Ellika

Chapter 10 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin came to his tour of the Temple on Neyaday. A quiet Jenks helped the Prince dress; Temmin thought it wisest not to ask after his subdued mood, and let him have his way without complaint.

Ellika stayed in her room after the incident at Naister's, and never did send for the new dress. She found an unworn one suited for the occasion in the back of her wardrobe, and insisted on going with Temmin "just to the door if nothing else." Some of her naturally cheerful spirit made its way past the shock of Horn's death, and she came bouncing down the stairs behind her brother to take his arm. She wore a confection of white lace and ribbons against pale pink silk. "You look like a wedding cake," said Temmin, kissing the top of her head.

"Thank you! Put your gloves on, Temmy."

Chapter 10 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin and Teacher crouched down beside him. The man's face grew gray; he reached out for Temmin's hand, and said, "Your Highness, I've been loyal all my life. I'd as soon kill myself as hurt you. But they took my son and my two little girls last night. Sent me one of the baby's fingers--" He choked. "I told them I was no fighter, but they said you were too well-guarded...they had to take every chance from now on...and that if I didn't kill you when you came today, they'd send all three back in pieces."

Chapter 10 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Nerrday, the 29th day of Spring's Beginning

"You're a Princess--why d'you have to fetch your own dresses?" said Temmin as he handed his sister down from the carriage at Mistress Naister's shop, not far off the Temple Promenade. "I should think the dressmaker would come to the Keep."

"Oh, she does, but I like to come into town, see and be seen and all that," Ellika answered, acknowledging the small crowd through the Guards lining their way to the door.

Mistress Naister's shop looked like the inside of a fragile seashell, pink and cream and gold; Temmin kept his knees and elbows in for fear he'd break something, though what he could break in a dressmaker's shop, he wasn't sure. Mistress Naister curtsied so low, Temmin felt compelled to help her stand again. He impulsively kissed her knobby hand; her fingers smelled of beeswax. Mistress Naister swallowed a girlish giggle, sat Temmin down on a spindly chair made for someone much shorter, and clapped twice. A nervous little shopman came from the back carrying a tiny pink and gilt tea set; he served the Prince while Ellika and Mistress Naister exclaimed over one another like old friends. The cup looked like a thimble in Temmin's hand, and he hastily put it down.

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

Temmin told no one of his plans to visit the Temple--almost no one. He told Jenks that evening, and the happy valet burrowed into the Prince's wardrobe all Paggday to ferret out the proper clothes for a visit to the Temple. Though Jenks was discreet, Temmin himself let it slip to Ellika in the hearing of a footman. It spread through the Keep until it reached the ear of Gram, the King's valet, and thence to the King himself.

"Winmer!" said Harsin as he stomped into his study. "Harla take you, Winmer, I need you now!"

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 5 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

As Temmin walked to the Keep's mudroom from the stables, he saw Ellika in the gardens, cutting carefully chosen roses in fastidious little snips. She wore a dress of tiny pink and white stripes, with a neckline that would have gained their mother's strong disapproval without a modest lace fichu tucked into it. Atop Ellika's pile of blond hair balanced a wide straw hat covered in a ridiculous mound of silk roses, tied under her chin with trailing pink ribbons.

Chapter 5 Part 5 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin slept late the next day, but went out on his usual ride; while he had no marketing of his own to do this Paggday, he had the day off with everyone else. "No hangover, Jebby! There's a rare thing after a party. I wouldn't even have minded one today, what a night," Temmin said to his horse. The gelding snorted. They walked at a leisurely pace through the King's Woods, down a tributary path of the War Road. He knew the Woods were safe, but he still half-expected to see Brothers secreted in the underbrush.

The morning chill lifted. Mist rose thready from the meadows he glimpsed through the trees; birdsong and the murmur of streams rushing down to the Shadow River were the only sounds. A beautiful day, the kind of day that made him wish to ride until dark, and sleep where he stopped. He certainly hadn't slept well the night before. He knew the assassination attempt was political, but in his young heart he could not get over it: why would anyone want to kill him?

Into this green restfulness came a discordant sob. Temmin pulled Jebby up short, listening. It came from just ahead on the trail; he urged Jebby toward it, until they came to a downed log just off the path, and a girl sitting atop it, crying tears enough to join the Shadow in their own little salty stream.

Chapter 5 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

When they returned to the Keep, much earlier than Ellika would have liked, Temmin found himself summoned to the King's study, despite the late hour. Teacher stood leaning against the mantelpiece, such a habitual position that Temmin wondered if the advisor weren't glued to it by the elbow.

"You're all right?" said Harsin. "A glass of wine? No? Very well. I've received a preliminary report from Brother Mardus. Needless to say, the Royal Guard will be under extreme scrutiny for this security breach. Mardus says in his note you acquitted yourself well."

Chapter 5 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin realized how close they all sat on the bench. Allis pressed against his right, her hand light on his thigh; Issak boxed him in on his left, one hand soothing up his back before resting on his shoulder. "Just--kiss you?" he squeaked. "Both of you?"

"Have you never kissed a woman?" said Allis.

"Not this sober, no."

"Lesson number one," said Allis, turning his face to hers. She kissed him, soft and slow.

Chapter 5 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin let Ellika's voice flow over him as he watched the streets and squares glide past the window. Would Allis be happy to see him? And what about Issak?

What about him, indeed. Temmin hadn't considered men much, apart from observing his older cousins and their Mentors, and some adolescent groping with the stable boys. The former filled him with apprehension more than desire, and the latter seemed like so much play--practice for when they could get girls. It had stopped a couple of years ago, anyway, until Alvo. Thinking of Alvo made his eyes smart.

His mind returned to his destination. It's just a dance, he told himself. Why did it feel like so much more?

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