Otah turned. Danat stood in the doorway that led to the inner chambers. He wore the same robe that he had before, but the cloth sagged like an unmade bed. Danat's eyes were rimmed with red.
'Danat-kya,' Otah said. 'What's happened?'
'I've done as you said. s.h.i.+ja and I went to the rose pavilion. Just the two of us. I . . . spoke with her. I broke things off.'
'Ah,' Otah said. He walked back from the open windows and sat on a couch before the fire. Danat came forward, his eyes glittering with unfallen tears.
'This is my fault, Papa-kya. In a different world, I might have . . . I have been careless with her. I've hurt her.'
Was I ever as young as this? Otah thought, and immediately pressed it away. Even if the question was fair, it was unkind. He held out his hand, and his son - his tall, thick-shouldered son - sat beside him, curled into Otah's shoulder the way he had as a boy. Danat sobbed once.
'I only . . . I know you and Issandra-cha were relying on me and . . .'
Otah hushed the boy.
'You've taken a willing girl to bed,' Otah said. 'You aren't who she hoped you might be, and so she's disappointed. Yes?'
'There are worse things.' Otah saw again the darkness of Idaan's eyes. He was sending the woman behind those eyes after his Eiah, his little girl. The ghost of nausea touched him and he stroked Danat's hair. 'People have done worse.'
Maati frowned at the papers before him. A small fire crackled in the brazier on his desk, and he was more than half-tempted to drop the pages onto the flames. Eiah, sitting across from him, looked no more pleased.
'You're right,' he said. 'We're moving backward.'
'What's happened?' Eiah asked, though she knew as well as he did.
The few weeks that had pa.s.sed since Vanjit's successful binding had only grown more difficult. To start, the other students excepting Eiah were more distracted. The mewling and cries of the andat disrupted any conversation. Its awkward crawling seemed capable of entrancing them for a full morning. Perhaps he had known too much of the andat, but he held the growing impression that it was perfectly aware of the effect its toothless smile could have. And that it was especially cultivating the admiration of Ashti Beg.
Added to that, Vanjit herself had come almost disconnected from the rest. She would sit for whole days, the andat in her lap or at her breast, staring at water or empty air. Maati had some sympathy for that. She had shown him the most compelling of the wonders her new pow
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