Teacher

Chapter 12 Part 10 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin withdrew from the book. He brimmed with desire, outrage, disgust and a deep need to see Emmae revenged, every hand on her, every one of Hildin's infuriating strokes imprinted on his body. That such a personal violation could bring on such ecstasy--it had to be the spell.

"You're shaking, Your Highness," said Teacher. "Take a moment."

Temmin closed his eyes, marshalling his emotions. "I want him dead, I so want to see him die," he muttered.

"You will."

Chapter 12 Part 7 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

King Fredrik found his daughter changed. She'd been so willful, so disdainful, so...loud. But now, she rarely met anyone's eyes, and seldom spoke. She kept herself apart, staying in her rooms at dinner. She trembled whenever Hildin came near her, and once almost dropped the wine goblet his page Gian gave her. Even her name had changed. Hildin called her Emmae; he told Fredrik he'd fallen in love with the Princess as soon as he'd set eyes on her, and since "Emmae" meant "worth loving" in the Tremontine, Fredrik chose to believe him.

Chapter 12 Part 6 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin returned to the dinner table that night, tensed for a confrontation. Instead, his father ignored him, giving him no more than a cursory "Good evening" and a withering look the one time he spoke. Sedra and his mother watched them both, while Ellika chattered on. Temmin supposed Fennows took his dinner in town; he didn't bother to ask.

After dinner, when the women had retired, Harsin left for his own rooms after one silent glass of port, bolted back and the empty glass deposited on the table. Temmin told himself he didn't care, drank his own glass and joined his mother and sisters in the Small Sitting Room.

Chapter 12 Part 5 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book 1

Temmin broke from the book, filled with Emmae's despair and Hildin's resentment. He thought of something his father once said about finding coercion arousing, and wondered if it ran in the family. "Poor girl! Did she live out her life like that, under the spell? How did the King keep her safe? What a sentence, all for refusing to pay a Traveler!"

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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 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 heard...it 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.

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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 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!"

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