your clan and that of the Grey Cloak are too far apart for easy joining, my Lady. As for Harsan, he has chosen to return to the Monastery of the Sapient Eye in Do Chaka, and will likely spend the rest of his days buried under a heap of scrolls: a scholar, a researcher, a teacher.-As he himself desires. I doubt whether his Skein will include much of the dazzle of courts and high temple ceremony.”

Eyil’s long eyes flicked up and down, just once, over Tlayesha. “One who has been named before the Emperor in the Hall of the Petal Throne is no nonentity, my lady, no mere scribe, no scruffy village schoolmaster to parse Llyani sentences for peasant boys. My clan-elders would be honoured to meet him, to discuss-alliances. ’ ’

Her nearness was overpowering. She thrust one smooth, copper-gold thigh forward through the swinging purple and green strips of her skirt. Her lips were parted, her eyes ashine.

Harsan said, “Ah, much remains to be resolved. Later, when there is time…’’He was as tongue-tied as ever he had been in old Chnesuru’s slave caffle.

“As you say, love,” Eyil laid delicate stress upon that last word. “Your Monastery is not far from Tumissa, which is home to me and to my clan. The great temple of Lord Thumis in our city contains books, artifacts-even a clockwork simulacrum said to have been constructed by the wizard Thomar himself. A fine place to study and to work. To settle.”

“Oh, yes, of course. But all for the future-”

“We are to be married, lady,” Tlayesha let her words fall as firmly as a smith’s hammer strikes upon iron. “Once we have reached the Monastery of the Sapient Eye.”

This was the first Harsan had heard of it. In Tsolyanu it was not unusual for a woman, an Aridani, to broach the subject of marriage to a man, but at least it was customary to inform the husband-to-be before proclaiming it to all the world!

Tlayesha and Eyil confronted one another. Where Tlayesha was curved and voluptuous, Eyil was tall, lissome, and much more the elegant lady. Eyil’s face was the more perfect, but Tlayesha’s showed greater charm and animation. One could even become used to her startling blue eyes, ill-omened though they were! Yes, Eyil was the more polished, but Tlayesha was warmer, earthier, and more worldly-wise. Both were women of poise, determination, courage, and intelligence. People would respect them, and any normal, hot-blooded young man would doubtless write poetry, fight duels, or commit murder for either one!

Harsan discovered, not very much to his surprise, that he loved them both-and for quite different reasons. How had he been fortunate enough to deserve their affections. More to the point, how could he choose between them?

Eyil gave Tlayesha look for look. “As Harsan says: all remains for the Weaver to weave.”

Prince Eselne had grown tired of waiting. He grinned down at Misenla who had come to lean into the crook of his arm. “Oh, come, priest Harsan,” he said in his brave, powerful voice. “ ‘One pillar cannot hold up a roof.’ Marry them both and raise yourself a dynasty!” He yawned hugely. “Ai, marry both these ladies so that we may be off to bed! And this you must take as an Imperial decree!”

“Great Lord Prince-!”

“Cha! It is good for your clans, for your faiths, and for me-it gives me a chance to make you two wedding gifts instead of one, priest Harsan. Thus it must be. I’ll hear no more of it.”

He saluted Mirusiya’s officers, nodded to Lord Taluvaz, and let Misenla’s deft fingers twine his own about her slender waist. He turned to depart.

Harsan gazed after him in open-mouthed dismay. What would happen if he obeyed the Prince? The two women stood appraising one another from no more than a man-height away. Tlayesha did not seem in the least put off by Eyil’s superior height: Lord Vimuhla against Lord Ksarul, two_ gladiators poised against one another in the Hirilakte Arena, a pair of female Zrne tensed to fight over a tasty, trembling Jakkohl, Hrugga against Hasfodel the Purge in the epics… Further comparisons were both unnecessary and unpleasant.

He would require all of the help of the Gods indeed, were these two ever to combine against him!

Harsan stared wildly around. Lord Taluvaz Arrio caught his eye.

“I have reconsidered, my Lord,” he announced. “Livyanu is indeed the place for research, for the study of Llyani, for-for all that you said. I accept your offer! Other matters can-must- come later.”

Eyil smiled, licked her full lower lip, and said, “Why, of course, love. Tsamra is old, sophisticated, a city of culture and fashion and pleasure and beauty. A place created by the Gods for just such as we.”

“Thsre are schools of medicine there,” Tlayesha’s arm linked him to her as firmly as any chain of steel. “Physicians, techniques, a whole pharmacopoeia of medicaments little known here in Tsolyanu-there is much in Livyanu that I would learn.”

Lord Taluvaz sighed. “You are more than welcome, priest Harsan. I am glad that you have changed your mind. We have much to show you-and Mirure and I would keep you close to us.” He could not repress a chuckle. “- And your two lovely wives, of course.”

There are times when even the Weaver of Skeins can make an awful tangle of a perfectly simple tapestry.

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