Mathanus vomited on his own feet; Justinna huddled on the floor in incoherent shrieks. Temmin would have begged for Allis's life, but the stickiness filled his mouth; all he could do was cry. Nerr was going to kill her, to whip her to death, and it was his fault--beat me, kill me, Lord! he begged silently. "She bears responsibility too, never doubt it," said Nerr, raising the strap and bringing it down again. "She must bear the pain alone if she's to be of any use to My Sister."
Ellika rarely let the baby go, relinquishing her little sister long enough for the hastily-called wet nurse to feed her before snatching her away again. She declared to the family that Anneya was her responsibility: "No one else seems to care, so I'm taking her back to Whithorse with Temmin. Nurse and I will see to her." She even learned to change the tiny girl's diaper, refusing assistance with a savagery once reserved for incompetent milliners and dancing partners who trod one too many times on her toes.
Inside, Harsin was stripping as he hurried into his bedchamber; his valet Gram followed behind, stooping to pick up the discarded riding clothes, and his secretary Winmer brought up the rear. Harsin changed into fresh clothes and washed his face. "This would have to happen when I was at Middlemont. Cancel any appointments for the next three days, Winmer, and send word that while it was a lovely interlude et cetera, I will not be seeing Miss Shelstone in the immediate future. Do not under any circumstances say anything about the Queen's indisposition, to Miss Shelstone or anyone else." Winmer nodded, scribbling in his neat little book, and Harsin stepped through his bedchamber door through the private hallway and into the Queen's bedchamber.
On his return to the Keep, Harsin called for both Winmer and Teacher and informed them of Twenna's condition; he ordered his secretary to draw up papers making Elbig Shelstone a baronet. "Find a holding. Something quite small and quite far away."
"Are you sure, sir?" said Winmer, wrinkling his nose.
"He is a loathsome little toad and a rascal, but it must be done. I will elevate Twenna to an earldom after the baby is born, and her father needs some kind of rank. Ready Middlemont for Miss Shelstone's prolonged stay. Send Hallik and his wife to run things--apologize to old Crookman and give him a sop to make up for Hallik's usurpation--oh, what is it, Winmer?" snapped the King.
This section is NSFW.
A letter from Mr Winmer came, inquiring after Miss Shelstone's health. She answered she felt rather poorly but was recovering. A note in the King's own hand followed later the same day; might she improve enough to attend a private luncheon tomorrow at Foothill Lodge? Elbig dictated her reply: she would.
The First Day of Spring's Beginning, 991 KY
Twenna Shelstone stepped down from her father's carriage into the throngs crowding the Lovers' Temple for the Neya's Day Spectacle. An orderly procession flowed from the Promenade to the Temple garden gates, where the Spectacle would be held. Postulants and servants bore hundreds of bright lanterns through the crowded gardens until every leaf seemed illuminated. Twenna fretted to be without even a footman to look after her, but she reassured herself. Harsin had said Winmer would find her there and protect her from unwanted advances.
Embis Winmer was straightening papers on the desk he shared with his master when the King entered their office. "Ah, Winmer. Just when I need you. Might we get Miss Shelstone admitted to the Neya's Day Spectacle?"
"I don't know, Your Majesty," answered the secretary, correctly interpreting the question as a command. "There are several barriers to her guaranteed admittance, not least her unmarried state."
"I find it hard to believe there's anyone in the City who thinks she's a virgin because she's unmarried," chuckled Harsin.
Winmer gave a sliver of a smile. "Oh, most certainly not, sir. I believe she is well known. Perhaps the best known of your intimate friends ever."
In the days after his investiture, Temmin fetched and carried for Allis and Issak. To Temmin's relief, the bloom was creeping back into Allis's face, and Issak no longer looked as if someone had crumpled him up and thrown him away--though Someone had, thought Temmin.
Even so, Temmin saw little of them. He lived the unglamorous life of a Postulant. He got lost a lot. He joined a class of newly minted Postulants studying anatomy: not the obvious kind, but the kind in which one learned the names of the bones of the hand. He kissed an extraordinary number of people. Senik hadn't been joking: in the Temple, a kiss meant "Hello," "Goodbye," "Thank you," "You're welcome," and occasionally, "What are you doing after anatomy class?" He learned to sleep through Anda snuffling her tuneful little snore in the bed opposite, and, rarely, in his bed beside him.
Temmin did not miss the Keep, at all, but he did miss his mother and sisters, and especially Jenks. Temmin sent several messages to them and had given up ever hearing back, when one day Senik called Temmin to a receiving room. "A representative from your father, I believe," he said.
It was Winmer.
Steel glinted against Arta's throat, and in Temmin's imagination red bloomed against the white of her skin. But here and now, the steel wavered ever so slightly. He cast about for anything he could draw upon for guidance. He thought of Jenks: "Who are you more afraid of? The Gods, or your father?" Now that he feared for two innocents, not for himself, he wasn't sure.
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."