'You can explain to me while I pack our things.'
In the end, of course, he won. She had known he would. Nayiit could be as soft and gentle and implacable as snowfall. He was his father's son.
The calls of gulls grew louder as they neared the sh.o.r.e, the scent of smoke more present. The docks were narrower than the seafront of Saraykeht. A s.h.i.+p that put in here for the winter had to prepare itself to be icebound, immobile. Trade was with the eastern islands and Yalakeht; it was too far from the summer cities or Bakta or Galt for s.h.i.+ps to come from those distant ports.
The streets were black cobbles, and ice still haunted the alleys where shadows held the cold. Nayiit carried their crate strapped across his back. The wide leather belt cut into his shoulders, but he didn't complain. He rarely complained about anything, only did what he thought best with a pleasant smile and a calm explanation ready to hand.
Liat stopped at a firekeeper's kiln to ask directions to the compound of House Radaani and was pleased to discover it was nearby. Mother and son, they walked the fog-shrouded streets until they found the wide arches that opened to the courtyard gardens of the Radaani, torches flickering and guttering in the damp air. A boy in sodden robes rushed up and lifted the crate from Nayiit's back to his own. Liat was about to address him when another voice, a woman's voice lovely and low as a singer's, came from the dim.
'Liat-cha, I must a.s.sume. I'd sent men to meet you at the docks, but I'm afraid they came too late.'
The woman who stepped out from the fog had seen no more than twenty summers. Her robes were white snowfox, eerie in the combination of pale mourning colors and the luxury of the fur. Her hair shone black with cords of silver woven in the braids. She was beautiful, and likely would be for another five summers. Liat could already see the presentiment of jowls at the borders of her jaw.
'Ceinat Radaani,' Liat said, taking a pose of grat.i.tude. 'I am pleased to meet you in person at last. This is my son, Nayiit.'
The Radaani girl adopted a welcoming pose that included them both. Nayiit returned it, and Liat couldn't help noticing the way his eyes lingered on her and hers on him. Liat coughed, bringing their attention back to the moment. The girl took a pose of apology, and turned to lead them into the chambers and corridors of the compound.
In Saraykeht, the architecture tended to be open, encouraging the breezes to flow and cool. Northern buildings were more like great kilns, built to hold heat in their thick stone walls. The ceilings were low and fire grates burned in every room. The Radaani girl led them through a wide entrance chamber and back through a narrow corridor, speaking as she walked.
'My father is in Council with the Khai, but sends his regards and intends to join us as soon as he can return from the city proper. He would very much regret
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