statues of old-time Lamais seemed more stony-chill and stark than ever. Thanks, Momma Claire, she thought, pondering those parting words. I’ll do just that.

And our first rule, if Leie and I ever start our own clan, will be—no statues!

* * *

Maia found Leie munching a stolen apple, leaning against the merchants’ gate, looking beyond the thick walls of Lamatia Hold to where cobblestone streets threaded downhill past the noble clanholds of Port Sanger. In the distance, a cloud of hovering, iridescent zoor-floaters used rising air currents to drift above the harbor masts, on the lookout for scraps from the fishing fleet. The creatures lent rare, festive colors to the morning, like the gaudy kite-balloons children would fly on Mid-Winter’s Day.

Maia stared at her twin’s ragged haircut and rough attire. “Lysos, I hope I don’t look like that!”

“Your prayer is answered,” Leie answered with a blithe shrug. “You got no hope of looking this good. Catch.”

Maia grabbed a second apple out of the air. Of course Leie had swiped two. On matters of health, her sister was devoted to her welfare. Their plan wouldn’t work without two of them.

“Look.” Leie gestured with her chin toward the slope-sided clanhold chapel, where a group of five-year summer girls had gathered on the portico. Rosin and Kirstin munched sweet cakes nervously, careful not to get crumbs on their borrowed gowns. Their braids were all primly tied with blue ribbons, ready to be clipped in ceremony by the clan archivist. In cynical conjecture, Leie bet that the pragmatic mothers traded all that glossy hair to burrower colonies to use as nest material, in exchange for a few pints of zee-honey.

Each of those young women bore a family resemblance, having effectively shared the same mother as Maia and Leie. Still, the half sisters had grown up knowing, even better than the twins did, what it meant to be unique.

They must be even more scared than I am, Maia thought sympathetically.

Within the dim recesses of the chapel, she made out several senior Lamai and the priestess who had come up from the city temple to officiate. Maia envisioned wax candles being lit, setting a flicker the deep-incised lettering that rimmed the stone sanctum with quotations from the Founders’ Book and, along one entire wall, the enigmatic Riddle of Lysos. Closing her eyes, she could picture every carven meter, feel the rough texture of the pillars, almost smell the incense.

Maia didn’t regret her choice, following Leie’s example and spurning all the hypocrisy. And yet …

“Suck-ups,” Leie snapped, dismissing their peers with a disdaining snort. “Want to watch them graduate?”

After a pause, Maia answered with a headshake. She thought of a stanza by the poet Wayfarer …

Summer brings the sun, to spread across the land. But winter abides long, for those who understand.

“No. Let’s just get out of here.”

* * *

Lamai clan mothers had their hands in shipping and high finance, as well as management of the city-state. Of the seventeen major, and ninety minor matriarchies in Port Sanger, Lamatia was among the most prominent.

You wouldn’t imagine it, walking the market districts…There were some russet-haired Lamais about, proud and uniformly buxom in their finely woven kilts, striding ahead of hulking lugars in livery, laden with packages. Still, among the bustling stalls and warehouses, members of the patrician caste seemed as scarce as summer folk, or even the occasional man.

There were plenty of stocky, pale-skinned Ortyns in sight, especially wherever goods were being loaded or unloaded. Identical except in the scars of individual happenstance, the pug-nosed Ortyns seldom spoke. Among themselves words seemed unnecessary. Few of that clan became savants, to be sure, but their physical strength and skill as teamsters—handling the temperamental sash-horses—made them formidable in their niche. “Why keep and feed lugars,” went a local saying, “when you can hire Ortyns to move it for you.”

A gang of those stocky clones had Musician’s Way snarled, their dray obstructing traffic as six identical women wrestled with a block and tackle slung from the rafter of an upper-story workshop. Like many buildings in this part of town, this one leaned over the street, each floor jutting a little farther on corbeled supports. In some neighborhoods, edifices met above the narrow road, forming arches that blocked the sky.

A crowd had gathered, entranced by the creaking load high above—an upright harp-spinet, constructed of fine wood inlay by the Pasarg clan of musical craftswomen for export to one of the faraway cities of the west. Perhaps it would ride the Grim Bird along with Maia and Leie… if the workers got it safely to ground first. A gaggle of the sallow-faced, long-fingered Pasargs had gathered below, trilling nervously whenever the sash-horses stamped, setting the cargo swaying overhead. If it crashed, a season’s profits might be ruined.

To other onlookers, the tense moment highlighted a drab autumn morning. Hawkers converged, selling roasted nuts and scent-sticks to the gathering crowd. Slender money rods were swapped in bundles or broken to make change.

“Winter’s comin’, so get yerself a’ready!” shouted an ovop seller with her basket of bitter contraceptive herbs. “Men are finally coolin’ off, but can you trust yerself with glory frost due?”

Other tradeswomen carried reed cages containing live birds and Stratoin hiss lizards, some of them trained to warble popular tunes. One young Charnoss clone tried to steer a herd of gangly llamas past the high wheels of the jiggling wagon, and got tangled with a political worker wearing a sandwich board advertising the virtues of a candidate in the upcoming council elections.

Leie bought a candied tart and joined those gasping and cheering as the delicately carved spinet narrowly escaped clipping a nearby wall. But Maia found it more interesting to watch the Ortyn team on the back of the wagon, working together to free the jammed winch. It was a rare electrical device, operating on battery power. She had never seen Ortyns use one before, and thought it likely they had mishandled it in some way. None of the clans in Port Sanger specialized in the repair of such things, so it came as no surprise when, without a word or any other apparent sign, the Ortyns gave up trying to make it work. One member of the team grabbed the release catch while the others, as in a choreographed dance, turned and raised callused hands to seize the rope. There were no cries or shouts of cadence; each Ortyn seemed to know her sisters’ state of readiness as the latch let go. Muscles bunched across broad backs. Smoothly, the cargo settled downward, kissing the wagon bed with deceptive gentleness. There were cheers and a few disappointed boos as money sticks changed hands, settling wagers. Maia and her twin hoisted their duffels once more, Leie finishing her tart while Maia turned pensive.

The Ortyns almost read each others’ minds. How are Leie and I supposed to fake something like that?

When they were younger, she and her sister sometimes used to finish each other’s sentences, or knew when and where the other was in pain. But at best it had been a tentative link, nothing like the bond among clones, whose mothers, aunts, and grandmothers shared both genes and common upbringing, stretching back generations. Moreover, the twins had lately seemed to diverge, rather than coalesce. Of the two, Maia felt her sister had more of the hard practicality needed to succeed in this world.

“Ortyns an’ Jorusses an’ Kroebers an’ bleedin’ Sloskies…” Leie muttered. “I’m so sick of this rutty place. I’d kiss a dragon on the mouth, not to have to look at the same faces till I julp.”

Maia, too, felt an urge to move on. Yet, she wondered, how did a stranger get to know who was whom in a foreign town? Here, one learned about each caste almost from birth. Such as the willowy, kink-haired Sheldons, dark-skinned women a full head taller than the blocky Ortyns. Their usual niche was trapping fur-beasts in the

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