July 1, 2016 by Lyn Thorne-Alder
Instructor Kaasmasik was missing from class again. Still, Enrie turned in her paper, looking Instructor Rezhtareza in the eye as she explained, “I was told to do this paper, ma’am.”
“Indeed? Somehow I’m not surprised. Well, perhaps it will count as extra credit.” The instructor wasn’t smirking — wasn’t smiling at all — but something about her tone suggested she was sharing a joke with Enrie.
Enrie wasn’t sure about the joke, but she bowed very politely. “Thank you, Instructor.” She wasn’t sure exactly what sort of sign it was for the day, but it was certainly some sort of omen.
The rest of her morning classes seemed to go easily, although that could have been because Taikie was very invested in making sure she understood everything in the difficult classes. She responded by making sure Taikie got things in History — Philosophy would be the true trick, and that wasn’t until the end of the day.
Were the Three giving her a respite? And, if so, what trial awaited her next? Saydrie would likely tell her it didn’t do to question the wills of the gods, so Enrie attempted to heed his theoretical advice.
Still, when Riensin thumped down beside them at lunch, she couldn’t help but jump a little bit. “I’ve got it.” He grinned madly at her. “You said you were missing a bit of planning, and I talked to Kekla and Tesdes between classes — all discreet and everything, have no worries — and I thought about it, and I’ve got some ideas.”
He flopped down a piece of paper. Enrie cringed, which only made Riensin grin wider.
“Relax, relax. Kietsaip and I want to be pirates — don’t tell the admissions staff, all right? — so we’ve worked up no fewer than four ciphers. This isn’t going to make sense to anyone but me and maybe him, and if you can’t tell him, well, you can’t tell me.”
“I do believe that means we can’t tell you,” Saydrie offered dryly.
“Well, probably, but you didn’t, Kekla and Tes did, and so here we are. So. You have several puzzle pieces, and you only know where one of them is. You think Taikie found another puzzle piece, but you didn’t pick it up, because at the time, you were ignoring puzzles. Right so far?”
“Correct so far.” She wrinkled her nose, but Enrie could find no complaint with his description.
“And you’ve found some pieces that might be — border, I guess, or they might be the box cover. Right?”
“Right.” It wasn’t a great metaphor, but it did obscure things a little bit if anyone was listening.
“Okay. So, we have a few places to look, and then a couple we really shouldn’t look in but we might anyway. Kekla says the… box cover, that was still there? So it’s not like they knew what they were looking for.”
Enrie nodded. When they’d explained everything to Kekla and Tesdes, Enrie had seen the book that had started all this sitting on the shelf. Despite all of Ilonilarrona’s rifling — and whoever her friend-or-minion was and his help — they hadn’t found the key mentioning the whole thing. “Thinking about what you said about aether infused into metal, or woven into cloth, I think that’s what’s going on with the, ah, the puzzle box. They didn’t want anyone to see it. And, for some reason, our, mm, puzzle-thieves couldn’t see it, but we could.”
Enrie’s personal theory was that it required a certain level of intelligence to see past the aether-weaving, but even positing that sounded a bit too self-aggrandizing. “So we know where the box is. And next…?”