Sedra

Chapter 11 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Dinner that night was a thoroughly uncomfortable meal, but no matter how fast Temmin ate, it never seemed to end. His father kept a stony silence; his mother watched them both with apprehension. Ellika bounced with impatience; Sedra merely crooked an eyebrow at him. Fennows smirked and grimaced and nudged his way through all five courses.

When the ladies left and Affton brought in the port and cheese tray, Temmin swallowed a polite glass and rose to excuse himself. To his surprise, Harsin rose as well. "Fennows, we're leaving the ladies to you," the King said. "I'm sure you won't mind."

"Oh, I should think not!" said Fennows, brightening. "P'rhaps I can finally convince Elly to listen to my poetry!" The lordling knocked back his port, scattering nutshells and cheese rinds, and hurried toward the Small Sitting Room.

Once father and son sat before the fire in Harsin's study, the butler re-appeared with another decanter. "I had Affton set aside the best port for us. No point wasting it on that ass Fennows," snorted Harsin.

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?

Chapter 4 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin spent Paggday at the stables after a long ride, gradually coaxing the men into trusting him. He thought he might even have picked out a matched pair of horses for his curricle, sleek grays with just enough Inchari stock in them to impart the breed's fine heads and high-held tails, without their characteristic skittishness. He would have to consult his mother; her judgment of horses surpassed that of everyone he knew. He'd needed that relaxing day, for today, Ammaday, he began lessons with Teacher.

At breakfast, two members of the family were animated and talkative, two were sullen and withdrawn, and Temmin stood alone in the middle, looking anxiously round the table. Harsin and Ellika were both in fine spirits. The King beamed at Temmin, a mildly unnerving development. Ellika remained her usual ebullient self, even when she burned her tongue on her coffee. Sedra and Ansella, on the other hand, were not; Sedra looked alternately glum and resentful, stealing glances at both Temmin and her father over the top of a resolutely isolating newspaper, and Ansella kept her eyes down, answering questions with a frozen smile and as few words as possible. Temmin thought he would never understand his family.

Chapter 3 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

"So, in the City two days, eh?" said Fennows, refilling Temmin's glass. "Someone like you, I should like to know how many tasty bits you left behind in Whithorse!"

"Tasty bits?" said Temmin. "The only thing I left behind in Whithorse was my freedom. And my best friend," he added, glowering at the pimply young man across from him.

"You'll have plenty of good hunting here, my friend. You--you can have any girl you please! Good-looking, the Heir--" Fennows burped. "Excuse me. No girl'd turn you down, not even the daughters of the nobility if you wanted 'em. My position gets me plenty, I assure you, but--say, are you sure you can't put in a good word with your father on my behalf? Corland is important to the empire, and Papa pays a good deal of tribute. Past time for the ties between us to get stronger. Matrimonial, I should think."

"I don't think Elly is in the marriage market," said Temmin. "At least she hasn't said."

"She's not the one who decides whether she is or not, now, is she!" said Fennows.

Chapter 2 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin said nothing more and danced automatically, paying no attention to anything but the woman on his arm. When the dance ended, he demanded the next one, the last in the set. "Happily," she said, and he took her up in his arms again, oblivious to the presence at the floor's edge of an outraged man in a blue honor sash who'd sworn he'd already asked the lady for that dance.

Among the onlookers, another young lady peered through her magnifying glass. "Oh dear me," she said. "It seems Neya's Embodiment has made another conquest."

Sedra took a sip of lemonade and laughed. "That's not even worth remarking on, Despie."

"This time it is," said the lady, nodding over Sedra's shoulder. Sedra followed the nod, and choked; Temmin was dancing with Allis Obby, looking for all the world like a gasping fish on the beach, hook still in mouth.

Chapter 2 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Jenks had gone through every combination of black and white clothing in the room, considered them, and discarded them, until he'd made the only possible conclusion and assembled it on the dressing stand. "It's a ball!" said Temmin. "One wears a black dress suit, a white shirt and stock, and a white waistcoat. All of the men will be dressed identically!"

"You are so, so wrong, Your Highness," said the valet, surveying the tidily ransacked wardrobe. "There are subtleties to the male wardrobe only a connoisseur may perceive, and while you are not yet a connoisseur, you shall be when I'm through with you. In the meantime, you will look the part." Temmin rolled his eyes. "It's for the pride of Whithorse, sir, think of it that way."

"Your pride'll be the death of me," grumbled Temmin.

"My pride will be the making of you, sir, depend on it."

Chapter 2 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Neyaday, the 9th Day of Spring's Beginning

The first thing Temmin saw when he looked into the bathroom mirror on his birthday was a man. He was eighteen; that was that, he was an adult now. "And I still can't grow a proper beard," he said aloud, rubbing his chin.

"What, sir?" called Jenks.

"Nothing!"

The second thing he saw when he looked in the bathroom mirror was a face not his own.

Underneath his own reflection lay a faint tracing--a smooth face, a paler, thinner face with precise features, odd silver eyes, and iron-colored hair pulled back in an old-fashioned tail. He blinked, and it disappeared.

"Jenks? Insanity doesn't run in the family, does it?"

"Not to my knowledge, sir," said Jenks.

Chapter 1 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

When Temmin returned, he got no further than the Keep's mud room when Jenks pounced. He traded his mucky boots for carpet slippers, and once upstairs, his dusty riding clothes for more elegant attire. "Do you need a shave this morning, young sir? You rushed out before I could get a good look at you," called Jenks from the wardrobe.

Temmin examined his chin in the mirror; still not enough beard to grow out, though his plentiful sideburns and moustache left little to be desired. "No. Why can't I just change my boots?" he said, scrubbing his face with a wet flannel.

"This is court, Your Highness, you cannot go to breakfast smelling like a horse."

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

"Temmy, are you listening?" said Ellika, whacking his knee with her fan. He started, and glanced out the window; they had crossed the Feather at Kingsbridge, and were approaching the great gates leading to the parklands around the base of the cliff that held Tremont Keep.

"We're having a ball for your birthday," said Sedra.

"A ball? Who wants a ball?"

"You do," said the King.

Chapter 1 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

To Temmin's dismay, his mother's religious advisor joined the royal party at dinner. At Whithorse, Sister Ibbit lived at the Temple of Venna in Reggiston and never dined with them, but tonight Ansella seated the priestess to her left and Temmin to her right. Looking up from the soup, he caught Ibbit staring at him in contempt, and wondered if he'd have to endure her half-hearted religious instruction at the Keep. He'd managed to out-and-out skip most of it, with Ibbit's approval; her open hostility led him to avoid her as much from personal dislike as boredom, and she seemed to share his feeling.

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