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."You yourself are a servant to many, then?""Yes, lord, this one was, when among his own kind."But there are none of your kind to serve here, Supaari thought.Confounded, he fell back against the pile of dining cushions on which he had lingered as the leavings of his meal cooled, and thought wistfully of the days when his most perplexing problem was predicting next season’s demand for kirt."Sandoz," he said, reaching out to grip some kind of certainty, "what is your purpose? Why did you come here?""Lord: to study the gifts of the tongue—to learn the songs of your people.""Ha’an told me this!" Supaari cried, making sense at last of something Anne Edwards had once said."You came because you heard the songs of our poets and admired them." He stared at Sandoz: not an interpreter bred to trade, but a second-born who chose to make no children, and a poet who serves many! No wonder Sandoz had shown no interest in commerce! That was when everything fell into place-it seemed brilliant, at the time."Would it please you to serve among the poets whose songs brought you here, Sandoz?"For the first time in a full season, the foreigner seemed to brighten."Yes, lord.This would honor your most unworthy guest.Truly."So Supaari set out to make this possible.The negotiations were delicate, intricate, delicious.In the end, he achieved a subtle and beautifully balanced transaction: the crowning achievement of a remarkably successful mercantile career.The foreigner Sandoz would be provided with a life of service to Hlavin Kitheri, the Reshtar of Galatna, whose diminishing poetic power might once more be lifted to greatness by inspiring encounters with the foreigner.The Reshtar’s younger sister, Jholaa, would be released from the enforced barrenness of her existence, as would Supaari himself, by their marriage and by the foundation of the new Darjan lineage with full breeding rights.Since Supaari VaGayjur’s own wealth would endow the Darjan, the Most Noble Patrimony of Inbrokar gained a third sept without any hint of unseemly inconstancy: an ideal multiplication of descent lines with no division of inheritance.Agreement reached, the transfer of custody took place.Sandoz appeared to settle into the Reshtar’s household reasonably well after his placement in Galatna Palace.Supaari himself had overseen the foreigner’s presentation to the Reshtar; he was, in fact, a little unnerved by the pathetic, trembling eagerness with which Sandoz invited Kitheri’s attentions.But the merchant left Galatna Palace elated over his own good fortune, and believing that he had done right by Sandoz.It wasn’t long before Supaari realized that there might have been some kind of misunderstanding."How does the foreigner?" he inquired some days after the transfer, hoping to hear that Sandoz was thriving."Well indeed," was the reply.Even after his initiation, the Reshtar’s secretary reported, Sandoz was extraordinary: "Fights like a virgin every time." The Reshtar was pleased and had already produced a splendid song cycle.His best in years, everyone said.The puzzle, Supaari learned, was that the foreigner reacted to sex with violent sickness.This was disturbing but, Supaari thought, it was evidently normal for his kind.One of the other foreigners had been bred just before she was killed in the Kashan riot, and Sofia too had trouble with nausea.In any case, the deal was done; there was no second-guessing it now.And the Reshtar’s poetry was lovely.So was Supaari’s new home, the city of Inbrokar; so was his new wife, the lady Jholaa.But then the poetry took a very odd turn, and the Reshtar was silenced.And Inbrokar was maddeningly boring compared to the bustle of Gayjur.Jholaa, Supaari noted wryly, was not boring but she was, quite likely, mad.And Sandoz was gone now, sent back to wherever he came from by the second party from H’earth, which had itself disappeared.Returned to H’earth as well, most likely.Who knew?In view of how the mating had turned out, Supaari was inclined to wish he’d never known any of them—Sandoz, the Reshtar, Jholaa.Fool: this is what comes of change, Supaari told himself.Move a pebble, risk a landslide.It was then that Supaari realized with sickening certainty that if he was to sire another child to take this one’s place, his second encounter with Jholaa would be even uglier than the first.At this level of society, bloodlines were guarded like treasure, and it occurred to him that Jholaa had probably never even seen Runa bred, which was the way most commoners got their first instruction in sex [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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