November 26, 2014 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Tairiekie felt hollow. She opened up her trunk, even though she knew she hadn’t put it in there. Clothes, mostly uniforms, looked up at her. She dug through them, finding something hard – no, a spare wrench. Nothing useful right now. And then her spare boots. Something that felt like a pipe end… and it was a pipe, and it was hooked onto something.
“I think I found it!” She yanked hard, only to have the pipe come off in her hand. “Feces and bezoar… oh. Oh, blast this thing.” She shook her head. “This is just my Mechanics homework.”
“So…” It was only then she realized that Saydrie was still standing outside the room, peering in the doorway. “Where is it?”
“It’s gone. It’s just gone, I don’t understand.” She glanced over at her roommate. “Gaivya? Did you see anyone come in?”
“No…? No.” Gaikvya sometimes took a while to work out what people were saying to her. “No, although Iesovyenyie was not here when I got back from the Library, and she left early this morning.”
“Someone stole it.” A low feeling of dread was settling in Tairiekie’s stomach. “Someone walked in and took it.”
“Pardon, but what was stolen?” Gaikvya looked over at the two of them. “It is just that Tudines was speaking of something being stolen from his room, in the common room yesterday, and before that, Disya said that she was missing part of her project for Basic Mechanics. And a few other people did not say anything, but they had the look like they were missing things as well.” She shrugged uncertainly. “Nobody has taken anything of mine, but I do not have so much to take, unless people wish to take my hammock.” She pointed at the rope concoction in question, hanging in the corner of their room. Neither Iesovyenyie nor Tairiekie begrudged her the space, since she’d come with so little and from so far. “But if your thing is missing, then maybe we have a mechanical-devices thief of some sort, and then we should tell the House Monitor, yes?”
Tairiekie felt a chill going through her. “No, maybe not yet.” This had to be another stupid upperclassman prank. It had to be the sort of foolish thing they did to stress out the new students, to winnow their numbers. Already Disya had been crying in the common room at least three times – probably four, if part of her homework had gone missing – and Tudines had had his time where he’d run off and hid on top of the roofs for almost a day. If the upperclassmen kept pushing, someone was going to crack. “If they want to push, I’m going to show them exactly how much we can push back.”
Also, she didn’t want to tell House Monitor Libkazaari that she’s lost a mechanism she’d designed to measure something that might or might not exist. She was pretty sure she didn’t want to tell anyone she’d lost it… or that she’d had it, made it, to lose in the first place.
She looked back at her friends. “This is getting ridiculous. Do your Houses do this sort of… hazing thing? Stealing things?”
Saydrie pressed his lips together and said nothing. Enrie shrugged. “They don’t steal my things, but they wouldn’t, would they? They all put more stock in the name than I do, and they’re afraid I’ll smite them.”
“Would you?” Gaikvya spoke up, looking like she felt horribly brave and horribly terrified to be asking.”
Enrie laughed. “I wouldn’t even know how to go about smiting someone! I suppose I could start with throwing a huff at them and see where that went – I can do that to your upperclassmen, too, but really.” She shrugged. “It’s useless if you don’t have the title to back it up, and let’s not lie, I don’t have a title to back it up.”
“You’re royal.” Iesovyenyie stood behind Saydrie. “Excuse me, could I get into my room? You are royal, Enerenarie, daughter-of-Empires. You are royal, and that ought to be enough.”
Saydrie scooted to one side. “But she’s not going to be Empress.”
“And why should that matter?”
“Because the power of the royal name rests in the throne, not in simply having a royal name. Anyone could be related to a king, but it doesn’t give you power without having the mandate of the throne and the scepter.” He tilted his chin upwards, actually glaring at Iesovyenyie.
“And what would a miserable Byittie know about being royal? When has the so-called Bitrani nation ever had anything but pretender kings pretending to have a throne?”
Enrie coughed, clearly about to say something. Iesovyenyie would listen to her, too; as much as Enrie didn’t like the power structure, she had a lot more of it than Iesovyenyie did, as far as the convoluted royal family tree and lines of succession went.
Saydrie beat her to it.
“Assume for a second that my family doesn’t have royal blood stretching back to the days where we begin counting, to the days when humankind landed here on Reiassan. Assume for a moment that the kings of old didn’t leave behind detailed books of lineages, telling of their ancestry and their roots in even older royal lines. Assume for a minute that the Bitrani have no nobility because they were conquered and enslaved.”
He took a breath. Iesovyenyie was about to say something. Gaikvya kicked her in the ankle.
Saydrie nodded at the curly-haired girl and continued. “Assume for a moment that we’re not talking about the Bitrani lines that run through all of the Caleyena royal lines. Assume that we’re not worried, at all, about the Calenyena definition of royalty, or the Bitrani, but simply about royalty in general. Can we, for the sake of argument, assume all that?”
Iesovyenyie nodded mutely. She didn’t seem angry; she just seemed a little bit confused.
“Good. Okay, assuming all of that as our premise for this argument – what the Book of the Three says, the part that is in the front of all the Books in all the Temples in all of the land – is this. ‘Listen to the voice of they who rule. They who rule, and those they appoint, are the voice of your nation. Do not let that voice become diluted.”
“And you know that by heart?” Iesovyenyie was still sneering, but it was as if she knew her position was, at best, tenuous. She couldn’t really argue with the Book of the Three, not and not get thrown out of the school – and possibly out of her family name and everything else she held dear. Even in this burgeoning Age of Reason, you really didn’t argue with the Three or their texts.
“Of course I do. Don’t you? Every Bitrani schoolchild learns the Book of the Three, or at least the Preamble, before they are allowed to learn anything else.”
“Religious fanatics.” Iesovyenyie rolled her shoulders, looking uncomfortable. “So Enerenarie isn’t the Empress, and probably won’t be, and neither will I. So what?”
“Well, it means, if she’s going to smite someone, then she’s going to have to use other means to go about it, that’s all.” Saydrie smiled brightly. “Or, at the very least, not rely solely on her name, when it doesn’t have that much weight behind it.”
“But you’re not suggesting that she not smite anyone?” Now Iesovyenyie just looked confused.
“Of course not. I’m her teammate, why should I say she shouldn’t do anything she can get away with? And besides, we’re smiting people for the good of Tair- Tairiekie, who is also in our team, so it all works out for the best for us if Enrie can go around smiting people.” His smile was even bigger, now. “I’m all for the smiting.”
“As long as it’s all right by the Book of the Three.”
“As long as it’s all right by the Book of the Three, yes.” Saydrie’s smile didn’t budge at all. “Miss Iesovyenyie, you may have noticed that I was of Bitrani descent?”
“And that the Bitrani are, generally, not very kindly looked upon here at the Empress Edaledalende Academy?”
“You can just call it Edally, like everyone else, you know.”
“I’m aware, but I’m making a point. So, as the Bitrani are not very kindly looked upon here, and I am, after all, very obviously a Bitrani…”
Where had it come from? The meek boy they’d been friends with for weeks was spouting off like someone from Diplomacy house or Philosophy house, with the therfores and the very calm logic… and Enrie was grinning, her smile stretched so far that it looked like her face would split.
“…clearly you can see that you’re going to have to try a little harder with your insults to make any sort of dent, as, as I’ve heard them say that come from the North, I’ve already heard everything you’ve got.”
“Well, aren’t you something else and all that wrapped up in a leather blanket.”
When Iesovyenyie was unhappy, Tairiekie noticed, her drawl got considerably worse.
“No, I’m just me, a pupil of House Onadyano.”
“And our friend.” Enrie draped her arm around Saydrie’s shoulder, and Taikie stepped out into the hall to do the same, wrapping her arm, instead, around his waist.
“Our teammate and our friend. Iesovyenyie, you’re a nice roommate, and I enjoy your company, but please don’t do that again.”
“He was arguing with me.”
“Well, perhaps you ought to take a page from the Diplomacy House and argue back with him, instead of flinging around insults. Really, what good does it do to call him a Byittie?”
“Are you just aiming to end up Tairiekie-Sayd, then? I’d be careful. You know that the Royal family prefers Bitrani blood, your teammate might steal him out from under you.”
“I am, still, not here to get any sort of suffix on my name. And whether or not Enrie is her for that – or Saydrie is – is not really my business in the least.” She sounded prissy. She didn’t care. “I need to figure out what to do about this rash of upperclassmen-being-more-annoying-than-usual.”
“You know the teachers won’t do anything, and neither will House Monitor Libkazaari.” She flopped down in her chair. “I already tried. Twice.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“I didn’t really want anyone to know.” She shifted the complicated weave of her braids, and, once she pointed it out, Tairiekie could see how several of the small braids were missing – no, not totally missing, just chopped off at the nape of her neck. “This was what happened when I was studying in the common room the other day. The House Monitor said it was just hair. Just hair! And then there were a few… things… that went missing.”
“Things.” Tairiekie thought about that. “The sort of things that would be embarrassing to talk about? Like that scroll you didn’t want us to see, our first night here?”
“That sort of thing. Yeah.” She shrugged her shoulders up until her head was almost level with her chest. “And other things like that. And I didn’t want to try to talk to the House Monitor again. But then when my bed was soaked…”
Iesovyenyie had the lowest bunk. She had lost the straw-drawing their first night. “And she didn’t do anything then, either?”
“She gave me new sheets. That wasn’t really what I wanted. People are targeting me.”
“They are targeting you because you have the things that you care about.” Gaikvya had been watching the entire conversation silently; she often did that, and, this time as many times before, Tairiekie had almost forgotten she was there. “They do not target the people who do not have things. But they took Tairiekie’s things, they took Tudines’ and Disya’s things, they have taken many people’s things. It is not just you, Iesovyenyie. They are aiming their targets at many people.”
“It’s as if the stones and the rocks themselves are waking up to scold me.” Iesovyenyie sighed. “Still, the House Monitor will do nothing. She thinks it’s part of ‘harmless welcoming to the Academy’ or some such goat feces.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to ask her. She’s not exactly fond of me, anyway.”
“I’ve noticed you have that problem going around. What did you do to the staff here , that they’re so displeased with you?”
“I didn’t!” Tairiekie huffed it out in aggravation. “I didn’t do anything; I got here and they looked at my parents and then everyone hated me.”
“Your parents are sort of famous, aren’t they?”
“Not famous enough. It’s not like it’s Biemnyon House or Dairnikkindo House.”
“So just famous enough to be irritating?” Iesovyenyie managed to look sympathetic at that. “That’s got to be unpleasant.”
“You can say that again.” Tairiekie shrugged, trying to brush it off. “We’re going to go make a war plan. Maybe we’ll find your stuff while we’re at it.”
“Clear skies.” Tairiekie bowed to her roommate, and then again to Gaikvya. “Thank you, Gaivya.”
“I am good at listening. I will listen more, to see what it is that my ears can hear.”
“Thank you very much.” Her second bow was much deeper. “You are a good friend.”
“Such is it that I yearn for.”
“So, what exactly are we doing in terms of a war plan?” Enrie led them back out of the Tower, her braids bouncing as she tral-lumped down the stairs. “Who are we going to war with? The entire upper-class of your House?”
“Well, it doesn’t really seem like a war we can win, does it?”
“No, so I’m wondering what you’re up to.”
“We’re not Martial House, we’re Engineering House. So I’m planning on Engineering a solution, more or less.”
“That sounds suspect.”
“I know. But it also sounds like a plan.”
“And there’s the little Byittie Whore-boy with his mistresses. Do you take turns with him, or do you all crowd into the first-year dorm beds together?”
They had almost walked into a group of four Art House upperclassmen. Tairiekie recognized them from the first day of school – they were the horrid ones who had been giving Saydrie trouble way back then. It appeared their animosity had become more spread out, now, covering all of Tairiekie’s team.
“Don’t be vulgar.” Enrie rolled her eyes as if she couldn’t care less who they thought she slept with – and maybe she couldn’t. “If Saydrie is choosing to sleep with his fellow pupils, what business is it of yours?”
“It’s certainly our business how he’s tainting pure Calenyena lines – and what’s more, how the two of yourself are whoring yourselves out for, what, a little tutoring in History and Literature? You can’t go around doing that sort of thing when there are pure Calenyena men around who need some relief.”
“Your history seems like it needs-”
Tairiekie would have continued because, really, their history needed a lot of help if they thought there was anything like a Pure Calenyena Line – see Enrie’s Bitrani nose, along with most of the rest of the royal family. And that was just for starters.
“No.” Saydrie only said the one word. To be fair, he only needed to say the one word, because his next action was to swing both of his fists.
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