November 21, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
The Bitrani history section was in the back of the third floor of the library, shelved in between ancient crafts and poetry. Whoever had most recently organized the library had taken advantage of an architectural anomaly, likely the result of one of the additions to the building throughout the centuries, to make the section look far smaller from the main hall than it was. One shelf faced the hallway, labelled “Bitrani History, Folkways, and Culture.” But once you stepped a few feet down that shelf, it opened up into a diamond-shaped room full of books.
Saydrie negotiated the area with obvious familiarity. “Folk songs are going to be down here, past old weaving patterns. The patterns, as far as I know, are innocent.” He offered a cautious smile at Enrie and Taikie. “Bitrani are far too careful with our dress to be putting messages of sedition in them.” He tugged on the sleeves of his violet, scarlet, and dark sky blue uniform. “At least, when we’re at home.”
Enrie tilted her head. “I know that Bitrani, as a rule, don’t like bright colors…”
“There’s a bit of worship in it in that we don’t wish to outshine the Three’s creations.” Saydrie tugged on his tunic again. “This color, it’s brighter than anything except a few of the birds and flowers. And yes, sometimes people use the birds-and-flowers argument, and… I don’t know. I’m not a priest. But the dull colors are supposed to be more honest, and they are also supposed to remind us to be modest in all things.” He ran a hand over his tunic. “And looking your best is both a pride of country matter and, uh, pride in self, since the Three made you.”
Enrie nodded slowly. “That all makes sense. I don’t quite understand how the bright colors would be not looking your best, but that’s okay.”
“Me, neither,” Taikie admitted. “I always feel my best in brighter colors.” She looked around the room. “Hey, here’s a section on Bitrani fashion.”
“Darnio is doing his paper for Textiles on that.” Saydrie headed back past the fashion to the weaving patterns. “And the weaving patterns, but he hasn’t found anything seditious in them, either, and I imagine he’d be on the lookout for that.” He shrugged his shoulders forward and hunched up.
“Saydrie,” Enrie tried to make her voice both gentle and very quiet. “You know we’re not going to blame you or be angry with you, right? It’s not even surprising, once you think about it, that the remaining Bitrani would want to be free of the Empire. There were a lot of wars fought over that.”
“And your people won.” The words were quiet, but they were still some of the angriest words Enrie had ever heard out of Saydrie’s mouth. “And they have never, ever let my people forget it.”
He turned his back on her and pulled a book off the shelf. “This should be it. Right here, this is the folk song I was talking about.”
He flipped the pages as if he hadn’t sounded angry a moment past, his broad back blocking Enrie and Taikie’s view. After a moment, he stopped flipping pages. A moment later, he sat down with a firm thump.
“I found it.” He spoke in Bitrani, but Enrie was fairly certain he would have been understandable if he was speaking in the language of moon and flowers, or not saying any words at all.