December 11, 2015 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
There were, Enrie noticed, no instructors anywhere near the crowd of Bitrani gathered at their lunch table. There wasn’t a House Monitor, a stable-master, not even the dining hall proctor that broke up the worse of the fights. There were just students: the Bitrani and their few friends in a tight knot, more students staring or trying to ignore the mess a little further out.
It wasn’t a fight, at least not yet. But Enrie grabbed the nearest student she could find and put all of the authority she’d ever managed to fake into her voice. “Go get the House Monitor! Tell them there’s a big fight breaking out in the dining hall!”
The student – in Agriculture house brown and greens – looked at Enrie with wide eyes. “There’s no fight. Is there? I don’t see one.”
“There’s going to be,” Enrie answered grimly. She folded up her sleeves past her elbow. “Hurry. It’s about to get messy.”
“Ooooooh. Oh!” The Agriculture girl took off running. Enrie watched her for a moment before she made her way to her friends.
The talking was low and angry, and most of it was in Bitrani. There were a few epithets thrown in Calenyen, angry and awful words. As Enrie got close enough to follow the entire conversation, Darnio – that was him, in the front, shoving at Saydrie’s chest – was calling Tairiekie Saydrie’s little useless pet. “Has she learned to do tricks yet? Can she speak on command?”
Tairiekie had her chin up and was looking for all the world like she didn’t understand even the Bitrani insults. Saydrie was doing his best imitation of a cliff, tall and unmoving and unhearing.
Enrie briefly thought about becoming part of that, but it was hard to be stern and unmoving when you were also entering the scene a bit late. She ignored a stab of guilt – enough time for that later – and instead snapped out a line of Bitrani as if it were a whip.
They were all boys, she’d noticed; where were the girls? Not only were they all boys and all Bitrani, but they were almost all wearing the special uniforms the school allowed, dull, muddy versions with the buttons straight down the center. Bitrani culture had some funny ideas about women and men, so she decided to use that.
“What sort of men do you think you are?”
She didn’t recognize the one that turned to look at her – he was an older student with a full beard, in a dark navy and muddy brown that was probably supposed to be Martial House blue, orange and orange-red. He was tall, so tall she wondered how he didn’t hit his head on the doorways and possibly the chandeliers, and his Bitrani-blond hair, too short to braid, was slicked back over his head. “Who are you to ask, little girl?”
He spoke in Calenyen, so she answered in the same language.
“I’m the person whose way you’re in.” She lifted her chin and refused to budge an inch. “Those people you’re bothering are my friends, and I would like to go have breakfast with them.”
“When we’re done with him.”
“Now.” She made sure her voice carried. She wanted everyone in the school to hear her. She wanted there to be no confusion at all about what was going on. “I am going to eat breakfast with my team now.”