Chapter 5 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

The Sign of the Owl was one of Reggiston's best inns, and certainly its best post house. For the quality, the Owl kept a neat set of rooms, and a neater set of post-horses and chaises for hire. The one leaving this morning for the northwest was hired by a young woman and her mother, a woman who seemed to be in a tearing hurry.

"I don't understand, Mama," said the daughter. "I don't want to leave! Why are we moving so far away, so suddenly--to Corland of all places? How can we afford to go post instead of on the mail, or even the stage--new clothes--where did all this money come from?"

"Don't ask questions, Mattie, just get in," said Tellis, shooing Mattie into the carriage. Tellis looked over her shoulder, let the ostler hand her in, and sighed as the door closed behind her.

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 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 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 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."

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

Whithorse Estate, Whithorse Province
Ammaday, the 5th Day of Spring's Beginning, 990 KY

In the stable yards of Whithorse Estate, two lanterns burned. They shone up at their owners, who sat on a straw bale against a brick wall. The low light transformed the rangy, blue-eyed one's fair hair into a burnished bronze, and turned the shorter, stockier one's eyes near-black. Both wore battered old tweed caps, and coats just heavy enough for the early spring night. The shorter one held a flask of wuisc, full at the start of the evening, and as its level dropped, they listed into one another more and more.

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