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'What's the matter?' Kiyan asked. She was already dressed in the silk s.h.i.+ft that she slept in, her hair tied back from her thin foxlike face. It occurred to Otah for the first time just how long ago the sun had set. He sat on the bed at her side and let himself feel the aches in his back and knees.

'Sitting too long,' he said. 'I don't know why doing nothing should hurt as badly as hauling crates.'

Kiyan put a hand against his back, her fingers tracing his spine through the fine-spun wool of his robes.

'For one thing, you haven't hauled a crate for your living in thirty summers.'

'Twenty-five,' he said, leaning back into the soft pressure of her hands. 'Twenty-six now.'

'For another, you've hardly done nothing. As I recall, you were awake before the sun rose.'

Otah considered the sleeping chamber - the domed ceiling worked in silver, the wood and bone inlay of the floor and walls, the rich gold netting that draped the bed, the still, somber flame of the lantern. The east wall was stone - pink granite thin as eggsh.e.l.l that glowed when the sun struck it. He couldn't recall how long it had been since he'd woken to see that light. Last summer, perhaps, when the nights were shorter. He closed his eyes and lay back into the soft, enfolding bed. His weight pressed out the scent of crushed rose petals. Eyes closed, he felt Kiyan s.h.i.+ft, the familiar warmth and weight of her body resting against him. She kissed his temple.

'Our friend from the Dai-kvo will finally leave soon. A message came recalling him,' Otah said. 'That was a bright moment. Though the G.o.ds only know what kept him here so long. Sinja's likely halfway to the Westlands by now.'

'The envoy stayed for Maati's work,' Kiyan said. 'Apparently he hardly left the library these last weeks. Eiah's been keeping me informed.'

'Well, the G.o.ds and Eiah, then,' Otah said.

'I'm worried about her. She's brooding about something. Can you speak with her?'

Dread touched Otah's belly, and a moment's resentment. It had been such a long day, and here waiting for him like a stalking cat was another problem, another need he was expected to meet. The thought must have expressed itself in his body, because Kiyan sighed and rolled just slightly away.

'You think it's wrong of me,' Kiyan said.

'Not wrong,' Otah said. 'Unnecessary isn't wrong.'

'I know. At her age, you were living on the streets in the summer cities, stealing pigeons off firekeeper's kilns and sleeping in alleys. And you came through just fine.'

'Oh,' Otah said. 'Have I told that story already?'

'Once or twice,' she said, laughing gently. 'It's just that she seems so distant. I think there's something bothering her that she won't say. And then I wonder whether it's only that she won't say it to me.'

'And why would she talk to me if she won't she talk to you?'

When he felt Kiyan shrug, Otah opened his eyes and rolled to his side. There were tears s.h.i.+ning in his

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