'I was just wondering how your brother was,' he said.
'Better. He's hardly coughing at all anymore. Everyone's saying he has weak lungs, but I was just as sick when I was young, and I'm just fine.'
'People tell stories,' Maati said. 'It keeps them amused, I suppose.'
'What would happen if Danat died?'
'Your father would be expected to take a new, younger wife and produce a son to take his place. More than one, if he could. That's part of why the utkhaiem are so worried about Danat. If he died and no brothers were forthcoming, it would be bad for the city. All the most powerful houses would start fighting over who would be the new Khai. People would probably be killed.'
'Well, Danat won't die,' Eiah said. 'So it doesn't matter. Did you know him?'
'My real uncle. Danat. The one Danat's named for?'
'No,' Maati said. 'Not really. I met him once.'
'Did you like him?'
Maati tried to remember what it had been like, all those years ago. The Dai-kvo had summoned him. That had been the old Dai-kvo - Tahi-kvo. He'd never met the new one. Tahi-kvo had brought him to meet the two men, and set him the task that had ended with Otah on the chair and himself living in the court of Machi. It had been a different lifetime.
'I don't recall liking him or disliking him,' Maati said. 'He was just a man I'd met.'
Eiah sighed impatiently.
'Tell me about another one,' she said.
'Well. There was a poet in the First Empire before people understood that andat were harder and harder to capture each time they escaped. He tried to bind Softness with the same binding another poet had used a generation before. Of course it didn't work.'
'Because a new binding has to be different,' Eiah said.
'But he didn't know that.'
'What happened to him?'
'His joints all froze in place. He was alive, but like a statue. He couldn't move at all.'
'How did he eat?'
'He didn't. They tried to give him water by forcing it up his nostrils, and he drowned on it. When they examined his body, all the bones were fused together as if they had never been separate at all. It looked like one single thing.'
'That's disgusting,' she said. It was something she often said. Maati grinned.
They talked for another half a hand, Maati telling tales of failed bindings, of the prices paid by poets of old who had attempted the greatest trick in the world and fallen short. Eiah listened and pa.s.sed her own certain judgment. They finished the last of the almond cakes and called a servant girl in to carry the plates away. Eiah left just as the sun peeked out between the low clouds and the high peaks in the west, brightness flaring gold for a long moment before the city fell into its long twilight. Alone again, Maati told himself that the darkness was only about the accidents of sunlight, and not his young friend's absence.
He could still remember the first time he'd seen Eiah. She'd been tiny
Click here to report chapter errors,After the report, the editor will correct the chapter content within two minutes, please be patient.