Harsin

Chapter 11 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Someone kept the windowless, ancient room within well-tended. Its style pointed to the Keep's founding a thousand years before; vaulted stone rose above tapestried walls to meet in graceful apexes. Eight altars had been carved from the bedrock, each with its God. Purple and gold seasonal draperies wreathed Pagg's niche, in honor of His spoke, Spring's Beginning. Candles flickered before all the altars, reflecting off the smooth, polished wood of the padded kneeling benches set in rows.

Empty glass vases waited before Nerr's statue, a silver pitcher of fresh water beside them. He settled the flowers, and carefully stacked the pink and white candies at Neya's feet. He knelt on the bench nearest the Twins, and prayed. "Lord, Lady, I don't know what to do. Are You calling me, or is this just about wanting the Embodiments? Or being mad at my father? I want to do the right thing. I know I haven't been the most faithful person--no, actually, I've always believed, I just haven't gone through the forms perhaps as much as I should. Just send me a sign. Let me know what I should do."

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 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 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 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 4 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin's dinner curdled. Who could have told his mother? Was it Jenks? No, never! Someone else at the Estate must have found out and told her. He wondered if he could send a letter to Alvo to find out who--Gods, it wasn't Alvo, surely? "What did Mama say?"

"That you kissed a maidservant under somewhat coercive circumstances."

"Coercive? She said yes."

"Temmin, we both know she said yes because she was afraid of losing her job." She'd certainly begged him not to tell Crokker, but he'd never considered she really might lose her job. Why would she lose her job? "There's nothing wrong with that," the King smiled, his teeth white against the dark of his beard and moustaches. "I've always found something rather arousing about holding that over them. Apparently you are of my mind."

"But I didn't hold it over her," said Temmin, appalled.

Harsin shrugged. "You don't have to justify yourself to me, son. Take a maidservant if you wish--take several. I've heard you're behind your peers on that score. I've left off the Keep's maids for your mother's sake--promised her I'd never have a mistress in the house--so the field is quite clear."

"You have mistresses?" said Temmin.

"No, Temmin," said his father. "I've been celibate for the last eighteen years. Of course I have mistresses."

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

Temmin released the book. His shaking hands still felt Connin's skin; the Princess's terror and arousal coursed through him, as if the smoke of the Traveler Queen's spell had seeped through the book into him as well. Was he male or female? He consulted the stiffness between his legs: male. It had happened to someone else, it had happened to a character in a story, not to him.

Shafts of gold and white light slanted low onto the lawn outside the windows; three or four hours had passed. "What in Harla's Name does this fiction have to do with anything?" he said.

"You did not like it?" Teacher said mildly. "I thought you would at least be interested."

In fact, Temmin was afraid to stand up. "I don't see how this connects at all to history," he muttered.

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 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

"A by-blow!" shouted Ansella.

"You've been at the Keep all of three days, and your dramatics are already boring me! What now?"

"A by-blow, a bastard," she said. "You promised me! You promised me no child would come out of all your whoring!"

"I prefer the term 'engagements,'" said Harsin. "And no child has come of any of them."

"That you knew, apparently!"

"Annie, you attack me in my ignorance," said Harsin, sitting down. "Please enlighten me."

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