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He opened the cover and considered the first page, squinting to bring the letters clear. He could not help but think of another book - that one brown - which had been his gift from Heshai-kvo and Seedless. Heshai's handwriting had been clearer than Maati's own, his gift for language more profound.

I, Maati Vaupathai, am one of the two men remaining in the world who has wielded the power of the andat. As the references from which I myself learned are lost, I shall endeavor to record here what I know of grammar and of the forms of thought by which the andat may be bound and the abstract made physical. And, with that, my own profound error from which the world is still suffering.

Half-reading, he flipped through the pages, caught occasionally by a particular turn of phrase of which he was fond or tripped by a diagram or metaphor that was still not to his best liking. Though his eyes strained, he could still read what he'd written, and when the ink seemed to blur, he had the memory of what he had put there. He reached the blank pages sooner than he expected, and sat on his stairs, fingertips moving over the smooth paper with a sound like skin against skin. There was so much to say, so many things he'd thought and considered. Often, he would come back from a particularly good lecture to his students full of fire and intentions, prepared to write a fresh section. Sometimes his energy lasted long enough to do so. Sometimes not.

It will be a sad legacy to die with this half-finished, he thought as he let the cover close.

He needed a real school, the school needed a teacher, and he himself could manage only so much. There wasn't time to lecture all his students and write his manual and slink like a criminal through the dark corners of the Empire. If he'd been younger, perhaps - fifty, or better yet forty years old - he might have made the attempt, but not now. And with this mad scheme of Otah's, time had grown even dearer.

'Maati-cha?'

Maati blinked. Vanjit came toward him, her steps tentative. He tucked his book into its box and took a pose of welcome.

'The door wasn't bolted,' she said. 'I was afraid something had happened?'

'No,' Maati said, rising and hoisting himself up the stairs. 'I forgot it last night. An old man getting older is all.'

The girl took a pose that was both an acceptance and a denial. She looked exhausted, and Maati suspected there were dark smudges under his own eyes to match hers. The scent of eggs and beef caught his attention. A small lacquer box hung at Vanjit's side.

'Ah,' Maati said. 'It that what I hope it is?'

She smiled at that. The girl did have a pleasant smile, when she used it. The eggs were fresh; whipped and steamed in bright orange blocks. The beef was rich and moist. Vanjit sat beside him in the echoing, empty s.p.a.ce of the warehouse as the morning light pressed in at the high, narrow windows, blue then yellow then gold. They talked about nothing important: the wayhous

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