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edvertisementideas > Seasons Of War > Part 47
Maati stopped at a stone bench, flicked a snail from the seat, and rested. Eiah sat at his side, hunched over, her elbows on her knees.

'You think we should stop this?' he asked. 'Call off the binding?'

'What reason could we give?'

'That Vanjit isn't ready.'

'It isn't true, though. Her mind is as good as any of ours will ever be. If I called this to a halt, I'd be saying I didn't trust her to be a poet. Because of what she's been through. That the Galts had taken that from her too. And if I say that of her, who won't it be true of? Ashti Beg lost her husband. Irit's father burned with his farm. Large Kae only had her womb turned sick and saw the Khai Utani slaughtered with his family. If we're looking for a woman who's never known pain, we may as well pack up our things now, because there isn't one.'

Maati let the silence stretch, in part to leave Eiah room to think. In part because he didn't know what wisdom he could offer.

'No, Uncle Maati, I don't want to stop. I only . . . I only hope this brings her some peace,' Eiah said.

'It won't,' Maati said, gently. 'It may heal some part of her. It may bring good to the world, but the andat have never brought peace to poets.'

'No. I suppose not,' Eiah said. Then, a moment later, 'I'm going into Pathai. I'll just need a cart and one of the horses.'

'Is there need?'

'We aren't starving, if that's what you mean. But buying at the markets there attracts less notice than going straight to the low towns. It would be better if no one knows there are people living out here. And there might be news.'

'And if there's news, there will be some idea of how soon Vanjit-cha will need to make her attempt.'

'I was thinking more of how much time I have,' Eiah said. She turned to look at him. The warm light of the candle and the cool glow of the moon made her seem like two different women at once. 'This doesn't rest on Vanjit. It doesn't rest on any of them. Binding an andat isn't enough to . . . fix things. It has to be the right one.'

'And Clarity-of-Sight isn't the right one?' he asked.

'It won't give any of these women babies. It won't put them back in the arms of the men who used to be their husbands or stop men like my father from trading in women's flesh like we were sheep. None of it. All the binding will do is prove that it can be done. That a solution exists. It doesn't even mean I'll be strong enough when my turn comes.'

Maati took her hand. He had known her for so many years. Her hand had been so small that first time he had seen her. He remembered her deep brown eyes, and the way she had gurgled and burrowed into her mother's cradling arms. He could still see the shape of that young face in the shape of her cheeks and the set of her jaw. He leaned over and kissed her hair. She looked up at him, amused to see him so easily moved.

'I was only thinking,' he said, 'how many of us there are carrying this whole burden alone.'

'I know I'm not alo

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