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She'd have to kill him.

Not that it would be much trouble--she figured that an arrow shaft would be sharp enough and she could "procure" one without a lot of effort, then just catch him off-guard, stab and be done with it--still, that was the part that irked her. It wouldn't be much trouble, but she was the only one in all of, that was being optimistic. She was the only voclen alive who'd actually murder another.


Anaite clenched her hands in the silk of her skirt, and continued to watch Caillis pull himself hand-over-hand along a taut, gleaming line of rope. The sun kept hitting the beads webbing his sleeves; she had to squint through it, and after a few moments longer she gave up, pushed herself off of the tower wall, and glided towards him.

"Can we go back yet?"

Just as she asked, the wind shifted. Anaite flapped her wings without even thinking about it, and Caillis, unbalanced, cried out and tumbled sideways. His fingers and feet, gravity-aided, leaped away from the rope, and then he unfolded his wings and his cursing voice rose to meet her.

"I don't see why you want to do that, anyway," said Anaite, beckoning him to follow her higher.

Caillis shook his head, gestured towards the nearest netted tower--the Caya Indical. "I'm just being prepared."

"For what?"

He didn't answer until he'd landed--hands and feet curled around the grooves cut into the tower walls, wings folded against his shoulders. "Half of the city can walk the ropes without falling."

"Which means half the city can't," she said, landing beside him. "Are you up to win a contest?"

"I'm being prepared."

She shook her head, and started to climb. If only she'd decided to kill him before this morning, she'd have been prepared. Probably she'd missed at least three opportunities already. That wasn't very becoming of a Caya: they were supposed to be intelligent.

Then again, she thought, Caillis had just spent at least an hour trying to figure out how not to use his wings; if he could get away with that, she could fail to kill him for at least one morning.

Actually--Anaite paused, and craned her neck to see the smaller towers and the space between them. Caillis had taken up with another rope, this one stretched between a postal station and a tower whose inhabitants she couldn't recall off the top of her head. He wasn't having any more luck, though he was being quieter. But other than him, and her, Bentiel slept, a sprawling trap for the drifting clouds.

Better not to kill him now, then, after all. There needed to be witnesses.

As the air became thinner, Anaite started glancing up. The climb wasn't hard--she'd been doing it daily for the last six months--but it was long past sunrise, and she'd arranged all of her soft things, her pillows and shawls and a skin of cool water, to cushion her just the way she liked them. It'd be so much better than the thin, hot morning, which scratched at her like fingernails. Leave Caillis to that, and good riddance. She would enjoy her sleep, especially now that she'd figured out a plan of action.

The sandstone seemed to stretch forever upwards. Anaite, instead of thinking any more on that, started whistling. The notes dropped over her shoulders like handfuls of dust. She imagined them falling on Caillis, and smiled to herself.

At long last, she reached up, and gave herself a final drag over the sill of their tall, thin windowledge. Anaite clambered hands and knees over the pale carpet; perhaps she'd been more tired than she thought.


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September 2010

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