Nayiit nodded, and then a moment later, he smiled. It was the same charming smile she'd known when she was a girl and it had been on different lips. Nayiit would charm the girl, say something sweet and funny, and the pain would be forgotten for a time. He was his father's son. Son of the Khai Machi. Eldest son, and doomed to the fratricidal struggle of succession that stained every city in each generation. She wondered how far Otah would go to avoid that, to keep his boy safe from her schemes. That conversation had to come, and soon. Perhaps it would be best if she took it to the Khai herself, if she stopped waiting for him to find a right moment.
Nayiit took a querying pose, and Liat shook herself. She waved his concern away.
'I'm tired,' she said. 'I've come all this way back to have my own bed to myself, and I'm still not in it. I'm too old to sleep in a lover's arms. They twitch and snore and keep me awake all night.'
'They do, don't they?' Nayiit said. 'Does it get better, do you think? With enough time, would you be so accustomed to it, you'd sleep through?'
'I don't know,' Liat said. 'I've never made the attempt.'
'Like mother, like son, I suppose,' Nayiit said as he rose. He bent and kissed the crown of her head before he retreated back into the shadows.
Like mother, like son.
Liat pulled her robe tighter and sat near the fire, as if touched by a sudden chill.
The jeweler was a small man, squat but broad. To his credit, he seemed truly ill at ease. It took courage, Otah thought as he listened, to bring a matter such as this before a Khai. He wondered how many others had seen something of the sort and looked away. Any merchant has to expect some losses from theft. And after all, she was the daughter of the Khai . . .
When it was over - and it seemed to take half a day, though it couldn't have lasted more than half a hand - Otah thanked the man, ordered that payment be made to him, and waited calm and emotionless until the servants and court followers had gone. Only the body servants remained, half a dozen men and women of the utkhaiem who dedicated their lives to bringing him a cracker if he felt like one, or a cup of limed water.
'Find Eiah and take her to the blue chamber. Bring her under guard if you have to.'
'Under guard?' the eldest of the servants said.
'No, don't. Just bring her. See that she gets there.'
'Most High,' the man said, taking a pose that accepted the command. Otah rose and walked out of the room without replying. He stalked the halls of the palace, ignoring the Master of Tides and his ineffectual flapping papers, ignoring the poses of obeisance and respect turned to him wherever he went, looking only for Kiyan. The rest of these people were unimportant.
He found her in the great kitchens, standing beside
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