An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom

Chapter 10 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

When he'd recovered himself somewhat, he found he'd been deposited on the couch. The anger left him, replaced with fear and shame. Tears filled his eyes. The twins held him, soothing him like a child. Was he the powerful or the powerless? Powerful, he supposed--he was the Heir to an empire, but he hadn't thought much about it until recently. Did his soul really crave power? If not, why did it attract him so? Ibbit was right; men were inherently depraved, or at least he was. What had Fennows said about patronizing whores--"the Lovers' Temple makes you think about it."

"I don't want to think about it, I don't want to be like that," he sniffled as his tears subsided.

"Tem, you already are 'like that,'" soothed Allis. "You know so little about yourself, but you told me everything on our ride."

"Did I? Then tell me how evil a man I am."

Chapter 10 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

They walked into the Great Hall, an enclosed courtyard where entwined statues of Neya and Nerr rose three stories high. In niches along the wall stood individual statues of the Twins in all Their various aspects; hundreds of flickering candles stood before each one. Elaborate offerings lay before the giant statues spilling onto their feet: towers of sweets, a profusion of flowers.

Chapter 10 Part 5 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin peered into the first room. It held a low, wide Temple couch piled with pillows, a dressing screen, and no other furnishings. A middle-aged woman reclined into the pillows, feet on the floor, Temple skirt rucked up around her waist; all her attention focused on the man in street clothes kneeling before her. The man gave a muffled groan, his face buried so deep in the woman's sex he seemed to be pushing his way inside her. "Can they see us?" he whispered.

Chapter 10 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Allis took his arm on one side, Issak on the other, and they began their tour, four of the Temple's Own trailing before and behind. Temmin observed politely as they looked into the neat dormitories, the vast library, and the erotic art collection. He wanted to spend more time in the last, but the twins propelled him out the door into the gardens.

The gardens contained many little nooks and niches; tucked away in more than one were passionate couples--or more than couples. Deeply embarrassed, Temmin didn't know whether to stare or look away, but neither Allis nor Issak seemed to care, sometimes ignoring the lovemakers, sometimes stopping to observe and even comment, and then moving on. "Were those Lovers and Beloveds, or...?" asked Temmin.

"Most of them," said Issak absently.

Chapter 10 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin came to his tour of the Temple on Neyaday. A quiet Jenks helped the Prince dress; Temmin thought it wisest not to ask after his subdued mood, and let him have his way without complaint.

Ellika stayed in her room after the incident at Naister's, and never did send for the new dress. She found an unworn one suited for the occasion in the back of her wardrobe, and insisted on going with Temmin "just to the door if nothing else." Some of her naturally cheerful spirit made its way past the shock of Horn's death, and she came bouncing down the stairs behind her brother to take his arm. She wore a confection of white lace and ribbons against pale pink silk. "You look like a wedding cake," said Temmin, kissing the top of her head.

"Thank you! Put your gloves on, Temmy."

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 10 Part 1 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Nerrday, the 29th day of Spring's Beginning

"You're a Princess--why d'you have to fetch your own dresses?" said Temmin as he handed his sister down from the carriage at Mistress Naister's shop, not far off the Temple Promenade. "I should think the dressmaker would come to the Keep."

"Oh, she does, but I like to come into town, see and be seen and all that," Ellika answered, acknowledging the small crowd through the Guards lining their way to the door.

Mistress Naister's shop looked like the inside of a fragile seashell, pink and cream and gold; Temmin kept his knees and elbows in for fear he'd break something, though what he could break in a dressmaker's shop, he wasn't sure. Mistress Naister curtsied so low, Temmin felt compelled to help her stand again. He impulsively kissed her knobby hand; her fingers smelled of beeswax. Mistress Naister swallowed a girlish giggle, sat Temmin down on a spindly chair made for someone much shorter, and clapped twice. A nervous little shopman came from the back carrying a tiny pink and gilt tea set; he served the Prince while Ellika and Mistress Naister exclaimed over one another like old friends. The cup looked like a thimble in Temmin's hand, and he hastily put it down.

Chapter 9 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

On the southeastern coast of Tremont lay Bordigalle's home, the Duchy of Belleth, a land favored with a mild, beneficent climate much inclined to the growing of superb wine grapes, excellent cheeses from the sheep and cattle grazing its lush grasslands, and a tendency towards voluptuousness in its people.

Chapter 9 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

Temmin pulled away, shaking with rage and terror, eyes wet. "She wants to kill him. I want to kill him."

"No need. He's long dead," replied Teacher.

"Did she kill him?"

"We'll get to that in time," said Teacher.

Temmin could still feel Hildin's hands all over him--all over Emmae--the Pagg-damned book got him so confused, but then, disgust and desire had overwhelmed and confused poor Emmae. It shocked him how much her plight had stirred him, both to pity, and to deep, uncomfortable arousal.

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Chapter 9 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One

When she awoke some hours later, she found herself tucked naked into the sheets, the shreds of her clothing gone; someone had been in the room. She slipped out of bed, wrapped the sheet around herself, and edged along the wall under the tapestries, touching every inch in her search for a hidden latch. Nothing came under her fingers.

The stones began to grind; she pressed herself flat against the wall. A hand emerged from behind a tapestry, followed by an old woman with a bundle under one arm and a pitcher in the other. Emmae sprang forward, but the door ground shut before she could escape.

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