An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom

Chapter 12 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

As the days passed, Hildin and Gian came to Emmae every night, and sometimes during the day as well; she had no choice but to enter into everything they did to her. "I will break you soon," Hildin said once. "Every time I take you, you are a little less hesitant, a little more eager. Fight harder, darling, I'm not tired of it yet!" She cried aloud, in ecstasy and despair, and Gian licked the tears from her cheeks.

Emmae grew despondent. Meg told the Prince the girl never slept; Hildin took to using the enchanted ring to force sleep upon her.

Meanwhile, King Gethin fell from madness to near-unconsciousness; his time drew short. Hildin sat with him, watching him sleep, until his father roused and took his hand. "Warin? I knew you'd return," said the King, his voice weak and crackling, as if he breathed through water.

"I am Hildin, sir," grated the son. "Warin is dead."

"Warin dead?" wept Gethin. "Oh, my son, my only son!" Hildin snatched his hand away. Gethin cried himself into stertorous insensibility.

Chapter 12 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Warin arrived home leading a laden pack horse. The door swung open at his touch, unlatched; he tripped on an empty water bucket just inside. Ashes filled the stone-cold hearth.

He called for Emmae, but no answer came. He ran outside and called again, ran to all the places he thought she might be, but he didn't find her. His heart gave a great thud, and he ran back to the cottage. There, beside the hearth, he found the newly-shined silver tray. A message glowed on the table top, burned into the wood:

I found a girl left all alone and took her home for safekeeping


Warin seized the tray. "Show me Hildin of Tremont!" he shouted, but it reflected only his own stricken face. He threw the tray against the chimney to clatter against the hearthstones.

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

Temmin sent a message to the twins that night, by way of a sleepy footman. The next morning, a postulant Lover delivered the response; it sat on the library table when Temmin returned from a solitary breakfast.

"Disregard me," said Teacher, lounging by the window. "By all means, read your letter."

Temmin sat down and ran a finger over the Lovers' Temple sigil stamped into the wax. Breaking it felt like sealing his fate, though he'd sealed it the night before in his father's study. "Your Highness," it began. "Your presence is required at the Lovers' Temple from Farrday, the 34th day of Spring's Beginning, through Ammaday, the 35th day of Spring's Beginning to prepare for your admittance as our Supplicant." The elegant writing included no signature.

"That is from the Embodiments, I assume. Did you find your answer last night, then?" said Teacher.

"I would've thought my father told you this morning."

"I have not seen him yet, though I wager when I do we will have quite the spirited discussion." Teacher moved to sit atop the table. "What did you decide?"

"I'm taking Supplicancy."

A flicker crossed Teacher's dispassionate face. "You are sure? You may change your mind, right up until the moment you take orders."

"I'm as sure as I can be," said Temmin. "I sounds ridiculous, but I'm talking to a man who walks through mirrors, so...I heard a little voice calling my name. That's all." He looked up into the pale silver eyes. "I think I've been called. It feels like the right thing to do. Allis and Issak have been more trustworthy than my own father. So...I told them I'm doing it. Paggday--it's not my initiation, is it?"

"No," said Teacher. "That will be at the Neya's Day Spectacle."

"In front of everyone?"

"You must be sure of yourself. Public proclamation confirms that surety. You will be learning all about it when you are there on Paggday."

Temmin fingered the old red book, still lying on the table since his last lesson. "What if I'm wrong?"

"We pick a path, we walk it as best we can, and we change course if we find we have taken the wrong way. How gracefully a man adapts is one of his greatest measures. Shall we continue?"

Temmin opened the book.


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 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin stayed with Allis and Issak until late in the afternoon: long talks about their mother, and coming to the City under Teacher's protection; lunch with the irrepressible Anda; and kisses--only a few. Pressing past a kiss reminded him of the twins' past, and though they didn't speak of it, Temmin saw flickers of memory pass through their eyes.

When they gave him their final kisses and saw him to the Temple's entrance, Temmin found Brother Mardus waiting, a Guard contingent ranged around him. Nervous petitioners picked their way up the steps under their stern eyes. "Your Highness," said Mardus.

"Brother Mardus, I'm surprised to see you!"

"You shouldn't be." The two men walked down the stairs; at the bottom stood Jebby, with Mardus's own horse. "Now, sir, you are going to get on that horse, and you're going to follow our lead. You will not break away, and you will do what I tell you when I tell you. Are we clear?"

Chapter 11 Part 5 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

In Greenflower Street, Maleen Polls stood before an already-overloaded hackney. Workers loaded trunk after trunk on the carriage under her man Deck's eye, until the springs wheezed in protest and the coachman advised her to hire a second carriage. "I'm in a hurry," snapped Maleen. "I must be aboard the Crescent Moon as fast as I can, and if you take much longer I'll walk!"

"Will you ever explain to me why you're leaving so hastily? You never showed the slightest inclination to sell, though I've asked you a thousand times," said the tall blonde woman standing beside her.

"I am tired, and I've always wanted to see Sairland. I know I've left the House in good hands, Diria." Maleen caught curious eyes peeping from behind the windows' heavy curtains. Shouldn't she be sadder about leaving? No, not with the Strange Gentleman on her trail.

Chapter 11 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

"Maman worked for Mistress Polls, and owed her a great deal of money when she died. Mistress Polls made us work it off," murmured Allis.

"Couldn't you have done something else there?" Temmin said to the floor. "Cleaned? Run errands? Washed dishes?"

"Don't you think we would have if we could have?" said Issak. "We were worth too much." Temmin looked up from beneath his golden brows to meet Issak's intense stare. "Do you know how much our virginities brought, Your Highness?"

"Virginities?" he faltered. "But you were only ten, who would--"

"A thousand gold apiece is what she sold them for," said Issak. "After that, clients had us both, or separately, or watched us together. You look a little ill, Your Highness. Didn't you know some men enjoy the company of children? How old do you think we were when this happened? We turn twenty-one this year."

Chapter 11 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

The Guards saw him coming. They shouted for him to please wait, Your Highness, you must have a detail with you, sir, please, sir, slow down! But he showed no signs of doing so. The Guards managed to open the gates enough for a single rider, and he thundered past. If he saw a gateminder gallop off toward the Guards' compound, he paid him no mind.

Snow melt swelled the Feather River; its roar swallowed the sound of Jeb's hooves as they pounded across Kingsbridge into Old Town. Traffic brought his pace to a trot, giving the crowds a chance to recognize him. He heard the now-familiar cheers, and a path cleared enough for him to reach the Promenade without slowing to a walk.

Chapter 11 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Once in his rooms Temmin spent a restless evening, pacing about his study and running his hands through his hair, to the point that Jenks enquired after his trouble. Temmin refused to answer and tried to dismiss the valet early, but Jenks insisted on preparing him for bed. "If I don't, sir, I'll come back in the morning to your clothes all over the bedchamber and the bathroom turned inside out."

"I'm not a child! I don't need a keeper, or a nurse, or a valet, or anyone. I order you to leave!"

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.


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