March 16, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Enrie found herself blushing under her older cousin’s scrutiny. “I’m here because I’m not doing all that well at the diplomacy, and I was hoping you might advise me.”
“Me?” Aronnie raised her eyebrows. “Does it need a wrench or a spanner? Do you need a better water uptake mechanism for your next goat?”
“I don’t know anything about water uptake mechanisms or about goats on the Philosophy House Building.” Enrie found herself smiling playfully. “But I do know about certain vowel-named people who think that an initial O is all they need to rule the world.”
“That’s not specific at all. I have no idea who you’re talking about,” Aronnie deadpanned. “And you’re coming to me about it? It sounds like you handled the situation quite well.”
“I put… her… in her place. But that’s all. I helped the House Monitor and Head of School find what they called yet another case of cheating, but that seems like putting out a torch when the city is still burning.”
“Melodramatic.” Aronnie raised her eyebrows.
Enrie ducked her head. “I’ve been talking to Kekdela a lot. Art House.” Well, she had, although she thought Taikie might be the bad influence in this case. “She likes to make her words paint pictures sometimes.” Which was not a bad skill for a Diplomat, either. Maybe she ought to do more talking with Kekdela. “Anyway – I made sure Olisama knew I wasn’t happy with her, but that does nothing to deal with the actual rend.”
“Well, I suppose that depends on what you think this rend is.” Aronnie flopped down onto a low stool and gestured at a nearby couch.
Enrie took the hint and sat down, leaving room for her teammates.
“That’s the thing.” Taikie leaned forward as she sat down, giving the impression she was just barely hovering over the couch. “Because if Olisama is a little tear, this fight between Enrie and Olisama, I mean, then it’s probably like the first crack in a pipe, right?”
“Or the first crack you see.” Aronnie nodded. “So you think there’s an underlying schism in the royal family?”
“Me?” Taikie squeaked. “Me, no, no. I’m an engineer. Or, well, I will be. I don’t deal with royal schisms and things like that, I deal with schoolwork and pipes. But Enrie’s been talking…”
“And,” Saydrie offered, “we were there when she talked to House Monitor Libkazaari. So it’s obvious to us that the school knows there’s something big going on.”
“You three really take this team thing to heart, don’t you?
Enrie smiled crookedly. “That is almost entirely Taikie. She’s been very serious about it from day one.”
“Oh, no, I might have been serious, but it wouldn’t have meant anything if you guys hadn’t been right there with everything.” Taikie shook her head. “Besides, it’s how it’s supposed to be. They tell you, right on day one.”
Taikie was never going to be a Diplomat. Enrie winced. But Aronnie seemed to be amused rather than offended.
“Not everyone listens on the first day. They also tell you you’re not supposed to cheat – or, at least, they did on my first day. And some of us have a hard time with that one, don’t we?”
“That… is the problem. Or at least the visible bit of the problem,” Enrie said slowly.