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

His sisters were standing before the empty hearth, chatting aimlessly with the beautiful Senik Lover. The girls turned to the door, both smiling, both holding small cases. Sedra dressed with customary restraint in a simple gown of opulent, thistle-colored silk. She wore simple bob earrings, amethysts dusted a long golden chain round her neck, and fragrant white orange blossoms winked in her dark plaits like jewels in a crown. She made no attempt to conceal her height; she stood straight as a dancer and towered majestically over her fair-haired sister, already queen-like.

As promised, Ellika's aquamarine gown contrasted perfectly with the rose marble of the Temple. Soft, creamy gauze trimmed its low neckline and swathed her shoulders; on its bodice, tiny pearls traced the traditional Nerr's Day horn-and-flower pattern woven into the fabric. Ropes of the same pearls threaded through her golden curls. Its extravagance bordered on the ridiculous and suited her utterly.

Chapter 10 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin returned to the Temple reluctantly. Though his mother appeared healthier than ever before, he still worried. The first fulfilled prophecy frightened him, but continued good news from the Keep and Nerr's Day preparations occupied his time and mind. He let himself be reassured that the Traveler Queen had performed one of her vaunted miracles; Mama and the baby would be well.

The twins' twice-annual ordeal began again this evening, a necessary suffering that sickened Temmin every time. Issak and Allis stood at the doors to the Gods' Chambers, the senior staff gathered around them. Allis smoothed Temmin's wrinkled brow. "Never worry. Nerr and Neya will be here and gone in a short while, and then we can all rest until next Neya's Day."

Chapter 9 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin had a time tracking down his father. He wasn't in his rooms, he wasn't in his office. The council room contained a few Ministers, alarmed and irritated at his headlong intrusion. He finally thought to ask Affton and tracked him down to the servants' hall. "Riding, I believe, Your Highness," said the butler. "May I say I took the liberty of sending a groom to find His Majesty as soon as the call for the Sisters went out, sir."

Temmin slumped against the kitchen archway and let out a shuddering sigh. His eyes burned, and he wiped at his brow with his handkerchief. "Thank you, Affton, I should have known you'd think to find him."

"May I also suggest, sir, that since there's nothing you can do for the moment you might have a cup of tea?" Affton murmured. "I can send a tray up to your room, if you'd like, or the Small Sitting Room."

"If I go upstairs I'll have a hard time staying away...and Lady Donnis made it clear..." he trailed off. Affton glided him back through the kitchens to the Small Sitting Room. Temmin sat in his shirtsleeves drinking tea and eating plain buttered toast, huddled in a corner of the big room.

Chapter 9 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Two days before Summer's Beginning on a sunny Vennaday, the merciful Most Highs sent Temmin back to the Keep. He shot his cuffs and twitched under his now-unfamiliar shirt collar in the warm weather; there was much to be said for the loose, comfortable Temple garb as the temperature rose.

He sought out his younger sister on arrival and found her in her apricot-and-gilt private sitting room, pacing on the needlepointed roses of her carpet. Ellika pounced on him as soon as he came through the door. "Oh, I'm so glad you're home, Temmy, it's been the most vexing spoke ever!" She poured out her sorrows: the odious Elbig Shelstone's elevation, the hussy Twenna Shelstone's residence at Middlemont, their father's frequent, indiscreet absences, Sedra's impending engagement, and their mother's troubling indisposition. "You look well at least," she sniffed.

"I'm here," he said, kissing her forehead. "Doesn't that satisfy, you little baggage?"

Chapter 9 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

The last days of Spring's Ending turned increasingly pleasant. The icy mountain winds blowing down the City's two rivers mellowed in the strengthening sun: fresh, kind, their edges softly rounded. The City overflowed in greenery, and the gardeners at the Lovers' Temple proliferated like the flowers they tended. On this late morning, they worked around Temmin in a mild buzz of snipping and pruning as he sat on the lawn, his tunic off and his drawstring trousers rolled up to feel the sun on his skin.

In fact, it was too bright on the grass for him to read his latest missive from Ellika. He shifted into the nearest tree's dappled light, lying flat on the grass and holding the letter over his head. He began to skim what he assumed would be her usual cheerful nattering about what she would wear to this coming Nerr's Day parties--the last of the season--hints as to what his brother's gift would be, and society gossip about people he barely knew. What he read was quite different:


Chapter 6 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin usually missed having windows in his bedchamber, but this morning--whatever time it was--he was perfectly happy to wake up to nothing but low lamplight. His head was three sizes too big for his body, and his lips were crusted and dry. He flailed his arms in an attempt to get up and hit something warm and lumpy on the outer side of his alcove bed. A deep grunt issued from the lump's closest half: Mathanus. The other half said, "You just hit me in the nose, clumsy boy." Anda.

He was not surprised to find them in his bed--last night was the Spectacle, after all--but why couldn't he remember what happened? Anda and Mathanus at the same time? How could he not remember that? "What happened?" he croaked.

Chapter 6 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

This section is NSFW.

Twenna watched them leave in horror. He'd cut her. He'd cut her in front of his wife and hadn't given her a backward glance. It couldn't mean what it appeared to mean. This had to be something about appearances, but why had he gone to so much trouble to have her admitted if he'd intended to leave with his wife? There must be a reason, a reason she wasn't clever enough to understand. He loved her; she took comfort in that certainty. He would send for her later, surely.

The swaying lanterns planted in the lawn took on a cold look, less like soft yellow moons and more like predatory eyes. What would she do now? She knew no one in the crowd who might protect her, no man she might trust not to take advantage of the Neya's Day festivities. She stayed close to the fierce-looking Lovers in armor still standing beside the royal dais, in hopes one of them might have been given instructions to escort her, but the workers disassembled the dais and took it away, along with the Temple's Own and her hopes.

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

This section is NSFW.

They ran along the gardens' lit paths, until they came to the wide expanse of lawn between the formal gardens and the grove of trees stretching dark and wild toward the river. Lantern-bearers hurried behind the runners, waiting to stake out a path for the worshippers. Behind them, muscular Lovers loitered with sections of a portable dais; the King and Queen attended the Spectacle this year and would be given a proper viewing platform wherever the Lovers happened to fall.

Fall They finally did, on the lawn near the fringe of the forest, but first Neya and Nerr led them all a chase through the trees, whipping rhododendron branches back into Their followers' faces to Temmin's great irritation. When they assembled the guarding circle round the Gods, they were all breathing hard; Justinna Postulant had lost her vest, the flounce on Anda's best skirt had ripped clean off, and Mathanus's blond hair resembled a haystack more than ever.

Chapter 6 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

The First Day of Spring's Beginning, 991 KY

Twenna Shelstone stepped down from her father's carriage into the throngs crowding the Lovers' Temple for the Neya's Day Spectacle. An orderly procession flowed from the Promenade to the Temple garden gates, where the Spectacle would be held. Postulants and servants bore hundreds of bright lanterns through the crowded gardens until every leaf seemed illuminated. Twenna fretted to be without even a footman to look after her, but she reassured herself. Harsin had said Winmer would find her there and protect her from unwanted advances.

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

Embis Winmer was straightening papers on the desk he shared with his master when the King entered their office. "Ah, Winmer. Just when I need you. Might we get Miss Shelstone admitted to the Neya's Day Spectacle?"

"I don't know, Your Majesty," answered the secretary, correctly interpreting the question as a command. "There are several barriers to her guaranteed admittance, not least her unmarried state."

"I find it hard to believe there's anyone in the City who thinks she's a virgin because she's unmarried," chuckled Harsin.

Winmer gave a sliver of a smile. "Oh, most certainly not, sir. I believe she is well known. Perhaps the best known of your intimate friends ever."


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