November 6, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
It could endanger my whole enclave. The words hung in the air for a moment. Enrie swallowed. Her parents were Diplomats. She’d seen some of what could happen if an uprising were suspected. They’d tried to shelter her, but she’d heard rumors, and she’d snuck out on occasion – on more than a few occasions, if she was being honest – and seen some of the things they didn’t want to talk about. Potential uprisings were dealt with quickly in the Empire, and they were dealt with very thoroughly. “Saydrie, I will do everything I can to protect you, but…”
“But you are a royal daughter of the empire, even if you don’t think your vowel means anything. I understand.”
“I don’t.” Taikie shook her head. “We’re a team. We’re supposed to work together. What’s more important than that?”
“We are a team,” Saydrie agreed quietly. “But I am Cevati Bitrani, son of Bithrain, and Enrie is – or will be, pardon me – Lady Enerenarie, a daughter of Calenta. Those things are important, because they are in our blood. Do you understand, Tairiekie?”
She shook her head, her braids bobbing. “I’m Calenyena, too.”
“But being raised royal—”
“She keeps saying it’s just a vowel! It’s like Ienyie. What did you call her, ‘Almost-Royal-Ienyie?’ You said it was the same thing, Enrie, that you weren’t really royal, either.”
“Perhaps Enerenarie wishes to earn the name. Like you want to earn the title of Engineer. But you were raised by Engineers and think like one already, and Enerenarie was raised by the royal family and thinks like one, even when she tries to pretend otherwise.” Saydrie cleared his throat. “Like me. I try to fit in, because I know that’s what is expected of me here. I’m supposed to learn how to be one of you, to learn how to be Cālenyena, to fit in. It’s why the quotas exist. But that doesn’t make what I grew up hearing about any different.”
“But—” Taikie looked on the verge of tears. Enrie cleared her throat.
“Saydrie and you are very important to me, Taikie. But if it came to a decision, part of me would always be considering, ‘which is more important here, the Empire or my friendships?’ The Empire has lasted a very long time.” She raised her chin, knowing how to resolve this – at least for now. “But the Empire has lasted so long on the strength of friendships, friendships like ours. Didn’t the Empress Otyeriotanerio say that she would not have been able to rule, had it not been for the friendship of Villipo—”
“Fillipo,” Saydrie murmured. Enrie continued as if she was giving a speech, and perhaps she was. She hadn’t meant to, but that was what all the training was for, wasn’t it?
“—and Laarizha? Not that I’m saying I’ll ever be Empress – there are mountains and valleys, seas and maelstroms between me and that and it’s not a passage I care to traverse – but simply that this friendship is important.” She looked up at her friends, the heat burning in her cheeks. That had been a little bit more than she’d meant to say, and said a little fancier than a cupola really required or requested. “It’s okay, Saydrie. You can tell us what you want to.”