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'Yes,' Otah said. 'Burn the books, stop them from binding the andat. Go back, and try to put the world back together again.'

'Only . . . only then how do we fix the people in Galt? How do we cure Ana?'

'There's a decision to make,' Otah said. 'Doing this quickly and well means letting Galt remain sightless.'

'Then we can't kill the poet,' Danat said.

Otah took a long breath.

'Think about that before you say it,' he said. 'This is likely the only chance we'll have to take them by surprise. The Galts in Saraykeht are safe enough. The ones in their own cities are likely dead already. The others could be sacrificed, and it would keep us alive.'

'And childless, so what would the advantage be?' Danat said. 'Everything you'd tried to do would be destroyed.'

'Everything I wanted to do has already been destroyed,' Otah said. 'There isn't a solution to this. Not anymore. I'm reduced to looking for the least painful way that it can end. I don't see how we take these pieces and make a world worth living in.'

Danat was silent and still, then took Otah's hand.

'I can,' Danat said. 'There's hope. There's still hope.'

'This poet? Everything Ashti Beg says paints her as angry and petty and cruel at heart. She hates the Galts and thinks little enough of me. That's the woman we would be trying to reason with. And if she chooses, there is more than Galt to lose.'

Danat took a pose that accepted the stakes like a man at a betting table. He would put the world and everything in it at risk for the chance that remained to save Ana's home. Otah hesitated, and then replied with a pose that stood witness to the decision. A feeling of pride warmed him.

Kiyan-kya, he thought, we have raised a good man. Please all the G.o.ds that we've also raised a wise one.

'I'll go tell the others,' Danat said.

He rose and walked for the door, pausing only when Otah called after him. Danat, at the doorway, looked back.

'It's the right choice,' Otah said. 'No matter how poorly this happens, you made the right choice.'

'There wasn't an option,' Danat said.

It had been clear enough that no matter what the next step was, it wouldn't involve staying at the school. Under Idaan's direction, the armsmen were already refilling the water and coal stores for the steamcarts, packing what little equipment they had used, and preparing themselves for the road. The sky was white where it wasn't gray, the snow blurring the horizon. Ashti Beg sat alone beside the great bronze doors that had once opened only for the Dai-kvo. They were stained with verdigris and stood ajar. No one besides Otah saw the significance of it.

Midmorning saw a thinning of the clouds, a weak, pale blue forcing its way through the very top of the sky's dome. The horses were in harness, the carts showing their billows of mixed smoke and steam, and everything was at the ready except Idaan and Ana. The armsmen waited, ready to leave. Otah and Danat went back.

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