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.“By the serpent-demon’s influence, my uncle the gur-khan died as well.Be grateful you never met her.”Daritai nodded, partly to acknowledge the answer, but just as much, Tayy thought, because he was stunned by exhaustion.They would have to deal with the whole conquest and invasion thing soon enough, but Tayy had a feeling they’d work that out in time.“Come back with me,” he said.“Take your rest while our living sort their dead.”Daritai nodded again, but the intelligence was returning to his eyes.“We have much to discuss,” he said.“In time.” Tayy nudged the mare under him to a walk and let her go home at her own pace.Daritai followed.“After we’ve cleaned the dead off our hands, we can have a thought for politics.”With their dead by thousands on the ground they traveled, he couldn’t find it in his heart to think about politics at all.But politics had put the dead there.Politics would end it now or see them falling on one another in another war, if he had not yet learned the lessons Mergen had died for.Yesugei seemed pleased with him so he figured he must be doing all right.“Huh.There she is.” Daritai grunted.He was looking up into the sun and Tayy shaded his eyes to follow his gaze.A speck.A bird.The golden eagle landed shakily on the pommel of Daritai’s horse and then slid off into his lap.The Tinglut prince winced, and then the eagle turned into Tayy’s grandmother.“My Lady Bortu.” Tayy refused to show his surprise.So did she.“You’re looking well, grandson.Death seems to have been good for you.But I think your lady wife would like it if you didn’t try it again.”“I live only to please my lady wife,” Tayy agreed.He’d meant it as a joke when he said it, but the words unfolded like a flower in his heart.Eluneke’s smile felt like a kiss.Chapter Forty-sixWHEN THEY HAD honored their dead, Tayy ordered the camp moved, and further declared that the Qubal would bend their course in future so that they might never camp by the little dell on the river again.So it was with some sorrow that he made his last visit before he took horse.Eluneke, who would become his wife at their next camp, accompanied him, her face as wistful as his own.“Prince Daritai is waiting to say good-bye,” she reminded him.“He can wait a little longer.” The Tinglut prince, accompanied by his own survivors of the recent shaman’s war and a handful of Qubal thousands, carried with him a betrothal contract between his own son Tumbinai and the Princess Orda.Tayy would have preferred to wait until after the election for gur-khan, but Daritai needed the leverage of the proposed marriage to free the groom, held hostage by his grandfather.The princess was determined that no harm come to her beloved Tumbi.But first, Tayy had his own good-bye to make.“This is where we first spoke to each other,” he said, and took Eluneke’s hand in his.He’d lost his best friend to this river in his first battle and found a new one in the god-king Llesho.Here he’d lost his father and started on the adventures that led him through slavery and near-murder to the Cloud Country.He’d come to know his wife here.In this little dell, the tent city and all its tribulations seemed far away and he could forget, for a moment, the many dead they’d lost here.He could remember, for a moment, the happy times.But too much sorrow brought bad luck to a place.He was glad to be leaving it behind.“Ribbit!” King Toad showed himself with his crown of leaves.“So you’re going at last.”“Yes, we’re going.” Eluneke took up the conversation with her totem.King Toad bobbed his head, not to show submission, since he would never admit the superiority of a human khan, but to acknowledge the wisdom of this decision.“I can’t say we’ll miss you—humans make it hard for the toads,” he said in the language of the toads.“But you’ve given us plenty of stories to tell.For that we’ll be grateful.”“I’m glad.” Eluneke bowed to show her respect, but he was gone before she straightened again.“I guess it’s really time,” she said.He nodded and took her hand, and together they climbed out of the dell for the last time, back to the ulus where they served as khan and, soon, khaness.Before they left the shelter of the trees, however, Tayy leaned over and kissed her.She kissed him back, and the pine needles were soft and smelled like summer.The egg had grown thin and stretched as the offspring grew within it.Arms, pink and green, moved.Legs kicked.An egg tooth sharp as a knife cut into the leathery case.Pink fingers with pale green scales along their backs clutched at the shell and pulled as the egg tooth did its work and then dropped off in the splinters of the casing.The ground was soft and warm.The grass tickled his nose.The child looked up into a blue-and-golden sky and gurgled happily.Then he rolled over, dug his toes into the dirt, and crawled away [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]