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'You think they'll do it?'

'History doesn't move backward,' she said. 'There's power in them. And there are people who want power badly enough to kill and die. Eventually, someone will find a way.'

'Without Maati? Without Cehmai?'

'Or Irit, or Ashti Beg, or the two Kaes?' Eiah said. 'Without me? It will be harder. It will take longer. The cost in lives and failed bindings may be huge.'

'You're talking about generations from now,' Otah said.

'Yes,' Eiah said. 'Likely, I am.'

Otah nodded. It wasn't what he'd hoped to hear, but it would do. He took a pose that thanked Eiah. She bowed her head.

'Are you well?' he asked. 'It isn't an easy thing, killing.'

'Vanjit wasn't the first person I've killed, Father. Knowing when to help someone leave is part of what I do,' Eiah said. She looked up, staring at the moon through the bare branches that couldn't shelter them, even from light. 'I'm more troubled by what I could have done and didn't.'

Otah took a pose that asked her to elaborate. Eiah shook her head, and then a moment later spoke softly, as if the words themselves were delicate.

'I could have held all our enemies at bay just by the threat of Wounded,' she said. 'What army would take the field, knowing I could blow out their lives like so many candles? Who would conspire against us knowing that if their agents were discovered, I could slaughter their kings and princes without hope of defense?'

'It would have been convenient,' Otah agreed carefully.

'I could have slaughtered the men who killed Sinja-kya,' Eiah said. 'I could have ended every man who had ever taken a woman against her will or hurt a child. Between one breath and the next, I could have wiped them from the world.'

Eiah turned her gaze to him. In the cool moonlight, her eyes seemed lost in shadow.

'I look at those things - all the things I might have done - and I wonder whether I would have. And if I had, would they have been wrong?'

'And what do you believe?'

'I believe I saved myself when I set that perversion free,' she said. 'I only hope the price the rest of the world pays isn't too high.'

Otah stepped forward and took her in his arms. Eiah held back for a moment, and then relaxed into the embrace. She smelled of herbs and vinegar and blood. And mint. Her hair smelled of mint, just as her mother's had done.

'You should go see him,' she said. He knew who she meant.

'Is he well?'

'For now,' she said. 'He's weathered the attacks so far. But his blood's still slowing. I expect he'll be fine until he isn't, and then he'll die.'

'How long?'

'Not another year,' she said.

Otah closed his eyes.

'He misses you,' she said. 'You know he does.'

He stepped back and kissed her forehead. In the distance, someone screamed. Eiah glanced over his shoulder with disgust.

'That will be Yaniit,' she said. 'I'd best go tend to him. Tall as a tree, wide as a bear, and wails if you pinch him.'

'Take ca

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