'I . . .' he said. 'There must . . . there must be a way.'
'What was I supposed to be that I wasn't?' Vanjit asked as she walked toward the black chair with its tiny beast. 'You knew what the Galts had done to me. Did you want me to get this power, and then forget? Forgive? Was this supposed to be the compensation for their deaths?'
'No,' Maati said. 'No, of course not.'
'No,' she said. 'Because you didn't care when I blinded them, did you? That was my decision. My burden, if I chose to take it up. Innocent women. Children. I could destroy them, and you could treat it as justice, but I went too far. I blinded you. For half a hand, I turned it against you, and for that, I deserved to die.'
'The andat, Vanjit-kya,' Maati said, his voice breaking. 'They have always schemed against their poets. They have manipulated the people around them in terrible ways. Eiah and I . . .'
'You hear that?' Vanjit said, scooping up Clarity-of-Sight. The andat's black eyes met hers. 'This is your doing.'
The andat cooed and waved its arms. Vanjit smiled as if at some unspoken jest, shared only between those two.
'I thought I would make the world right again,' Vanjit said. 'I thought I could make a baby. Make a family.'
'You thought you could save the world,' Maati said.
'I thought you could,' she said in a voice like cold vinegar. 'Look at me.'
'I don't understand,' he said.
Her face sharpened. He saw the smudge of dust along her cheek, the stippled pores along her cheek, the individual hairs smaller than the thinnest threads. Her eyes were labyrinths of blood mapped on the whites, and the pupils glowed like a wolf's where the candlelight reflected from their depths. Her skin was a mosaic, tiny scales that broke and scattered with every movement. Insects too small to see scuttled through the roots of her hair, her eyelashes.
Maati's stomach turned, a deep nausea taking him. He closed his eyes, pressing his palms into the lids.
'Please,' he said, and Vanjit wrenched his hands away from his face.
'Look at me!' she shouted. 'Look!'
Reluctantly, slowly, Maati opened his eyes. There was too much. Vanjit was no longer a woman but a landscape as wide as the world, moving, breaking, s.h.i.+fting. Looking at her was being tossed on an infinite sea.
'Can you see my pain, Maati-kvo? Can you see it?'
No, he tried to say, but his throat closed against his illness. Vanjit pushed him away, and he spun, a thousand details a.s.saulting him in the s.p.a.ce of a heartbeat. He fell to the stone floor and retched.
'I didn't think you would,' she said.
'Please,' Maati said.
'You've taken it from me,' Vanjit said. 'You and Eiah. All the others. I was ready to do anything for you. I risked death. I did. And you don't even know me.'
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