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.And if you hope on that account that I will let you leave our company and go to them, I must tell you I will not.”“You don’t believe me.”“I don’t believe you know what they will do, either your kind or the regul.”Duncan was silent thereafter, staring into nothing.He looked very worn and very tired.He rubbed at a line of dried blood that had settled into an unshaven trail; and he was quiet again, but seemed not apt to sleep.“Don’t run again,” Niun advised him, for he disliked the human’s mood.“Don’t try.I have made you too easy with us.Do not trust it.”Brown eyes flicked up at him, tsi’mri and disturbing.Duncan gathered himself up to a sitting position, moving as if every muscle ached, and rubbed his head with a grimace of discomfort.“I had rather stay alive,” Duncan said, “like you would.”The words stung.They were too nearly true.“That is not all that matters,” Niun said.“I know that,” Duncan said.“A truce.A truce: a peace between us at least until you’ve got her to somewhere safe, until she’s well.I know you’d kill for her; I know that under other circumstances you might not.I understand that whatever she is, she’s someone very special—to you.”“A she’pan,” said Niun, “is Mother to a house.She is the last A kel’en is only the instrument of her decisions.I can make no promises except for my own choice.”“Can there not be another generation?” Duncan asked suddenly, in his innocence, and Niun felt the embarrassment, but he did not take offense.“Can you not—if things were otherwise??”“We are bloodkin, and her caste does not mate,” he answered softly, moved to explain what mri had never explained to outsiders: but it was simply kel lore, and it was not forbidden to say.It lent him courage, to affirm again the things that had always been fixed and true.“Kath’en or kel’e’en could bear me children for her, but there are none.There is no other way for us.We either survive as we were, or we have failed to survive.We are mri; and that is more than the name of a species, Duncan.It is an old, old way.It is our way.And we will not change.”“I will not be the cause,” said Duncan, “of finishing the regul’s handiwork.I’ll stay with you.I made my try.Maybe again, sometime, maybe, but not to anyone’s hurt, hers or yours.I have time.I have all the time in the world.”“And we do not,” said Niun.He thought with a wrench of fear that Duncan, wiser than he in some things, for human kel’ein were able to cross castes—suspected that Melein would not live; and it answered a fear in his own heart.He looked to see how she was resting; and she was still asleep.The sight of her regular breathing quietly reassured him.“With time and quiet,” said Duncan, “perhaps she will mend.”“I accept your truce,” said Niun, and in great weariness, he unfastened his veil and looped the end of the mez over his shoulder, baring his face to the human.It was hard, shaming to do; he had never shown his face to any tsi’mri; but he had taken this for an ally, even for the moment, and in the tightness of things, Duncan deserved to see him as he was.Duncan looked long at him, until the embarrassment became acute and Niun flinched from that stare.“The mez is a necessity in the heat and the dryness,” Niun said.“But I am not ashamed to see your face.The mez is not necessary between us.”And he curled himself against the pan’en, and against the solid softness of the dus, and attempted to rest, taking what ease he could, for they would move with the coolness and concealment of evening, at a time when surely regul trusted even a mri would not dare the cliffs.There was the sound of an aircraft, distant, a reminder of alien presence in the environs of Sil’athen.Niun heard it, and gathered himself up to listen, to be sure how close or how far it was.Melein was awake, and Duncan stirred, seeking at once the direction of the sound.It was evening.The pillars had turned red, burning in the twilight.Arain was visible through them, a baleful red disk, rippling in the heat of the sands.Melein sought to rise.Niun quickly offered her his hands and helped her, and she was no longer too proud to accept that help.He looked at her drawn face and thought of his own necessary burden [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]