November 3, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“Instructor Dainanan!” Riensin stepped out of the doorway into the hallway and caught their Textiles Instructor by the arm. “I was hoping to catch you. I have a question about the Oonezhoonet-Era embroidery you were discussing yesterday in class.”
“Oh?” Instructor Dainanan was easily flattered; it was one of the things that made their Introduction to Textiles class so entertaining some days and so frustrating on others. “I didn’t think you were paying attention.”
“I was thinking very hard. But then Kekdela said something at dinner, and it got me thinking.”
Enrie peeked out the doorway. Instructor Dainanan was very engrossed with Riensin’s sudden interest in embroidery. She gestured to Taikie and Saydrie, and they slipped out of the classroom together.
“Well, she said that sometimes, back then, they had a way of embedding the aether into things. And you were talking about the red-gold embroidery…?”
“Oh, Riensin, that’s quite an astute observation.” “
It was also, Enrie, considered, quite an astute line of what normally came out of the rear end of a goat. But the Instructor was already off on a lecture.
“Yes, indeed, there is some thought that the ancients did use some aether-laced metals in their embroidery. For example, Empress Otyeriotanerio’s last robes are still on display at the Imperial Museum; they’re said to be in far better shape than could be expected, given that the imperial family kept them in a chest in an attic of the palace for decades.” She sounded offended by the imperial family’s storage techniques. “One theory is that there were threads of preservation knotted into the embroidery, along with the symbolic patterns. I believe your friend Enerenarie did her paper on those robes?”
Enrie wondered what the Instructor would think to hear that that the royal family – at least according to rumors her mother had passed along – cut down and reshaped most formal robes for reuse, sometimes going so far as to pull out the embroidery and replace it, just like any peasant family would re-use the same festival tunic until the fabric itself wore through. There was a reason they stored everything!
Taikie was tugging on her arm, though, pulling her down the hall. Enrie let herself be pulled. Riensin would be fine, even if Instructor Dainanan did pull his ear a little hard.
Saydrie was looking thoughtful. “I know that song,” he whispered, when they were far enough down the hall that they could no long heard Instructor Dainanan and Riensin’s discussion of aether in embroidery and other serious subjects. “I think it started as a poem. It’s an old Bitrani folk song; my mother would sing it sometimes, before bed. But… it’s one of those songs where everything has a second meaning?” He looked down at them. His lower lip was trembling. “It’s – Taikie, I don’t want you to think I’m one of those Cevati Bitrani like Darnio that are longing for the Days Long Gone or plotting to become our own nation in truth instead of in whispers again. That’s not why I was spending time with them, why I was listening what they had to say. It’s just…”
Taikie bit her lip and nodded slowly. “It must be very lonely, when nobody you know speaks the language you speak or knows the stories you know. I get homesick sometimes. I bet you do, too.”
Saydrie looked relieved. He nodded slowly. “The things I have to tell you next, both of you. We should be in private. And… Promise you won’t doubt me?”