January 15, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Saydrie was nervous when they headed towards the dining hall for dinner. It made Enrie angry. He’d come so far, gotten so comfortable with Taikie and her, and now it wasn’t even Calenyena jerks making him miserable, it was other Bitrani.
She held out her hand until he noticed it, and until Taikie noticed and held out her hand as well. Cautiously, he set one of his hands into Enrie’s, and then the other into Taikie’s. “Are you sure? After the scene in the Dining Hall…”
“There is a world of difference between some jerk grabbing me and my friend taking an offered hand. We just don’t like… unwelcome touch, as a rule.”
“Sometimes it’s a blessing of the gods that our two cultures get along at all.” Saydrie squeezed Enrie’s hand. “I don’t need protection, you know. They’re…”
“They’re your countrymen, but that doesn’t make them good people.” Enrie squeezed back. “It’s okay. I’m not thinking of us as protection, anyway. More like support.”
“Back-up,” Taikie added. “We’re here if everything goes weird. Besides, we’re all pretty good at punching.”
Saydrie lifted both of his hands up. “Hard to punch like this.”
“Then we’ll punch for you.” Enrie couldn’t help but smile. “And this gives you plausible deniability, which you might need slightly more than either of us.”
She studied the Dining Hall. The Bitrani were not grouped up anywhere, at least, although a couple tall blonde men and boys were glaring at them from their seats. She lifted her chin and ignored them.
She turned at the hiss of her name just as Olisama snatched her free hand with an angry sound. She pulled back, earning herself a line of scratches down the back of her hand, but Olisama wasn’t alone. She had, it seemed, been too busy ignoring the Bitrani, and she’d gotten ambushed by vowels. Three other women who she recognized from around campus were standing there, all but one pushing the dress code limits in various ways and all of them frowning at her.
“Don’t touch me.” She rubbed her hand on her uniform skirt. “I thought we had our conversation.” Of the four of them, only the one in Akaizen House colours had stuck out to Enrie as anything other than a relative. Aronaraariennie had been in the infirmary when Taikie had gotten injured, and although she hadn’t spent much time talking to Taikie, she’d taken the time to tell Enrie what was going on.
She also looked like she wasn’t really involved in this ambush, whatever it was.
Olisama was talking enough for all of them. “You’re going to ruin everything. The Instructor is very miffed at you.”
“Wait, what?” The royal without any fancy decoration – Art House, but Enrie couldn’t remember her name – took a step back. “I thought this was about picking fights.”
“I thought this was about fraternizing with Byittie,” frowned Iekazhievie, one of the most over-done of the group and a fifth-year student.
“No, No. She’s upsetting Kasmaa – one of the Instructors, and we do not want them upset.”
Enrie’s throat felt heavy and full of rocks. She looked between the small gaggle of royals – her family, her kin – and Saydrie and Taikie – her teammates, her friends. Nobody looked happy. Everyone was disappointed with her.
What was she going to do?