February 4, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Stew, apologies, and chores were best finished before they got cold. Enrie’s parents hadn’t said that one, but when she’d been little, she’d lived with her maternal grandmother during the winters and that had been Grandma Ezrie’s favorite saying.
She squeezed Taikie and Saydrie’s hands. “All right. The stew is already getting pretty chilled.” She raised her chin and started walking again, her friends flanking her. “With you two next to me, I should be able to handle anything,” she mused. They made her feel invincible. “I… might need that.”
“We’re going to be right here,” Taikie assured her. “We’re your team, and that’s what a team does.”
Enrie felt a surge of warmth for her friend. Taikie looked at everything like some sort of Device; the team pipes went this way, and they always went together.
Even when they were going into the scary places. Pipes weren’t scared. Enrie wouldn’t be scared, either. She nodded, mostly to herself, and knocked on the House Monitor’s door.
“Come in,” the Monitor called. She looked up from her paperwork as they entered. “Enerenarie, Saydrie, Tairiekie. Are you here about the issue with the Bitrani students? I assure you, I’m not going to hold you responsible for any way for that problem. You all handled yourselves quite well.”
Enrie swallowed. “Thank you, ma’am. But it’s not that. I’m here… I’m here about cheating.”
“Cheating?” Libkazaari frowned. “Certainly you’re not saying you cheated.”
“No, no ma’am. I’m not. But I think that Inst- one of our instructors was trying to help me cheat, and I have heard from other royal-blooded students that this might be a trend.”
“Not this again,” Libkazaari sighed.
“…Again?” Enrie was very pleased that the words came out as calmly as they did. “You knew about this… ma’am?”
The House Monitor sighed very deeply and studied them over her folded hands. “I’m going to need to go get Head Wiltemika. To answer your question: No, I did not know that it was happening currently. But it has certainly plagued us in the past. Instructors who should know better think to curry favor with some royal-blooded student who may or may not ever hold a title, and in doing so they undermine everything.”
“Why would anyone thinking that encouraging me to cheat would somehow curry favor? Suggesting that I’m not bright enough to get through my classes without aid? That I’m dishonest enough to accept help like that if it was offered?” Enrie’s voice was rising louder and more shrill. She caught her breath. “It seems foolish – no, stupid, House Monitor.”
“It does. But, Enerenarie, I am going to assume that you heard something of this from some other student?”
“I figured it out on my own. The Instructor was acting very suspicious.”
“But someone else confirmed your original suspicions, or you would have been far more hesitant to accuse an Instructor, am I right?”
Enrie sighed. “Has this happened before, too?”
“Of course.” Libkazaari’s smile was not very reassuring. “Nothing is truly new in the world. So said the philosopher Gotangira, five hundred years ago.”