An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom

Chapter 16 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Freshly bathed, Temmin pulled on his new Temple garb--red, the color of the postulant Lovers, a happier, somehow less serious shade than the official Tremontine red garb he wore the last time he was at the Temple. "Will I see the Holy Ones again before tomorrow?" he asked over a late supper with Anda in the Supplicants Chamber.

She put her wine glass down and replied, "No. You won't be seeing them until it's time to draw down the Gods tomorrow night. It's not at all an easy thing, you know, Tem."

"Allis says it's something like being a puppet."

Chapter 16 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

The urgent conversation appeared to be one-sided from a distance, but on closer inspection, both parties were fully involved, a small pulse in the King's jaw the only sign of increasing tension. "Master yourself, Corland. What do you mean, Temmin's lovers are a sham?" said Harsin, keeping the smile on his face.

"I mean, he's pulled the wool over your eyes!" hissed Corland. "He still qualifies! Your son means to take Supplicancy!"

Chapter 16 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

The Keep's servants slept little the week before Neya's Day. All the rooms, even the bedrooms in the Old Residence Wing, were turned out and prepared for guests who might or might not be staying. As they did at the turning of every spoke, the maids received new pinafores, and the footmen new shirtfronts. The maids beat every carpet, brushed every curtain and tapestry; the footmen, under Affton's hypercritical eye, polished every piece of silver, every candlestick, every brass doorknob, grand entrance and mudroom alike, even though their sheen already blinded the onlooker.

Chapter 15 Part 14 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

All through breakfast, Temmin wondered about his behavior. It was a silent, musing meal in which the twins respected his mood; indeed, it didn't even seem to surprise them. He wondered all through his leave-taking with the Most Highs and the Holy Ones, his enjoyment of the goodbye kisses muted and absent-minded. He wondered as he climbed gingerly onto Jebby's back, trying to form the questions as well as the answers.

Why had he submitted to Issak--how had Issak persuaded him, when after Emmae's experience had consumed him, he'd sworn it would never happen to him, ever, assuming it would ever come up, which it wouldn't. She'd been humiliated, shamed, used, and didn't that come with it? But with Issak, he'd felt nothing but trust. Had he told Issak to stop, Issak would have stopped. He'd told Issak not to stop. He'd gone to the Temple simply for Allis. The spiritual trappings were confusing, and possibly useful; he wanted to gain the kind of control over himself and his world that Issak seemed to have. Now, he wondered if there were more to it than even that.

Chapter 15 Part 13 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Issak yanked him not unkindly to his feet; Temmin gave no resistance to the untying of the drawstring round his waist. Issak let go Temmin's hair, pulled his shirt over his head and pushed him back down on the couch, then undressed and joined him. "On your side away from me," murmured Issak. "You obey me so easily. Why is that?"

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Chapter 15 Part 12 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin spent the rest of the day trotting after Allis and Issak, with Anda and Senik trailing behind all three. They met with higher clergy, sat in on a nervous postulant class identifying anatomy on one another before a stern but surprisingly unpuckered Sister, and then a quiet tea with Anda and Senik.

Perhaps, thought Temmin, he should begin his studies on his own if he were to be serious about this business. For instance, Senik fascinated him. As the handsome postulant moved first among the hallway crowds and then the small group in the Supplicants Chamber, he changed from moment to moment, instantly shifting to reflect whoever he spoke with. Was he really as beautiful as Temmin had first thought? Yes, and that affected how others treated him, certainly--it was clear Senik was a great favorite, much called on by the Most Highs for various tasks, and the Embodiments' servant of choice. Even so, Temmin detected a deep desire to please behind the sly, insinuating smile. Or was that just the face he turned toward Temmin? Either way, Temmin was pleased with himself for his growing discernment, until Senik caught him looking and to his surprise rebuked him. "Don't think you know me, Your Highness. You haven't learned a thing yet."

Chapter 15 Part 11 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Issak put his head on the pillow beside Temmin, who lay there red, sweating, and barely awake; Anda crawled up beside him and kissed him, an unknown yet familiar taste on her lips. "Different," Temmin mumbled. "Was different."

Issak ran his fingers gently up and down Temmin's golden-furred belly. "Men are better at it than women," he agreed.

"Not this time," said Temmin.

Chapter 15 Part 10 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin slid his arms around Anda from behind until his hands closed on her breasts, so soft and heavy, heavier than Arta's, kneading until she tilted her head back against his shoulder with a low growl. Under his fingers, her nipples grew hard, the wide circles of brown skin around them puckering and pebbling. "Are they supposed to do that?" he asked shyly. "It's not because I'm hurting you?"

"No, you're not hurting me, it means I like it--or that it's cold out," she laughed. "It's normal. Don't yours do that?"

He rolled her nipples between his fingers; he remembered Emmae liked it. "I hadn't really thought on it. So...it means you like my doing this?"

"Very much." Anda turned over in his arms.

Chapter 15 Part 9 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

As she sorted through the piles humming to herself, Temmin absently tugged at his cravat. Naked, Anda had a look of abundance, he grudgingly thought. Swelling breasts, rounded arms, a soft belly, full hips, lush thighs. "Fertile" came to mind; her body reminded him of the rolling hills of oats near home, of wheels of cheese, of bowls of ripe fruit, of jugs of cream, of honey, and nuts, wine, and good, thick bread. Not plain, or fat. Edible.

Chapter 15 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

The war of the wardrobe began. In the end, Temmin and Jenks reached a compromise: correct but comfortable clothes, not too formal, in exchange for the finest new small clothes the favored royal tailor could make on short notice. "If you're going to sit around in your underthings..." mumbled Jenks, letting the thought go unfinished.

On the day, Brother Mardus and his men escorted the Heir through the city and down the Promenade, handing him off to the Temple's Own at the top of the pink marble stairs. In their midst stood the ridiculously handsome Senik. To his surprise, the postulant kissed Temmin full on the lips. "That's how we say 'hello' here. It's also how we say 'goodbye,' 'thank you,' 'you're welcome'..." Senik waved an encompassing hand. "This way."

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