Anda Barrows

Chapter 1 Part 3 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin twirled his mother through the dobla, the simple traditional dance that began all Tremontine balls. As they turned, he took in the room from the corners of his eyes, as he'd been trained. Issak was making the reserved Sedra blush; Ellika was treating the surprisingly graceful Litta as if he were in doddering need of her guidance, luckily to his amusement; and Harsin was entirely too close to Allis. His father wore the intimate, hooded expression that meant far more than polite interest.

Temmin buried his anger and brought his full attention back to his mother, to catch her scanning the balconies; she returned searching eyes to his face. "You look so very well! You've grown, my dear! Are you happy? Did you make the right decision?"

"Oh, yes." His mother quirked a brow; no training could hide his heart from his mother. "Mostly," he amended. "It's not quite what I thought it would be. But I'm learning a great deal, and not all what…what most people think goes on there." He blushed; he still couldn't control his blushing reliably.

Chapter 1 Part 2 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Temmin kept his face as tranquil as he could, though his heart beat so hard against his starched shirt front that its studs must be quivering. Would his father cut him on his own birthday? There'd been more than one royal snub in the last year: no invitations to his sisters' birthdays; careful avoidance at events requiring the attendance of the entire family; communication with the royal family completely blocked--even with his mother.

Chapter 1 Part 1 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2

Paggday night, the 9th day of Spring's Beginning
Tremont Keep, Tremont City

"I do not understand, Your Grace, why so glum the faces," said an enormous brown-skinned man. His long cloak of iridescent feathers covered otherwise unexceptional evening wear; his strong, naturally crimped black hair streamed unfettered down his back, and as he frowned around the ballroom in woozy concentration the blue-black tattoos curling round his nose and eyes furrowed.

"Glum, Your Excellency?" said his light-skinned companion. Anvalt Vonturus, Duke of Litta, was not a short man, but next to the tall ambassador even his stiff military bearing could not overcome an impression of smallness. In contrast with the ambassador's tattoos, a pale scar slashed through his left brow; a black ribbon clubbed his slate-colored hair in a queue that announced he was a conservative.

Litta glanced around the assembly milling about Tremont Keep's Great Ballroom in nervous clumps spiky with the glint of jewels. They winked on countless fingers; in the curls of women's hair; around slender wrists and wrists so fat they nearly hid their bracelets in their folds, and around necks both wrinkled and smooth; and from countless medals--some earned and some Litta knew were given to shut the bearer up. What a decadent age.

Chapter 17 Part 4 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

After a trip to the bath crowded with lethargic men and women, and a soak in the hot pool until they were all the color of well-done lobsters, Temmin and Anda helped put the twins to bed, each in their separate rooms with attendants nearby if needed. "Now what?" said Temmin.

"Now nothing," yawned Anda, plucking a candy off one of the huge piles of offering sweets distributed among the clergy. "I'm clean, I'm brushed, I've tucked the Holy Ones in, I'm done. No one who worked last night does anything today. The lay servants run the place, the petitioners' rooms are closed, and there's no real offering traffic the day after a Spectacle. I am going back to bed for a nap. Aren't you tired?" Temmin shook his head, still wet and shaggy from the bath. "Well, you may do whatever you like, but don't expect me to do it with you." She rose from the couch they were sharing, dropped into her bed, and was asleep in five minutes, her odd, musical snoring muffled in the crook of her arm.

Chapter 17 Part 3 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin woke up, unsure whether he'd been dreaming or if the lovemaking really had gone on all night after the visions. He remembered slipping into Neya over and over, holding Her in his arms as Nerr took Her, kisses that left him blind, breasts and hands and mouths and cocks, but a film overlayed it all, turning it indistinct and hallucinatory: a terrifying, ecstatic fever dream. Again, there were no windows in the room, and he couldn't gauge the time.

Chapter 16 Part 9 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

A few paces ahead, Temmin had fallen in step with Anda. "I don't know if I can do this," he muttered.

"You'll be all right," she said. "I survived it. You will, too."

"Be truthful with me. Do They scare you?"

"They're Gods, of course they scare me--did Senik tell you about the time 500 years ago? If he weren't so pretty, I'd kill that man," scowled Anda. "You'll be with Neya anyway. I don't think She's fucked anyone to death, ever. I hope if it ever happens it's Senik, but he'd probably die happy."

Chapter 16 Part 8 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin, Senik, Anda and Evra pelted after him, Barik and Glaes following behind at a more dignified pace. The gardens were packed with people on both sides of many wide paths lined with lanterns; Neya might have gone down any of them, but Nerr seemed to know Her path.

Through the flowers, the sculpture garden, almost into the Temple and out onto the street Neya-in-Allis led them, until they were far out onto the grassy lawns, where there were no people or lanterns; Temmin followed Senik's back, the only thing his still-unaccustomed eyes could clearly see. Two screams came piercing from the darkness ahead, one triumphant, one enraged. "He's caught Her," said Senik. "Lights!"

Chapter 16 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin took Barik's position behind the frame, and wrapped Issak's hair timidly around his hand. "Temmin, please," crooned Issak, lips searching. His voice held the same frantic, bare desperation Temmin heard in countless voices in the petitioning rooms--the young man begging for the release of a spanking, the muffled pleading of the woman tied to the couch--though he sensed Issak feared release as much as needed it. "Please..."

Temmin fisted the hand in Issak's hair, Issak, so composed and in control and now begging and needy. Temmin yanked him back and kissed him, a fierce, sloppy, imperfect kiss that brought Temmin more into the present, but took Issak further away.

Chapter 16 Part 5 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Despite Anda's light, musical snoring in the alcove bed across the room from him, Temmin slept late on Neya's Day. Or at least, he assumed he had; the Supplicants Chamber had no windows. Anda's bed was now empty and made, and his only gauge of time was his roaring appetite. With his breakfast, he learned that he had in fact slept until lunch, "A good thing on the whole, as it'll be a long night, with little sleep for anyone and much exercise for everyone," smirked Senik.

All Temmin knew about the upcoming ritual was this:

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."

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