A FEW DAYS after that, Eruz sent for Rashali to meet him in the gardens again. This time, the prince brought his young daughter, Mizalilu, with him; he explained that the child’s mother was awaiting the birth of a new baby and had little attention to spare for her. Rashali watched the little girl run along the garden paths, and pictured her own daughter in Mizalilu’s place. Fresh grief squeezed her heart. “My Lalana was the same age,” she said without thinking.
The prince was silent for a moment, also watching Mizalilu. “How do you survive such a loss?”
She shrugged, wishing she hadn’t said anything. “Along the rivers, so many children die, it’s only to be expected. Still, you hope that you’ll be the lucky one, that your child will be spared… And when she dies anyway, you either die too, or you live on. I chose to live on.” To destroy the Sazars who caused her death, she added in her mind, but didn’t say out loud.
Mizalilu had brought a sack of raisins with her. She ran ahead, tossing raisins on the ground while Luzak the peacock trotted after her, gobbling the treats. Eruz and Rashali followed, keeping the little girl in sight. “I told my father that moving the Urdai away from the stretch of the Uz the Kai-Kalle want might be more complicated than we thought,” Eruz said. “I didn’t tell him that the Urdai would fight, only that there would be considerable difficulties involved in relocating such a large number of people.”
“Did he decide against it?”
“He only said that we may have no choice, but he’ll wait to take action until the Kai-Kalle’s and the Sanghs’ intentions become clearer. I did tell him that I hoped to persuade you to convince the villagers to cooperate.”
“I suppose you can tell him that.” Not that she would ever agree to do such a thing, but letting him tell the king that she might seemed like a harmless concession.
Mizalilu had run ahead and now came back to them. The bag of raisins had been discarded somewhere along the way, and the child’s small fists were now filled with flowers and pebbles. Rashali watched the little girl’s shining dark eyes and smooth, flushed amber cheeks as she showed her father her treasures. The prince’s worries and burdens seemed to fall away as he squatted in front of his daughter, admiring the things she had found and replying to her babble. This was yet another odd thing—that a Sazar nobleman who needed a son as an heir would love a daughter so openly and completely.
They walked on in silence, along one of the ponds that dotted the Jewel. Mizalilu ran around to the other side of the pond, and stood there throwing her pebbles into the water and laughing at the splashes they made.