August 10, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
There is No Such Thing as a Secret
“Do Bitrani — real Bitrani, I mean, from the enclaves—”
“Bitrani Nationalists,” Saydrie offered. “Although we usually use the word in our own language because it panics people less: Cevati Bitrani.”
Enrie filed that away in the growing pile of information she kept on the Bitrani. “Do Cevati Bitrani marry outside of their… outside of their nationality?”
The three of them, Saydrie, Enrie, and Taikie, were sitting in a clean goat-stable, as had become their habit. In theory, they were working on their homework, although Taikie was fiddling with a new tea-heating engine, Saydrie was braiding some sort of trim made out of natural goat wool, and Enrie… She was pondering Bitrani marriage traditions.
Tairiekie fumbled with her tea leaves. “I don’t remember that being on the homework for Diplomacy or History.”
Enrie shifted uncomfortably. “It wasn’t. I just want to know, and, well, we have our very own Bitrani expert right here.”
The Bitrani expert in question blushed right to the roots of his blonde hair. “I wouldn’t say I’m all that schooled in Bitrani traditions. I mean, I was just a kid…”
Taikie poked him in the arm. “You know more than me. And Enrie might know everything, but if she’s asking, then you probably know more than her about that specific issue.”
It was Enrie’s turn to flush and look away. “I don’t know everything. I just ask a lot of questions.”
“You would have been right at home in Akaizen House!” Tairiekie leaned forward, dangerously close over her tea engine, to poke Enrie in the shoulder. “Half of being an Engineer is asking questions.”
“Questions like ‘hey, if I put this valve here, what happens?’” Enrie was very fond of her friend and team-mate, even after only a season together at Edally Academy, but it was a fondness well-tempered with exasperation. “Or—” She saw the storm begin to darken Taikie’s face and switched gears. “‘—how big a lever does it take to move Akaizen’s tower?’”
Taikie relaxed, smirking back, and thus Enrie could relax, too. It had been over a month since Tairiekie had discovered the body of an engineering instructor, but it was clear she was still touchy about the whole matter of aether-sucking machines. Perhaps she always would be; Enrie thought she likely would be, in Taikie’s boots. Best to stick with safe topics.
“Those are all good questions,” Tairiekie pointed out.
“But they’re usually easier to test out than ‘do Cevati Bitrani marry outside their nationality?’”
“Which is an oddly specific question, you have to admit.” Tairiekie was grinning, which was good, but she was grinning and leaning forward to look at Enrie, which was less good. “Is there a specific Bitrani you have in mind?”
Enrie looked off at the stable wall, as if it might have an answer for her. “I’m curious?” she offered. “You don’t see many children of mixed marriages, or, at least, I haven’t. They could be all over the place; if they weren’t in diplomatic circles I wouldn’t seen any at all. Which, I suppose, count as children of mixed marriages…” Oh, help, her mouth had decided to run off and leave the rest of her behind.
“Yes,” Saydrie said, so softly she wasn’t sure at first if he’d spoken. “It’s rare, and it’s not really approved of, and usually it’s border people who have a lot of Bitrani ancestry. That’s what you wanted, Enrie, the border.”
Tairiekie frowned. “There aren’t any borders; the Empire goes all the way to the edges of the land and over… oh. Oh!”
Enrie waited politely until Taikie finished her train of thought. “I should have thought of that.” She chewed on her lip. “So Bitrani stick with Bitrani, or with people who have a lot of Bitrani blood.”
“Usually. But nobles, your royal family, do the same, don’t they? And the Arrans with the Arrans and the east-coast families with other east-coast families.”
“It doesn’t seem fair.” Enrie picked up the end of one of her braids and studied it as if it would have an answer. “There can’t be a law about it. That doesn’t make any sense. Not after Empress Arinyanka.” She flopped against the wall.
“Well, you have plenty of time to research it, right?” Tairiekie offered. “I mean, it’s not as if we’re here for our suffixes, no matter what House Monitor Libkazaari says.”
Enrie chewed on her lip. Tairiekie wasn’t here to add on a husband’s name at the end of her own. Saydrie probably wasn’t either. But they both liked to assume the same thing about Enrie. “Right. Plenty of time. And I suppose I should worry about my homework instead.”
“Oh, it’s going to be an easy day. Even Philosophy doesn’t look that hard!” Tairiekie leaned forward, once again easily sidetracked. Feeling a little guilty, Enrie leaned in, too. Philosophy might be easy today, but she wasn’t so sure about Mathematics.
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