He scratched at the scabbed-over stitches at his temple and then at his nape under the long, nagging queue he'd grown at the Temple. He'd had time to think and still hadn't figured the Alvo dilemma out. The last time they'd been together for any real length of time was almost two years ago, when he'd gotten roaring drunk and pawed Mattie in the hedge. Nausea and guilt shuddered through him, worry chasing close behind. He wished he knew where she was now so he might set things right.
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.
Temmin vacillated several times before Farrday's overnight visit to the Lovers' Temple. He talked himself back into it each time with a combination of wrath against his father, desire, pride, and the memory of the tiny voice in the stillness of the chapel.
On the dreaded and anticipated day, he took out his nerves on Jebby's legs, riding hard over the countryside through the King's Woods into the unknown fields beyond--another thumbing of his nose. He'd been ordered to stay within the safe confines of the Woods, but today he was invincible. Jebby was less so; the hectic ride had left the big horse flecked with foam, and Temmin decided to leave him at home to rest rather than ride him into town.
Temmin left his mother's rooms, so deep in thought he barely looked up until he took to the stairs leading down into the family's informal entrance to the Keep, Harsin's sigil in gold inlay upon the huge doors. He wanted to dirty it with soot. How could the King have hurt her so? How could Harsin prefer any other woman to her? She was kind and beautiful, she was cheerful and loving; she was his Mama, and how could any man be cruel to her? The footmen took one look at his scowl and swept the doors open just a little faster than usual, not a ripple of interest on their professionally still faces.
A groom held Jebby's bridle; the big chestnut pawed in good-natured boredom at the fine gravel beneath his hooves. Temmin's anger swerved to apprehensive excitement. He mounted and rode down the switchbacks and the long, long drive to the massive gates at the entrance to the grounds. There he waited, silently rehearsing a little greeting meant to sound nonchalant and sophisticated. "How terribly good of you to come, Miss Obby, or should I say, Holy One, ha ha." No, that didn't sound right...
In fact, Fennows could not ride. Fennows couldn't do anything. Temmin watched a groom trying, and failing, to give the spotty young man a foot-up onto his horse. Fennows abused the poor groom the whole time: did the groom know who he was--disrespectful cur--clumsiest groom in Tremont, he should think. And he got away with it! The groom didn't blink an eye. If Temmin had used that tone at home, he'd have found out what was what. But none of the grooms met Temmin's eyes this morning, merely pressing their knuckles to their foreheads or bowing, and all of them eyeing Fennows when they thought the Heir wasn't looking. It all conspired to deepen Temmin's already-sour mood.
"You will entertain Lord Fennows tomorrow, Temmin, and from time to time while he is with us as your studies permit," King Harsin had said the night before. "His father is important to me politically. Learn to like him. Is he really so bad?" he'd added at Temmin's sour face.
Temmin slept late the next day, but went out on his usual ride; while he had no marketing of his own to do this Paggday, he had the day off with everyone else. "No hangover, Jebby! There's a rare thing after a party. I wouldn't even have minded one today, what a night," Temmin said to his horse. The gelding snorted. They walked at a leisurely pace through the King's Woods, down a tributary path of the War Road. He knew the Woods were safe, but he still half-expected to see Brothers secreted in the underbrush.
The morning chill lifted. Mist rose thready from the meadows he glimpsed through the trees; birdsong and the murmur of streams rushing down to the Shadow River were the only sounds. A beautiful day, the kind of day that made him wish to ride until dark, and sleep where he stopped. He certainly hadn't slept well the night before. He knew the assassination attempt was political, but in his young heart he could not get over it: why would anyone want to kill him?
Into this green restfulness came a discordant sob. Temmin pulled Jebby up short, listening. It came from just ahead on the trail; he urged Jebby toward it, until they came to a downed log just off the path, and a girl sitting atop it, crying tears enough to join the Shadow in their own little salty stream.
Neyaday, the 9th Day of Spring's Beginning
The first thing Temmin saw when he looked into the bathroom mirror on his birthday was a man. He was eighteen; that was that, he was an adult now. "And I still can't grow a proper beard," he said aloud, rubbing his chin.
"What, sir?" called Jenks.
The second thing he saw when he looked in the bathroom mirror was a face not his own.
Underneath his own reflection lay a faint tracing--a smooth face, a paler, thinner face with precise features, odd silver eyes, and iron-colored hair pulled back in an old-fashioned tail. He blinked, and it disappeared.
"Jenks? Insanity doesn't run in the family, does it?"
"Not to my knowledge, sir," said Jenks.
"Temmy, are you listening?" said Ellika, whacking his knee with her fan. He started, and glanced out the window; they had crossed the Feather at Kingsbridge, and were approaching the great gates leading to the parklands around the base of the cliff that held Tremont Keep.
"We're having a ball for your birthday," said Sedra.
"A ball? Who wants a ball?"
"You do," said the King.
To Temmin's dismay, his mother's religious advisor joined the royal party at dinner. At Whithorse, Sister Ibbit lived at the Temple of Venna in Reggiston and never dined with them, but tonight Ansella seated the priestess to her left and Temmin to her right. Looking up from the soup, he caught Ibbit staring at him in contempt, and wondered if he'd have to endure her half-hearted religious instruction at the Keep. He'd managed to out-and-out skip most of it, with Ibbit's approval; her open hostility led him to avoid her as much from personal dislike as boredom, and she seemed to share his feeling.