September 3, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The next morning found Enrie’s roommate Kotke shaking her awake. “You have to be up now,” Kotke insisted, and then insisted again, and then, when even that did not work, dumped Enrie’s clothes on her face. “You will miss breakfast, and then where will you be? Eating road-bread between classes and being a dumb-head all morning.”
“I’m awake, I’m awake.” Enrie’s response was muffled by a mouthful of Estyaa House purple, cyan, and red. “Thank you, Kotke.”
“Were you up again putting goats on towers? Fussing with things best left only to the made and the Engineers?” Kotke shook her head in what Enrie hoped was mock-indignation and motherly concern.
“No,” Enrie groaned. She managed to get her tunic over her head and buttoned her jacket up. “I was working on a paper for Philosophy.”
“I thought that Instructor Pelnyen thought you were the shiniest star in the Northern sky.” Kotke offered a brush; gratefully, Enrie took it.
“So did I, but ever since Taikie’s brush with — with trouble — he’s been acting strange. He still calls me Lady, but every so often he just acts mean, or like he’s trying to catch me doing something wrong.”
“Perhaps he is angry over Taikie still?” Kotke shrugged. “Instructors are temperamental beings, just as all people. Instructor Rintegarai has said I am ‘hopeless, hopeless hopeless’ many time. I do not particularly like that class.”
Enrie wrinkled her nose. Rintegarai taught Rudimentary Needlework and Leather-Binding Techniques. “Have you told her you are not at all useless?”
“I do not think she wants to hear it. And besides, you have seen my embroidery. I am much better at braiding, but we are not braiding.” Kotke demonstrated by beginning to work on Enrie’s hair. “If we hurry, I can do your hair as mine is, and we can be to breakfast on time.”
Kotke wore her white-blonde hair in the distinctive far-Northern style, looped at the base of her neck. It might raise eyebrows if Enrie wore her hair that way. She smiled up at her roommate. “That’s really nice, Kotke. Thank you. Thank you for staying to wake me up.”
Kotke shrugged awkwardly. “We are roommates. If I spent too much time playing with mechanical goats – or with studying — you would help me, wouldn’t you?”
“I would,” Enrie admitted. She worked on holding still so that Kotke could work her alchemy on Enrie’s hair. “Do you do a lot of braiding, back home?”
“Oh, yes. Not so much embroidery, because it is hard to embroider when your fingers are cold. But braiding and weaving, yes. You know what they say – if the fingers are working, the mind is free to breathe.”
Enrie almost jumped up. “Breathe! Kotke, is that a saying from your home?” It was exactly, exactly what she needed to finish the paper for Pelynen. “From – what did you say your hometown was called?” She should know this; if she wasn’t so sleepy, she probably would know it. There weren’t that many cities up in the north.
“Kolodyana.” Kotke’s answer was bemused. “It is a small city, but we have very nice goats.”
“And very, very nice sayings. Thank you.”