'And you won't still want me when you've reached the age?'
'Well. Fair point.'
'His hands bother him most,' Idaan said. 'It's a pity about his hands.'
Lightning flashed on the horizon, less than a firefly. Idaan twined her fingers with his and sighed.
'Have I mentioned recently how much I appreciate you coming to find me? Back when you were an outlaw and I was still a judge, I mean,' she asked.
'I never tire of hearing it,' Cehmai said.
The tomcat leaped on his lap, dug its claws into his robe twice, kneading him like bread dough, and curled up.
For even if the flower grows from an ancient vine, the flowers of spring are themselves new to the world, untried and untested.
Eiah motioned for Otah to sit. She was gentle as always with his crippled hands. He sat back down slowly. The servants had brought his couches out to a wide garden, but with the coming sunset he'd have to be moved again. Eiah tried to impress on her father's servants that what he needed and what he wanted weren't always the same. She'd given up convincing Otah years earlier.
'How are you feeling?' she asked, sitting beside him. 'You look tired.'
'It was a long day,' Otah said. 'I slept well enough, but I can never stay in bed past dawn. When I was young, I could sleep until midday. Now that I have the time and no one would object, I'm up with the birds. Does that seem right to you?'
'The world was never fair.'
'Truth. All the G.o.ds know that's the truth.'
She took his wrists as if it were nothing more than the contact of father and daughter. Otah looked at her impatiently, but he suffered it. She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the subtle differences of his pulses.
'I heard you woke confused again,' she said. 'You were calling for someone called Muhatia-cha?'
'I had a dream. That's all,' Otah said. 'Muhatia was my overseer back when I was young. I dreamed that I was late for my s.h.i.+ft. I needed to get to the seafront before he docked my pay. That was all. I'm not losing my mind, love. My health, maybe, but not my mind. Not yet.'
'I didn't think you were. Turn here. Let me look at your eyes. Have the headaches come back?'
'No,' Otah said, and she knew by his voice he was lying. It was time to stop asking details. There was only so much physician's attention her father would permit. She sat back on the couch, and he let out a small, satisfied breath.
'You saw Issandra Dasin?' she asked.
'Yes, yes. She spent the better part of the afternoon here,' Otah said. 'The things they've done with Chaburi-Tan are amazing. I was thinking I might go myself. Just to see them.'
'It would be fascinating,' Eiah agreed. 'I hear Farrer-cha's doing well?'
'He's made more out of that city than I could have. But then I was never particularly brilliant with administration. I had other skills, I suppose,' Otah said. 'Enough ab
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