Maati took a pose that offered apology but also pointedly did not end the conversation. Vanjit considered him.
'I love Eiah-cha,' she said, frowning. 'I would never, never wish her ill. Suggesting that I want her to fail just so I could remain the only poet . . . it's madness. It hurts me that you would say it.'
'I never did,' Maati said. 'I never said anything like it. If that's what you heard, then something else is happening here.'
Vanjit s.h.i.+fted back, surprise and dismay in her expression. Her hands moved toward some formal pose, but never reached it. The shriek came from within the wayhouse. The music stopped. Vanjit stood up muttering something violent and obscene, but Maati was already moving to the door.
The large room was silent, drums and flute abandoned where they had fallen. The woman who'd screamed was sitting on a stool, her hands still pressed to her mouth, her face bloodless, and her gaze fixed on the archway that led to the private rooms. No one spoke. Clarity-of-Sight stood in the archway, its hands on the wall, its tiny hips swaying crazily as it lost and regained and lost its balance. It saw Vanjit, let out a high squeal, and waved its tiny arms before sitting down hard and suddenly. The delight never left its face.
'It is,' someone said in a voice woven from awe and tears. 'It's a baby.'
And as if the word had broken a dam, chaos flowed through the way-house. Vanjit dashed forward, her hands low to scoop up the andat, and the crowd surged with her. The chorus of questions and shouts rose, filling the air. Maati started forward, then stopped. The older of the drummers appeared from amid the throng and embraced him, tears of joy in the man's eyes.
Through the press of the crowd, Maati saw Eiah standing alone. Her expression was cold. Maati pulled back from his grinning companion and struggled toward her. He heard Vanjit talking high and fast behind him, but couldn't make out the words. There were too many voices layered over it.
'Apparently we've decided not to travel quietly,' Eiah said in tone of cold acid.
'Get the others,' he said. 'I'll prepare the cart. We can leave in the night.'
'You think anyone here is going to sleep tonight?' Eiah said. 'There's a baby. A full-blooded child of the cities, and Vanjit the mother. If the G.o.ds themselves walked in the door right now, they'd have to wait for a room. They'll think it's to do with me. The physician who has found a way to make women bear. They'll hound me like I've stolen their teeth.'
'I'm sorry,' Maati said.
'Word of this is going to spread. Father's going to hear of it, and when he does, he'll be on our heels.'
'Why would he think it was you?'
'Galt went blind, and he headed west. For Pathai. For me,' Eiah said.
'He can't know you're part of this,' Maati said.
'Of course he can,' Eiah said. 'I
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