January 6, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie found herself in the history section, perusing books on Emperor Ipaagtyentaag, the traitor Emperor. He had come into power not all that long before the Coffee Treaty had – or hadn’t – been signed – and been hung in the center square of Lannamer soon afterwards.
It wasn’t a common story in schoolbooks, but she had grown up knowing it and had assumed every royal child knew it. In a nation where ascendancy to the throne was determined by a combination of merit, bloodline, and birth order, Ipaagtyentaag had lied, cheated and in some cases assassinated his way to the top before getting caught. He was the quintessential story of “this is why we do things this way.”
It was an interesting read, even if it wasn’t what she was here for. She flipped through his book, admiring the woodcuts and the hand-painted pictures. He’d been a handsome man, and very well-groomed, of course.
She flipped a couple more pages, then flipped back. Something had caught her eye. It took a few flips to find it again – there, Bitrani letters in the middle of a page of Calenyena script.
It was the folk song she, Saydrie, and Taikie had been reading about.
There was a line-to-line translation next to it and a series of notes translating the translation, explaining each line in cultural context. She flipped back a page to see why it was in a book about Ipaagtyentaag.
Ipaagtyentaag spent a good deal of his early adulthood traveling in Bithrain. His claims regarding his activities during that time included: he was gathering information on the Bitrani habits and morale; he had convinced several groups of Bitrani to come over to the Calenyen site in the event of another war; he had been instrumental in quelling an internal rebellion in Bithrain and earned the respect and renown of local authorities. He had letters of merit to back up these claims and at the time, there was no reason to doubt any of them.
It later surfaced that much of his time had been spent working out a plan with those same “local Bitrani authorities.” The plan, far from leading to the defection of swaths of Bitrani to the Calenyen side, would place Ipaagtyentaag in a position of authority where he could sabotage Calenyena plans and hand a victory to the Bitrani.
Among the plans that Ipaagtyentaag had set up with Duke Cordeni of Tugia, his primary contact in the Bitrani, a number of codes were later revealed. The most complex of these came in the form of a so-called folk song, expressly tailored to the situation by Cordeni, Ipaagtyentaag, and a minstrel in their employ. Each verse of the song held several different meanings, depending on which initial words were sung.
Enrie found herself opening her notebook and beginning to write down the variations in initial words. It was quite a complex code. If Ipaagtyentaag had put half as much attention into the well-being of his nation as he had into betraying it, he might have been a wonderful Emperor.
She closed the notebook quickly. She’d said she wasn’t going to look into the Coffee Treaty anymore. She wasn’t going to look into it. She wasn’t! She grabbed another book at random.
Empress Azhnatarennezha. That sounded safe enough.