November 30, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
“Has it gotten that bad?” Enrie kept her voice as quiet as Gianci was keeping his. “I mean, I knew that Darnio was unhappy here. But I didn’t imagine that it had gotten… seditious or anything.” She noticed the way that Gianci glanced at Saydrie, and found herself irritated. “Unlike you or Taikie, I happen to speak a bit of Bitrani. Most people don’t expect it, even though I’m in Diplomacy house and from a diplomatic family. So they talk in front of me.”
“They underestimate you.” Gianci nodded slowly. “I understand that concept pretty well.” He made a swish with his hand, taking in all of him in one gesture. “They think you’re like some of the other royal children here? Leaning on the vowel like a crutch?”
“And,” Enrie guessed, “they think you’re, um…” She found herself getting uncomfortably warm. She tried again anyway. “They think you’re from the enclaves, and they think the enclaves are ignorant.”
“To be honest, most people from the west coast think the entire rest of the country consists of people who are ignorant, blind, stupid, or some combination of all three.” Gianci smiled crookedly. “It’s just that looking like this, people don’t think I’m from the west coast.”
“There aren’t that many Bitrani who still, uh, look Bitrani, outside of the enclaves.” Enrie’s voice was getting louder. She dropped it down to a conversational tone. “It’s a reasonable assumption.”
“I’ll take your word for it, Lady Enerenarie.” He was smiling, but his voice didn’t sound all that friendly. Enrie bowed a little from a sitting position and tried to vanish into the bookshelf.
It seemed to work. Gianci turned his attention back to Saydrie. “Darnio. You either have to distance yourself completely, right away, or you have to turn him in. He’s going to get in a lot of trouble and if you don’t watch out, he’s going to take you down with him.”
“Why can’t you turn him in?” Taikie pulled herself taller and glared at Gianci. He smirked at her, like a dog doing a clever trick.
“Because I’m not in question. Nobody who really thinks worries about the loyalty of a Lannamer native who happens to be too tall. But Saydrie here could be in danger, because his loyalty is automatically in question. I mean, it’s barely even a question: he’s Cevati Bitrani, so clearly his loyalty isn’t with the Emperor.”
“Ahem.” Saydrie looked a little amused, Enrie thought. She would have been offended.
“Sorry, but you know it’s true, as far as a lot of people are concerned.” Gianci leaned forward, elbows on knees. “You’ve got to go one way or the other on Darnio before he gets you in a lot of trouble.”
“What if I want to support him?” Saydrie wasn’t smiling anymore. “He’s Cevati Bitrani, like I am. We both came from the enclaves. He’s my countryman.”
“You’re joking, right?” Gianci raised his eyebrows. “I’m your countryman. Enerenarie and Tairiekie are your countrymen. Darnio’s going to get you hung. I wouldn’t call that any sort of kinship.”
Saydrie held up his hands. “I wasn’t kidding, but I wasn’t seriously considering standing with him, either,” he admitted quietly. “Getting Darnio in trouble is – I’m not sure I can do it. But I think you’re right that I have to distance myself.” He sighed quietly. “And just when I was making friends, too.”