to protect you even should you fall from Our Father's favor." He gestured to the rows upon rows of flowers. "All of these, I give to You."

"Brother," she answered, "As your Sister, I thank You for Your protection and offer You all praise." She gestured to the two Supplicants at His feet. "Will You accept My gift?"

"Gladly," smiled the God, stroking Temmin's hair. Temmin closed his eyes as bliss radiated from the fingers laced among his unruly locks.

Chapter 10 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

This section is NSFW.

Nerr's Day morning brought the climax of the Embodiments' ordeals. Allis and Issak were beaten, hung on frames, tortured and drugged until their spirits buried themselves deep, leaving their hollowed-out bodies for Neya and Nerr to use. Their howls of pain and longing ceased, the rose-colored halo rippled around them, and their attendants removed the blindfolds and restraints. Allis and Issak were gone, Neya and Nerr in their places.


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