September 6, 2014 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The entirety of the legendary Empress Edaledalende Academy of Higher Learning at Ileltedez was stretched out in front of Tairiekie. All of its towers, its multitude of roofs, the scattered outbuildings, all rose around her, looming. It stretched out like a town of its own, waiting.
A tall boy barreled past Tairiekie and her parents, ricocheting into them before bouncing off into the distance. She glanced after him, wondering where he was going in such a hurry. His shirt-tails flapped like banners and his braids slapped his back like sticks on drums.
“We’re here, Taikie.” Her mother’s reminder of the obvious pulled Tairiekie’s attention back to the school itself. Its iconic nine towers were stretching to the sky in front of her. The ocean was framed in the background by gently rolling hills on either side, the school itself set in a shallow vale. It was gorgeous, iconic, and stunning, all of it, but nothing more than the giant brass doors of Dienvyes Hall, directly in front of her.
She steeled herself with a careful breath. This was it. Her entire life had been leading up to this place and these doors.
“Pardon me!” A crowd of people had been gathering near Tairiekie and her parents, all presumably, like them, coming for the first day of Academy. Now another student – like the first one, in what had to be a school uniform, in red, peach, and grey – was pushing into the crowd.
“Azyeken, what’s going on?” A very good question, Tairiekie thought. She turned to locate the new speaker; the crowd around her was doing much the same.
“The device.” The boy – probably Azyeken – panted it at the newcomer, a girl in the same uniform as him. He put a great deal of portent into the word, enough to make Tairiekie wonder if this was some sort of street theater, but neither the new speaker nor the boy still pushing his way past them were wearing make-up or braid-tassels, and their clothes were too sensible for that sort of thing.
“Which device, Azyeken?” The girl grabbed Azyeken’s sleeve and dragged him away from the gathered crowd, but not so quickly that Tairiekie couldn’t hear his answer.
“Instructor Talmizhaab’s device.” The rest of it was almost lost in the growing noise of impatient soon-to-be students and their parents, but Tairiekie caught the phrase “devouring the aether.”
That sounded interesting. She glanced back at the famous brass doors of Dienvyes Hall, and then towards the departing Azyeken and his unnamed friend. She could probably slip through the crowd just there… She made her way between a very tall man with a beard to his knees and his very short partner with very short braids, between two students alike enough that it was uncanny, and beside a huddled family of seven.
Her quarries were just slipping between Dienvyes Hall and the shorter stone building next to it. Tairiekie headed after them, wondering where they were going. If they were looking at a “device,” it probably had something to do with engineering and mechanics, wouldn’t it? But if it was an aetheric device, would that be alchemy? Or possibly philosophy?
“Taikie!” Her father’s voice had a way of echoing, even in spaces where that was improbable. “Tair-Tair!”
“Here!” She hurried back towards him before he could repeat the hated baby-name. She didn’t want that name to follow her here. She was no longer a child, after all. “They said something about a device.” That should have been explanation enough.
Her mother, who was following behind Tairiekie and her father, frowned, that particularly repressive frown she only used on Tairiekie. “Save it for your classes. It’s time for you to meet your classmates – and to get your uniform.”
Uniforms, that was right. As much as the nine towers and the brass doors, The Empress Edaledalende Academy’s uniforms were a symbol of everything the school represented. “And my teachers?” She wanted to make a good impression; would it be better to meet them here, with her parents, or later, as her own person?
“At least a few of your teachers. The House Monitor is gathering people in the center of the Hall.” He put his hand at the center of her back and steered her through the brass doors.
“Biemnyon, let her walk,” Tairiekie’s mother scolded. “She’s a grown girl now; she doesn’t need to be steered like a baby.”
Tairiekie straightened her back and smiled. Grown girl, yes. She had won a spot as a pupil at the Empress Edaledalende Academy at Ileltedez. She smiled at her mother, and gave her father a much more demure look, the one she gave him when she really wanted to laugh at him.
He wrinkled his nose and twisted his mouth at her, making the braids in his beard bounce. “She may be a grown girl, Dairnikkindo, but she’s still my Tair-”
“Biem.” That was the repressive look! And at Tairiekie’s father and not just at her!
“-Taikie. And I am allowed to fuss and worry.”
“We are both allowed to fuss and worry a little bit, yes. The operative variable there, Biem, is ‘a little bit’.”
They would likely debate for the next twenty minutes. Tairiekie bobbed a brief bow in both of their directions, just enough to look polite, and made her escape.
Dienvyes Hall was huge, the biggest open space Tairiekie had ever seen, the ceiling lost somewhere above in an arching dome. It was crowded with people, dozens and dozens of children – not children, pupils – pupils her age, at least twice as many parents as there were pupils, younger siblings, and then, moving through the crowd like a goatherd through their flock, older, taller students in what had to be their House uniforms, and older-still, taller-still Instructors in bright, sleek outfits showing off the same House colors.
“I wonder what Professor Talmizhaab’s device is.”
“I’m sure you’ll find out when you have him as an Instructor. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, Taikie.” Her mother patted her head. “There’s a lot of classes here and they’re very hard. Pay attention to the ones you’re actually in.”
“That’s what you said about secondary school. And what they said about primary school, too.” Tairiekie smirked at her mother. “I’ll be fine. I know how to take classes.”
“I’m sure you do, Tairiekie. I know what your grades have looked like. But I want to be certain that they remain looking like that into your time here, all right? The Academy is very exclusive.”
“And I was in the top percentile for my classes.” Tairiekie’s smile slid into a frown. “I’ll be fine.”
Dairnikkindo — Engineer Dairnikkindo-Biem , the way her father was Engineer Biemnyon-Dair and Tairiekie would end up being Engineer Tairiekie when she finished here — gave a weak smile. “I know you are a bright girl, Taikie. Just keep focused, all right?”
“You know I will. You know—”
“If I could have your attention, please.” The booming voice silenced the room in layers, some people falling quiet immediately and the others following, with one unobservant one slowly trailing off. “Thank you.”
The speaker was standing on a table in the center of the hall. She was a stout woman with pure black braids done up in a complex style — Tairiekie could count at least seven distinct braids, so there were probably nine, maybe even eighteen — and clothing cut very close to her body, in so many colors it was hard to tell where one began and the other ended.
“Welcome, pupils, parents, and families, to the Empress Edaledalende Academy of Higher Learning at Ileltedez, or, as we here call it, Edally Academy.” She had a voice that filled the whole huge hall, seemingly without effort. “I am House Monitor Libkazaari, and I am responsible for your orientation and adjustment here. You have all received a letter accepting you into a specific House. Please look around you now, and you will see that there are House banners hung around the hall.”
Obediently, Tairiekie looked around the room. She could see the parsnip and goat horns of Agriculture, the alembic for Alchemy, the sword for War, the wrench and calipers for Mechanics, and five more, spaced evenly around the room.
“Please move towards the appropriate banner now. If you cannot identify the proper banner—” How could you not be able to tell, Tairiekie wondered? The scroll and pen for History, the needle and loom for Textiles; they all made perfect sense. But she supposed some new students might be a little lost. “— please ask one of the upperclassmen positioned throughout the room. They will be able to point you in the proper direction. There you will be able to collect your uniforms, and you will meet with older members of your House, who will help to guide you through the orientation process.”
The Mechanics and Engineering House, Tairiekie saw, was in the same red, grey, and peach as the students she’d seen running around earlier. More noteworthy was the way the group there appeared to be leaning in to talk to each other, as if something was going on.
“That’s your House, Taikie. Good old Daibsyai.” Dairnikkindo sighed happily.
“It’s Akaizepennen now, isn’t it? After the train Akaizen managed to make run?” Biemnyon smiled wistfully. “Do you remember when he and I climbed to the top of—”
“Hsst, none of that.”
Her mother’s protest only piqued her interest. Tairiekie tilted her head at her father. “Is this anything like the time I climbed the Temple back home?”
“Nothing at all like that.” Biemnyon managed to nearly keep a straight face. “For one thing, it was me doing it and not you.”
“I see.” Tairiekie mimicked her father’s expression. “Honored father, what other wisdom would you like to impart?”
“Do what I have told you to do, and mind not the path I have left.” He made an exaggeratedly solemn expression, ruined by a bit of a smirk turning up under his mustache.
She tugged on her father’s beard braids. “And do you have any other sage advice?”
“If you’re going to climb one of the dorm towers, don’t use the Alchemy tower. They do some strange things to the outside of their buildings. And if you’re going to take a goat…”
“Biemnyon.” Dairnikkindo smile more or less ruined her stern expression.
“I’m simply passing on valuable—”
“Liar! Thief! Blasphemer!” The voice rose up in much the same way that House Monitor Libkazaari’s had, but where the House Monitor’s voice had sounded stern and reassuring, this one sounded just short of insane. “Thief! Liar!” Whoever that was, Tairiekie thought they needed a new script badly. “You know that this is unfair and unjust and yet you persist in this, this blasphemy of the highest order! Thief!”
 TIE-ree-kee; Taikie, the nickname, is pronounced TAI-kee. Most Cālenyen words are pronounced with the stress on the first syllable.
 Dienvyes: DEAN-vyes, with the vy- being one sound
 Naming in Cālenyena at the time of this story works thus:
Someone with a title (a “prefix”) has earned some recognition in their field, i.e., Engineer, Census-Taker, Emperor, and so on. That comes first. After that comes a given name, the name you are given by your parents soon after birth. And after that, if you are married, comes the first syllable of your spouse’s name (a “suffix”).
Dairnikkindo – DIRE-nick-kin-doe
Biemnyon – BEEM-nyone
 Characters In Chapter One:
Tairiekie (TIE-ree-kee), a new student at the Edally Academy: Black hair in a double plait, brown eyes, olive skin, about 5’7” and with wide hips and wide shoulders
Engineer Dairnikkindo-Biem, Tairiekie’s mother (DIRE-nick-kin-DO BEEM), several inches shorter than her daughter, with the same coloration and the same braids.
Engineer Biemnyon-Dair (BEEM-nyon DIRE), Tairiekie’s father, who is just Tairiekie’s height, with the same coloration. His hair is woven in a single 7-strand braid.
Image of Tairiekie by itsamellama