“This is difficult,” said Tenshing after a few quiet moments. “It mortifies me. The hearts of men are open books to me, and women too. How can I have misapprehended my own wife so badly? It is worse than the plowman who petitioned me this evening. That was a moment’s blindness.”

“You are the King of Uä and master of seven of the rigors, Your Holiness,” said Mother-of-Daughters, though her tone was not as admiring as the words would suggest–in truth, there was a certain dryness to her voice that might have suggested exasperation. “You have done more difficult things.”

“King of Uä, whose subjects rise up against him,” said Tenshing. “Master of seven of the rigors, who cannot master the eighth. Perhaps I am fated to do by halves the mundane and impossible alike.”

“Self-pity does not become you, Your Holiness,” said Mother-of-Daughters. “I wish you would indulge in it more often.”

Tenshing chuckled out loud at that and held her eyes as though for the first time. “You are wise and beautiful. I wish you had not tolerated my distance for so long. A younger man would have adapted better to this new candor.” He ran a hand over his smooth scalp, the trace of rue on his face discernible only to a practiced student of his moods. “But then, if only my presence had been more rewarding, you would not have tolerated my distance for so long.”

Word count: 5051.


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