October 28, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Instructor Pelnyen’s complaints faded down the hall, along with the calm, amused counterpoint of House Monitor Libkazaari. Riensin and Enrie were already in Instructor Pelnyen’s office and Taikie and Saydrie were close behind.
“Should we…?” Tairiekie hesitated in the doorway.
“Yes, we should.” Enrie put aside her own nerves. “This is instructional. We might find something interesting, after all.”
“Most of the instructors don’t keep their doors locked.” Saydrie was not much further in the door, standing on a clear space of floor as if afraid the office would eat him. “I begin to see why he does.”
Enrie, who had picked her way a few steps inside the office already, could agree with that sentiment. Instructor Pelnyen was not exactly the tidiest of instructors. There were papers everywhere, covering every flat surface, layered on top of each other, falling in cascades off of books and off his desk. There couldn’t be a filing system; there couldn’t even be a piling system.
Riensin picked up a stack of paper, one of the tidier stacks. “I think he’s revising his thesis. It’s… oh, by the three, no wonder he’s angry. It’s on how Humanic Aether cannot exist, and how saying that it does is ‘heresy or worse.’”
“What’s worse than heresy?” Tairiekie wondered.
“Treason?” Enrie offered. “I mean – not that I think we committed treason! But that’s what’s worse than heresy.”
“Murder,” Saydrie offered quietly. “But we didn’t do that, either.”
“No, we didn’t.” Riensin flipped through the pages. “But if anything we said in class has any basis in truth, we may have killed his baby. His project,” he clarified quickly. “And while he might have no respect for us at all, he’s certainly got to look into the stuff we brought up, just in terms of good scholarship.”
“He doesn’t have much respect for Library rules, at least.” Taikie clucked disapprovingly. “These papers are hundreds of years old and he’s got them stuffed between last week’s tea and… urgh… last year’s tea, by the looks of it.” She picked up one stack of paper cautiously. “This one’s an original thesis from… this is from the Oonezhoonet Era. That’s when Akebviedkeb was writing his thesis, wasn’t it?”
Enrie swallowed. That was the same era as the Arran Treaties. How had she not made the connection before? “Taikie… what else is in the piles?”
“Oh, I feel guilty even touching them. Who uses the originals? There have to be copies all over the Libraries. I mean, the All-thought school, it might be stupid but it’s seminal. Every major learning institution has copies!”
“But the copies…” Enrie pieced it together carefully. She wasn’t sure she had all the information yet, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to share it with Riensin if she did. “It’s possible that something was missing from the copy. A margin note…”
“Or sometimes,” Riensin offered, “there’s something I saw when I was doing the research to twit Pelnyen. Sometimes they put in a thread of aether somehow, infused their own emotions into the paper.”
In the back of Enrie’s mind, Taikie’s tea-engine whistled. “Eureka,” she whispered.