November 16, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“Hey guys, where’d you go? After… Philosophy?” Riensin plopped down between Enrie and Taikie at the dinner table. “I got, uh, distracted talking to Instructor Dainanan.”
“Oh, is that where you went?” Kekdela set herself down across from Riensin – right up against Saydrie – and Tesdes sat down on the other side of her. “Tes and I were trying to figure out where you’d gone. You just up and vanished after Pelnyen threw his — oh yes, I really am interested in drawing the Empress for you, Enrie.” Her foot hit Enrie’s ankle with a painful thump. “Which one, again? I know you’re studying a different one than I was.”
“Oh! Empress Otyeriotanerio. I’m researching her final outfit. It’s really quite fascinating.” Enrie gestured in a way she’d borrowed shamelessly from Kekdela, pinching at her collar and her sleeves. “All the colors, all the layers, and every single one of them had a meaning. It’s like an epic poem, all of it in clothing form. Stunning, really. I don’t know how they did it, the ancients.”
“They took time and care in their appearance.” Instructor Pelnyen’s voice was right over her shoulder. “And, more than that, they were thoughtful. They took a long time considering every move.”
“Is this before or after the war, instructor?” Tesdes looked so harmless, it was hard to believe he was anything other than completely serious in his question. “It’s just that there are some pretty mindless decisions made all over the war.”
“You children,” Pelnyen began, “are a blight on this school and on the fine history of this institution.”
“Oh, come now, Pelnyen.” Instructor Kaatetzie came walking up behind Kekdela. The Basic Mechanics teacher was grinning from ear to ear. “The child was just asking a question and he had a pretty valid point. If your rhetoric can’t stand up to a first-year student, well, you know what old Teppetet-Dor would say.”
“Old Teppet wouldn’t say a thing to you! He loved you like you could do no wrong. And he hated me. As you well know.”
“Exactly.” It seemed like the sort of moment that ought to have ominous silence behind it, but the only people being quiet were the six at the table between the two instructors. The rest of the dining hall went on as if nothing was happening – loud and cheerful, stressed and worried and hungry all at once, like any gathering of students.
But Kaatetzie had his eyebrows raised at Pelnyen. And Pelnyen was standing there, right behind Enrie.
A moment passed. Another. Enrie didn’t dare move. None of her team, none of Riensin’s team, moved either. Finally Pelnyen made a noise like spitting.
“Enjoy your dinner, students. I expect to see you all in my class tomorrow. And I expect you to be on time.”
Enrie was pretty sure they’d won something. She just didn’t know what.