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Do Not Hasten To Bid Me Adieu

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"There is another way," she suggested. "Your bracelet, Sol—and yours, Sos."

The men shook their heads, not understanding, so she said, "Two bracelets. Both."

Next she spoke gently, "The child will remain Soli," reaching to take her daughter from Sol's lap. Sol's bracelet gleamed on her wrist as she moved. She would keep it, and carry Sos's as well—if she could convince them both. They could make a new thing true and honourable, there in the open, something formed by all three of them.

"And you?" Sol asked, his voice harsh. "Would you remain Sola, wearing Sos's bracelet? Or be Sosa, while holding on to my bracelet and my child?"

Sola—for these last moments still Sola, Sol's wife only although she loved Sos and he had fathered the baby on her, the winter when Sol was deliberately elsewhere—settled Soli. Sol stood, but did not move to take the child back.

Sos was watching, uncertain yet beginning to hope, as she lifted her head high.

"I will have my own name," she declared. "Soa."

Sos nodded, so sharply that the bird Stupid flew up from his shoulder, anticipating action. "Soa," Sos echoed, experimenting with the sound. "A man can train with all weapons, or with a new weapon," he said. Convincing himself, backing her, trying to win over his friend to this unprecedented solution.

Sol cracked an uncharacteristic smile. He looked satisfied, as she had seen him never with her; only in successful empire-building, or triumphant in the circle, or when Sos returned.

"I am Sol of All Weapons," he said. "He was Sos of none; now Sos the rope, a new weapon. You would be Soa of two husbands?"

"A tribe can send men paired into the circle, when other tribes only meet man to man," Sola said. While she had not herself met the strange Pit doubles tribe, she had heard of it—from Sos.

Sol looked at his wife, in whose arms was the daughter he acknowledged and would have fought his friend to keep. "Two," he said thoughtfully, keeping to himself whether he meant fathers or husbands. Then, "A tribe makes it own rules. Or an empire."

Sos's hand was trembling as, looking to Sol, he held his bracelet out. He and Sol together gently pressed it securely on her wrist, twin to Sol's bracelet. Soli gurgled in Soa's arms, not minding the two places that cool metal touched her.

The men and the woman turned together, back to the camp of the empire they had built.