November 23, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie waited, holding very still. Saydrie flipped a page, then another page, and then, as far as she could tell from the movement of his shoulders, flipped them back again. Enrie stole a glance at Taikie; she was watching Saydrie, her lips pressed together as if either holding in words or holding her breath.
Saydrie cleared his throat. It was the loudest sound in the library; it sounded like they ought to be able to hear it down at the front desk and up in the towers. “Okay. So there are two pages in here in the middle of the ballad. They’re pretty carefully placed; the part they pulled out – that you found down in Pelnyen’s office, Taikie – that’s the boring part, so nobody really reads it. People general read – or sing – the very beginning and the very end.” He turned to look at them, the book angled up towards his chest. “So they hid it, and then left a clue of sorts that you’d have to be… um… you’d have to be Bitrani to find, I think.” He looked at the book again, and then looked at both of them, as if contemplating something. Then he sank slowly to the floor, falling into a cross-legged seat, the book open on his lap. “So. There’s good news and there’s bad news, and I suppose both of those depend on what your point of view is on the matter.”
Enrie slid down on his right, kneeling so she could lean in and read. She could see Taikie sliding down on the other side, mirroring her.
The book was relatively new, the paper white and the binding out of cloth. The two sheets of treaty were far older, made of vellum that had yellowed with age and ink that had gone brown and faded. Saydrie had them folded open in the book; the right-hand page had been ripped or burnt, so that only half the page remained.
The words were still clear, though, as was the map which took up most of the left-hand page. The sickle-like shape of Reisassan curved across the page, the Spine and the Shield rendered in careful water-colored peaks and valleys, the Velka Ree and the Lannamer rivers faded grey lines.
The Arran Territories were laid out in a tidy circle of dotted lines; on the east coast, a long, narrow oval marked the fisher-lands from which Taikie’s roommate Gaikvya came from. A dashed line heading from one to the other marked a more southerly territory line than Enrie could remember seeing, dipping down for the valleys and up for the mountains but otherwise snipping the continent in two.
There had been so many different borders drawn over the centuries. Enrie turned her attention to the words.
It was incomplete; they’d lost chunks of text to the ripping and more was likely on the flip sides of both pages. It was, however, enough to get a feel for the document.
She spoke carefully. “This… this would have created a permanent dividing line. It would have given Bithrain unprecedented territory. And it was meant to be binding in perpetuity.”
Saydrie flipped the page without comment. On the ripped remnant of the paper was visible the line for the Bitrani monarch to sign. No signature had been filled in.
“It’s not valid,” Enrie breathed. “Why?”