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Ana Dasin frowned, hard lines marking her face. But then she nodded.

'It makes very little difference whether I die in the city or on the road,' she said. 'If this isn't treachery on the part of the Khaiem, then I don't see that I have anything to fear.'

'We are on an improvised campaign against powers we cannot match. I can name half-a-dozen things to fear without stopping to think,' Otah said. He sighed, and the Galtic girl's expression hardened. Otah went on, letting a hint of bleak amus.e.m.e.nt into his voice. 'But I suppose if you've come, you've come. Welcome to our hunt, Ana-cha.'

He nodded to his son and stepped back. Her voice recalled him.

'Most High,' she said. 'I want to believe Danat. I want to think that he had nothing to do with this.'

'He didn't,' Otah said. The girl weighed his words, and then seemed to accept them.

'And you?' she said. 'Was any of this yours?'

Otah smiled. The girl couldn't see him, but Danat did.

'Only my inattention,' Otah said. 'It's a failure I've come to correct.'

'So the andat can blind you as easily as he has us,' Ana said, stepping out of the shed and onto the steamcart. 'You aren't protected any more than I am.'

'That's true,' Otah said.

Ana went silent, then smiled. In the dim light of the fire, he could see her mother in the shape of her cheek.

'And yet you take our side rather than ally with the poets,' she said. 'So which of us is mad?'

18.

The snow fell and stayed, as deep as Maati's three fingers together. The winds of autumn whistled through the high, narrow windows that had never known gla.s.s. The women - Eiah, Irit, and the two Kaes - were in a small room, cl.u.s.tered around a brazier and talking with hushed fervor about grammar and form, the distinctions between age and wounds and madness. Vanjit, wrapped in thick woolen robes and a cloak of waxed silk, was sitting on a high wall, her gaze to the east. She sang lullabies to Clarity-of-Sight, and her voice would have been beautiful if she'd been cradling a real babe. Maati considered interrupting her or else returning to the work with the others, but both options were worse than remaining alone. He turned away from the great bronze door and retreated into the darkness.

It would be only weeks until winter was upon them. Not the killing storms of the north, but enough that even the short journey to Pathai would become difficult. He tried to imagine the long nights and cold that waited for him, for all of them, and he wondered how they would manage it.

A darkness had taken Eiah since her return. He saw it in her eyes and heard the rasp of it in her voice, but there was no lethargy about it. She was awake before him every morning and took to her bed long after sunset. Her attention was bent to the work of her binding, and her ferocity seemed to pull the others in her wake. Only Vanjit held herself apart, attending only some of Eiah's discussions. It was as if there were a set amou

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