August 14, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Every House’s lounges seemed to have their own set of chatter and background noise. Enrie had spent time in Tairiekie’s dormitory – House Akaizen – and less time in Saydrie’s – Onano House. In the engineering dorm, the discussion (as she had teased Taikie) tended to be about “can you fit this in here? Why not?” Onano covered History, Language, Philosophy and Religion, and its conversations tended to be esoteric, thoughtful, and quite frequently wander into different languages and heavy jargon.
Enrie’s own House, Estiessyaa (which everyone called Estya House), focused on Diplomacy, Law, Counting and Accounting (even if the counting part of that was maddening and frustrating). And in her own dorm, the talk tended to vary between the mathematical and the sociological. Right now, three of her fellow first-year students were discussing an ancient treaty, while two more were arguing over their math homework and another two were debating the economic policies of the Third Empress.
Enrie wasn’t really trying too hard to focus on her homework. She had the stable time for that, when they could all help each other — and she had to admit that the team idea worked out well for that, because everyone in Estya House was specialized in very similar ways. If she wanted help with Mechanics homework, Taikie would be a lot more useful than anyone in Estyaa; if she wanted History help, she asked Saydrie.
So instead of homework, Enrie was listening to the conversations, practicing following the threads of several discussions at once. Her parents could carry on coherent conversations while listening to three or four other discussions, and remember enough of it to take notes hours later. Enrie… was not yet to that point, to put it delicately.
The ancient treaty was a rather dry discussion; it was one of those assigned to first-year students as part of their homework and Enrie had found it stultifying. The Arran Cities were still the Arran Cities. The grouping of three coastal cities would both belong to the Empire and have its own identity — they weren’t even required to send students to the Academy — forever, because the treaty had been that solidly written. There was no controversy, no movement.
The economic policies of the Third Empress were a little more interesting. She had done some strange things, including building bridges with no tactical purpose and riding around the Empire passing out grain and cheese. People argued about her motives as much as the economic results, however; Enrie’s dorm-mates were discussing whether it was a kindness or not to give people food.
The students at Edally, Enrie thought, had likely never known what it was like to be starving.
“…and I can’t find it anywhere.” That sounded far more interesting. She let her fingers continue working on their current project, a card-woven border she was making for her Textiles class, and practiced her nothing-to-worry-about-here face while she listened.
“Well, the Library doesn’t have everything.”
“No, it’s not that it’s not in the Library.” Lovdyo was the smallest and youngest-looking in Estyaa House; his voice still squeaked and people tended to talk down to him. Now, he was very nearly stomping his foot. Hopefully he’d grow out of such things or people would never stop looking down on him. “It’s that there isn’t even a reference to it anywhere I can find. And I even sent a letter to the Master of Records up at Lannamer Castle, and they responded that there was no such treaty.”
“Well, then. There you go.” Kivsi was Lovdyo’s roommate, which was probably the only reason anyone put up with him. In a school full of insufferable know-it-alls, he managed to be even more unpleasant and pedantic. “If the Master of Records says it doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t exist. You’re clearly reading the text wrong.”
Enrie’s fingers slipped on her weaving. She shifted in her seat and tried to regain her focus, both on the weaving and on the conversation. Closer to her, the discussion about the Third Empress’ grain-gifts was growing louder, nearly up to shouts already. And they hadn’t even gotten to her death-disbursements yet.
She fixed the error in her weaving — a small one, but their Textiles Instructor was firm about such things — and tried to pick up the theme of the conversation again.
“It’s just that, if it does exist —” Lovdyo had dropped his voice, but didn’t have the trick of whispering so that one wasn’t overheard yet “—it would change everything. And if it doesn’t, I don’t know why it would be in this book. I mean, the Herald was an immensely respected position. And this was his personal diary. I can’t see him making up stories.”
“I think you’re over-thinking,” Kivsi scoffed. “The Herald at the time was pretty old, wasn’t he? He probably just got mixed up with something else he’d worked on years ago.”
“If you say so…”
Enrie looked down at her weaving. She had gotten a hand-width done in the complicated interlocking diamonds pattern. But, more importantly, Lovdyo had given her enough information to start her own research.
Kivsi might not think it was that important. But Kivsi had not grown up with two Diplomats, or spent his childhood in the archives of every city office and every temple. Enrie could smell the weasel in the hen-house, and she was going to find it.